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Genealogy       James Henry Lawrence Lawler 2001 reworked Dec 2002
This is the general page for genealogy.  Here is some advise, opinions, and general comments. For specific details of personal genealogy please transfer to the next page DIRECTORY .  I have more than 40 years of long term experience over a wide variety of places, and thus have more than an usual experience factor, I also have taught Genealogy numerous times from basics to detailed classes on specialized topics. This is a summary of points that may be of help particularly to someone beginning in the field.
Oh me I have three letters to write with pretty much the same thing to say in each and I have had to do this at least a dozen times in the past year, so I am going to write a generic letter, that I can cut and paste into any letter. Please excuse me if this is off YOUR topic but I am trying to save time, and answer questions generically.
First, please no offense, but I know I am dealing with people who are beginning with little or no formal training, and there a couple of common errors that we need to get rid of.  When you see a name without any dates or places, you know the person really does not understand what they are doing.  
So here is what is RIGHT.
To identify any person you need 4 points, 4 identifying features, to provide a positive ID.
What is a point?  It is something to help identify a person. A name is one point. A very UNCOMMON name you can use as 2 points. A date of an event is a point. A place where this person was is a point-Better with date/ place such as he was in Detroit Michigan on  31 Jan 1936 -2 points and with name that is three, and if you state an event (such as born) you have 4 points in one sentence.  A relationship linking two people is a point (John  Smith the son of Samuel Smith-or Thomas Brown married Mary Jones). 
With three points the odds of being right are about 66%, with 4 points the odds are 95%  with 5 points the odds of positive ID are about 99.5% and with 6 or more the chance of an error is not zero but for all practical purposes “forget it!”  Example: John the son of Hubert Brown and Mary Smith was married at First Bapist Church of Nashville (Davidson Co.) Tenn on 12 July 1882 to Suzy Clymer.  We have a point for his name, one for each parent or two more, one for a event, one for date, one for place, and one for his bride’s name, total 7 points - a really tight ID. 
The usual 4 points are the 4 WH’s 
WHo did WHat  WHen  and WHere.
Without the “when and where” we may or may not be able to identify a person. For example I have a direct ancestor John Smith.  Do you have any idea how many John Smiths there are !!!  Even with less common names, names alone usually are not enough to provide positive ID.  
RULE never ever provide just a name.  Always tell someone enough to provide a positive identification of the person you are talking about. 
Who - Provide if possible the full MAIDEN name for the person. Women do NOT change names at marriage in Genealogy. You do NOT append the husbands name to her’s. She may have signed checks, and been called Mrs. Sally Jones,  etc. for most of her life with her husband’s surname, and you do need to know to look for her under that name in census and other records, but you record her BIRTH name in your data file.  If you se Mary Ann Smith married Martin Henry Smith in my records, that is because she was the daughter of James Smith and never changed her name. Occasionally we have a widow re-marrying using the first husband’s name. If that is the case, then clearly state it.
The usual “did WHat’s”  for genealogy are:
Birth  or alternative Christening
Had Children (birth of children, which also includes when where)
And death or burial.
In order to do research we need to know where they are in time and space- particularly we need to know the COUNTY where we may look, as that is where marriage licenses and wills / probate records and land transactions are to be found. 
That is why those are the things you see on any good genealogy program. They are hints to put those down.   If the person does not know, then they leave it blank?   
NO  NO   NO  NO!  
Please, try your best, and use estimates,  to indicate this you say ABOUT “abt” for dates warning the reader it is a guess,  and “of” for places  meaning that they were there at one time or another, whether for even such as birth or not, and you may not be sure but it is a place to start looking. DO NOT LEAVE PLACES and DATES BLANK other than under extreme duress. At worst at least give a state, and a best guess to the nearest decade.
Occasionally such items as graduated from - or military service are of major import.  Military records have been more or less retained complete since Rev War (and even before) and are of superior quality when you can find them. Usually the soldier’s birth record, place of origin,  next of kin and parents are listed.
Major sources
In US after about 1900-1910 birth and death records are a “first place” to look.  Prior to 1900 records are spotty, and not usually available. 
From 1930 to 1850 Census record are the best source as they list head of household and all in that house, -later it tells relationships.  From 1790 to 1840 the census records are of MUCH reduced value as it only lists head of household and the NUMBERS of males and females by age group. 
At all times County records have marriages, and deeds, wills and probate records which are always highly valuable. 
Church records are not as useful in he US as in England. But if you can find the right church they will list christenings( baptisms), marriages and burials.  Catholic, Episcopal (Church of England), and Quaker records are particularly complete.  
FAMILY BIBLE RECORDS which I feel probably should be included in the above also are invaluable IF you can find them. 
Tax records are of use, but only locate the head of house so are very limited in making links.
GED  GEDCOM            Genealogy Exchange of Data
To transmit electronic data we use a formally agreed to format called GEDCOM or just GED - Genealogy Exchange of Data.  Any decent program will both accept and send GED format, and if it does not , ditch the program as trash and get something that  will accept GED. 
Personally I use PAF 5.2 Personal Ancestor File version 5.2 (or 5.0 or 5.1 on my newer computer) .  FTM (Family Tree Maker) and  Brothers Keeper also are ok, but there are a host of garbage programs sold. PAF has one strong advantage, it is free and you can download it from  Http://www/  cost zero.  It is, in my opinion, by far the best program for data input, and manipulation (changes, corrections) of data, and that is why I use it. I have FTM on my machine also as it makes good paper reports. But it does not have the flexibility of PAF for actual work.
IF I send you a GED file attached:
1) PLEASE DO NOT  repeat NOT just try to add a GED file to your existing data. THAT IS A HUGE ERROR !!!
2) Save my Ged file somewhere on C drive where you can find it later. I have a pair of folders  gen  (father’s side)  and gen2 (mom’s side) where I store such things.
3) Open your genealogy file and MAKE A BACKUP FILE.  That is good advice in any case. In fact make 2 backups, one on your C drive and better yet one on a 3.5 inch floppy disk off line so if the computer totally crashes you loose minimal data (only what you did since last backup).   This way you can always get back to where you were if things go wrong. (And if you do not Murphy will prevail and things will go very wrong).  If you have made major progress, make frequent backups.
4) Now open a new file with by preference the same name as my GED file, but name it anything you please just so you know what it is and where to find it.
5) NOW you import the GED file into the new file so you can see what I sent. IF you wish now you can add what you please to YOUR master file, but you control what you add.  The word import is what PAF says ( go to  files       then   import ) but FTM for example you go to  (  files   add  )etc.
Now to another matter. I have been asked about Comptonology repeatedly. That was a quarterly magazine which started in 1939 or so and was put out quarterly until about 1954 when C V Compton, the author  -editor -  publisher died. There was over 260 total pages, and the only complete copy I know of for access is the LDS copy at Salt Lake City. You can get a microfilm via mail for minimal cost from any LDS Local family research center.  There also is a complete copy at LC (Elsie) but do you have access to Elsie?  I do not.
WORKING FORWARD using descendants rather than working back to ancestors.
In 1959 I knew of John Compton born about 1770-1780 Va with son Joseph R. Compton b 2 Mar 1815 of Barren Co, Ky. , but by 1994 I had made no further progress. So I used a technique I discovered in the mid 1960’s and started back with earliest ancestors and worked FORWARD finding descendants until I connect with my line, rather than trying to work backwards to ancestors. 
The first time I did that was 1967 with Van Dykes.  I knew of Garret Vandyke who moved to Washington CO., Ky From Culpepper CO Va in 1790 and promptly died.  But I could not find his origins. So I went back to the earliest American Van Dykes,  three brothers who migrated to New Amsterdam -on the ship Spotted Cow 1652. Eventually they sent for their parents. As far as I know all Van Dykes in the USA come from that trio. So I worked generation after generation forward and eventually connected with my Garrett. The problem was he had moved three times, From NY, where he was born to NJ;  and from NJ to Va to Ky. The first two jumps masked his origin and parentage. By working forward the links could be made-a lot of work, but you also got the whole family as a result. And you were unlikely to ever make the jump backwards using the “conventional” way.
With Compton I put every shred of data from Comptonology into a PAF 2.31 file (in an old 8088 chip computer with 10 meg of C drive- which is why I had to be very careful with memory use). Then I added quite a bit in my paper file that C V did not have access to, and in the end had 3800 names, when I finally connected to my John Compton (of Warren CO Ky md Rachel Pittman 1803 Washington Co Ky). Total time about 500 man hours, added to the probable 2000 I had already semi-wasted in collection of disconnected data up to that time. Of the 3800 names perhaps 3000 were in Comptonology, (but not MINE) and there were three distinct emigrant lines that did not cross connect in America.  I have since added to the file to where now it is a bit over 10,000 names,  and I have semi connected all lines. But I then had to disconnect one of the three. One accepted connection (MY LINE! Cuss words) failed, and disconnected from the other two. I come via a “William Compton” who was assumed to be son of Lord Earl Spencer Compton who died in Battle of Hopton Heath 1643  but my William was not his son. His son Sir William Compton (age 19 in 1645) was Royalist Governor of Banbury Castle from 1645-1646 and therefore not in Gravesend in 1645 to be part of the original Long Island patents.  There is/ was MY William of Gravesend Long Island  age 30 in 1652 and this William was granted patent in 1645 by Judge Keith  to Lady Deborah Moody and William Compton et. al. These cannot be one and the same, as how can you account for their being in two very different places at the same time, and different birth dates. 
So I am back on the trail.  Moral, if your data conflict don’t fight it - be willing to discard wrong connections and try to find what is RIGHT. You are entitled to get disgusted, even a bit discouraged, and surely you get at least two free cuss words, but TRUTH is more important that prestige erroneously linking to some famous bliffy.
But the key points are that you can, some of the time, work FORWARD easier than backwards, and I have done that repeatedly with several families. These include Van Dyke, Lee of Va, Compton, Belcher, Chandler, Savely, Lawler, and Murray.
Years ago I spent hours and HOURS actually going to county court houses all over Kentucky and Tennessee.  In 1960 to 1967  it was the only way to get some of the data. Today it is also a very accurate way to get primary data, undistorted by copying and re-(possibly mis) copying. 
BUT  before you do that check what has already been done. DO NOT try to reinvent the wheel.
WEB SOURCES  www or http://www
I would start here. This is the largest data bank. They are linked both share all data in common.  They started out as separate groups and then combined their data- cooperation making both better than either alone. This is a good example of mutual cooperation rather than and opposed to competition working best. They not only have the largest single data base file n the world, and the access is clean easy and quick.  ( I upload my data file to these sites about once a year - or when the number of changes warrant an upload- this lets you share your data and find others working with your same lines. You put in more than you get back usually, BUT you get pay back far more than the effort of making the upload !!!).
There is also a commercial monthly membership for a fee from Ancestry.Com.  The fee adds lots of census and other data sources. The free site alone however is ranked (by me) as the best place to start any search.
TRICK HINT go to rootsweb put in one spouse’s name, then the LAST  name of other spouse to screen down to the couple you want.  The dates work / help find your specific person, but I have found that cross use of surnames names that way will let you bypass misspelled or spelling variants of given names. For example odd given names are often truncated to a unexpected diminutive in records and this lets you beat the guesswork, and find the record under that “hidden name”. Florinda turned up under Flo. Robert often is Bob. Mary becomes Polly. And by selecting known surnames you can beat the confusion.  
If you do not hit at once persist under spelling variants as for example Blagrave and Blagrove are often interchanged, and  Van Dyke (in my files I make all entries Van Dyke for indexing but carry the real spelling in notes if not on front page)may have been Vandijk, Van  Dike, VanDicke,   --with or without the space between Van and D;    i or y;  c, k or ck; with or without e;  and with or without a j -total variants about 48 possible and I have seen about 25 of those. Saint John may be St. John or StJohn etc. you need to be imaginative with how court clerks and census takers could mess up a name.  Brown Browne Brun, kind of you name it. My own James and Samuel Lawler had Lollar, Lalor, Lawlor, and Loller one place or another on marriage licenses deeds and other “official” records. I think 4 census takers managed to get 4 different spellings -one of them correct.
Problems #1 repeated data.  #2 Worse are people who do not know what they are doing and leave blanks for dates and places, (just a name)( I suggest you use those ONLY as last resort - they are not to be trusted when they do that) and only partially copy other people’s data (without giving credit naturally-that is called PLAGERISM and is actually illegal) and do not keep whole families together -copying ONLY their direct pedigree line, leaving out brothers and sisters (aunts and uncles). This clutters up the files with trash making it more difficult to find the real original good data. #3 you MUST check and cross check everything, as the work has NOT been screened, and errors abound. Example one dear soul linked her line via  a name only and if you look at the dates you get an “interesting” problem. The father died at age 76 a full 24 years before the birth of his child (at his nominal age 100- 101).  There are two whole generations missing !  By having all possible date you can avoid such nonsense as mother giving birth at the age of MINUS 8 since her son was older than she was. 
This is the LDS site. The oldest of all; It goes into data run in the mid 1800’s far older than computers. It has a different collection of data that also is near the top in usefulness, and about equal to Ancestry /  Rootsweb.  The 1880 census on line just added this year is a MAJOR plus. 
PROBLEMS: The same entry may be repeated several times with slight variants such as a different birth place (i.e. Monmouth county NJ versus Hunterdon Co., NJ) or different guesses as to birth dates. Even worse is  the IGI (International Genealogical Index) where someone made a titanic error of clipping individuals off the family group sheets that were actually turned in, -these match LDS “temple ordinance data” but destroyed the family unit connections. It was done on 3 x 5 cards before computers were even imagined, done with the very best of intensions, but disastrous consequences. In fact the mess created is so bad that about the only thing that can be done is to go back to the family groups and re enter them one by one and discard the 3 x 5 data !!  
GOOD  They have marriages not available elsewhere. IGI  can offer birth / christening and Marriage dates to fill in data. The ancestry files, (which were checked), and even pedigree files (which were NOT) often provide data NOT on other sites. Problem: the accuracy is not much if any better than other sites. The error quotient is not helped much by the checking. HINT they need to go thru and clean up the disaster, eliminating combining obvious duplicates.
Problem- they have US mail address for submitters in many cases but you do not know how old they are. They are NOT updated (and should be-an easy thing to do). BUT e-mail contacts should also be offered where possible and they have none. The relics of  well meaning but erroneous 19 th  century thinking are still there, hindering progress.
Ethical problem ... with both this site and they make and sell CD’s with YOUR DATA ON IT -without payment if profit is made. !!!   The CD’s do distribute data. Good. The LDS  CD’s give credit (usually) which is also good- but selling someone else’s data without written specific permission is over the edge into unethical practices. Good intension - bad actions.
A different search mechanism. Much smaller data base than or Familysearch, but if you hit, the payback is much more. It is NOT screened, but if you hit it is overall less duplication, more results for a hit.  Three stars for high quality.
Associated with gendex, but does one thing better than any other search system-it offers suggested duplicates of individuals from many other databases. The data base is smallest of all, but the quality is higher than others and if you hit, you hit big time. The program is not 100% effective, but the very act of matching is a way of finding other entries with more or better data, and allows you to make the decision whether it is a real match or not.   
And that is a set of three or four mixed tales, please accept any apology for being long winded but making up a standard blurb to cut n paste to cover most questions..
Dr. James H. L. Lawler
3765 Wedgworth Dr S
Fort Worth Tx 76133





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