Ethics and the Genealogist

March 26, 2016

I spend the day listening to my friend Judy G. Russell, JD, CGSM, CGLSM, The Legalgenealogist. I traveled a little over 3 hours to hear her speak. Not the first time, but I wanted to hear more about the Law and our research. All great stuff.

Until …. at least until her 4th Lecture. Oh, the presentation was awesome, it was the content of “The Ethical Genealogist” was presented. Then it became uncomfortable, but it was a follow up on my blog post of yesterday about my frustration with a specific website.

[ NOTE: all of my profiles were, in fact, remove ]

I uncomfortable reaction of yesterday, IF I understood Judy’s presentation correctly, was in fact what I should do, and should have done a long time ago.

Reading the Privacy information on the website, at the time I looked at it, left me with the impression that it was a Safe Place to gather information about living children. Some of my “problem” back then was not reading the information correctly, not understanding correctly, reading more into what was presented than was actually there.

When I saw “new” questionable behavior from the website is when my alarms when off. I did look at the Frequently Asked Questions to see what I had missed or what may have changed. A bit of an eye opening read. My gut reaction was to pull this tree off of the website. BUT, there was NO Delete Button. There was an FAQ page for that very question. I’ll not point to the website, nor post a link to that question. I further read where I could delete My Profile and the Tree. Attempted that and it could NOT be done. It went so far as to generating a system alert blocking me from further action.

Listing to Judy, I think that my action was appropriate. Lesson Learned so far, READ and Understand the Policies, Terms of Service and the Frequently Asked Questions. For me, I am sure that 4 years ago, I didn’t see that I could not delete the Tree later on. Common sense should have told me, not to publish living persons profiles on line. The way I read and understood the website at the time, the living persons profile were Locked and Private. I guess I really didn’t understand what Locked meant.

Having an understanding through testing, the Ancestry Member Tree could be Marked as PRIVATE. I did that, did some searching to make sure I couldn’t be found, so my understanding of this ‘new’ website had that as my understanding of what Locked was. I was wrong.

The issue of yesterday, from what I can tell, has been resolved.


What about my settings on my Ancestry Member Trees (AMT). I do some teaching and user AMTs to help the class members who might not have a genealogy software program, to demonstrate who you can use these Online Trees for research and collaboration. Some times its easier to demonstrate using the online trees.

When I got home a little while ago, I wanted to check how I had see ALL of my 25 Online Trees (guess I have some clean up work to do there). I normally put the tree online marked as PRIVATE, and a check mark telling do not search this tree. Not looking for cousins, only using them for teaching. For the most part, they did not have children in those trees and not looking for cousins.

Of the 25, I turned 4 from Public Trees, to Private, no searching, 4 were Private, but had not turned to searching Off. They were my trees, some for testing, but some were for cousin bait, but I turned the search off. I ended up with 23 online trees, All Private, no searching.

The other two, were for DNA testing. Mine and a Cousin, whose DNA kit I manage. I left mine a Public, but turned the other one from Public to search only.

My gut reaction may be should have been to pull them all down off of the website, but I really need to think about the Privacy Settings that are available.

On the way home, I really thought about this, and really need to thing this whole Online Tree issue through and hopefully be part of The Ethical Genealogist presentation. My gut reaction is to create a trimmed down version of my online tree what would only include Names, Birth, Marriage, and Death information, stripping out all of the good stuff about my ancestors in those trees.

Is a trimmed down version of my tree enough? Can I trust the tree being Private but Searchable? Is the tree marked as Private and not searchable enough?

For DNA testing, results, and matching, is a Private, Searchable tree enough? I get very frustrated when I can not see a DNA Match Tree.

There are a number of websites that address this topic, starting on

Bottom line here, for me, is the Tension between “Cousin Bait” and the ethics of what my hobby is all about.

Frustration–OnLine Family Trees

March 25, 2016

I  have used a number of On-Line Trees as “cousin bait”, even ran a project that I have blogged about here. I continue to do that in order to collaborate with or help another person with their research. That is what this is all about.

The other day, I received an email alert from one such website, where another person on that website had uploaded a GEDCOM file, where the filename was not informative, nor the description. The alert was suggesting that the person who uploaded the GEDCOM merge that information with mine.

Now, if in one email there are 17 such suggestions, then I might or should know that person, right? I had received such notification in the past and by the Name of the person, the filename, I knew who that “cousin” is or was. This most recent one was now.

Looking at the suggested profile to accept or reject the suggested merge, I find this new profile, needs to be adopted. But wait, some one just posted that profile, suggested a merge, and that profile is orphaned? That, to me, was a RED FLAG.

Reading the may links, that the folks at the website have suggested that I read, indicate that there is NO Delete Button for a profile. I specifically am trying to remove from this website, information about my Living Cousins. As a user, the profiles are Locked, which should mean that someone else can’t see the information on that profile. The public view for the profile doesn’t show too much, but it does have names and relationships, from the way it appears to me.

My family trusted me with this project. From what I read on the Wiki when it started, this was the place to do this collaboration. The problem now is, I can’t remove these profiles, and those that my living cousins created on their living family members.

I guess one of the pieces of my problem here is that of being an early adopter using a new website. I am sure that IF I had read what I have read over the past couple of days, I would probably not have done my project using this platform. Being a Wiki platform, the content of the help pages change over time, which is how it should be.

I will not, at this point, mention the website involved, as they have a mission, and that mission probably hasn’t changed from the beginning, but how their mission is presented to us now, is probably clearer now than what it was when I started.

Lesson Learned: Think before you become an early adopter to a public, crowd sourcing genealogy website. That is going to me tough for me to remember.

QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof

March 21, 2016

QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof

Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage( : accessed 20 Mar 2015)


Have spent the past day or two, spending time NOT researching but really looking at my Citations in my Genealogy Database. This QuickLessoin is very timely for this review.

For a very long time, I learned that I really, really, don’t like the term “Source Citation”. My software uses that term on some of the labels on the screen. I can NOT use those words together. In my mind, I can’t have a Citation, without a Source, but I can of a Source without a Citation.

To me, a source without a Citation is like a couple of the books in my Genealogy Library that I haven’t look at yet.

A Citation without a Source, is that loose piece of paper in a research paper in a folder without a label. Where on earth did I get that one from.

The two terms work TOGETHER, but they are two separate items. I have a Source with Many citations. A Book (source), with many pages where I took information from are reflected in the Citation.

This lesson, for me, starts with the Source. It has in it, INFORMATION that I might want to use in my research. I have learned, that IF there is a possibility that the Information is about my research Question, I am going to start to Craft a Citation. Why do that up front, you might ask, for me is slows me down to really make me LOOK at the information that I might use.

Starting the citation process early, for me, puts me into an evaluation mode, not gathering up the pieces and getting them into my database. My first part of the evaluation is to determine what the Source is, or the Container is. A Source being a Book, it different from a Source that is an Official Document. By putting the Source into the Primary Source of a Secondary Source category, will help me down the road, especially if I run into conflicting or information items.

There is Information in the Source that I might use, but how did that information get into that Source and who provided that information.

In my evaluation of a Marriage Record, that I have in my hands, I might consider it a Primary Source. The information says that the parents of one of the individuals was born on a specific date and place. The document was signed by the party whose parent has been recorded, so that specific piece of information is NOR Primary Information, but Secondary, as the person was not there with his or her parents were born.

At this point, using this example, I have to cycle back to what was my question that made me look at the Record (Source). If my question was about a couple’s marriage, that Birth Information would be just that Information. Now, I am going to record it, but it does NOT prove when and where that parent was born.

Then I need to understand where in the marriage paperwork process that Marriage Record is. Was it a license to get married or an official return from the appropriate authority that signed the document that I am looking at. The license would be evidence that the person was going to get married, but the officially signed an returned might be proof that the person / couple did get married.

But, I know that I can’t stop there, with one piece of information, which may be proof, but I know I need other documents, difference sources to really prove the answer to my question.

If I am trying to prove that tis couple actually did get married, I would see if I could find a record for the person to preformed the marriage. In the state of New Jersey, several groups of people have the authority do perform a marriage. Being part of their normal business, the will probably had to have some record that they officiated at that marriage. A Marriage book in a Church, if it was a Church wedding, is where I would look. In the Church records that I have seen in my research, a copy of that document that I first had in my hands would be stapled on the page that was filled out, at the time of the wedding, signed by the persons present at the wedding.

Bottom line, for me in this lesson is that I would need at least two sources, containing information, that are helping be develop the evidence that proves that the person really did get married.

The Citations (more than one) for a simple Marriage Fact or Event would have to be clear enough to let someone else reading or using my  information could find the same information that I used.

The Citations would be to lead the reader back to the Sources but not to tell the story about that Sources and where in the sources might I find that information.


This image is with the Marriage Record I have on file.


This is to Marriage Applicants with information about what the person needs to do. In this case, the parish priest needs a Marriage License for the marriage, and in the State of New Jersey, they are acting on behalf of the state, so they have the authority.

At the time of the marriage, copies of this multiple copy license is stapled into the Church Records, as as the instructions say, a Pink Copy will be returned to those being married.


This is just a part of the pick piece of paper. Interesting that this License has the date and time of the application, the date and time of the license being issued, and a time when it would expire. The instructions clearly say “The copy is NOT a Certified Copy, but merely a copy for your records. If the instructions were followed, this would have been provided Post Marriage.

The top part of THE Certified copy of the marriage certificate.


Just below the above part of the one page is this. The Certificate of Marriage.


and below that the Marriage License


Did the marriage happen? Yes, but what isn’t in these images is the signature line just above the Marriage License section of this one page document. It has a Date and Signature of the “state” official. In this case a township

The Pick Copy, received at the ceremony did NOT have that signature but Certificated copy did.

This example is a 21st century document, that would probably equal to a number of documents for our ancestors.

The other copy of this multiple page form, is stapled and signed by all parties in the parish register. (sorry, no scan for that one)

There is no information on this form that would not have been secondary information.

Just because they “died young” doesn’t mean there won’t be a record

March 19, 2016

As posted earlier, I followed a “shaky leaf hint’ from an Index record to the actual Image on Family Search using the FHL film number.

What I didn’t mention specifically was that he lived only 9 Months. So, that HINT on an INDEX record lead to this death record and that was in 1874.

This baby would have a younger brother, born in May of 1880 that would have made the 1880 Federal Census.


The date of the  Census was 19 Jun 1880 and died in October of that year.

I just realized that these to records of a “died young” entries were brothers.

Lesson learned: Look for those records

From an Index to an Image

March 17, 2016

One of the things that I have been doing, is to capture a Family History Library Film Number, on the website, and add that film number to my ToDo list.

I was working on a young lad, had a Shaky Leaf hint and it was for one of these records. I wanted to test out my theory that adding the FHL Number to my ToDo list was worth the time and energy.

Bottom Line: It works.

Here is my Reference Note for the Index Entry

“Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates Index, 1803-1915”, database, Operations, Inc, ( : accessed 09 Mar 2016), entry for Henry Wilson Worthington III, death date 22 July 1875.

My ToDo list entry was:  FHL Film Number: 2026849

I went to Family Search, searched for the Film Number ONLY, and the result indicated that there WAS an image, so I entered the name, as provided in the Index, and there is was.


“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 9 March 2016), 004010252 > image 147 of 1214; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

BOTH the Index entry and the Family Search entries are in my database. The Reference Note in my program is

City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates for Henry Wilson Worthington III, date of death 22 Jul 1845,  FHL Film Number: 2026849; digital images, Family Search, ( : accessed 09 Mar 2016).

Now, the citation just under the image, is in my Citation Text, so I don’t loose that, but when put into the program, provides a good, for me, Reference Note.

With a little help from our friends

March 16, 2016

The  other night, I was finishing getting caught up on Facebook when I cam across of post card image. it was posted by Genea-Blogger Becky Jamison.  Her Blog Grace and Glory is one to follow. I have the honor and pleasure of meeting Becky and her husband Larry at Roots Tech.


Her Facebook post was about images from Kansas towns. The one that was posted was an old one. Since my Grandfather and his family were from there in the mid to late 1800’s I had to look.

Images of Kansas Towns and Cities

I just had to look. I have been focusing my research on a 5 generation file that I am working and blogging about for DearMYRLTE’s FINALLY Get Organized! project.


I had just found my Great Uncle in a census record in Manhattan, Kansas. The address was right near the Kansas State College, now University. I knew he went to school there so I followed that Bright Shiny Object (BSO) and looked around the campus, specifically the Veterinary Medicine part of the campus, because that is where he went to school.

A long night,  long story short, I sent an email to the email address on their website, asking for any information they might have on my Great Uncle.

Four hours later I received an email with a 7 page article that had been written about his life and his story. What I received was a marked up copy of the article, so I don’t have any way to cite the article, but I want to thank Colonel Dr. Howard H. Erickson, PhD for that wonderful telling of my Great Uncle’s life.

Most of the information in the article is known to me, but there were details that I didn’t know about.

I have written about Colonel Josiah Wistar Worthington before, and have tried to share what I know of his story. I have found his World War I and World War II Draft Registration cards.

As the article clearly states, my Great Uncle was not assigned to where the “War” was happening, as he joined the Army at the beginning of the war but had a comment that there must be more to come for him, and his military service. And there was.

The article also put into perspective the cost for the education at that time and place. One item, of many, said that it cost “$5.00 for a commencement fee”

There was an answer to one of those BSO questions that I have had, but didn’t have it on my ToDo list, was to understand WHY I found a Bureau of Land Management record for him when I visited the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) a couple of years ago. This article put him in the right place at the right time for my Great Uncle to go after land in 1912.


Thank you Becky for sharing that BSO.

Tech Tuesday–A Mystery in a Census Record–Update

March 10, 2016

Earlier this week I posted

Tech Tuesday – A Mystery in a Census Record

Well, I missed something else, thanks to a blog reader. Thanks Dr. Donald.


He kindly pointed out that I missed the M1 and M2 in the column. In reality that confirmed what I hope that I suggested in the earlier blog post. That HE was married before and that this was her first marriage The fact remains that she had no children and they had been married  about 1884.

Like I said in the Tuesday post, it is in the Detail. I had miss that confirming hint, for me at least.

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