Friday, February 6, 2015

He was born in the United States WHEN?!



I’ve recently been doing a bit of research on my early American ancestors, immigrants who arrived in various New England locations in the 1620’s-1700’s.  This is a time when North America was just being opened up for settlement along the east coast.  Life was hard, people died young.  Often, people would marry two and three times as spouses died off, and families tended to be large, often with many infant deaths. 

Some early settlements, like Hartford, Connecticut and Springfield, Massachusetts, left us a decent amount of records of when people were born married and died.  These records are available on Ancestry.com and other places online.  But here we come into a problem, one that has been causing me some irritation.  When importing many of these records to my ancestors, I keep running into location fields populated with a location, followed by “United States”.  This is obviously incorrect data, as prior to 4 July 1776, there was no United States of America!  How am I supposed to trust records that include such blatantly incorrect data?

It’s 2015.  We’re living in a time when computers are everywhere, and systems are being built with a lot of built in intelligence.  Why, then, have services like Ancestry.com implemented some of that intelligence in fighting this sort of database corruption?  For it is corruption to include demonstrably false data in a database.  Why have they not implemented controls that examine records being entered for such anachronisms as chronologically non-existent countries?  What’s more, we know when most counties in various states were created, as well, and we could also screen for that!  Not only would this screen for bad data, it could then flag the user about the problem, so that they could do further research to get the correct data, instead of relying on erroneous entries that have been passed about for decades.

As an IT person, I have a little experience with programming, and I know this problem is not trivial, but it is also not insurmountable.  Data could be examined, modified to repair blatantly incorrect entries, or perhaps even remove the incorrect portions.  This would not fix existing databases of users of those services, but it would keep new users from filling their databases with bad data!  Perhaps Ancestry or MyHeritage could even offer database cleaning service, to examine users’ data and suggest items to be cleaned.  After all, most major genealogy software now offers some error checking capability; this could be implemented for users who are just using the websites as well.  Heck, it could even be set up as an in-app purchase to help cover the costs of implementing it!

We’re using all of our computing power to collect and store reams of data.  Isn’t it time we used some of that power to make sure the data’s correct?
 


This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2015 by Daniel G. Dillman

Saturday, June 28, 2014

SNGF - Summer Vacation As A Kid




Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission Impossible music, please!):

1) It's summertime in the Northern hemisphere, and time for summer vacations for many people.

2)  Tell us about a memorable summer vacation when you were a child.  What are your memories of summer vacations with your family?  Did you travel?  How?  Did you visit extended family?  Who?

3)  Share your memories in your own blog post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.

Here's mine:
 




I remember a number of summertime vacations.  Several were to visit family in other states, most notably the family in Louisiana.  They were so far away it took a major trip to visit.  Others were closer in South Dakota, so we visited them more than just summertimes. 

We visited Louisiana several times, but there are only two I recall, once when I was about 8 years old, and the other when I was just about 14.  As my birthday is in the summer, those would have been the ages I was advancing to.  When I was eight, I remember staying with my Aunt Eva in New Orleans.  It’s the only time I’ve ever visited the French Quarter.  I have very vague memories of some of the architecture and signage.  At that age, I didn’t get to really experience the whole New Orleans vibe.  No jazz, no Mardi Gras, etc.  I do recall one other thing, however, from that trip.  We went outside to the lake right across from my aunt’s place to look at the moon and stars.   Someone there had a telescope, and he let us look through it.  I don’t remember what we looked at specifically, but I was a space nut when I was a boy, and that fed right into it.  That trip was memorable for one other reason: my cousin Sharon Paulette McLin married Michael Andre.  I was supposed to be in the wedding, but at the last minute the little girl I was to be walking up with got cold feet or something and dropped out, so they dropped me out, too.  Michael and Sharon left for their honeymoon a couple of days later (we went home in the meantime) on their way to Michael’s duty station in Germany with the Army.  We found out shortly after arriving at home that their plane crashed in New York City (Flight 66) and killed both of them.

The trip to Washington, D.C. was when I was about 11 years old.  My uncle and his wife were both deaf, and both worked at Gallaudet College there.  We visited the campus one day, and saw some sights while driving, but spent most of the time at their house, playing in the pool and catching fireflies at night.  I remember getting stung by a bee on my finger while splashing in the pool.  My cousin Maria was 12, my cousin Ricky was about six months older than me, and my cousins Ray and Kathy were both a few years younger.  As my brother Mitch was about two and a half years younger than me, we had a couple of small groups we naturally formed.  This trip was memorable for another thing – we took the train.  My father, brother and I all three went, while mom did something else (I don’t remember what, maybe she went back to Louisiana to visit).  We rode the Amtrak Empire Builder out of St. Paul, MN all the way to Washington, D.C. where my uncle picked us up.  The trip took the majority of two days each way, and was interesting for a while as we explored the length of the train several times, but then got very boring.

One other vacation I remember was to the Black Hills area in South Dakota.  I don’t remember how old I was, probably 13.  We drove out, which took about 10 hours or so of driving time.  We stayed in a campground in the hills overlooking Rapid City.  It had a pool in which we spent a lot of time, and a net view of the city lights at night.  Last time I was out there with my family, we drove past that campground.  It’s still in operation, or was as of about 2007.  We didn’t go to a huge number of attractions, but we did go to Mount Rushmore and a couple of other attractions in the area.  This trip was one reason I wanted to take my own kids out there when I got my own family.  Maybe it will be a tradition they will continue when they also have families of their own.
 



This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2014 by Daniel G. Dillman

Saturday, June 21, 2014

SNGF - Summertime!



Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Summertime Fun as a Child
Calling all Genea-Musings Fans: 


 It's Saturday Night again - 
time for some more Genealogy Fun!!



Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission Impossible music, please!):

1) It's the first day of Summer 2014, so let's talk about what we did as children (not teenagers or young adults) on our summer vacations from school.  


2)  Write about your life as a child in the summertime (say, any age between 5 and 12).  Where did you live, what did you do, how did it influence the rest of your life?


3)  Write your own blog post, or leave a comment on this post, or write something on Facebook or Google+

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything here...

I grew up in a couple of places I can remember well, plus a couple more I can’t.  First, I remember living on a farm halfway between St. Cloud, and Foley, Minnesota, on State highway 23.  We rented an old farmhouse from the farmer who had built a newer house.  I was about 4 when we moved there, and almost six when we moved away.  Being that young, I had lots of free time to wander around and look at the cows and pigs, play in the dirt with my cars, and ride the farm wagons and other implements.  I remember riding along to bale hay, harvest corn, spread manure and pick rocks, for example.  I remember “helping” to feed the cows.  I remember swinging on the rope in the hayloft.  The farmer had a son about a year older than me, and we got along well.  We played a lot together.   I’ve recently heard that he now owns and operates that farm.

When I was almost six, we moved into St. Cloud, to a house on Breckenridge Avenue, right across from the railroad yard.  We rented that house for a while until our landlord decided he wanted to sell it, and my parents purchased it.  That’s where the rest of my childhood was spent.  My youngest brother is currently living in the house; my parents recently opted to move to an apartment and forego the lawn maintenance in summer and sidewalk shoveling in winter.

There were a number of kids on my block, and we played together more or less, depending on which kids were feeling “cooler” than others at any given time.  Most were older than me, and didn’t always want me around.  We played football beside the street, and kickball in the street.  We played variants of cops & robbers.  We rode our bikes up and down the sidewalks.   Certain driveways would be designated as having “stop signs” and we would have to stop, or the “cop” would give us a ticket.  No one had helmets or pads, and occasionally someone would fall and get a scrape, but generally there were no injuries. 

We rode our bikes along the rail yard in a wide swath of packed earth.  In fact, we played in and around the trains, looking for odd bits of stuff that would fall off the trains, like ball bearings more than an inch in diameter, or taconite (iron) pellets less than half an inch in diameter that made excellent slingshot ammunition.  We found stubs of flares they would use for directing train movements at night.  We found that the sulfur would burn hot and bright red, with choking fumes.  We weren’t supposed to be on the tracks, and sometimes would get caught by the railroad employees and escorted off the property.  We learned when it was likely we could get away with sneaking around, and when we should probably find other things to do. 

We biked other places, too.  All over town, really.  Down to the park, with the swimming pool in the summer, downtown to the library, although that was mostly later when I was a teen.  Across the highway on a railroad bridge to a wooded area where bike trails had been hacked into the undergrowth, and we could ride and jump our bikes for hours.  Over to friends’ houses to play with them, many blocks away from home.  We always knew we needed to be home for supper, and I don’t recall missing that mark too many times.

You might notice the missing element here – we had no video games, no computers.  We had a television, a color one, even, but the four channels we got over the antenna offered little choice in what to watch, and you watched what you wanted when it was on, or you missed out.  And you only had ONE television, so had to compromise on when you got to watch, especially as a kid.   The time period involved here was at the very beginning of what would be come home video game consoles and personal computers, and no one we knew could afford either one.   And by video games, I mean the likes of Pong, simple black and white back and forth tennis-style games and similar.  About this time Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs were creating the Apple I, a kit computer that one could build if they had the skills for a few thousand dollars.  Phones all had those twisty coiled cords, and a rotary dial, because that’s what the phone company provided.  AT&T had not yet been broken up, long distance calls were expensive.  Some homes shared a phone line with other homes, known as Party Line.  If you picked up when another house was using the line, you could listen in to the conversation.  We’ve come a long way in technology!
 




This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2014 by Daniel G. Dillman

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mocavo? Your Advertising Needs Work!

Today I got an e-mail from Mocavo attempting to get me to sign up for their site.  Far from encouraging me, it set me into active avoidance mode.

Mocavo.com, in case you haven't heard, is a genealogy website specializing in search and records.  They are adding thousands of new databases every month, attempting to join the other genealogy "big boys", Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com in providing tons of records and images to search for your ancestors.

 I've actually searched on Mocavo before, using their free access model on most occasions, and the Gold Access model during a free trial weekend.  Using it, I was able to find a few records, but the vast majority of my searches on Mocavo brought loads of unrelated records, with no real easy way to filter them out without also filtering out valid results as well.

That brings me to today's e-mail. They sent a message saying they had found a new result for someone I had previously searched, Clyde Dillman.  Clyde was my paternal great grandfather, and is one of my main touchpoints in my tree.  The e-mail included an image of what they'd found, but the image was unusual, so I went to the website to check it out.  Here's what I found:

As you can see, the image is of a group of men in hats, upside down.  Notice the yellow bars?  I'm guessing that's supposed to be text saying "Clyde Dillman".  As close as I've been able to check, there is no text in there at all.  Further, Clyde lived in Crawford County, Indiana for most of his life.  As far as I am aware, he was never in Racine County. 

So, we have a useless record return.  That's not unusual, and normally not something I would bother commenting about.  However, you'll note that Mocavo is using this as bait to get me to sign up for their Gold Service at $9.00/month.  Um, hello, Mocavo?  You should probably try to make sure a return is at least plausibly valid before using it as an enticement to subscribe...  I know it's a tough problem given the vast number of records, and the serious automation needed to make this all happen, but this kind of thing will cause people to actively avoid your service as incompetent, rather than luring them in.

I'm hoping they can improve their service as well as their advertising.  I really think we need more than just the big two services out there, and Mocavo looks to be working hard to catch up.  So I'll continue to keep my eye on Mocavo in the future.  But this just isn't getting me to join today.  Sorry, Mocavo!




This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2014 by Daniel G. Dillman

Saturday, March 1, 2014

SNGF - John Smith?

Thanks to Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings,
 
It's Saturday Night - 
time for more Genealogy Fun! 



Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission Impossible! music) is to:


1)  How many persons named John Smith do you have in your genealogy management program or online family tree?  How many persons named John Smith are ancestors?


2)  Pick out one of those persons named John Smith and do some online research for them in Ancestry, FamilySearch, or another set of record collections.  Your goal is to add something to your database.

3)  Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a post on Facebook or Google+.

Here's mine:






1) I was somewhat startled to find I have but a single solitary John Smith (of any spelling variant) in my tree of over 6,100 individuals.  And that John Smith is not a direct ancestor, his daughter Mary Smith married into my Day line.

2) So, here's what I know about John Smith prior to doing any further research today:

A) John was born in 1637 in Wethersfield, which is in present day Hartford County, Connecticut.  He married Mary Partridge on Nov. 12, 1663 in Hadley, Hampshire County, Massachusetts (bearing in mind that county boundaries changed a bit in that region, it may not have been Hampshire County at the time!) and died on May 30 1676, with notes that he was killed by Indians.  Every source I find tells me this.  I remember at one point having some details on this, but I am not able to find them at the moment, as I am out on my laptop, not on my home computer.  Also, in checking this, I find I have a discrepancy in that his daughter Mary Smith's birth date is given as over a year after John's death.  Hmm, can't have that!  

B)  Searching on MyHeritage reveals a huge pile of MyHeritage Family Trees which contain this John Smith and Mary Partridge, and the dates line up with what I have.  Unfortunately, I would rather find some more solid documentation, so I'm wading through the stack in hopes of something more concrete. I also located four entries in the WikiTree and two entries in the Geni World Tree.  So much for solid documentation.

C) Find A Grave has an entry for John Smith:

Birth: 1637
Wethersfield
Hartford County
Connecticut, USA
Death: May 30, 1676
Hatfield
Hampshire County
Massachusetts, USA
He was the son of Lieut. Samuel Smith and his wife Elizabeth. He was born about 1637 at Wethersfield. He married Mary Partridge, the daughter of William Partridge November 12, 1663. He fought in King Philips War and was in the Turner's Falls Fight. He was killed by Indians in Hatfield Meadow just days after the Falls Fight. His widow Mary Partridge married Peter Montague in 1679 a few years after his death.

Children of John Smith and his wife Mary Partridge:

1. John Smith who married Mary Root.

2. Samuel who died at the age of 14 by falling off a horse.

3. Rev. Joseph Smith who married Canada Wait.

4. Benjamin Smith who settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut and married Ruth Buck.

5. Marah Smith who married John Day.


C) SmithConnections DNA Project for Descendants of Northeastern U.S. Smith Families (http://www.smithconnections.com/index.cgi) supposedly has an entry for this John Smith (along with hundreds and hundreds of others) but I could not find it in the time available to me.  It was referenced in one of the WikiTree entries.

D)  He is mentioned briefly in Genealogies of Hadley Families on archives.org (p.97) as being the deceased husband of Mary who had later married Richard Montague.

E)  As you may have guessed, I found conflicting information on the Family Tree sources.  As I am out of available time, I will have to schedule John Smith and his family for some later research to correct discrepancies. 


3) Here it is!

This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2014 by Daniel G. Dillman

Saturday, February 15, 2014

SNGF - Life Stories

Hello!  Did you think I had quit, or died?  Well, I wouldn't be surprised.  It has been some time since I last posted, due to a number of life circumstances.  Well, tonight I have some time, and tonight Randy Seaver of Geneamusings has provided another Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, so here goes...

It's Saturday Night - 
time for more Genealogy Fun! 



Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission Impossible! music) is to:


1)  Judy Russell asked six questions in her Keynote address at RootsTech to determine if audience members knew certain family stories about their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.  She demonstrated very well that family stories are lost within three generations if they are not recorded and passed on to later generations.


2)  This week, I want you to answer Judy's six questions, but about YOUR own life story, not your ancestors.  Here are the questions:

a)  What was your first illness as a child?

b)  What was the first funeral you attended?

c)  What was your favorite book as a child?

d)  What was your favorite class in elementary school?

e)  What was your favorite toy as a child?

f)  Did you learn how to swim, and where did you learn?

3)  Tell us in your own blog post, or in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.

Here are my stories:
a) To the best of my recollection, my earliest illness would have been chicken pox.  I've seen pictures of my brother and me full of spots.  I was immunized pretty well against all of the other typical childhood diseases, so never had measles or mumps, etc.  I had colds and such, but I was usually a very healthy boy.

b) The first funeral I attended would have been that of my great grandfather, Clyde J. Wyman Day in 1973.  He was the first relative to die after my birth, and I recall going to South Dakota to be at the funeral.  I remember him being laid out in the casket for viewing.  It was all a bit much, as I was only six years old at the time.

c)  I couldn't even begin to pick a favorite book!  We had so many, all of the Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears, and so on.  I was always a voracious reader, too, so even as I grew into elementary school I was always reading books.  All of the Danny Dun series, Hardy Boys, and so forth.  Plus, I read a lot of non-fiction books, mostly about science.

d) I don't remember having a favorite class in elementary school.  Perhaps Reading.  We didn't have a separate Science class, or that would have been it, hands down.  I do know that I was always on the upper end of the charts, and got bored easily with easy classwork.  That sometimes led to problems with teachers who wanted me to keep doing homework for stuff I had already shown I understood.

e) I can't think of a particular favorite toy, as it would have changed through the years as I got new toys.  Anything space related would have been at the top of the list.  Star Wars stuff.  I did play with the little green army men a lot in the back yard.  I do still have the teddy bear I had when I was a year old.  It's in my baby pictures from that year.  It's a bit worn, but still in one piece.

f) We did get swimming lessons at various local swimming pools.  I never got to be very good at swimming, and I blame it on lessons one year.  We were in lessons at the local college's pool, where the shallow end was 3.5 feet deep.  I was about 7 years old, and not 3.5 feet tall!  I could not touch bottom.  At one point, they made us let go of the wall and try to swim out.  Well, not being a good swimmer, and not being able to touch bottom, I panicked, and was sure I was going to drown.  I don't even remember how I got back to the side, but that was it for me.  No more lessons.  Since then, I have never been a big fan of swimming, although I do enjoy snorkeling, and I did take a SCUBA class in college.  I also passed the Navy's basic swim requirements, so I guess I can do adequately well.


This and all other articles on this blog are © copyright 2014 by Daniel G. Dillman