Special offers in honor of July 4th

Genealogy bargains this weekendSeveral subscription-based databases are offering free access to specific holdings in honor of the 4th of July holiday. It’s a great chance to stay cool and dig into some research this weekend!

On Ancestry.com, you can access their records from the original 13 colonies now through Sunday, even if you’re not a subscriber.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society’s American Ancestors website is offering its Great Migration database free of charge through July 8.

You can freely search the Revolutionary War records at Fold3, the military database now through July 15.

If you have ancestors involved in establishing the U.S. now is the time to research them! I’m hoping to spend some time with the Great Migration database this weekend and see if I can find my early New York ancestor.

I learned about these special offers from Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Bargains newsletter. If you don’t subscribe, you’re missing out! (It’s another free resource.)

Take obituaries with a grain of salt

Take obituaries with a grain of saltMy mother, Betty Sue Brown Adams, died last week.  She was born on May 2, 1933 and died June 17, 2015. It felt very strange to add a death date to her entry in Reunion, my family tree software.

Since I’m a writer, my father asked me to write her obituary. Fortunately, we had had discussions about what she wanted in her obituary, so it was quite easy to write. I wrote it the day after she passed away and submitted to the local paper on June 19. It was published Sunday, June 21.

Yesterday, I was looking at the obituary and realized it contained an error, one that was completely my fault. It wasn’t a big deal–I wrote that she’d been a volunteer at the Blue Mountain Humane Society Gift Shop when in fact she’d been a volunteer at the Blue Mountain Humane Society Thrift Shop. It’s a subtle, but significant difference.

Seeing that error made me realize how easy it is for errors to be introduced into obituaries. I was writing with a clear head, with pre-planned information, into a document that I emailed to the newspaper. And yet an error showed up in print.

Just think how easily errors could be introduced into the obituaries of our ancestors: the writer may or may not have known the deceased person. The person who wrote the obituary may or may not be a good writer. The information may have been hand-entered for typesetting. There are so many ways an obituary can be made inaccurate.

So that’s today’s genealogy take away from my mother’s passing: Take obituaries with a grain of salt.

By the way, I wrote on my organizing blog yesterday about the importance of having the difficult conversation that will help make someone’s death easier for survivors. If you have loved ones near the ends of their lives, I encourage you to check it out.

Update on the Livescribe pen

In a comment on my blogiversary blog post, reader Maria Tello mentioned that she would like to hear an update from me on how I use my Livescribe pen for genealogy.

The Livescribe pen is a smart pen with a voice recorder in it that links the recording with the notes you are taking. So you can touch an area of your notes (taken in its special notebook) and hear what was being said when you took the note.

I bought my Livescribe Echo in 2013 and enthusiastically used it to take notes at conferences. In my blog post about it, I mentioned the ways I could see using it for genealogy.

True confession: The Livescribe pen is gathering dust in my desk drawer. It’s lost its luster for me. I realized that I never took the time to go back and listen to the recorded notes, which made the notes I did take less valuable (since I took fewer notes, assuming I’d listen to them).

I really do think it could be a very valuable for doing oral history interviews. I just haven’t used it that way.

It’s worth noting that since I bought my Livescribe Echo, the company has the Livescribe 3, which links with an iPhone/iPad app (as well as Android devices). It uses your device’s voice recorder, which makes the pen smaller. And the notes you take in your notebook are transmitted to the device. They can even be transcribed easily. I won’t be rushing out to buy it, since it turns out its utility for me wasn’t quite what I anticipated, but for those taking a lot of notes, I think it’s worth checking out.

 

 

Third edition of Evidence Explained is available!

New edition of Evidence Explained is out!The newest edition of Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, by Elizabeth Shown Mills, has just been released. I ordered mine from Amazon last month and it arrived last week. Very exciting!

Evidence Explained is the gold standard for source citation. This new volume is a hefty 892 pages. It’s hardcover. And heavy. (And also available in an electronic edition.) But it contains within its covers the answers to knotty problems of how to cite a source. This edition includes updated information citing genetic sources as well as sources from the Internet.

Over the last few years that I’ve been doing more serious genealogy research on my family it has become very clear that citing and analyzing sources is the key to doing accurate, reliable research that holds up over time. Great source citation also helps other genealogy researchers who may want to use the data I’ve gathered because they can tell it’s reliable and find it themselves if they want. It may feel like extra work to create a proper source citation, but it’s the kind of thing that can pay dividends in the future. The hefty source I created for my ancestor’s Civil War pension records will allow me or any researcher to be able to find the source again. And its validity is apparent by the citation.

If you’re serious about your genealogy research and don’t have Evidence Explained on your bookshelf, the publication of this third edition might be just the reason to invest $54 to have it at your fingertips. If you already have the second edition, you can trade it in at Amazon for $29.74 credit and use it toward the third edition! (Thank you to Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers for this tip.)

I haven’t had a chance to use the third edition since it arrived last week, but as soon as I get a break from clients, I’m going to read Chapters 1 and 2 on basic principles and plan to consult the work frequently when I’m creating source citations.