Friday, August 2, 2013

Giving Back: Indexing for FamilySearch

When I first learned about FamilySearch several years ago, I was ecstatic.  A FREE genealogy resource with records useful in my personal research?!  It seemed too good to be true.  Yet, it wasn't.  I found myself searching through all types of collections that weren't even available on Ancestry, including Massachusetts births, marriages, and deaths (these recently were added to Ancestry, however).  FamilySearch was a remarkable gold mine for me, giving me access to indexes and record images I couldn't find anywhere else on the internet, and it was all free.

Well, it was free for me.  In reality, FamilySearch is run by LDS, and the records are made available thanks to the efforts of thousands and thousands of volunteers worldwide, LDS and non-LDS, who index and arbitrate the records.  About three years ago, I decided to give back by indexing.  I only did a little bit at first, but as time went on, I found myself hooked.

For those who may not know, indexing is transcribing certain information from an image of the record so that it can become searchable.  Every record at FamilySearch is indexed by two separate individuals.  A third person, called an arbitrator, reviews the indexers' work to fix errors and resolve discrepancies.  Last year, after reaching certain indexing milestones, I became an arbitrator so that I could contribute more to FamilySearch.  Frankly, it's taking up most of my free time because I love doing it so much.  I work on interesting collections or ones that may prove useful to me when they eventually are published for the world to search for free.

FamilySearch has an astounding variety of American and international collections in the works.  I know Massachusetts Vital Records are in the works and move quickly, while New Brunswick Provincial Marriages are slower-going because there aren't as many volunteers working on them.  There are probably about 10 collections to index from Italy alone.

If you're stuck in your research, need a break, or are just looking for a way to help others pursue their own genealogy, I would highly recommend indexing.  It's difficult at first to learn all of the rules and adjust to different handwriting styles, but you will get the hang of it with practice.  There are also several unofficial Facebook groups that provide assistance if you need help, in addition to FamilySearch's official support team.

So, this is what's been taking up all of my time from blogging!  I'm hoping to pry myself away from indexing more frequently and get back here often!  There is plenty I'd like to share still.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

A very happy 4th of July to all of my fellow Americans!  Things have been hectic around here, especially after I started working (albeit volunteer work).  So instead of the normal barbecue today, I traveled up to scenic Vermont for a relaxing day trip.

Reflecting on the American Revolution, I thought I'd share a minor discovery I made just in time for the holiday.  Last week I had the opportunity to search through some pages of the book, Les registres de Paspébiac : Notre Dame de la Purificationby Bona Arsenault.  The church records in this book for Paspébiac, located in the Gaspé region of Québec, go back slightly further in time than those in the Drouin collection.  They're also very well organized and indexed.  Using this book, I pushed my research back in my Cyr line to find another 5th great-grandfather, Jean-Baptiste Anglehart ("Migkelharte" in his marriage record).  According to his marriage record, he was from Germany (if his surname didn't give it away).  What does this have to do with the American Revolution?  Jean-Baptiste Anglehart married his wife, Anne Chapados, in Québec on July 13, 1787.  The British had hired many mercenaries from Germany during the American Revolution, bringing the Germans over to Québec.  Several thousand of these mercenaries stayed after the war.  A marriage in 1787 suggests that my German ancestor (I'm also German now?! That alone blew my mind.) may have very likely been around for the American Revolution and was himself a mercenary for the British.  In the coming weeks, I'd like to uncover a lot more information about him and his parents if possible.  Thankfully, if he was fighting, I don't think he would have met any of my colonial ancestors in battle, as I have several ancestors who fought against the British in the war.

Have a happy and safe July 4th!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Asa Thorp

Asa Thorp (aka Thorpe or Tharp) is the father of last week's Tombstone Tuesday children, Roswell and Eunice Tharp.  He is buried with them in the Old Center Cemetery at North Haven, New Haven, Connecticut.  According to Ancient Families of New Haven, Asa was born about 1768 to Jacob and Eunice (Bishop) Thorpe and married Lydia Pardee.

Copyright 2010-2013.

Memory of
who died
Dec. 10 1849
AE 81.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Roswell and Eunice Tharp

Stones like this one always both intrigue and sadden me.  It is the stone of two young siblings, Roswell and Eunice Thorpe (aka Thorp or Tharp), and is located in the Old Center Cemetery of North Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut.  According to Families of Ancient New Haven by Donald Lines Jacobus, they were the children of Asa Thorpe and Lydia Pardee.  Based on the information in that series, Asa Thorpe I believe was a first cousin to my 5th great-grandmother, Mabel (Thorpe) Alling.

Photograph Copyright 2010-2013

Roswell Tharp died Octo 13th
1794 In the 4th Year of his Age.
Eunice Tharp died March 23d
1794 In the 1st Year of her Age.
Children of Asa &
Lydia Tharp.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

DNA Testing - Part 4

Happy National DNA Day!  A few months ago, my mother's AncestryDNA results came in after I finally convinced her to take the test.  As you may know, both my father and I had already taken it.  I wanted my mother's results to help determine what DNA matches came from her side of the family and to compare my ethnicity results to both of my parents'.  It's important to keep in mind, however, that my test results came in about six months before my mother's, so AncestryDNA's data and/or techniques may have changed in that time.

Ethnicity Mix-Match

My mother, a French Canadian of almost entirely Norman descent (with some Huron in there that shows rather strongly in my family members' physical appearances), was given results showing an unexpected ethnic mix.  I didn't anticipate results showing that her ancestors were from France, given that so many French Canadians who took the test wrote about having that exact issue.  Because many colonists of New France were from Normandy, test results often show British Isles as a major ethnicity.  My mother's results showed none.  Instead, she was identified as over 75% Scandinavian, with the remainder being Eastern European.  Huh?!  I suppose the Scandinavian comes from raids on the Norman shore, but I haven't the slightest idea where Eastern European made its way into her DNA.  If you knew my mother, you also would guess on appearances that she didn't have a drop of Scandinavian blood in her.

What bothered me the most about my mother's DNA results is that, when comparing it to my own and my father's, it all doesn't add up.  Ancestry correctly identified both as being my parents, but at least one of us has errors in our ethnic make-up data.  Every person on the planet gets exactly 50% or 1/2 of their DNA from each parent.  No exceptions.  Yet, I had no Eastern European in my own results, and only 4% of my DNA was listed as uncertain.  Based on my mom's overwhelming Scandinavian, it therefore wouldn't be possible for me to only have 25% of my DNA be Scandinavian (which is what my results showed).  I also couldn't have over 70% of my DNA be British Isles if only my father has British Isles DNA (which is what the results also showed), because he only gave me 50% of my DNA.  It's impossible for all three of the results to be correct, and they tend to show a major error somewhere, since my results are off by a total of 20-30%.  This huge amount could be a result of all three tests being off by smaller amounts.  Also, I'm inclined to believe that the more recent tests are more accurate than mine, the first one we did, as AncestryDNA presumably improves and expands.

My "Matches"

What I love about having access to matches for not just myself, but both of my parents, is that I know on what side of the family I'm connected to another Ancestry member.  I can easily remove matches that aren't also matched to either of my parents ("Distant Cousin" relationships are only given an accuracy rating of "Moderate" by Ancestry).  When someone matches both me and a parent, I can immediately cut out the other parent's ancestors as the potential link between us.  This makes is much easier to determine how we're related, although getting back to the common ancestor is still a challenge.  I like being able to reach out to a distant cousin match and tell them that we're connected on either my Irish/English or French Canadian side (this is especially useful when they are unaware of any French Canadian ancestry in their own families).

Unfortunately, a lot of matches don't seem interested in communicating or working together to find our common connection.  I don't know if this is a marketing issue where people expect to easily uncover their family history by taking the test, if people just want ethnicity results and aren't interested in specific genealogy, or even my inability to properly communicate how I know we're related on one side of my family or the other.  It can be disappointing, especially since most of the matches are on my Irish/English side, which is where nearly everyone needs help to get further back (at least with Irish lines).  Luckily, the enthusiastic genealogists I get matched with are so incredibly pleasant and helpful that they make up for the people who disregard me.  Overall, I believe I can learn a lot from the matches who are interested in working together and sharing information.  It's just a matter of reaching out and finding more.

The Raw Numbers

Of my father's approximately 275 matches with at least moderate accuracy, I also was matched with about 90 of them.  Of my mother's approximately 145 matches with at least moderate accuracy, I was also matched with about 80 of them.  Just over 50 of my matches with at least moderate accuracy weren't matched with either of my parents.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tackling the Québec Drouin Collection for English Speakers - Part 4

This is a continuation of a series of "how-to" for English speakers to more easily decipher the Québec Drouin Collection records (although it may help you in other French records as well).  Part 1 of the series can be read here.

Through this series of posts, I will cover determining the type of event, the dates of the events recorded (baptism, marriage burial), the dates of birth and death for baptism and burial records, the individual's name, the individual's marital status, the individual's spouse or parents' names, and where the event occurred, among other facts.

If you have any questions (in general or specific to your research), corrections, additions, or anything else, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or email me directly!

Marriage Records

Marriage date

Marriage records generally start with the date of marriage, written out.  Sometimes other dates will be listed in a paragraph of information after the marriage date and before the spouse names; these are dates that marriage banns were published, prior to the marriage date, and you can ignore them.  Stick with the date that starts off the record.

I'm going to skip over the information sometimes available directly after the marriage date in favor of what I consider more important information.  My French skills aren't good enough to determine what some of it is, and I assume the officiating Priest is the one whose signature is at the end of the record.  If you'd like more details, I suggest using an online translation tool.

Names of the couple, their parents, and/or most recent spouse

After recording the marriage date, I skim down to where I see the word "entre," in this case meaning "enters."  Immediately following "entre" are the groom's given and surnames.  A little bit after the groom's name will usually be either "fils majeur de," meaning "of age son of" or "fils mineur de," meaning "underage son of," followed immediately by the groom's father's given and surnames as well as the groom's mother given and maiden names.  In most cases, the groom's parents names are only included if this is the groom's first marriage.  Otherwise, after the groom's name the record will say "veuf de," or "widower of" (as there are no divorces in the Catholic Church), and the given and maiden names of the groom's most recent spouse.  Thus, if the record is for the groom's third marriage, only his second wife's name will be provided.

After the information about the groom and his parents, you should find "et," meaning "and," followed by the bride's given and maiden names.  Then the bride's age status is given by "fille majeure de," meaning "of age daughter of," or "fille mineure de," meaning "underage daughter of."  Like for the groom, these phrases lead to the bride's father's given and surnames then the bride's mother's given and maiden names, but usually only if this is the bride's first marriage.  If the bride was previously married, instead the record will most likely say "veuve de," or "widow of," followed by the given and surnames of the bride's last husband.

Ages and occupations

On occasion, the groom and bride's specific ages at the time of marriage will be included in the record.  Look for "à l'âge de [age in number of years, written out] ans," which means "at the age of [age] years."

The groom and his or his bride's father may have one word after their names describing their profession, such as "cultivateur," which means "farmer."  This is the profession I usually come across in my research, but others appear, too.  If you see a lone word immediately after a male's name, I suggest using Google search to determine its meaning because it is likely a profession.


Where a bride, groom, or parents live at the time of marriage is often recorded.  If it is, it will almost immediately follow the individual or parents' name(s) and will begin with "de," meaning "of."  Most commonly, the bride and/or the groom will be married in the parish in which he or she resides.  The phrase "de cette paroisse" after a name means "of this parish."  It indicates the aforementioned individual or couple (if parents) reside in the parish in which the record is kept.  If an individual or parents live elsewhere, however, you may see "de la paroisse St(e)-[insert parish name here]" or simply "de [parish name]" to indicate their residence.  

Many smaller communities in Québec have the same name as the church or parish name because there was only one church at the time.  In larger cities, such as the capital of Québec, there are multiple churches, and the parish will provide a good indication of what area of the city people listed in the record lived in.


Towards the end of some marriage records, witnesses' names and familial relationships to the couple are listed after the phrase, "en présence de," or "in the presence of."  A witness's relationship to the bride or groom follows the witness's name and is phrased like "uncle of the wife."  In French, "l'époux" means "the husband," and "l'épouse" means "the wife."

Some key points to note:

  • Marriage banns, or "trois banns de mariage" as they are referred to in the church records, are a series of three announcements of an upcoming marriage required in the Catholic Church before a marriage can take place.  They provide notice of the marriage in the parish as a way to allow anyone with information that would prevent the marriage from being solemnized to come forward with that information.
  • On rare occasion, the marriage record may include both the names of a previous spouse and of the individual's parents.  This is highly unusual though, so you will need to locate any previous marriage records using deceased spouse names until you find the individual's first marriage in order to learn (or confirm) his/her parents' names.
  • If you see "defunct" or "feu" preceding a parent or prior spouse's name, this simply means "deceased."  It can be excluded from prior spouses' names because "veuf" or "veuve" already indicates the most recent spouse is deceased (not to mention the plain fact that there is another marriage).  However, noting this for a bride or groom's parent will help you narrow down possible death years for the parent.
  • Residence or parish information can provide good leads for locating baptism and burial records.  A bride or groom's residence at the time of marriage is often the same parish he/she was baptized in if the record is of his/her first marriage.  If this is not the first marriage, then it is sometimes the same parish his/her previous spouse was buried in.  If a bride or groom's parent is deceased, the listed parish for that parent couple will often be the one where the deceased parent (or parents if both have passed) was buried.
  • At times, marriage records will say "aussi de cette paroisse" when stating residence.  "Aussi" means "too" or "also," so be careful to interpret previous individuals' parishes appropriately.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tackling the Québec Drouin Collection for English Speakers - Part 3

This is a continuation of a series of "how-to" for English speakers to more easily decipher the Québec Drouin Collection records (although it may help you in other French records as well).  Part 1 of the series can be read here.

Through this series of posts, I will cover determining the type of event, the dates of the events recorded (baptism, marriage burial), the dates of birth and death for baptism and burial records, the individual's name, the individual's marital status, the individual's spouse or parents' names, and where the event occurred, among other facts.

If you have any questions (in general or specific to your research), corrections, additions, or anything else, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or email me directly!

Baptism Records

First, you will see the baptism date written out, as described in the previous posts.  Let me just reiterate a key note: the date starting off the record is not necessarily the date of birth.  This is a baptism record, so the date that begins the record will be the date of baptism.  You will have to read further to determine date of birth.  Slight tangent - This is especially important if you're using an Ancestry family tree and input both a baptism and birth date.  The online baptism records don't seem to attach to the birth fact on (they make you create a baptism fact), although you can manually attach the proper record using Family Tree Maker 2011.

Second, you should find the words "été baptisé" followed by the child's given name, middle name(s) if any, and surname.  This is the name that's also in the page margin, so occasionally all or part of the name may be omitted to avoid repetition.  Generally this is all part of a larger phrase meaning "On [date] we baptized [child's name]..."

The date of birth often comes immediately after the child's name.  Reading through the record, you should look for the word "née," which means "born" and is followed by a reference to the birth date.  The birth date will not be written out like the baptism date was at the beginning of the record.  Instead, you will usually find one of the following:
  •  "ce jour" or "le même jour" - "this day" or "the same day," in which case the baptism date and birth date are identical
  • "hier" or "la veille" - "yesterday" or "the day before," meaning the the birth date is one day before the baptism date
  • "l'avant-veille" - I believe this means "the day before yesterday," so the birth date is two days before the listed baptism date
  • "[number in French] du [sometimes de ce instead of du] mois" - the [number] of this month; essentially the birth date is the number date listed in this spot in the same month as the baptism date
Next, either after or before the "née" section, will be the child's parents' names.  They come immediately after the phrase "du légitime mariage de."  The father's given name and surname will come first, followed by "et de" or another form of "and of," and then the mother's given name and maiden surname are second.  Sometimes there is a word or two between the father's name and the "et de."  This word or phrase indicates the father's profession.

Often the parents' names are followed by a phrase indicating what parish the parents belong to, or where they live.  Sometimes a child will be baptized in one parish, but the parents will live in/attend another.  After the parents' names, look for the word "de" meaning "of."  Usually, it will say something similar to "de cette paroisse" to indicate that the parents live in that parish area.  Sometimes, however, "de" will be followed by the name of another parish.  While my method may not be accurate all of the time, I generally assume that the child was born where the parents reside, since births usually occurred at home in earlier time periods.

The final piece of the baptism record lists the child's godparents, who are likely to be related by blood or marriage to the child.  Occasionally the relationship to the child will even be given (although, like anything else, I have seen mistakes here).  "Le parrain a été," meaning "The godfather was," is followed by the godfather's given name and surname, then "et la marraine," meaning "and the godmother," is followed by the godmother's full maiden name.

Some family relationship terms that may be used to describe a parent's or godparent's relationship with the child:

  • père - father
  • mère - mother
  • frère - brother
  • soeur - sister
  • oncle - uncle
  • tante - aunt
  • grand-père - grandfather
  • grand-mère - grandmother