Saturday, December 27, 2014

FAMILYSEARCH ALERT!!! New feature for Early Mormon Ancestors

Okay, maybe I am a little lake on this one, but when I saw it I got really excited! I haven't been on Familysearch for a little while, but this just caught my eye today right after I signed in today. Get a load of this new feature, one I think that will help spark the interest of those who come through pioneer lines particularly:

When you first sign in, take notice of the left side of the page, you may have to scroll down a little to see the Joseph Smith Papers link:
After you do that, it will show which of your ancestors are mentioned in the collection, for me I had two and did not even know it!
I was interested to see the relationship, but the only clean view I could screen-capture shows down to my great grandmother, making Nathan Harris my 6th great grandfather (obviously, I want to verify this lineage claim as being accurate, but it will give me some direction to validate this connection or not.)
Assuming he is in fact my ancestor, I wanted to check the link labeled "Biography." It took me to a new tab on the site for the Joseph Smith Papers. 
This is awesome right? However, for me the real treat is having the opportunity to view the page where scans of the original document listing his name is observable:
This page is being downloaded and analyzed later on. I am an excited fact hunter for a little while to come now. When I get a chance, I will return to the other individual listed under my ancestors too.

If any of your ancestors are members of the infant LDS church, be sure to check this feature out. You may have a pleasant surprise like me!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Enumerators--The Record-Keepers Historians both Love and Despise

For the love of all that is holy can you at least write legibly?! I ask this every time I encounter a census like this one for my 2nd Great Grandfather's family:

Although I eventually found him, it was after trying every spelling variation for his last name and removing the birthplace from my search query. Although digital image transcription is a wonderful tool for locating ancestors in census records, the enumerator's handwriting and collecting abilities leave much to be desired here. Transcriptions will often display this name as "Harry Dear," showing his birthplace as Iowa when it was in fact Illinois.

On the other hand you strike it lucky sometimes. I could've kissed the enumerator of this census when I encountered it for another family member:

Right here, my research just became 70% easier. (At least where reading handwriting was concerned).

Oh, those enumerators. How we both love and despise them!

First, why we love them. Let's face it, these guys didn't have an easy job. Taking information for the census record required a person to trek door to door, inquiring about the inhabitants within and recording the data needed on paper. My hat goes off to those who dedicated many hours and miles to providing modern day researchers with one of the most handy tools in identifying a person's residence, age, household, occupation, relationships, etc. May their souls rest in peace and may they be showered with all things wonderful for how their work has helped genealogists.

But then there is the other side of the coin. The drawbacks to doing things the old-fashioned way. The biggest concern for people reading census records is accuracy. Did the enumerator do his/her job thoroughly? Who provided the information that was recorded? Are the names of the residents and families spelled correctly? Was anyone left out for one reason or another? For me the biggest hang-up to looking over census records is being able to read one. Most enumerators seem to forget penmanship when being more concerned with completing the form.

So remember this one fact: While we owe it to the census-takers for doing the arduous job of obtaining information for the form, be ready to pull out the translators if necessary to find your ancestors hiding somewhere in the sea of misspelled and mis-transcribed names. Indexers and OCR programs can't discern everything. Even though it takes time, look over their work carefully, and don't be afraid to look at the actual census, comparing different years if you have to. After all, enumerators are only human.

Friday's Faces from the Past: The Last of the Medicine Showmen

This post is dedicated to my 2nd Great Uncle, T. F. "Doc" Dean.

Raised in a family of seven boys, this character "was as gay as the clothes he wore."

This man only knew a life of travel and adventure (for at least the first 50 years or so). His father Harry F. Dean moved the family around between Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and eventually Colorado and Utah.

When he reached his later teen years, the adventurous Doc signed on with the Army, getting his first stint overseas. After returning to the States from the Philippines, Doc adopted a true life of travel, becoming a performer for the next 30 years. He did everything that involved a stage or tent; he performed in such acts as Vaudeville, showboats, burlesque, and he even ran his own medicine show.

During his years on the road, he met and married his wife Alethea. In the 1920s, they adopted a boy, Robert, who also performed with the family.

Doc would be on the road until World War II broke out. By this point his family settled down in Blytheville, Arkansas, where he and "Mama" would spend their remaining years. Attempting to register for the old man's draft, he was rejected and chose to sell War Bonds at home instead. With a knack for showmanship and winning over large crowds, Doc sold around $16 million in War Bonds, gaining recognition from Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and old FDR himself.

During his retired years, Doc ran a gas station, participated in local minstrels, sold real estate, and even became constable. He passed away in 1967 at a Scout Meeting, doing something he loved dearly.

Although not one of the most prominent showmen of his time, he did make a name for himself in the Midwest and South. He was one of the stalwart Docs who ran his show  until they fizzled out during the 1930s and 1940s. His name Doc stuck with him throughout his life and is still used today.

My favorite Doc Dean quote: "When God made the earth, He made it 70 per cent water and I think by that He meant for me to hunt and fish 70 per cent of the time."