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Blog: #familysearch

A quick update: school’s starting today (I had July/August off, thus the burst of art), so posts will probably be even less frequent going forward.

I’ve been doing a lot of family history lately. One of my third cousins messaged my mom on Ancestry a couple months ago, one thing led to another, and now I have dozens upon dozens of Italian cousins on my Napoleon line that I had no idea existed. It’s been great getting to know them.

I did the Ancestry DNA test recently and have been making contact with more of my relatives who match. (It can be harder to find the common ancestor than I expected, though.) I also apparently have a Scandinavian line on my dad’s side, which was news to me — I’m fairly familiar with my family tree but haven’t ever seen anything Scandinavian.

I realized that it’s fairly easy to keep Ancestry and FamilySearch trees in sync, and it’s nice to have a personal tree in case people make unwanted changes to FamilySearch, so I created an Ancestry tree and have started copying everything over. Ancestry’s nicer than I realized.

Contacting my cousins has led to my doing more research on my Napoleon line. This past weekend I pushed the main line back two generations, and I’ve also started fleshing out some of the collateral lines.

One of my side projects as part of all this is building a nice, relatively easy way to generate clean family charts from JSON data, so that I can easily generate PDFs and share them with my cousins who aren’t on Ancestry or FamilySearch. More to come.

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Life sketches in Family Tree

I’ve been doing more family history lately (more on that soon), and one thing I’ve started doing is writing simple life sketches for each ancestor and putting them in Family Tree. For example, I took the data for Manuela Gandara Cobo and wrote this:

Manuela Gandara Cobo was born around 1811 in Setién (Marina de Cudeyo, Santander, Spain) to José Gandara Valdecilla of Ceceñas (Medio Cudeyo, Santander, eight kilometers from Setién) and Josefa Cobo of Setién. She was the second oldest of five children that we know of (she had an older brother, Manuel, younger sisters Nicolasa and Vicenta, and a younger brother Remigio).

She married José Fuentevilla Fuentevilla when she was 18 and he was 20, in his hometown of Polanco (around 36 kilometers from Setién). They had nine children (seven girls, two boys), three or four of which lived to adulthood. Their first child died within the first year, Josefa died when she was two, Francisca died when she was almost eight, Maria Dolores died the day after she was born, and José Maria died when he was six months old.

Her mother died at age 47 in 1836 when Manuela was 25, and her father died at age 71 in 1853 when she was 42.

Manuela was 68 years old when she died in 1879, a year after her husband José died. (Incidentally, she died just ten days after her older brother Manuel.) At her death she had had ten grandchildren through her daughters Maria Remedios and Maria Isabel.

The prose is far from poetic, and it’s just a restatement of the basic facts of her life (and as you can see, the information I have is somewhat death-heavy), but I think it has a couple benefits: it’s a story, so it’s more parseable and memorable, and including ages and context makes the dates more meaningful. For example, seeing that Francisca was born in 1835 and died in 1843 doesn’t convey the same weight for me as reading that she was seven years old when she died.

I’m haven’t added these for very many ancestors yet, but I plan to do it for all of them, even the ones we know next to nothing about.

Update: My friend Barney Lund recommended adding world events as well. I haven’t done this yet, but I like the idea a lot. I’d probably add a paragraph at the end listing the major events that happened during Manuela’s lifetime (and probably how old she was and what her family composition was at that point).

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Census source tracker

A few weeks ago the FamilySearch blog posted about Source Tracker, a web app that hooks into FamilySearch and shows you which U.S. censuses your ancestors should have been in, and (more importantly) which ones have already been sourced. For example:

Yes, please. It’s brilliant. And it makes it really, really easy to see where the holes are — in mine, for example, you can see that I need to find Mary Louise Chambers in the 1880, 1930, and 1940 censuses. Clicking the magnifying glass takes you to a search for that person in that census. I’ve spent a fair amount of time these past couple weeks going through and hunting people down in the censuses (and I still have a lot to do, as you can see).

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