Citing Sources: “Be Kind, Help Find”

I like Find A Grave, it’s a useful website. I say this with caution, however; not all information on Find A Grave is accurate. Online trees are notorious for being hotbeds of misinformation.

Find A Grave is accurate for the location of the cemetery, and for photos of the gravestone that provide names and dates. There can be errors, of course, but thankfully those are rare.

People, trying to be helpful, often post additional information on Find A Grave memorial pages, such as this person married that person, and their children include, and their parents were…but often without any sources. Where did they get this information, and is it accurate?

I have an ancestor with a certain name, and he has a grandson with the same name. The son/father between them has a different name than theirs. Someone has confused the grandfather and the grandson, and posted information that the grandson married a certain woman and had these named children. Just to make it more confusing, the grandson named his son after his father. (So the four generations of names appear similar to ABAB.) Without more information, one could easily confuse the families. However, the dates and the name of the wife are all wrong, because the Find A Grave memorial has the grandson (A2) matched with his own grandmother as spouse (who married A1)! I sent an email inquiry, and the person ignored me, and refuses to make any changes.

In another case, a person posted a memorial and they state the person is buried at this cemetery, but no photo of the gravestone is on the memorial page. I submitted a “photo request” and received an error report; the helpful volunteer (a different person than the one who posted the memorial) did some research with the cemetery records, and no burial for this person can be found at this cemetery.  I sent an email inquiry to the person who created the online memorial, asking where they got the information this person is buried at this cemetery, along with the findings of the helpful volunteer. The person practically yelled at me, and claimed “I don’t know where I got this information, I get info from lots of different places. I stand by my posting! Good luck finding your own research!” In other words, they wash their hands of the entire ordeal and accept no responsibility. They uploaded the data from an Excel spreadsheet, with thousands of other names. This person is clearly more interested in the numbers than in the accuracy. They want to be known as a “contributor,” but clearly a “researcher” or “genealogist” they are not.

This cautionary tale provides a few lessons. First, be kind to your fellow genealogists. Yelling at people is not nice, and just drives people away. I never want to communicate with this person again. Second, cite your sources. Keep track of where you get information, and pass this information on. Sources are important, and I am a little amazed at the number of people who do not realize this, with years in the game and still ignoring this simple advice.

And thirdly, do not post information that is inaccurate. Prove your stories and trees before you publish them. Similar stories abound regarding people putting up an online tree without sources, then people with no understanding or education copy that tree countless times and it spreads like a virus. Inaccurate information is bad information, do not share it, which means do not place it online anywhere. Verify your “facts” before you call them FACTS.

If someone points out an inaccuracy, be open to changing your story or your facts with new evidence. After all, this is one of the principles of good genealogy, as published in Genealogy Standards (more about that below). Yelling at someone because their facts dispute yours, telling them they are wrong, has no place here.

I must add that most people are not mean at all; most people are simply uninformed and need a little teaching. The fine line is how to do a little teaching without driving people away or sounding condescending. Mostly, I find people trying to help people. But some people…

So, here’s some ideas on why citing sources is so important, and how to do it right.

Manual      Evidence Explained

Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 50th anniversary edition (Nashville, Tenn. : Ancestry, 2014)
Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 2d ed. (Baltimore : Genealogical Publ. Co., 2009)
Both are available on amazon.

I know I’m giving my age away by referencing the old “Be Kind, Rewind” mantra of the old VHS videotapes back when we had video stores to rent movies. But really, citing sources is a way to be kind, and help others find the wonderful info that you already found, and want to share with others.

So, how do I treat information I find on Find A Grave and online trees? If it is verifiable information with sources, I go find the source myself (easy to do if they provided source citations), and if it’s right, I then use that source with my own tree (and cite that source myself!). If there is no source, then I must do my own research. I use the info I found online as a “clue” and try to go prove it. Sometimes it is helpful to have that clue. I may find a US Federal Census (1850 and later are the only ones that list the entire family) and look up the suggested parents, and I may indeed find the family I am looking for. Great! They were accurate with their info, but now I have a source to verify it (and cite that source myself!). If I am unable to prove it, I may even email the person and ask how they know this fact is true. But experience has taught me to expect a wide range of responses, and even no response at all. Some people still seem to be offended if you ask. But ask you must, or go research it yourself to answer it yourself.

Citing Sources is a basic, fundamental thing. To be honest, we all struggle with it. And to be more honest, I didn’t do it in my early genealogy research, either. This is a lesson we all had to learn. But I quickly learned that it’s just like a footnote in the term papers I used to write in high school and college.

So, “Be Kind, Help Find” with a simple footnote. After all, it is the Genealogy Standard.

 

 

Lucky Find: Behrman family tree to Passenger List

My great grandmother Frieda Behrman Cross hand wrote a family tree years ago. I somehow got a copy of it. I think she may have written out the family tree from memory. She may have used an old Family Bible as a resource, but if so, no one knows where that Family Bible was, or where it is today.

Of course, there were no sources. It was just a list of families, mother and father with children, for several generations.

But the Lucky Find was this; she wrote when her father’s family immigrated to America. She was born in America, and so was a natural born US Citizen. But her father sailed to America when he was only 6 years old, when the family all came together. She wrote the year of immigration as 1857. Somehow, the family had forgotten about this nice little fact. We knew German ancestors were part of our family tree, but who came to America and when? No one knew.

Great grandma Frieda wrote the family all together, which would have been her grandparents, her father and his siblings, as coming to America in 1857. That’s the only detail I had.

I did a search online, and on ancestry I found this little gem: the family sailed to America from Germany and arrived on 3 Oct. 1857.

NYM237_179-0243

[Ancestry.com, New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), Ancestry.com, Year: 1857; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 179; Line: 38; List Number: 1173.]

And there we are, beginning on line 38, we get the listing of the same family that great grandma wrote in her family tree. Line 38 is Johann Behrmann, also known as John, Frieda’s grandfather, and a few lines below at the age of 6 is another Johann Behrmann, the father of Frieda, born in 1851 and so 6 years old in 1857.

They left Hanover, Germany, and their point of departure by sea was Bremen, Germany, and they arrived in New York on 3 Oct. 1857 aboard the Adonis, quite a name for a ship! With a little searching online, I can find other information about the Adonis here. A few years later, the Adonis was shipwrecked with a shipment of coal. Thankfully, my ancestors were safe in America by then! There is also an online site with a list of German immigrants and the ship they sailed on! Much more information can be found with some online searches!

Great grandma’s family tree was a little gem, that contained a Lucky Find. Her simple fact of immigration in 1857 lead to finding a passenger list, information about the ship, which verifies her fact with documented sources, and their hometown of Hanover in Germany.

I love these types of Lucky Finds!

What is a “Lucky Find” and what do I do with it?

On this site, I’ll use the term Lucky Find several times. We all have them. It could be a little fact in the family tree that great grandma wrote from memory, that everyone else in the family has forgotten about. It could be a clue in a photo, when examined closer, that leads to a big discovery. It could be connecting with a cousin who is a DNA match, and they have information about an entire branch of the family tree that you are missing.

A Lucky Find is some seemingly small clue or fact that leads you to a bigger find. It may be coincidence, or your lucky stars. It doesn’t matter what brought it to us, what matters is what we do with it once we come across it.

I have a series on this blog called Lucky Find about some of the Lucky Finds I have come across that have helped me in my research. Luck Find is a tag word, and can also be used in the search box for this site. Read them, they’re lots of fun!

And you can let me know what Lucky Finds you have also come across!

Ray Family

My Grandma Cross was born a Vessels in Kentucky. Her mother, known as Granny Vessels, was born Sarah Catherine Ray. The Ray family is a prominent ancestor line in our family.

The Rays also started in Maryland in the early years, before the Revolutionary War. In the late 1700s they moved to Kentucky. There was a large group of Catholics, many families, mostly our ancestors, that moved from Maryland to Kentucky. Why did they move? Many reasons, it turns out.

The Rays also had lots of land in Maryland, grew tobacco on plantations, and had slaves. Many of our ancestors were Catholic, and Maryland was a place of religious tolerance. But, when we were colonies, the British monarchs sometimes hated Catholics and sometimes tolerated them. Often, the Catholics were double taxed for the only reason that they were Catholic. It was a financial hardship to be Catholic. Also, Catholics were often prohibited from having public office; to be elected or to hold any public office meant to take an oath denying the pope and the Catholic faith. This goes back to Henry VIII who wanted a divorce, the pope said no, so Henry started his own church and called it the Church of England, sometimes called the Anglican church. To this day, the monarch is the Head of the Church of England. No pope, no one else ever, will tell the sitting monarch what to do when it comes to religion. Also, to this day, if a prince or princess is in line for the throne, if they marry a Catholic, they are disinherited and are no longer in line for the throne. No monarch can have any affiliation with the Catholic church. There is much hatred there. Which is why Maryland as a colony of religious tolerance was so appreciated.

Also, the British tried to swing a deal to sell Maryland tobacco to France, but the deal fell through. But Britain still enforced a monopoly on the Maryland tobacco, after all Maryland was a British colony. If the tobacco plantations could sell their tobacco to the highest bidder, they could make more money on the open market, but Britain prohibited that.

So, the Rays, and many of our other ancestors, left Maryland for Kentucky for many reasons.

Some of these pressures were relieved when America won the Revolutionary War. But many of our ancestors already had it in their mind to move to Kentucky. Several of our Ray ancestors had already made several trips to Kentucky in the late 1700s, and sometimes even owned land in Kentucky while still living in Maryland. Some were surveyors, who determined whose land belonged to whom. In Maryland, the land was pretty much all eaten up by the large tobacco plantations and there was no more available land. In Kentucky, there was abundant land available.

The trip from Maryland to Kentucky was a long and winding journey. No interstates, no freeways, no railroad. They went by land, with sometimes unmarked roads, to Pittsburgh. This took 5-9 days. From there they got on a flatboat to travel down the Ohio River to Kentucky. This took another 9 days. Right about Louisville they came to “the falls” and the boat could not travel downstream any more do to a rocky falls area, which is a big reason Louisville exists where it does. They then travelled, by land or by flatboat, on smaller rivers, inland from the Ohio River, to the part of Kentucky where our ancestors lived for generations in Kentucky, and where Grandma Cross, born Virginia Vessels, was born.

Lots of other researchers have been stumped by who was the immigrant ancestor who came to America. Our earliest Ray ancestor is William Ray, my 8th great grandfather. He died in Maryland in 1760. Other details are unknown; don’t know when or where he was born or where he came from. His son was also William Ray, he was born in 1705, likely in Maryland, and died in 1782, also in Maryland. But where did they come from? That’s the next research question to answer.

This kind of research is fun, and I’m learning a lot about our ancestors!

I have full source citations on my ancestry.com online tree. Go to my contact page and shoot me an email, and I can invite you to my tree.

Stevens will

In my research, I have been lucky to have so many family trees written by other people. From there, I have two jobs; 1) prove the work they did with sources, and 2) expand on their work, finding earlier ancestors and filling out the family tree.

The Cross Family Tree, as written by Samuel B. Cross, is quite a work. But there are really no sources, so we don’t know where he got his information. Does not mean he is not accurate, just means it is not proven. I have proven much of it, but not all. The parents of Andrew Cross (my 3rd great grandfather), for example, are not considered proven by myself and several other family genealogists. He names the parents as Cornelius Allen Cross and Mary Stephens. And Mary Stephens’ parents were Leonardt and Elizabetha Stephens. But where did he get this information?

But I recently found two documents that help in this matter.

I recently found a will of Elizabeth Stevens in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. She was the grandmother of Andrew Cross. Her will states and proves the names and relationships; she says her deceased husband was Leonard Stevens, her daughter Mary Ann Stevens is the wife of Allen Cross. Allen Cross is sometimes called Cornelius Allen Cross and is the father of Andrew Cross.

I did contact the Clearfield County Historical Society, and they have the original Cross Family Bible, which names the parents of Andrew Cross as Allen Cross and Mary Cross, and I now have a photocopy of that Bible page.

The will was important, because I sometimes had the name spelled as either Stephens or even Stepheus. I think the Stepheus was a typo and the u is really an n. But the suggestion was their name was German, so Stepheus was a possibility. I now know their name, in America, was Stevens. Previously, possibly in Germany, there was an alternate spelling, but that is not examined yet.

Leonard and Elizabeth Stevens are the grandparents of Andrew Cross. His parents were Cornelius Allen Cross and Mary Ann Stevens.

So, it seems the work of Samuel Cross is accurate and parts of it are now proven with a few documents. We have the parents of the wife of Cornelius Allen Cross. Who are the parents of Cornelius Allen Cross? Is the next question to answer.

I have full source citations on my ancestry.com online tree. Go to my contact page and shoot me an email, and I can invite you to my tree.

Maryland Ancestors

This is an edited copy of an email I sent to my family.

I went to Salt Lake City for a week long Institute on doing genealogy research. I learned a lot, and my skills have definitely improved! In addition, I did lots of research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake, and found many great things. Mostly I found stuff, saved the documents and images and PDF files to a USB jump drive, and am slowly analyzing data and putting it into the family tree as I go.

Here’s some stuff I have focused on so far.

Dad’s mother’s maiden name was Vessels, born in Kentucky. Our ancestors lived in Kentucky for many generations, and before that were in Maryland for many generations. Most of these groups of families were very strong Catholics, and books have been written about their migration from Maryland to Kentucky.

Britain sent people to “the colonies” including Maryland for reasons of financial gain and profit. Maryland was used to grow tobacco. Many of our ancestors were “planters” and their land deeds and wills show that. A farmer works on a farm. A planter works on a plantation. With our ancestors, the word plantation is used a lot. So is the word slave and slavery. When America won the Revolutionary War, British loyalists were kicked out and America confiscated the British lands. Then, the manor lands of the Brits were sold to Americans. Some of our ancestors already owned some of these plantations, some bought the land after the Revolutionary War. Many of these families fought in the Revolutionary War. There are notes that they “took an oath” before a named person, and this oath was to deny loyalty to England and the King, and to swear allegiance to Maryland and the United States.

There are many church records of the times, most of which I have not delved into yet. But our ancestors were deeply Catholic, and there are many Jesuit records indicating a date of baptism, for example, or a marriage, or other church activities.

Many of the men worked as a tobacco inspector at the warehouse. I imagine there was a large tobacco warehouse, to dry and cure the tobacco, or perhaps to store it before shipping to England and Europe. Tobacco was their cash crop. Tobacco was their commodity.

The wills tell a lot. It is common for our ancestors to bequeath a plantation or part of one to their children. Often this includes giving a slave or group of slaves to their children. One widow, who became the matriarch of the family tobacco business after her husband’s death, in her will leaves one son 1,000 pounds of tobacco, another son gets 3,000 pounds of tobacco, and another son gets a slave.

There was a migration to Kentucky, which I have barely scratched the surface on. Kentucky is also known for growing tobacco, so perhaps they moved there after generations in Maryland and their farms got smaller with a will dividing the land among several sons over generations. Maybe there was more land in Kentucky. Have not confirmed this.

What is now Kentucky was actually considered part of the Virginia colony. Kentucky became a state in 1792, after the Revolutionary War. One ancestor was a delegate and helped write the Kentucky State Constitution.

One of our ancestors was so strongly Catholic, and living “on the frontier” so to speak, that he wanted a Catholic priest in their new area. He is documented as taking $75 in his pocket and travelling to Baltimore, speaking to church officials to get a priest to Kentucky to say Mass and serve the very Catholic community. The $75 was to pay the expense of sending a priest to them. A priest did travel to Kentucky, and with no church building yet, the first Mass was said in his home with many of his Catholic neighbors attending.

Another ancestor in Kentucky donated land to build a school for the children.

Analysis of findings: it is never my business to judge people or their lives. Today, we do not appreciate or approve of slavery.  Tobacco is known for its damaging effects, but in its day I’m sure they viewed it in the same light as coffee. It’s a crop to plant and grow, and then you process the harvest to create a product that people will pay money for. Tobacco was a commodity. The woman who left thousands of pounds of tobacco to her children (that was just one example, they all did something similar) was giving a commodity that was traded. It would be like today leaving a stock portfolio or gold or diamonds. It was a traded commodity and was worth money. They were passing on their wealth, the fruits of their labor, to their offspring.

Our ancestors were in Maryland in the late 1600s, just after Plymouth colony was started with the landing of the Mayflower, but before the Revolutionary War. More ancestors arrived in Maryland in the early 1700s. Many fought for Independence in the Revolutionary War. They owned plantations that grew tobacco, which was a thriving commodity as demand for tobacco was growing in Europe. Some worked as an inspector in the warehouse to ensure the tobacco was stored property and was in good condition. If the tobacco goes bad, they and their reputation all suffer. They owned slaves to grow their tobacco on their plantation. In the late 1700s, after the Revolutionary War, many of them moved to Kentucky. The community our ancestors was in was strongly Catholic, so much so they paid the expenses of a priest to come to newly formed Kentucky before it was a state so they could have Mass and the services of the clergy. They donated land for a school. They built the community in Maryland when it was British manor lands, and in Kentucky they built the frontier into a thriving community. Our ancestors helped make this country what it is today.

So far, I have found no records of the Vessels family in the parts of Maryland I’m looking at. I do know the Vessels family was in New Amsterdam in the 1650s. Holland sold New Amsterdam to the British, who renamed it New York. So, we have Vessels ancestors in New York City before it was New York City! The Maryland stories above are for surnames Abell, Greenwell, Cissell, O’Bryan which became Bryan, Drury and Mills, and was focused on St. Mary’s County, Maryland.  There is more research to do.

Below are some links to websites that helped form a picture of how this worked. But the actual people and their documents such as wills and land deeds are in the online tree at ancestry.com.

When I do more work with big news on this or another branch of the family tree, I’ll send more stories by email.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Tobacco_Village,_Maryland

https://wtop.com/news/2013/08/for-some-tobacco-remains-way-of-life-in-southern-maryland/slide/1/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/on-maryland-tobacco-farms-turning-a-tradition-into-potential-health-benefits/2011/11/04/gIQANCzHMN_story.html?utm_term=.759fba3b17b0

If anyone has any link to the families above, I encourage you to locate The Ray Book: A Family of Central Kentucky, 1705-1993 by Ann Tyson Sipes. It is a published genealogy with sources and was an invaluable research tool and finding aid.

I have full source citations on my ancestry.com online tree. Go to my contact page and shoot me an email, and I can invite you to my tree.

SLIG 2018

In January 2018, I attended the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) and I loved it! I took the class “Taking Your Research to the Next Level” with Paula Stuart-Warren. It was the right class for me. Some stuff I already knew, but I also learned a lot. Well worth it. To learn more about Paula, check out her website. She teaches this class at other locations also.

We also had guest instructors, including Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi’s List and we learned a lot about technology and the Hidden Web. My search skills, already good, improved!

Also had several classes with Debra Mieszala, CG; check out her website.

I plan on attending again next year. January is a good time for me to travel to Salt Lake City, as it is usually a slow time for my usual work.

While in Salt Lake City, I found a great many new records in my own research for my family! Those findings and others will be posted here on my blog, so check back!

Mark