Thursday, 9 June 2016

United we Stand



Unity and collaboration is an important part of what we should be doing as genealogists or community historians. There are two aspects to this - how can a united front help the cause of the historian and how can a study of history promote unity within a community or family?

Access to a world-wide audience can give today’s historical research a completely different complexion to the research of the pre-internet era. Group projects can be undertaken by those who never physically meet. Take, for example, my recent writing project Remember Then:women’s  memories of 1946-1969 and how to write your own. I engaged with women from three continents, who contributed their memories of the period 1946-1969, so I could write a social history of the period. They provided me with a range of memories that would be very difficult to collect if I had to rely on face to face contact. The scope for collaborative research is infinite. Databases can be added to by those working in distant locations. There is a recent proliferation of apps and software that allow collaborative timelines, biographies or family trees to be created. Group participation makes for more detailed and comprehensive research.
 
Local historians can accomplish far more as a group than one person can alone. This is not just an issue of time. Each person will bring their own specialist interests to the team and can enjoy working on the aspect of community history that they enjoy best. Someone who has a fascination for ancient earthworks may not be the right person to conduct oral history interviews. Team work brings greater and more focused results.

Family history is often likened to a jigsaw puzzle. If you work with others you may find some of your missing pieces. Sometimes we are all too keen to hang on to ‘our’ research but sharing really does have its benefits. This emphatically does not mean wholesale grafting on other people’s family trees to your own, probably as a result of a helpful ‘hint’ by the genealogy subscription website of your choice. It means having a two way discussion about the results of carefully conducted research, or about personal memories or memorabilia of common interest.

Unity of course is power. Many strange things are happening to heritage, to archives, to online genealogical data providers at the moment. If you want to campaign for the retention of an archive facility or changes to an online data provider’s system, then there may not be safety but there is certainly impact in numbers. Joining together in an organised way is far more likely to bring about change than a lone voice in the wilderness.

Finally, a study of history can bring about unity. Creating a community archive can bring a community together, as they explore their shared heritage. Family history spawns renewed contact with distant family members, it may lead to family reunions, it may help to unite the family. It can be a way of inspiring young people to take an interest in their past. All in all then, uniting in groups of like minded people can be beneficial to historical research and engaging in that research can bring disparate individuals together with a sense of common purpose.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Rescued From The Trash

After my Great Aunt Kate (Baker) Ryan died in 1987, my father discovered many of Auntie Kate's papers and other documents including a couple of family bibles in the trashcan. Luckily, genealogy had become a passion of mine and we had talked frequently about the need to keep and preserve family documents.

 So, Dad took them out of the trash and sent them to me.

1915 Affidavit
©Cheri Hudson Passey

Among the paperwork rescued that day was a 22 May 1915 notarized affidavit filed in Santa Cruz County, California by a Mrs. Lydia A. Knight. She was testifying to the validity of a photocopied page from her husband Physician Benjamin Knight's "Visit List". She stated that it was written in his own hand and that it recorded
 " ...the name of his patient, the date of his consultation with or service for them, and, in the event that he attended a woman at child birth, the name of her husband was set forth in said book and the date of the birth of the child was designated by a "B" if it was a boy, and by the letter "G" if it was a girl."
 The page in question was from the week of 6 August 1893.

Week of 6 August 1893 Visit List
Dr. Benjamin Knight
Santa Cruz, California
©Cheri Hudson Passey


James "Jimmy"Patrick Ryan (1893-1950), was the husband of Auntie Kate. He was born, according to family records, 6 August 1893 in Santa Cruz County, California. His birth is recorded on the photocopied Visit List with his father's name-P.F. Ryan, the "B" in the Wednesday the 9th column and marks on Thursday the 10th and Saturday the 12th said to have been an indication of a home visit.
The total cost of the medical care received was $20, the usual cost testified by the Doctor's wife for childbirth care.
According to the affidavit, the B on the 9th indicates the actual birth date of Jimmy Ryan.
 Jimmy would have been 21 in 1915 when this document was signed. Was his service in the military the reason he needed proof of his birth date?
 
 And what of the other names on the list? This may be the only document that puts them in Santa Cruz County, California during the week of 6 August 1893.
The names are faint and hard to read:
R.J. Maxwell
Charles Baxter
M.W. Mellott
A. Batts
S.W. Alexander
Frank Bernardi
Albert [?]
J.A. [?]
G. Anthony
H.F. Kr[?]
S[?] Weeks
P.F. Ryan
Miss Maggie Morini
G[?] Bunting
Artemis Buckham
Joseph Willow
F.C. Harris

Pictures, documents, family bibles and other records sadly can end up in the trashcan after a death.
Kate (Baker) Ryan was the Baker family genealogist. How grateful she would have been that her nephew, my father, rescued some of the treasures she had collected.

Two important lessons can be learned from that day in 1987. Have a plan for your family documents when you are no longer living and educate others on the importance of preserving their family history.

Rescued from the trash. Thanks, Dad.

Cheri




 

 


Friday, 27 May 2016

Memorial Day--Remembering Two Who Died Serving Their Country in the Armed Services or Collaterally




All over the world, people pause to remember those who fought and died trying to protect their countrymen.  Different countries use unique ways to celebrate and honor their lives.  In my opinion, war is a terrible thing. If it can be avoided, I would hope leaders all over the world would choose peace and collaboration over pain and suffering.

In the USA, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. It is a federally declared holiday. Flying our flags, family picnics, parades of soldiers and sailors, decorating cemeteries, and remembering the many who gave of their lives to serve their country are some of  the ways it is celebrated.

Like countries everywhere, we have lost millions of lives in our many wars. Today I want to tell you the story about  two of my family members who suffered dramatic deaths/wounds that represent the tragedies experienced by almost every family in the world.

World War II saw millions of people all over the world die due both to armed battles, and/or as civilians caught in those fights. In 1943, one of my aunts, my mother’s sister Nancy, had the opportunity to marry her sweetheart Bob while he was home from the war on leave. He was an Air Force Pilot, and she was so proud of him! I wasn’t even born yet, but my mother told us this story many times.
Five sisters participate in their sister Nancy’s wedding to Bob Guthrie in 1943.  l to r, Katherine Kerse Buck with husband Roger next to her.The next two adults are Guthries, she is Cilla Guthrie, sister of the Groom. The child is the flower girl, Claudia Burnett Williamson, daughter of Julia Louise Kerse Burnett standing with her. In the middle you see the bride Nancy Langhorne Kerse and her husband Bob Guthrie. Next is Margaret Steptoe Kerse Youngblood, with an unknown man next to her. The last sister shown is Janey Bell Kerse Sommers, and behind her on the end is Cecil Hogue Youngblood, Margaret’s husband, my father.

When their boyfriends and husbands were at war, several of my mother’s six sisters lived together in an apartment.  My mother Margaret and her sisters Nancy and Julia lived together. After having been married for a very short while, Nancy was missing her husband terribly. One Saturday  afternoon, she napped in her room. Suddenly she ran out into the living room crying and talking rapidly. “No, no, no!  Bob is dead! Bob is dead, I can’t stand it, I can’t say goodbye!”  Her sisters thought she was still sleeping and having a nightmare. However, Nancy soon explained that she awakened to see an image of Bob sitting on the bottom of her bed. She said that he spoke with her kindly, saying he was sorry, but he had to leave her, had to say goodbye. “He told me he loved me, and wanted me to have a good life.”  “No!”, she moaned in inconsolable grief, so sure of the reality of her dream.  The event shook all of the family, but most believed it was just a dream.  However, within 24 hours, two military personnel came to the door and notified Nancy officially that Bob had been killed! The extreme joy of a wedding, dreams of the future,  and it all died that day with her beloved Bob Guthrie. Apparently, Bob had truly appeared to my aunt, how else would she have know that news before it was delivered?  Every Memorial Day as I was growing up, we heard this story which became a family classic. Other relatives died in the wars, but this one stood out. A group of Bob’s classmates at the Military Academy wrote and sent this to my Aunt Nancy:

“Courtesy of His Classmates
United States Military Academy
Robert Wood Dailey Guthrie
14 May 1920 – 14 August 1944
Died near Brest, France, aged 24 years
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

As June 1944 approached, many divisions including the 78th were raided for privates and lieutenants — among them First Lieutenant Guthrie. Even the goodbyes were hasty and Bob sailed for Northern Ireland as one of the many fillers destined for Normandy. His assignment was in Company “D,” 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division.
On the fourth of July 1944, the 1st Battalion entered into the severe combat of Normandy and over a month of testing for Bob. The baptism of fire began on the 8th and 9th of July against a determined enemy. This was the most costly combat for the battalion; 124 enlisted men and five officers. But more was yet to come. The best ground over which to break out of Normandy lay in front of the 1st battalion. But the enemy knew it as well. On 25 July, the battalion spearheaded the St. Lo breakout through which moved two armored divisions and the 79th Division. For that action the unit received battle honors in Army orders. In the breakout the battalion went 50 miles by foot to join in the capture of Rennes. In early August, the unit cleaned up enemy resistance and took in more than 300 replacements.
Then the 8th Division and the 6th Armored were sent west to surround the fortified port city of Brest. Here a German hero from Crete commanded three divisions plus many other units and was under direct orders from Hitler to hold out for four months. It was the lot of the 1st Battalion to be the first divisional unit to hit these fortifications. From 8 August, the battalion began to learn how to deal with piercing the forts as they closed the noose around the garrison. But the airfield had to be taken in order to close the last route of escape. On 11 August, while leading his men in that attack, Bob Guthrie was mortally wounded by enemy machine gun fire. He died in a field hospital on the 14th — an infantry combat leader of great courage hit at the head of his troops.”
http://www.examiner.com/article/memorial-day-flags-arlington-national-cemetery-1
Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day

When we think of the men and women who gave their lives protecting their countries, most of us think  of the actual fighters, and rightly so. However, “50 to 85 million people worldwide were killed during WWII.”  (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II)  “Over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of WWI.” (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I)  How is it that we choose this suffering for our world!   

Civilian deaths are sometimes called “collateral” damage. Their families might feel collateral  is not the right term. My maternal grandmother was one to be counted as collateral damage from WWI, but I’m sure she was not included in the numbers. On Memorial Day I have come to think of her wounding and death.  

It’s hard to believe, but this wonderful woman, a nurse by profession and by all reports a superb one, met tragedy at the hands of a patient. She was caring for a comatose private duty patient, a veteran of WWI. She had bathed him and went to empty the water, as my mother told the story. When she returned to the room, he yelled out for her to get away and called her by the derogatory name of some of our military adversaries in  WWI. He was delirious, but afraid. Unfortunately, there was a rifle hanging on the wall that was still loaded, no one had realized or dreamed it was still loaded!  In his delirious state he shot my grandmother in the head! Within a couple of hours, he was dead of his own illness, just that last semiconscious rousing  turned her whole world upside down and that of her children and husband also! She was shot on January 28, 1930, but not killed. The bullet apparently split in half, half traveling down her neck, and half lodging in her brain, inoperable. She lived, but was unable to talk and walk well for the rest of her life–and she had six children!  Shot by a mortally wounded soldier, she was a victim of the war herself.

Even though I’d heard this story all my life, as I worked on my genealogy,I found several newspaper articles in archives regarding her being shot. Her death certificate, and the patient’s certificate  were available to me in a records search. Since this was my mother’s mother, I heard the story from family repeatedly.

These are two deaths that I will remember specifically on this Memorial day. There have been many more in our own family, and in yours, I know. This Memorial Day I will remember and honor the dead, but I will pray for leaders who seek peace.









Wednesday, 25 May 2016

7 Tips When Researching U.S. Army World War II Soldiers

After nearly 30 years of researching my father-in-law's WWII military service, which began on 7 April 1941 and ended on 18 June 1945, I now know where he was on almost every day of that time. My husband and I have taken many terrific trips visiting those places and learning more about where he served. So it's no surprise I like to write about the war experiences of my ancestors. From skirmishes with Native Americans prior to the Revolutionary War right through the Global War on Terrorism. However, I write most frequently about my Civil War, World War I and World War II veteran ancestors' experiences. Today, I'd like to share with you what I've learned about researching U.S. Army World War II veteran ancestors -- one of the millions of citizen soldiers Tom Brokaw called the "Greatest Generation."

A great resource is World War II Research and Writing Center.

1. Order his military service records

It's difficult to proceed with your research unless you know in which unit your ancestor served. The first thing I recommend doing is to order his or her military records. You can make your request for those records if you are next of kin of a deceased veteran here. If available, the information you will receive will include his DD 214, or separation papers; personnel records; replacement ribbons or medals; and medical records. The unit listed on this form includes the unit he was with when he was discharged. It may not be all of the units in which he served. Company morning reports housed at the National Personnel Records Center will include the transfers of soldiers to and from different units.

Page 1 of my father-in-law's DD 214 form; personal collection

Those military records are housed at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. There was a fire at that location in 1973, which destroyed approximately 16 to 18 million records, including:
  • 80 percent loss of Army records for personnel discharged between 1 November 1912 and 1 January 1960
  • 75 percent loss of Air Force records for personnel discharged between 25 September 1947 and 1 January 1964 (names after Hubbard, James E. alphabetically)
Even if your veteran ancestor's records were burned, you will likely receive his or her DD 214 form if your are next of kin. This form contains enough information about the specific unit in which your ancestor served, military induction and discharge dates, special qualifications or schools attended, ribbons and medals received, and so on.

2. Learn about the specific unit in which he served

Now that you have your veteran ancestors military records, you can begin to research the unit in which he served. Every branch of military service has an organization hierarchy. In the U.S. Army it is:

Company >> Battalion >> Regiment >> Division >> Corps >> Army >> Army Group

The division is the smallest unit that is capable of fighting completely independently. To understand more about how Army divisions were organized during World War II, I suggest reading a post I wrote on this topic on my Tangled Roots and Trees blog.

Another necessary resource is the Order of Battle of the U.S. Army, European Theater, World War II.

These resources are invaluable when reading Army histories to better understand if your ancestors were involved.

3. Understand the role he played in his unit

Two factors will help you understand the role your ancestor played within his unit -- his rank and his MOS, or Military Operational Specialty.

There are two types of soldiers in the Army, officers and enlisted personnel. Each have their own levels of ranks. To learn them and the general responsibilities of each rank, I have found these links extremely helpful:
Your ancestors military records will include their rank upon discharge and any military operational specialties, or special skills they acquired, on their DD 214 form. This link includes the list of current Army MOSs, but many from World War II still exist though they may have been renamed. I have found it's possible to find a similar MOS and at least get in the neighborhood of what duties my ancestor performed. For example, in Korea my father was a mechanic for wheeled and tracked vehicles. Those MOSs still exist.

4. Record the awards and decorations he earned

Your ancestor's DD 214 form will include the awards and decoration he earned during his Army service. If he won an award for meritorious conduct or bravery, you will likely receive a copy of the original citation if you order a replacement medal. Other awards can provide clues to the dates on which he or she served if they are not provided elsewhere. If your ancestors received the American Defense medal, he enlisted or was drafted before Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, as did my father-in-law. If he or she received the Victory medal, they served in the Army sometime between 7 December 1941 and 31 December 1946. I will be writing about this topic in detail on Tangled Roots and Trees in June. However, you will likely find these sources helpful:
My father-in-law's ribbon "rack;" built using EZ Rack Builder[1]

5. Learn about the campaigns in which he served

Your ancestor's DD 214 form will include any campaigns in which your ancestor participated. Campaigns are a series of large-scale, long-term operations or battles which required significant military planning and form part of a larger conflict. For example, during World War II, the U.S. Army fought in 38 campaigns. Knowing in which campaigns your ancestor participated will allow you to read the appropriate sections of the Army "Green" Books. These military histories are now online. When I began my research I had to order them from the General Printing Office.

My Army "Green" Books; personal collection

They are the very best, detailed history, often to the company level of the U.S. Army in World War II.

If you are not a history buff, at least read the relevant campaigns or skim the index for his army, corp. division, and regiment (sometimes part of a combat team with the same numerical designation as the regiment).

6. Use unit societies' websites and books about units

Websites for Division Societies such as the Society of the 5th Infantry Division are plentiful on the Internet. These societies will have a wide variety of information, personal photographs, and first-hand accounts from soldiers who served with the unit. Many include pamphlets and other propaganda published by the unit. Simply Google to find them online. Some will have the names of books that can be purchased about the unit. If the book is out of print, I have had great success finding them on Internet ArchiveABEBooksGoogle PlayAmazon, or eBay. If none of those sources have the book available, I can usually find it on World Cat and either go to a nearby library or have it loaned to my local library.

7. Don't forget your women ancestors

Many women served in various women-only military organization during the war. Don't forget about them in your research. General Douglas McArthur called the Women's Army Corps (WACs) "his best soldiers" and said they worked harder, complained less, and were better disciplined then men. General Dwight Eisenhower said their contributions were immeasurable.

I hoped I've sparked your interest in digging deeper into your World War II ancestor's military service. Many in that generation would not talk about their experiences. This is your chance to find out about them.

Good luck!

_______________
Women's Army Corps (WACs) in World War Two
Understanding the U.S. Army World War II Infantry Division
Army Campaign Streamers

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Qualified, Certified, Accredited, Member? Choosing a Professional Genealogist

When you need a little more help with your genealogical research than friends can give, it may be time to hire a professional.  How do you choose one?  When money changes hands trust matters.  There are no laws regulating who can do genealogy for money, so what safeguards can you rely on?  Do you just have to take a punt?


Fortunately, there are several organisations for professional genealogists whose members have fulfilled criteria for membership.  Membership requirements fall into three categories:
  • Ethics
  • Assessment by portfolio
  • Academic qualification

I will restrict this discussion to organisations in English speaking countries, especially the United Kingdom and United States of America.
 

Ethics

All the organisations require members to abide by a Code of Ethics, also called codes of practice or conduct.  Members who seriously breach the code may be expelled.   

Ethical conduct is all about trustworthiness.  In What clients need to know about Professional Research, Anne Sherman explains the differences between private and professional research, and the duty of the professional to produce quality work under time and cost limitations.  Inexperienced researchers may not recognise the limits of their knowledge or ability to complete a project.  Dutch genealogist, Yvette Hoitink recently demonstrated ethical behaviour in a Facebook post:
I told a potential client today that she should not hire me. She wanted to prove kinship to a famous Dutch artist based on the same last name. Her own brick wall wasn't even in the Netherlands, and the name is quite common throughout Western Europe. Instead of taking her money on a wild goose chase, I recommended she trace back her own tree first and referred her to a colleague in the other country.

Agreeing to abide by the ethical code is the only membership requirement for the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG).  Unlike other bodies, APG welcomes a broad range of genealogy professionals, not just those who undertake research.  So, APG does not assess the wide-ranging skills of members.  Of the 2169 members currently listed, 391 reside outside the US, spread over the British Isles (168), continental Europe (96), Canada (81), Australia & New Zealand (28) and a thin scatter elsewhere. 

Assessment by Portfolio

Certification, accreditation and membership criteria vary.  Each organisation has come to different view on what is important and how to assess competence in genealogical research.  Membership levels reflect career progression, with certain benefits (e.g. use of logo, membership listing) reserved for 'full' members.  As things change, particularly educational opportunities, criteria may be updated.  Last year I posted an overview of  formal education in  Time for Formal Genealogy Education?

In the UK, the Association of Genealogists & Researchers in Archives (AGRA) requirements for full membership include: reports sent to paying clients, a research assignment set by AGRA, evidence of continuing professional development, and an interview.  The Strathclyde University postgraduate certificate in Genealogical, Palaeographic & Heraldic Studies and the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studied (IGHS) Diploma are deemed to fulfill parts of the requirements, so may be substituted for some of the client reports or research assignment respectively.  102 full members are currently listed.

The Association of Scottish Genealogists & Researchers in Archives (ASGRA) is open to genealogists practicing in Scotland.  Requirements for full membership include: a paid client report and 2 other studies, transcriptions set by ASGRA, and a statement of their genealogical business.  The postgraduate diplomas from the Universities of Strathclyde and Dundee were recognised in 2013 as fulfilling some requirements.  Pre-2013 graduates are required to submit 2 client reports, and post-2013 one client report.  One of the reports may have been completed as part of the course.  There are 18 full members currently listed.

Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI), formerly known as the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland (APGI) is open to genealogists who do full time paid genealogical work and reside in the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.  Full members may use the post-nominal M.A.G.I. (Member of Accredited Genealogists Ireland).  Requirements for full membership, described as accredited include one sample of a client report.  Education is advised, but not taken into account in the application.  Currently, there are 21 members available to take commissions.

Unlike in the UK, there are no formal genealogical qualifications at postgraduate level in the US, so education plays a different role in the process.

The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen) divides the US and world into regions and tests applicants on their chosen region.  Requirements include prior research experience or education (1000 hours combined), a 4 generation project, 2 written exams and an oral review.  Those who successfully complete the process may use the post-nominal A.G. (Accredited Genealogist).  Renewal is required every 5 years to ensure the professional's skills remain current.  Of the 142 accredited genealogists listed, 105 reside in Utah, 34 in the rest of the US (in 15 states), and 3 in Europe.

Portfolio requirements for certification with the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) include document work (transcription, abstraction, analysis and research planning), client research report, case study (use of evidence), and a narrative kinship determination project.  The standards required for submission are published in Genealogy Standards, and the judging criteria for each part of the portfolio is comprehensively documented in the Application Guide.  After 5 years certification expires and submission of further work samples is required.  Certified genealogists may use the C.G.  post-nominal.  218 certified genealogists are listed, of which 213 reside in the US spread over 47 states, 5 live in Canada and 3 in Europe.

In the specialised area of probate research (identification of heirs to estates), the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (CAFG) governs the new ForensicGenealogistCredentialed credential, denoted by the post-nominal FGC.  Level IV CAGF members are eligible for the credential.  Of the 39 members listed, 12 are level IV.  Entry requirements (level I) include prior education at 2 approved courses (e.g. institutes, Boston & Washington university short courses), and a work sample.  Subsequent levels require further work samples, evidence of continuing professional development, and documented hours of forensic genealogical work.  By level IV, a total of 1050 work hours is required.

Academic Qualification

The newest professional genealogy organisation is the Register of Qualified Genealogists (RQG), launched on 10 March 2016.  Full members, who may use the post-nominal Q.G., have gained one of the accepted academic qualifications:
  • University of Strathclyde - MSc or Postgraduate Diploma in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies
  • University of Dundee - MLitt or Postgraduate Diploma in Family and Local History
  • Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies - Diploma in Genealogy

These formal qualifications have been benchmarked against Scottish, United Kingdom and European higher education standards and are evaluated at postgraduate level. 

Genealogy is a serious academic subject. In QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World? Seriously? Elizabeth Shown Mills made the case for the mutual embrace of genealogy and traditional academia.

Graduates of these courses are experienced researchers because they have conducted considerable practical genealogical research.  Karen Cummings describes her experience of the IGHS Diploma and the portfolio she submitted as part of gaining her qualification.  I can personally attest to the 5 studies and dissertation I completed for the Strathclyde Postgraduate Diploma, in addition to regular assignments.  Dundee graduates tell me the same story.

 

Conclusion

All these organisations seek to raise standards for the benefit of clients and professionals.  Membership of one does not preclude membership of others.  Each offers a different blend of benefits in continuing professional development (e.g. webinars, conferences, publications), networking with colleagues and promotion, with a different geographical bias.

Anyone who has made a commitment to ethical practice, demonstrated skills by portfolio or gained academic qualifications deserves respect.  Those who denigrate the commitment and achievements of professionals act to the detriment of genealogical community.  I hope this overview will assist potential clients, and those considering working as genealogists.  Below is a summary of where to access information on the organisations discussed:

Organisation Ethical code Membership requirements List of members
APG Code of Ethics Membership Directory
AGRA Code of Practice Joining AGRA Directory
ASGRA Code of practice Applications
Membership Requirements
Find a researcher
AGI Code of practice Admission Fellows, members & affiliates
ICAPGen Professional Ethics Accreditation process Find an AG professional
BCG Code of Ethics and Conduct Application Guide Find a genealogist
CAFG Standards of Practice and Conduct Membership Levels Directory
RQG Professional Code Accepted Qualifications Profiles


Thursday, 19 May 2016

Headstones Are Not Always Right

Many genealogists before me have sounded the warning to only use Find a Grave memorials as a tool and not always as pure fact. Those that have headstones are considered by many as valid evidence of the death and burial of the subject of the memorial. Those with a tombstone are more valid than those memorials posted without headstones and no source pinpointing burial in that cemetery.  Another problem for the researcher is the headstone that has been recently created and added to a cemetery for someone who died more than a century ago. Where did the creator get the information?
You can tell the focus of my post will be why you need to be cautious about adding the information you find on Find a grave to your tree and creating Find a Grave page as your source for the dates you put in your tree.

I will use as an example of my words of caution a memorial I found while I was helping a family with the War of 1812 Pension Files for Josiah Mead. I went to Find a Grave website to look to see if there were any headstones for the soldier or his two wives, . There was a memorial for his first wife Sally Wood Mead and connected was a memorial for him. At first I thought it was strange there was a headstone for him in Lexington, Kentucky since he died in Will, Illinois. Then I looked a little closer and, well, let me put up the headstones for Josiah and Sally and then I will discuss.
Memorial for Josiah Mead 
 m
headstone on Sally Wood Mead memorial, wife of Josiah.


The "headstone" for Josiah on his memorial, correct me if I am wrong, appears to be the bottom part of Sally's headstone where it identifies her as wife of Josiah Mead Born...; Died...
You notice they have the exact same birth and death dates. Odder things have happened, but in this case I have a pension file to show the inaccuracy. 
Information of first wife Sally Wood 
 T
Portion of a letter in the file, stating death of Josiah. He was living in Will, Illinois

With this information, I know that the "headstone" on Find a Grave was not Josiah, because a year after Sally died he was writing a family member about her death. Another point to be made is he married his second wife in the year 1856 and then died in 1866.
I contacted the man who maintains the memorial site with the above information suggesting a change for Josiah's memorial was in order.  No response, and it has not been changed as of this time. 

You get my point, that headstones  are awesome to help with identifying birth, death, and place, It is not, however, a primary proof, and should not be treated as such. If you are sure the information is correct, then back up that information with researched sources if at all possible. 

I leave these thoughts with you to mull over and consider.
See you again, same place, same time next month.
FranE