Mike Voisin

By way of background, I have over thirty years experience as a software engineer. I enjoy genealogy as a hobby, which I started in earnest in 1994. I've always liked family history. Now whenever I uncover some fascinating fact about an ancestor, I also take time to read about that era in history. Whether it be the Napoleonic Wars, the Erie Canal, Steamships, the Port of Hamburg, or hurricane tracks, there's always something new to learn. By 2000 I published my family tree on the Internet. Unfortunately there were no software tools then that did precisely what I wanted. So I created GED-GEN, a Windows program to automatically generate a genealogy website. It converts a GEDCOM data file to a series of web pages in family group sheet format. Since 2002, people from all over the world have used GED-GEN for their websites. Today I continue to research my family history, with the help of distant cousins. I am also actively creating digital images of my collection of genealogical evidence.

May 262007
 

I researched marriage records from the villages of Baerendorf and Kirrberg in the Alsace region of France, during the period from 1600 through 1800. I found that men usually married women from surrounding villages, and the wedding usually took place in the bride’s hometown. The groom usually moved to the bride’s village and they began their families there.

May 252007
 

It is helpful to use a numbering scheme when referring to the ancestral families in your family tree. Referring to a family by the names of the spouses is problematic. Their names might change as new information about them is discovered. A number is also easier to reference in a filing scheme for paper documents or index cards, as well as for computer files and Internet web pages.

Here is a method for numbering families (not individuals) for your direct-line ancestry. First, notice that an ancestor or pedigree chart is actually a “binary tree,” meaning that each node, or family, in the tree always has exactly two ancestor nodes. Each of the two nodes can therefore be assigned a unique number. This includes even the “missing” nodes, or families that you have yet to discover.

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Apr 192007
 

Often you discover conflicting facts for an event, like a birth date. A particular source may give only partial information, like the place of birth but not the date, or the month and year but not the day or place. Soon you have a list of multiple alternate facts, each cited by a different source.

A “preferred” fact is a best estimate. It may include information from a combination of alternate facts. A single preferred fact is often used in genealogical reports and charts, where listing several alternate facts is infeasible.

For some facts, it is not a matter of having several conflicting facts from alternate sources. Sometimes you must draw inferences from several sources to form a conclusion. Suppose you have a hunch that a particular person is your ancestor. If you evaluate several sources, you may find proof to a reasonable degree of certainty that your hunch is correct. In other words you may be able draw a conclusion even though there are no explicit facts that prove it.

As an example, marriage records often list witnesses, their ages, and their relationship to the bride or groom. Evaluating the marriage records of two sisters may lead you to conclude that one of the witnesses who appears on both records is actually their brother. The age and hometown of this witness may lead you to conclude he is indeed your ancestor.

Therefore, besides citing individual sources for a given fact, you can also cite a conclusion. Simply document the steps that led to your conclusion, and name that as your source. Future researchers can then see your logic and verify it against your sources, and any new sources that may be discovered.

Apr 062007
 

With genealogical evidence, you should not trust any one source to be accurate. I contend that even a preponderance of the evidence is not necessarily accurate. Researchers often look for corroborating evidence from other sources before accepting a fact as true. Various sources have different weights as to their trustworthiness and accuracy. But it can still be a mistake to draw a conclusion based on a given set of sources.

For instance someone’s date of birth taken from their death certificate has a greater chance of being incorrect since their birth happened so many years beforehand. The person filling out the death certificate may only be guessing the deceased’s birth date. The birth date is seldom verified with other official records when the death certificate is filed.

Birth certificates are considered more accurate because they are recorded soon after birth, when everyone involved is sure when it happened. However a clerk generally recorded births in a ledger book. Sometimes these ledgers were themselves re-copied several years later. So even a “birth certificate” is subject to transcription errors and recording mistakes.

Even if a birth record and a death record each point to the same birth date, that date is not necessarily accurate. Two or more inaccurate records do not make an accurate record.

That is why citing a source in genealogical research is so important. You, or a subsequent researcher may happen upon another source in the future that corroborates or refutes a given fact. All sources will again need to be weighed for accuracy before another conclusion can be drawn. Any genealogical fact has an inherent degree of accuracy that is never 100%.

Apr 062007
 

Sometimes you will find a birth or baptism record for a child, but the parents already have a child by that name. Chances are the first child died as an infant or youngster and the parents named a subsequent child using the same name. This was probably a way of honoring the first child. You will most likely find a death record for the first child before the second child’s birth.

Apr 062007
 

It was quite common for our German ancestors to call their children by their middle names. In the same family, several children could have the same first name, such as Anna or Maria, or Johann. These children were known and called by their middle names. See for example my fifth great-grandparents, Peter and Christina Marx. They had four daughters having Anna as a first name: Anna Maria, Anna Margaretha, Anna Catharina, and Anna Gertrude.