Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Use of Data Concerning Living Persons

I recently received a notice from MyHeritage about photos of people who matched names in my own family tree.

I was surprised and shocked to see pictures of my children and grandchildren there! Along with vital information about them.


We have informed the member that no permission was given to use the photos on MyHeritage, or elsewhere – by any family member. We were especially concerned with them being related to living persons, especially children.

I fail to understand how information about our children is relevant to the study of ancestors. Yes, they are the latest in any line but who they are, when they were born, where they live or what they do has nothing to do with their great-great-grandparents. It is the latter who, as genealogists and family historians, we seek to find information about. Invading the privacy of minors – and that is what is happening here – does not advance the study of our forebears.

I believe people need to take extra care when publishing information of any kind about living people but should never, in my opinion, put up photos of children, without the parents' express written approval.

I do agree that the photo library of MyHeritage could be of value in the search for information about our dead relatives. In my case, I already have copies of the photos that were shown in the notice sent to me. Some actually looked like they were copied from my files although I do not think that was the case. They may have been shared by others to whom I sent copies, though. It has happened before and is impossible to control.

It is not necessary to import the bad behaviour shown in much of social media to genealogical pursuits. Surely we can respect the privacy of living people – AGAIN, ESPECIALLY CHILDREN – as we study and share information about our ancestors.

I have made my views known to MyHeritage. We will see what steps they take to preserve privacy. I have also complained to the individual who put up the photos on her family tree site. We expect her to remove them, along with the vital information and, in the future, seek permission before she uses such material.

By the way, on my own MyHeritage family tree I have clicked the box that says guests can view limited information but “can never view information about living people” in my family website. Only those that are invited to join the tree may do so. I also do not allow site members to invite other members to the site. I am hopeful that is enough to protect the privacy of people I have named in my family tree.


Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Keeping It All in Perspective

When I was learning about geology – many decades ago – we were shown a diagram comparing Earth’s natural history with a 24-hour clock. That was presented to give us an idea of the relative lengths of the various geological eons, era and periods, as well as a perspective of the age of the Earth in relation to how long people have been around.



Few people drive through a mountain range, for example, will have a proper perspective of the time it took to first have the primary material be deposited as sediment, turn the accumulation into rock and later uplift the whole succession into what we see now in the towering cliffs. In the Rocky Mountains of western North America, the rocks we now see were formed as far back as the Middle Proterozoic Era (about 1,500,000,000 years ago). The uplift and deformation of the strata began in the middle of the Mesozoic Era (about 175,000,000 years ago) and continue today.


Retrieved from Wikitravel: Rocky Mountains (Canada)

Different forms of the clock-comparison diagram have been produced over the years but the stories are still the same: the Earth took a long time to reach its present form; hominids, in various forms, have existed only for about 5,000,000 years. The human segment of that period is only about 2,000,000 years which takes up the last minute and a quarter when history is viewed in relation to the clock. Within that most recent, very small interval, the human species has developed from forest-dwelling hominids to modern man.





One might argue that humans have always been organized around families but there was no clear evidence of that prior to the last 10,000 years (the Holocene Epoch) unless you count the cave paintings by hominids in Europe about 40,000 years ago. The beginning of the Holocene interglacial period is when people began to expand their geographic range, gather in small communities, eventually build cities, live in family units and transform the environment around them. Communication in the form of writing – such as cuneiform script – was only invented a few thousand years ago. Civilization, indeed all of mankind’s entire recorded history, occurred during the Holocene.



The oldest document I have come across is called the Elphantine papyri, from 449 BC (2,500 years ago) which appears to be a formal recognition of the marriage between a Jewish temple officer. Ananiah, and Tamut, an Egyptian slave. Most of us won’t find records that old that relate to our own families.


When genealogists research their roots, they are only looking at a very recent fragment of time in which humans have inhabited the planet. They are not really researching family history, or the history of families, but only studying the events of families preserved in the written record. Most of what we can view in terms of records go back only to about the early 15th century – about 600 years ago. It is true that certain types of records were kept in previous eras but few made mention specifically of people and their families. As a result, they are not of much value in constructing true and continuous family histories.

The following shows how all these time periods relate to the age of the Earth (according to the charts shown here):
      Period                                          Time (Years)           Proportion                  Clock Interval
      Age of Earth                               4,550,000,000                     100%                            24 hours
      Hominid History                                5,000,000                    0.11%       7 minutes, 22 seconds
      Modern Humans                                2,000,000                0.0004%        1 minute, 17 seconds
      Civilization                                              10,000                0.0002%              0.154 of a second
      Limit of Genealogy Research                      600              0.00001%          0.00924 of a second
      My Personal Years of Study                          50            0.000001%          0.00077 of a second
           
My experience in geology and genealogy take up an exceedingly small slice of time relative to Earth’s history!

Just to keep it all in perspective!


Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Connecting People Through Their Occupations

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been doing a lot of work recently on our Scottish ancestors. These involve the McKay family. And you cannot imagine how many are named John, James, Alexander or Hugh. Not to mention Margaret, Isabella, Janet and Jane. The common surname and not inconsiderable times the forenames were used, among related and unrelated families, has often left us wondering who really was related to whom and if any were related to us.

Luckily, in Scotland birth, marriage and death records often show the parents’ names and the maiden names of mothers. They can be very helpful in sorting out families and certainly have been in the case of those people I have been chasing.

What I did not expect, when I started back in on the McKays, was that they moved around a lot, probably because of what they did for a living.

We know that the most recent generation of our Scottish McKays lived and worked in Findhorn, Morayshire, Scotland. And many of the men were blockmakers. That is not an occupation that will be familiar to most people. We still debate exactly what it was that they did. As they lived primarily in seaports I am quite sure they were involved in the manufacture of blocks for pulleys used for tackle, sails, fishing nets, etc.

Census records showed me where many spouses had been born for those families that spanned the 1851 to 1911 periods. From there I could navigate backward to find marriage records. For example, a James McKay (1813-1872) was born on the north coast of Banffshire, in a little village called Macduff,  but married a girl from southern Perthshire, about 130 miles to the south. That could not have been easy travelling in the 1840s. Likely they went by ship around the east coast of Scotland.

I had been looking for James’ brother, Hugh, for a long time. I had information on his two marriages. The first was in Auchterless, Aberdeenshire, about 20 miles south of Macduff.; the second was in Dallas, Morayshire, 45 miles to the west of Macduff. He and his second wife ended up in Findhorn, on the Morayshire coast, 50 miles from Macduff.

The father of James, Hugh and six other children had been born, as far as we can determine, in Nairn, Nairnshire, which is another 15 miles to the west of Findhorn. My wife has four generations of grandfathers named Hugh which has added to the confusion at times. All of them appear to have been born in Nairn. They were farmers and weavers, for the most part.

Many of the McKays made their way to Banffshire around 1800 where Hugh McKay (1772-1850) took up, or brought with him, the trade of weaving. I have not yet sorted out whether any of his relatives came with him but I suspect there were a few given the profusion of McKays in the Macduff area. Hugh married a lady from Macduff in 1802 and they had eight children there. All three of his sons who survived to adulthood, became blockmakers.

As I said, I knew that James had married in Perthshire. He had already left home by the time of the 1841 census and I was sure he had married around 1845, so I looked for him in Perthshire. What convinced me I had found him were entries in the 1841 census, in Perth, for Jas. D. McKay and Hugh McKay, both blockmakers, and both born outside the County of Perthshire.


Looking for one brother led me to find a second one that had eluded me for some time. I would not have looked for Hugh in Perth as his working and personal life was in the northern part of the country. In this case seeing their occupations helped identify both men.

The oldest brother, John, had moved west to Findhorn in the early 1840s and is shown on censuses through 1881 as a blockmaker there. He did expand into other businesses but his main trade helped identify him as part of our family.

Hugh was working as a blockmaker in Macduff in 1851 but had relocated to Findhorn by 1861. Similarly, James plied the trade in the seaside town of Montrose, Angus. But by 1861, he had joined his brothers in Findhorn. All of them lived the rest of their lives there, as did one sister who had arrived with her family around the same time.

As I indicated, the McKay families were found in many different locations around northeast Scotland over the decades. One of the simple things that helped me tie these men with very common names together, though, was their occupation.



Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. He has also served as an editor of two such publications. Wayne provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated