Thursday, September 26, 2013

Timelines--Are Yours In Line?--Genealogy Roadshow--Critical Comments--Civil War Pension Questionnaire--A Wealth of Information

--Timelines--Are Yours In Line?
--Genealogy Roadshow--Critical Comments
--Civil War Pension Questionnaire--A Wealth of Information   



Timelines--Are Yours In Line?

This past Saturday I attended a presentation by Legacy's Geoff Rasmussen about Timelines and Chronologies.  I use Family Tree Maker (FTM) as my primary genealogy software program; and, like most all genealogy software programs, it has a timeline feature.  I was very familiar with the feature and have used it frequently; but was I using if effectively? Yesterday, I was working on FTM and decided to look at the timeline for my maternal grandfather, Arthur Dean. 


Arthur S. Dean
As I was going down through the timeline I was pleased with the number of facts that were included in the timeline.  As I read on, however, I noticed that many of the facts were not in chronological order.  He was attending business college before he graduated from High School, graduated from High School at two different dates, two occupations were out of order and a couple other errors.  Most of these facts had valid sources; but sources can be in error or, perhaps, not specific enough.

As I commenced getting the timeline in proper order I noticed that many of the problems were due to a lack of detail.  For instance, the date for his attending business school was "between 1906-1907".  His High School Graduation was "1906" and was listed on the timeline after business school.  By changing High School graduation to May 1906 and business school to June 1906, they were displayed in the correct order.
The source for the business school date was a newspaper article; but when I entered the fact, I didn't review the timeline to ensure the date provided enough detail to align properly in the timeline.  I am not certain; but am guessing if a date is just entered as a year, i.e., 1906, the timeline assumes January 1906, the beginning of the year.

It probably took me at least an hour to get the timeline in the proper chronological order; but in the process I significantly improved my source documents and developed a much clearer understanding for the order of his life events.

Now I need to do the same for all the other major ancestors in my tree.  I strongly suggest that if you haven't reviewed your timelines recently, it would be well worth your time to do so.  Knowing your program has a timeline feature and knowing how to use it isn't enough, you need to make sure it accurately chronicles the events in your ancestors lives.
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Genealogy Roadshow--Critical Comments


I was reading Dick Eastman's comments about the  premier of Genealogy Roadshow in his Newsletter a couple days ago and it really generated a lot of comments from his readers.  There were mixed comments--some good and some bad.  Following are some of the more critical comments: ". . . .more on the process", "results were produced by the hosts magically, with no methodology and few sources cited", ". . . maybe it (future programs) will become honest and realistic with viewers", "I agree that more emphasis should be placed on methodology".   

I don't think that the genealogists who submitted many of these comment were looking at this from the vantage point of the producers of the show.  They want this show to appeal to the average viewing public
--not just to genealogists.  How interested do you really think the general public is in "methodology" and "sources"?  We should all keep in mind the many times our own relatives start rolling their eyes and get those blank stares when we start talking about genealogy.  I personally think that the results of research are more interesting to the general public than all the details of doing the research.  Sure, they may be interested in a general idea of where the information comes from and, perhaps, viewing some of the more interesting documents. However, it has been my experience when giving talks to the general public about genealogy, they are much more interested in what the research can do for them than going into great detail about the process.  
In summary, if the show were only for genealogists, I think these comment would be more valid; however, we genealogists probably are not the largest segment of viewers that they hope the show will attract.  I enjoy both shows; but, as I commented in my recent blog about Genealogy Roadshow, I think it will have more appeal to the general viewing audiences than WDYTYA.  Only time will tell.  
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Civil War Pension Questionnaire--A Wealth of Information   

A few years back I requested all the civil war documents for my paternal great grandfather, Wesley Ritchhart.  I was pleasantly surprised at the numbers of documents I received and the great amount of helpful information they provided. One of the documents appeared to be a one page questionnaire from the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions.  The first sentence reads as follows:

"Sir:  Please answer, at your earliest convenience, the questions enumerated below.  The information is requested for future use, and it may be of great value to your widow or children.  Use the inclosed (sic) envelope, which requires no stamp."

When you closely examine the document (shown below) submitted by Wesley, I think you would agree that the above statement should be modified to read as follows:

". . . . . The information is requested for future use, and may be of tremendous value to your widow or children.  It will also make future ancestors researching your life giddy with excitement over finding such a treasure trove of information!"

Pension Application Questionnaire

I realize you can't read all of the detailed information on the questionnaire; but it asks for the following (some paraphrased):
--Date and place of birth.
--Name of military organizations served with.
--Post Office at enlistment.
--Wife's full name and maiden name.
--When, where, and by whom married.
--Is there any official or church record of your marriage?  If so, where?
--Were you previously married?  If so, provide details.
--If your present wife was previously married, provide details including any military service by previous husband.
--Are you now living with your wife, or has there been a separation? 
--State the names and dates of birth of all your children, living or dead.

Does this questionnaire sound like it was filled out by a genealogist?  We should all be very thankful for whoever the bureaucrat was that developed this document!  It has the added bonus of being signed by the applicant, a feature that will delight handwriting analysts and those who value the results of such expert analysis.

I don't know if similar questionnaires were used for wars other than the Civil War; but if you have any civil war veterans in your lineage, I recommend you request their records and hope this document is included.

A couple years after Wesley died his wife, Mary, remarried.  Included in the documentation I received was a record of her having returned a check for $75 because she was now no longer eligible for the pension.  A very honest woman!


As I view the photo of Wesley and Mary I realize that I need to do a little touch up work with my Photoshop Elements program.