Bourbon County, New York?

A declaration for pension made out by David A. Newman on 22 May 1912 in Linn County, Iowa, stated that he was born on 12 April 1830 in Bourbon County, New York.

The writing is clear and that’s how I’m going to transcribe it because that is what it says: Bourbon County, New York.

However it’s wrong. Of course it’s not wrong simply because I said so. Far from it. After all, it’s not a date of which I have any first hand knowledge.

On virtually every other record where David provided a place of birth, he gave the state of Kentucky. If a county was given, it was usually Bourbon. David’s parents lived in Kentucky from their 1815 marriage in Bourbon County, Kentucky, through at least the 1830 census. At some point they moved to Indiana and lived in at least two counties in that state. There’s nothing indicating they ever lived in New York. And while it’s possible, it doesn’t seem likely since every other record on David and this family indicated they were in Kentucky from 1815 through sometime in the 1830s. I don’t know why this record says New York. There’s nothing on the document to indicate where the place of birth came from and I certainly was not there to witness the creation of the declaration.

Seeing the New York reference did cause me to go back and review what I had on this family during the time period David Newman was born to Augusta and Melinda (Sledd) Newman. Nothing suggested they were elsewhere. Of course, it is always possible. It’s just not too probable.

And it’s not too probable that every other document is wrong and this one is correct. It certain is possible. But it is highly unlikely.

What’s more likely is that the reference to New York is a mistake.

I’ve seen a reverse problem in another family. In that case the relative was born in New York, but is listed in one census when his daughter indicated her father was born in Kentucky. In that case, an examination of census entries indicated that the enumerator used two letter abbreviations for many locations and had somewhat sloppy handwriting and apparently confused “Ny” with “Ky.” Their “N” and “K” letters were different but similar.

Is that what happened here? Don’t know.

It could be that David orally provided the information for the declaration. It could be that he brought his discharge paper, family bible, and perhaps other documents with him to have the declaration filled out and some of those handwritten documents might not have been too easy to read by the individual filling out the form.

David died two years after this declaration was made out. How aware was he of what information it contained? The witnesses are not close family members and would have been less likely than a son or daughter to have noticed an error. And it’s worth remembering that witnesses are testifying that David signed the document and that they knew who he was, not that any of the information contained in the statement is correct.

My transcription of the document is true to the original. I may add sic after the birth place in New York to remind myself later that it does give that state. My discussion of the reason why is best left to what I really know and that discussion needs to be clearly made separately from my transcription.

I’m fortunate that I have enough records on David that I know not to look for him in New York State.

Sometimes we are not so lucky.



Why Were They All Dressed Up? And Who Took the Picture?

Charles and Fannie (Rampley) Neill family–probably taken West Point, Hancock County, Illinois. Identification is from left to right. Front: Pat Neill, Roger Neill. Back: Cecil Neill, Mae (Randolph) Neill, Ralph Neill, Ida (Trautvetter) Neill, Keith Neill, Armin Shanks, Fannie (Rampley) Neill, Nellie (Neill) Shanks, Charlie Neill

I wondered why they were all dressed up.  There had to have been some sort of  “occasion” as most of the snapshots of the Neills show the men in more traditional farmer attire (son-in-law Armin Shanks was a school teacher as was his wife Nellie) and the ladies in less formal dresses. Common sense told me it was not that all the Neills had been to church.   The attire also indicated that the picture was probably not taken in  the summer or in the depths of winter. But why were they all dressed up? This is one of the few pictures I have of the entire family in one shapshot. The other photographs from the 1920s and on do not include the entire family group.

This picture was one that was in Fannie Rampley Neill’s collection of photographs which are in the possession of a family member. The same picture was also in an envelope in her daughter Nellie’s collection of photographs. Written on the envelope was a note indicating that the pictures were taken when son Herschel had come back with his new bride. The couple had married in Texas where he was stationed during part of World War Two.

There was a second photograph including the newlyweds.

Charles and Fannie (Rampley) Neill family–probably taken West Point, Hancock County, Illinois. Identification is from left to right. Front: Roger Neill, Pat Neill. Back: Cecil Neill, Mary Ann (Hartman) Neill, Herschel Neill, Ralph Neill, Mae (Randolph) Neill, , Ida (Trautvetter) Neill, Keith Neill, Fannie (Rampley) Neill, Nellie (Neill) Shanks, Charlie Neill

Identifying the people in the photograph also led me to believe that Herschel took the first picture (he and Mary Ann are not in it) and that Armin Shanks took the second picture as he is the only one absent from that picture.

One cannot always tell the reason why a family got together and it’s not always obvious who took the picture either. But sometimes there are clues–one just has to look. Before we found the envelope explaining why the pictures were taken, we were using my father’s birth to approximate the picture’s date (he’s the one being held by his mother in both snapshots).

My Grandma Neill (Ida [Trautvetter] Neill) would have said they were “all dolled up” for the occasion. Somehow I just can’t bring myself to use that phrase to describe my grandfather.


ThruLines Grabs Any Old Relationship

I was wrong.

ThruLines at AncestryDNA in their display of data in my ThruLines descent is indicating something is in my tree that is not. This screen shot from my ThruLines for John G. Trautvetter contains information from my database for every entry that’s in a white box. The gray box information is not in my online tree.

Reading the image, it is saying that John and Theodore Trautvetter are half siblings–after all John M. is my 2nd great grandfather and Theodore is stated on the image as my “half 3rd great-uncle.” This suggests that the two men are half brothers in my tree–after all the boxes are white on the screen indicating the information is from my tree.

Except in my tree these men are full siblings…because that’s how they interacted their entire lives, how they presented themselves, and what their records of birth in Wohlmuthausen, Germany, indicates. There’s one online tree at Ancestry that has their relationship incorrect–indicating that they are half siblings (which they are not.)

But apparently ThruLines is pulling that “relationship” from that tree and modifying it in the display that it claims is from my tree.

If it wants to suggest things from other trees in my ThruLines that are not in my online tree, that’s one thing.

But don’t say all the information about two men is from my tree and then grab a relationship between them that’s in someone else’s tree.



Getting into the Trautvetterins

The 1823 death entry in the church records of the Evangelical church in Wohlmuthausen, Thuringen, Germany, list her name as Anna Catharina Trautvetterin.

That’s how I should transcribe it because that’s what it says.

Do I have a new surname for this family? Do I have a new spelling? Not really. In fact, I have Trautvetter–just a feminine version that was used in the area during this time period. Names are always transcribed as they are written and they are analyzed in context. Anna Catharina’s entry is not the only one for a female on the page of entries that has a last name ending in “in.” Her entry is typical, not atypical.

That’s something one does not discover if one only looks at the item of interest and does not give any thought to cultural and linguistic patterns.



The Family No One Else Seems to Be Working On

I made a joke on one of my Facebook pages and on my Twitter feed:

Ever feel like you are the only person on the planet researching a family from somewhere in 1750?

Sometimes it feels that way. Other times it feels like hundreds of people are researching the same family and a proportion of them repeat errors in old genealogies that have been corrected decades ago. That’s another issue for different reasons. This post is about feeling lonely.

One respondent (Allison B) mentioned that she felt she was giving those ancestors “new life.”

That seems to be an excellent way to look at it. While it can be frustrating to research a family that no one else is seemingly interested in, it is an opportunity to make discoveries and, in some way, bring those families back to life. At the very least it is a chance to make those stories known and to connect those individuals with other family members.

Many times these “unresearched” ancestors are more difficult to research–that’s often why they are unresearched.  It may be that no one has even remotely connected the family to any with living descendants. It may be that other descendants simply are not interested in them for one reason or another.

If you are fortunate to make discoveries on these individuals and post the information in any public forum, there’s always the chance that someone else incorporates the information into their tree without any communication with you. That’s the reality. That’s the chance (or opportunity–depending upon your perspective) that you take when you post any information publicly. There’s no control over information once it has been posted and, as we’ve stated before, statements of fact cannot be copyrighted. Copying paragraphs of your analysis and putting it on as their own is a separate issue and is a violation of copyright. Whether it’s courteous to communicate beforehand when reusing facts is a separate issue, but I can guarantee that it more the exception than the rule.

When a person has researched a family for some time and has worked through research challenges with them sometimes they feel something of a connection to those ancestors. That’s understandable. It’s understandable too why it’s frustrating when someone “copies” that information and puts it forth as their own. The other option is not to post the information publicly.

My philosophy is that by spending that time researching that specific family helps me to know them better than someone who simply copies my facts and puts them out there as ones they discovered. I’ve gained something that they haven’t. Wading through the research gives me more of a connection with individuals than simply copying and pasting facts.

That’s something the copy and paster won’t get.

And time spent waging battles with the copiers and pasters takes away time from my research on those families that haven’t been worked up. Or working on those families where there are lots of mistakes and gaps.

I’d rather spend my time doing that.



What’s Missing…Process

I’ve been reviewing in bits and pieces my copy of the Genealogy Standards Manual written by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) . The nice thing about it is that one can read it in bits and pieces or in longer sessions.

There’s a great deal of food for thought in the small volume about research, analysis, citations, and process.

But one thing I don’t really see mentioned as much as I would like is research process. Research logs are mentioned. But sometimes how you searched is an integral part of the analysis process, particularly when database queries are used to access records. If someone was not found in a record set and the record set was too large to practically search manually or a manual search was physically impossible, then then how the database was queried matters or how the index was used matters.

Sometimes it matters because conclusions can be based upon someone not being in a record and other times it matters because seeing how a genealogist searched and came up empty handed helps others to analyze how thorough their process was.

My earlier post on “Tracking Your Process.” It’s brief, but to the point.


Why ThruLines is a Sorting Guide and Not Much More

ThruLines at AncestryDNA is a clue and can be helpful in sorting matches that have trees associated with them. Researchers should validate the connections that ThruLines shows in the trees it creates. This is true with any record. Just because ThruLines is partially associated with a DNA test does not mean that it is any more accurate than any other source. The fact that two DNA tests are a match is based upon science. The probable relationship between those two tests based on the amount of DNA they share is based upon biology and statistics.

There’s two main reasons that I am not taking ThruLines as any more than a DNA result sorting guide:

  • it’s based on trees (perhaps documented or perhaps not) whose reliability I have not validated for myself;
  • the algorithm behind ThruLines is one where I’m not aware of all the details.

I realize there’s a school of genealogical thought that says any online tree that makes a statement about an individual being researched should be used as a clue. I understand that it is possible that someone has a statement in an online tree that is correct and is either:

  • based on some obscure document they have located;
  • correct but with no backup source–really hard to “know” in this case.

I’ve always been hard-pressed to use an online tree as a source for a statement about something that took place in 1750 if that tree has no source for that statement.

And if I’m not aware of the algorithm used to put someone in a ThruLines tree should I use it as “evidence” of the connection.

ThruLines is like a crude, hastily compiled, and partial index to a series of records. We use it to pick low-hanging genealogical fruit but we know that it is no substitute for putting the ladder up in the tree and going after each piece by ourselves one at a time.



Thomas Chaney and his ThruLines Brother THOMAS CHENEY

It seems like there have been some changes to ThruLines since I first experimented with it.

ThruLines (through it’s automated processes) indicates as of 14 April 2019 that Charles Chaney had two sons named Thomas. My immediate family appears in the family of the left Thomas (shown in the first image). ThruLines (based upon my tree attached to my DNA results apparently) correctly indicated that my grandfather was Cecil Neill and that Frances Rampley was his mother. No relationships are given for Riley Rampley and Elizabeth Chaney. The left Thomas is shown as my 5th great uncle even though the tree shows that he’s my ancestor.

The “left hand” Thomas Chaney “son” of Charles. This portion of the ThruLines shows my descent through Cecil Raymond Neill.

The “right” Thomas is indicated as being my 4th great-grandfather (correct based upon what is in the tree attached to my results). However the chart of descendants for this Thomas does not include me. It indicates that Elizabeth Chaney is my 3rd-grandmother and that Riley Rampley is my 2nd great-grandfather (both relationships consistent with what is in my attached tree). But  I’m not in this “branch” myself.

It looks like the ThruLines algorithm decided that Thomas Chaney and THOMAS CHENEY were different enough to be two individual people. The white boxes are individuals that in my tree. How the algorithm behind TrueLines decided to split the family into the two parts is beyond me.

But one would think it would be programmed to notice that there are children of both Thomases that are extremely similar individuals.

It really seems like this problem should have been caught in the earlier stages of testing.


ThruLines Puts Errors in the Middle of My Tree

Words elude me. While ThruLines had some issues we’ve discussed before at least it wasn’t somehow displaying information from my tree incorrectly or altering it based on other trees. This screenshot of part of my ThruLines for my third great-grandfather shows a display that apparently has taken information from my tree and not just added new names, but modified what is in my own tree.

I’ve removed living people from the ThruLines image, including myself. The information in the white boxes in the image is from my tree. The gray boxes are from the apparent data abyss.

It shows my descent from my mother, grandfather, and great-grandfather correctly. Beyond that all digital hell breaks loose in such a way that I don’t know how to begin describing the errors. Note: this is not a family where I am doubly related to the individuals shown.

  • Noentje Grass’ entry has been split into three entries–two of which are shown as private in this tree. She’s my 2nd great-grandmother. My lineage from her in the chart indicates she is my aunt.
  • The three men, George J. Frederich Janssen, and Johann J. Ufkes are all brothers–sons of the same man and woman (Noentje Lena Grass).
  • The lineage boxes that has my correct relationship listed to those two ancestors actually goes through my great-uncle (shown) through one of his children (not shown).

Extending information to my tree is one thing. This is something else.



An American Born in Franklin County

You have to love a death certificate like this one from Mercer County, Illinois. The place of birth for Sarah Smith is listed as “Franklin County.” No state is given. One might think it is Franklin County, Illinois, but it is not. The actual county is in Ohio. My transcription of the death certificate only included what was actually on the death certificate. My discussion of the state of her birth is clearly indicated as not being on the death certificate and being separate from it.
At least the certificate gave Franklin County and not just Ohio and not just “unknown.”
Sarah was actually the daughter of Archibald and Lucinda (Wickiser) Kile who migrated to Mercer County, Illinois in the late 1840s.