Research Tip of the Week

Vital records are the backbone of genealogy.

Birth, marriage, and death records are the base documents we strive to discover for every research subject when possible.

Each type of document supplies certain details that are of family history importance but often there are details that we might not consider at first glance.

This week’s tip is about death certificates and using the international classification of diseases code to understand illegible or confusing causes of death on death records.

International classification of diseases

The international classifications of diseases or ICD are a code system that used to track diseases. The system currently in use dates to 1893 when French physician Jacques Bertillion introduced his Bertillion Classification of Causes of Death. The coding system’s purpose was in part to track causes of death. The United States adopted the coding system in 1898. The codes are updated and revised as needed and today the world is preparing for the 11th version to go into effect in 2022. Nations around the globe use ICD codes.

While cause of death is not necessarily a family history fact in a genealogical sense it can help add context to family history research in many cases.

In some cases, it might also supply clues to help move your research forward.

Using ICD codes

For my example I will use my great aunt who died at age 19.

1919 Death Certificate of Margaret Spence

While in this case the death certificate is not horribly difficult to read it would be easy for someone to miss information here.

The code for this case is 137. We see that number listed in large easy to read writing in the cause of death box.

The large 137 is the ICD code

I use the date of death to look up the correct version of the ICD in use at the time of Margaret’s death. In this case she died in 1919 so the 2nd edition of the ICD is the one I need.

The ICD code 137 refers to puerperal fever. Comparing that with the death certificate I can clearly see now that she died of septic puerperal fever, septicemia, and the contributary cause was peritonitis.

At this point it would be easy to close the chapter on Margaret Scott. She died at 19. She had one daughter prior to her death. Understanding the actual cause of Margaret’s death led me to look closer at her life… and her descendants. Puerperal fever is also known as childbirth fever. Margaret died because of childbirth. Did the baby survive?

Digging deeper

The 1920 census reveals that Margaret’s baby survived her and the infant was in the care of Margaret’s surviving husband, George Scott, and her mother, Anna. George remarried in July of 1920 and Margaret’s children grew up in the household of George and his second wife. Without do thorough research I could have easily missed the son, Millard Scott. By using the ICD code, I was able to understand more about Margaret’s death and insure I did not miss including her second child in her list of descendants.

1920 Census showing George Scott with his 2 children

Have you ever used ICD codes on death certificates to help your research?

Find a list of the historic ICD codes here!

Be sure to check out previous week’s tips for other great research tips.

Fabulous Free Webinar Offerings for February You Do Not Want to Miss.

Do you love free webinars?

I love free webinars.

There are some great webinars this time of year and if you are like me you want to mark your calendar now.

One thing you need to have on your February calendar is the RootsTech Salt Lake City live stream.

RootsTech is like the Super Bowl of genealogy and some of the greatest minds in the field gather at RootsTech.

RootsTech offers several of their presentations live via streaming.

RootsTech SLC runs February 26 -29, 2020. It is the anniversary event celebrating 10 years.

There are three options for joining in on the genealogy fun.

  1. Travel to SLC for the conference
  2. Catch the free live stream
  3. Purchase a virtual pass

Free live streams from the event start at 8am MST on February 26, 2020 and each day offers a full day of learning opportunities. The last free stream session starts at 3pm MST on February 29, 2020.

Some of the great presenters that I am looking forward to include Angie Bush, Blaine Bettinger, and Judy Russell.

If the 3-day free live stream is not enough knowledge, consider the Virtual Pass. For $129 USD you can access 30 presentations not available in the free live stream for the next 12 months. Some great presenters who will be available in the Virtual Pass presentations include Roberta Estes, Dana Leeds, and Lisa Louise Cooke.

Another wonderful thing to check out about the RootsTech page is the free video archive. The archive includes hours of great presentations from previous RootsTech events. Great presentations available in the free video archive include presentations by Amy Crow Johnson, Diahan Southard, and Jonny Perl.

The RootsTech site offers up hour after hour of great genealogy learning opportunities. If you haven’t added it to your genealogy toolbox you need to do it today.

Do you have any can’t miss genealogy events on your calendar for the coming months?

Big Day for New York Adoptees!

Original birth certificates available for NYS adoptees

For some New York state adoptees the day they have been waiting for is coming. Original birth certificates will be available for order from vital statics starting January 15, 2020.

Watch the site below for the feature to go live!

New York Department of Health

Research Tip of the Week

Tip Tuesday

Digitize your photos and documents

Each week I provide a helpful tip that helps create better genealogy researchers. This week my tip is about digitizing photographs and old documents.

**This blog post contains affiliate links and if you purchase items on this post through the links I may receive compensation.**

In the past, it was a complicated chore trying to make copies of photos. In the era of film, most people found it easier to order multiple copies of photos at the time of development than to get duplicates after they developed the film. It could be time consuming and cost prohibitive to get copies of old photos. As a result, people could be possessive of original family photographs.

woman looking at photo
Photo by Luizmedeirosph on Pexels.com

Today, that is not a problem. Technology for the win! Getting digitized copies of photographs and other documents is a breeze with modern technology.

There are several reasons you should start digitizing your photos today.

The number one reason you should digitize your photos and documents is because each time we touch an original, it sustains damage. Wear and tear will add up even with the most careful care. Digitizing your images and documents in their condition today will preserve them as they are now.

Another reason to digitize your photographs and documents is to safeguard your treasures if there is ever a disaster. House fires, tornadoes, floods, and other unfortunate events happen. In a moment’s notice, you can lose everything you own. There is no replacement for an original, but if you lose the original, a digitized copy is great to have.

Digitized photographs are also useful if you need to edit or repair the original photographs. There are several great software options out there for repairing digitized images of old damaged photos. You can copy the digitized original image and run the image through various changes, risking no damage to your original photo. One caveat here is that if you make edits to an original, it is good practice to show it is an enhanced version.

Flip-Pal mobile scanner

The final reason on my list of why you need to digitize your old photographs and documents is to share! A digitized image is easy to share. With the use of digitized photos and online family trees, the landscape of genealogy has changed. It’s a visual experience covering generations and connecting family members who otherwise might have never met. There is no longer a need to hoard family photos for a personal treasure with the ease of sharing digitized photos.

Learn More About the SRRS Solution

Digitize your photos today to better safeguard your research and treasures. It will not only protect your originals and help you fix damaged images, but it opens the door to sharing the images with other relatives. Great research only matters if you take the steps to preserve it.

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Free online genealogy courses. Worth the time?

Once upon a time, there was a woman who questioned the value of free online courses. The woman was me. The time was nearly six weeks ago. That was when I signed up for the Future Learn genealogy course by the University of Strathclyde Glasgow. I am rapidly approaching the final week of the course, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the program.

Genealogy: Researching your family tree.

The course instructors are Tahitia McCabe and Graham Holton. Both Tahitia and Graham instruct other courses at the University of Strathclyde at Glasgow. Tahitia is the course leader and Graham is the head tutor in the MSc in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies program at the school.

books
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Things to love about this course.

There were several things about this course that won me over. The first thing I really enjoyed about the program was the structure. Each week, the instructors release a new module. Students can work through the material as their schedule allows. I found personally that I enjoyed breaking the weekly course material into two study sessions each week.
You perform exercises suggested throughout the course and converse with classmates in a comments section on each page or you can attend the study group in the tab at the top of the page. Tahitia and Graham also interact with students through the course to answer questions, adding a very beneficial element to the course.

Sprinkled through the course are small quizzes. They are 5 questions, optional to complete, and your score doesn’t affect your ability to complete the course. I found these to be a great self-test as I moved through the course.

During week 5, there was probably my favorite part of the entire genealogy course. There was a strong focus on DNA, which I found very enjoyable and they host 2 livestreams with Tahitia and Graham. In the livestreams you get to meet virtually with the instructors and ask questions that remain unanswered. They went to great lengths to answer every question and even ran over their scheduled time answering questions.

A couple finer details.

Don’t let yourself get sucked down too many rabbit holes. The instructors loaded the course with great resources and the comments section reveals a great deal many more gems. Save the links and investigate them later to focus only on the lessons given or you might spend hours just looking at great new research resources.

The school that offers the course is in Scotland and many of their topics are heavy in records for that region. As someone who focuses on North American genealogy, I found that part of the course is exceptionally helpful. It gave me a greater understanding of what sort of records I should search for when I research genealogy in Scotland.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who learned she was wrong.

My takeaway from my experience with the genealogy course on Future Learn is that there can be great value in a free online course. This course has something to offer new genealogy researchers or experienced genealogy researchers alike. I am glad that I took the time to test my theory on free online classes with this one. For those interested, you can pay for either an individual course certificate or subscription to Future Learn and get a certificate of completion for the course. The next Genealogy: Researching your family tree course begins in March 2020.

Future Learn also offers several other classes that can be helpful to genealogy researchers. I recommend going to the site and doing a quick search for either history or DNA.

My rating for this course?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Have you taken any free online courses that you enjoyed? I’d love to hear about your learning experiences in the comments!

Free Courses for Genealogy Research Success

Frugal Finds

I have raised 3 kids. Well 2 and a half… one is still floating around the nest for a few more years. One thing raising kids taught me was how to be frugal. I’m annoyingly cheap. That carries over into my genealogy. I splurge on my ancestry account, but mostly I spend my genealogy dollars carefully.

I take advantage of a lot of free research resources. I have a list of sites I rely on to provide me with research information that might be harder to find on bigger sites. I also take advantage of a lot of free courses. The Internet is full of free genealogy courses, webinars, videos, and how to articles. Sometimes the trick is knowing where to look to find the best resources among the vast noise out there.

books and glasses
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Future Learn

Recently I took the Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree course on Future Learn. The course is 6 weeks long, taught by instructors at the University of Strathclyde Glasgow, and offered free on the Future Learn open course platform. I cannot say how much I enjoyed the course. It is great for beginners, but even experienced researchers will get great information. There are quite a few other courses on Future Learn that could interest researchers.

Evidence Explained

The National Genealogical Society offers a certificate in American Genealogical Studies. The certificate course comprises 4 classes that teach different aspects of genealogical research. The classes are a great value but out of my budget, so I looked at what I could find about the course that might be helpful. The required materials for the second two classes of the program include a book called Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

Elizabeth Shown Mills is a fellow of the American Society of Genealogists. She is an expert in the field and her book is an irreplaceable resource. She has brought some of her knowledge to a series of quick lessons on her site Evidence Explained.  On her site, she provides 26 quick lessons that provide in-depth explanations of evidence and how to understand what it means.

There is a wealth of free learning resources on the Internet. What are some of your favorite free learning finds?

**No plugs just honest opinions. I receive no compensation for this post.**

Research Tip of the Week

tip tuesday graphic

Last week, my tip was about keeping a research log. The research log is the document that will allow you to retrace your steps to find the document should you need to get it again. It is also important because it helps save time. Research logs save you from looking for the same record in the same place twice.

Research Plan

This week my tip is about creating a research plan. If the research log is the directions, the research plan tells you the destination. A research plan explains the purpose of your search.

Research plans can be broad or simple. It is a matter of preference. The important detail is that the research plan helps you focus your research so you accomplish your goals.

Most of my research plans have the same basic concept. I start out with an individual. The name of my research subject is my starting point. I want to know anything and everything I can find out about my subject. Each of the many things I search for become objectives toward reaching that goal. Standard objectives for any research subject are vitals such as birth, marriage, and death. I also attempt to locate the person at least every decade on census records possible.

An Example

As an example, let us say that I have a project that requires me to look up information about a man who lived Bay City, Michigan. This is just a random name I picked. We’ll say this person was my imaginary client’s grandfather. His name was Stanley Burton.

My research plan goal is learning about Stanley Burton. The events of his life then become objectives. The first aim on my list would be the first search on my research log. I used a broad search because I used a fictitious name. I wanted to get results. Here I used a general search of the name Stanley Burton and the city and state. The first fact I need to check off on my list is a record of birth. My imaginary client has a guess on his grandfather’s age but few concrete details.

The first result is a man named Stanley Burton born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1901. It is his birth record. If I had a family tree for my client, I could confirm or discard this record as a match based on the listed parents. Without further facts, I could sit this record aside and look further for information on this person later to determine if it’s the right or wrong person.

Tip Tuesday

There are a few results that come back in Ancestry.com that I might need to investigate if I lacked further information. For simplicity’s sake, I will say I know my research subject’s father was born in England. That gives me a strong clue that the birth record I found for Stanley Burton born in Detroit in 1901 is the target of my search. From that point, I would probably research this subject for further vitals. It might pan out to be the wrong individual after more digging. Or I could discover definite proof it is the correct person.

With the case of Stanley Burton born in 1901, my next step would be to locate the 1910 census. That would be aim two on the list. I’d hope to find Stanley, age 9, living with his parents listed on his birth record. I’d move on to the 1920 census, 1930 census, and so forth. Because of Stanley’s age, I would probably also check for military records from both the world wars.

Each record I searched for would become a new entry on my research log, and every detail I discovered would fill in a blank on my research plan. It might even add new objectives as I discover more information about his life. Perhaps Stanley served in the military during World War II.

With the use of a research plan and a research log, staying focused and organized becomes a much easier task.

**Disclaimer: I picked the name Stanley Burton out of a hat and just got lucky that he existed. I have done no research on this individual beyond a quick name search for a random name. **

Fascinating DNA Revelations. A Quick Look at Math and Matches

Genetic Puzzles

The cross roads of genetics and genealogy is a exciting new frontier right now. Individuals everywhere are quick to provide a DNA sample to one of the various testing companies. Then they sit back and wait. Anticipation builds waiting for the grand revelations that the sample will show.

Then the results come back.

When an overwhelming amount of matches and information is suddenly dumped into their laps after weeks of waiting a lot of people are chased off.

For those who actually dig into the matches and start to work out the various connections it can either be a fascinating new addiction or a confusing new version of trigonometry that will make your brain hurt. Often it can be both.

Puzzling it all out.

I went down the rabbit hole of genetic genealogy and quickly found myself hooked. Where traditional genealogy can often be questioned because people can provide incorrect information or people can be confused during records research, DNA doesn’t lie.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have been lucky in the aspect that many of my known relatives have tested with one of the various DNA testing services. It has provided me the opportunity to evaluate various connections and how genetics have passed down through different lines. There have been several revelations have have been interesting to me.

By the numbers.

I share more DNA with my maternal uncle than I do with my paternal half-sister. Both relationships match up for the correct range of shared centimorgans but I found it interesting that I share 300 more cm’s of DNA with an uncle than I do with my half-sibling.

By the chance of recombination in DNA my half-sibling and I both inherited vastly different portions of DNA from our shared parent. I share a heavy dose of DNA with relatives of our shared grandfather, she shares a heavy dose of DNA with our shared grandmother. Our shared DNA is approximately 1500 cm’s.

In fact I share so little DNA with some of the relatives that she matches up to that I would be left to question the validity of those relationships to me if not for her test results.

Final Thought

Don’t use just one test when coming to final conclusions. Just like with traditional genealogy research, it is important to build a case based on various pieces of information and not just one tiny snippet that fits a theory.

Have you had any interesting match math in DNA results?

Privacy: How to Protect Your Information Online – free webinar by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL now online for limited time — GeneaWebinars

The recording of today’s webinar, “Privacy: How to Protect Your Information Online” by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, is now available to view at http://www.FamilyTreeWebinars.com for free for a limited time.Webinar DescriptionProtecting privacy online is a continuing concern. Family historians need to decide what personal and family history information we’d like to keep private while still…

Privacy: How to Protect Your Information Online – free webinar by Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL now online for limited time — GeneaWebinars

FREE WEBINAR! Decoding Secret Societies: Finding Your Female Fraternal Ancestors

I love free webinars. They are a great way to pick up new tips and tricks for better genealogical researching. Female ancestors can be one of the toughest challenges in family history research. Check out this great free webinar that might provide a great tip to work through these often challenging ancestors with the use of secret societies.

Source: FREE WEBINAR Decoding Secret Societies: Finding Your Female Fraternal Ancestors