A is for …. accurate authentic ancestors.

A is for ancestors…. As family historians, we research our ancestors to know more about the past and, more importantly, something about who we ourselves are.

A is for accurate…. As family historians, we should strive to be accurate…. to collect correct information about the correct ancestors (avoid the similar name problem, eh?) and to interpret that information correctly.

A is for authentic…. Accurate information that is properly interpreted leads to an authentic telling of that ancestor’s story. Sure, we will never know our ancestors the way they knew themselves, or as their neighbors knew them, but we can strive to do justice to their memories by striving for authenticity.

If these thoughts seem rather basic, well, yes, they are.

Many things can get in the way of accuracy and authenticity:

  • Cherished family legends that are actually mostly legend.
  • Assumptions about the past that are mistaken.
  • A preferred version of history, even if not grounded on facts.
  • A desire to avoid acknowledging historical facts that are ugly and unseemly in the 21st century. (They were probably were ugly and unseemly at the time of the historical events in question, too.)
  • Poor research skills.
  • Incomplete or unavailable records.
  • Any number of other factors.

Some time ago I was part of a conversation about a researcher’s cherished family documents that weren’t quite what they purported to be. I will never know the full story behind the documents. It was a little sad and troubling.  It involved accuracy and authenticity being deliberately thrown under the bus. Was the truth “too dull”? Was the family legend (if there was one) too cherished? How many family history researchers prefer fiction to reality?

If you want legends, read mythologies. If you want to know your ancestors, read and study real records pertinent to them and their time and place. You may be pleasantly surprised that “truth” may be just as interesting as fiction.

 

Josephine Cobb’s Discovery of a Lifetime — Pieces of History

Finding a great archival record whose significance has not been recognized is one of the things that makes working with archival records a joy. Although the 1863 Gettysburg Address audience photo in this story had never been forgotten, it was clearly under-appreciated until Josephine Cobb made the effort in 1952 to examine it closely and with thoughtfulness. Great archivists have curiosity and a deep understanding of history and their subject specialties. Hurrah, Josephine Cobb, and may there continue to be more like you.

Follow the link below to read the full story!

March is Women’s History Month! Visit National Archives News to see how we’re celebrating. Today’s post comes from Michael Hancock in the National Archives History Office. According to the old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. But in the case of Josephine Cobb and her 1952 discovery in a Civil War–era photograph, it’s worth…

via Josephine Cobb’s Discovery of a Lifetime — Pieces of History

Lots of Fires

The destruction of records by fire and other disasters ranks among the genealogist’s worst enemies. These are some of the most famous ones, but there were undoubtedly many others:

Sometimes, you have to think that we are lucky that records have survived at all.

USCIS Webinar, Thursday, August 23, 2018, 1 p.m. (Eastern): “Indexes to Alien Case Files (A-Files) at the National Archives

On Thursday, August 23, 2018, at 1 p.m. (Eastern), an historian at the USCIS will present a very useful webinar, particularly for those with ancestors who arrived in the first have of the 20th century.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has transferred over a million Alien Files (A-Files) to National Archives custody in Kansas City, Missouri, and San Francisco, California. Researchers can use the National Archives catalog and well-known genealogy research sites to search for files.

Are all the indices the same? What information is included in each index? This webinar will discuss the index data and how to search various indices to find an A-File at the National Archives. We will also discuss the role of the index in transferring A-Files to the Archives.

*This webinar will not be recorded, so be sure to join it live.*

How to Attend:

1.  Visit the USCIS History and Genealogy webpage.

2.  Click “Guide to I&N History: Thursday, August 23.”

3.  Click “Attend Session” just before the webinar start time at 1 p.m. (Eastern). If you’ve not attended a previous USCIS webinar online, it would be a good idea to hit “attend session” 10 minutes early to make sure you have the right software, etc.

NARA’s Innovation Hub Celebrates 300,000th Page Uploaded to Catalog

Today’s post comes from Catherine Brandsen, National Archives Innovation Hub Coordinator Earlier this month, the Innovation Hub uploaded its 300,000th page for inclusion in the National Archives Catalog. Amazingly, this milestone took less than three years to achieve. Digitization opens up access to our records. Of the 13 billion paper records in the National Archives,…

via Innovation Hub Celebrates 300,000th Page Uploaded to Catalog — NARAtions

Yet More Unusual Records…. and How to Find Them

If you were intrigued by the horse sales records mentioned in a recent post, there are plenty more records in the U.S. National Archives that are unusual, unexpected, or unknown to most persons, that are just waiting for researchers to examine and make good use of.

I’ve outlined search strategies in an article entitled, “The National Archives Catalog” which I hope you’ll try for yourself. Hint: URLs in “green” colored text in the article are clickable links!

USCIS Webinar, Thursday, 24 May 2018, 1 p.m. (Eastern): Interpreting Odd INS Naturalization Index Cards: The Case of “Gladys H”

“Interpreting Odd INS Naturalization Index Cards: The Case of “Gladys H” — Thursday, May 24, 1:00 PM Eastern

If you’ve ever searched online for mid-20th century naturalization records, you may have encountered unusual or hard-to-understand index cards. This webinar by a USCIS historian, will discuss examples of these cards, then present a real-life case study of the variety of numbers in Gladys H.’s complicated road to naturalization.

To attend the webinar (which will not be recorded), go to USCIS History and Genealogy Webinars, choose the May 24 session, and hit the “attend session” button. If you have not attended one of these webinars previously, hit the “attend session” button 10 or 15 minutes in advance, in case you need to download the appropriate software.