Tag Archives: narrative lineage

Would We All Be Better Genealogists if We Just Got Rid of Trees? Wisdom Wednesday

Oh, I’m serious.  Think of a world where you do genealogy without every creating a family tree.

No tree on Ancestry.com or in Family Tree Maker or whatever your most beloved software or online source is.  Nope.  Never.

Trees are Boring.

Have you ever tried showing a family tree to someone in your family?  What was the reaction?  Was it “this is awesome” or was it “uh, huh.”    The names are meaningless unless you know them.  People like pictures.  People like stories.  There are no visible stories in a family tree.  And the pictures are usually teeny tiny.

Trees are boring

Trees are boring

Everybody else’s trees are full of nonsense/garbage/errors

“If only everyone kept a tree like mine!”  HA! (Not mine personally.  I have tons of stuff to clean up. 🙂 ) The amount of time that gets wasted by those of us in the genealogy community worrying about everybody else’s trees and how many errors and what not are in them, well, we’d get a lot more genealogy done if we weren’t doing that.  And seriously, why do we care?  Just because someone puts a mistake in a tree doesn’t mean you have to believe it.  Or put it in your own tree.  And your ancestor’s are still your ancestors.  And the facts of their lives are still the facts of their lives.  Bad trees don’t change that.

Trees are really just a handy place to hang a record or image

We have no idea why anyone puts any given fact in a tree.  They might attach a record.  But you still have to go look at it and guess that person’s thoughts.  I’d rather not. I’m guessing 99.9999% of all trees do not have attached proof summaries and discussions of why they are entering the data they are entering.  Attached sources are just documents.  They may or may not be evidence of some question that we don’t know.

It’s all about the story.  The emotion.  The picture.

Have you every picked up an interesting lineage? Or some summary of a person or families life and been totally caught up in it?  Made that emotional connection?  Got the chills from a picture?  Because that is what we are after.  Right?  Telling the story.  Making people come back to life.  Honoring those that came before us.  Boxes with lines and a name and a birth date don’t do that.

What if, instead of building trees, we wrote lineages or stories? 

Back away from the tree.  Pick your favorite ancestral couple, and document their life and family.  Include sources and narratives.  And then start working back.  I bet you think it through a whole lot more.   I bet you avoid silly errors and have a better understanding of the people.

Then go show that to someone.  Will you get a “this is awesome” or an “uh, huh” ?

I have come to the point where I truly believe that a tree is not the end goal.  It’s  a  “paint by numbers” genealogy tool if you will.  I want something more than that for my ancestors.

What is that one best piece of evidence that you have? Wisdom Wednesday

So why would you need to write a summary of the basic vital facts about a person?

Case in point, Laura Cecile Donald Gillespie:

Wyatt Paul Gillespie and Laura Cecile Donald ca. 1894. I suspect that this is their wedding photo.

Wyatt Paul Gillespie and Laura Cecile Donald ca. 1894. I suspect that this is their wedding photo.

Laura Cecile Donald was born on 13 February 1877 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, and died 23 August 1864 in Rockbridge County, Virginia.1 On 24 January, 1894 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, Laura married Wyatt Paul Gillespie.2 He was born 15 July 1865 in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Jeremiah and Mary (Gillespie) Gillespie,3 and died on 19 February 1941 in Rockbridge County, Virginia.4   Laura and Wyatt are buried in Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery. 5

Genealogy is about defining kinship and identity. Birth, marriage, death all are critical in defining both.  Getting the evidence correct is critical.  So let’s look at what I have:
Birth
I have a tombstone.  Now that may be all you ever have, but for someone who was born in 1877 in Virginia, you should have a birth record or a line in a birth register. This will also most likely tell me who her parents are.  So more work to be done.
Marriage
I have a certificate from Virginia that has the information recorded on Wyatt and Laura’s marriage record.  This is probably sufficient, but it is a not the original.  I do believe that I have a digital copy of the record somewhere.  This is one of those times where horrible organization comes to bite you big.  The marriage record documents Wyatt’s parents as well and his birth date.

Death

I have a tombstone.  This is not bad.  But a will (or wills), or obituaries might really be a better source.  The date originially on Wyatt’s tombstone for his death was wrong.  My uncle had it fixed.
Gravestone of Wyatt Paul Gillespie and Laura Donald Gillespie; Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, Lexington, Virginia

Gravestone of Wyatt Paul Gillespie and Laura Donald Gillespie; Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, Lexington, Virginia

All this is in my tree. But this is actually a great tool, for examining what you have and determining what you need.  And for anyone reading it, it lets them know how deep you have gone.  I have some work to do. 🙂
Footnotes
[1] Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery (Rockbridge County, Virginia), Wyatt Paul and Laura Donald Gillespie Tombstone; photographed by Anne Gillespie Mitchell, 1 August 2010.
[2] Virginia, Virginia Department of Health, Certification of Vital Records, Marriage Certificate, Wyatt Paul Gillespie, Laura Cecil Donald, 24 Jan 1894, Rockbridge, Virginia; Department of Health – Division of Vital Records, Richmond, Virginia. (Is this citation right?)
[3] Virginia, Virginia Department of Health, Certification of Vital Records, Marriage Certificate, Wyatt Paul Gillespie, Laura Cecil Donald, 24 Jan 1894, Rockbridge, Virginia; Department of Health – Division of Vital Records, Richmond, Virginia. (What is the short version of this?)
[4] Stonewall Jackson Cemetery (Rockbridge Co., Virginia), Wyatt Paul tombstone.
[5] Stonewall Jackson Cemetery (Rockbridge Co., Virginia), Wyatt Paul tombstone.

Let’s Practice Our Narrative Lineage’s! Motivation Monday

I’m currently working on being a Certified Genealogist (CG).  There are 7 parts, and the one I’m currently working on is the KDP or Kinship Determination Project.  I can’t publish my work as I go along, but I thought if I did a parallel project and published the process it might help me figure out issues with the one I will turn in.

A KDP can be a narrative lineage (the simplest one!) that traces three generations and has at least two proof statements of parentage as well as a narration of the couple’s lives.

I’m going to being with my great grandmother, Laura Cecile Donald Gillespie.

Granny Laura and her Dog, about 1950.  Granny was 73 years old.  This looks like it was taken at 108 Houston Street, Lexington, Virginia.

Granny Laura and her Dog, about 1950. Granny was 73 years old. This looks like it was taken at 108 Houston Street, Lexington, Virginia.

Laura was the youngest living child of James and Elizabeth (Wallace) Donald.  She was born in 1877 and lived 87 years.

I’m going to use the format that Connie Leizen, CGSM  did in her paper:  The Maternal Line of Elizabeth (Niesz) TitusYou can find other samples of BCG’s page Sample Work Product

For certification, you need to trace three couples, and you need to include at least:

  1. Intro
  2. General Vital Summary
  3. Proof/Discussion of Parentage
  4. Children
  5. Narrative of Life

Today, let’s look at the General Vital Summary.  (There has to be a better name than this, I’m sure.)

1.Laura Cecile Donald was born on 13 February 1877 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, and died 23 August 1864 in Rockbridge County, Virginia.1 On 24 January, 1894 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, Laura married Wyatt Paul Gillespie.2 He was born 15 July 1865 in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Jeremiah and Mary (Gillespie) Gillespie,3 and died on 19 February 1941 in Rockbridge County, Virginia.4   Laura and Wyatt are buried in Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery. 5

So for any person you describe you need to know AND document:

  1. Name (full name)
  2. Birth date and place
  3. Death date and place (burial place if you have it)
  4. Marriage place, date and spouse’s name.
  5. Spouse’s birth date, parents and death date.

Now I know I have better documentation on some of these facts.  I have to go find it.  Oh yes, we are digging back into them early genealogy days of bad organization and documentation.

Now these posts are not meant to be definitive answers on what the pieces of a narrative lineage is, but instead and opportunity to allow me to work through the pieces.  If you have thoughts, comments or questions, I’d be glad to hear them.


[1] Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery (Rockbridge County, Virginia), Wyatt Paul and Laura Donald Gillespie Tombstone; photographed by Anne Gillespie Mitchell, 1 August 2010.
[2] Virginia, Virginia Department of Health, Certification of Vital Records, Marriage Certificate, Wyatt Paul Gillespie, Laura Cecil Donald, 24 Jan 1894, Rockbridge, Virginia; Department of Health – Division of Vital Records, Richmond, Virginia. (Is this citation right?)
[3] Virginia, Virginia Department of Health, Certification of Vital Records, Marriage Certificate, Wyatt Paul Gillespie, Laura Cecil Donald, 24 Jan 1894, Rockbridge, Virginia; Department of Health – Division of Vital Records, Richmond, Virginia. (What is the short version of this?)
[4] Stonewall Jackson Cemetery (Rockbridge Co., Virginia), Wyatt Paul tombstone.
[5] Stonewall Jackson Cemetery (Rockbridge Co., Virginia), Wyatt Paul tombstone.

Motivation Monday — I’m On The Clock!

While I was at FGS 2012 in Birmingham, Alabama I took the plunge and started my CG clock.  I was being nudged.  Mark Lowe said something about steel toed boots! I  had been considering doing this since I graduated from my BU course and the time seemed right.  I’m also doing this with 3 friends….a little encouragement along the way should be a good thing.

So I have a year to complete the following tasks:

  1. Sign an ethics statement.  This seems like a reasonable thing to do. 🙂
  2. Write a resume from a genealogical point of view.  I can do that.
  3. Do a transcription, abstraction, and research plan for a document selected by BCG.   I can do this, I’ve done in class and I get the idea.
  4. Same as #3 but for a document of my choosing.  I’ve got an awesome chancery case.
  5. Client Report.  Needs to be meat enough to show off my skills.  And given that I’ve never had a paying client, it has to be pro bono work.  If you’ve got a big southern problem, let me know.
  6. Conflicting or Indirect Evidence.  I know how to write a proof, the trick on this one will be selecting something that is complex enough to show off my skills.
  7. Narrative lineage.  I’ve picked 3 couples from my tree and I’m looking forward to this one.

After listening to many current CGs talk, I’m looking at this next year as not a OMG I have to prove myself, but a really good learning experience.    This is not about being the most brilliant genealogist but about proving to myself I understand the process and how records are used to illustrate the lives of our ancestors.

Oh, and reading instructions.   Critical for every application!

I am really excited.