A recent post by +Kim Jordan in the Evidentia Google+ community started me reflecting on thinking patterns and genealogical methodology.
Two important resources have collided in my experience.
I am starting to work my way through Thomas W. Jones’ Mastering Genealogicla Proof. In Chapter 2 Dr. Jones discusses information and evidence. “Information may arise from experiece, fabrication, hearsay, intuition, observation, reading, research, or some other means.” (page 10) Information may be incorrect or inaccurate, but it is objective and tangible. Evidence, on the other hand, “exists in our minds” (page 14) as an answer to a research question.
I am also investing significant energy in learning Evidentia software. Evidentia requires me to begin by identifying and citing a source. Then I can move on to extracting the information from that source. (Here is the collision!) Evidentia does not use the term information. Instead Evidentia provides me with a form to extract the various claims made by the source. Extracting claims is a very slow process, requiring me to draft a statement for each claim (completing the sentence, “The source asserts that …”). Only after I have extracted the claims from one or more sources can I move on to analyzing evidence.
Yes, I know that information, in and of itself, is not necessarily accurate. Its objectivity and tangibility, however, easily seduce me into thinking that it must have some truth in it. When I hear something stated with clarity and determination, I have a tendency to believe it unless there is overwhelming evidence to prove me wrong. When I enter information into my RootsMagic database, I enter it as a fact or event. That has a ring of authenticity to it, unless I have two or more conflicting pieces of information. (Herein lies the heart of the source-centric vs. conclusion-based approaches to adding data to genealogical software. In truth, my RootsMagic database contains both.) I suspect that all the negative discussion about undocumented online trees is reflective of the conflict created by a desire to want to believe information.
Evidentia has caused me to rethink my use of terms. Instead of providing myself a potential trap by saying that sources contain information, I have revised my terminology to suggest that sources contain claims (or assertions). A slight alteration of Dr. Jones’ description: claims “may arise from experiece, fabrication, hearsay, intuition, observation, reading, research, or some other means.” Now I know that, unless I have entered analysis and proof summaries into my RootsMagic database, all I have are a plethora of claims. In truth, RootsMagic is primarily, at the present time, my claim-base.
When I was dealing with information, I could proceed with some dispatch. After all, the information for ‘facts’ and ‘events’ are easily entered into a genealogy database. Increasingly, I have cited the sources for those ‘facts’ and ‘events.’ even though many of those citations are for “indeterminable” data. Evidentia requires me to slow down and write a brief statement for each of the claims I can extract from a source; identify each claim as primary, secondary, or indeterminable; then attach that claim to one or more people. Only after completing these steps can I move on to analyzing the evidence and writing proof statements. (I am still too early in my identifying the claims to worry about analyzing much of the evidence.)
There are a couple of interesting discussions in the Evidentia Google+ commuity about extracting census data. The 1870 US Census record for my great-grandmother, Mary Ellen Cole, indicates that she was 8 years old. I enter that information in RootsMagic as a birth fact indicating her birth date to be about 1861 or 1862. In Evidentia, however, I can be much clearer – namely, “This source indicates that Mary Cole was 8 years old on 1 June 1870 [the official enumeration date] or on 6 August 1870 [the date the Cole family was enumerated].” Neither the RootsMagic information nor the Evidentia claim are yet evidence or a conclusion. I need to compare and analyze all the claims I have about her birth before I can come to a conclusion and write a proof statement. (I currently have 8 birth facts entered in RootsMagic for Mary Ellen Cole, with about a 5 year variance.) That proof statement will indicate which date I enter into RootsMagic for her birth. The proof statement itself will be entered as a note about her birth. That note will contain all the conflicting claims, the analysis, and the conclusion. (The conflicting claims will no longer appear as birth facts.) If addition claims arise, I can add them to Evidentia and then re-work the analysis. If a different conclusion is arrived at, I can change the birth event in RootsMagic, along with the note containing the proof statement.
Yes, information in the Genealogical Proof Standart and claims in Evidentia mean exactly the same thing. However, having been raised in an age when it is said that “information is power,” information seems to connote more authority than claims. So, I am shifting my terminology to talk about primary, secondary, and indeterminable claims.
We all know the frustration that names can create for the genealogist and family historian.
One of my 3g grandmothers is Sarah Alspach, born in Fairfield County, Ohio. In searching records in Fairfield County, Ohio, I have found 10 different variations of the Alspach surname. My 2 g grandfather, John Brenner (born Johannes Brenner in Adelshofen, Germany) had his surname spelled three different ways (Brinner, Brenner, Braner) in US Census enumerations – not including another spelling in an index.
My mother was to have been named Garnet Deeter (no middle name). When the Public Health Nurse came to register the birth (she was born at home), Aunt Bessie had the privilege to giving the information for the birth certificate. Aunt Bessie disapproved of there not being a middle name, so she gave the baby’s name as Bessie Garnett Deeter. Mom, called Garnet, was surprised on the first day of school. The teacher was calling for Bessie Deeter and no one responded. Finally they figured out that Mom’s first name was Bessie. Mom later had her birth certificate corrected (“Garnett” was changed to “Garnet.”)
Long before I was interested in genealogy, our first child was born. My wife and I thought long and hard about a name. We like Bradford, but thought that Bradford Brenner had a little too much tongue-twisting alliteration. We decided to keep Bradford as a middle name and finally settled on Russell as a first name that seemed to compliment Bradford. That was our total thought process. Imagine our surprise when my wife’s grandmother said “How nice that they kept a family name, naming him after the son of Govenor Bradford of the Plymouth Colony.” We had no idea. Later we have proved that our family’s Bradfords don’t quite go back to the Plymouth Colony Bradfords. It makes a nice story however.
Because names are often repeated in families, I am fascinated by names in our family tree that seem to be unique. Two stand out – Euphrosyna Ebts and Waldburga Trauttlin. Until a few days ago I thought my name was another of the unique ones.
My mother’s maternal grandmother was Emma Lavina Barthel. She was born in 1858. In the 1860 US Census I found a record for E.L Bartle (2 years old) in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I am convinced that this is the record of my great grandmother. All subsequent records find the surname spelled Barthel. Mom’s parents named their oldest son Barthel Jerome Deeter. He died in 1932, 8 years before I was born. Mom tells me that I was not named Barthel after him, but simply because she liked the name.
An exact search for the first name “Barthel” on FamilySearch yielded 14,449 results. In addition to all the individuals born to the first name Barthel in the United States, other Barthels was born in: Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Yugoslovia, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Holland, Russia, and Luxemburg. The surname “Brenner” (exact search) yielded 183,045 results in the United States, Germany, and Ireland. (The above locations for “Barthel” and “Brenner” are found in the first 300 instances listed.) A search for “Barthel” (without “exact” selected) yielded many variants: Bart, Barth, Barthol, Bartholomew, Bartholomaeus, Bartel, Bartholeme, Barthli, et al.
The surprise, however, was an exact search for “Barthel Brenner.” Seven results were listed. At the top of the list was Barthel Brenner who married Anna Hetzel on 24 February 1606 in Langenburg, Jagstkreis, Wuerttemberg. Additional listings record the birth/baptism of three daughters born to the couple. Also listed was the birth/baptism of a daughter to Hanss Barthel Brenner and his wife Susanna – 1676 in Mannheim, Baden. While we most often think of a doppelgänger as “a ghostly counterpart of a living person” (Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary), the word also refers to someone who has the same name.
So my doppelganger was born in the 14th century and was married in 1606. His marriage took place about 60 miles from where my 2g grandfather was born. Is there a family connection? I don’t know, but I like having found another Barthel Brenner. It is nice being unique; and it is also nice to share that uniqueness with another.
I had pre-ordered Thomas W. Jones’ Mastering Genealogical Proof. Reading / studying this remarkable volume (and I have not yet completed the task) has caused me to reflect upon my genealogical practice over the past few years. While I have come to an understanding of the importance of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) I am aware that my genealogy has grown very slowly toward that which might even resemble the GPS as presented and maintained by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. While I have no intentions of become a certified or professional genealogist, I have tried to grow in such a manner that the results of my genealogical research bears some credibility. I appreciate the statement in the FamilySearch Research Wiki that the GPS demonstrates “the minimum” necessary for “[genealogical] work to be credible.” I may never reach the heights of genealogical research that nears the maximum, but I can at least strive to meet the minimum standards. But it has not always been so! Here is my journey with the GPS…
Phase One: GPS = Go – Play – Stop
At the beginning I had no regular schedule and no discipline about my genealogical pursuits. At some point I would flip the “on switch” (GO), search around for a while – mostly Google and Ancestry.com (PLAY), then when I got tired or bored I would quit (STOP). I would classify this time as an indiscriminate search for data – no plan, little direction, not easy to gauge success or failure. Fortunately, before wearing out this phase (and probably before giving up on any serious genealogical work) something happened to change my reality – namely, family members began to see me as the family’s archivist / historian / genealogist.
Phase Two: GPS = Gut check – Pretend – Slow down
There was no ceremony, no certificate, no secret handshake, but I knew that I had been chosen. Two family members who had shared the results of their genealogcial research with me were no longer doing much active research. Others were sending me pictures and letters. I was encouraged to interview older family members to glean their recollections. The realization dawned that the family history enterprise (for my family and my wife’s family) was now depending on me (GUT CHECK time). So, not wanting to let anyone down, I began to talk as if I knew what I was saying (PRETEND) and, because the task was daunting, I could no longer work as I previously had (SLOW DOWN). I began the move from indiscriminate search for data (any data) to a more intentional approach. I wasn’t developing research plans (or even ToDo lists) and my searches were still subject to being diverted down interesting “rabbit trails.” I was however beginning to put some shape to my research.
Phase Three: GPS =Get – Proven – Software
By this time my genealogical endeavors had become our genealogical work, as I begin working together with my technologically proficient son. This phase represented a search for competent technological solutions. What is the best genealogy software program? We tried Legacy, RootsMagic, FamilyTreeMaker, MasterGenealogist, GenSmarts, GenDetective, GRAMPS, PAF, and probably a number of others. We settled on RootsMagic. I even learned how to build a Research Wiki (including the use of MediaWiki mark-up language). I am no longer concerned about which software is the best. All I know is that RootsMagic works best for us. We explored online programs for putting the results of our work on the web. Initially we used PhpGedView but have since settled on TNG (The Next Generation of Genealogical Sitebuilding). While I will continue to search for and use new software and online apps that contribute positively to genealogical research, I now know that technology is a tool, not an answer.
Phase Four: GPS =Generously – Provide – Shared results
When we began working together, my son and I decided that we wanted to maintain some security over our data. We decided to publish our own data on our own website via PhpGedView (later, TNG). Once I started blogging, however, I began to realize that protecting our data was not as important as collaborating with other genealogists and family historians. Collaboration with one newly discovered ‘cousin’ (our 2g grandfathers were brothers) led to the discovery of records that took our research back another generation in Baden. Collaborating with other genealogists and family historians has helped me to understand that 1) I am responsible for the quality of the data I publish, 2) I can publish that data openly without compromising my research, and 3) I am not responsible for the decisions of others who may choose to use that data and interpret it differently.
Phase Five: GPS = Gradually – Put in place – a System
This may be the biggest shift so far – from accumulating information (collecting names) to assembling evidence. Even though I had not formally begun to write research plans, there was more planning in my research. I actually pared down my RootsMagic database at this point. I had too much “fluff” in place. I began to focus on expanding the evidence base for my direct line ancestors. I began to use the Ancestral Lines Pairing System (developed by Capers W. McDonald) to idendify more clearly the relationships between the various ancestral lines and the ancestors within those lines. (See my previous post on the topic.) I was beginning to sense a movement toward credible research. I no longer was pretending.
Phase Six: GPS = Generate – Pertinent – Source Citations
It is not that I had totally neglected citing sources; I just wasn’t very intentional about much of it. I had developed some templates for citing census records found on Ancestry.com. I was using these as I entered data into our Research Wiki; but these was a disjuncture between the citations in the Research Wiki and my RootsMagic database. I purchased a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. At the same time I learned how to use the citation templates in RootsMagic, including altering existing templates and writing new ones. It took a fair amount of time to re-work my database – a) entering previously saved data and b) providing quality source citations for the new data as well as previously entered data. My RootsMagic database (plus the data on our TNG site) is not perfect, but I am pleased with the quantity and quality of source citations that I have entered. I think I have source citations for all events in the lives of the direct line ancestors in my tree. I have not yet done this for my wife’s tree. That will have to happen later. It is a work-in-progress.
Phase Six: GPS = Growing toward – Proof – Standard
One of the problems that so many of us face is that “Most [of our genealogical research results] may be correct, but their accuracy is invisible.” (Jones, page 2) Dr. Jones goes on to say, “Adhering to the GPS gives us results that are as reliable as possible.” (page 3) That is my hope, genealogical results that are reliable and credible. Of course that means “mastering genealogical proof.” This is my growing edge at the present time. The Evidentia software program has helped me make progress in this area, but I have a long way to go. Fortunately a large number of us have purchased Mastering Genealogial Proof so there is renewed conversation about the GPS and genealogical research process. I hope to learn from that conversation as well as from my own study and practice.
It has been an interesting journey. Early on it was just fun to dabble in genealogy. Then name collecting became very important. But I learned that name collecting builds a tree with no roots. So my efforts switched to gathering evidence and citing sources. Now, the big test is whether I can grow into a credible and reliable genealogist / family historian. This step is important for me because I want to leave as a legacy for my grandchildren solid, trustworthy, and dependable genealogical research results that they can not only appreciate as their own story but also, if it be their choice, they can continue the research starting at a better place than I did.
I opted not to attend RootsTech 2013. I had a great time last year, but I have come to realize that my priorities at the present time lean more toward research than conferences. So, instead of RootsTech, I fly to Salt Lake City on Wednesday, returning on Sunday. This means I will have three full days in the Family History Library (FHL) to do research in German church records.
A couple years ago I received from a newly found “cousin” a lot of data on the ancestors of Johanna Catarina Venninger (born 1796 in Adelshofen, Baden). This included names, events (baptism / marriage / death), dates, locations. While not documented, he indicated that he had done his research using FHL microfilms. Recently I have supplemented that data via New.FamilySearch and, more recently, Family Tree. Last year during, as part of my RootsTech trip, I was able to document 66 of Johanna Venninger’s relatives. Next week I have my sights set on 173 more. That will leave me with 70 (for whom I have cities of origin / residence, but no dates).
Preparation: Last year’s research was my first at the FHL and my first time to use a microfilm reader. The newness of it all slowed me down. This year I feel more ready to approach the research task. Here has been my process of preparation:
- I generated individual reports in RootsMagic (my preferred genealogy database) listing all the events that happened in my key ancestral villages in Germany: Adelshofen, Eppingen, Ittlingen, Kürnbach and Sulzfeld in Baden; Leonbronn, Neipperg, Stetten and Waiblingen in Württemberg. I saved these reports as word processing documents for further work in subsequent steps.
- I crossed out each event for which I had a digital copy of the event from the respective church registers and for which I also had entered the appropriate source citation in RootsMagic.
- I searched FamilySearch.com for the microfilm numbers and descriptions for each of the respective parishes. This data was entered into a spreadsheet on which I separated out each type of record (and the order in which those record types were to be found on the microfilm).
- I then took the documents generated in Step 1 (above); removed those records for which I already had digital images; added the microfilm number and location on that microfilm for each event yet to be found; and then, finally, generated a final document for each parish indicating the order in which I will search through the respective microfilms. These sheets will be my research outlines.
At FHL: While at the FHL, I will research the parish registers in the following order: Adelshofen (69 records), Kürnbach (20 records), Neipperg (22 records), Sulzfeld (19 records), Ittlingen (12 records), Waiblingen (11 records), Stetten (11 records), Leonbronn (9 records). As I find each record:
- I will take a digital image of the record using CamScanner on my Asus Transformer table or myDroid Razr HD cellphone. I will make the document and film number next to its respective event on the appropriate research outline (#4 above). For Adelshofen I will create 4 separate documents (each with 15-20 images). For each the other localities I will have one document.
- I will also note on the research outline those events I did not find.
- As I find marriage records of couples for whom I do not have the birth surname of the woman or the parents of either party, I will make note of that information (and appropriate locality) to aid further research (if time allows). I will add by hand this data to the appropriate research outline.
- If, as I work my way through the various microfilms, I find others with one of the surnames related my my ancestral lineage, I will make a digital copy and note as much pertinent information as I can – date, event, person(s), town. I have prepared surname lists for each of the communities, based on my current records in RootsMagic.
Follow-Up: If I have extra time while in Salt Lake City or, more likely, after I get home:
- I will scan my annotated research outlines and save them to my external HD, Evernote, and Dropbox.
- I will upload the CamScanner files (PDF documents) to Dropbox and Evernote.
- I will separate out the individual files contained in each PDF document (I have found that screenshots is an effective way to do this) and save these individual files to my external HD and to Box. They will be titled: Surname, Name(s), (Reference # for direct line ancestors), Event, Date, Locality.
- I will save each image to my FileGrove account, labeling each picture with Surname, Name(s), Keywords, Title, Caption, Source Citation, and Location. I can also add a Note (transcription / translation or other additional information).
- Since I already have the individuals / events / dates / locality in my RootsMagic database, I will enter the appropriate source citation for each event. For any new data, I will make the appropriate additions to RootsMagic (including source citations).
- I will create a new research outline for each locality in which I still have undocumented people / events.
- Take a deep breath, shout “Hoorah!”, do the genealogy happy dance!!!!!
I know that I have set a rather ambitious goal for myself. Last years trip to FHL took about 9 months to complete the organization, data entry, citations, backup, etc… and I only got 66 records recorded. This year I can build on last year’s experience. The FHL (and microfilmreaders) will be more familiar. I am better prepared. I have a clearer understanding of what needs to be done after I make digital copies of microfilm records. I have a better storage system. And, as always, I am the eternal optimist, with a passion for learning more about my heritage. Salt Lake City, Here I Come!
This week I added two apps to my Samsung Chromebook — significantly increasing its genealogical functionality. As you probably know, the Chromebook is an Internet portal, not what we traditionally think of as a fully functional laptop computer. It is browser dependent — that is, it runs the Chrome browser and its apps are extensions that run in the Chrome browser. It works as well as my desktop, laptop, and tablets for running online searches. I can easily access FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, GMail, Google+, Evernote, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, SpringPad, Kindle, etc. But, because you cannot install traditional programs (such as RootsMagic, Legacy, The MasterGenealogist, etc.), it has somewhat limited functionality for the on-the-road genealogist. At least that is what I thought before last weekend. Two basic things were missing for me: 1) the ability to run RootsMagic (and Evidentia, GenDetective, Behold, etc.) and 2) a good office suite (LibreOffice is my preferred). The addition of two apps has changed all that. My Chromebook is no longer just a way to do Internet searches; it is now a fully functional genealogy ‘road warrior.’
1) Running RootsMagic (or any other Windows genealogy program)
The sceenshot shows RootsMagic on my Chromebook. The app responsible is Chrome Remote Desktop which links my Chromebook to my desktop. I have used Splashtop (and other remote desktops) on tablets, but none have functioned as seamlessly as the Chrome Remote Desktop. My desktop has dual screens and runs 4 virtual desktops (giving me a total of 8 screens to play with). That functionality is nice when working on my desktop computer. It does seem, however, to create some havoc in other remote desktops I have used. Once connected to my desktop via the Chrome Remote Desktop app, I can easily access all four virtual desktops and either screen.
Once connected to my desktop, I was able to open RootsMagic, go to the file of Aaron B. Knepper (my 2g-grandfather), and view/edit the file (screenshot following). I was not able to tell that I was on a remote desktop. (I am sure that when I am away from home and on a slower internet connection, the speed will be somewhat diminished.)
I have run Windows applications on a Linux operating system both via Virtualbox and Crossover. Those have been satisfactory, but do not compare to running the same Windows applications via Chrome Remote Desktop. Chrome Remote Desktop runs in the Chrome browser in Windows (Vista, 7, 8), Mac (10.6 and above), and Linux. At the present, it does not run on Android devices, IPad, or IPhone.
2) Running LibreOffice (OpenOffice) and other open source programs
I have been using open source office suites exclusively for about 10 years – first OpenOffice; now LibreOffice. With my Chromebook I was limited to Google Docs or Zoho Docs for word processing or developing a speadsheet. (I have chosen not to use Office 365, wishing to avoid Microsoft Office – just a personal preference.) All that changed when I discovered the “rollApp” for Chrome browser. The rollApp website describes, as follows: “rollApp is an online application virtualization platform… [where] anyone can access rollApp server using regular web-browser and launch the converted applications inside a browser. When executed via a browser, rollApp applications behave the same way as locally installed ones.”
Both LibreOffice and OpenOffice suites (Writer, Calc, Draw, Impress) are available, along with other open source applications. The only difference I could see between the two Writer applications was that LibreOffice allowed files to be saved in .docx format, OpenOffice did not. (I am increasingly using the .docx format – smaller size files, compatible across applications.) While rollApp does not have its own cloud storage system, it is fully integrated with both Dropbox and Box. Since I have accounts with both Box and Dropbox, I can easily open and save documents in either place. As I continue to do more and more of my genealogical research using word processor documents and spreadsheets, the Chromebook (along with my Razr HD adroid phone) is becoming my “go to” device for work away from home.
This coming week I head to Salt Lake City for three full days in the Family History Library researching German Church Records. My Chromebook genealogy road warrior will be with me!
Dead woman signs prenuptial agreement under an assumed name. Was that to disguise the fact that she had died 10 years earlier? Probably not; perhaps there is a more realistic explanation! Let me back up and tell you how I got myself into this strange quagmire…
I have been researching the Kneppers of Fairfield County Ohio. They are my mother’s maternal grandmother’s line. I am hoping to prove my descent from one of the Kneppers who lived in Fairfield County prior to 1820 for application to the Fairfield County Pioneers and the First Families of Ohio lineage societies. Part of my research has focused on Jacob Knepper (1772-1847) and his wife, Elizabeth Flick (1779-1831).
Fortunately, I live only 16 miles from the St. Louis County Library which houses the book loan collection of the National Genealogical Society. In that collection I found Genealogy of the Knepper Family in the United States, 1681-1911 by Margaret Knepper (1906), revised by Ethel Knepper in 1911. The author acknowledges that the book contains errors and hopes that it will lay the foundation for a “more creditable work on the same subject.” While the primary focus of the book is not my direct line, it includes a chapter on Jacob Knepper and Elizabeth Flick – including a descendancy outline of their 11 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and spouses (where known). While none of the stories or transcriptions in the book related to Jacob and Elizabeth’s descendants, it was a great source for pointing me in the right direction about their descendants.
Next, I discovered the Knepper Line on the Deffler.com website. Here I found an extended eight generation descendancy outline starting with Tilmann Knepper (1627-1706). The website issues a clear caveat emptor: “as a compilation from a wide variety of sources, this database clearly does not meet any standard for authoritative genealogical proof. Much of it is hearsay or family legend. However, I hope it is useful or, at least, fun.” This was one of the places, but not the first, where I found a transcription of Jacob Knepper last will and testament and a transcription of the execution of a prenuptial agreement between Jacob and Elizabeth.
Yesterday I downloaded a copy of Jacob Knepper’s will from the Fairfield County Probate Court’s Will Book #3 (FamilySearch.com). I have made my own transcription. I have not yet been able to locate online either the prenuptial agreement (Pick away County, Deed Book 22, page 485) or the execution of the agreement in Fairfield County. In the absence of the originals, I began to look more closely at the transcriptions. I noted that the transcription began: “Whereas prior to the marriage of Jacob Knepper and Mary Knepper they made a marriage contract which, after said marriage and on the eleventh day of July, A.D. 1840 was reduced to writing and signed by each of them…” The pre-nup was a verbal agreement which did not get put into writing until after the marriage. A question kept nagging at me: Why Mary and not Elizabeth? I know, names are not always what we expect them to be. Perhaps she was Mary Elizabeth Flick; but I had nothing to suggested that. Perhaps she was just called Mary, even though I can find no evidence that Mary is any form of an abbreviation or nickname for Elizabeth. (I remember that I had a friend in high school whose nickname was “Pete” because her father had wanted a son. Names and nicknames can easily surprise.)
An additional nagging fact was that Jacob Knepper had a second wife – Mary Bowman. Could it be … ? Then I saw the basic clue that I had overlooked (as had all those who simply copied the transcribed pre-nup to Elizabeth Flick’s file in their Ancestry Tree). Elizabeth Flick died in 1831. The pre-nup was signed in 1840 and executed shortly after Jacob’s death in 1847.
No, Elizabeth (Flick) Knepper had not signed the prenuptial agreement with Jacob Knepper 9 years after her death. The prenuptial agreement was between Jacob Knepper and his second wife, Mary Bowman. It was Mary Bowman who, when she came to the marriage, was “wealthy in her own right and by judicious management, she and her husband were able to give each of their children land or the equivalent in money.”
- Scrutiny does NOT mean simply downloading information purportedly about an ancestor and then doing the “genealogy happy dance.” (I actually had done the happy dance when I first encountered the pre-nup. I called my mother and reported while dancing. How does one un-dance the “happy dance?”)
- Look once; look twice; look again and again… and pay attention to those “naggings” that occur at the fringe of consciousness while exploring genealogical data. (As a friend taught me many years ago, “Trust your intuition!”)
- More Googling wouldn’t have helped in this situation; nor would mapping; nor would another trip to the library. A time-line would have helped! After all, I had all the information I needed to make a good (correct) decision about the data.
- Brendan Gill (Here at the New Yorker) was right: “If the unexamined life is not worth living, the unexamined past is not worth possessing [my emphasis]; it bears fruit only by being held continuously up to the light, and is as changeable and as full of surprises, pleasant and unpleasant, as the future.” (This quote now goes in a prominent place above my computer monitor.)
Yesterday was an added fun day. The previous evening my neighbor asked: “Can your genealogical software trace my family back to Germany?” I had to explain that I didn’t have any magical software that could do that, but I did have some awareness of how to use the internet to find more information about family connections. Unfortunately, in order to trace the family back to Germany I would need to know the town of origin. I did a brief interview with my neighbor to discover what he might remember about his family. He did have a sheet that listed the descendants of his father, William Henry Kropp (3 children, 6 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren. It had full names, birth dates, and (where applicable) death dates. (It did not include locations or the names of spouses – except for William Henry Kropp’s wife Kate.) William Henry was born 27 October 1897.
My neighbor indicated the places that the family had lived (all in the metro New York City area). He also knew the names of his father’s brother and sisters. He indicated that his father had relatives in Allentown, Pennsylvania; he remembered a family reunion in Allentown. When pressed, he thought he was in 8th grade at the time. And that was it… that was all that my neighbor could recall about his family lineage, except that it went back to Germany. I agreed to do some internet searches and see what I could discover.
My first step was to survey the Kropp surname. I discovered that Kropp had a lot of variant spellings – initial “k” or “c;” the middle vowel could be “o” or “a” or “u;” ending with “pp” or “o;” and other variants as well. It had German, Dutch, and French lines.
Next, I did a Google search for: Kropp ~genealogy. There were a few interesting sites, but nothing that seem to offer any promise. So, now for the real research. I turned to FamilySearch to see if there had been any work on William Henry Kropp. There was a single entry for him in Family Tree. His birth was listed as 20 October 1897 in Manhattan, New York. No spouse was listed. Parents were George W. Kropp and Louise Hoorman Kropp. George was born in Pennsylvania; Louise, Germany. This was a probable match: William’s birth date was off by a week; his birth place was correct. This gave me potential names for William’s parents. George was born in Pennsylvania (perhaps in the Allentown area?). Nothing conclusive at this point, but some good clues for further research.
Searches in Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com for William Henry Kropp and George W. Kropp brought the following results:
- 1940 US Census record for the William & Kate Kropp family. William is a public school custodian. They live on Van Siclen Ave. in Brooklyn. (I did a Google maps search for the address and found a “street view.”)
- 1930 US Census record for the William & Kate Kropp family. William is a superintendant for an apartment building on E. 37th Street, Brooklyn. (Another “street view.”)
- 1920 US Census record for the George W. and Louise S. Kropp family. Son William (age 23, an electrician at the Brooklyn Navy Yard) is listed along with a brother and two sisters (names match those given by my neighbor). George W. (age 52, a policeman) was born in Pennsylvania (as was his mother); his father was born in Germany. Louise S. was was born in Germany (as were both her parents). Louise had borne 5 children, 4 of who were still alive.
- 1918 WWI Draft Registration Card for William Henry Kropp, listing George W. Kropp as nearest relative. Address given for both is the same as the address for the Kropp family in the 1920 US Census. William is medium height and build, with brown eyes and light hair.
- 1915 New York State Census for George W. and Louise S. Kropp. The four children (including William, an apprentice electrician) are listed. There are also three borders.
- 1910 US Census record for the George W. and Louise S. Kropp family. The four Kropp children are all listed with middle initials. One child, Edith E., is apparently the same as Edna in the later census enumerations. Her full name must have been “Edith Edna.”
- 1905 New York State Census record for the Geo W. and Louisa S. Kropp family. Note that George’s wife is “Louisa,” not “Louise” as in later documents. Also, in addition to the 4 children, Augusta Kropp, an 18 year old sister of George is listed.
- 1870 US Census record for the Wm and Maria Krop family, living in Packer Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. (Parker Township is about 40 miles from Allentown.) William Krop is age 37 and was born in Germany. Maria is 24 and was born in Pennsylvania. Son George Krop is 2 years old and was born in Pennsylvania. They are living in a hotel.
I was fairly confident that documents 1-7 related to William Henry Kropp’s family. Document 8 seemed to be a possibility, but I could not be sure. So, I gathered up my data and presented it to my neighbor. As I tracked through them one-by-one, from the latest back to the earliest, my neighbor began to recall more information that confirmed my searches. He also learned some new information about his family:
- He did not know that his father had worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but know that he had been an electrician. In fact, the picture of the Flatland Avenue side of 1930 apartment building elicited a memory of his father’s opening a small store to repair electrical appliances.
- When I showed my neighbor the picture of the entrance to the E. 37th Street apartment where his father was the superintendant, he pointed to the location of his family’s apartment, “This is where I lived.”
- When I wondered whether George W. Kropp’s middle name might have been “William” and mused that my neighbor might have been named after him, my neighbor confirmed that observation.
- My neighbor (and his wife) remembered Aunt Edna (but did not know that she was also an Edith). [One other possibility is that the census enumerator may have made a mistake in listing her name.]
- When I indicated that I was not sure about the 1870 census, my neighbor said “William was a blacksmith and Maria (pronounced Ma-RYE-ah, not Ma-REE-ah) was my grandmother.” He then went on to tell me that he had lived with his grandparents for a while.
- The date for William Henry Kropp’s birth (as recorded on his WWI Draft Registration Card) differed from that which was on the information sheet about the “Descendants of William Henry Kropp.” My neighbor indicated that the sheet was put together from memory (mostly by his sister), so the October 20th date from the WWI card was most likely the correct date.
My neighbor was going to share this information with his brother and sister. Perhaps that will elicit more memories and more clues about family origins in Germany. His brother’s grand-daughter (a Niederhausen) had visited the Niederhausen locale in Germany a few years back. My neighbor will check to see whether there was any attempt to visit the Kropp locale.
I told my neighbor that the easy work had been done – internet searches. The hard work come in looking for birth and death records in county court houses and newspapers, etc. While there is more that I can do (e.g., search for census and other records for great-grandfather William Krop), we would need to learn of his town of origin in Germany before we could do any tracing back in Germany. If we were to find that information, I would be glad to order microfilms from the Family History Library and do some further research for him.
I suggested that he talk with his brother and sister – he is 88 and they are 83 (twins). They could be a blessing to the next couple of generations if they were to write down their recollection so that they would not be lost. I also suggested that the “Descendants of William Henry Kropp” sheet could be expanded to include spouses; as well as correcting the birth date for William Henry Kropp.”
When we were done, my neighbor’s wife began to tell me about her family lines (Todt and Rochewski). I now have another assignment!
For the past couple of years I have been using Transcript by J. G. Boerema for transcribing documents. It is helpful software and I recommend it. Recently I read a comment about how MS OneNote could be used for transcriptions. I have an old copy of OneNote but, instead of dusting it off, I decided to explore other options. I prefer Open Source software whenever there is a quality program available. I remember previously using word processing software (it must have been MS Word) that could be configured for split windows — that is, a split screen showing two windows for one document. I quickly discovered that neither LibreOffice Writer, OpenOffice Writer, nor AbiWord currently have that functionality. KWord/CalibreSuite does appear to have the functionality, but it is currently only available in Unix-type environments. But, not to worry…. LibreOffice (and OpenOffice) Calc does have the capacity to split windows in a given document. And, when I used LibreOffice Calc for my first transcription, I found that it had added features that would not be as readily available in a word processing environment.
Step 1: Load the Document
Put the cursor in cell A:1. From the Menu select Insert > Picture > From File and then browse to the selected document to transcribe. I began with a photo copy of a microfilmed page of deed abstracts. The inserted document will cover a varied number of rows and columns. I chose a page of deed extracts (Columbiana County, Ohio) because it was fairly straight-forward and easy to read. Because he document to be transcribed was in columns, I discovered one of the added benefits of transcribing with a spreadsheet.
Step 2: Split the Window
Select the row immediately below the document. From the menu select Window > Split. You will see a heavy line appear immediately above the selected row. This is the place where the window is split. The document is in the upper pane and your transcription will be added to the lower pane. (Remember, both the upper pane and the lower pane are part of the same spreadsheet document.) Now, with your cursor on the heavy black line, left click and hold will allow you to shrink the upper pane to an appropriate size.
Step 3 (Optional): Re-size the Columns
I re-sized the columns so that they corresponded to the columns in the document. Because the image of the document is attached to cell A:1, resizing the columns (even column A) does not noticeably affect the upper pane.
Step 4: Transcribe
The lower pane can now be used to transcribe the information in the upper pane. Because each pane functions separately, you can scroll the image of the document in the upper pane up or down to show as much as you choose. The same can be said of the lower pane.
In the final image (below) I have shown the transcription of a page from a family Bible. In the lower pane I have included not only the transcription, but also some notes about the original and a source citation. You can choose to include whatever information might be important when you next work with the document.
When you save this spreadsheet you will have a copy of the original source, your transcription, and any additional notes you have added. It will all be there in a single document. By using separate Sheets within the spreadsheet, you might choose to include transcriptions of a number of related documents — for example, an individual’s birth certificate, marriage license, and death certificate or several documents related to a family or several grave sites in a particular cemetery or … Well, you get the idea. You can make this work for you!
Most of my German Brenner ancestors come from a small area surrounding the current city of Eppingen in Baden-Württemberg. (see Map 1) Baden came into existence in the 12th Century and existed in a variety of forms until it was merged with Württemberg in 1948 (see Wikipedia).
2g-grandfather, Johannes (John) Brenner (who emigrated to United Stated in 1854) was born in the town of Adelshofen, Baden, in 1836. His father, Georg Friderich Brenner, was listed as a citizen (Bürger) of Adelshofen at the time of his marriage (in Adelshofen) to Johanna Catarina Venninger (1822). I have not been able to verify his birth place, but I believe it not to be Adelshofen.
Johanna Venninger’s father was born in Sulzfeld, Baden. He married Johanna’ mother (Elizabetha Fleck) in Adelshofen in 1789. Johanna’s Grandfather Fleck was born in Ittlingen, Baden, but married three different Adelshofen women (1843, 1762, 1768).
In addition to Sulzfeld and Ittlingen, other Brenner ancestors and collaterals came from Stettin, Kuernbach, and Neipperg. Map 2 indicates the relationship of all these towns to one another. (For the sake of this exercise, distances are measured on a straight line between the various communities and do not reflect the actual travel distance by roads)
As I review the information in my RootsMagic database, I find that I have 112 events (births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and deaths) listed in Adelshofen. These are events in the lives of Flecks, Venningers, and Brenners. They are dated from 1716 to 1873.
Sulzfeld was the location for 53 such events; all for Venningers from 1729 to 1834.
Kuernbach was the location for 34 events (from 1550 to 1752). Families involved were Nasts, Samstags, Trauttlinns, Jaiches, and Ludwigs.
Neipperg was the location for 29 ancestral events (from 1664-1770) involving the Fabers and the Uhls.
Ittlingen was the location for 26 ancestral events (from 1665-1795) involving the Flecks and the Conrads.
Stettin was the loction for 16 ancestral events (from 1667-1689) involving the Stolzenhabers
My database for Baden residents includes 49 Venningers, 29 Nasts, 23 Flecks, 13 Uhls, 10 Brenners, 9 Conrads, 6 Fabers, 6 Stolzenhabers, 3 Samstags, 3 Ludwigs, 2 Trauttlinns, and 1 Jaich.
Interestingly enough, even though Eppingen was the central city in the area (a population of about 2750 in 1825) there is no indication that any of my ancestors came from Eppingen. I have wondered whether some regional events, shopping, other commerce or trade brought people of the region to Eppingen, giving rise to the possibility of some connections being made between families from the surrounding communities.
Fortunately, church records from the Evangelische Kirchen of the area are available on microfilm (Family History Library and Family History Centers) for our perusal. Those records are extremely helpful even though they require some practice at reading the old German handwriting.