Posted: 16 Jul 2015 | Author: Sue Adams | Filed under: Genealogy issues, Genealogy software and data | Tags: Abinger baptism, Ancestry, derivative, family history, genealogy, parish register, Source example |
During recent discussions in the FHISO Sources and Citation Exploratory Group, Nick Hall suggested this baptism as an instructive example:
1845, 30 Nov, Alfred son of James & Lucy Munday
This entry, numbered 123, is recorded in the parish baptism register for Abinger St James on page 16 of a bound book of printed forms.
It is likely that you would not be permitted to inspect the original register, but would be directed to a copy instead. Popular records like parish registers would deteriorate through being handled by many people. The primary concern of archives is the long term preservation of documents in their care. The archivist is not being an obstructive pain, but doing their job.
Copies offer much wider access, especially to those who cannot easily travel to the archive. However, copies are not equal, so it is important to know exactly which copy of a record you are using.
I have tracked down as many copies of this baptism record as I can find. Here is how the copies were derived:
I count 18 versions in addition to the original register. Can you find any more?
© Sue Adams 2015
Posted: 17 Oct 2014 | Author: Sue Adams | Filed under: Genealogy issues, Genealogy resources | Tags: conference, family history, Gaenovium, GEDCOM, genealogy, Leiden, metadata, open data, open standards |
The shield of Leiden’s municipal coat of arms. The crossed keys are the symbol of St Peter, patron saint of the city to whom the oldest church was consecrated in 1121.
On 7 October 2014, a group of genealogy technologists gathered in Leiden, The Netherlands, for the first Gaenovium conference. Although small with around 25 delegates, it was certainly forward looking and shows promise of things to come. It seems fitting that open data and open standards for genealogy have been expounded in the city whose symbol is a pair of crossed keys.
Unlocking the full potential of historical documents requires:
- practical, convenient and non-discriminatory access, or the researcher’s work can’t even get started
- un-restricted use, re-use and re-combination of data, so the researcher is free to follow any line of enquiry and can freely collaborate with others
The principles promoted by open movements such as Open Definition have found support in the academic and cultural domains. Gaenovium attendees included representatives of universities and commercial digitisation and archival management companies, which all exploit open data to their advantage. Independent developers, genealogy organisations from the Netherlands, Nederlandse Genealogie Vereniging, and Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, and Verein fur Computer-genealogie e.V. from Germany, accounted for most other delegates.
Generally historical data were not collected for the purpose of genealogy. Genealogists are masters of reusing and combining data, but sometimes forget that the data may also be used for other kinds of research. Marijn Schraagen of Leiden University spoke about algorithms for name matching, which has applicability beyond genealogy. He compared new and established algorithms for efficient use of computing resources and scalability as well as functional capability. He commented that a new algorithm may not be better at matching names, but might do so more quickly. Over dinner, an attendee from Utrech University described using compiled genealogies to investigate human life spans.
Digitisation and archive management companies Picturae, Mindbus, and DE REE archiefsystemen were represented. Dutch cadastral maps on HISGIS, WieWasWie and Archieven.nl are examples of their collaborative work that are well worth exploring. I am guilty of a common sin committed by native English speakers. I often pass over resources that are not in English, and just look what I missed!
Google translate renders the sign as,
“prohibitions against mopeds off fix to the fence , they will be removed”
Open data advocate, Bob Coret convincingly demonstrated Open Archives, a platform that combines data from several Dutch heritage institutions. Use of the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) in a genealogical context highlights the connection between archives and genealogy. The majority of genealogical sources are original documents housed in an archive, or some derivative such as microfilm or digital image.
Michel Brinckman presented a detailed view of the Archives-to-Archive data model behind WieWasWie and Open Archives. Timo Kracke showed some of the complexities of place name data.
A discussion of genealogy data standards would be incomplete without mention of GEDCOM. Louis Kessler’s Reading wrong GEDCOM right set out pragmatic best practices for overcoming an imperfect and poorly implemented standard.
The panel discussion, mediated by Bob Coret, with Louis Kessler, myself and Phil Moir of D C Thompson Family History (aka findmypast, GenesReunited etc.) examined the way forward. The newly re-invigorated Family History Information Standards Organisation (FHISO) has now started to develop a new standard.
So, how did the big four genealogy companies appear at Gaenovium? FamilySearch were roundly criticised for their failure to engage and co-operate with others in standards development. Although I appreciate the records they make available, I find myself unable to defend them. They sent no representative, so remain disengaged. Ancestry also did not attend, and were not even mentioned. Even though I disagreed with Phil Moir of D C Thompson Family History during the panel discussion, I appreciated his presence. I hope the feedback helps the company to serve its customers better. My Heritage demonstrated their engagement with innovation the genealogy industry by sponsoring the conference. In addition, they sent two delegates who actively showed interest in the opinions of others.
Gaenovium delegates leaving The Pavilion. “Follow me to dinner” said the genial host, the man with the bicycle (aka. Tamura Jones)
© Sue Adams 2014
Posted: 16 Sep 2014 | Author: Sue Adams | Filed under: Analysis, Genealogy issues | Tags: analysis, conclusions, evidence, family history, family tree, genealogy, information, research iterations, sources |
What does your family tree look like?
Most people think of their family tree as a kind of chart that depicts relationships between family members. Using a tree diagram to represent knowledge is common to many disciplines and has been around for a long time, as the New Scientist article Why do we love to organise knowledge into trees points out.
Family tree diagrams are most useful as visual representation of a limited set of conclusions. Used as a bare bones summary, they are highly effective. If the diagram does not fit on an A3 sized (roughly 42cm x 29 cm) piece of paper, the message has probably been lost. The branching hierarchy breaks down once lines start crossing, often within just a few generations.
Genealogical research extends a long way beyond a subset of conclusions, and relationships are a lot more complicated than a branching hierarchy.
So is the all pervasive tree metaphor useful? As real trees don’t look much like the branching diagrams either, I wonder if the metaphor can be repurposed.
Your Personal Tree of Knowledge
Think of your family tree as your personal understanding of your family history, genealogy and connected micro-histories: a personal Tree of Knowledge.
Personal Family Tree of Knowledge
A common definition of a tree is a plant with a woody stem or trunk. Real trees also have roots, and canopies that grow leaves, flowers and fruits. Think of the roots as sources of information, the trunk as processes of analysis and the canopy as the conclusions you draw from your research.
Components of a Family Tree
The roots of your tree seek out the documents, artefacts, memories and other sources of relevant information using search and browse tools, catalogues to find and access the archives, online repositories and family members hoards.
The trunk of your tree is where the hard graft occurs. Information is evaluated for reliability and accuracy. Many pieces of information are combined to test theories. Evidence points toward tentative and firm conclusions.
The canopy of your tree is the part that others typically see. The products of you work such as family tree charts, stories and the many other ways you communicate your findings are available to others. A high quality product of your work may a seed and guide other researchers to grow their own family tree.
Family Tree Research Iterations
Family history research is iterative. Your tree is fed by both new sources and in interactions with fellow researchers, much as a real tree needs both water and mineral nutrients from the soil and sunlight. Tentative conclusions and other researchers point to new avenues of investigation. New information changes our conclusions. Interactions between ideas and information grow a broad tree trunk. A healthy family tree has a sturdy trunk.
Grow your own family tree
Growing you own tree of family history knowledge is far more rewarding than picking parts of some-one else’s canopy. It takes time and effort to nurture your understanding. That does not mean that you should not collaborate with other researchers. Good collaboration is about helping one another tend our trees.
I aspire to grow a magnificent oak. The form of your tree will be different to mine even if we are closely related. Size does not determine the health of your family tree. A healthy family tree, even a tiny seedling or young sapling is a thing of beauty. Take a closer look at yours.
© Sue Adams 2014