Wednesday, November 13, 2013

25,000 and Counting!

The Statewide Index to Mississippi Death Records (1912-1943) reached 25,000 names this week! Transcription has not been easy and could take years. If you would like to assist us in our efforts, we'd love to hear from you (email us at webmaster (at) cooganresearchgroup [dot] com)!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Virtual Genealogy Fair

For anyone who is interested in joining in discussions about resources available at the National Archives and Records Administration (in Washington, DC - and online), here is your chance! On September 3 and 4 (2013), NARA will hold a Virtual Genealogy Fair (the first ever). Check out their website at this link for more information.

Happy hunting!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Spoiler Alert: DNA Discoveries

In the past, a family researcher could comb through dusty records in many libraries and never truly know (for certain) whether the data was correct. Family stories could be verified or refuted. However, even official records contain errors. Most of the information in vital records, censuses and other printed history is based on the word of the person who was contacted at the time the record was made. For that reason, historians were always uncertain of the true origins of a family (beyond what could be "proved" in print).

Now, however, the use of DNA in a family history project has dramatically changed the situation. Instead of hoping to connect your ancestors to a place in the "Old World" using their words or unreliable records, you can pinpoint their blood ancestry. A word or warning: sometimes you may not like what you find! Depending on your viewpoint, you might be surprised, shocked or dismayed by the recent discovery that Princess Diana is descended from a domestic with Indian blood.

I have discussed DNA genealogy with several other researchers through the years and their interest in using it ranges from "great idea" to "I don't want to know." Often, there is a fear that someone's dark secret might be revealed (this is especially troublesome if they are still living). Have you ever considered what you would do if the DNA uncovered something that you (or someone in your family) didn't want to know?

Of course, it was always possible to find secrets buried in the family history (e.g., "early births", annulled marriages, black sheep, etc.). One movie I've seen, that actually describes the impact well, is called A Family Thing (starring James Earl Jones and Robert Duvall). Even without DNA information, we all must be ready to deal with the consequences when the truth comes out. Be ready - and happy hunting!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Naming Conventions

Do you know what the names in your family reveal about your ancestry? There is hidden information in the choices that our ancestors made when they named babies. Several cultures even use well-known patterns in the naming of their kids. I read about an interesting study recently that indicates that even our political leanings can be learned from the names we give our children. Yikes!

There are other naming issues that make a genealogist's work difficult. For example, how do you write a name in western text that was originally written with a different alphabet (Cyrillic, anyone?)? What if the place where your family came from had two names - the name on the map and a local name (I've been trying - for years - to figure out the place my great-grandfather was describing when he told us he came from "Beaustagard" in Sweden. I've been told that is the name of a farm...)? Still worse, what if there were two places with the same name in the same country? Challenges like these could torpedo your entire family history project.

Some resources on the web can help you make sense of the names in your own family tree:

CEMSEARCH-UK
Geni.com
Pro Genealogists
Search My Tree

I've got a happy ending to one story about names. My grandmother's name was Virginia. This took on a special meaning when I visited her father's hometown in Italy, with the impressive Monte Vergine on its skyline. I can't confirm that they were thinking of that mountain when their daughter was born, but I get a kick out of thinking that Vincenzo and Rosa wanted to remember a place they knew in the name they gave her.

Don't give up on the chance to learn about your family using naming conventions. Happy hunting!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Accents and Idioms

Even if we don't always realize it, our places of origin can be determined by the way we speak. Obviously, this is true because of the different languages of the world. But there are nuanced ways of speaking that can be found in certain locales. We can wander away from the place but the speaking habits will follow us for the rest of our lives (barring voice coaching). A great example of this fact is this article about the famous moon-landing quote.

Sometimes, the person doesn't even need to speak aloud to be identified as a resident of a specific location. Recent analysis of the writing of King Richard III (of Shakespearean fame) has revealed that he came from a specific place in England.

Read more about regional dialects at the following sites:

Know Your Meme
WordReference.com

As I have written previously, audio recordings are a great way to preserve the stories (and accents) of your family members. You may even be able to use these artifacts as a map! Happy hunting "Y'All"!