Tuesday, 9 September 2014

More About Asa McDaniel on the FamilySearch Family Tree

In my last post I discussed putting family trees online and commented on the search I usually do online for my great-grandfather, Asa McDaniel (1827-1901). In particular I mentioned the searches on Ancestry. I have also used the new Family Tree on FamilySearch to see what information other researchers have on my family members. I did the same search for Asa as for other online family trees.
Summary of search parameters for Asa McDaniel (1827-1901) used on FamilySearch Genealogies
Some of the same problems surface on the contributed files as they have on Ancestry, possibly because the same people are the ones uploading the information to both websites. For Asa McDaniel, a search yielded three entries, one in the Ancestral file and two in the Pedigree Resource File. All had basically the same information for Asa and his family. The Ancestral File information listed a number of contributors of the information but no way to contact any of them and nor any list of sources. The Pedigree Resource files are similar although one has no ancestors past Asa’s presumed father, William McDaniel.
Copies of Ancestral and Pedigree summaries for Asa Harvey McDaniel on FamilySearch.org Genealogies showing children, ancestors, additional information and sources
In both files, the parentage of Asa is in doubt, with the same mistake in death date and place for his father, William. The information was combined from a number of contributors however I see no way to contact any of them. In the old FamilySearch Genealogies file there were actually email addresses for some of the contributors although when I checked them they were out-of-date so I could not ask anyone about their information. A similar problem to that I encountered on Ancestry exists on the FamilySearch data, that is, confusing two different men named William McDaniel. And the file still has that strange bit about him dying in Ohio in 1857 but appearing on the 1860 census in Virginia! But at least a description of some documents is summarized which could be checked.
Pedigree Resource file for William McDaniel, father of Asa McDaniel
There are a number of notes for both Asa and William appended to the files. I did note again that the story and much of the information is directly from my aunt’s family write-up and, once more, without attribution or comments as to its accuracy.

Online family trees are interesting and can be valuable in finding new information. But they can also be full of errors and, unfortunately, most do not list the sources of information. Those that do, such as FamilySearch, can still be incomplete and not have the contact information for the people who posted the data.

The question becomes, do I just take the tidbits I can find on family trees such as those at FamilySearch and the look for the material to support the information. Or do I try to offer corrections to those files. I think if I tried the latter, I would spend all my time attempting to correct information on published trees at the expense of doing my own research and looking for real documents. 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Finding Asa McDaniel in Online Trees

I previously wrote about putting family trees online as a way of enhancing the search for information as well as to share the data with other researchers. I haven’t made a lot of progress yet in that regard but it is still on the list of things to do.

I have looked at family trees posted on a few websites such as Ancestry in order to see what other family historians have found, especially concerning some of the lines I have not researched in detail. In many cases I have found distantly-related cousins who were chasing other family branches. Some have been valuable in providing additional data. Some have not! There are new trees being added regularly so doing a new search every few weeks can be worthwhile.

What is very annoying and disconcerting is the fact that so many people just copy names willy-nilly from other trees without checking facts. I have contacted a few tree owners, both public and private, to ask about their data. Few – very few – have any documents to back up their names, dates and places. Another problem is that people come and go on both subscription and public sites. If they have let their subscriptions lapse, or changed their contact information then it is impossible to ask them about their trees.

As an example, I normally search for a great-grandfather, Asa McDaniel, about whom I have quite a bit of data – his birth date, birth place, death date, death place, parents’ names, children’s names, census records, etc. Most of the information came to me from my aunt who researched the hard way – by post and personal visits to court houses and record offices – in the 1960s and 1970s. She collected and passed along copies of many of the important documents, including birth, marriage, death, land and census records.
Information on Ancestry’s search page for Asa McDaniel (1827-1901)
On Ancestry and other websites I start with putting the basic information about Asa into the search form. The latest search yielded 116,035 trees on Ancestry with the man listed!
Part of page one of Ancestry’s Family Trees which have Asa McDaniel (1827-1901) listed
The task then is to sort through them to see if there is anything new. (I’ll never get through all 116,035 of the current ones.) Often the trees are focused on another family entirely and any overlap with mine is incidental. Early on in my review of Ancestry trees, I came across one tree that looked interesting. I contacted the person who had assembled the tree, who turned out to be a 2nd cousin, once removed. She was a descendant of one of the brothers of my maternal grandmother. She appeared to have some interesting information, including photos, from her line so I thought this might be a worthwhile contact. What I found was that there was a lot of unsupported data on her tree and some outright factual errors.
Selected family tree showing Asa McDaniel with his spouse, children and parents
The most glaring error on this tree is the information about Asa’s father, William McDaniel. Asa’s father never left Virginia. He died there after 1860 and we are pretty sure of that because he is on the 1860 census, still living on the his farm with one of his daughters and a granddaughter who was the child of another daughter.  It also shows he was born in Maryland in 1778. The Ancestry tree, along with many others on the website, shows him moving to Ohio and dying there in 1857. The tree actually shows the death year of 1857 and the information from the census that he was alive and well in Virginia in 1860 which logic is really hard to follow.

There were at least two men named William McDaniel, both born about the same time and who both lived in Virginia for a time. The one in use on many trees – born in Virginia – is not the man I recognize as my 2nd great-grandfather. The Virginia-born individual is likely the one who died in Ohio.

Hundreds of individuals have been added to many of the trees as ancestors of William McDaniel. By picking the wrong person to start with, though, the errors on the tree are compounded. At this point in time, we only suspect that William was born in Maryland around 1778. That information is from the 1860 census. The 1850 census indicates he was born in Virginia in 1782. Our inclination is to use the 1860 data as it is more recent and because the copy we have of his marriage record shows he was married in Maryland.
1860 United States census – page shows family of William McDaniel, age 82, farmer, born in Maryland, with daughter Elizabeth McDaniel and granddaughter Elizabeth Painter.
The cousin I referred to continues to add names to her tree regularly, along with coats of arms, photos and other material. She claims to have traced the McDaniel family back over 1,000 years: to McDonnel ancestors, who were basically nobility in Ireland; across the breadth of Scotland with the MacDonald clan; to Rognvald Ranald Somarledasson, King of the Isles, Lord of Argyll; and back to Ireland, to Guthorm Ivarsson, King of Dublin, born in 877. It just gets silly after a while! And all of that from the wrong William McDaniel to start with!

I have tried to tell people that their data is wrong or inconsistent. Some listen; most do not!

Many family trees on Ancestry have a photo of Asa McDaniel shown with two of his granddaughters. This is actually a picture I sent to a couple of cousins, including the one who has the tree back 1,000 years. That photo has since been reproduced on dozens of other trees by other tree-owners, without attribution! I am confident that the photo is of Asa, because the photo came from my aunt and she knew him. We are not sure who the little girls in the picture are, though. I also know the photos came from me as all of the copies have the same dirt marks, scratches and imperfections that are on my original. But all the people who are using it have no idea as to whether it is the man because they have never asked and certainly do not know where the photo originated. Many trees also have notes that were written by my aunt back in the 1970s, again reproduced without any reference as to who wrote them or whether they are correct. I know who wrote the stories because I have a couple of her hand-typed copies.
Photo of Asa McDaniel, taken in Oklahoma with, apparently, two of his granddaughters as yet unidentified ca 1895
All in all, one has to be very careful of the information contained on family trees posted online. Rarely is supporting information given and too often sources are not listed. I am still undecided whether I will post my tree on Ancestry.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated. Census records are the property of The National Archives and published under their Open Government License. Census image was downloaded from Ancestry.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Even More About Using Old Maps

In previous posts I mentioned that I had found, or thought I found the location where my wife’s grandfather and great-grandmother lived in 1881 – John Street in Glasgow. A closer look – as summarized in my post of August 12, 2014 – which I should have done before, revealed that the John Street on which they resided was actually in the burgh of Govan, now a district of greater Glasgow. Govan was across the Clyde River from the City of Glasgow. I got carried away by the fact that Alexander Cooper’s first wife lived very close to John Street in 1881 and made the assumption (Never do that!) that Alexander also lived in the area and met her there.

Part of the problem in identifying a location is in finding the right aged map. In this case, there was only one John Street which seemed reasonable, the one in Glasgow City. The census records showed they were in Govan which I had not paid enough attention to. More recently I have searched for many of the old maps covering Govan in order to narrow down where the family lived and many pieces have come together nicely.

On the Library of Scotland website I found several vintage maps of Govan including – from 1882, 1896 and 1912 – that spanned the family’s history in the area. I compared the street names given on census, marriage and death records. The NLS website is a wonderful source of maps of Scotland. You can see many different maps, from the 1700s onward, over the same area. By clicking on the map group menu, you can observe the development of an area over the decades.

On a present-day map I used from Bing Maps, only a handful of the street names remain the same from the 19th century. Most of the buildings are now gone and have been replaced by new commercial and residential complexes. Some of the positions of the old roads appear to be the same but many do not continue through intersections that were present many decades ago. It is possible that the area was bombed during World War II but I have not yet found a map of the area that shows such devastation.

Street names where family members lived:
1882 & 1896
Present Day
Albert Street
Albert Street
Orkney Street
Fairfield Street
not labelled
not present
Greenhaugh Street
Greenhaugh Street
Robert Drive
Hamilton Street
Hamilton Street
Nethan Street
John Street
White Street
Harthill Street
Main Street
Main Street
Clydebrae Street
Roodspark Street
not labelled
not present
White Street
White Street
Golspie Street
1896 map of Govan area – Ordnance Survey 25 inch (image downloaded August 15, 2014 from National Library of Scotland
1912 map of Govan area from John G. Bartholomew’s Plan of Glasgow (image downloaded August 15, 2014 from National Library of Scotland
Present-day Govan area (image downloaded August 25, 2014 from Bing Maps

There are three major landmarks that I can identify to orient myself with respect to the old residential streets – Elder Park (on west side), St. Constantine’s (Govan) Parish Church and the Govan railway station. From that I can now recognize where the old addresses were located. Members of the family lived in the Govan area from at least 1866. Their names can be found on a number of different documents which, together, show how the family moved around in response to changes in their lives:

1.      1866 Marriage (May 18th) – Ann Couper and James Jackson married at the Govan Manse; James indicated as living at 6 Victoria Street, Govan; Ann shown living at 1 Ibrox Terrace, Ibroxholm, Govan (about six blocks southeast of Victoria Steet)’ Elizabeth Couper was a witness to the marriage
2.      1871 Census (April 2nd) – Elizabeth and Alexander Couper living with Elizabeth’s sister, Ann Jackson and her family at 22 Hamilton Street, Govan; John Blackburn, future husband of Elizabeth, living at same address, presumably in a multi-family apartment building
3.      1871 Marriage (April 4th) – Elizabeth Couper and John Blackburn married at 22 Hamilton Street, Govan; both shown to be living at 22 Hamilton Street, Govan
4.      1881 Census (April 3rd) – Elizabeth and Alexander Couper Blackburn living at 4 John Street, Govan
5.      1881 Census (April 3rd) – John Blackburn living at 7 Main Street, Govan
6.      1881 Census (April 3rd) – James and Ann Jackson family living at 91 Roodspark Street, Govan
7.      1885 Military Attestation Form – Alexander Cooper join Scottish Rifles; next of kin indicated as “John” who was living at 2 Albert Street, Govan
8.      1885 Death (November 5th) – John Blackburn died at Western Infirmary, Glasgow; usual residence indicated as 8 Greenhaugh Street, Govan
9.      1891 Census (April 5th) – Elizabeth Blackburn living at 18 White Street, Govan
10.  1891 Census (April 5th) – Ann Jackson family living at 25 Albert Street, Govan; she was a widow
11.  1892 Marriage (April 29th) – Elizabeth Blackburn and James Ross married at 30 Mason Street, Glasgow City; James indicated as living at 13 Fairfield Street, Govan; Elizabeth living at 16 White Street, Govan; after their marriage the couple moved to 30 Mason Street, James’ former residence; address shown as his usual residence on his death record in 1895; Elizabeth living there in 1901 according to the census
12.  1897 Death (November 20th) – Ann Jackson died at 25 Albert Street, Govan

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated. Census records are the property of The National Archives and published under their Open Government License. Census image was downloaded from Ancestry.