Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Global Cemeteries Project's First Cemetery Challenge!

If you've seen me around WikiTree, you may have noticed my very high level of enthusiasm and excitement when it comes to the Global Cemeteries Project, which a few of us started up in June (though the Australian WikiTreers had had their own regional version for some time). I'm so happy to finally have a place to upload tombstone photos that also 1) doesn't take ownership of the photos away from me, and 2) allows me to link up those tombstone photos to other information about the people buried there, and ultimately to the global family tree.

Well, this excitement, when combined with my naturally competitive nature, could only lead to one thing: a challenge! Thus was the September 2014 Tombstone Photo Challenge born. The challenge is to photograph as many tombstones as possible during the month of September.

My inspiration for this particular challenge came from my location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, often nicknamed Winterpeg. A city in which the cemeteries spend half the year buried under a substantial quantity of snow. So I wanted to make sure I took lots and lots of pictures before that happened, so that I'd have plenty to do transcribing them and creating WikiTree profiles for them over the winter.

So if you haven't joined the Global Cemeteries Project yet, now's the time! Join in the challenge and see if you can lurk around more cemeteries than anyone else! ;) Compete for bragging rights and a sweet profile badge, all the while helping to improve WikiTree's coverage of the world's cemeteries. And as I can already say from experience, before too long you'll be getting messages thanking you for posting a picture of someone's ancestor's tombstone. And that's a pretty great feeling.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why WikiTree's Cemeteries Project is a Good Use of Time

My usual disclaimer: I work for, but this is my personal genealogy blog. I am not paid to blog here and my opinions do not necessarily reflect "official WikiTree opinions" or anything like that. This is just Lianne talking.

So, some WikiTreers (including myself) recently started up the Global Cemeteries Project, which grew out of WikiTree team member Paul Bech's Cemeteries of Australia Project. I am BEYOND EXCITED about this project, and will later write a blog post all about how much I love it. But for now, I wanted to write about the reaction to it.

A lot of people share my excitement. Enough people that I think this project is going to grow and become something wonderful. But what I find interesting is that the negative (or maybe not negative but simply uncertain) reactions all seem to be taking the exact same form:

Aren't you just reinventing the wheel? Find a Grave already does this.

First, let me just say that if you said something like this, don't worry: I'm not angrily replying to your comment. I'm writing this because a whole bunch of people said the exact same thing and I find it interesting. Because I disagree with it in literally every way. Let's break it down.

1) Having info in only one place is bad.

We all know this. That's why geneabloggers are always writing about having backups. Not to mention, aside from crashing, sites can shut down. While I like Find a Grave and hope it sticks around, let's face it: it's owned by Ancestry, and it's free. That has not historically been a great combination.

But my point here is that just because there's one site that has cemeteries and tombstones on it doesn't mean there shouldn't be another one. Which brings me to...

2) There's already more than one.

I don't understand the implication that Find a Grave has some kind of monopoly and we'd be crazy to "compete" with it. Isn't BillionGraves kind of huge? Not to mention country-specific ones, like Canada GenWeb's Cemetery Project, which is my personal favourite site for looking up cemeteries in Canada, as it's by far the most complete in my experience. So, obviously, this town is more than big enough for the two of us.

3) Find a Grave is not "international".

People always argue with me on this one, because technically Find a Grave is international. But it isn't really. For example, let's say I want to browse for a cemetery in a certain location. I have no clue what it's name is. From the cemetery search page there are options to "browse by US county" or "browse by non-US country". (There's your first big hint, by the way.) So I click the second link, and select Canada from the dropdown list. Surprise, surprise, there are too many cemeteries in Canada to list on one page so the query simply fails.

Simply put, any site that lets you drill down to the county in the US, but only the country elsewhere is not international. At all.

4) The Cemeteries Project directly contributes to WikiTree's mission.

This is the most important reason. We want to eventually have a profile for everyone, right? Presumably including everyone who has a tombstone in any cemetery. And a good, complete profile would ideally have a picture of that person's tombstone on it. So, really, the Cemeteries project is just doing what we normally do on WikiTree, but from a slightly different angle: starting with the source and creating profiles from it, instead of the other way around. Which, since it only creates profiles with at least one good quality source (the tombstone), is really a pretty good way of going about contributing to the tree.

So, I hope you'll consider checking out WikiTree's Global Cemeteries Project! Now, I'm off to go transcribe some more tombstone photos.

Friday, March 14, 2014

My connection to A.J. Jacobs in the global family tree!

Background Info

In case you haven't heard, A.J. Jacobs (author of The Know-It-All, The Year of Living Biblically, and Drop Dead Healthy) has a new project: connecting himself to as many people as possible in the global family tree! So right now, tonnes of people are working on A.J.'s tree, trying to connect it to their own. All of this is leading up to the Global Family Reunion that will be held in New York on June 6, 2015.

I'm a huge fan of A.J. Jacobs, so I was super excited when I heard about this project! And even more excited when I met A.J. at RootsTech in February!

Yeah, that happened!

WikiTree's Global Family Reunion Project

This whole idea just happens to perfectly match WikiTree's goal of building one worldwide family tree, so it was only natural for us to start a Global Family Reunion Project there. That's been going extremely well, with all sorts of connections being made. You can get updates on our progress in the Google+ Community.

Finding My Connection

I'd been contributing to the tree where I could, and keeping an eye out for any French-souding names in hopes of finding a French Canadian connection. I got my hopes up when I came across a Toussaint family, but that led me back to an immigrant from the Netherlands.

Finally, a connection was found to a French Canadian family. As I expected would happen as soon as a French Canadian popped up, I very quickly connected that tree to mine! Erin had found the path from A.J. to Josiah Rising Raizenne. Josiah's great great grandson's wife is my 5th cousin, 4 times removed!

So, here's the path from me to A.J. Jacobs:

Lianne Lavoie (me) -> my father, Louis Gilbert Lavoie -> his mother, Clemence Wilhelmina Marguerite Richard -> her mother, Marie Alberta "Bertha" Daigneault -> her father, Narcisse Daigneault -> his father, Anselme Daigneault -> his father, Louis Daigneault -> his father, Pierre Deneau -> his father, Jacques Deniau -> his father, Pierre Deniau -> his brother, René Deniau -> his son, Jean-Baptiste Deniau -> his son, Joseph Deniau -> his daughter, Josephe Deniau -> her daughter, Marie Josephe "Angelique" Bissonnette -> her daughter, Angele Andre dit St. Amant -> her husband, Guillaume Seguin -> his father, Guillaume Seguin -> his father, Guillaume Seguin -> his mother, Marie Anne Raizenne -> her father, Josiah Rising Raizenne -> his father, John Rising -> his wife, Mary Claflin Rising -> her brother, Daniel Claflin -> his son, Robert Claflin -> his son, Daniel Claflin-> his daughter Phoebe Claflin Sprague -> her son, Almon Sprague -> his wife, Lucy Bentley Sprague -> her brother, Orlando Bentley -> his wife, Caroline Sears Bentley -> her sister, Elizaette Sears Austin -> her son, Duane S. Austin -> his son, Lloyd Austin -> his daughter, Gertrude Austin English -> her husband, James A. English -> his father, John Royal English -> his mother, Alice Parker Finnell -> her husband Ashford Bartlett Finnell -> his sister, Nora Finnell Ayers -> her husband, Frank C. Ayers -> his father, George Ayers -> his wife, Nancy Morrison Ayers -> her daughter, Nellie Crowley Kuntz -> her husband, Edward Kuntz -> his sister, Emma Kuntz Ferrell -> her daughter, Georgia Ferrell Hirsch Takacs -> her husband, Irwin Hirsch -> his mother, Harriet Friedenheit Hirsch -> her sister, Sophie Friedenheit Kingsbacher (AJ's 2nd great grandmother).

Or, to write that the (slightly) shorter way, I'm A.J.'s 1st cousins 3x removed's wife's uncle's wife's mother's husband's son's wife's brother's wife's grandson's wife's great great aunt's husband's sister's husband's great great great aunt's husband's great great great grandson's wife's 5th cousin 4x removed.

So, basically, we're practically cousins!

As for accuracy, the link from me back through my Deniau ancestors is all from my personal research, which I'm quite confident in. I think most of the path from Josiah Raizenne to A.J. Jacobs was done by members of the Global Family Reunion Project, and from what I've seen that means it's probably pretty solid. The remaining French Canadian bit of the path was already on WikiTree, and not well-sourced, but it does seem to match what's on Nos Origines, which seems to always be right.

So, I'm fairly confident in this path being accurate. But just to be safe, my next task as part of this project will be to go along this line adding all the sources I can, and branching out from it as well to help others connect to the global tree more easily.

I'm thrilled that my connection wound up being through my Daigneault line! The more recent part of that line, once they're in Manitoba, is a personal favourite of mine. I've often thought if I ever did a one name study it would probably be on the Daigneaults.

If you're interested in finding your connection to A.J. Jacobs, and you aren't already on, I highly recommend signing up! It's free, and with so many connections being made to his tree there you're bound to find yours!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Why I Love WikiTree

Here's why I love WikiTree! To see why other people love WikiTree (and to share why you do), check out the I Love WikiTree Photo Festival!

Honestly, it was hard to come up with an idea for this picture because there are so many reasons why I love WikiTree, and most of them would be hard to fit on a piece of paper. (They're more inclined to take the form of impassioned speeches.) But I think this captures at least one of those reasons: on WikiTree, you're not doing genealogy alone. People all over the world whose research overlaps are working together to break through their brick walls, and learn about their ancestor's lives. And there are WikiTreers with so many different areas of expertise that you're almost certain to find someone who can help you with a research problem.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Starting a mini one name study

Recently, I've started looking again at my Jackson line. Years ago, I traced it back from my grandpa to John Jackson, born around 1838 in Huddersfield, pretty easily. But as it turns out, finding more information about John Jackson, son of William Jackson, is no easy task. There are a LOT of John Jacksons in West Yorkshire!

Therefore, I've joined the new One Name Studies project on WikiTree. I've started a one name study of all Jacksons in and around Huddersfield. I know focusing on such a small area is a far cry from a full one name study, but even this is no small undertaking.

Basically what I'm doing is creating WikiTree profiles for all the Jacksons I find records for, whether or not I'm related to them. My hope is that this will help me to sort out all the different families. To give you an example of how important this detangling is, right now I'm looking at the records for Joseph Jackson and his wife Martha. I've tried to find their marriage record, and I've discovered that there were three couples named Joseph and Martha Jackson who got married in the 1830s in West Yorkshire. Seriously! So, I think this Martha might be Martha Scargill, based on the location, but she could also theoretically be Martha Moor or Martha Holdroyd, because they weren't too far away.

So wish me luck with this! And if you have Jackson ancestors in the Huddersfield area, let me know! Maybe we can work together to sort them out. Also, I ordered a yDNA test for my grandpa, so soon I might have another source of leads!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Tracking Frances Armitage through the censuses

My great great great grandmother, Frances Armitage, was born around 1829 in Lockwood, Yorkshire, which is now part of Huddersfield. On 11 July 1847, she married William Broughton in nearby Almondbury. From her marriage record, I know that her father's name was Joseph Armitage.

With this knowledge, it was easy enough to find Frances and her family in the 1871 census. Once I looked on Ancestry I also quickly found them in the 1861 and 1881 censuses (Ancestry subscription required for those last two links). But I didn't have enough information to find Frances before her marriage.

I've found various records that seem promising based on the name, approximate birth date, and father's name, including a birth record on FamilySearch. They all have a mother named Martha. So I figured, if I could just determine that Frances' mother's name was Martha, it would be a pretty safe assumption that these other records belonged to her as well.

Enter the 1851 census (Ancestry link). The image is nigh unreadable, but looking at that and the transcription together I was able to figure out some things. Frances' family group was transcribed as William Broughton, age 30, head; Frances Broughton, age 23, daughter; Benjamin Wetherhill, age 24, lodger. Now, obviously this is a mistake in relationships, since Frances couldn't be William's daughter when she's only seven years younger than him.

But it all started to make sense when I looked at the people listed right before this family: Martha Armitage, age 61, head; Ann Armitage, age 15, son [weird...]; Richard Armitage, age 13, grandson. And, it appears that this household and the Broughton household are actually all at the same address! So, I figure that Frances Broughton is listed as daughter because she is actually the daughter of the head of the household, Martha Armitage, and for whatever reason William was listed as head instead of son-in-law.

So, the result of all this is that I'm reasonably certain that Frances' mother was named Martha, and therefore I'm reasonably certain that I have the right birth record, meaning I now have Frances' exact birth date! Next step: get her birth record from the parish records. This is a step I haven't taken yet in any of my English lines; I always just get back to the beginning of the civil BMD records and then stop and work on something else. This is because I tend to shy away from things that I can't do online. But eventually I'm going to want my English lines to go back pre-1830s, so this is definitely a skill I need to learn!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The brand-new Society for One-Place Studies

There's a Society for One-Place Studies now! While I'm disappointed that the free listing of one-place studies appears to be gone, at the same time I'm quite excited about the creation of this society, and have already joined and registered my one-place study.

For only £10 (currently about $16.37 Canadian) a year, plus a one-time registration fee of £10 for each study registered, you get access to the forum, a regular e-newsletter, an email alias (mine's, and a page for your one-place study in the listing.

If you have a one-place study, you should consider joining. And if you don't have a one place study, you should consider starting one! They're a great way to add local context to your genealogy.