FAMILY GENEALOGY

Introduction

With considerable effort and much family collaboration, we have documented cousins, wives, husbands, children, parents, aunts and uncles to the limits of human memory and patience. These data have all been entered in a collective database (accessible at this site) and then, having exploited bibles, boxes of letters, books, and other databases, we have assembled a collection of personal details. Professional and experienced genealogists will be familiar with the task of data collection, verification and entry. I have tried to corroborate each fact from multiple original, or at least different, sources as much as possible. The end result is a mixture of facts and estimations. Marriage dates may be estimated to have taken place at 15-30 years of age, but, of course, this is only a guess. Guesses may be refined by other events, such as place and date of birth, marriage, or some other event. If a parent was married and the child was born in the same location, then a reasonable speculation might be that the child's birth date would pre-date a (hypothetical) later family move to another location. Such guess-work is sometimes required to establish the probability of identity for some individual.

Should X be known to have married Y and Y's child is known to be a relative, then Y is inferentially a relative. But perhaps Y's identity in your database is unclear, or perhaps Y married more than once, is X also a relative? By analysing and making reasonable projections of probable activity some conclusions can be hypothesized. An hypothesis is not a fact, but by developing a working scenario the researcher can often guess where to look for confirmation, or at least what to look for. From such speculation may develop the true identity of Y, or the actual relationship to X. The resulting data should not be accepted as fact by others, but rather as a starting point for their own researches.

My Database

Accurately tracking such large volumes of information as are implicit in genealogical databases is a difficult task and requires automated assistance. Although there are an endless number of commercial programmes and software applications available, the interchange of actual data has been simplified. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) has been interested in genealogy for many years and has developed an interchange standard called the Genealogical Data Communications (GEDCOM) standard. I have used various versions of a commercial genealogical programme called Family Tree Maker (FTM) to collate our data. and FTM has the capability to render a GEDCOM format. My son Colin has written software to extract and display the FTM data. The resulting re-formatted data is provided at this site with several tool capabilities.

FTM provides the ability to create a variety of pedigrees and in each chart the data to be included may be selectively varied. For any given pedigree the details displayed may look quite different, depending on the purpose of the author. Perhaps there is only a limited interest (or a limited number of relatives) for a given line, in that latter case there might be space available to include more details in the chart. I have found that a page-size limit is often best used to communicate the details of a particular relationship. I have used some charts here to depict specific pedigrees within my text. However, to establish the direct relationship between two individuals over a long time-span a different capability may be requiredt. In lengthy relationships an automated calculator might better serve. Thus, genealogical products are varied and are tailored to specific purposes. Happily relationship calculation algorithms are commonly used by commercial programmes (such as FTM) and I have verified lists of grandparents (to many generations) and uncles, aunts and cousins. Moreover Colin has created a relationship calculator, which is available at the actual family database found at this site.

Humans are a difficult species to track accurately. Geographical names change, spellings change, memory fades, details are recorded inaccurately, and records are lost in fires, war, floods, etc. Some of my Dickson relatives lived at Niagara, but the place-name was changed from Newark and established (briefly) as the capital of Upper Canada; this same place is now known as Niagara-on-the-Lake. If you missed picking up some Celtic language skills in school you will have difficulty with Welsh, early Scots, and Irish names. The Geraldines decided to change their surnames by naming successive generations by Fitz plus the father's first name. To make the Geraldine case even more inconsistent, some individuals added, or adopted, place-names in lieu of the Fitz formula; others added their father's last name to their own. Naming conventions make mediaeval genealogical research 'challenging'. Should one of your ancestors have been bold enough to marry into another country and culture there may be major name and spelling variations. (The family might know him as Uncle Freddy, but perhaps historical records know him as Friederich, Fernando, etc.) Serious historical analyses and conclusions should be based upon first-hand documentation generally available in national archives, or similar institutions.

Caveat Emptor

Since I started with paper records of family histories, the advent of the internet has changed the very nature of genealogical research. Genealogical research is now a cottage industry, and a continual surge of newer, bigger, better-researched, etc, sites has become available. With this explosion has come an opportunity to improve the quality of genealogical data and to resolve the inevitable disagreements between historical sources. For family amateurs like me, it is impossible to resolve many data-conflicts, since secondary sources often repeat the same (perhaps) flawed primary sources. Our entire database has been thoroughly edited, but still contains errors.

Modern information access and tools have enabled a great expansion in archeological research and historical understanding. DNA fingerprinting has created opportunities to resolve former pedigree issues. Modern historical research techniques have improved the basic discipline required to determine historical truth. Yet despite these improvements and the great wealth of data, piecing together thousand-year old pedigrees remains problematic. Original records were sometimes falsified to hide indiscretions, records were lost, and some details went unrecorded. Spelling, which was chancy at best, has also created a myriad of confusion as time has passed.

I have used thousands of sources, which, of course, vary in accuracy. With experience I have identified the more accurate sources and I have deferred to those more accurate sources to resolve source disagreements. Sources are a key component of genealogical accuracy. Although some databases seek sources for each item of information (such as dates and places), I have restricted my source identification to the person's name (or existence) and I have not provided individual sources for supporting data. I have taken the greatest care to try to render accurate pedigrees, but there are certain to be errors. Consider my data as a basis for your own research.

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