Saturday, November 24, 2012

Of Rodney King and Aussie Hats...

I've been oddly disturbed the last few days about the discussion going on (again) regarding perceived elitism toward newbies in the genealogical community. I hate conflict, and in the words of the late Rodney King, my first response is "can we all get along?"

The conversation has been wide-ranging, with many ideas expressed, and I won't re-hash it here, except to direct you to the Transitional Genealogists Forum and Harold Henderson's excellent post at his Midwestern Microhistory blog. One point I don't recall being mentioned is that all genealogists, young or old, certified/accredited or beginner, would be well-served to more frequently separate fact from opinion:
  • It is a fact that there is a lot of bad genealogical data on the Internet.
  • It is a fact that some people are of the opinion that some experienced genealogists are snobs and treat beginning genealogists poorly.
  • It is my opinion that these two facts are not necessarily related, and should be addressed separately if we are to progress in improving either issue.
I agree that the metaphors the original author used were poorly chosen, but I think it requires a huge leap of logic to conclude that the article is indicative of a snobbish or elitist attitude that is dismissive of the needs of beginning genealogists, or that this attitude is widespread. On the other hand, I agree with those who seek first to encourage newbie enthusiasm, and believe that discussing the details of the Genealogical Proof Standard with beginners can be an exercise in futility.

I don't think it's asking too much, however, to encourage beginners to "cite your sources," while explaining that "my grandmother told me" is a perfectly acceptable source. That's certainly what I was told when I was an "out-of-place amongst my elders 20-something" more than three decades ago. (How to format those sources can come later.) And I don't think it's asking too much to suggest that they begin to think about the differences between information and the assumptions we make (or opinions we form) about that information.

This brings me to the subject of Australian-style hats. Earlier this week, I scanned a photograph of my father's B-24 Liberator bomber crew serving in Australia and New Guinea in 1942-43 and sent it to the son of his buddy on the crew:
Gun Moll Inc Crew - Pilot Everett A. Eisenberg
319th Squadron "Asterperious"
5th Air Force, 90th Bomb Group "The Jolly Rogers"

I had plenty of reliable information (including his signature with address on the back of the photo) to know that one man on the crew was Australian and served with the RAAF, but I could only identify my father and the pilot. I assumed that the man on the right in the front row was the Australian.

Boy, was I wrong! He is not from Australia, but my father's best buddy from New Jersey, according to his son.

See how that works? We take information and develop assumptions or opinions about the information that may or may not be accurate. I suggest that, with examples like this, it is not difficult to start the process of teaching beginners about sources, information, and evidence.

I also suggest that in this recurring discussion of elitism, it would be helpful if we all step-back, carefully separate fact from opinion, and ponder whether expressing opinions in a manner that can be interpreted (or misinterpreted) as characterizing either hobbyists or professionals with a negative broad brush does anyone any good.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Finding Missing Sources In Legacy Family Tree 7.5, Part 2

Yesterday, I explained a method for searching for missing sources in a specific location using Legacy Family Tree.  The method works well if you plan on entering the missing sources directly into Legacy.  You don't need to print out a report; you can just view and add sources directly from the search list.

Today, I'm going to describe a method that may be more practical if you have a large database or many missing sources.  I began using a genealogy database in the mid-1980s, but my first program only printed pedigree charts and family group sheets.  I couldn't have entered a source citation even if I'd realized I should.  I began adding sources in the 1990s in Brother's Keeper, moved to Legacy about 2001, and started using RootsMagic in conjunction with Legacy about 18 months ago.  All the moves between databases involved GEDCOM, and given the age of my database, I've got a lot of missing sources.

One option would be to run a simple Missing Sources search of the entire database.  Because my database contains about 8100 people, the report for missing sources for burial place alone is 24 pages and nearly 400 people.  That's too large a "to do" list for me to handle.  The "Anything" search is even more impractical:  for reasons of my own, I usually don't add a source to the Name field, so virtually my entire database will show up on that search.

Another option is to limit the search by location, surname, and event type.  For example, I searched for and printed a list of everyone with the surnames of my great-grandparents who are buried in Harrison Co., Missouri who have no source citation for that burial.  With that list, which contains only 21 names, it will be easy to use my gravestone photographs, cemetery books, and FindAGrave to add source citations.

Unlike the method I described yesterday, this process involves tagging. Tagging is a feature of Legacy that allows us to mark individuals in the database so we can limit searches or reports just to those individuals.  For this example, I started by tagging everyone in my database with the surnames of my great-grandparents.

(1) Clear any tags that may have been assigned previously (Ctrl-T; then select Clear All Tag Numbers for Everyone). Then, open the Search feature (Ctrl-F; or use the Search Menu and select Find) and select the Query by Example tab.  If necessary, use the Clear button to remove data from any previous searches, then type in the surname:

(2) Make sure "Clear list before this search" (lower left) is ticked, and click the "Create List" button.  The following screen should appear:

(3) Select the Options button at the bottom of the name list, then select Advanced Tagging.  From the Advanced Tagging screen, select the "Everyone in Search List" button, then Close.  Notice that an X has been added in the Tag 1 column of the search list.

Close that list and repeat Steps 1 through 3 for the other surnames.

(4) Once the surname(s) are tagged, press Ctrl-F to open the Search box again.  This time, select the Detailed Search tab.  This screen uses drop-down boxes to define the search in a variety of ways.  In this case, I wanted only the surnames I'd tagged who are buried in Harrison Co., Missouri.  To do that, I made the following selections:

Primary Condition:  Look for whom? Individual; Where to look? Tag 1; How to look? Equal to; What to look for? Tagged
Second Condition:  Individual; Burial Place; Contains; Harrison Co., Missouri

(5) Make sure "Clear list before this search" is ticked, then click Create List.  I now had a list of everyone with the tagged surnames whose burial location contains the words Harrison Co., Missouri:

 (6) From the bottom of that Search list, click the Search button and then Find.  This time when the search screen appears, select the Missing Sources tab and clear it if necessary.  Select Burial Date and Place, and in the lower left corner select "Only search the search list."  Then click the "Create List" button.

(7) Now click the Print button at the bottom of the list of names, and select the options you want to print.  Because I'm dealing with Burials in this example, I selected Name, Died, and Buried under Row 1.  Clicking Preview (or Print) gave me the following report, containing the information I need to confirm and add burial citations for my surnames of interest in Harrison Co., Missouri:

Could I have skipped the tagging step?  Sure, but I prefer working with shorter lists, and I wanted to illustrate how tagging can provide data you otherwise wouldn't be able to obtain without manually going through large reports from your entire database.  I probably wouldn't use tagging in most situations where I can find what I need from the Query by Example or Detailed Search tab.  However, when I want to include more than 3 conditions, it seems necessary.

Yes, this sounds complicated when you see it written out, but that's only because the search and reporting features of Legacy are so powerful, flexible, and customizable.  It's not that hard; you just have to experiment with the options to realize how much you can do.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Creating a Missing Sources by Location Report in Legacy

A few days ago, I commented on Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings blog regarding how to create a report in Legacy Family Tree 7.5 of people with missing sources in a specific location.  Unfortunately, when I tried to duplicate my steps with a different (and much larger) database, I wasn't able to replicate the process.  Basically, I'm here to admit I didn't know what I was talking about in that comment.  It is possible to do, but you'll need to ignore those instructions and follow these instead.

While there is a way to do it with tagging, it is not necessary to use tagging.  Instead, here is what I think is the easiest method:

(1) I have customized my Legacy toolbar to include a Location icon that opens my Location list; clicking the icon replaces Step 1 in Randy's instructions.  Scroll down the Location List to the specific location, or type the location in the Find field.  My locations are sorted right to left (see the Sort button at the center bottom of the screen) so that typing Massachusetts will take me to all Massachusetts locations, from which I can easily highlight the one I want (Freetown, Bristol Co.).  Because I have the Show People field (right side of the Master Location List screen) checked, highlighting the location produces a list of the people in the database using that location:

(2) Click on List Options at the bottom of the list of names, but instead of choosing Tag Everyone like Randy did, choose Create Search List.  That brings up a screen that asks whether to Create a New Search List or Add to an Existing List.  Choose Create New Search list and then select Close.  That brings up another prompt that asks whether you would like to show the results from the "Used By" search you created?  Click OK.

(3) This opens the Search List, i.e. the people who have an event occurring in Freetown, Massachusetts.  The first person in the list will be highlighted. 

Notice the tabs on the right:  click on the Sources tab and you can see the sources attached to the highlighted person.  You can check, add or edit sources directly from the list by highlighting each person on the list.

If you want a printed list, however, you'll need to follow some additional steps:

(4) At the bottom of the Search List screen (above), click Search and then Find.  This opens the Search screen; select the Missing Sources tab:

(5) THIS STEP IS CRITICAL:  notice on the lower left of the Missing Sources search screen (above) that you have three choices:  Clear List before this search; Add results to existing list, or Only Search the search list.  Make sure you check that you want to "Only Search the search list."  Also check the type of Missing Sources you want to look for.  I get confused with the Anything Option, so I prefer to check the specific types of sources.  For this example, I selected birth, death, burial, and marriage date.  Once you've made your selections, click the Create List button at the bottom of the screen.

I now have a list of the people in my database with a Freetown, Bristol Co., Massachusetts location who are missing at least one source citation for birth, or death, or burial, or marriage date.  In this example it is only one person.

(6) To print the list, click the Print button at the bottom of the screen, and the List Report Options screen will appear: 

Under the Options tab, I entered a title "Missing Sources:  Freetown, Massachusetts," and on the Row 1 tab, I selected to print name, birth, death, and burial information.  After adjusting the page size to Landscape to allow for all 4 data fields on Row 1, I clicked the Preview button and obtained the following printable report:

While this is not exactly the format Randy was hoping for in his series of posts, I think it is close.  Legacy gives a variety of options for printing and formatting a Missing Sources report by Location.  The procedure may sound complicated, and I'm not sure why there are a couple of extraneous clicks in Step 2, but once you've done it a few times, I think you will agree it is not difficult.

While RootsMagic became my primary database about a year ago (primarily because of its Research Notes Report feature), I still prefer Legacy for its ease of data entry, its search features, and its flexibility in creating a wide variety of customized reports.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Are we "sucking the fun" out of genealogy?

I don't want this blog to become a set of opinion pieces, and have avoided writing such posts in the past, but several somewhat overlapping discussions over the last few weeks on the APG members mailing list and several blogs have me wondering about that decision.  The discussions may be occurring elsewhere too:  I don't use Facebook, Google+ or Twitter much, if at all, for genealogy, although I've tried.  While this blog isn't designed to be opinion oriented, I reserve the right to state my opinion in the occasional post, and this is one of them.

Differences of opinion and differences of perspective on certain topics do not mean people are angry or mad or upset at each other, or that there is "high drama," "frothing at the mouth," "hostility," "turmoil," or "ruffled feathers."  It is normal and natural for people to have differences of opinion.  It would be a horribly boring, backward, and stagnant world if we did not.   Even firmly held and firmly stated opinions aren't a bad thing.  Heck, some of us with firmly held opinions have been known to change our minds, or at least come to understand (after considerable discussion) why others see the issue differently.  Once people understand the different perspectives, they can work together to cooperate on solving problems and reaching mutually agreed upon goals (well, except in the current United States Congress, but I digress).

Some of us even enjoy listening to, learning from, and discussing opposing opinions. It is from such discussions that new ideas, eventual consensus (or at least majority opinion), change and progress comes, although it can be tedious and difficult at times.  Almost nobody actually likes change. 

Clearly (and perhaps even repeatedly) stating an opinion does not mean the person stating that opinion is a snob, trying to dominate the discussion, putting down people who have a different opinion, or trying to force someone else to change.

I think the issues I've seen discussed lately are important, if not critical, topics, at least indirectly, for everyone involved in genealogy, whether a newbie hobbyist, an oldbie hobbyist, a society volunteer, or a professional genealogist.  Among them, in no particular order are: 

*the mission, goals, objectives, and membership policies of the Association of Professional Genealogists
*the continued existence of genealogy societies in general
*the responsibility, if any, for genealogy bloggers who report research results to cite their sources
*the responsibility of all of us to contribute to the field, not just "take"
*how best to communicate with each other in a rapidly changing techno-world
*how to improve the status of genealogy in the academic world
*how best to engage those who do not speak up on blogs, listservs, or other online media

and one that I've not seen specifically discussed, but that I think may be an elephant in the room: 

*generational and cultural differences in how we perceive and approach everything from technology to communication to differences of opinion.

If you don't have an interest in one or more of these topics, fine.  That's your right.  But please don't assume that those of us who are interested, or who enjoy a good debate, are somehow taking the fun out of genealogy. As my friend Harold Henderson commented, please just "avert your eyes." 

This post was not inspired by any particular person, post, comment, topic, or event.  For a variety of opinions on these and related subjects, I would point readers to the following recent blog posts (and the accompanying comments), all by people I admire and consider to be representatives of the future of genealogy.  While I do not always agree with them, and they do not always agree with each other, I'm confident the future of genealogy is bright because of (not in spite of) their firmly held and firmly stated opinions:

Christy Fillerup, "What Have You Done for Me Lately?" Living Ancestors blog, posted 29 Dec 2011 ( ).

Michael Hait, CG, “My last word on GeneaBlogging and the Paradigm Shift,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 6 January 2012 ( ).

Marian Pierre-Louis, "All This Nonsense About Blogging," Marian's Roots and Rambles blog, posted 5 January 2012 ( ).


Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Murder of Isaac B. McCollum

Or was it a "killing?"  The answer to that question may depend upon whether you were a family member, and whether you were on the Union or Confederate side during the Civil War.

Isaac B. McCollum was probably not yet a teenager when his family moved from Greene Co., Tennesseee to Harrison Co., Missouri in the 1850s.[1]   Missouri was a border state which sent men to fight on both sides.  Although Tennessee voted to secede from the Union in 1861, there were many in Greene County who remained loyal to the Union, including Isaac's uncle, William S. McCollum, and several of Isaac's cousins.

Family tradition maintains that during the war, Isaac's father Alexander was taken by northern soldiers to St. Louis and tried "three times as a southern sympathizer, but was never convicted."   Isaac is said to have fought as a Confederate while his brother, William, was a Union soldier.  On 23 Jul 1864, Isaac was "plowing in a field when two Northern men shot and killed him. Neighbors offered to lynch the murderers but his father... said 'No, it would just cause more bloodshed.' On Isaac's tombstone in Harrison Co. it states that he was murdered and lists the names of his murderers."[2]

 An 1888 Harrison County history paints a somewhat different picture:

 "Killing of McCollum. - In July, 1864, George Williams, a returned Federal soldier, attempted to disarm Isaac B. McCollum, a Southern sympathizer, and in the quarrel which ensued the latter was shot and killed.  Williams received a shot in the leg, but was not otherwise injured.  He was indicted for the killing only a few years ago, and after quite an extended and exciting trial, was cleared." [3]

How can we resolve the conflicting elements in this story?  What else do we need to know?  What do we need to confirm?

While it may seem elementary, one must first confirm the date of death.  Death certificates or registers do not exist for this time period in Harrison Co., Missouri, so the best source will be tombstones.  Does Isaac's tombstone really name the people who shot him?  The answer seems to be "Yes."  Multiple transcriptions of Phillebaum Cemetery near Bethany, Missouri provide a death date of 23 Jul 1864 and state "Murdered by G. Williams & T. L. Sullivan." [4]

Next Steps (Research Plan):

  1. Confirm the gravestone inscription, if possible. [In late July, 2011, I attempted to photograph the tombstone, but the cemetery was too overgrown to proceed].
  2. Newspapers are not known to exist for  Harrison Co. for the time of Isaac's death, but it is possible the story may have been reported in other localities such as Daviess Co. or Kansas City.  
  3. Another avenue for verifying the story and determining more details may be Harrison Co. court records.
This simple family story also raises other questions.  Was Isaac a Confederate soldier or sympathizer?  What about his father Alexander?  Did brother William serve in the Union army?  I'll try to deal with these issues in a subsequent post.


[1] Walter Williams, ed, History of Northwest Missouri (Chicago/New York:  Lewis Publishing Co., 1915), Vol 2, p. 698.

[2]  Debby Strong Taylor, "McCollum Family History (1724-1984)" (typescript, Gate City, Virginia:  December, 1984), p. 19.

[3]History of Harrison and Mercer Counties Missouri from the Earliest Time to the Present, (St. Louis and Chicago:  Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1888), pp. 285-286.

[4] Maxine Taraba, Harrison County Missouri Cemetery Records (to 1984), (Decorah, Iowa: Anundsen Publishing Co., 1985).  See also and USGenWeb Project’s “Harrison Co., MO Cemeteries” at, last viewed 9 Jun 2011.

End of the Line Descendants: Sarah Ann (Harrison) Sellers (1850-1921)

We all have "end of the line" ancestors, those great+ grandparents of how-ever-many-generations that we either have not yet traced, or who seem to be our brick walls.  They are the pot of gold we so often seek.

But what about the "end of the line descendants" - the people on our family trees who never married, or if they did, had no children?  They may be identified with a name, birth date, and death date on a family group sheet, but like Rodney Dangerfield used to say, they otherwise seem to "get no respect."  But they were real people, with real lives, real joys, and real sorrows, and they deserve to have their story told.

It isn't unusual for me to find myself piecing together the life of a distant cousin, aunt, or uncle only to have it finally click in my brain:  that person left no descendants.  Who will remember them and tell their story?  Perhaps I'm subconsciously drawn to them because some day, I will join their ranks.

One such distant shirttail relative of mine was Sarah Ann Harrison. While at least ten public trees at Ancestry name Sarah's father, Henry Brooks Harrison, only six record her name.  Of those, only one person (who has two at least partially duplicate trees) has attached any census records, and he identified just three of the six censuses on which she should appear.  One tree names her husband as John Sellers, and none include a source citation for her marriage to Hiram Sellers.  No single Ancestry public tree included her complete date and place of birth, the date and place of her marriage, the name of her husband, and the dates and places of her death and burial, even though most of the information is readily available online.[1]

Although this level of incompleteness is not unusual for many online family trees, it may be especially common for "end of the line" people like Sarah.  So, to set the record straight, Sarah Ann Harrison, the only child of Henry B. Harrison and his first wife Euseba Evans, was born probably on 10 Oct 1850 in Greene Co., Tennessee.[2]  Her parents had married nine months earlier on 19 Jan 1850 in Greene County.[3]  Sarah married at the age of 35, on 1 Nov 1885 in Harrison Co., Missouri, the widower Hiram C. Sellers.[4]  She died on 29 Jun 1921 in Ridgeway, Harrison Co., Missouri and was buried the next day in the Ridgeway Cemetery.[5]

I can't tell Sarah's full story without research in records not available online, but I can easily develop a basic timeline that tells me where geographically to look.  If you have access to, you can see the rest of that outline here.[6]  If you don't, here is what it more or less looks like (you can read this chart, at least on my set-up, by clicking on the image, then right click, View Image, then enlarge):

Unfortunately, when a public tree profile is printed, the links to websites outside Ancestry, like Sarah's burial information at FindAGrave and the Harrison County, Missouri USGenWeb page, are not included.

From the online databases and images that formed the basis of this outline, the bits and pieces of a story for Sarah begin to emerge.  As is often the case, there is conflicting evidence to be resolved, such as whether she was born in 1849 or 1850.  I will demonstrate how to begin to tell a more complete story for Sarah and resolve the conflicts in a subsequent post.

[1] Data based upon a search completed 31 Dec 2011 using the Recent Member Connect and Family Tree Hints feature at
[2] "Missouri Death Certificates," digital images, Missouri State Archives, Missouri Digital Heritage ( : accessed 31 December 2011), death certificate 14635 (1921), Sarah A. Sellers.
[3] "Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002," database and images, ( : accessed 31 December 2011), for Henry B Harrison and Eusebia Evens (1850); citing Tennessee State Library and Archives microfilm, not further identified; from unspecified Greene Co. marriage register, p. 332, marriage 1759.
[4] Harrison Co. Genealogical Society, Harrison County, Missouri Marriage Records (1881-1899) (Bethany, Missouri: n.p., 1988), p. 49; citing Book 1, p. 416.
[5] "Missouri Death Certificates," death certificate 14635 (1921), Sarah A. Sellers.  Also, Phil Stewart, cemetery surveyor, "Henry or Ridgeway Cemetery, Harrison County, MO," database, Harrison County, MO Cemeteries ( : accessed 31 December 2011), for Sarah A. Sellers and ( : accessed 31 December 2011), Find A Grave Memorial# 21747604 for Sarah A. Sellers.
[6] Connie Sheets, "Milligan-McCollum Families of Greene Co. TN and Harrison Co. MO," database, ( : accessed 31 Dec 2011), for Sarah Ann Harrison.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Did Thomas McCollum (1751-1806) Have a Middle Name?

Probably not.

More than 80 trees on record Thomas McCollum's name as "Thomas I. McCollum."  Yet I've never seen him referred to as anything other than Thomas McCollum in original records, or in family records dating from 1915, 1953, and 1984.

Did someone dig up a new clue? I wonder in what document, since no sources are cited that I haven't seen?

I believe I have discovered the probable source:  in late 2008, someone first attached a page from "Tennessee Soldiers in the Revolution" to his Ancestry tree. That tree displays as "Thomas - I. McCOLLUM."

 "Tennessee Soldiers in the Revolution" is an index; the entry is McCOLLUM, THOMAS, I-13-2. The I refers to a volume number.

Corroborating evidence supporting my theory that more than 200 years after his death Thomas McCollum gained a middle initial that is a volume number can be found at RootsWeb WorldConnect and the IGI, where only a few of the 25 or so entries include the I. as a middle initial.  While I haven't reviewed all the entries, the ones I've checked that don't include an initial pre-date late 2008.

Can anyone provide a copy of or source citation to an original record that lists his name as Thomas I. McCollum?  What is the evidence supporting the notion that the Thomas McCollum listed in "Tennessee Soldiers in the Revolution" is the same Thomas McCollum who died in Greene Co., Tennessee in 1806?