Friday, March 16, 2018

Her Name Was...Anna?

Nellie May Concidine, c. 1905.
Unknown location, probably Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan.
Original privately held by Miriam Robbins,
[ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington, 2018.
(click on photo to enlarge)

Last night, I was lost in thought, looking toward my dining room wall, which I call my "Ancestor Wall," since so many of my ancestors' portraits grace it.  My eyes fell on the portrait of my adoptive great-grandmother, Nellie May (Concidine) Holst (1883 - 1953).  Nellie...hmmm.  Was her first name really Nellie, or was it Eleanor?  Maybe I needed to double-check her birth record to see how her name was originally recorded.  Then I realized that I wasn't sure I had her birth record.

Nellie May (Concidine) and Alfred Henry Holst, c. 1905.
Unknown location, probably Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan.
Original photo privately held by Miriam Robbins,
[ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington, 2018.
(click on photo to enlarge)
A little background:  Nellie was born in Byron Township, Kent County, Michigan.  She was the second child and first daughter of half-Irish, half-Scots John Dennis Concidine (1854 - 1925) and Anna "Annie" Matilda Higby (1861 - 1903), a woman whose roots go back into colonial New England.  After teaching for a few years, Nellie married a German-Swedish immigrant, Alfred Henry Holst (1882 - 1952) in 1905.  They had a set of twins, Earl and May, who died in infancy in 1909.  Then they had my grand-aunt, Lucille, in 1918.  Hoping to enlarge their little family, they fostered and later adopted my paternal grandmother, born Jane Marie York, whom they named Jeanne Marie Holst.

I looked in my family tree software, RootsMagic, and the only sources I had for Nellie's birth were family records, census records, and her death certificate.  I looked in my electronic files and did not see a birth record for her.  So off I went to FamilySearch to look in their Michigan Births, 1867-1902 collection.

It took some creative searching to locate Nellie's birth record.  A search for "Concidine" with the Exact Search box unchecked (because Considine and Constantine are common alternate spellings) yielded results for Nellie's siblings, Ethel, Loid (Lloyd), and Manly (Manley), along with 151 other results, but no Nellie.  After several unsuccessful other searches, I finally settled on leaving the name field blank and searched  the birth location Byron (exact) and the birth years 1883 - 1883 (my family records stated Nellie was born 23 December 1883 in Byron Township).  This yielded a list of all babies born in Byron Township in 1883, a total of 31.  And one of them was an "Anna Corcadine" born 16 December 1883 to John and Anna:

"Michigan Births, 1867-1902," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NQCN-TZQ : 10 March 2018), Anna Corcadine, 16 Dec 1883; citing item 2 p 344 rn 1287, Byron, Kent, Michigan, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 2,320,696.
(click on each image above to enlarge detailed area)

Her name was...Anna? What in the world?

You need to understand how birth records in Michigan were created, prior to birth certificates being issued in 1905.  The town supervisor or a city clerk would canvas his area once a year, going door-to-door to record all the births and deaths that had occurred in that township or ward the previous year.  Remind you of anything?  Yes, the census.  Vital records, births and deaths, were recorded census-style in Michigan, from 1867 to 1895 (death records) and 1905 (birth records).  After 1895/1905, death/birth certificates were issued.

So all the issues we have with people going missing or having incorrect information recorded on censuses applies to birth and death records in Michigan from 1867 to 1895/1905.  To add to the rates of error, we're not exactly sure what happened to these original recordings.  The information was copied into the county birth and death libers, many of which have been microfilmed by the Family History Library.  Then the information was further copied and sent off to the secretary of state, and recorded in the state birth and death libers, also microfilmed by the Family History Library and now digitized and available online as the Michigan Births, 1867-1902 collection. I have not been able to find what the town supervisors or city clerks did with those original records they made when going door-to-door.  They do not seem to be in existence.

So the record viewed above is actually the third recording of the information of Nellie's birth, copied from the county record, copied from the door-to-door record, which was recorded in May 1884, five months after Nellie's birth.  We also do not know who gave out this information to the recorder: her mother...her father...a relative living in the home...or a neighbor?

I am now more stumped than ever.  Was Nellie originally named Anna (after her mother), but then the family decided to call her Nellie?  Was Anna a recording error made by the town supervisor, or did it get mis-copied from the original (for instance, did one of the recorders glance at the mother's name and write it as the child's name)?  Also, our family records state Nellie was born on 23 December 1883, but this record says 16 December.  Sometimes, finally being able to access the record generates more questions than provides answers!  In these cases, careful comparison and analysis between multiple records that contain similar information must be made, and a reasonable conclusion must be drawn, understanding that more than one reasonable conclusion can be made.

What I am sure of is that Nellie was born to John and Anna (Higby) Concidine in Byron Township in December 1883. I will look for other sources to which to compare the birth record and come up with the best reasonable conclusion about her name and her birth date.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Book Review: The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 4th Edition


Recently, I was given an opportunity to review the latest (fourth) edition of the classic The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood, published by the Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore, Maryland in 2017.  I had been hearing exclamations of elation about the newest edition being published from various professional genealogists with whom I am friends on Facebook, so I jumped at the chance to review it.  Also, who doesn't like free genealogy books?

Ironically, when I first heard that this book had been updated, I didn't consider purchasing it.  I have at least four comprehensive genealogy guide books in my home library, so why did I need another one?  I've been doing this thing called genealogy for 30 years now, have taken a professional course, and taught classes.  Was there anything this book could tell me that I really didn't already know...anything of enough additional value that it would warrant a purchase of a generalized topic such as "American genealogy"?

As usual, when I received the new book in the mail, I took a look at its format and contents.  This is a one-and-a-half-inch-thick, six-inch-wide by nine-inch-tall 778-page paperback book.  Besides the Table of Contents, it contains a list of the illustrations and charts, along with a preface by the author , with a detailed 39-page index at the back.  The book is divided into two parts; below are the chapters within each part:

Part 1:  Background to Research

      1.  Understanding Genealogical Research
      2.  Language, Terminology and Important Issues
      3.  Surveying, Analyzing, and Planning
      4.  Evidence
      5.  Libraries and the National Archives (NARA)
      6.  Reference Works
      7.  Organizing and Evaluating Your Research Findings
      8.  Successful Correspondence
      9.  Computer Technology and Family History
    10.  Family History on the Internet
    11.  Family History:  Going Beyond Genealogy

Part 2:  Records and Their Use

    12.  Compiled Sources and Newspapers
    13.  Vital Records
    14.  Census Returns
    15.  Using Census Records in Your Research
    16.  Understanding Probate Records and Legal Terminology
    17.  What About Wills?
    18.  The Intestate, Miscellaneous Probate Records, and Guardianships
    19.  Government Land:  Colonial and American
    20.  Local Land Records
    21.  Abstracting Probate and Land Records
    22.  Court Records and Family History
    23.  Property  Rights of Woman as a Consideration
    24.  Church Records and Family History
    25.  Immigrant Ancestor Origins
    26.  Military Records:  Colonial Wars and the American Revolution
    27.  Military Records:  After the Revolution
    28.  Cemetery and Burial Records

As you can see, this is quite an exhaustive lineup of background resources and records.  Much of the first seven chapters reminded me of what I learned in my ProGen class.  For instance, Chapter 3 specifies excellent strategies of "pre-search":  determining what research needs to be done and how to approach it.  The following chapter on "Evidence" explains proof and evidence, details the Genealogical Proof Standard, types of evidence, and types of sources.  Chapter 7 offers different methods of note taking and the recording of research results, as well as how to analyze the information found therein.  For these reasons, I have to say this content makes an excellent reference for both the beginning and intermediate genealogist, to provide and maintain the fundamental steps of good research.

One chapter I felt could have been stronger was the one titled "Computer Technology and Family History."  For one, the title is redundant and should have "computer" removed.  For another, DNA is discussed in this chapter, which seems completely out of place (the following chapter, "Family History on the Internet" is a better fit).  Also, there is a list of computer-related terms and their definitions that are not put in context with genealogy, and thus appear unnecessary.  An example is the term "https" found at the beginning of many web addresses.  While the term is defined to explain that websites with this in their address are secure, giving the reason as to why that would be important to a genealogist is lacking; i.e., making an online purchase of genealogy materials, subscribing to a major genealogy website, or accessing DNA results online.  Finally, no modern book on genealogy with a chapter on technology should ignore mentioning the importance, availability, and substantial number of genealogy apps on smartphones and other devices.

In Part 2, I was particularly impressed with the content of Chapters 16 through 23, encompassing probate, land, and court records.  This meaty section is full of legal definitions, the processes involved in probate and purchasing and selling land, resources spelled out by state, tables of figures, and sample documents.  In these eight chapters, my question about whether a purchase of yet another genealogy guidebook would be warranted was satisfactorily answered!

Finally, throughout the book, as I've browsed and skimmed, delved and devoured, I have discovered little gems; things that were new to me, a seasoned researcher.  These include descriptions of various library classifications systems, notes about Virginia's independent cities, and a link to the Family History Guide (http://www.thefhguide.com).  

My takeaway is that this book does belong in your home genealogy library.  It also requires some in-depth study.  DearMYRTLE will be offering a six-month online book study and discussion on Google Hangouts beginning February 28th (you can register here).

The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 4th Edition, by Val D. Greenwood, is available at the Genealogical Publishing Company or Amazon for $49.95.

Disclosure: I received a free book from the Genealogical Publishing Company (GPC) for review.  As a GPC Associate and an Amazon Associate, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price when readers purchase a title through the GPC or Amazon links above.

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