Tag Archives: cluster genealogy

Using Your Citations to Reveal Clusters In The US Census.

Citations are an art and there is usually more than one way to correctly write one.  And given that I am obsessed with discovering clusters in my genealogy I took a good long look at how I could write my citations in the U.S. Census to maybe reveal some new information.

Now, we all know, or we should all know, that the census taker doesn’t take the exact same route ever decade.  We also know that just because two households are next to each other that they may or may not be next to each other in actuality.  But reviewing who lived next to who or in the same area gives you some clues.

I write my 1850 census citation as such:

1850 U.S. census, Cleveland County, North Carolina, population schedule, dwelling 1098, family 1098, James Hambright; farmer, $700 real estate.Age: 58; farmer, $700 real estate

I don’t write down where I found the census or when because you can find them in multiple places and that information is just not that interesting to me.  With the county, state, dwelling, family and name, I should be able to find it again.

When I look at the census citations for James in my Family Tree Maker listings, I see:

I can look at the ages, are they consistent? How did his real estate and personal value change?  James increased his real estate from $700 to $3000 in 10 years.  Did he inherit land or was he industrious?  Also the decline from $3050 to $300 in personal value from 1860 to 1870 may mean that he owned slaves.

Now I go an look at the 1850 source listings:

I can look at who else I have in my database that  lives around him.  Is richer or poorer than his neighbors?  Any known relatives?  But I am pretty spotty in Cleveland County in 1850.  Since I’m currently working on a cluster in York County, I have a much more solid view of people living in the same area:

I started with my Maritin’s who are dwellings 90 through 94 and then started pulling census records for everyone around them.  I pad the dwelling and family numbers with 0 (zeros) so that they line up nicely.  I notice that Thomas Martin, the father of the other Martins, owns real estate, and the rest don’t. Other records suggest they live on his property, and that they all inherit the land upon his death.  About half the names listed owned no real estate and are listed as laborers.  Want to bet they worked for the farmers listed here?  I also have a good idea of what land records to look at to lay out this neighborhood.

You might also notice that I included an image number for these citations. I don’t usually do that.  But in York county, there are duplicate dwelling/family numbers and the page numbers are duplicates as well.  I was getting confused, so I put it this way in the citation so that I could see who lived near who.  You’ll notice that I’m missing age in these and I occasionally miss occupation and what is owned.  I have also opted not to put in who can read, etc.  Though it might be an interesting thing to add.  Or names in the household.

It’s up to you.  What is relevant and makes it interesting to you.

I’ve not figured out how to get this listing in RootsMagic and you can’t do it in online trees.  If someone knows differently,  please let me know.

And I have spend HOURS and HOURS revising my citations and working on how to write and format them to reveal a picture of  who lived near who and what the neighborhood looked like. It is not a project for the faint of heart, as it can be very time consuming. But it has helped me to gain understanding. This cluster from Lexington, Virginia in 1850 shows a neighborhood of people who were not farmers but used a different skill set:

It gives you a different view of the area your ancestor lived.

What works for you?  Don’t use your citation to just mark where you found something, use it as an organizational tool to help reveal information about your ancestor.

Every Document Is A Cluster Document: Pre 1850 Census Records

It’s easy to skip those early census records, they just have that one name, often unreadable and a lot of tick marks.  But you will find the cluster of people living in the household, likely family members.

So how do you pull the clusters of out these documents and associate names with the tick marks.

Step one: Find The Record.

I dig up every name and age I can in the census records that enumerate the families,  or any other document I can find, before I start digging into the pre 1850 census records. Obviously, the more you know, the easier the association is.  This helps me make sure  I have the correct pre 1850 census, and identify who the tick marks might be. Then I find the record and the image – my site of choice is Ancestry, obviously there are other places.Then I do a screen grab of the record.

Step Two: List The Name And Age of Everyone In The Family

Thomas Martin Sr was one of 4 Thomas  Martins living York County in 1830.  But he was the only one who was in his 70s. I then list him, his wife and his children and the ages they would have been in 1840.

Step Three: Map The Family.

Sometimes this works perfectly, and you have one tick mark for every person and you give that little sigh of contentment.  But you may be missing people, or you may have extra people.  I mark them as Unknown. Thomas and Sabra are easy to identify, but their children are much older than 2 other people listed.  Are they grandchildren? Nieces and nephews? They are in their 70s and might need help with day to day living.  That could explain someone who was between 15 and 19.  But younger than 5? Doubtful.  I will keep an eye out for people who die young and leave children who are unaccounted for.

Step Four: Map The Slaves

You don’t have names, but you map them as Unknowns.  You may find wills that list names and  ages that will help you identify people; you may find bills of sale with names and ages.  And even if it makes you uncomfortable to think about, map them anyway, you need to know the whole cluster to understand the people who lived in that household.  In this case, there are none.

Step Five: Update Your Documentation.

I add the image to the record in FTM and I make it private (unless I forget!) because I don’t want to clog up people’s search results, but you should  do what makes sense to you.  I have also just started putting the summary of what I’ve found in the citation detail for the record.

In this case it would be Thomas, btw 1751-1760; Sabra, between 1751-1760; 1 female, btw 1811-1815; 1 female btw 1826-1830; no slaves

Step Six: Attach To Everyone

This may horrify some people – if Sabra Martin isn’t listed on the document, you shouldn’t attach it.  But I’m pretty sure Sabra Martin is on the document.  It’s my best guess.  And it puts Sabra, who is believed to be born in North Carolina in 1759, in York County in 1830.  I need to know that.  If I believe that she died in 1850 and she isn’t on the 1830 and 1840 census, I need to rethink what I know.

Trees on the internet and on desktop software are not published papers with well thought out proofs.  They change often, and sometimes they are wrong. They are our best guess as to what we think at any given moment.

I personally, don’t create people labelled unknown in my tree to map out those I find and can’t identify.  But I make notations that they are there.  Especially cases like this one. They are too young to belong to Sabra — I doubt she had a child at the age of 66.  The 15-19 year old might be hers, but according to the data in Thomas’ Revolutionary War pension, not at all likely.

This is where the tree structure fails us.  We have a cluster of people living as some kind of  family unit but they don’t fit into the parent and children format.  How do we represent them?

For now, I’ve got this:

It isn’t enough to know who parents were and what someones vitals are.  We have to find ways, better than what we have, to represent how people lived together, worked together and took care of each other.


Where Do I Find The Petition Men? Start With A Cluster of Martins in the 1830 census.

I have 29 men, some I think I know, some I have no idea. The petition submitted to the SC General Assembly was written in 1834, and according to the SC Archives, these men are inhabitants of York County,  SC.  So it seems reasonable to look in York County and the census seems a likely place to start, namely 1830 and 1840.

This will not be quick, easy or exact.  But quick, easy and exact is not worth writing about. 🙂

I’m going to start in 1830 and start looking for Martins. Ancestry tells me there are 11, more than are in the petition, but given that it is a surname in my tree and there aren’t a lot of them, it seems reasonable to take a bit of a detour here and figure out who all 11 are if I can.

There are 3 Thomas Martins in the 1830 census.  Because, why not?

I start there and find six listed together; three of them are Thomas.  Scanning these census pages, I see that the entries are not semi-alphabetical, so it suggests that these men might have lived in the same general area or were at least on a path that the census taker took.  They very well might be related.  Or not.  But it is highly likely they knew each other.

I’m going to assume that each of these six men were the oldest males in the household.  Yes, I am well aware this may not be the case, but if you don’t make some assumptions you will probably get nowhere. So here are the six ordered by age:

  • Thomas Martin Sr is between 70-80, born between 1751-1760
  • Thomas Martin Jr is between 50-60, born between 1771-1780
  • John Martin is between 40-50, born between 1781-1790
  • William is between 20-30, born between 1801-1810
  • Absolom is between 20-30, born between 1801-1810
  • Thomas  Martin is between 20 to 30, born between 1801-1810

Looking at what I have on my Martins, I think I can identify who some of the men are:

The oldest Thomas is Thomas (1756-1835); the second Thomas is his son, Thomas (1778-1855); the third Thomas is the son of the second, Thomas Mart (1806-1855).

John Martin is most likely the son of the oldest Thomas, John (1784-1864).  Notice there are two John Martins in that family.  The first one died very young, and they named the next son John.  Obviously an important name to the family.

So who are William and Absolom?  Both names appear on the petition. Are they sons of the oldest Thomas and the dates are just wrong on the census?  Why is this always so messy?  Oh right, it’s genealogy!

If Your Document Has At Least Two People, Well It’s A Cluster

Yesterday, I started writing about how I have been mulling and pondering about what is in my genealogy toolkit.  And I came up lacking on tools to help me understand documents as clusters.

I was looking at a petition that some of my ancestors had signed asking the SC General Assembly not to change  the SC Constitution. By the way, that petition did not work out, the General Assembly was still all about nullification and states rights and changed the SC Constitution.

Twenty nine men signed this document.  So how do I understand who they were?  I’m going to start by relating them to one person, in this case Bird Martin, my 3rd great grandfather. Just something simple and just starting with my best guesses based on who I have in my tree:

And my first guesses to who these men are may be wrong. But I can now start to pull more evidence and wrap more thought around it.  And it’s a place to start.

Any document with at least two people in it is a cluster.  One is too lonely a cluster to consider. 🙂

Let’s take another example, a deed that includes Bird Martin and Jesse Blanton.  Neither is a primary person in this deed. Bird is a witness; Jesse has neighboring land.  But this document makes them a cluster, and Bird and Jesse are in the petition cluster so it is relevant. In 1846, John Wood sold land to Peter Sepaugh.  I’m going to start creating summary pages for deeds and the like on my blog, such as South Carolina, York County – 1846 – John Wood to Peter Sepaugh

Who are all of the people in this deed and how do they relate to Bird?

And neither of these list is verified or something that I would bet my life on.  It is a starting place for us to start learning about these people and their place in the community.

Next up, using census records to determine identity.

Mulling and Pondering My Genealogy Toolkit

South Carolina Department of Archives and History, S165015: Petitions to the General Assembly, Inhabitants of York District, Petition Against the Proposed Altering of the State Constitution, 21 Oct 1834

I was poking around on South Carolina Department of Archives and History  looking through their online digitized images, specifically looking for transcribed wills. And I discovered Petitions to the General Assembly while searching for my ancestor Bird Martin.

And I found this entry: Inhabitants of York District, Petition Against the Proposed Altering of the State Constitution.

It’s an interesting document.  South Carolina in the 1830s and 1840s was all  in an uproar about tax tariffs and this  brought on the Nullification Crisis. In 1843, South Carolina wanted to update its Constitution, specifically, Article IV to be a little bit more state centered.  (Different post, coming later to this blog.) And these gentleman disagreed with the idea  of amending the constitution.

Looking at the document, we see that the petition itself is type written.  This suggests other counties and groups may have been given this petition as well to circulate and gather signatures.  While most of the names are in different handwriting, the names of John Mooreland, all the  Martins, and Ransom Collins, who was married to a sister of the Martins, looks like  it was written the same person.

Now to be honest, this document doesn’t do much to help me fill out the family tree of Bird Martin.  No relationships are stated.  It puts Bird in a place and time, but there are other documents that do that as well. If I was looking for evidence to create an indirect proof that Bird was related to the rest of these Martins, I could use it along with other documents.  But  I have better documents for the family relationships.  Bird’s father Thomas died intestate and you know what a great source of information that is.

I really don’t learn anything I don’t already know about Bird’s family relationships.

But I can’t be done with this document.  It’s really interesting, at least to me. I went digging for the South Carolina constitution in around that time looking for the differences.  I read up on the Tariff issues that preceded this.  But what I don’t have is a way to store it.  We all have a construct to show parents and previous generations, i.e., the family tree.  And it exists in a wide variety of places: online, desktop software, and hand written forms.  We have another construct to show the family unit, which is the family group sheet.  Not as common, but it exists in multiple places.

I created a timeline, which is a great tool in looking at a person’s life.

Timeline for Martins in York County, SC

But there is more on this document.  There is a cluster of men who lived in York County, SC that believed a specific thing at a specific time.  And that tells me something about my ancestor and this cluster of men that I didn’t know.  Where is the tool or form that records cluster information?  How do I know  what information I’m supposed to collect?

I use Family Tree Maker to store my genealogy data.  And I’ve attached this document to all the men I could identify on the petition.

Creating a cluster of sorts in Family Tree Maker

Creating a cluster of sorts in Family Tree Maker

But when I’m doing cluster research or FAN research or whatever you want call it, what exactly should I be collecting?  And how should I store it so it is useful to me? And how do I use cluster data to tell the story of my ancestor?  Where are the tools  to help me put that together? And a Kinship Determination Project is a report, not a tool or set of tools to pull this together.

I feel like we are missing a few things in our genealogy toolkit.  Standards and forms that help us collect cluster data. And tools that tie it all together.  Standards, forms and tools that can be easily explained and easily replicated.  If you have forms or other tools you use to collect this information, let me know.

But I’ve been Mulling and Pondering (h/t to J Mark Lowe) for a long time.  And I’m on a mission to try and figure it out.


Yep. I’m Not Building Family Trees — I’m Building Family Graphs

A couple of days ago I published Family Tree or Family Graph and was delighted at the comments I received. Some of you knew exactly what I was talking about!  And Chris from NM and I had discovered our shared Snavely line!

So I started digging back into the Snavely line.  I’m presenting at the Family History Institute of Southwest Virginia on April 2nd and Chris got me to thinking about old unsolved problems.  And it’s always good to talk about local families at presentations.

I was trying to find the death date of Maxine Edna Wilmore Warden and came up empty.  But I did find her husband’s and his parents.  (Love those Virginia Vital records!) The name WALTERS looked very familiar.

more on family graphs01

So I dug through census, vitals, trees and some of my books. I built the Walters line back to William Walters and Mary M Powers and those names looked very familiar.

more on family graphs02

More clicking and I find William Walters and Mary M Powers, my 5th great grand parents; they are also the grandparents of Adam Boyd Snavely’s second wife and my 3rd great grandmother, Mollie E Repass.

more on family graphs03

So what does this mean?  James Warden and his wife Maxine Edna Wilmore are both great great great grand children of William Walters and Mary M Powers.  (Below, Catherine and Michael Walters are the children of William and Mary M.)

more on family graphs04

Now there were no amazing ah ha moments.  No brick walls came tumbling down.  And I still don’t know when Effie Snavely Wilmore died.  But southern research is not about researching lines.  It’s about researching communities and how they connect.  It is part of our ancestors’ stories.

I think this has to change how I look at researching people.  I’m just not sure what methods I need to change or add to my process.  But I’m pretty sure I need to adjust my thought process.  I’m not looking for people.  I’m looking for people AND where they fit into their communities.  I suspect that this will break brick walls and add more to their stories.

Stay tuned.

My Top Ten Follow Fridays

I thought I’d do a few top ten lists this final week of 2012.  Here are the top ten stories that you clicked on from my Follow Friday listings and other posts:

Blown With DNA from the Legal Genealogist

  1. Blown Away With DNA from the Legal Genealogist
  2. uencounterme – A Way to Plot Cluster Genealogy Research from Geneabloggers.com
  3. Workday Wednesday The Dispatcher from Gail Grunst Genealogy
  4. 10 Awesome Onenote Tips You Should be Using All the Time from makeusof
  5. Family Lore and Indian Princesses from Evidence Explained
  6. Five Tips for Safely Reading and Photographing Tombstones from Karen Miller Bennett
  7. Brickwall Case of Oscar F Brown from Ancestral Breezes (be sure to read all parts!)
  8. Tech Tuesday: Using Pinterest for Your Family History Photographs from Tall Tales of a Family
  9. Wedding Wednesday: Robbing the Cradle from Kathryn Smith Lockhard
  10. A True Love Story? from A Southern Sleuth

All are worth another read.