#26: Kin Wrangling…

26.1  When they make a movie with animals…from bees to bears…they employ a “wrangler,” whose job it is to train, organize, and control the beasts. Today we’ll do the same with your relatives…which is to say, all the genealogical information you’ve managed to collect, in musty libraries and on the slightly less musty internet. Which format is best? You have your choice of diagrams or lists, and I’ll review the easiest and clearest of both.

26.2  But before I do, a couple more “notes from the field.” This past week I hit the mother lode…the Mormon website familysearch.org. No need to travel to the Great Salt Lake to find that missing half-grand uncle…it’s all on-line, or a monster big part of it anyway. They have religious reasons for collecting genealogical data on everybody, but we all benefit. I’ve found scads of information, all completely free, altho again it seems some people are missing from the census info, but that brings me to my second thought.

26.3  Never reply on just one source…find as many references to the same relative as you can, and compare notes. There are going to be discrepancies, record keeping being what it was, and if you find A, A, B, A, A, C, A, A, and A, chances are you can disregard B and C. But keep them on file, just in case. This is the kind of detective work where your results may surprise you…things are not always the way they may at first appear. In my case, I was building an entire tree based on one marriage record from 1902. The problem was, the name of one of my great grandmothers was spelled differently. Was this really her?

26.4   I guess I was pretty confident, or I wouldn’t have done all that subsequent work, and thank goodness I was right…numerous independent sources confirmed that Adriana Picard was in fact Adrienne Picard. And that’s my third bit of advice…watch those names, first and last! There’s a double whammy…the record keepers at the time wrote what they heard, and they may not have heard it right…or spelled it right. 100 years later, the original documents are transformed into useable data…and the person doing that may not be able to read what was written…yes, it was almost always done in long-hand. I’ve found one poor lady whose first name was spelled 8 different ways, and counting. And even if your family never spelled its last name any differently, you may find it recorded with an alternate spelling…that’s just how things are, so collect every scrap and sort it carefully. This is especially true when you’re not finding something you think should be there…start trying different spellings…you’d be surprised…

26.5  But look, I’m assuming you enjoy this hobby…both the finding and the figuring is exciting to you. Otherwise, it’s gonna be a teejus slog, and if you want to learn about your ancestors, you’d best try to get some other family member interested. But there will be cases that are so weird and wonderful that you’ll just have to shake your head. For example, early on I found a Berube, not yet knowing that it was indeed my great grandfather’s brother, of which one website claimed the census sheet said “Laid Berube.”


26.6  Now I’d been finding some awfully strange French Canadian given names…Scholastique, Arthemise, Telesphore, Hermenegilde…so I figured, OK fine…Get Smart? Get Laid!, right? Or maybe it was short for something, Adelard or Allard…perhaps a masculine counterpart to Adelaide. Another source took that same original document, and reported “Lai*”…the * meaning there’s more after the “Lai” but we just can’t read it. Long story short, it turned out to be my great grand uncle David…but I was perfectly willing to accept that we had a cousin Laid in the family, and a mighty man was he, boy… 😉 😉

26.7  Another example: here’s an excerpt from a US census, and they had no clue at all who this head of the household was…calling him just “Birubi,” which I was able to establish was my Berubes.  A much earlier Canadian census calls him “Najaire”…another exotic French Canadian moniker? Turns out he’s “Nazaire,” a take on Nazareth or Nazarene.


26.8  OK, time to get wrangling, and I’ll continue to use my maternal grandfather’s family as an example. His father came from a family of 15 siblings…or at least one census document says that’s how many children my grandfather’s paternal grandparents had…I’ve only been able to locate 14, of which my great grandfather was the youngest, and  a twin to boot! And as good as what I call the “Paternal Tree”…the “tinker-toy chart”…is at clarifying how people are related…for real-life families they’re not so hot…


26.9  String Art lives! With the more traditional “Branching Tree,” it’s a lot less messy, but still not very practical…where the heck are 14 families, each of which could have another dozen kids, gonna fit?


26.10  Let alone whatever other information you may wish to include, like dates and locations of births, deaths, marriages, what have you. No, for that your family “tree” is going to be a list…text, not a diagram…and there are 2 popular ways to do that. But before we get to those, let’s face it: charts are more fun! And if you’re willing to include just some relatives…call them the “pertinent” relatives…a chart can work out fine. Here’s an example of what I mean, not of my own making, but one I found…


26.11  See Clement Berube Jr.? He’s one of the 14 or 15 siblings, and obviously the only one deemed relevant to this particular tree. Here’s another excerpt, along with what the whole thing looks likes, taken together (right)…and friends, it’s massive…


26.12  But as to text lists, there are 2 methods, and the first is the one I use. Starting with any generation, you label each member “1” and list them one after another. The offspring of this first generation are labeled “2” and placed below their parents, indented once (go tab key!) The next generation is “3,” indented once again, and you carry on like that:


26.13 Here’s the same thing, fleshed out a bit…


26.14  And here’s a “real life” example I snatched off the web…as you can see, you can include spouses, dates of birth and death, whatever you feel like squeezing in. (The “Berubes” are highlighted because that’s what I googled to find this…)


26.15  The one drawback of this type of scheme is that as the latter generations on the right grow larger and larger, the members of the original generations on the left become further and further separated. Generation 1 members will be pages apart, and you might just like to see them all together. Thus the 2nd list method groups generations together. It starts like this:

gen 1

26.16  We then move on to the 2nd Generation…parents and their children are connected by a unique and sequential number…on the internet these numbers can be linked so you can follow any one branch, family by family, just by clicking your mouse…

gen 2

26.17  Now I’ll just start the 3rd Generation…and notice that the previous Direct Ancestors are always noted in (  ), so you know where you are…trust me, it’s easy to lose your place!

gen 3

26.18  And finally, we’ll skip way ahead to the beginning of the 4th Generation…and that’s how it works.

gen 4

26.19  Is there a question from in the back? Yes? Speak up, please? The question was: Can you use a spread sheet?  The answer is, you can do whatever you like…I tried it…I didn’t like it. See yez next week…


Copyright © 2011 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved



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