No Leaves for Benjamin

Genealogy is not a video game where the action figures are already dead. You can quote me on that.

I would like a leaf–just one.

I don’t really use the trees on the way they are intended to be used. I rarely use anything the way it is supposed to be good, so I’m acting in a consistent fashion. However I do have a couple of private trees  on for my own personal use, usually to see if stumbles upon something that I do not already have. I am usually disappointed.

Any images or records I locate are downloaded to my own computer or media and are integrated into my own database which is kept offline (except for the making of regular backups). That’s easier for a variety of reasons, including: not being reliant on having an internet connection to research or view my data and images, not being reliant on memberships should I let one lapse, and having access to the information if a service to which I subscribe no longer provides access to a part of it’s data because of a change in their contractual arrangements.

I want to have my stuff whenever I want my stuff and where ever I want my stuff.

But sometimes the “automatic” search process at finds things.

But not on Benjamin Butler. Nothing. Not one leaf on Benjamin’s branch of the tree. Every one of my paternal grandmother’s known ancestors gets a leaf. Not Benjamin.

Poor Benjamin is left without a leaf.

While I am frustrated, I’m not certain if Benjamin should be jealous or not. The leaves on my grandmother, her parents, and her grandparents are to records (generally marriage and census) that I’ve already found, but that are not “linked” to that person in my database. Most of the other leaves, especially for the Trautvetter and Bieger families, are to census records or “family trees” that originated from data I compiled in the (drum roll…1980s) and shared with others. There’s nothing new on any of those people in those trees–except for the tree on Barbara Siefert that has her marrying before she was born and having children after she died (or something equally inane–when the dates and places started violating the laws of physics, common sense, and common decency, I clicked away from the tree). For the most part, I’m the only one actively researching the Trautvetter/Bieger families and the compiled trees reflect that.
So…I’m not certain that Benjamin should be jealous that he has no leaves. But I still wish he had some.
To make it easier for to give hints on Benjamin, I linked to his three known census enumerations:

  • 1850 in Port Huron, St. Clair, Michigan
  • 1870 in Soap Creek Township, Davis, Iowa
  • 1880 in Drywood, Vernon, Missouri

I wanted to have more on Benjamin that an approximate year of birth and a rough place of birth. Not one leaf on Benjamin even after I tried to fertilize my tree with some information.

I’ve utilized land and tax records in all of these counties for information on Benjamin and have his probate file from Vernon County, Missouri. Nothing to really extend my research further except for the name of his probable brother. And nothing to give me information on Benjamin between 1850 and 1870.

I’m going to have to keep working on Benjamin the old-fashioned away. The TV shows and commercials want us to think that genealogy research is a video game where the people are already dead.

It’s not.

[here is a followup post on why there are no leaves for Benjamin]


7 thoughts on “No Leaves for Benjamin

  1. Colleen Kayter says:

    Genealogy Tip of the Day posted a link to this article on their facebook page and it landed in my newsfeed. The name, Benjamin Butler, caught my attention. It was familiar to me and I wasn’t sure why. So I searched for it using Bing and LOL, there was Benjamin Butler, the Union General who occupied New Orleans during the Civil War. Known as Beast Butler for his indifferent treatment toward the city’s genteel southern belles.

    Of course, this isn’t your Benjamin. The birth year is almost right (1818), but he was from Massachusetts. But it is a perfect reminder that finding a name that matches doesn’t mean you’ve found a famous ancestor.

    The census enumerators weren’t always the best of spellers or scribes, and the transcriptionists are not always the best at deciphering the old writing. I have found some of my peeps by hunting down neighbors and relatives, then searching page by page through the preceding and following decennial census records.

    My g-g-grandmother was born after 1850, her mother died before 1860, and her father distributed all but his oldest boys to various in-laws before 1860 (and I had no record of mom’s maiden name). All I had to go on was a cryptic letter dated 1902 from her “brother” who shared 30 years of family news. From that I traced siblings, found the in-laws, and found the aunt and uncle with whom she moved from Ohio to Iowa.

    I share your early “research” experience and dismiss 90% of family tree postings, but you never know if one of those might actually lead to something verifiable. Good luck finding Benjamin!

  2. I feel your pain. I have had a bit of luck with those nineteen and early twentieth century town and county histores. I’ve found a few siblings of a leafless ancestor that way. Still no parents, but a lot more people to look at who may themselves someday have a shakey leaf.

    • Benjamin had a bunch of children–approximately 10-and I’m hoping that something on one of them leads to something more concrete on him.

  3. Emery St. Cyr says:

    I too have been frustrated by no leaves for a couple with no leaves, Jonathan Brown b. 1812 in Berlin, N.Y.and his wife Nancy A. Beebe b. 1820 in Berlin, N.Y. It seems like they just disappeared .

  4. A lot of new users don’t realize that the Ancestry hint algorithm doesn’t search through all of Ancestry’s databases. It only searches through a limited number of the most popular ones. So the results are likely to be the same ones that you would see at the top of the results if you ran a Global Search.

    You can stir the pot a little by editing someone’s profile — that will sometimes trigger the search for more hints. And sometimes the hint algorithm will showcase a new database when it is first added to Ancestry, like the Social Security Application and Claims (the Numident records). But for the most part, the hints turn up the things that are easy for the users to find themselves, if they had the time to run the searches. They are useful for newcomers and for people with very large trees, who don’t have the time to search for thousands of people individually. Most users will have better results by searching individual databases directly or by browsing and using old-school techniques, as if you were using a microfilm reader. There are records in some of the databases that have no names associated with them at all, which the hint algorithm will never find.

    • Those are really good points and I bet the results aren’t all that different from a global search although I admit that I’ve not run an actual comparison. The suggestions do tend to appear to be a combination of “easy pickings” and links that others have made to the people in question–which may be where some of the off-the-wall suggestions arise. The “probate database” is one that is notoriously unindexed, but there are certainly others as well.

      As you mentioned, searching individual databases is usually the way to go. It’s unusual for me to perform a global search myself.

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