27 November 2012

Tuesday's Tip - Something For Everyone

I was going through all the things I haven't had time to read and found Tim Forsythe's blog post titled, 'The Drive-By Genealogist's Lament'. I started to write a comment, then realized it'd be way too long. And I've really been itching to address this issue for a number of important reasons. I believe, if you bear with me and read on, there will be something for everyone. That's my goal: something for everyone.

If you didn't want to take the time to read Tim's excellent post, here's how I started my response: 

Well, now that you've called 95% of the family history/genealogy community lazy, I have to comment. I don't know if I'd slap the word 'lazy' umbrella-style over every person who found a relative in an online tree, downloaded the file and got jazzed by the fact they just found 1,000 new relatives. I did it when I first started in 1996. I was elated

Then I got hammered by a Professional Genealogist who told me (paraphrasing) that I was full of crap and didn't know crap and I better learn something if I'm going to do this (genealogy). *fakes cowering* So I did. Learn something...on my own. Poorly. And I posted a tree out there using Family Tree Maker software and created my little family page and was so happy

At this point I realized I was going to probably end up writing more than Tim's original post, and didn't think that was appropriate or professional. So, here's the rest of my story:

I took a break. A long break. Oh, I looked at my genealogy stuff a couple of times a year, but between the loss of family members, friends and a bunch of other life stuff, it wasn't a priority. Then I came back. I was an Archivist now. My research skills were sharply honed in college and I wanted to get back to Genealogy. I started to think about it as a profession. So, I got online, started a blog about my experience as a family historian and future professional, and started to read the blogs of Professional Genealogists. And what they said about source citations made sense, even though I didn't want it to. I looked back at my old research and online tree and saw that it was like Swiss cheese without the cheese. All holes. I had propagated incorrect information. Well shoot.

Then, about that same time, someone posted somewhere on Social Media that ALL trees MUST be cited or they have no place on the Internet. *Said in my best Genealogy Police voice* My first thought was, "wow, that's harsh...I wouldn't have posted that old tree if..."  *face palm*  Oh, OK. I guess I can *see* that point. I might not like it or agree with it, but I can understand that side of the argument. I propagated incorrect information via an on-line tree. That information will be out there in perpetuity and a researcher may copy it and use it and so on and so on.

Just a few weeks later, my study group was learning about Source Citations. Talk about brutal. Someone could write a book about all the iterations...oh. Heh. There IS a book. And a website (now). But it's a bit like giving the current Tax Code to a third grader and expecting him/her to understand it. After much discussion, we determined the real key is that the citation should be clear enough for the person using it to FIND the source of the evidence that's being cited, which makes sense from a researcher's standpoint. You want to get as close to the primary source as you can and, if someone else has already done that, and they explain (cite) where that was (source), you've found what you were looking for (evidence)! And you're happy

Then I had a brilliant idea and I posted it on Social Media. I said that companies like Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org and every site that holds family trees should filter the trees into different buckets. BAM!! I got slammed to the ground by several people saying I was being divisive and non-inclusive and a hater of beginning genealogists. Really?! I was shocked and taken by surprise that they hadn't taken the time to even read my complete suggestion which is this: that family history sites have the technological ability to filter trees by the number of entries which have sources. That with that ability, they could create two places where trees reside: a place for trees without sources and a place for trees with sources. There's no exclusion of information; it's still all there. If you want to pull 10,000 people into your beginning tree and post it, go right ahead. If you don't want to put a single bit of data into your tree without using the Genealogical Proof Standard, that's fine too. And EVERYONE in between those two extremes is welcome to post whatever they want in whatever unsourced/sourced state they choose because the site will determine which bucket it goes in, automatically. 

A RESEARCHER can then choose whether or not they want to look at sourced and cited trees or those without sources and citations. That's the root of what we do as family historians and/or genealogists of any stripe. We research. We don't sit passively and wait for the information to come to us, we go get it. And we all have different levels of ability with regard to that research and different reasons for doing the research in the first place. This solution excludes no one and provides more efficient access for the researcher, be they the lazy *tongue in cheek* professional who is seeking sourced material or the beginner who has yet to learn the difference between evidence and a source and just wants to pull 1,000 people into a database and go through it piece by piece to uncover whether that information is accurate. 

It's a suggested solution, rather than simply a comment. We were all beginners once. We should openly welcome people who are simply hoping to find out where their grandfather was born, or if their 2nd great grandfather really went to Brazil. And if they get the bug and want to take the step of learning how the Genealogical profession works and what its standards are, there are lots of resources for them to do that and plenty of us out here willing to share. To find solutions to problems. Because there really can be something for everyone.

22 November 2012

Thankful Thursday - Thanksgiving Redux

A slightly edited version of my post from last Thanksgiving. Indeed, the possibilities were endless, and I do have a sense that I'm heading in the right direction...just not quite there yet. I'll be sharing tonight with a small part of my husband's family. On Saturday, I'll be with my two cousins (my mom's oldest sister's boys) and their families, happily indulging in all the 'traditional' Thanksgiving foods. And I'm very appreciative of the fact that you're sharing this with me.  Thank you.

So what does this have to do with my Thankful Thursday Thanksgiving? Well, this is only the third time in my life, entire life, that I am not with my family on Thanksgiving. It has always been the ONE holiday we spent together. It's not by choice, this separation. My parents moved out in May and are now very happily settled in Prescott, Arizona. And while being without them in and of itself could elicit a lot of emotion, the fact that this is my new 'normal' has me feeling very sad. My first reaction was to retreat; I really didn't want to bring my uncertain emotional state to someone else's celebration. So, I'm going to be alone for my first holiday. Ever. 

At the same time, it's my choice to be alone, and I'm thankful to have the time to reflect on what this holiday means. It got me to thinking about all the people out there who spend not just this holiday, but many holidays, alone. Some do so by choice, but I think many don't. The reality is that there are lots of options out there, events and places to go, to fill the day. 

I like the fact that I'll have a year to figure out what my new holiday tradition will be. Because it can be anything. I can spend the day with those who aren't as fortunate as me, by serving at any number of local shelters and food pantries. I could invite friends who are in similar circumstances and cook up a storm. I could buy a ticket and spend the holiday doing genealogical research in Europe!! The possibilities are truly endless. 

So, today I'm thankful for the lovely house I live in, the job I have, and for the continued good health of my family, friends and me. I'm thankful for four wonderful feline friends who may make me crazy, but bring me endless joy. I'm thankful that I have been given an incredible circle of people whose hearts continue to astound me; from friends I've had since grammar school, to high school, to my new neighborhood, to Social Media. You are a blessing to me. 

Most importantly, I'm thankful for life's potential, because while I may be on my own today I am far from alone, and anything is possible.

18 November 2012

Sentimental Sunday - A Shared Profession Leads to Shared Resource

Good Sunday morning, everyone!

This post, which will be quick (promise), is coming to you only because I was finally able to spend a little time this morning on my favorite social media platform: Twitter. For those of you who are now rolling your eyes and saying to yourself, 'I am NOT going there...', here's real proof that it can link you with people, resources and information you might not get otherwise (or certainly might not find as easily). 

I was looking at Twitter using Tweetdeck, and I have lists to filter groups of tweeps together. It helps me to focus on specific things like genealogy, archives, fitness, etc. I saw a tweet from @GenealogyCircle, Cindy Freed, with a link to her latest blog post. (Which in and of itself is great). But, what caught my eye were the words 'mail carrier' in the title of a prior post. So, I clicked through to read it (I'm painfully behind on blog reading and social media...apologies to anyone I've missed.). Cindy wrote a post about her gggrandfather and his work as postal carrier.

Well, I have to say, after reading that she had gotten some great information from the USPS historian, but nothing on her ancestor, I couldn't type fast enough!  My great grandfather, George Jeffrey, was a mail carrier from 1903 - 1923 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. In 1998, when I did some initial research, I found out that the US Postal Service maintained records on their employees which are still in existence! I couldn't believe it. So I wrote to the address listed, and in a matter of a few weeks I received a letter from them. While they didn't have his specific record, they were able to confirm for me where and when he worked with the Postal Service, some great evidence!

Anyway, today, the USPS has a pamphlet with the resources available on the Postal Service and it's employees. You can find it HERE.

And, once I'd tweeted out the link, another of my tweeps, @Ghyxion, said her great Aunt had been a Post Master (or, rather, Mistress, as she later pointed out) and that the resource will hopefully help her get some more information too!

So, apparently, there are lots of us family historians and genealogists with Postal workers in our trees. Hopefully someone else will find this information helpful! 

And, we're keeping up the family tradition of delivering information...just in a very different format! :-)

11 November 2012

Sentimental Sunday - Veterans: a Broader Definition

As family historians and genealogists, I think we all look to those who have served in the military as guides for our research. So often, the records provided through military service are loaded with little genealogical gems that we can mine through to move our research forward. 

But I don't believe that there's a moment that we don't think about the sacrifices, large and small, that those veterans made to fight for what they believed in, to do what they felt was right. As I was creating a post for Facebook and Google+, I realized there was more to the veteran story. I was thinking in terms of chronological history, the wars in which my ancestors fought (that I know of) and I stumbled over something. I'll explain...

I don't have a lot of veterans in my family; it's a family oddity, particularly on my maternal side, that the generations were very long and sat squarely at times when the men were either too young or too old for military service. I do have one ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War (that's proven): Waters Burrows. I know very little about him as a person and don't really know anything about his service or sacrifices other than the fact that he was a Private in a NJ regiment. There are several more of his generation that I haven't proved to my satisfaction, but I believe are veterans just the same: James Sargent and Benjamin Penn.

Then there's the Civil War and my one exception to the military rule: Daniel Beightler.

Photo of Daniel Beightler (1844-1925) courtesy of Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana
Daniel fought as a member of the Ohio 66th Volunteer Infantry, being mustered in December 1861 and out in 1865. He was a prisoner of war for about three months, and was on leave for a month in January 1864, just long enough to marry Lura Leatherman. After the war they settled into life in Ohio and went on to have six children. Remarkably, even though he'd been wounded during the war, Daniel lived to be 81 years old.

My father's uncles, Francis, Patrick and John Cosgrove, all fought during WWI. They were English citizens, living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, but they fought bravely to protect their homeland. Francis in particular sacrificed; he was wounded severely, including being exposed to mustard gas, and never fully recovered. Of course, that didn't stop him from marrying and having six children, the youngest of whom was just a year old when he died in 1931. Both Patrick and John lived long lives, though neither one married.

My Dad's youngest uncle and his half brother, both named Vincent Cosgrove, fought during WWII, as did my mother's uncle, Roger Wersel and cousin, Stephen Baer. And as I was thinking about who else I was missing, I suddenly thought about my mother-in-law, Ely Lumilan Lorenzana. 

Ely was born in 1929 on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. In early 1942, just weeks after the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese, she was sent to stay with her father's parents. Shortly after that Ely's father, Teodorico Lumilan who was a minister, was accused of being a Japanese sympathizer and was executed. In very short order, it was discovered that the accuser had done so falsely, and in turn he and his entire family were executed. That was just the beginning.

While Ely's siblings stayed with her mother's family, Ely found herself conscripted into a guerrilla unit to fight against the Japanese. She's shared the story of how she moved from town to town and lived for extended periods in the jungle. She reluctantly told me that she had seen executions; when asked if she herself had ever had to take up arms, she simply said, 'we did what we had to do to survive.' At the end of the war, having lived and fought on the run for two and a half years, Ely was 16. 

Photo of Ely Lumilan (c. 1944-45, second from right, standing) courtesy of Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana
What I find remarkable is that a little over a year after the war was over, this photo shows a beautiful young woman who seems to not have a care in the world:

Photo of Ely Lumilan (1946) courtesy of Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana
And I'm suddenly thinking of veterans in a very different way. How many of my ancestors had roles in the conflicts fought during their lifetimes? I know there are countless stories of resistance fighters in Europe during both World Wars, just as there were in the Philippines. 

I am so very, very proud of my uncle, Daniel Cosgrove, who served during Vietnam. He carried the responsibility of the family name, Daniel, with him as he fought for his Country in a war that was not a War but that required immense sacrifice on the part of our Nation. And I'm equally proud of his son Daniel Austin,  who continues this tradition as he serves our military today.

The men and women who have worn uniforms in defense of their nations must never be forgotten. Neither should those who sacrificed, in equal measure, to defend their homes and support those wearing the uniforms, for they are veterans in their own right.

We must never forget.

UPDATE (11 Nov 2014) Ely Lorenzana passed away earlier this year. Her sacrifice, and that of too many others to name, will never be forgotten.

05 November 2012

An Archivist's Notebook: Who Will Look at Your Genealogical Collection?

I thought I'd share this via my blog; I've been trying to find ways to share the basics of what I know regarding the care and handling of genealogical material and speaking at Genealogy Societies seems to be a great way to accomplish that. This presentation comes out of a two hour workshop I did for the Town & Country Public Library in Elburn that everyone seemed to enjoy. This is only an hour, so if you're in the area and have the time, please join us.

DuPage County Genealogical Society - November General MeetingDate: Wednesday, November 14, 2012, 6:30—8:30pm 

Program: An Archivist's Notebook: Who Will Look at Your Genealogical Collection?

Speaker: Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana is a Consulting Archivist, Genealogist, and writer. She earned a BA in Art History with a Certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Since 2006, she has worked as a Consulting Archivist in a wide variety of Archives from Shure, Inc. to the Union League Club of Chicago where her interest in genealogy was resurrected as she assisted researchers in their efforts to locate information about their relatives.

Program Description: Genealogists acquire and arrange a vast array of materials, both physical and digital. Who isn't excited to find an original document a grandparent or great-grandparent wrote? Or gathering photos and memorabilia from a favored family line? Your diligent work now will benefit generations to come, but only if the material is properly stored and prepared to pass to the next generation. Learn the best practices for handling and caring for these materials, as well as preparatory steps to ensure the long life of the materials.

Where: Lower Level Meeting Room,Wheaton Public Library, 225 N. Cross St, Wheaton, ILhttp://www.wheatonlibrary.org/LI_Location.html

01 November 2012

Thankful Thursday - Happiness is a Dry Collection

I've said pretty much all I can on social media about how much empathy I have for the people who have been affected by Superstorm Sandy. Most of you know I've volunteered with Noah's Wish, which is how I gained the three beautiful kitties who enrich my life daily. I'm a staunch supporter of first responders, CERT members, the American Red Cross, health care workers, etc. I bow to their selfless sacrifices and the sacrifices of the ones who love them. The challenges of Sandy are just beginning. What truly makes this storm unprecedented is that it happened in a northern climate when winter is just around the corner. This not only will delay cleanup efforts, but also the rebuilding that must take place to house those who've lost their homes. It's not quite as simple as setting up trailers that don't require heat; a much more complex set of problems is being handed to a very large group of people. I hope we'll all keep these folks in our minds and hearts until they are resettled.

In the meantime, I've been seeing lots of information flying around about how to salvage and manage wet and damaged photographs and documents. 

Via Twitter: HeavenlyFire999: RT @WSJ An aerial shot of flood damage in Bethany
Beach, Delaware on Tuesday. The latest on #Sandy: http://t.co/DrJoU5fW

Here are a few items that seem to be missing from them all, in no particular order:

1. While it is best to get materials out of water within 48 hours, that's not always possible. This does not mean that the material will be unsalvageable, just that as each day passes, the likelihood diminishes.

2. CRITICAL: do NOT try to dry material directly out of flood water. This seems to be the one most important step missing from almost all the resources available on-line. Flood water is nearly always contaminated in one way or another, whether it is natural or chemical. So, it is recommended that, using protective gloves, materials be removed from flood water into plastic containers filled with clean, distilled water. Filtered water works in a pinch, and obviously, if the only water available is neither distilled nor filtered, plain clean water will work. The goal is to gently move the material from one container into another to remove as much of the contaminants as possible. 

3. If you're in an area that has electricity and have access to a freezer, wet documents (not photographs) can be frozen (in a clean state) and then thawed out in small batches. By freezing the documents, you essentially freeze the decomposition the water may cause; there are disaster recovery companies that specialize in freeze-drying materials from institutions when disaster strikes.

4. Do not put anything that could possibly still be damp in a sealed plastic bag. Even a minute amount of dampness can cause mold to grow in an enclosed environment. It's best to keep wet material submerged until such time as a drying location is available, keeping in mind the 48 hour rule.

I have, in my professional career, had incidents occur which required immediate action. One was a flood of an office in Nashville during a devastating flood there several years ago. Fortunately, only a couple of file drawers of material were affected and the on-site staff were able to recover the material using some of the techniques I mentioned. The other was the loss of a part of the ceiling in an Archives from water due to a broken seal and then subsequently a clogged pipe. Fortunately in that case, a great disaster recovery plan meant that an emergency didn't become a disaster; none of the material was directly affected by the water.

While I hope that no one reading this actually ever needs to use any of this advice, the reality of it is that it happens. I pray you're all safe and comfortable.