Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fantasy Genealogy

A woman wrote that she was descended from "almost all of the Magna Carta Sureties." I advised that several of them either had no known issue or their line was extinct within four or five generations. She became very upset, said I was just jealous. I didn't hear from her again.

I don't know of any Magna Carta Sureties in my lines. My sister has some. She's a Calvert descendant. It doesn't seem to make her life better or worse. She may not even be aware of it because she's not terribly into genealogy.

Frankly, if I were going to pick a noted ancestor I'd want it to be one of the Yorkists, the later Plantagenets. I just find them more interesting. Alas, I think that is highly unlikely.

I have seen one of my lines traced back to Adam online. A genealogist of some regard thinks one of my lines goes back to Charlemagne. I don't believe either one.

I have ancestors who were Revolutionary War veterans, War of 1812 veterans and Civil War veterans. Isn't that enough? There are plenty of people who would happy for those. I have Huguenots. I have Dutch settlers and those who were in Jamestown and early New England. No Pilgrims though. No Kings either. There is a thief who was transported, barely escaping death at Old Bailey*.

What is with us that we need to have fantasy pedigrees to someone famous? Isn't a thief we can prove better than an fantasy online pedigree hooking us to Cleopatra?

*Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 6.0, 27 November 2011), April 1740, trial of William Isgrigg (t17400416-2)

Monday, November 07, 2011

Occupy Genealogy

Have we lost sight of what genealogy is all about? There is a movement to turn genealogy over to a select few with highly specialized skills. By making it a formal profession with strict requirements, testing, etc. they hope to give it credibility as well as allow the pros to make more money doing it. I don't think the founders of the movement meant to push the rest of us out but some are advocating just that. Will it happen? Not in my lifetime!!!

Back in the dark ages, before we had the internet, we had CompuServe and the Roots forum. In 1987 I was looking for a program to diagram my research into those pesky later Plantagenets who liked to all use the same first name. I knew I wanted pedigree charts and family group sheets, having been raised with genealogy, but I wanted my computer to do it. That's when I learned about PAF. Later members of the Roots forum would get involved in an experiment which resulted in The Master Genealogist, TMG for short. I began using that genealogy software when it was in beta [because I knew beta testers, not because I was one] and I used it until last year. It is a highly flexible but very complex program. I never did learn all its bells and whistles and I had regular problems. Eventually I decided I wanted to spend less time on the program and more time on genealogy. After a lot of agony and then research I switched programs.

Recently there was something I wanted to try but couldn't find enough information in the program's help file to do it. I posted on the program's user forum, a pretty active group. I got the answer but I also got some that distressed me. A received a couple private emails and one forum post suggested I should spent more time learning the finer points of the program so I wouldn't have to ask questions!

Yes, I know, what is a user forum for if not to ask questions. But it also seems to me that we should be able to expect a genealogy program that just works, keeps track of our information and then spits those pedigrees and family group sheets back at us on demand without requiring a degree in computer science. Apparently those three don't think so. Maybe genealogy software pros are coming next?

Let's "occupy" genealogy, from the comfort of our homes of course, and take it back for family researchers!