01 February 2016

My Grandfather's Yearbook

For some people, finding their grandfather's yearbook is a normal part of growing up. Whether on a family vacation, a summer visit, or a chance find while looking for something else in a drawer, yearbooks can be great conversation starters for genealogy.

But my grandfather died when my mother was eight years old. She barely knew him, so everything I've ever known about him has come through the older generation of my family. And since my grandparents were divorced before he died, there wasn't much of a chance for me to find a yearbook of his anywhere.

But these days, finding a yearbook isn't limited to those family visits anymore. Thanks to Ancestry.com's yearbook collection, I can see my grandfather's senior photo for the first time. I can see where he fit into the high school scene of 1960. Apparently, he was a lacrosse player. I didn't know that about him, and I don't think I'm the only one.

Glen Burnie High School, Le Souvenir (Yearbook, Glen Burnie, Maryland, 1959), p. 115; "U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012," Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1265 : accessed 25 January 2016). [Lacrosse team photo with Moses B. Keats]

Glen Burnie High School, Le Souvenir (Yearbook, Glen Burnie, Maryland, 1960), p. 38; "U.S. School Yearbooks, 1880-2012," Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1265 : accessed 25 January 2016).[Senior portrait of Moses B. Keats]

How to Cite a Yearbook or Online Yearbook Collection

I'm glad to see I wasn't alone in facing some confusion about citing an online yearbook collection. Evidence Explained (the book) doesn't provide a specific answer to this question. But a quick look on the Evidence Explained website provided some satisfactory answers.

However, I disagree with the approach of using the standard book citation for a yearbook. As the editor points out on in response to the question, the book's approach to laying out the publication for a yearbook is insufficient. Because a yearbook is a commercially printed self-published book, it is neither useful (nor possible, in many cases) to even identify the printer/publisher of a yearbook.

A clean presentation of the school's location is the most crucial piece of information for manually searching for yearbooks in the Ancestry.com collection. But the standard book citation also left me wondering how I would provide information about a hard copy of a yearbook and an item description in square brackets at the end. To use the standard book citation leaves me with this conundrum.

Upon looking more closely at the variety of citations that could work, I chose instead to use the Diary/Journal citation, found on page 106 in the second edition. It allows me to state directly that what I'm citing is a yearbook, which would be useful if the online repository places yearbook images in a collection that isn't labeled specifically for yearbooks. The journal citation also gives me the ability to cleanly state the place information where it cannot be confused with publication or copyright information. If you were citing an actual hard copy, the Current or Last Known Owner becomes a natural place for the owner of the yearbook or repository. In this same place we find a natural transition into an online citation.

03 January 2016

Keatts Family Wills of Pittsylvania County, Virginia: A Wish Granted

On my research trip to the Pittsylvania County Courthouse, I was saddened that I wasn't beginning to scratch the surface of their vast collection. While my time was well focused on the research questions I had at the time, I knew full well that there were hundreds of other records I would never have time to see. Included in these passed over records were many of the wills for my earliest connections to Pittsylvania County in the Keatts family. It pained me to pass over their surnames in the record books I knew were pertinent to me, in exchange for the records I'd planned to collect that day.

So the weekend that the Ancestry.com probate collection launched, I was full of hope that the records would include some of these. And when I got my first Keatts hints to the collection, I celebrated...

However, it was premature. 

 Is there anything worse than an interrupted happy dance?
(The answer is no. No, there isn't.)

You see, the hint lead to an error page. And I sat there for a good five minutes, refreshing in disbelief. I felt lied to. Betrayed. Filled with first world rage. And as I tried to navigate to the collection directly from the Card Catalog, only to be greeted by "No results found" for every combination of search criteria, I finally gave up. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get any results for anyone in Pittsylvania County to appear. Something was wrong, broken, or both.

As the hints continued to accumulate for this ghost collection, and each of them led to the same error page, my frustration mounted. I contacted Ancestry directly to point out the issue, and they said they'd investigate. 

Meanwhile, I ignored every single hint and told the matching algorithm to stick them in its eye...

...among other things I won't repeat in polite company.

Here's the thing y'all. Just because we subscribe to record collections which are held by large corporations, it doesn't mean we shouldn't communicate with them. Providing user feedback is all the more important when the companies we deal with are large. I think sometimes we have the impression that this does no good because we don't feel like we're talking to a person. Instead, it feels like we're talking to a mechanical collective of voices with no thoughts of its own.

But corporations like Ancestry.com are made up of people, including other genealogists. And they really do want to see us happy. Like a genie of sorts, they want to give us everything we wish for. And like magic, their money and influence give them the power to deliver many things we can't do for ourselves. And just like a genie, even their power has its limits.

But perhaps the ways in which Ancestry.com (and other companies too) are most like genies, is that the only way to never get what you wish for is to never tell them what you want.

So I reached out. I told them what was wrong. I wanted Pittsylvania County, Virginia probates and wills. I wanted the error message to go away and let me get on with my happy dancing. Because there is absolutely nothing worse than taking back a happy dance. It should say right on the receipt  NO REFUNDS in big, ugly letters.

And I don't know whether they finally got the records, or the database working, or what. I don't care which of my wishes they granted. The point is, the records have arrived!

The Pittsylvania County, Virginia probate and will database is up, running, and open for business!

If you, like me, are looking for the Keatts family, allow me to get you started. And let me know in comments, because I want to know who you are!


Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983. Pittsylvania County, "Wills, 1800-1870" Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9085 : accessed 2 January 2016), index entries for Keatts family members, Image #33, Pg. 27.

Curtis Keatts: My 6x Great Grandfather

Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983. Pittsylvania County, "Deeds and Will Book, Vol. 11, 1780-1820," Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9085 : accessed 2 January 2016), entry for Curtis Keatts, Image #145, Pg. 268.

Charles Keatts: My 5x Great Grandfather

Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983. Pittsylvania County, "General Index to Wills, Vol. 1, 1767-1948," Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9085 : accessed 2 January 2016), entry for Charles Keatts, Image #377-378, Pg. 185-186.

Randolph Keatts: My 4x Great Grandfather

Virginia, Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1983. Pittsylvania County, "General Index to Wills, Vol. 1, 1767-1948," Ancestry.com (http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9085 : accessed 2 January 2016), entry for Randolph Keatts, Image #813, Pg. 480.

02 September 2015

Wednesday's Child: Grace Darling Pinheiro

No matter how much you think you know about a family, always be prepared to discover more. And also be prepared for that knowledge to come after you've spent several hours making a tribute video, which is not easily edited.

In my last post, I shared a video I created about the Charles Pinheiro/Lester Ince families of Halifax, Nova Scotia. After entering into contact with the Genealogical Association of Nova Scotia and the city of Halifax, I now have to make substantial edits to that video.

Why? Because Charles and Rose Pinheiro had another child I knew nothing about.

Camp Hill Cemetery, 1879

Their daughter's name is Grace Darling Pinheiro. She was 5 years, 3 months old when she died. She doesn't appear in the vital statistics records from the city of Halifax. She doesn't appear on any of the census records with her family. The only place I've been able to find her so far is in the burial records of Camp Hill Cemetery. Apart from the certainty that she was born and raised in Halifax city, I knew next to nothing about her.

Or did I?

Sometimes what you don't see is it's own clue!

Closer inspection of the birth and death registers of Nova Scotia reveals the problem. From 1877 to 1908, there was a lapse in birth and death registration in Nova Scotia. Halifax city deaths are the only exception, having kept their registers from 1890 to 1908.

I pulled out an index card and drew out the ranges. I had a feeling I could figure this out.

First, I drew out the window of conception for Grace's mother, Rose: beginning in 1882 with her marriage to about 1897. Then, I drew brackets around the time it was possible for Grace to have been born within that window of time, and not show up on the 1891 census. Two ranges of possible birth years emerged: 1882-1886, and 1891-1896. I didn't exclude 1886 as a birth year, even though that was the year her sister Ethel was born, in the event that they might have been twins.

Using her age at death, I created two possible death year ranges: 1886-1891, and 1896-1901. Because the death registers are intact for Halifax city from 1890 onward, and Grace is not recorded therein, we may logically presume that she did not die in or after 1890. The second range and the latter part of the first range therefore becomes unlikely. If she died no later than 1890, she could be be born no later than 1885. This eliminates the likelihood of her having been a twin sister to Ethel.

Calculating in the earliest possible birth for marital conception, Grace was likely born some time between 1883 and 1884, and died between 1888 and 1889. She was buried in a segregated part of Camp Hill Cemetery. Her parents, sister, and nephew would later join her in that same plot.

I've submitted the plot information to FindaGrave.com--Division 1, C-S plot 43--and still have hopes that the photo request will be answered. I confirmed with Halifax city that there is a grave stone.

It may not be in the best condition. It may not even be legible anymore. But knowing it was a tribute, purchased by Charles to honor and remember three generations of his family makes it incredibly special to me. That alone makes me eager to see it someday.