As some of you know, the family tree on geni.com is growing in size and detail.
Some of this growth is caused by all of you adding information to the tree, including your known ancestors and descendants. And some of this growth is resulting from increasingly serious efforts by a few people to accurately source and document information about current and distant members of the family.
The tree on geni.com is the “fun” family tree. Relatively few documents (such as birth records, death records, census records, etc.) are attached to the profiles on the geni.com tree, especially for more distant family members.
However, there is another tree I am working on on ancestry.com that is a private tree, using as sources public and private documents, including birth certificates and records, death records including Social Security Administration death records, marriage licenses and records, obituaries, photographs (including those of tombstones and grave markers), military records, etc., etc.
As importantly, both trees are also growing because we are finding overlapping family trees that are constructed by others.
For example, a distant relative by marriage, Bernie Alvey, who is located in Kentucky, has a very large tree with many overlapping branches. Bernie and I have worked together to share information and “merge” those trees on geni.com. (Bernie also has a tree on ancestry.com, and trees on ancestry.com are not merged as trees are merged on geni.com, but rather individual records and individual details are merged.)
A good thing to keep in mind for your purposes is that the “historical” records and documents that are worked with to accurately document an individual often contain errors, in dates, spellings of names and parent names, and especially middle initials. That is why before a source is added, it is necessary to examine it for errors, including transcription errors, and to ascertain that it is in fact a document referencing a family member, not merely someone with a similar name and location.
Also, the spelling of names can and often did change over time. For example, in most records (and in my family records), my great grandmother Marion’s last name is Traynor. However, in some historical records, it is Trainer, and in others Trainor. Peter Getto may at one point have been recorded as Peter Getz, and at another as Peter Ghetto.
For many reasons and in many cases, when people immigrated to America, if they were documented then the name recorded here may be different than the name in their former land. For others, there may be no documentation, and, as years go by, they may “hide” or lie about their land of origin and state of birth to record takers, possibly out of fear of discovery of their illegal immigration and possible deportation. Or possibly as merely wanting to appear more “American”. Or because people forget details as they get older. Etc.
Because the source documents and records that are used to accurately document individuals are usually government records, only legal names are available. For example, although you may know a certain grandmother as “JoJo”, you will find little historical information for JoJo R. Rather, you must use her legal birth name, Mary Josephine, and maiden name McDonald.
I am also overlaying DNA information on my information to assist me in identifying more distant ancestors on my paternal line (Robert, Louis S., Robert E Lee, William A., John Joseph, and William), and my maternal line (Patricia Ann, Marion Traynor, Clara Bell, Unknown Bellmom).
“Filling in” the inside of my tree has revealed that one of my (and many of your) 8th great grandmothers on Papa’s (Louis S.) side / family line was Ann Hynson Norris, who was married in Nansemond, Virginia, in 1637 / 1638. (Nansemond is now part of Suffolk, Virginia.)
As many of you know, Papa Doc came from Kentucky, where many of his, and our, relatives still live. What I did not know was that in the late 1700’s around 1785, 3 groups of Catholic families moved from St. Mary’s County, Maryland, to 3 areas in Kentucky. Papa’s ancestors were in a group of about 25 to 30 Catholic families who had “pledged” to move as a group so that the Church had a good reason to provide a priest. Remember that unlike other Christian sects, Catholics can not elect a fellow congregant to serve as their pastor. Therefore, for devout Catholic families at the time, they could not just “pick up” and move into the wilderness as there would not be a Catholic Church and Catholic priest in the wilderness to dispense the sacraments.
Therefore, well into the 1800s, when American Catholics migrated west they often did so as part of “pledge groups” so that a priest would be provided to them in their new home.
What does this mean for our family?
It means that we are part of a large group of Americans for whom fairly accurate records of births, deaths, and marriages are available back into the mid- to late-1600 and 1700s, and because many Catholics often insisted on marrying only other Catholics (born or convert), these groups maintained some relative homogeneity for many years.
As part of that, a large family in Missouri that was having large family reunions in the late 1990s, something like our JoJo’s July Jamboree, became increasingly organized in their efforts to collect family history. These families were all descended from Catholic families that had moved from St. Mary’s County, Maryland, to 3 areas in Kentucky in the late 1800s. (In other words, this Missouri group was and is likely related to us in some fashion.)
There is an area of Kentucky where these Catholic families and religious orders settled that is known as “The Holy Land”.
That organization that evolved out of that Missouri reunion has today become a very large family genealogical reunion, named the “MD to KY Reunion.” This reunion attracts family members and researchers in large numbers, as it represents a unique opportunity to work with many other “relatives” who also have good family records and well developed family trees.
I have invited my dad to attend the next MD to KY Reunion, to be held July, 2010 , in Lenoardtown, MD. As some of you know, my dad is one of the family historians of his generation and has numerous records and even more memories of his family on both the Roberts and McDonald sides, back many generations. I have asked him to join me for 3 days at the next reunion, so that we can further document our family and meet others.
In the meantime, I will continue adding new information that I get from my research to the family tree on geni.com.
If you see any inaccurate information on that tree on geni.com, please correct it or contact me to correct it.
And last, I will be contacting many of you for family information, and to confirm information, to be used for more research on the private tree on ancestry.com. I hope you will share with me what you know about your in-laws and parents and grandparents.
My goal over the next few years is to build an accurate “family cloud” containing the legal names and dates / places of birth, death, marriage / divorce for you, your children and grandchildren, your parents and grandparents, and your in-laws. I anticipate that this “family cloud” will have between 3,000 and 5,000 names. Once this “family cloud” is constructed, it can serve as a solid and accurate base from which you can build your own family tree.
The key phrase in the previous sentence is “solid and accurate base”.
After that, I intend to begin researching in much more depth people and lines that interest me, including my grandmother (Marion Traynor) and her mother (Clara Bell), my grandfather Louis S. and his grandfather, John Joseph (who was also a physician), Peter Getto and Theressia Zimmerman (JoJo’s grandparents) and her brothers Otto and Julius, and those family members who have lived (and may still be living) in Virginia.
I also encourage you, especially the males (who carry the Y chromosome), to consider taking DNA tests (with at least 40 markers) that are designed for ancestry purposes, such as those offered by ancestry.com, so that we can discover close genetic relatives and matches.
I recognize that this type of tracking might not interest some people, and it may repel others. However, I am interested in all of my family history, wherever it leads and whatever that history is.
For those who are interested , my paternal haplogroup is R1b1b2a1a2f and my maternal haplogroup is H1* .
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at chugach at the google email service, gmail dot com. You can also find me easily on the Internet via my company, TheCapitol.Net.
(If you call me, please identify yourself as a family member, especially for anyone whose name I may not recognize. And please do not call me with any sales pitches (about anything) or about any kind of “investment opportunity.” Thank you.)