Thursday, March 22, 2012

"One of His Nuts Was Big as a Goose Egg"

I've been very scattered lately in my genealogical research. I'm attributing much of that lack of focus to the fact that I'm at somewhat of a dead end with Great Great Great Grandpa Julius.  I say "somewhat" only because the "end" is dead online and I'm reluctant for some reason to aggressively pursue the offline resources.

Anyway, in trying to get some focus back, I'm scouring my 3GRGR's Civil War Pension file for info.  Its extensive - spanning about 180 pages of documents, including a LOT of declarations/affidavits (what they like to call "depositions" sometimes, but are nothing like what I think of as a deposition in my current line of work), from friends and relatives.  There were two pension claims (three, really, if you sub-divide the invalid pension claims).  He had two invalid pension claims -- one for rheumatism and one for the sword stabbing in his ass, that occurred "in battle" (while his company was retreating from the position at First Bull Run).  The other was his widow's pension claim (his fifth wife), after he died.

So I'm scouring this, which is somewhat difficult because its all handwritten in poor penmanship.  But I'm reading a doctor's examination of 3GRGR and come across the following gem that caused a double or triple take:

Mind you, his "nuts" have absolutely nothing to do with his claim.  Three lines down, there is a sentence that reads
"The bayonet wound doesn't hurt him. One of his nuts was big as a goose egg, but the swelling has gone down . . .."
My first reaction in reading this was: "they used 'nuts' as slang for testicles in the 19th Century?"  My second reaction was "DOCTORS used 'nuts' as medical terminology for testicles in the 19th Century?"

Go figure.  For what its worth, his nuts didn't kill him.  The rheumatism did.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Some Thoughts on Copyright, Sharing, Attribution . . .

A bit of a "free form" post this a.m.  Generally, when I have an unfinished idea for a post, I "draft" one with notes for later refinement.  This morning, I'm going to jot down some random thoughts that have been tumbling around for a bit and develop some or all of them later.

I consider myself fairly new to this.  I'm still mostly in the "who are my ancestors" phase of research, where the question of "who are my" is limited to identification (i.e., putting a name in an "add father" or "add child" field).  In that phase, there has be a LOT of "borrowing" of the research of others.  I've written about some of the pros and cons of this from the practical perspective of achieving the goals of (a) identifying ancestors; and (b) doing it accurately, in a prior post. But what I've been thinking about lately are two related ideas.

One is the idea of sharing research and sharing information about relatives.  Is there a culture that is generally pro sharing, or is research somewhat or very jealously guarded?  Does it depend on the circumstances?  Do those circumstances include what the research is?  For example, is a photo of a well know relative that is already widely and publicly available more likely to be shared among relatives, distant relatives or unrelated researchers than a Civil  War Pension file?  Does it depend on whether you paid for the Civil War Pension file?  Does it matter if the person asking to share is a relative, distant relative or unrelated researcher?  I've mostly being stuck in my own rabbit holes and have been very much "on my own" in doing research (albeit with a healthy dose of borrowing from others online).  But next to none of it is of the "can you share that with me" variety . . . yet (I hope).

Another idea that is somewhat related and is one of both personal and professional interest is whether (and more accurately) to what extent a person's "family tree" is protected by copyright.  There are a lot of interesting questions in the area of copyright, including copyrights in collected works, copyright expiration (e.g., the duration of a copyright -- after all, a lot of this stuff pertains to long dead relatives), "fair use" exceptions to otherwise copyrighted works, and licensing issues as well as abandonment -- i.e., things in which there could otherwise be a recognized copyright (a photograph of a gravestone, for example) that someone puts online with the express statement that anyone can use it for any purpose.

At some point, I'm going to research the legal aspects of this and follow up with some more in-depth, legally based posts either doing my own, original, legal research, or collecting it for others to use.  For now, I'll leave this post with a question (one that I know the answer to):  is there a copyright on this photograph?  If so, who owns it?  Its a picture of my 2nd Great Grandfather, Henry Edward Rock and his wife Hattie Dashnaw (and a third, unidentified person):

Friday, March 16, 2012

Step Away . . . When You Are Too Close to be Objective

I LOVE puzzling through all of the mysteries in finding relatives in a mass of records and photos and matching up photos to identities, etc.  But in doing so, there is obviously a bias towards finding a match, because that's what you want.

I found myself doing that recently.  Specifically, there is this wedding photo. We've not yet identified the bride or the groom.  That sucks!  So, I'm running through a million different theories of who it could be.

I don't recognize them.  There is no date on the photo.  My dad had a theory around the time he was gathering up these photos a while back based on a superficial resemblance to another identified photo.  Others who knew that woman said it wasn't a match. And, indeed upon closer examination, it wasn't.

Recently, I DID match some "unknowns" from photographs to my tree -- which is REALLY satisfying. In doing so, I got to thinking whether there was any connection between these newly identified people and this woman above.  I think my bias has gotten the better of me because I was entertaining the theory that this wedding description would provide corroboration for the identity:

I was pretty excited because the description of the dress was close to what you see in the photo -- namely, ". . . white satin fitted bodice, square neckline edged in lace and long sleeves."  Not bad, eh?  Until you consider how that description matches up with a TON of wedding dresses.  To give myself some kind of a break, I do notice that a lot more women took the "wearing white at the wedding" thing "seriously" back then and there were no shortage of women married in far less formal attire, but still.  I think I need to take the weekend off.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Northern New York Research

I find that the various cemetery resources online are pretty weak. (If you've had different experiences, I'd love to hear about them.) But if you have relatives who lived (or, more precisely who died ) in Northern New York, there is a pretty good and free web site that you should be aware of.  Its the "Northern New York Tombstone Transcription Project."  I has a pretty straightforward interface for searching individual cemeteries or searching county-wide.

I've noted some possible omissions, so I wouldn't rely on it as the absolute gospel as to whether a relative is buried upstate, but its a great source of a ton of information.  And, did I mention it was free?

Large Quantity of Wood and Flour, and a Barrell of Pork . . .

Well, finally something about my actual third Great Grandpa!  I'm stuck on Julius La Porte with little movement over the past year or so in my research.  I've got a lead on some church records in Philly that might help, but I'm not in Philly and the records cannot come here. (Volunteers??)

So, as is often the case, I tend to re-plow old ground.  Most of it is not fruitful, but sometimes I turn up a nugget of info that I missed on the first go around.

This is an example of TWO cases of that happening. First, this is from the second part of my 3GRGR's Civil-War Pension file.  The first part I ordered upon urging of my Uncle Pat, who blogs about his life and about my mom's side of the family. The second part, I didn't order until almost a year later because I had overlooked the National Archives note telling me that they only sent half of the file.  Put aside for a moment why they would ever do that . . . I'll blame myself for not reading carefully.

In any case, there it is.  I went back to this record recently, trying to find a clue as to his ancestry (virtually no new leads here) but I did find this nugget below (after some background).  My 3GRGR went to war twice.  Not as a young kid, but as a late 30s early 40s guy.  He didn't go because he had no family.  In fact, he had a wife (FN: more on this later), and at least six kids (more on that later also), one of them (my 2GRGR) who was only about 7 years old at the time and his younger sister only about five.  And, he didn't go as some lifelong American Patriot.  As near as we can tell, he only came to the United States (from Quebec) about 20 years earlier and until his death doesn't seem to have been able to speak much English (having been described as a "decrepit old Frenchman" by the pension examiner).  So, there's my 3GRGR, abandoning a wife and several kids to go fight in a war that he should have been pretty uninterested in, politically speaking.

Suffice to say that I don't have a great impression of the guy.  Well, in the WDYTYA theme of things, I found this nugget that, if I were on the show, would sway me to say things like "it really took guts to do what he did . . .. "  Not really, but I just think its funny in a aren't-people-who-lived-in-olden-days-kinda-funny? sort of way. This is an excerpt from the "deposition"/interview of his ex-brother in law, describing how he provided for his second wife as he left for war:

The money quote is:  ". . . when [Julius] went away into the army, he left her [his second wife] in his place here, furnished her large quantity [sic] of wood and flour and a barrel of pork, and besides left considerable money with James Fitch, a merchant here to furnish said Emily provisions whenever she wanted them." (emphasis mine).

Good, god, can you imagine the diet in 1861 -- no fridge, etc.  A steady diet of bread and salt pork!  Maybe some carrots, potatoes and beets.  Yikes!  Before judging, though, perhaps I'll brand this the "Julius Diet" and make a fortune, as he seemed to have stayed pretty thin and lived to his mid-80s!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Oldest Photo of A Direct Relative

As far as I know, the oldest photo of any of my direct relatives is this one, of Lydia Richardson (l/k/a Lydia Cox after her marriage to William Cox).

She was my 3rd Great Grandmother -- her lineage is the first part of the line from this post. She was born in 1832 and looks to be maybe mid twenties here.  There is no date on this photo so I'd just have to guess its somewhere between 1850 to 1870.  This is as far back as I've gotten to any direct relative of mine.

[UPDATE - this post had listed a photo of one of my wife's ancestors, Rebecca Mendes Machado Philips.  After further research, I am not able to verify that the photo listed was, in fact, a photo of her.  I've removed that portion of the post.]

When a Blog Post Could Have Multiple Titles

I was toying with the title of this entry and had things like "The Apple Fell Right NEXT TO The Tree" and "The More Things Change, the More They Stay The Same" and "Photo Archiving and Genealogy" and all sorts of other stuff.

But to the post:  As part of the genealogical research that I'm doing, I'm also taking on the more general role in my family of "historian," which in my book includes taking custody of family photos and digitizing them so everyone has access.  I bought a cool photo negative / slide scanner a few weeks back and have been tinkering with it using some of my old negatives.  I hadn't done a slide until this morning because I didn't have one . . . until yesterday.  I stumbled on a slide that I took from my folks several years back when I was a poor student and my Christmas presents were blowing up photos into 8 x 10s and framing them in cheap frames.

This is one that DIDN'T make the cut.

Based on my appearance in the photo and recognizing the living room as our old house at 36522 Baghdad Drive in Sterling Heights, Michigan, I'm going to say its circa 1973, making it about 39 years old.  I should note that the eye wear fashion in 39 years either hasn't changed (as I'm wearing almost EXACTLY those glasses my dad has on right now) or, neither of us has any fashion sense . . ..

Friday, March 9, 2012

Trimming the Tree

As a follow up to the last post, I'm trimming my tree.  I.e., I'm removing a LOT of people from my currently 7000+ person database.  It got that big in the first place through Geni and some questionable "research" methods on my part.

By way of background, Geni used to allow you unlimited individuals in your tree even in the free version (I think -- or, it was that way during your "free trial.")  In any case, by "borrowing" research of others and glomming on to their trees, I acquired a lot of people in my tree.  When I left Geni for PAF first and then for Family Tree Maker (with a brief journey -- about 15 minutes -- through Legacy), I took with me a very bloated, unsourced tree.

Now, I'm trying to get rid of those people.  Let me say this -- its hard.  Deleting the wrong people at the wrong time gives you "unconnected" people who are then hard to find to delete.  And, once added, there's a "presumption" that they are there "for a reason" so then, you need to go out and find a reason to delete.

If you are like I was, I suggest this:  create one tree for S's and G's (that's sh!ts and giggles) that gives you the longest lines and the biggest tree possible.  Call it your "fun" tree.  Then, do a "real tree."  One that YOU assemble on your own research or by basing it on the research of others, which you are able to confirm was based on reliable sources.  Its easier to have a tree that contains only reliable information that YOU are confident belongs there.

Use the fun tree for fun.  Use the good tree for your good work.  There will obviously be some overlap.  But it will make your life a LOT easier down the road.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Borrowing Research

I know that this is going to be a topic that comes back repeatedly.  Lets just get this out of the way:  I'm guilty.  Yes, I borrow unsourced research.  And, I repeat it on the internet.  I am part of the problem.  But, I'm getting better.  A friend recently bemoaned the problem of poorly sourced research on and the problems it creates once you discover that fathers are said to have died before sons are born, or worse, fathers are born after sons . . ..

The problem of unsourced "research" is rampant.  My knee-jerk reaction is that its driven by a need (the source of which is not really apparent to me yet) to have very, very, very, long lines -- 15th great grandparents.   My friend was bemoaning that ancestry didn't do a good job of providing tools that prohibited this sort of thing.   But I think that they've got a vested interest on a number of levels.  One, people want long lines regardless of whether they are well sourced. Also, when you notice, you "need" their service to search records to see if the things now have in your tree are, in fact true.

But this isn't a new problem.  (By way of background, I've been very lucky in that my tree intersects with several lines that have been already very well developed and very well documented. So, without and such, I've "tapped into" genealogies that are my direct ancestors that don't have this problem . . . for the most part).  I say "for the most part" because there are, even outside of the proliferation of and and others, numerous instances of disputes over lineages that stem from poorly-sourced research that is repeated unquestioned.  Once instance is noted by a distant relative of mine concerning the pedigree of my 8th great grandfather, Philibert Couillaud dit Roquebrune, noted here.

So, count this as post number one on the topic of "when you do your research, note your sources."  And the corollary - when you copy someone else's research, check and doubt their research.  Especially in this age of the internet, where many people can easily "publish" things as facts, there is no guarantee that multiple sources of the same data translate into reliability when each of those sources copies the same wrong source.

But its still fun to copy, isn't it?  As I said, I'm guilty.  So, here's my pictoral confession.  I sent this along to a friend under the subject note "completely serious."  You should see several of the problems immediately as to why we should doubt that I'm a direct descendant of the first King of Wales (I can vouch for the last seven and possibly eight generations).  Enjoy:

 Rhodri "Mawr" (King of The Welsh) Ap Merfyn (788 - 877)
is your 31st great grandfather
Son of Rhodri "Mawr" (King of The Welsh)
Son of Tudwal
Son of Alser
Son of Aelan
Son of Einudd
Son of Tudwal
Son of Dinawal
Son of Llywarch (Lord of Cwmmwd Menai)
Son of Gronwy
Son of Gronwy Vychan Ap
Son of Rhun Ap
Son of Madog Ap
Son of Hywel ap
Son of Richard Ap
Son of BEDO AP
Son of Ralph
Son of Thomas
Son of Thomas
Son of Thomas
Son of Thomas
Son of Thomas
Son of Nathaniel
Son of Nathaniel
Son of Richard
Son of Nathan
Daughter of Jonas
Daughter of Lydia
Daughter of Cynthia Alice
Son of Bessie Leona (M?)
Son of Lloyd Vincent
You are the son of Ronald Lloyd

 And while you are laughing at some of those upper lines, know that these are from NUMEROUS public trees on -- for any of you with subscriptions click on those handy leaves or people, I think that the links are still live.

"French Canadian . . . But I'm MOSTLY Irish" -- Some Numbers

I used to say this.  Based on my limited knowledge, it seemed correct.  My last name was "La Porte" which was French, and those folks hailed from Quebec - ergo "French Canadian."

My mom's name is "Eagan," very Irish.  And, my dad's side had a fair amount of Irish surnames sprinkled about (Blaney, e.g.) - and some English sounding ones (Rock, Jessy, Cox) ergo "mostly Irish."  My research to date, though, has shown the inaccuracy of this statement.

Perhaps one of the biggest errors was in assuming that the "Rocks" on my father's side were of English or Irish origins, instead of, as I learned, also French Canadian (originally "Roque" or "Laroque").  It also ignored a lot of what seems to be English blood.  Finally, it relied on some pretty serious innumeracy that is exposed when you start looking at pedigrees.

Just looking at the "ethnicity/national origin" of the surname at generational levels (an only rough proxy, admittedly), I now know:

G1 (e.g., Me) - French Canadian ("FC")
FC = 1

G2 (my folks) - LaPorte = FC and Eagan = Irish ("I")
FC=1, I=1

G3 (my grandparents) - La Porte = FC, Rock = FC, Eagan = I, Maloney = I
FC=2, I=2

G4 (GGPs) - LaPorte = FC, Blaney = I, Rock = FC, Rock = FC, Eagan = I, Clarke = English(?) ("E"), Maloney = I, Hanley = I.

FC = 3
I = 4
E = 1

G5 (2GGPs) - LaPorte (FC), Geaudreau (FC), Blaney (I), Cox (E), Rock (FC), Dashnaw (FC), Rock (FC), Jessey (FC), Eagan (I), Tierney (I), Clarke (E), Donnelly (I), Maloney (I), Weed (E), Hanly (I), O'Connell (I).

FC = 6
I = 7
E = 2

At G6, I lose some lines, so its not really measurable.

Mistaking "Rock" for English or Irish, (as with "Goodrow" and "Jessee"), accounted for a pretty significant under counting of the French Canadian heritage.  Numerically it seems to be slightly more Irish and especially if Clarke is actually Irish, its certainly not "mostly."

Murderers and Other Scoundrels - Part I

Reba McEntire asked in her episode of "Who Do You Think You Are" whether one of her great grandfathers was a wealthy man, well thought of in the community or whether he was a "scoundrel."  I think that this touches on a basic desire that we have when we look at our family histories to have come from "good people."  Its a theme that is repeated weekly on WDYTYA.

I certainly share some of that desire, but frankly, I'm as or more excited when I encounter the "darker" relatives or, at least, relatives who've engage in nefarious activities.  I'm certainly not cheering them on or condoning behaviour (with one exception that I'll note below regarding my maternal great grandfather Henry "Clayton" Rock (what an awesome name, eh? "Clay Rock"), but it makes for some fun and interesting research to figure out if your relative killed someone or not and if so, why.

More on some of these relatives later (and I use the plural knowingly and intentionally). For now, though, the "exception" noted above - Clay Rock (pictured below):

Here he is with his wife (and 1st Cousin once removed -- but that's for another post on intermarriage) Isabel in 1944.

Digging in some newspaper archives in Clinton County (as described in this post) I found out that Clayton and a few of his relatives were arrested (likely pled guilty) and were fined for bootlegging.  Hard to think poorly of a guy for that "crime."  Details from the July 10, 1928, article are here:

After some additional research, it seems as though Judge Bryant was pretty strict regarding the Volstead Act, but it also wasn't uncommon for an entire room of defendants to cop pleas on these charges in exchange for a fine.  Fred Sr. was Clayton's cousin.  His son, Fred Jr. was also his wife's brother.  According to Wolfram Alpha, that's roughly a $1,000 fine for my great grandfather Clay.

Northern New York Newspapers - What They Don't Teach You on WDYTYA?

NBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" pre-dated my interest in genealogy, but I didn't start watching until after I'd gotten into things.  Its a mildly interesting look at celebrities' genealogical lives / a commercial for the website

I watched the recorded episode of Reba McEntire's episode last night and the "go use" plugs are coming fast and furious as celebrities bust out "their" Apple Macbooks and do a first-name-last-name search and then explore what highly-paid professional historians and genealogists find for them.

If you've explored and taken a spin with their 14-day free trial (as I have) you've done that and exhausted much of what you might find useful. But as I'm not inclined to pay professional historians and genealogists to find my 4GRGR, and I cannot tool around the country poking into local archives, I rely HEAVILY on online resources of the non-paid variety.

If you are at all like me in this way (cheap and tethered to my desk/hometown, and with roots in Northern New York) you'd find this resource invaluable:

Its a searchable archive of newspapers from these Northern New York counties, dating back to the 19th century.  The PDF scans of newspapers are OCR'd to be searchable text.  While not perfect, they are an excellent source of information about known relatives from that area and that time.  Searching can be by entire county or by selected newspapers within a county.  Access the page above at this link.  I've found tons of stuff on my dad, who was something of a local, high-school sports phenom in his day.

Introduction - Purpose

I'm going to start blogging about genealogy, family, history, and such here at 3GRGR (My Third Great Grandfather).

My (paternal) third Great Grandfather is Julius (maybe Jules) LaPorte.  I got into genealogical research about a year ago and quickly (with a slight stumble at his son) went up my father's "La Porte" lineage but got stuck on him.  I'm still researching him and have a decent idea who his father might be.  But its still not conclusive.

Here, I'll report on my work, sharing my experiences in researching him, including what I learn about doing "proper" genealogical research so that you can avoid my mistakes.  Also, it'll serve as a diary and record of what research I've done to avoid duplicating it, leaving "live leads" unfinished, or forgetting something.

They say that blogs are nicer to see and read if there are pictures.  I don't have one of Julius, but here's his son, my Second Great Grandfather, Moses LaPorte (b. 1853 d. 1941).

The woman on the left (I think) is Lilian Dolphin, Moses' granddaughter-in-law (my Great Uncle Ward's first wife).  This is from a collection of photos from my great grandmother, Elizabeth "Bessie" (Blaney) LaPorte.  Its marked "August 1941," which would have been only about 4 months before Moses died.  Handsome fella, isn't he?