Scott_J on Family Tree Circles

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Explaining Genealogy to my Five Year Old

This evening, I sat down to dinner with my family and said to my five year old son, Alex, "Do you know who the Pilgrims are?"

"Yeah, they had a very tough boat ride," he said. "And then they were friends with the native Americans."

"That's about right," I said with a big smile. It was all my wife and I could do to contain ourselves.

Then I said, "So, do you know what a 'great-grandfather' is?"

He looked at me sort of puzzled.

You see where I was going with this? My goal was to explain to him that his 11th-Great grandfather, actually two of them, were on that boat ride.

Then I pulled out a piece of paper, and drew a short family tree starting with him. His little brother, who was listening intently said, "Hey, where am I?" So I added him in, and their big sister Sarah as I knew that was next, though she wasn't there for the discussion.

I pointed at the first stick figure and said, "OK, this is you...and this is me and your mother."

Then I pointed to my parents and said, "Who are they?"

"Grammy?"
"Good."
"Grampy?"
"Yep!"

Then I pointed to his mother's parents...

"Grandma?"
"Grandpa?"

Wow, he's getting it.

Then I drew two more lines and stick figures for my grandfather and grandmother.

"Who are they?" he asked.

"That's my grandfather and grandmother."

"What are their names?" he said, more interested than I expected.

"Robert and Helen," I replied, "That's where you got your middle name. They are my grandparents and they are your great grandparents."

Then what he said next floored me.

"Does it keep going Dad? Who's above them?"

OK, here we go. This was easier than I thought. I drew the next two above my grandfather.

"And what were their names?" he asked excitedly.

He was truly interested in these people and their names and then he started asking if they were still alive. I explained that they were born a very long time ago.

"Vickery Baker was born in 1797. That would make him over 200 years old today."

His eyes lit up, "wow."

I kept going and drew the tree, only including the line up to Stephen Hopkins, and explained who he was.

"Was he the boss of the ship dad?" (heh, 5 year olds have their priorities.) "Well, no."
"How old would he be?"
"About 420."

Alex then wrote, "40020" at the top of the chart, which is his version of Four Hundred and Twenty.

"Does it go all the way back to the cavemen, Dad?"
"Well, I suppose it does, Alex..."

Which sort of blows my mind to contemplate that.

Here's the entire chart. It starts at the bottom right.

As I was going through this exercise, I realized that I had never actually drawn that tree by hand. What a shame that I had never done that, and that I couldn't do it from memory. And while I did know that I'm 13th generation Mayflower ancestor, I couldn't have told you without looking it up that the male line includes one Hopkins, Five Snows, and Five Bakers before it changed to my surname with my father.

I'm not sure who learned more, my son or me.

I look forward to more genealogy sessions with Alex.

7 comment(s), latest 2 years, 4 months ago

Announcing: New User Profiles on FamilyTreeCircles

FamilyTreeCircles.com has been around for over 7 years now, and has been in a constant state of development.

I'll be the first to admit that most poorly crafted area of FamilyTreeCircles has been the user profile pages. And as I've been making improvements to the platform, I'd also say that it's been the most neglected.

This week I've taken steps to resolve that with an entirely newly designed user profile.

Your Own Home Page

Your user profile on FamilyTreeCircles is now your genealogy homepage. Your own journals and posts are featured prominently in chronological order, newest first. Until now, your own journals were relegated to a list, and reading them was an exercise in clicking around a lot.

Now your homepage is a very easy-to-read list of all your journals. As you post journals, your latest ones appear at the top.

This makes it very easy for other FamilyTreeCircles members, and even people searching the Internet for the information that you write about, to find and read your journals.

That means more people see your journals, which means that your information and your own queries are seen by more people, resulting in a higher chance that you'll connect with distant cousins and researchers looking for the same ancestors.

Here's what the new profile page looks like:

Hey, This Sounds and Looks Like a Blog

Essentially, your FamilyTreeCircles profile page is a blog. Blog comes from the words Web Log. A blog is quite simply a web page containing a log of your writing. Web log...weblog...'blog.

The writing activity that you do posting Journals on FamilyTreeCircles is no different than that of "bloggers" that we hear so much about.

Now in addition to how your journals were seen before in the activity lists, your information is organized like a blog and you get all the benefits of blogging:

  • Research: By getting your and your genealogy research out there, people who are researching the same ancestors will find you. You may even break down some brick walls just by posting them for others to find and help you out.
  • Sharing: Posting your genealogy information helps others, and many times it comes back
  • Connecting: There are countless connections that people make with distant and lost relatives through publishing a blog.
  • Community: The genealogy blogging community is a friendly, helpful group of genealogists, professionals and hobbyists alike. By starting a blog of your own
  • Fun: Writing can be a fun, creative way to express yourself. Some people even think it's therapeutic.

The good news is that just by signing up for FamilyTreeCircles, you now have a blog.

How cool does that make you?

View your new profile here. Or click on the "Your Home" link in the header.

Examples?

Here are a few great FamilyTreeCircles profiles to take a look at for inspiration:

31 comment(s), latest 11 months, 1 week ago

My Mayflower Connections - 2. Stephen Hopkins

This week, Thanksgiving here in the U.S., a number of genealogy bloggers are posting their Mayflower connections.

I've got two documented, William Brewster and Stephen Hopkins. Both are accepted by the Massachusetts Mayflower Society.

Here's Stephen Hopkins.

  1. Stephen Hopkins b: 29 Oct 1581 in Wotten-Under-Edge, Gloucestershire, England, d: 27 Jul 1644 in Plymouth, Massachussetts
    +married: Constance UNKNOWN m: Bef. 1605 in England, d: Aft. 22 Dec 1609 in London, England
  2. Constance Hopkins b: 1605 in Wotton Under Edge, Gloucestershire, England
    +married: Nicolas Snow
  3. Stephen Snow d: 17 Dec 1705 in Eastmam, MA
    +married: Susanna Rogers m: 28 Oct 1663 in Eastmam, MA, d: 1701
  4. Ebenezer Snow d: 09 Apr 1725 in Eastmam, MA
    +married: Hope Horton m: 22 Dec 1968 in Eastmam, MA, d: 1725
  5. Thomas Snow b: 01 Feb 1702 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA., d: Bet. 1765-1766 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA.
    +married: Abigail Doane b: 29 Dec 1706 in Eastmam, MA, m: 27 Jan 1732 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA., d: Aft. 07 May 1765 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA.
  6. Elnathan Snow b: 02 May 1734 in Eastmam, MA
    +married: Phebe Sparrow b: 03 Jan 1738 in Eastham, Barnstable, MA, m: 04 Dec 1755 in Eastmam, MA
  7. Abigail Snow b: 28 Dec 1766 in Eastmam, MA, d: 30 Jun 1840 in Sterling, Worcester Co., Massachusetts, USA
    +married: Benoni Baker b: 1755 in Eastham, Barnstable, Massachusetts, United States, m: 19 Sep 1783 in Eastmam, MA, d: 01 May 1838 in Sterling, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
  8. Vickery Baker b: 22 Jul 1797 in Orleans, Barnstable, Massachusetts, USA, d: 12 Jul 1870 in Brookfield, Orange, Vermont, USA
    +married: Priscilla Walker b: 02 Apr 1787 in Orleans, Barnstable Co., Massachusetts, m: 27 Nov 1817 in West Boylston, Worcester Co., Massachusetts, d: 06 Oct 1886 in Northfield, Washington, Vermont, USA
  9. Joseph Baker b: 20 Jun 1841 in Brookfield, Orange Co., Vermont, d: 15 Apr 1924 in Northfield, Washington, Vermont, USA
    +married: Coralinn Slade b: 11 Oct 1843 in Northfield, VT, m: 31 Dec 1863 in Northfield, VT, d: 17 Jun 1926 in Chittenden, Vermont
  10. Arthur Garfield Baker b: 02 Jul 1881 in Brookfield, VT, d: 12 Apr 1965 in Wakefield, MA
    +married: Harriet Helen Hurley b: 05 Feb 1882 in Northfield,VT, m: 24 Oct 1908 in Northfield, VT, d: 14 Sep 1949 in Melrose, MA
  11. Robert Slade Baker b: Abt. 7 Dec 1915 in Massachusetts
    +married: Dora Helen McIlwraith b: 12 Sep 1915 in Melrose, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA, d: 03 Aug 1982 in Sarasota, Florida, United States
  12. Living
    +married: Living
  13. Scott Jangro
2 comment(s), latest 2 years, 2 months ago

A Thanksgiving Genealogy Reading List

As I read around the genealogy blogging community, there are a number of posts related to Thanksgiving. Of course, since the pilgrims are some of the oldest US-based ancestors (non-native, of course), Thanksgiving is a time for reflecting on our ancestors.

Here is some great reading, in no particular order...

Update:

And I humbly add my own to the list...

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you here in the States.

3 comment(s), latest 2 years, 7 months ago

My Mayflower Connections - 1. William Brewster

This week, Thanksgiving here in the U.S., a number of genealogy bloggers are posting their Mayflower connections.

I've got two documented, William Brewster and Stephen Hopkins. Both are accepted by the Massachusetts Mayflower Society.

Here's William Brewster...

  1. William III Brewster b: Abt. 1566/67 in prob Scrooby, Nottingham, England, d: 10 Apr 1644 in Plymouth, Barnstable County, Massachusetts
    +married: Mary m: Abt. 1568 in England
  2. Patience Brewster b: Abt. 1600 in prob Scrooby, Nottingham, England, d: Bef. 12 Dec 1634 in Plymouth, Barnstable County, Massachusettes
    +married: Thomas II Prence b: Abt. 1600 in England, m: 05 Aug 1624 in Plymouth, Barnstable County, Massachusettes, d: 1673
  3. Mercy Brewster Prence b: 1631
    +married John Freeman b: 28 Jan 1627 in Billinghurst, Devonshire, England, m: 13 Feb 1650 in Sandwich, Bristol Co MA, d: 28 Oct 1719 in in Eastham, Barnstable Co MA
  4. Edmund Freeman
    +married: Ruth Merrick
  5. Ruth Freeman b: 1680 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA., d: 07 Jun 1728 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA.
    +married: Israel Doane b: Bet. 1671-1672 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA., m: 1697 in , Barnstable, MA., d: Aft. 05 Jun 1740 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA.
  6. Abigail Doane b: 29 Dec 1706 in Eastmam, MA, d: Aft. 07 May 1765 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA.
    +married: Thomas Snow b: 01 Feb 1702 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA., m: 27 Jan 1732 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA., d: Bet. 1765-1766 in Eastham, Barnstable Co., MA.
  7. Elnathan Snow b: 02 May 1734 in Eastmam, MA
    +married: Phebe Sparrow b: 03 Jan 1738 in Eastham, Barnstable, MA, m: 04 Dec 1755 in Eastmam, MA
  8. Abigail Snow b: 28 Dec 1766 in Eastmam, MA, d: 30 Jun 1840 in Sterling, Worcester Co., Massachusetts, USA
    +married: Benoni Baker b: 1755 in Eastham, Barnstable, Massachusetts, United States, m: 19 Sep 1783 in Eastmam, MA, d: 01 May 1838 in Sterling, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
  9. Vickery Baker b: 22 Jul 1797 in Orleans, Barnstable, Massachusetts, USA, d: 12 Jul 1870 in Brookfield, Orange, Vermont, USA
    +married: Priscilla Walker b: 02 Apr 1787 in Orleans, Barnstable Co., Massachusetts, m: 27 Nov 1817 in West Boylston, Worcester Co., Massachusetts, d: 06 Oct 1886 in Northfield, Washington, Vermont, USA
  10. Joseph Baker b: 20 Jun 1841 in Brookfield, Orange Co., Vermont, d: 15 Apr 1924 in Northfield, Washington, Vermont, USA
    +married: Coralinn Slade b: 11 Oct 1843 in Northfield, VT, m: 31 Dec 1863 in Northfield, VT, d: 17 Jun 1926 in Chittenden, Vermont
  11. Arthur Garfield Baker b: 02 Jul 1881 in Brookfield, VT, d: 12 Apr 1965 in Wakefield, MA
    +married: Harriet Helen Hurley b: 05 Feb 1882 in Northfield,VT, m: 24 Oct 1908 in Northfield, VT, d: 14 Sep 1949 in Melrose, MA
  12. Robert Slade Baker b: 7 Dec 1915 in Massachusetts, d: -
    +married: Dora Helen McIlwraith b: 12 Sep 1915 in Melrose, Middlesex, Massachusetts, USA, d: 03 Aug 1982 in Sarasota, Florida, United States
  13. Living
    +married: Living
  14. Scott Jangro

Do you have a Mayflower connection? Why not post your own.

Use some of the posts here on this list of Thanksgiving Genealogy blog posts for further inspiration.

Getting Help on Using FamilyTreeCircles

  1. Check out the FAQ page.
  2. Use the contact us form. This is best for issues like password problems, since you cannot use some of the other options without logging in.
  3. Send me a private message.
  4. Drop into the FamilyTreeCircles campfire chat. You can not only chat with me, but with other FamilyTreeCircles members, if they're in there.
  5. If you have a question that you think someone other than the owner of FamilyTreeCircles can answer, comment on this post. That increases the chances of getting a quick answer AND allows other to benefit from your question.
8 comment(s), latest 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Getting ready for some pretty major changes. And a chance at a Sneak Peek...

I've been hard at work on some pretty significant changes here on FamilyTreeCircles, big enough that I want to roll this out a little more carefully than I usually do.

For now, the only noticeable change is the header.

If yours doesn't look like that with the black bar at the top, try holding down the shift key while hitting the reload (or refresh) button on your browser. Or just wait and it'll update eventually.

So what's changing?

I've completely redesigned the user profile page. My goal is to make your user profile the hub of your activity, a much nicer home for you here on FamilyTreeCircles. The default view will be a full view of all your journals, formatted much like a blog. That way, anyone who follows your every post can easily see what you've been writing. If you organize your posts into categories, that will be much more visible. And your Assist! locations and surnames will be featured prominently as well.

In fact, it's going to be a lot like having your own blog, which is where I am headed with this.

And speaking of following, I'll be reintroducing he concept of "follow"ing. By following someone, you will be able to keep track of their new stuff.

When's it coming?

I'm still testing it out, but if you would like a sneak peek, just comment here on this post and I'll turn it on for you.

I'll probably grow impatient and make it available in the next few days, but I'd love to get some feedback first.

Again, just comment below if you'd like to try it out and give me some feedback.

Thanks!

11 comment(s), latest 2 years, 8 months ago

Announcing FamilyTreeCircles Locations

Unless you are brand new to FamilyTreeCircles, you should recall that a few weeks ago we launched the phase 1 of the new FamilyTreeCircles Assist! program.

Phase 1 was geared toward getting members to volunteer to assist other researchers in their physical location, helping with local activities like cemetery visits or local document requests. Without volunteers, the program would be useless, of course!

The response far exceeded my expectations and as of today, we've got hundreds of locations volunteered for. And that number is growing every day.

Of course, we need several thousand to get good coverage, but I'm encouraged by the response. I'm counting on members like you to adopt a location.

And today, I'm pleased to announce we've launched major new functionality that brings along with it the other half of the Assist! program, requesting assistance.

FamilyTreeCircles Locations

The new feature is called FamilyTreeCircles Locations, which is a massive database of just about every location in the world. In this section of the website, you can drill through continents, countries, and states down to counties, cities, and towns -- even cemeteries!

At any location, you can either volunteer to assist with that location or you can request assistance. In each location, with help from volunteers, we will also build a rich resource and repository of genealogy information.

See it here: FamilyTreeCircles Locations

As a volunteer, you may choose to assist someone with a local lookup or photography, or help in editing the information on the page for that location. Further, as we build on this functionality, it will allow you to better filter the content on FamilyTreeCircles related to your interests.

As a requester, you can post a query that's assigned to a specific location. This query is like any other FamilyTreeCircles query, except it is also listed in the location where volunteers for that location will be sure to see it, increasing the chances that you'll find someone to help.

This is a big day for FamilyTreeCircles as it greatly expands on our goal of connecting genealogy researchers who can help each other in their family tree search.

I hope you'll be able to particpate as both a volunteer and a requestor.

See it here: FamilyTreeCircles Locations

As always, if you have any suggestions or questions, please don't hesitate to ask in the comments below.

Update

I'm getting some great feedback from people who are digging into their own countries that there are some strange regions and cities, or some less than great naming conventions. I knew this going in and will be developing methods to fix these going forward on a case by case basis. Please understand that there are more than 7.9 million locations in the database and this one guy can't possibly go through even a small fraction of them. As you do find problems with the data, please do let me know. That's the first step in identifying the right process to get these things fixed.

10 comment(s), latest 1 year, 6 months ago

Announcing the Assist! Program

We're finally recovering from the debilitating snowstorm here in the Northeast United States. We had many massive limbs and even a few trees drop in our garden and on our cars. And we were counted as lucky because we only lost power for several hours. There are some neighbors who are still without power 5 days later. We helped out however we could, providing helping hands to clear debris and bring buckets of water.

This brings to mind the outpouring of responses that I received from the survey I emailed about a last week about whether I should create a volunteer local genealogy lookup service.

Frankly, I'm overwhelmed by the response. As of right now, there have been 898 910 replies, most of which are filled with thoughtful comments and feedback. I've been reading each and every one of them. I wish I could reply to them all.

Here are just a few of the many hundreds of responses I got in the survey:

"It is so nice when people that live in an area are willing to help out. Most of us cannot travel to these locations to do the research ourselves and it is so important to those of us that are trying to build our family trees. It is so aggravating when so many websites claim to be 'free' then ask for a credit card number to give you the needed information. Thank you for what you are doing with this website. I've only just discovered it recently."

"I think it is a very good idea and we should all work together to uncover these hidden or missing info."

"I would love to participate in a service like this. I have never volunteered, but I am great at photographing gravestones or going to a place of records to find info for someone."

What about privacy?

By far, the biggest concern expressed was privacy and interacting with strangers. I'm happy to say that on FamilyTreeCircles we've had that problem pretty well handled for many years now thanks to a messaging system that has now had more than 22,000 private messages sent through it without exposing email addresses or other personal information.

Announcing the Assist! Program

So today I'm pleased to introduce the formation of the FamilyTreeCircles Assist! Program, a free service that will connect volunteers who would like to help out with local assistance at town halls and cemeteries, and to provide access to the vast amounts (or even small bits) of knowledge that they have collected.

There are thousands of individuals who are willing and able to perform lookups and document requests at local town halls or take pictures at local cemeteries on behalf of those without the means to travel to those locations.

Further, we have all obtained at least a small bit of knowledge that very few others have, like local knowledge of libraries, town halls, and other resources, information about the surnames that we're researching, and other rare books and information.

Therefore, there is not only a need for people to get help locally, but there exists a huge need for people to simply help out online in very specific areas of expertise.

We just need a way to make ourselves available to those who are in need of that knowledge.

By identifying yourself as someone who can help out in a specific location, or as someone who is knowlegable in certain surnames or areas of interest, you can help provide information to people seeking help in those areas.

And even if you cannot provide local lookups or you don't get specific requests from people, you can share your knowledge by helping us edit our location and surname information pages.

This Won't Be Easy. I Need Your Help...

This whole project hinges on our ability to get good coverage with a large number of volunteers. The first step is building up this strong network of people who are willing to make their knowledge and assistance available to others.

So I'm asking you to go to our Assist! page and identify the locations, surnames, and other areas in which you may help out.

To do so, go here: Assist! program registration

We'll follow up with how people will be able to get in touch for assistance.

Thank you for your participation. If you have any questions, please feel free to post comments.

Best,
Scott

p.s. This is not a major commitment on your part. We will ensure that people do not get overwhelmed with requests. How much assistance you give and effort you expend will always be entirely up to you.

Again, simply register your areas of knowlege here: Assist!

3 comment(s), latest 2 years, 8 months ago

RAOGK is no more? Is there anything we can do here?

I read recently that the Random Acts of Genealogy Kindness website is gone indefinitely.

As reported by Dick Eastman, here: Random Acts of Genealogy Kindness (RAOGK) will be Offline for Some Time, the owner of that site said:

RAOGK has been around with our volunteers helping other genealogists get copies of documents required to prove your lineage back to Adam and Eve (giggle). Pictures of your ancestors' tombstones were also high on the lists of requests. I hope everyone got as much service as we were able to give. Our heart is saddened that we will be offline for quite awhile. Between computer problems (harddrive turning to toast) and the health of the administrator very questionable ... RAOGK, after 11 years, will cease to exist for awhile

Bridgett Schneider
RAOGK Administrator

I have often felt like FamilyTreeCircles is very similar to the service that the excellent RAOGK has provided for so many years.

With all deference to Bridgett, but given that there's no information on what's to come of roagk.org, is there something that can be added to FamilyTreeCircles, a section, a feature, that would help fill the void, at least temporarily?

Having focused so much on FamilyTreeCircles for so long, and never wishing to compete with them, I never really looked much at ROAGK. So I look to the FamilyTreeCircles community to advise me on this.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks.

6 comment(s), latest 1 year, 10 months ago