1950 US Census Indexing with FamilySearch

The 1950 census must be indexed so that we can search for relatives by name, location and much, much more. You can help with this exciting project, and no special skills or background are required. Jim Ericson of FamilySearch 1950 Census Community Project explains what’s happening and how you can get involved.

Lisa: The 1950 US federal census was released by the National Archives just a short time ago on April 1 2022. But it was just a release of the digitized images of the census pages. The indexing of those records happens afterwards. It’s really the indexing that makes it possible for all of us to be able to search the records and find our families. Here to tell us about that really important indexing project. To get all this done is Jim Ericson from FamilySearch. They are heading up this project. Welcome, Jim.

Jim: Thank you, Lisa. It’s wonderful to be here with you today.

Lisa: I know you guys are so busy. You’re right on the heels of Rootstech which just wrapped up. And now we’re here with the release of the US Federal Census for 1950! Do you have somebody you’re looking forward to seeing in that census record?

Jim: Yeah, both of my parents will be there. My dad will be 20 years old. He turned 21 that year after the census. And my mom is 15, she will just have had her 15th birthday.

I know where my mom was. She was in Salt Lake City. But I have no idea where my dad was in 1950 as a 20 year old. He’d left college and I know that he had enlisted in the in the army. But I don’t know. He also worked in San Francisco for a couple of years. I don’t know if he’ll be in San Francisco, or where exactly where he would have been in 1950 when the census was taken so there’s a little mystery right there.

Lisa: Absolutely, and that’s a perfect example of why the indexing is so important, because you’ll be able to name search for him when this is done.

The History of FamilySearch

(2:07)
Before we jump into that indexing project, for those who maybe aren’t familiar or haven’t used FamilySearch, tell us what familysearch.org does and what it offers the genealogist.

Jim: FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization. We were founded in 1894 as the Genealogical Society of Utah.

FamilySearch is more of a recent incarnation of the organization that kind of reflects when we went online, and when we started publishing CD ROMs in the 1990s.

We’ve been microfilming and digitizing records since 1938. We started a worldwide project to go and collect records from around the world. Microfilm was really the innovation that allowed us to store all those records in a library. Getting a whole bunch of books or physical records in one location was difficult.

Since then, all of our record operations are now digital. All of our records are captured digitally now. We have worldwide operations in hundreds of countries. We publish over about a billion records a year.

As a nonprofit, we partner with commercial entities who have an interest in profit, because we know that they know how to innovate. And that also helps our resources go further through partnerships with these commercial entities. The 1950 census is actually an example of that sort of a partnership. We’re working on this with Ancestry and using the resources that they have.

FamilySearch has a collaborative family tree where you can see what others know about your family. We have, like I mentioned, 10 billion records that are online. We have free resources to learn how to do family history. And we really try to just bring people wherever they are, to the experiences that can help them learn about their family.

(04:32) 
Lisa: It’s amazing how much it’s grown! I remember the days of the CD ROMs with the record sets that we used to order. And now so much is available for free from home. Users just need to sign up for a free account to use the website and take advantage of the records. And I love the Wiki. It’s such a wonderful treasure trove of knowledge when it comes to genealogy research

Let’s talk about the most exciting and the newest record collection, which is the 1950 census. When it was released by the National Archives did you get all the images? Does that mean instantaneous publication on familysearch.org? How did that work initially?

Jim: Well, 10 years ago, in 2012, when they released the 1940 census, we were actually waiting at the National Archives with a van and hard drives. We had to transfer all the data onto hard drives and take them to our data facility in Virginia.

This time, everything was available online. Everything was downloaded and uploaded to our servers immediately. There was high demand. So that was one of the challenges that we faced was making sure that we’re going to be able to download those images, over 6 million images is a lot of images to be able to download. And those images include records for 151 million people. So that’s a lot of information at high quality, resolution. So that was actually the first hurdle.

And since we are doing this project with Ancestry, we also have to wait for Ancestry to do the same thing and download the images, to be able to process them to create their computerized index with their own handwriting recognition technology that then comes to us. It makes it so much easier to review an index as opposed to starting with transcription from scratch. So, there are so many innovations that have taken place. But from the National Archives, the online delivery of images was one of those innovations.

Lisa: How fantastic to be able to do that online. I can imagine that speeding it up. And then you’ve got artificial intelligence, which is already impacting how we use genealogy websites, how we access digitized books, and here you are using it to help index the records.

(7:28)
I’d love to know kind of a comparison between the speed at which you indexed the 1940 census which I thought was pretty darn quick to how that looks for 1950.

Jim: There is a great question, and we’re still learning how this is going to play out with the 1950 census.

The history of census indexing by FamilySearch

(7:54)
One of the first projects that we did as FamilySearch when we were publishing, CD ROMs was the 1880 census. The 1880 census took us more than a decade to press on to CD ROM. It was a huge project! It was crowd sourced, but before the advent of the internet. It was sending packets and physical papers around and then gathering them and then creating a CD ROM.

We went from a project like that, to doing the 1940 census just over a decade later in a matter of about six months. So already the technology was just astounding because of what you’re able to do because of the internet. Now you have the artificial intelligence, the handwriting, character recognition, and then you have innovations that we’re doing with the crowdsourcing. And all of a sudden, you’re able to take those tasks that we’re all human, I guess bounded by human capabilities, and you’re now allowing the computer to do what the computer can do.

With the 1950 census, we are actually indexing or reviewing this automated index for every single field that was captured in the 1950 census. It’s way more data than we were dealing with for the 1940 census. Because of the cost and the time, we just wanted to make sure that we just had the most logically relevant fields captured, so occupation, and some of those fields were seen as extra fields. But for 1950, we recognize that we can do a lot more in terms of the experiences that we can provide and that these other entities can provide if we have a full index, so that’s one of the big innovations. It’s going really well.

When will the 1950 census index be complete?

(10:08)
We have a goal to get it all done by Flag Day, so that’s June 14. That will be about two months from when we really got the project going and up to speed. That just depends on how many people come and participate.

There’s more than one way to participate. We feel like we have a lot of options, and it’s more accessible than it’s ever been because of how recent (the 1950 census) is. Recognizing handwriting from 1950s is not that different from recognizing handwriting from a week ago. Things haven’t changed that dramatically. And so, it’s a really accessible experience. And these are people that everybody knows. It’s kind of fun to come in and see what you can find in those areas where your family is from.

Innovations in the 1950 Census Index

(11:07) 
Lisa: Exactly. You said something which I hope everybody really appreciates, which is that you indexing every field. I mean, you must have gotten excited when you heard that was really going to be possible. It’s a game changer because now you can slice and dice data in so many ways. You can look up everybody who worked on the railroad or whatever the fields are that were filled out. What do you think the impact will be of that? Will that change anything about genealogy research?

Jim: Yes, it will. And not just genealogical research but also understanding the makeup of our country in 1950. And really understanding the history of our nation because that is part of your family history is enabled by capturing those additional fields. Being able to see differences in income, differences in occupation from region to region, being able to easily see, neighborhoods.

The address for the 1950 census is similar to the 1940 census in that it’s a vertical capture down the side of the forms. So that is something that just allows people to see what’s there today, if their house is still there. These are experiences that that we’ve dreamed of but without the index it is impossible to provide that sort of an experience. And so now with the commercial entities and what we’re trying to do, you’re going to have a lot of different experiences now that are unlocked and available because of these innovations. And especially with Ancestry’s (technology) it has enabled us to do this.

Is the 1950 census available for free?

(13:06)
Lisa: Since you’re partnering together, is it available at Ancestry for free as well as for FamilySearch?

Jim: Ancestry will make their own businesses decisions. But yes, initially, it’ll be available for free. They’ve opened up the 1940 census recently, and that’s been available for free. I don’t know what all their future plans are. It allows them a lot of flexibility on how to do that. Of course, we make everything we can available for free at FamilySearch.

Again, there’s going to be a lot of different experiences that are available around this record set. So, it’s exciting going all the way back to how the National Archives made it available. It’s really democratizing the records. I think their goal is to just make it accessible to as many people as possible. And then it’s these other organizations that have a vision for what they can do with those records.

Lisa: Yes, and you guys certainly had the vision around the indexing project. That’s something that is such a skill that you’ve all developed and really fine-tuned. You’ve been able to crowdsource so much of what then becomes available to everybody.

Tell folks how they can get involved in it. And I’m really interested in some of the changes. I was very excited to hear that people will be able to have, in a way a more personal indexing experience. Tell folks about that.

Jim: Something that everybody wants to do when they come in and volunteer and get involved in a project is to find their own family. That will be expedited. When the index is published and available, after it’s been reviewed, everybody’s going to have that wonderful experience. But even on the review side, we’ve made it so people can search for a specific location down to the county level, or, in some cases down to the city level. Then you can actually search for a surname, or last name within that location. Now, if your family hasn’t already been reviewed, you’ll be able to review it if it hasn’t been reviewed. That just means that it’s going to be published sooner, because progress has already been made. And then you can come back and review it.

How to make corrections to the 1950 census index

(15:42) If for some reason, the person who reviewed it did it wrong, you can still make corrections. We do corrections on FamilySearch. Ancestry does corrections on Ancestry. And we are sharing whatever corrections are made on FamilySearch with Ancestry so they can get the benefit of any corrections that are made on our website as well. So that’s terrific.

For the 1940 census we had 163,000 people come and help and get involved. And with how easy it is for 1950, we think that we’ll have well over 200,000 people who will come and want to review these names.

How to volunteer to index the 1950 census

(16:30) If you want to get involved, there are a couple different places you can go. But the easiest place to remember is familysearch.org/1950census. And on that page, there’s a lot of information. Near the top of the page there’s a big link to join the project and to come over and participate.

The project is ongoing. All the states are there, some have already been published. Come and get involved and see what you can do. It’s going very quickly, and people are really enjoying it. We’re glad that it’s along as quickly as it is.

Lisa: Volunteers can do this from home from their computer. Is there a certain minimum commitment that they have to make or a certain minimum amount of technological ability?

Jim: No. This is again one of the things that’s kind of fun. I mentioned that briefly before there’s actually more than one experience or a way to participate.

Household Review

(17:42) The standard way that most people who’ve done it before want to participate is what we call the Household Review. With the household review we try to identify from the head of the house, all the members of the household or the family to the next head of the house. That can sometimes cross pages on the census forms. That is an every field review. You can review as many of those fields as you want. And then the next person can come and pick up where you left off. So that’s really fun. It does require you to be on a computer.

Name Review

(18:27) There are two other types of tasks. One doesn’t require you to be on a computer. You can be on your handheld device, your smartphone. It is what we call Name Review. So, instead of reviewing all of the fields, you can download our app called Get involved. FamilySearch Get Involved is available on the iTunes Store or the Apple Store, as well as from Google, the Android store. You can download the app and you can just start looking at the images where we have the names of the people in the census. Then you can compare that with what the computer thinks it is. You can either say yes, that’s right or no, and you can actually enhance or fix what the name is. You can do hundreds of these in an hour. I’ve done it, and it’s a fun activity. It’s really engaging if you like seeing that you’re making a difference in terms of volume. It’s a really fun way to participate.

Again, the computer doesn’t always get it right. So, you have to be really careful in the review process. But it’s super easy to just look at the image and look at the index value for the name and just make sure it’s right. You don’t have to have the app though.

Header Review

(20:00) So, there’s the Household Review or the Name Review. And then the other task is the Header Review.

every census image, every census ledger, has a header that includes all of the location information and the information about the enumeration itself. And reviewing that is a separate task. We broke that one out because again, the data is formatted differently. If you want to go in and help us, those have to be done as well to be able to publish the dataset. We invite you to come in and see what states still have the header review available, and you can help us finish out that as well. It’s not as exciting because it doesn’t include the names of the people. But it still has to be done to be able to publish the reviewed index.

Lisa: I hadn’t thought about the header, but that’s pretty important. If that’s not right, then we get way off track pretty quickly. It includes our enumeration district number, the county, etc. That makes a lot of sense.

Well, Jim, it sounds like you guys have really been innovating over at FamilySearch. We’re grateful. We’re grateful that you’re giving everybody watching an opportunity to also give back a little bit and we can all pull together and get this done by Flag Day.

Volunteer to help index the 1950 US census at familysearch.org/ 1950 census.

Thank you so much. And I sure hope we’ll talk again even before the 1960 census!

Jim: I hope so! Thank you, Lisa. It’s been a pleasure to be with you today.

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

Learn more about becoming a Genealogy Gems Premium Member. 

 
More videos and articles by Lisa Louise Cooke on the 1950 Census:
1950 U.S. Census Maps (How to find and use them)

Genealogy Blogging Tips: Dictation App and More

Are you ready to start a genealogy blog (or improve one you already write)? Here’s a quick Q&A for you, prompted by questions by Genealogy Gems Genealogy BlogsPremium member Kevin:

Q: “I am ready to start writing a blog but my typing is slow. Is there a dictation app (iOS) or software (Windows) that I could use to dictate my first drafts of my blog posts?

A: If you go to www.genealogygems.com and scroll down and enter “Dragon software” into the Amazon box and click “Go” it will pull up a great dictation program that might be just what you are looking for. (Using our Amazon box supports the free podcast – thank you!)

Q: Which blog site do you use and why did you select it?

A: I use Word Press for my website and blog. They have a free version at wordpress.com.  Google also has Blogger which is free. I have a free series of videos on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel about how to set it up. They are a few years old, but will give you the basic idea.

Q: Do you compose your blog posts directly on your site or do you type them in Word or some other word processing program then cut and paste them into your blog?

A: It’s best to compose them directly into a new post on Word Press or Blogger. Cutting and pasting out of Word will likely carry over unwanted formatting which can cause headaches.

 

Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.

Ready to get inspired and tutored on genealogy blogging? Check out my FREE podcast series on how to start a genealogy blog. Click here to reach my Family History Made Easy podcast landing page, then start with episode 38 and continue through episode 42. You’ll learn step-by-step how-tos and you’ll be introduced to some inspiring blogs that WORK. We often hear about success stories from listeners who started a blog after hearing these episodes. (We’d love to hear YOUR success story, too!)

Black Friday Specials: Genealogy Gift Ideas Galore!

This year I’m offering three great Holiday Bundles, available for 4 days only–through Cyber Monday (12/2/2013). Check out these extra-special genealogy gift ideas–for yourself,  a loved one, or as separate gifts for more loved ones.

ebook bundle
The eBook Bundle. Get a copy of each of my books in e-book format: How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersTurn Your iPad into a Genealogy PowerhouseThe Genealogist’s Google Toolbox and Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies.
Bundle price of $29.95
Over 40% off the retail price of $50.80!

 

books

The Print Book Bundle. Prefer print? Get all 4 of my books in paperback instead of ebook format: How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersTurn Your iPad into a Genealogy PowerhouseThe Genealogist’s Google Toolbox and Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies.
Bundle Price: $49.95
Over 40% off the retail price of $84.80!

 

Bonus EBookPremium + NEW EXCLUSIVE BONUS EBOOK!
GG Premium MembershipWhether you are subscribing for the first time or want to add an extra year
to your existing Genealogy Gems Membership, this is the sale for you!

Premium members get so much more than most people realize!
The 1 year subscription provides access to:

  • Over 100 exclusive Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episodes!
  • Over a dozen of my most popular classes on video!
  • The brand new video mini series: Get Started with Evernote!
  • Genealogy Gems Newsletter Archive full of tips!

A bargain at $29.95. But this special also gives you a special FREE BONUS Gift: Lisa Louise Cooke’s 67 Best Tips, Tricks and Tools from Family Tree Magazine ebook (Retail value: $15.97)

Are you currently a Member? You can still take advantage of this offer – the extra year will be added to the end of your current membership, extending your expiration date by one year. You won’t miss a day’s worth!

This EXCLUSIVE  ebook is a compilation of Lisa’s most popular articles from the pages of Family Tree Magazine. It’s 23 pages filled with innovative, usable ideas to help your research:

  • Family History Freebies – 41 Genealogy Goodies
  • On Assignment – How to conduct an effective family interview
  • Undercover Genealogy–  10 investigative strategies to locate living relatives
  • Using the David Rumsey Map Collection – How to access over 45,000 free digitized maps!
  • Finding Newspapers Through Journalism’s Voyage West – A step-by-step guide.
  • Organizing Your Hard Drive – Seven steps to organizing your computer files.

Happy shopping! And don’t delay – this sale ends on Cyber Monday December 2, 2013 at midnight PST.

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

 

A Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey RecipeIn honor of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman, and her book This Victorian Life, we are publishing a number of Victorian inspired delectable recipes and other sumptuous ideas. This Victorian Thanksgiving turkey recipe celebrates how the holiday came into its own during the Victorian era, complete with a rich, moist roast turkey at the center of the table.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the U.S. in 1863, during the Civil War. Over the next few decades, festive cooks dressed up the Thanksgiving turkey with whatever flavors were available to them in season, such as chestnuts, sausage, dried cranberries or other fruits and even oysters!

This recipe for roast turkey with chestnut stuffing is edited slightly from the Fannie Farmer 1896 Cookbook, which you can read on Google Books (click here for more Google Books search tips). We’ve tweaked the wording slightly, separated the instructions into numbered steps and added the modern ingredient list to make it an easier read for the modern cook.

Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing and Gravy

fannie-farmer-1896-cookbookRoast Turkey

Ingredients:
10-pound turkey
Salt
1/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups boiling water, divided
Parsley or celery tips (for garnish)

1. Dress, clean, stuff and truss a ten-pound turkey. (See quick how-to video tutorial below.) Place on its side on rack in a dripping-pan.

2. Rub entire surface with salt, and spread breast, legs, and wings with 1/3 cup butter, rubbed until creamy and mixed with flour.
3. Place in a hot oven, and when flour on turkey begins to brown, reduce heat, baste with fat in pan, and add boiling water.
4. Continue basting every 15 minutes until turkey is cooked, which will require about 3 hours. For basting, use 1/2 cup butter buy medication in turkey melted in 1/2 cup boiling water, and after this is used, baste with fat in pan.
5. During cooking turn turkey frequently, that it may brown evenly. If turkey is browning too fast, cover with buttered paper [aluminum foil] to prevent burning.
6. Remove strings and skewers before serving. Garnish with parsley or celery tips.

Chestnut Stuffing

chestnutsIngredients:
3 cups French chestnuts
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup cream
1 cup cracker crumbs

1. Shell and blanch chestnuts.
2. Cook in boiling salted water until soft.
3. Drain and mash, using a potato ricer [masher].
4. Add 1/2 the butter, salt, pepper and cream.
5. Melt remaining butter, mix with cracker crumbs, then combine mixtures.

Gravy

Ingredients:
Turkey drippings
6 Tbsp flour
3 cups turkey stock
salt and pepper to taste
optional: finely-chopped giblets or 3/4 cup cooked and mashed chestnuts

1. Pour off liquid in pan in which turkey has been roasted.
2. From liquid, skim off 6 Tbsp fat. Return to pan and brown with flour.
3. Gradually add stock, in which the giblets, neck and tips of wings have been cooked, or use liquor [liquid] left in pan.
4. Cook 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper; and strain.
5. For giblet gravy, add to the above giblets (heart, liver, and gizzard) finely chopped. For chestnut gravy, add chestnuts to 2 cups thin turkey gravy.

this-victorian-lifeWatch this blog (or follow us on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page, Pinterest or Instagram) in the coming weeks! Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman (This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in 19th-Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion and Technologies) will be serving up a series of her favorite mouthwatering Victorian-era recipes in celebration of her coming Book Club interviews on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in December.

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 232

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 232

with Lisa Louise Cooke
August 2019

Listen now, click player below:

Download the episode (mp3)

Download the Show Notes PDF in the Genealogy Gems Podcast app. 

Please take our quick podcast survey which will take less than 1 minute.  Thank you!

 

 

In this episode:

  • Exploring what you can do to go deeper in your genealogy research for a more accurate family tree with Elissa Scalise Powell
  • Irish genealogy podcaster Lorna Moloney, a professional genealogist with Merriman Research, discusses Irish genealogy.

 

Mailbox

Marcia Finds Treasure on eBay

“I recently remembered your idea of searching for family related things on eBay.

My grandfather and his brother both worked as agents for the Wrought Iron Range Co. of St. Louis. They sold excellent quality wrought iron stoves and my great uncle did very well there as a supervisor.

I did a search for the Wrought Iron Range Co on eBay and immediately pulled up a history of the company, an advertisement for the range and a metal they gave away. I bought them all!

However, the best goodie which I am still bidding on is a “salesman’s sample Wrought Iron Range stove about 12 inches tall and 14 inches long in color and with all working parts.

Crescent Stove (Photo: The stove Lisa inherited from her grandmother.)

I may not win the bid, but I am thrilled with what I found.

This will bring my grandfather’s occupation to life for my great nephews!!!!”

More eBay Research Strategies on Genealogy Gems:

 

Steve Shares a New German Translation Resource

“I came across a new site that you might like to inform your listeners about. It is very new and just getting started, so I know they would appreciate a mention.

The name of this new site is “German Letters in Letters”  [germanletters.org]. What they are doing is trying to collect letters written between German immigrants to the US and their relatives back home in Germany.

You can very easily submit scanned copies of any letters you have and the really neat thing is that they will post them at their site. Once they post them, they are asking for translations by any volunteers. So, this is an excellent way to have any letters in your possession to be translated….. for FREE!

I was given about 30 letters written to my GG grandfather, Johann Bernard Husam, who immigrated to Adams Co., Illinois about 1855.

They are from his siblings, nieces, and a nephew back in Germany. They range from 1866 to the early 1900s.

I scanned them and they are now on this site. I was given these letters by great granddaughter-in-law [my aunt] who spoke German as she had grown up in the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia. She had escaped Czechoslovakia at the end of WWII before the Russians invaded. She, thankfully, had translated all of the letters.”

Resource:

Learn more about German research from these articles at Genealogy Gems.

What Ann Likes About the Podcast

Hi, Lisa, I’d love to say that your podcast has helped me with a genealogy brick wall but at this point I’m only a “drop-in genealogist,” figuring that I’m the only one in the family interested at this time (working on one grandson though, because I think he’d be a real asset) in finding and preserving family stories.

I do research in fits and starts. But, I do love your podcasts. I’m catching up on back episodes now and recently listened to one that started with you describing a granddaughter’s first Christmas coming up.

It reminded me of one of the best things about your podcasts – it’s like you’re sitting in my living room with me, having a cup of tea, discussing your stories and tips and tricks to help with mine.

Thank you so much for all the information, and for your casual, personal, yet professional style!”

Kristine is No Longer a “Cooke-Cutter” Researcher

“I just retired and guess what is first on my list of things I WANT to do? 🙂  I jumped in with both feet listening to your Premium podcasts and realized a few times that I am the ‘cookie-cutter’ researcher.  But, no more. You are the Captain of my ship now. Thank you!

After binging on your podcasts the last two weeks, the first bit of advice I took was changing the way I searched on Newspapers.com. My family’s everyday life’s treasures were buried in the pages of the local news! You made me take a second look after I dismissed the possibility of ever reading about them. 

Thank you so much for your dedicated work on behalf of all the genealogists. My Premium subscription will NEVER run out.  When a family member says “I don’t know what to get you” I’m prepared to solve that dilemma!

Warm regards,
A listener for life”

Resource:

3 powerful newspaper tipsRead Lisa’s article called A Shocking Family Secret and 3 Powerful Newspaper Search Tips

 

This podcast is sponsored by:

MyHeritage

GEM: Overcoming Shallow Research with Elissa Scalise Powell

About today’s guest:

Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, is co-director of the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP); past-president of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, and 2017 She won the Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Achievement Award. She is a Certified Genealogist®, and Certified Genealogical LecturerSM. You can reach Elissa at Elissa@PowellGenealogy.com. (Thank you to Elissa for contributing notes for this episode.)

Elissa Scalise Powell

 

The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS)

The Genealogical Proof Standard was created to help genealogists gain confidence in their research conclusions by providing criteria that can be followed. A genealogical conclusion is considered proved when it meets all five GPS components.

 

The 5 Components of the GPS

  1. Reasonably exhaustive research – This type of research emphasizes original records that provide the information for all evidence that might answer a genealogist’s question about an identity, relationship, event, or situation
  2. Complete, accurate citations to the source or sources of each information item contributing—directly, indirectly, or negatively—to answers about that identity, relationship, event, or situation
  3. Tests—through processes of analysis and correlation—of all sources, information items, and evidence contributing to an answer to a genealogical question or problem
  4. Resolution of conflicts among evidence items pertaining to the proposed answer
  5. A soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion based on the strongest available evidence

Resource

The book Genealogy Standards by the Board for Certification of Genealogists provides a standard by which all genealogists can pattern their work.

GPS book

 

 

 

 

 

About Sources

Some sources are considered “Low-hanging fruit.” They can be described as:

  • straightforward research
  • easily accessible
  • record type is easily understood
  • document states the fact desired

Many times, genealogists will need to stretch and reach for harder to find sources. These types of sources are:

  • not straightforward
  • possibly unknown to you at this time
  • not easily accessible
  • time-consuming to explore
  • take study to understand it
  • not self-explanatory

 

Elise’s Examples of the Pitfalls of Shallow Research

  • Believing that family stories have been accurately passed down in all details.
  • Believing that official documents are always correct.
  • Believing that published records, especially transcriptions or abstracts, are faithful representations of the original.
  • Premature conclusions can come back to haunt us.
  • Disregarding ill-fitting evidence can create brick walls.
  • Careless citation practices do not give us the tools we need for analysis.
  • Researching and understanding historical context is crucial to solving problems.
  • Barriers requiring expertise beyond our own should not hamper the research process.
  • Assuming there is only one record and suspending research when the first one is found.
  • Assuming that details are unimportant, or not noticing them at all.

 

Elissa also points out that when we do shallow research, we can actually do more harm than good. Shallow genealogical research:

  • Doesn’t allow our ancestors to reveal themselves or their reasons for actions
  • Puts them in the wrong time and place
  • Can create wrong kinship ties
  • Misleads future researchers
  • Causes brick walls
  • Wastes our time
  • Does a disservice to our current family and descendants

 

GEM: Irish Genealogy with Lorna Moloney of Merriman Research

While speaking at THE Genealogy Show conference in Birmingham England in June of this year I got a chance to sat down for the first time with Lorna Moloney host of The Genealogy Radio show which is produced at Raidio Corcabaiscinn. It airs live on Thursday at 4p.m. and is podcast (click here for episodes). Lorna runs Merriman Research which is dedicated to bringing educational solutions and resources to a wide audience.

Lorna’s website: www.traceyouririshroots.com

lisa and lorna

Photo: Lisa and Lorna at THE Genealogy Show in Birmingham, England in 2019. 

 

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