Monday, November 13, 2017

FamilySearch - FamilyTree, a love hate thing.

I've had this post bouncing around in my head for a few weeks.  If it is written down, maybe I can get it out of my head and move on?  Let's see.

I'm a big football fan.  My teams are the New Orleans Saints and LSU Tigers.  I also follow certain players, not necessarily on my two teams.  Cam Newton, the quarterback of the Carolina Panthers is a player I follow.  I love Cam Newton, and I don't.  As a player and a QB, I just love to watch him drive his team down the field.  But, off the field...not so much.  Love him, and then not so much. I feel the same way about FamilySearch's Family Tree...I love it and then, not so much!

FamilySearch's Family Tree is a global 'one tree' online tree.  You already know how I feel about online trees!  But I really like the way FamilySearch has built Family Tree, and how it is continually being improved for the better.  The person-centric Bow Tie view is a favorite.  Hinting, source attachments, family view layout, person watch.  All of it, I love.  A huge plus is the integration with Roots Magic.  Up to this point, I'm a big fan.  But...

Family Tree is ONE tree.  We all add, modify, delete, source, edit, add again, move, edit again, restore...the same data.  In theory, each person has only one record...their record.   And in so doing, there is a rub.  The information you add can be changed by anyone else.  This has been the main criticism of  Family Tree.  Another one tree is Wiki Tree.

By the way, I know of people - generally members of the LDS Church - who use only Family Tree for their genealogical work.  I understand the reasoning - Temple Work - and if this is your sole mission, then I guess it is okay for that.  But for everyone else, having all of your work up on any online platform is crazy.  Even if all you have is PAF (Personal Ancestral File), use it as your data platform.  NEVER make any online platform your sole repository for all that family history you have been collecting for so many years!  The best practice here is to have some software on your own computer and have it backed up redundantly.  I use Roots Magic plus a maze of back-ups.

Back on topic, ideally Family Tree would be a great way for family historians to collaborate.  I haven't seen this.  What I see are people changing what other's have put in, and then having it changed back.  A genealogical tug-of-war.

Recently FamilySearch added a messaging component to the Family Tree experience.  I think the idea was for people to work out their 'disputes' amongst themselves.  Maybe that works, but in my experience, some family historians don't like being confused with facts.  And a few weeks ago, I was contacted (through the Family Tree messaging system) by one such person.

My reason for putting anything into Family Tree in the first place, it simply to share my research.  If I add anything, it is sourced and this should help others working with the same person or family.  In 2015, I changed an unsourced birthdate (1703) to a new birthdate (1707) sourcing to a derivative secondary source.  In the area provided for an explanation, I explained myself.  Again, the only motivation here is to help someone working on the same family into the future.  My note said the change was based on the given source, and for now it was the best information available.  I even said the birthdate should be changed later if a better source is uncovered.  That was in 2015.

In 2017, I received a message.  It was short and curt.  Had I even taken the time to check the changelog before making my change?  Of course, I did.  I checked everything, the first date was unsourced; nothing supported it.  So I responded quickly (and much more politely) reiterating my 2015 justification in making the change.  Then a second message came in.  "By the time you read this, I may have already made the change" and "please consider deleting your comment [2015 change justication]".

Being the professional that I am, I didn't respond - and haven't.

Then a third message, saying the reference 'belonged' to a tree on World Connect.  Without saying anything, I followed up on this.  Yes, the same person with the 1707 birthdate was out on World Connect, and it was sourced the same.  The Point?  I'm not sure.  I found my information in the original volume during a visit to the Family History Library.

I still plan to continue adding and modifying Family Tree with my source-based research but have turned off messaging.  No time for the negativity.

So what about the birthdate in question?  It was changed back to 1703.  That date remains unsourced.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Mendocino County Historical Society

The Mendocino County Historical Society maintains the Held-Poage Research Library located at 603 West Perkins Street in Ukiah California 95444.  Their website is

While working on one of my long-standing authorship projects, I had the pleasure to visit the Mendocino County Historical Society's library in Ukiah, California.  The library itself is housed in a 1903 victorian home, recognized as a historical landmark, at Perkins and Dora Streets - not far from the center of Ukiah.  Open Wednesday to Friday, 1PM to 4PM, the library is staffed by volunteers knowledgeable as to the history of Mendocino County.

This repository has just what one would expect from a historical society.  There you will find a fair
sized collection of genealogical references from all over the country, in addition to collections focused on the region and Mendocino County in particular.  Telephone books, school annuals, old maps, and photographs.  The county's Great Register from 1865 to 1970 is available. 

I was very pleased to tour the newly built archives building located on the same property.  This building will house extensive archival collections.  Patrons will use the first floor Reading Room.  On the day of my visit, things were still being moved in.  This will be a terrific resource in the very near future.

Parking on street.  Eats on State Street a few blocks away.  Try the Ukiah Brewing Company. 

Donations to the Mendocino County Historical Society are greatly appreciated. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Identifying Slave Holdership

One very strong clue in identifying slave holdership among our ancestors can be found by comparing the 1860 U.S. Federal Population Schedules (Census) to the 1870 Census.  Both the 1860 and 1870 Censuses asked about wealth in the form of Real Estate and Personal Estate.  If we find an occasion where an ancestor, generally those from the southern states, had a marked decrease in wealth over this ten year period it may indicate slave ownership before the Civil War.  I have such an example in my family.

Here we see 1860 census information for Hubert Theriot (abt 1813 - 9 Mar 1881).  Notice his reported Real Estate owned in the amount of $15,000.  His Personal Estate was $5000.

Now compare this to the same self-reporting ten years later, and after the War Between The States.  A marked reduction in capitol where his Real Estate is $300 and his Personal Estate was $265.

This can not prove slave holdership on its own.  Hubert and his family lived in the deep south during the War - Iberia Parish Louisiana - and could have lost property in other ways due to the war.  We need to dig deeper.  In 1870 many emancipated slaves were still in close proximity geographically to their previous slaveholders.  Slaves would not have appeared on the regular 1860 Census, but now as free people are seen on the 1870 Census.  Look up and down the page from where your ancestor appears in the 1870 Census.  In Hubert Theriot's case, the evidence is clear.

Here is the same 1870 Census page shown above.  Notice just below Hubert's family we now find a 21-year-old black woman and three children below her.  They are Adeline Theriot 21 years, Pauline six years, Anathole three years, and Marie one month old.  Wow!  Amazing.  My family just got bigger.

Taking the surname of your previous slaveholder happened in less than half of all instances, but it did take place.  In this example, the evidence to this point is convincing.  Notice also, Adeline lists her occupation as "Domestic ___".  I'm betting that after her emancipation, she just stayed on with the Theriot family - now as an employee.  We can not know if Pauline, Anathole, and Marie were Adeline's children because the 1870 Census did not ask for relationships.

From here, we can dig even deeper.  In 1860 the federal government took a count of slave holdership known as the 1860 Slave Schedule.  This was concurrent to the 1860 Population Schedule.  Here I found a Hubert Theriot from the same parish reporting the age and sex of slaves held.  I know this to be the same Hubert Theriot from other records.  According to this document, Hubert held 10 slaves - both male and female - ranging in age from 40 to one year old. Now consider this, Adeline was 21 years old in 1870.  She would have been 11 years of age in 1860.  And we find an 11-year-old female on the list of slaves held by this Hubert Theriot. Circumstantial but noteworthy.

One last observation.  Going forward, we find my Hubert Theriot in the 1880 Census.  Hubert and his wife Rosalie are living with their son Norbert.  Also listed is a young man named Anatole Pardolf, age 12, a male black.  His role is "servant."  Remember young Anathole Theriot, age three, from the 1870 Census?  The surname is different but everything else lines up.

More investigation can be done here.  Traditional African American genealogical research methods should be followed.  This would start with looking for records in the Freedman Bureau and Freedman Bank collections.  I'd also look for property deeds and press accounts linked to Hubert Theriot leading up to 1864 (Civil War).  Tracking down Adeline, Pauline, and Marie (not living with Hubert in 1880) would be interesting too.  Lastly, there are two other persons living with Adeline in 1870, a 19-year-old male black and a 50-year-old white Frenchmen, both Farm Labor.  Who are they?

All Images from