A genealogy resolution: Record your sources

Posted Dec. 27, 2009, at 5:22 p.m.

The photocopy shows one page of the 1930 census record for a portion of Caribou, in particular, “State Road between Presque Isle and Caribou.”

The heads of household for the families enumerated there are:

— McConnell, James, 36.

— McElwane, John, 61.

— Hatch, O.C., 77.

— Hatch, S.C., 75.

— Drake, R.J., 55.

— Hardison, Geo., 66.

— Hardison, Clarence, 31.

— Hatch, B.O., 52.

— Burgoyne, Guy, 28.

— Hitchings, H.B., 66.

— Dempster, Harry, 24.

— Bouchard, Maxim, 42.

I know what the document is, and where it came from — I photocopied it on 8-by-11-inch paper from Ancestry.com.

But why? What line was I following? And whose?

Here we have a clear illustration of why we should identify everything we write down or copy. Not just where it came from, which is very important, but why.

This may be a census page I wandered onto while looking for my daughter-in-law’s New Brunswick ancestors, but none of the names rings a bell. I’ll have to start an official file called Miscellaneous People I Don’t Recall Why I’m Interested In.

A census page copied from a computer monitor can be difficult to read because the handwriting is so tiny. It’s a great idea to transcribe the family or families you’re researching onto a census form, many of which are available on the Web. And when you do, mark on it, or on the back of it, where you got the census record — from a Web site, on microfilm at the University of Maine’s Fogler Library in Orono or the Maine State Archives in Augusta.

If you photocopy a few pages out of a book on your particular family, always photocopy the title page of the book, too, so that 1.) you can return to the right book if you want to search some more, or 2.) you can tell somebody who asks you where you got your information.

If someone sends you or passes along a page or two of interesting information, ask where he or she found it so you can mark that down. At the very least, put on it who gave it to you. I may recognize Marjorie Marsh Quigg’s penmanship or Evelyn Warren Carroll’s typing without prompting, but my grandchildren, niece or nephews probably won’t.

If you print out something from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Web site, www.familysearch.org, pay attention to what it says on your printed copy about the source of the information.

If it says it was “extracted from town records,” that gives you guidance for double-checking the record yourself.

If it says “submitted by a church member,” you don’t know whether the submitter was a meticulous researcher or not. It’s best to look for corroboration in other sources.

These suggestions lead up to the perennial best New Year’s resolution for genealogists: Always record your sources.

···

Do you know about Gen4Kids?

The next Genealogy for Kids Day will be held 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 29, in the Children’s Story Room at Bangor Public Library.

The event is open to all children between ages 8 and 14.

There will be a library staff member to give a guided tour of the Bangor Room and demonstrate how to use the microfilm and the card catalog there.

Phil Getchell, Pete McClarie and John Nelligan, members of the Penobscot County Genealogical Society, will be among those helping the youngsters learn how to start climbing their family tree and preserve memories today for the future.

Register for Gen4Kids Day at the Children’s Desk or by calling 947-8337, ext. 110.

Refreshments will be served.

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or e-mail queries to familyti@bangordailynews.net.

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