Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why I Attach Media To Events

Back in January of this year, I wrote about my experience with RootsMagic 5 software. Several new features had been added to the new version of the product and I especially liked the media 'tagging' feature. I was asked by a reader if I thought it was necessary to attach media items (electronic files usually in JPEG format like photos or documents) to the events about which the media contains information. I think my reply at the time may not have been as helpful or fulsome as it should have been.

I was reminded of the media attaching and 'tagging' when genealogy blogger extraordinaire, Randy Seaver asked for some help with media attachments in RootsMagic 5 through his Genea-Musings blog. I saw Randy's request and link to his blog on Facebook and quickly replied with a description of the process I use to attach media. To my delight, Bruce Buzbee, the developer of the RootsMagic 5 software, read my reply, clicked the 'like' button and then he posted essentially the same process, although more succinctly stated, in a comment on Randy's blog. Timing is everything and I had provided a solution that met with the software developer's approval before he had a chance to the same!

Below is a partial screen shot of the 'edit person' page for my second great grandfather, Lewis Fitzgerald. You can see that there are numerous events about him and a column indicating whether there are sources cited for the stated event beside a column indicating whether there is media attached to that event. In this example, the birth event is highlighted showing that there is a note about the event, fifteen sources cited, and media attached that 'speaks' to the event. (You didn't really think I was going to post a screen shot showing no source citations or media, did you?)

I got me to thinking about that initial question posed to me. Why do I take the time to attach media items to the facts or 'events' that I have entered for an individual in my genealogy software database?

First, I should offer up that I think attaching media to events in the database is a best practice but it is not a requirement to meet some kind of genealogy standard. I have three primary reasons for attaching the media items.

1. Organization

Perhaps like you, I have accumulated at least hundreds, maybe thousands of electronic records about the ancestors in my database. Photographs, birth, marriage and death registrations, census pages, etc. I have also developed a workable (for me) electronic filing system where all of these electronic records are stored. As the collection of record files grow, it becomes ever more difficult and time consuming to find the one record file that I want to view. Record filing is all about finding what you want, when you want it. Although I use a 'filing' system and a personal standard file labeling system, and I admit that I hate filing, locating the right file can take time - and that's time away from something else, like research. Having the appropriate media or electronic file attached to the event saves time in the long run and I'm all for saving time.

2. Data Manipulation

My experience in using databases, gained primarily when I was working prior to my recent retirement, taught me that a good database allowed me to manipulate the data to provide me with a variety of ways of looking at the results. We see this in our genealogy research for example, when we plot out events from a list about a person or family onto a geographic timeline. It is another way to take the same data but see it in another way. Having the records attached to the events assists me to visually see additional clues for further leads in my research and there are many times when I need all the clues I can possibly find.

3. Reports

In most current genealogy software programs, and certainly in RootsMagic 5, I can generate reports that include the records or media attached to a person and the events in their life that I have attached to them. This is a great aid when sharing information with other researchers and with family members. Genealogy is a collaborative pursuit and the ability to share good, complete information can only help in that collaboration.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Kids often throw out the question "Are we there yet?" from the back seat of the family car soon after they bore of staring out the window at the blur of passing landscape. I must confess that I probably tormented my parents with this question many times.

Crista Cowan on the blog lamented about those who proclaim that their genealogy is "all done" either completed by themselves or some distant relative who worked it all out and offered one possible way to measure 'completeness.' Randy Seaver of the ever popular Genea-Musings blog picked up on this challenge for his most recent Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post.

Crista suggested the metric for how complete a family history is by reviewing the numbers associated with ten generations of direct relationships. The number of direct ancestors doubles each generation so tracing my direct ancestry ten generations to my 7th great grandparents, a period of about 300 years based on Crista's reasonable assumptions, will involve identifying 1023 individuals, starting with me.

I currently have 12,671 individuals in my genealogy database. This comprises both my family (Hadden) and my wife's family (Wagner). By completing the simple chart below, I can see how many of our direct ancestors I have been able to identify. I found the numbers to be startling!

In the Hadden family, while I start out strong, by the time I reach the seventh generation, the number of direct ancestors I have been able to identify really begins to dwindle. In total, I have identified 129 direct ancestors out of a possible 1023, or only 12.6% of my great grandparents at the tenth generation mark. It gets much worse when I look at generations eleven through fifteen, and remember at the fifteenth generation I have 16,384 12X great grandparents. How tough can it be to find at least one or two people out of more than 16,000. Tough enough that I haven't yet succeeded.

Things are marginally better in my wife's family where I have identified a total of 161 of her direct ancestors or 15.7% of the 1023 individuals. My wife has much deeper North American roots than I which might account for better numbers in generations ten through fifteen. In her case, I have identified sixteen of her 16,384 12X great grandparents. The remaining 16,368 should be easy.

Oh, how I wish someone had completed my genealogy too.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blogoversary Number Three

Three years ago today, I nervously set out to share some family stories. Following years of researching my family roots, I saw a blog as the best vehicle available to share what I came to learn and value with others in my family.

A link to this blog was sent to the twenty-five family members for whom I had an email address. I never imagined that many thousands of page loads would be made by folks from literally around the world. But ultimately genealogy is a collaborative endeavour and the world is small with family histories and anecdotes overlapping one another.

The experiences of my ancestors were also experienced by the ancestors of many other families. It is a tie that continues to bind us.

Thanks for your continued support and thanks for stopping by to see what is new.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Oscar August Brehler

Oscar August Brehler was my wife's first cousin, three times removed. Oscar was the son, and youngest child, of Jacob Brehler and Harriet Hailer. Harriet was the sister of my wife's second great grandmother, Margaret Hailer, and the daughter of Johann Jacob Hailer, a Kitchener, Waterloo pioneer.

Jacob and Harriet Brehler married in Canada West (now Ontario, Canada) likely around 1855, but moved to Michigan in the United States in 1864. Oscar was born in Royal Oak, Oakland, Michigan on 3 June 1880. At the age of 24, Oscar graduated from the Detroit School of Medicine as a pharmacist and set off on his own. His first stop was at Prescott in the then Arizona Territory. After a short stay there, estimated to be only a year or two, Oscar headed for California.

In 1905, Oscar purchased a drug store in Sanger, Fresno, California. For the next forty years, Oscar operated what was described as the "County's First Drug Store." Oscar was prominent in the community serving as a leader of the local and district Kiwanis clubs among many civic undertakings. When Oscar sold his drug store in January 1945 to Roger F. Taylor, it was reported on page 4 of the Fresno Bee Republican newspaper (January 7th edition). When Sanger City celebrated it's Diamond Jubilee in 1963, a commemorative book published to mark the occasion stated, "Oscar arrived a scant 17 years after Sanger dates it's founding, and throughout all these years his reputation for square dealing, dependability and integrity has been known and respected throughout this entire area."

There's seems little doubt that Oscar was a good down-to-earth kind of guy but what makes Oscar unique was his basket collection!

It seems that in the early years of his store, many Yokut Indians from the foothills around Sanger came to town and Oscar bought several of their hand-woven baskets from them. It is reported that Oscar purchased the baskets from the natives as he knew they needed the money to purchase supplies. Eventually his basket collection grew to be about 200 baskets in total.

Oscar died in 1966 and his basket collection formed the centre piece of a new Sanger museum, housed in the original Sanger railway station building - the Sanger Depot Museum.

Quite the legacy for a pharmacist from Michigan with deep Ontario roots.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

The Importance of Being Lewis

There are some names in families that are carried on generation after generation. Following some of my more recent posts about Lewis Fitzgerald, one of my maternal second great grandfathers, I was reminded by my cousin, and author, Pamela Gaull, that Lewis is also an important name in my paternal family.

So I decided to check my genealogy database on the number of individuals named Lewis and their relation to me. Currently, I have 12,660 individuals in my database covering both my ancestral family and that of my wife. Using the custom report feature in RootsMagic 5, I found 36 men who were named Lewis. Interestingly enough, I found that there is an even split of the Lewis name between my wife's family and mine; eighteen men named Lewis in my Hadden family tree and eighteen men named Lewis in Ellen's Wagner family tree.

There are different versions of the origin of the name Lewis offered on the Internet. Two of the more popular origin versions indicate that the name derives from a Scandinavian word meaning 'famous warrior' or 'glorious ruler.' I suspect my father, who is a Lewis, would be happy enough with that, particularly as the alternate origin suggested is that the name is from a Norwegian word, Ljodhhus, apparently meaning 'sounding house,' a place where men who took the depth of the sea were housed.

As stated previously, Lewis was an important name in my ancestral family. My father is a Lewis, named after an uncle named Lewis. I was named after a Lewis in my mother's family, Lewis Fitzgerald Foley, although you won't find Lewis in my name. Lewis Fitzgerald Foley was commonly known as Gerald Foley, so I was given the Gerald name.

My third great grandfather was Lewis McKenzie, a crofter in 19th century Cluny, Aberdeen, Scotland. His father, my fourth great grandfather, was also named Lewis McKenzie, an inn keeper and farmer at Old Mill, Coull, Aberdeen, Scotland. In fact, my family tree contains six men named Lewis McKenzie. I am directly descended from three men named Lewis while the remaining fifteen men are uncles or cousins.

It seems that until you really look at the popularity of a name in your family, it can easily go unnoticed, possibly due to the spread of time and generations.

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