10 January 2014

I know, it's been ages!

First, I apologize to you for temporarily abandoning my blog. Life got in the way.

I have had a very busy 10 months. Mostly packing up the household and moving it to the seacoast. There were some executive decisions concerning renovations and additions made as well. Living in two houses at one time is not something I would recommend. So, here I am, sitting in my house near the sea with a nice fire burning in the woodstove. Life is good, yet often complicated.

It is a new year and it is full of promise. Hopefully not promises that I cannot keep, but the exhilarating promise of finding new relatives, discovering more about the known and unknown, and most importantly, maybe, just maybe, finding the missing link.

In the past year, if you recall, I had my DNA tested. Twice. The initial testing was done through Ancestry.com. I have three confirmed matches on my mother's side of the tree the Ives and Stoddard families, and one on my father's side, the Gallup/Cahoon family.  It is very exciting. There may be more, but I have done a lot of comparing of trees and not come up with the person that ties someone to me. It's frustrating to have a genetic match, but not an obvious visible one.

I also did a second DNA test with 23andme because my sister wanted to do that one - I decided to take that test so that we could compare results. I have had fewer confirmed matches with 23andme, but more conversations with folks who come into the radar (so to speak) of the DNA results. With one person I have checked my tree against his and found some really surprising close calls. The wife [Lydia Brainerd] of my 4th great grandfather [Samuel Mack] - but not my 4th great grandmother - was the sister to his X-great grandmother - but not through his direct line either. There were a lot of folks who came from the same town Samuel lived in, so I knew a lot of the names. Sadly, no genetic match there yet. We may have a connection with Nathaniel Spencer or his wife Ruth Purple. Or one of the Spencer family members. Or Purple family. I just can't find it. A different person's match goes so far back into the Dyckman family, but I'm not absolutely sure of the connection. But, I guess genes don't lie.

 I do appreciate all of the matches that have links to their family trees. I am, however, surprised with the number of Ancestry.com matches where the surnames might match, but the locations do not, or vice versa; the locations match, but the surnames do not. I often wonder about the criteria used. Just how much comes from the wealth of data within the banks of information of Ancestry.com. What - you didn't know I was a skeptic? Genetics - what a wild and interesting place to explore!

New discoveries this year! I found a copy of a family chart that came in a box of photos from my uncle. It starts with people I don't know, but within a generation does involve the Russell family (a familiar name in my family) and the Starr family (not familiar) by the 6th generation, the Dikemans and Fairchilds  make an appearance and the rest looks a lot like my family tree. I have been busily checking out the people in the chart and comparing it with my family tree. As a result, I have more family members and a lot more records added to my tree. I don't know when the chart was created, but the starting person was born in 1922, so it isn't that much older than mine.

I found another Mailman relative living in Massachusetts. Joseph Archibald Mailman is Minnie Mailman Mack's brother, my great grand uncle. He died in Everett, MA in 1907. I'm still looking for Caroline, the mother of these children. She disappeared in Nova Scotia after the 1891 census, when she was 53 yrs old.

I went to Reading, MA to find my great grandparent's gravestone. I had already located my Mack grandparents- Harold Dean Mack and Blanche Johnstone Mack with my sister's help a couple of years ago.  A few months after that, I found out that my great grandparents were also buried in the same cemetery. When I got to the cemetery I searched all over the graveyard for them. Eventually I found them - I'm a little embarrassed to admit - actually, their names are on the back of Harold and Blanche's gravestone. I couldn't believe it! We took pictures of Harold and Blanche's headstone when we were there the first time. I don't know why we never walked around the stone to see if anything was on the back. Lesson learned!

Smart Matches and Shaky Leaves. I have family trees on both Ancestry and My Heritage. I like them each for different reasons. My simpler tree is on MH as I was making sure my info was correct as I was entering the data. I decided not to have all the siblings in MH, as I find it a little harder to put the information in, and more difficult to go back and edit. However, the biggest benefit so far, is a lot of my Canadian relatives are on MH and I have been Smart Matching as fast as I can. That said I have several hundred left to go on any given day. Naturally, given the way things work, I have many, many more matches with the older ancestors, which, now that I think about it, maybe it is a good thing we have a collective brick wall in 1653 the proposed date for John Mack's birth. I couldn't calculate the number of common relatives that I have for any of my 6th great grandparents, not to mention the 13ths.

So, I say to you, dear xth cousin, I will get to your match as soon as I am able.

Shaky leaves on the other hand are a different matter. As of this morning, I have 5,541 hints – a veritable forest of shaky leaves. While most hints turn out to be related to my person of interest, I am finding more and more that do not. Similar names, but different circumstances from what the other 5-8 record hints are showing. Dates in particular are up to 50 yrs off. I think A.com needs to tweak that filter.

As of this time, I have stopped adding names in index records to my people. I just don't see how it will be useful. Particularly if I already have good vital records and a couple of local ones, including census records and tax bills, etc. I know it is good to get a lot of corroborating evidence, but is an index really evidence? I suppose if you have nothing else…

I am happy to report that my first attempts at using Evidentia have proven to be very successful. I chose to use a census record of a not well known family member. I did spend a lot of time my first go around. I am happy though, that for all the entry work I did, I got a really good understanding of what was going on with that person and his family. I did solve a mystery while I was at it - one I didn't even know I had. I think one of the most important parts of Evidentia is slowing down and having to answer questions about a person and having to commit to a reasonable conclusion. I also like having to mindfully judge the evidence as well. Each and every time.

It is way too easy, a convenience really, to put evidence into a niche, and think of it as a thing that carries a certain weight of authority, instead of what it individually is - just a record. Let it speak. Now tell me what is says.

I continue to volunteer at the New England Historical and Genealogical Society. I have had a lot of fun over the past few years working for NEHGS. I do computer entry work for them. You know all those handy dandy databases you like to search? Someone has to put all that data into a searchable file. You're welcome, it is my pleasure. I now can add proofreading and data mining to my rez. I must have inherited this ability from my son the computer expert. Hmmm, can inherited traits go both ways?

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