Hierarchies Help Source Organisation, Analysis and Citation

Jill Ball’s recent hangout on air entitled Let’s get organised caused me pause and think. The question of how to organise the physical and digital ‘stuff’ we accumulate during genealogical research is a common one that elicits a wide variety of responses. This discussion revolved mainly around digital files.

The panellists broadly follow two patterns of file organisation, person oriented and source oriented. Person oriented systems typically arrange files in folders for surnames and individuals. Source oriented systems typically arrange files in folders for each source type. Some people also have place and project folders.

Retrieval strategies include using file naming conventions, tagging, assignment of unique file ids, indexes and spreadsheets. Panellists use Family Historian, Custodian, Evernote, Excel and coggle.it to help them keep track of the ‘stuff’.

In Provenance of a Personal Collection – Archival Accession, Arrangement and Description, I advocated recording source information in a hierarchical archival style catalogue. Archival catalogues typically arrange source items by the provenance and context of their creation and use, which is reflected in multiple levels of logical organisation. Storage is not necessarily the same as logical organisation.

Are Hierarchies Hard?

Genealogists create family trees. A family tree is a hierarchical branching structure where layers represent generations of ancestors. So, genealogists would readily adopt a source hierarchy, wouldn’t they? The discussion made it pretty plain that is not the case.

Jill advocates a flat digital file structure. Among the panellists who use a hierarchy of physical or digital folders, the number of levels is restricted to no more than 2 or 3.

Why do people find hierarchies difficult?

Navigation through hierarchy levels is hard to get your head around. I have been looking for a tool that helps means me draw hierarchical trees and visualise my catalogue structure. Thanks to Alex Daws’ suggestion I tried the mind mapping tool, coggle.it. My genealogical ‘stuff’ falls into the categories depicted:

Sue's Genealogy Catalogue

Sue’s Genealogy Catalogue

For the interactive version follow this link:https://coggle.it/diagram/550aa664a7d032c23734a105/7e12c7b8433ffe43f86b5994f61abf9977f826ac312616349825bbda313db27a

I have included a selection of top level categories and expanded a few of them. On the right are the things I acquired from family and collaborators, and my personal documents. On the left are the things acquired from physical and digital archives.

Personal Collections

The personal collections are organised by their provenance, the person from whom the items came. This visual representation makes it easy for me to see I have omitted a helpful relative, Pat (how ungrateful am I!). I have expanded the part Raymond’s collection which I discussed in Provenance of a Personal Collection. The sub-categories reflect the use (e.g. probate) and history (e.g. belonged to Winnie) of the items.

Complete collections can be organised without taking account of possible future additions. The branches colour coded in yellow are complete. Raymond and Mabel are deceased, and personal study projects relate to courses completed.

The personal collection labelled Sue is my own. It includes collections that were created by my own life, the types of things discussed in Fresh Starts, my genealogy business records named Family Folk, and the results of my research such as blog posts. The category named Genealogical Research Collection is my personal sin bin. It’s arrangement reflects my early attempts to organise things, and indirectly documents my development as a researcher. Rather than rearrange things I have documented the existing arrangements.

Digital and Physical Archives

The left side of the source tree depicts my understanding of the arrangement of things I accessed through archives. I have expanded the top levels for just one record, the marriage of Joseph Wilson and Elizabeth Wilson at Claverley in 1808, that I discussed in Three Wilson-Wilson marriages and the Family History Library Experience.

The original marriage register is held by Shropshire Archives and the archive catalogue entry includes the hierarchy that shows how the marriage register fits into the archive’s collections:

Shropshire Archive catalogue

Shropshire Archive catalogue

Notice that the top level is missing from the archival catalogue. Parishes are collected together in a group denoted by P or XP, but there is no catalogue entry for this group. Many archive catalogues could be made more user friendly by the inclusion of top level groups and a visual interface. This catalogue entry also refers to the microfiche copy of the registers.

Catalogue entries for a marriage record

Catalogue entries for a marriage record

I have followed the archive catalogue in my source tree, but added in the missing parish level and separated out the microfiche version. The Family History Library transcript and microfilm are arranged by call number and film number, a peculiarity of that institution.

Digital archives typically consist of an index or database that may reference a collection of digital images. Database entries are accessed via search functions. The arrangement of digital image collection is similar, but not identical, to the arrangement of physical archive in this case. Some digital image collections differ substantially from their physical counterparts.

In addition to the original, there are 6 different versions of the marriage record. They were derived from the original either directly or indirectly via several different copying processes, but that is hard to show on my source tree.

Citations and Source Identification

Traditionally many academic disciplines cited published and unpublished works in the form of a bibliographic citation, but only included the data they collected in summary form. In many disciplines it is now recognised that the academic paper alone is no longer sufficient and the underlying data also needs to be shared. How to Cite Datasets and Link to Publications explores the issues and makes proposals for scientific data sets. Citing genealogical sources is more similar to citing scientific data than to citing finished works.

Genealogists typically want to pin point a single record or piece of data within a data set. For the marriage example the following locate the record within source items:

Original page & record number
Microfiche counted row and column numbers, record number
Transcript page number, record number
Microfilm Item number, counted image number, record number
Digital image browsing breadcrumb, image number
Database entries search terms

Genealogists need to know exactly which source item was used, because they differ in accuracy and reliability. My source tree distinguishes between the 7 source items, but does not make the relationships between them clear. Here is how I think each was derived:

Claverley marriage register & derivative sources

Claverley marriage register & derivative sources

Copying and processing potentially produces errors, so genealogists need to check against originals if possible. In the marriage example, I used the FamilySearch database to find the transcript and then checked the transcript against the microfiche copy of the original, because they were available at the time. Now I would use the high quality digital image that has since been published. The archive quite rightly restricts access to the original so that it is preserved.

The complicated-looking citations in Evidence Explained identify the source, the equivalent of my source tree. Multi-level citations, indicated by “citing”, give the relationships between derived versions and the original.

I have tackled some quite complex ideas in this post. I hope find some worth considering as your genealogy organisation systems develop. As Julie Goucher said, there is no one size fits all.

I thank Jill and all the panellists for challenging my assumptions, sharing their frustrations and confusion, and openly debating the issues. Conversations like this are valuable contributions that genealogy vendors and software developers need to hear. As a member of FHISO, I am listening.

© Sue Adams 2015

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Claverley Property Document Analysis, Part 4: People and Identity

In the three previous posts in this series I transcribed a court record of a land transaction that occurred on 25 April 1844; proposed semantic mark-up that identified people’s names, places, dates, and legal language; and validated the locations of places.  Now I will examine the people named in the transaction and try to find records of them to validate my transcription.

Twelve people were named, but I omit two, Grosvenor and Onions who were as previous owners at an unspecified time, so likely will not appear in contemporary records.

Name Role
Thomas Whitmore (previously mis-read as Whitman) Lord of the manor
John Crowther host
Francis Harrison deputy steward
Christopher Gabert homage
Edward Crowther homage
Samuel Nicholls trustee
John Wilson trustee
John Felton surrender
Sarah Ward Nicholls admittee
William Ferrington occupier

Thomas Whitmore, lord of the manor

The 1835 edition of Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of The Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland identifies Thomas Whitmore of Apley, near Bridgnorth, born in 1782, as owing estates in Claverley, and also names his son and heir Thomas Charlton Whitmore, born in 1807.  The younger Thomas was resident at Apley Hall, Stockton in 1851, but I could not find Thomas senior on that census, suggesting he may have died since being recorded in London on the 1841 census.  So, was the father or son lord of the manor in 1844?

Pigot’s 1844 Directory of Shropshire lists Thomas Whitmore at Apley Hall and Thomas Charlton Whitmore at Cotsbrook House.  As Thomas senior was a member of parliament, he was sufficiently notable to have a Wikipedia entry that indicates he died in 1846, a date confirmed by the FreeBMD death index entry in the district of Shifnal, so he was the lord on whose behalf the steward acted.

Francis Harrison, deputy steward

Stewards and their deputies were qualified legal practitioners, so would expect to find Francis Harrison in a contemporary directory of the legal profession like The Law List 1843 (available on Ancestry).  Not only did I not find him there, but Francis Harrison has also proved elusive in the 1841 and 1851 censuses, and trade directories.  In articles of clerkship dated 1829, a Francis Harrison was contracted to receive legal training from Thomas Wheldon of Barnard Castle, Co. Durham.

As he was a deputy, it is possible that he was a junior or temporary member of the legal practice that dealt with Claverley manor on behalf of Thomas Whitmore.  The Steward, George Pritchard, presided over the sessions before and after the session of 25 April 1844.  George Pritchard was present at this session as a trustee in another case, so Francis Harrison’s deputation avoided any conflicts of interest.

Christopher Gabert and Edward Crowther, homage

Members of the homage or jury of a court baron were drawn from the copyholders of the manor.  Copyhold was a type of land ownership, so I expect contemporary records to reflect the land owning status of the homage.

The 1851 census records the 82 year old Christopher Gabert as a ‘Proprietor of Houses and Land’, resident at Claverley Cottage, Claverley. The summary of the 1839 tithe apportionment lists him as a landowner of 29 acres, 1 rod and 39 perches.  Not to be confused with the parish vicar, Rev. George Hilder Betterton Gabert.

Edward Crowther is listed on the tithe apportionment (plot 106) as a minor landowner and occupier of 1 rod and 19 perches, described as a house and garden.  Neither the 1841 or 1851 census yielded an Edward Crowther resident in Claverley, nor could I clearly identify him elsewhere.

The tithe apportionments (Shropshire Archives ref 5586/5/19/1-3) are a good indication of land ownership within the parish, but not necessarily the manor.  As I pointed out in the post about places, I know the boundaries of the parish of Claverley, but do not know the boundaries of the manor of Claverley.  It is reasonable to assume there is overlap, but whether the particular properties of Christopher Gabert and Edward Crowther lie within the manor is not certain.

John Crowther, host

John Crowther, resident of the house named Kings Arms, provided the venue for the court to be held.  It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that the Kings Arms was a pub and John was a publican.  You would expect to find him there on the census, wouldn’t you?  This is where it gets confusing.  There were 3 John Crowthers resident in Claverley in 1841.

Record type Year Name Age Occupation Residence Details ID
tithe

1839

John Crowther jun Owner of 1 acre, 1 rod and 36 perches including Crown P H, occupied by Job Harley and Benjamin Everson

1

tithe

1839

John Crowther Owner of 74 acres, 2rods, 33 perches, comprising 23 plots

2

tithe

1839

John Crowther Heathton Owner of 8 acres, 3 rods, 31 perches in Broughton; 54 acres, 1 rod, 14 perches in Heathton

2

tithe

1839

John Crowther sen Owner of 2 rods, 11 perches comprising 2 houses & gardens, occupied by John Lewis and Thomas Scrinew

3

tithe

1839

John Crowther sen Kings Arms Inn, Buildings & Yards Owned by William Smith

3

census

1841

John Crowther

35

butcher Claverley Jane 30, Mary 5

1

census

1841

John Crowther

65

farmer Heathton Elizabeth 60, 4 servants

2

census

1841

John Crowther

65

victualler Claverley Mary 65, Joseph 25, Eliza 15

3

court baron

1844

John Crowther Kings Arms host
civil registration

1845

John Crowther death

2

census

1851

John Crowther

49

farmer Jane 43, Mary Ann 14, William 21, 3 servants

1

census

1851

John Crowther

78

butcher Mary 73, Daniel 33, Eliza 29, 1 servant

3

census

1851

William Weaver

50

victualler & registrar Kings Arms Mary 40, Edward 6, William 2, John 1, 2 servants

Of the 3 men named John Crowther, I think the host of the court session was no 3 in the table.  The tithe apportionments identify John Crowther, the farmer of Heathton, as a significant land owner with rights to the tithes collected.  Two other John Crowthers, distinguished as senior and junior, were minor land owners.

The tithe apportionment confirms that John Crowther senior occupied the Kings Arms Inn in 1839, but contains no information on his occupation.  He best matches the victualler in 1841 and we can rule out the Heathton farmer of the same age and the younger butcher.  The farmer died in 1845.  By 1851, John Crowther junior had changed occupation from butcher to farmer, possibly a result of inheriting from the Heathton farmer.  John Crowther senior, identified by household members, wife Mary and daughter Eliza, had become a butcher and the Kings Arms passed to William Weaver.

All 3 Johns could be related, and that may explain the occupational shuffling.  Confirmation of the relationships is likely to be in the parish registers, which I have not yet accessed.

Samuel Nicholls, trustee and Sarah Ward Nicholls, admittee

The tithe apportionments identify two Samuel Nicholls’, senior and junior, and tells us that Samuel Nicholls junior was Felton’s trustee.  Both Samuel Nicholls’ are in the Bridgnorth section as attorneys in Pigot’s 1844 Directory of Shropshire, senior at Cat’s tree and junior at Mill Street, Low Town. Both are in the 1843 Law List at Bridgnorth.

Remember both Samuel Nicholls and Sarah Ward Nicholls at some time resided at Catstree?  The 1841 and 1851 censuses record 2 Samuels and 2 Sarahs.

Record type Year Name Age Residence Details ID
Articles of Clerkship

1794

Samuel Nicholls Broseley bound to John Pritchard, supported by Ann Nock

1

Census

1841

Samuel Nicholls

60

Catstree

1

Census

1841

Samuel Nicholls

30

Mill Street head, Caroline 35, Samuel 1

2

Census

1841

Sarah Nicholls

65

Catstree

3

Census

1841

Sarah Nicholls

25

Catstree

4

Death registration

1843

Samuel Nicholls Bridgnorth district

1

Court baron

1844

Samuel Nicholls formerly Catstree, now Bridgnorth

2

Court baron

1844

Sarah Ward Nicholls Catstree spinster

4

Census

1851

Samuel Nicholls

40

Mill Street head, wife: Caroline 48, children: Samuel 11, Caroline 8, Alfred 8

2

Census

1851

Sarah Nicholls

80

Catstree head, widow

3

Census

1851

Sarah D Nicholls

52

Mill Street unmarried sister-in-law to Samuel Nicholls

4

It is clear that the younger Samuel Nicholls designated as ID 2 in the table is the trustee named in the court baron record.  The older Samuel Nicholls shared a household with the 2 Sarahs in 1841, but died in 1843, leaving the older Sarah as his widow.

Sarah Ward Nicholls, the spinster admittee in the court baron record, best matches the younger Sarah in 1841 and the sister-in-law in 1851 (ID 4).  The discrepancies in age and middle name need resolution, and her relationships to the Nicholls family need clarification, before I can make any more than a tentative identification.

John Wilson, trustee

Even though 4 John Wilsons resided in Claverley in 1851, the farmer and trustee to John Felton’s will is readily identified in census records by his residence at Aston.  He farmed 760 acres and lived with wife Dorothea.  The tithe apportionments confirm his status as a significant land owner and farmer.

The other 3 John Wilsons can be excluded on age, residence and occupation.  His son, also named John, was aged about 16 in 1844, so too young.  The two other John Wilsons, each the son of two different Thomas Wilsons, were a resident of Farmcott (a hamlet in Claverley parish) and a saddler respectively.

John Felton, deceased, whose property was surrendered

It is clear from the 1844 court baron that John Felton was deceased, but the timing of his death is not apparent from this session.  His death and the admission of his trustees as copyholders of the manor should be recorded in the court records, but I have only accessed the records of a few sessions.

The tithe apportionments push John Felton’s death back before 1839.  Civil registration commenced mid 1837, only 18 months before, so I expect some deaths were not registered.  The only death registration for a John Felton, in 1838 in Manchester, is not a good match.   Ownership of land in Claverley does not necessarily mean John Felton lived there or used the church.   As I have no other information about where John Felton lived, Claverley is the place to start searching for his burial.  Unfortunately, Claverley burials are not included in the Familysearch index.

William Ferrington, occupier

William Ferrington is recorded on the tithe apportionment and 1841 census at Heathton, the hamlet in which the property transferred in the court record lies.  His household includes Mary (45), John (15), Mary (12), Ann (8) and William (6), a structure suggestive of a wife and children.  I have not found this family on the 1851 census, but the FamilySearch index and a transcript of Claverley’s marriage register confirms relationships.

William Ferrington of Codsall, Staffordshire married Mary Felton of Claverley on 3 July 1823 at Claverley.  Baptisms of children born to these parents in Codsall and Claverley confirm the 1841 family structure.

Name Date Location
Elizabeth Ferrington 1824 Codsall, Stafford
John Felton Ferrington 27 November 1825
Mary Ferrington 11 October 1829
Harriet Farrington 28 February 1831 Claverley, Shropshire
Ann Furrington 12 July 1833
William Farrington 3 July 1835

Conclusions

Of the 10 people whose identity I have attempted to verify, I am reasonably sure of 6.  Multiple people with the same names featured. Census and tithe apportionments roughly contemporary with the court baron session proved useful in most cases.  A directory, and the Law List provided supplementary information for some.

I have not yet fully exploited two important sources: other sessions of the court baron, and parish registers.  I have consulted a restricted the range of sources as my aim was to validate the transcription rather than research the lives of all the people.

© Sue Adams 2014


Cousins and a Golden Wedding Anniversary

This episode of the 50 Marriage Mondays series features a golden wedding anniversary.  The couple were:

Bride: Ethel Simms Wilson, aged 28
Groom: George Herbert Simms, aged 26, a marine engineer
Date: 3 August 1904
Location: St Asaph’s Church, Birmingham
Father of Bride: Thomas Wilson
Father of Groom: George Frederick Simms

Wedding of George Frederick Simms & Ethel Simms Wilson

Wedding of George Frederick Simms & Ethel Simms Wilson

This is a photocopy of the wedding photograph.  Apart from the couple, seated in the centre, I am sure about the identity of a few of the guests.  Seated on the far right is Mary Louisa Wilson, Ethel’s eldest sister.  The tiny woman standing behind Ethel is her mother, Emma Louis Wilson, nee Simms.

I think the slightly disreputable chap standing behind George is Ethel’s father, Thomas Wilson.  As George was a marine engineer, the uniformed man might be a colleague, perhaps in the merchant navy.  The four men to the right of the uniformed man resemble other photos labelled by various relatives as Ethel’s brothers, but I am not sure which brother is which.

Although the marriage certificate does not indicate George’s father was deceased, George Frederick Simms’ death was registered in the January-March quarter of 1897 (Wandsworth district, Vol. 1d, p. 370), and the 1901 census records Emily Simms (nee Armstrong) as a widow.

The couple were first cousins:

Simms - Wilson cousin chart

Simms – Wilson cousin chart

In 1911, George’s two cousins, George Harry Wilson and Matthew Lancelot Wilson, who were also Ethel’s brothers, lived in the couple’s household.  On 3 August 1954, George and Ethel celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary which is commemorated by this photo:

50th wedding anniversary - Ethel Simms Wilson & George Frederick Simms

50th wedding anniversary – Ethel Simms Wilson & George Frederick Simms

Again, apart from George and Ethel seated centrally, only some party guests have been identified with confidence.  Seated either side of George and Ethel are the wives of the two cousins/brothers that who were part of the household in 1911.  On the left is Emily Olive Pee, wife of Matthew Lancelot Wilson, and on the right is Elizabeth Johnson, wife of George Harry Wilson.

Standing behind Elizabeth is Muriel Thompson (nee Simms), daughter of George and Ethel, and behind Emily is Muriel’s daughter, Patricia Muriel Thompson, aged 16.  Muriel’s other daughter, aged 9, is the laughing girl seated on the ground.  The boy next to her looks about the same age, so he might be John Simms, son of John Frederick Simms.

The men are more problematic, not least because the general lack of hair makes it difficult to judge ages.  I think the man of the left is Gordon Shirley Wilson, son of Emily Pee.  It has been suggested that the men either side of Muriel are her brothers, Herbert (aged 43) on the left and John Frederick (aged 30) on the right.  However, the man on the right looks older than 30 to me, so I think he may be Muriel’s husband, William Ross Thompson, aged 46.  The man directly behind George looks older than the other standing men, so possible candidates include Ethel’s brothers George Harry Wilson, aged 63 and Matthew Lancelot Wilson, aged 58.

If you can confirm my tentative identifications or know who the other people were, please leave a comment.

© Sue Adams 2013