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Ancestor Searching, Vol. 4, #6

Terms and Meanings of Genealogical Words: Something a little bit different from the usual articles. During the course of research, terms and initials are bound to appear in most any kind of document that will require researchers to search for answers as to just exactly what the meaning of a word or abbreviation indicates or means. In an effort to offer assistance with these terms and abbreviations, the following lists are the first of a two-part series on genealogical terms and their meanings. This month's newsletter covers the subjects of occupations and initials.

Old Occupations

Here is a list of old occupations compiled. Some of the words have evolved to mean other things in modern times. They can be a tremendous help, especially when reading census records or wills.

  • Accomptant—Accountant
  • Almoner—Giver of charity to the needy
  • Amanuensis—Secretary or stenographer
  • Artificer—A soldier mechanic who does repairs
  • Bailie—Bailiff
  • Baxter—Baker
  • Bluestocking—Female writer
  • Boniface—Keeper of an inn
  • Brazier—One who works with brass
  • Brewster—Beer manufacturer
  • Brightsmith—Metal Worker
  • Burgonmaster—Mayor
  • Caulker—One who filled up cracks (in ships or windows or seems to make them watertight by using tar or oakum-hem fiber produced by taking old ropes apart)
  • Chaisemaker—Carriage maker
  • Chandler—Dealer or trader; one who makes or sells candles; retailer of groceries, ship supplier
  • Chiffonnier—Wig maker
  • Clark—Clerk
  • Clerk—Clergyman, cleric
  • Clicker—The servant of a salesman who stood at the door to invite customers; one who received the matter in the galley from the compositors and arranged it in due form ready for printing; one who makes eyelet holes in boots using a machine which clicked.
  • Cohen—Priest
  • Collier—Coal miner
  • Colporteur—Peddler of books
  • Cooper—One who makes or repairs vessels made of staves & hoops, such as casks, barrels, tubs, etc.
  • Cordwainer—Shoemaker, originally any leather worker using leather from Cordova/Cordoba in Spain
  • Costermonger—Peddler of fruits and vegetables
  • Crocker—Potter
  • Crowner—Coroner
  • Currier—One who dresses the coat of a horse with a currycomb; one who tanned leather by incorporating oil or grease
  • Docker—Stevedore, dock worker who loads and unloads cargo
  • Dowser—One who finds water using a rod or witching stick
  • Draper—A dealer in dry goods
  • Drayman—One who drives a long strong cart without fixed sides for carrying heavy loads
  • Dresser—A surgeon's assistant in a hospital
  • Drover—One who drives cattle, sheep, etc. to market; a dealer in cattle
  • Duffer—Peddler
  • Factor Agent—commission merchant; one who acts or transacts business for another; Scottish steward or bailiff of an estate
  • Farrier—A blacksmith, one who shoes horses
  • Faulkner—Falconer
  • Fell monger—One who removes hair or wool from hides in preparation for leather making
  • Fletcher—One who made bows and arrows
  • Fuller—One who fulls cloth; one who shrinks and thickens woolen cloth by moistening, heating and pressing; one who cleans and finishes cloth
  • Gaoler—A keeper of the goal, a jailer
  • Glazier—Window lassman
  • Hacker—Maker of hoes
  • Hatcheler—One who combed out or carded flax
  • Haymonger—Dealer in hay
  • Hayward—Keeper of fences
  • Higgler—Itinerant peddler
  • Hillier—Roof tiler
  • Hind—A farm laborer
  • Holster—A groom who took care of horses, often at an inn
  • Hooker—Reaper
  • Hooper—One who made hoops for casks and barrels
  • Huckster—Sells small wares
  • Husbandman—A farmer who cultivated the land
  • Jagger—Fish peddler
  • Journeyman—One who had served his apprenticeship and mastered his craft, not bound to serve a master, but hired by the day
  • Joyner / Joiner—A skilled carpenter
  • Keeler—Bargeman
  • Kempster—Wool comber
  • Lardner—Keeper of the cupboard
  • Lavender—Washer woman
  • Lederer—Leather maker
  • Leech—Physician
  • Longshoreman—Stevedore
  • Lormer —Maker of horse gear
  • Malender—Farmer
  • Maltster—Brewer
  • Manciple—A steward
  • Mason—Bricklayer
  • Mintmaster—One who issued local currency
  • Monger—Seller of goods (ale, fish)
  • Muleskinner—Teamster
  • Neatherder—Herds cows
  • Ordinary Keeper—Innkeeper with fixed prices
  • Pattern Maker—A maker of a clog shod with an iron ring. (A clog was a wooden pole with a pattern cut into the end)
  • Peregrinator—Itinerant wanderer
  • Peruker—A wig maker
  • Pettifogger—A shyster lawyer
  • Pigman—Crockery dealer
  • Plumber—One who applied sheet lead for roofing and set lead frames for plain or stained glass windows.
  • Porter—Door keeper
  • Puddler—Wrought iron worker
  • Quarrier—Quarry worker
  • Rigger—Hoist tackle worker
  • Ripper—Seller of fish
  • Roper—Maker of rope or nets
  • Saddler—One who makes, repairs or sells saddles or other furnishings for horses
  • Sawbones—Physician
  • Sawyer—One who saws; carpenter
  • Schumacker—Shoemaker
  • Scribler—A minor or worthless author
  • Scrivener—Professional or public copyist or writer; notary public
  • Scrutiner—Election judge
  • Shrieve—Sheriff
  • Slater—Roofer
  • Slopseller—Seller of ready-made clothes in a slop shop
  • Snobscat / Snob—One who repaired shoes
  • Sorter—Tailor
  • Spinster—A woman who spins or an unmarried woman
  • Spurrer—Maker of spurs
  • Squire—Country gentleman; farm owner; justice of peace
  • Stuff gown—Junior barrister
  • Stuff gownsman—Junior barrister
  • Supercargo—Officer on merchant ship who is in charge of cargo and the commercial concerns of the ship.
  • Tanner—One who tans (cures) animal hides into leather
  • Tapley—One who puts the tap in an ale cask
  • Tasker—Reaper
  • Teamster—One who drives a team for hauling
  • Thatcher—Roofer
  • Tide waiter—Customs inspector
  • Tinker—Am itinerant tin pot and pan seller and repairman
  • Tipstaff—Policeman
  • Travers—Toll bridge collection
  • Tucker—Cleaner of cloth goods
  • Turner—A person who turns wood on a lathe into spindles
  • Victualer—A tavern keeper, or one who provides an army, navy or ship with food
  • Vulcan—Blacksmith
  • Wagoner—Teamster not for hire
  • Wainwright—Wagon maker
  • Waiter Customs officer or tide waiter—one who waited on the tide to collect duty on goods brought in.
  • Waterman—Boatman who plies for hire
  • Webster—Operator of looms
  • Wharfinger—Owner of a wharf
  • Wheelwright—One who made or repaired wheels; wheeled carriages,etc.
  • Whitesmith Tinsmith—worker of iron who finishes or polishes the work
  • Whitewing—Street sweeper
  • Whitster—Bleach of cloth
  • Wright—Workman, especially a construction worker
  • Yeoman Farmer—who owns his own land

What Do Those Initials Mean?

Initials after your ancestor's names may provide useful information that you'd not expected. The following list includes initials you may come across, again, when reading old wills or other documents.

  • a.a.s. - died in the year of his/her age (anno aetitis suae) (86 y/o died in year 86)
  • d.s.p.  - died without issue (decessit sine prole legitima)
  • d.s.p.l.  - died without legitimate issue (decessit sine prole mascula supesita)
  • d.s.p.m.s.  - died without surviving male issue (decessit sine prole mascula supersita)
  • d.s.p.s  - died without surviving issue (decessit sine prole supersita)
  • d.unm - died unmarried
  • d.v.p. - died in the lifetime of his father (decessit vita patris)
  • d.v.m. - died in the lifetime of his mother (decessit vita matris)
  • Et al - and others (et alia)
  • Inst - present month (instans)
  • Liber - book or volume
  • Nepos  - grandson
  • Nunc  - Nuncapative will, an oral will, written by a witness
  • Ob - he/she died (obit)
  • Relict - widow or widower (relicta/relictus)
  • Sic - so or thus, exact copy as written
  • Testes - witnesses
  • Utl - late (ultimo)
  • Ux or vs - wife (uxor)
  • Viz - namely (videlicet)

Look for the second and final part of the series in the October newsletter on genealogy terms.

Genealogy Workshop

Fact: The term GEDCOM stands for Genealogical Data Communications. Years ago, one computer genealogy program couldn't read another program's data. Genealogists could only share computerized information with people who had the same program. Then the LDS Church, known for its commitment to family history, developed the GEDCOM standard. A software program could export a file in GEDCOM format, which could then be imported into a different program.

Most genealogy software today supports GEDCOM imports and exports, and family history files can be shared no matter what program an individual uses.

Tip: Ahnentafel is a methodical numbering system, from a German word meaning "ancestor table." Picture a pedigree chart, visually divide it into columns, and number each person one column at a time. The starting person is #1, the father is #2, the mother is #3. The father's parents are #4 & #5, the mother's parents are #6 & #7, etc.

The Ahnentafel numbers are very systematic: all men are even numbers, all women are odd numbers. A father's number is double that of his child, and a mother's number is double-plus-one. With this information, ancestors be organized and listed without the need for a chart.

Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 4, # 5

The Domesday Book was the first major census in the British Isles, and was more comprehensive than current census compilations, as properties such as farms, mills, bakeries and other industry were recorded which showed the wealth of the area as well as the population.

Also known as Domesday, or Book of Winchester, it was the record or survey of England completed in 1086, executed for William I of England. William needed information about the country he had just conquered so he could administer it. While spending Christmas of 1085 in Gloucester, William "had deep speech with his counsellors and sent men all over England to each shire ... to find out ... what or how much each landholder had in land and livestock, and what it was worth." (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle)

One of the main purposes of the survey was to find out who owned what so they could be taxed on it, and the judgment of the assessors was final—whatever the book said about who owned the property, or what it was worth, was the law, and there was no appeal. It was written in Latin, although there were some vernacular words inserted for native terms with no previous Latin equivalent and the text was highly abbreviated.

The Domesday Book is really two independent works. One, known as Little Domesday, covers Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. The other, Great Domesday, covers the rest of England, except for lands in the north that would later become Westmorland, Cumberland, Northumberland and County Durham. There are also no surveys of London, Winchester and some other towns. The omission of these two major cities is probably due to their size and complexity. Most of Cumberland and Westmorland are missing because they were not conquered until some time after the survey, and County Durham is lacking as the Bishop of Durham (William de St-Calais) had the exclusive right to tax Durham while parts of the north east of England were covered by the 1183 Boldon Book which listed those areas liable to tax by the Bishop of Durham. The omission of the other counties has never been solved.

For both volumes, the contents of the returns were entirely rearranged and classified according to fiefs (estates held by feudal tenure from a lord), rather than geographically. Instead of appearing under the Hundreds and townships, holdings appear under the names of the landholders ('tenentes'), i.e. those who held the lands directly of the crown in fee.

In each county, the list opened with the holdings of the king himself (which had possibly formed the subject of separate inquiry); then came those of the churchmen and religious houses in order of status (for example, the Archbishop of Canterbury is always listed before other bishops); next were entered those of the lay tenants-in-chief again in approximate order of status (aristocrats); and then king's servants (servientes) and English thegns (lesser nobles) who retained land.

In some counties, one or more principal towns formed the subject of a separate section; in some the clamores (disputed titles to land) were similarly treated separately. This principle applies more specially to the larger volume than the smaller one.

Domesday names a total of 13,418 places. Apart from the wholly rural portions, which constitute its bulk, Domesday contains entries of interest concerning most of the towns, which were probably made because of their bearing on the fiscal rights of the crown. These include fragments of custumals (older customary agreements), records of the military service due, of markets, mints, etc. From the towns, from the counties as wholes, and from many of its ancient Lordships, the crown was entitled to archaic dues in kind, such as honey.

The information of most general interest found in the great record is that on political, personal, ecclesiastical and social history, which only occurs sporadically and, as it were, by accident.

From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle it is known that the planning for the survey was conducted in 1085, and from the publishing of the book it is known that the survey was completed in 1086. It is not known when exactly Domesday Book was compiled, but the entire work appears to have been copied out by one person on parchment (prepared sheepskin). Writing in 2000, David Roffe argued that the inquest (the survey) and the construction of the book were two distinct exercises; the latter being completed, if not started, by William II following his assumption of the English throne and quashing of the rebellion that followed and based on, though not consequent on, the findings of the inquest.

Each county was visited by a group of royal officers (legati), who held a public inquiry, probably in the great assembly known as the county court, which was attended by representatives of every township as well as of the local lords. The unit of inquiry was the Hundred (a subdivision of the county, which then was an administrative entity), and the return for each Hundred was sworn to by twelve local jurors, half of them English and half of them Normans.

What is believed to be a full transcript of these original returns is preserved for several of the Cambridgeshire Hundreds and has great illustrative importance. The Inquisitio Eliensis, the Exon Domesday (so called from the preservation of the volume at Exeter), which covers Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, and the second volume of Domesday Book, also all contain the full details supplied by the original returns.

Through comparison of what details are recorded in which counties, six "circuits" can be determined.

  1. Berkshire, Hampshire, Kent, Surrey, Sussex
  2. Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire (Exeter Domesday)
  3. Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex
  4. Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire
  5. Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire — the Marches
  6. Derbyshire, Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire

For the object of the survey, we have three sources of information:

  • The passage in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which tells us why it was ordered:
    "After this had the king a large meeting, and very deep consultation with his council, about this land; how it was occupied, and by what sort of men. Then sent he his men over all England into each shire; commissioning them to find out 'How many hundreds of hides were in the shire, what land the king himself had, and what stock upon the land; or, what dues he ought to have by the year from the shire.' Also he commissioned them to record in writing, 'How much land his archbishops had, and his diocesan bishops, and his abbots, and his earls;' and though I may be prolix and tedious, 'What, or how much, each man had, who was an occupier of land in England, either in land or in stock, and how much money it were worth.' So very narrowly, indeed, did he commission them to trace it out, that there was not one single hide, nor a yard of land, nay, moreover (it is shameful to tell, though he thought it no shame to do it), not even an ox, nor a cow, nor a swine was there left, that was not set down in his writ. And all the recorded particulars were afterwards brought to him."
  • The list of questions which the jurors were asked, as preserved in the Inquisitio Eliensis .
  • The contents of Domesday Book and the allied records mentioned above.

Although these can’t be reconciled in every detail, it is now generally recognized that the primary purpose of the survey was to ascertain and record the fiscal rights of the king. These were mainly;

  • The national land-tax (geldum), paid on a fixed assessment,
  • Certain miscellaneous dues, and
  • The proceeds of the crown lands.

The Domesday survey therefore recorded the names of the new holders of lands and the assessments on which their tax was to be paid. But it did more than this; by the king's instructions it endeavored to make a national valuation list, estimating the annual value of all the land in the country, (1) at the time of Edward the Confessor's death, (2) when the new owners received it, (3) at the time of the survey, and further, it calculated the potential value as well. It is evident that William desired to know the financial resources of his kingdom, and it is probable that he wished to compare them with the existing assessment, which was one of considerable antiquity, though there is evidence that it had been occasionally modified. The great bulk of Domesday Book is devoted to the somewhat general details of the assessment and valuation of rural estates, which were as yet the only important source of national wealth. After stating the assessment of the manor, the record sets forth the amount of arable land, and the number of plough teams (each reckoned at eight oxen) available for working it, with the additional number (if any) that might be employed; then the river-meadows, woodland, pasture, fisheries (i.e. weirs in the streams), water-mills, salt-pans (if by the sea) and other subsidiary sources of revenue; the peasants are enumerated in their several classes; and finally the annual value of the whole, past and present, is roughly estimated.

It is obvious that, both in its values and in its measurements, the survey's calculations are very crude.

As Domesday Book normally records only the Christian name of an under-tenant, it is not possible to search for the surnames of families claiming a Norman origin; but much has been done, and is still being done, to identify the under-tenants, the great bulk of whom bear foreign Christian names.

Domesday Book was originally preserved in the royal treasury at Winchester (the Norman kings' capital). It was originally referred to as the Book of Winchester, and refers to itself as such in a late edition. When the treasury moved to Westminster, probably under Henry II, the book went with it. In the Dialogus de scaccario it is spoken of as a record from the arbitration of which there was no appeal (from which its popular name of Domesday is said to be derived). In the Middle Ages its evidence was frequently referenced in the law-courts; and even now there are certain cases in which appeal is made to its testimony.

It remained in Westminster until the days of Queen Victoria, being preserved from 1696 onwards in the Chapter House, and only removed in special circumstances, such as when it was sent to Southampton for photozincographic reproduction. Domesday Book was eventually placed in the Public Record Office, London and can now be seen in a glass case in the museum at The National Archives, Kew, which is in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in South West London. In 1869 it received a modern binding. Most recently, the two books were rebound for its ninth centenary in 1986, when Great Domesday was divided into two volumes and Little Domesday was divided into three volumes. The ancient Domesday chest, in which it used to be kept, is also preserved in the building at Kew.

The printing of Domesday, in "record type", was begun by the government in 1773, and the book was published, in two volumes, in 1783; in 1811 a volume of indexes was added, and in 1816 a supplementary volume, separately indexed, containing

  1. The Exon Domesday—for the south-western counties
  2. The Inquisitio Eliensis
  3. The Liber Winton—surveys of Winchester late in the 12th century.
  4. The Boldon Buke—a survey of the bishopric of Durham a century later than Domesday.

Photographic facsimiles of Domesday Book, for each county separately, were published in 1861-1863, also by the government. Today, Domesday Book is available in numerous editions, usually separated by county and available with other local history resources.

In 1986, the BBC released the BBC Domesday Project, the results of a project to create a survey to mark the 900th anniversary of the original Domesday Book. In August 2006 the contents of Domesday went on-line, with an English translation of the book's Latin. Visitors to the website will now be able to search a place name, see the index entry made for the manor, town, city or village and, for a fee, download the appropriate page.

To the topographer, as to the genealogist, its evidence is of primary importance, as it not only contains the earliest survey of each township or manor, but affords, in the majority of cases, a clue to its subsequent descent.

Genealogy Workshop

Fact: The name Domesday comes from the Old English word dom, meaning accounting or reckoning. Thus domesday, or dmsday, is literally a day of reckoning, meaning that a lord takes account of what is owed by his subjects.

Tip: British database site added Britain’s Victorian “Doomsday Book” showing who owned land in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland more than 100 years ago. The Doomsday records are available only with a subscription (about $50 a year); not as a pay-per-view option.

The book, published in 1873, includes landowner returns that provide the name and address of every owner, the amount of land held, and the yearly rental valuation of holdings that are larger than an acre.

More than 320,000 landowners owned an acre or more, representing 1 percent of the population of the United Kingdom at the time. Nearly 850,000 owned less than an acre. London was excluded from the returns.

Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 4, # 4

Oral history interviewing is a tool that's used for research in history, anthropology, and folklore. Oral history collects information about the past from observers and participants in that past. It gathers data not available in written records about events, people, decisions, and processes. Oral history interviews are grounded in memory, and memory is used for recording the past. Oral history can reveal how individual values and actions shaped the past, and how the past shapes present-day values and actions.

Every interviewing experience is unique; this is part of the whole experience. There are things that need to be done before, during, and after an interview to make every interview more successful.

Before the Interview

Set goals for the project before beginning. First: what are you trying to learn? You might want to come up with a sentence or two that summarizes your research goals, so that you can easily explain to your interviewees what you are researching and why it is important. Second: what kinds of information already exists about your research, and in what form? When studying a family, data may be in different forms—scrapbooks, photographs, family heirlooms, diaries, etc. Third: you need to consider who you will need to interview to learn about a family. Make a list of potential interviewees; this list will grow as you are referred to additional interviewees.

Remember what information you want to gain from the interview, and design your pre-interview study with that focus in mind. Remain open-minded, however; data can take you in new directions as the research and the interviews progress. Use as many resources as you have available to become familiar with the person or people you'll be interviewing. Such knowledge will also assist you in establishing rapport with the interviewee by laying a ground work of shared knowledge and confirming your interest in what they have to say.

Set up the appointment for the interview, confirm the appointment, and keep the appointment. Arrange to conduct the interview in a place and time most comfortable for the interviewee, away from noise and distractions.

Prepare a list of questions for the interview. You need not follow this list exactly; other questions will arise during the interview, but they will give a solid organization to your interview. Put the simplest questions, like biographical data, at the beginning, and the most complex or sensitive questions at the end. Group the questions logically, so you and your subject can easily follow the progression of ideas or chronology in the interview. If you're not sure of the wording of a question you've constructed, try it out on another person. Another good way to check the focus of individual questions is to ask yourself, "What am I trying to learn with this question?"

Ask open-ended questions rather than questions that can be answered by yes or no. You want to elicit the fullest response possible to each question. Especially don't ask leading questions. Try to ask simply structured, single-stranded questions. Take your time. If you have more than one point to pursue on a given topic, compose follow-up questions. And if a point that hasn't occurred to you in composing your questionnaire flies by in the midst of an interviewee's answer, you can always go back to it later in the interview.

Questions should be not only open-ended but concrete. Remember that people's memories "hang on substantial hooks". Asking for a description of a typical day, a family gathering, or breaking a subject down into elements will give the interviewee points of reference from which to reminisce.

Interviews are generally improved by sending the interviewee a list of your questions or a summary of the topics you'll be asking about. The point is to give the interviewee time before the interview to think about people and events that may not have occurred to him/her in a long time. Be sure to explain that the questionnaire or summary is only a framework, and that other points may occur to both of you that could be included during the interview.

Be aware that there can be subject areas or data out of your reach because of some inhibiting factor in your relationship to the interviewee: sex, age, class, etc. Be sensitive to these factors, and try to work past them, but don't alienate the interviewee by pressing too hard for information he/she doesn't want to share. The single best strategy for bridging these kinds of obstacles is for the interviewer to show respect and courtesy to the interviewee, and to make the interview itself a "safe place" where the interviewee feels heard and understood.

Unexpected barriers to open discussions can also arise from your level of familiarity with the interviewee. This can be a particular challenge when interviewing family members. Things you both know can be taken for granted, and things taken for granted are generally unspoken.

Know your ethical responsibilities as an interviewer. Be prepared to answer any questions the interviewee may have about the interview or the research project.

At the Interview

It's best to have a one-on-one interview so that the interviewee's attention is focused on you. Also, examine the area around you before you begin the interview and choose the quietest location you have available to you.

Begin by collecting simple biographical information from the interviewee, such as full name, date of birth, and place of birth (which should be at the front of your questionnaire). This helps put the interviewee at ease and gets the basic information about your subject up front in the interview. It is your responsibility to monitor the well being of your interviewee. If you are doing a long interview, take a brief break. This alleviates fatigue and is beneficial to both of you.

Speak at a sedate pace, and speak clearly. The tone you set will generally be echoed by the interviewee. After you ask a question, stop...and wait for the answer, even if you have to sit in silence for several seconds. Subjects often need several moments to think about the questions you ask. Give them quiet time.

Once the answer comes, don't cut off or talk over an interviewee. Some people do like to go on and on, but let them talk to the end of their strand of thought and wait for an opening patiently. Cutting them off gives the impression that what they're saying isn't important to you, or that you're hurrying through the interview.

Keep alert for cues from the interviewee that he/she will expand on a topic you bring up provided you let them know you want to hear it. For example, if an interviewee says, "Oh, that wasn't much of a problem, although I can think of several times where it was," it's a cue to say, "Would you like to tell me about those times?" This not only shows you're listening and enhances rapport with the interviewee; it can also give you good material the interviewee won't volunteer otherwise. Keep alert for clues that the interviewee is uncomfortable with a question or line of questioning.

Be alert to your own responses to an interviewee's remarks, taking care not to sound judgmental, impatient, or disrespectful. An interview is not the place to show off how much you know, or to take issue with an interviewee's beliefs or opinions. Remember: you are that "safe place" in which the interviewee can be heard and understood. All interviewees are to be treated with unfailing courtesy, respect, and gratitude for the privilege of sharing a part of their lives with you.

One last element of interviewee behavior to keep an eye on, especially with older subjects, is fatigue. Interviewing is a tiring process; it is emotionally and intellectually challenging. If the person is showing signs of weariness, it's better to adjourn and take up the interview another time than to press on with an interviewee who's too tired to think clearly any longer but too polite to tell you enough is enough. You can always reschedule and continue the interview another time.

After the Interview

Unless the interviewee is pressed for time, don't run right out after an interview. Field notes can cover the major topics of the interview, your impressions of the interviewee, and any special requests you need to follow up for the interviewee. These notes are generally for the researcher's own use. They can be very helpful in providing a quick reference point for the interview context and the data gathered.

Collateral materials are documents or photos or material artifacts that accompany or supplement an interview. If these are loaned to you, be sure to copy or scan them, and return them promptly. If they are given to you to keep, be sure to label them and keep them with whatever explanatory notes may be needed to explain the significance of the artifact.

When you sit and talk with anyone or with any group of people for an oral history interview, it always takes interesting twists and turns that you didn't expect. You've got to have a very flexible plan.

Genealogy Workshop

Fact: Here are several excellent books that discuss in more detail interview techniques, problems, and ethics. Also listed are the guidelines of the Oral History Association.

  • Edward D. Ives. The Tape-Recorded Interview: A Manual for Field Workers in Folklore and Oral History. University of Tennessee Press, 1980.
  • Oral History Association. Oral History Evaluation Guidelines. Pamphlet Number 3. Adopted 1989, revised September 2000. 9
  • Donald A. Ritchie. Doing Oral History. Twayne Publishers, 1995.
  • Vera Rosenbluth. Keeping Family Stories Alive. Hartley and Marks, 1997.
  • Barbara Sommer and Mary Kay Quinlan. The Oral History Manual. AltaMira Press, 2002.
  • Valerie Raleigh Yow. Recording Oral History: A Practical Guide for Social Scientists. Sage Publications, 1994.

Tip: Send a thank-you note to the interviewee. If any special arrangements were made —for example, for copies of the interview or a follow-up interview—mention those in the note, and follow up.

Genealogy News

From 'Pieces of Clay' the Clay Family newsletter comes this interesting item. "The State of Kentucky has a great Land Records website that contains information and copies of land warrants that were granted to Revolutionary War Veterans, and land patents for early non military settlers. Since many of these warrants and patents were issued while Kentucky was still a part of Virginia, one may find records of ancestors who were still living in Virginia during the post revolutionary period, and also records of those who began moving west in that time. The site is searchable and user-friendly and the original warrants can be printed to provide hard copies. The web URL is –

Geronimo Descendants

From Dick Eastman's genealogy blog comes this interesting article . . .

Image of Geronimo"According to the BBC, US officials have moved to block a legal bid by descendants of Apache leader Geronimo to have his remains reburied. Geronimo's relatives say some body parts were stolen almost 100 years ago by members of a society linked to Yale University to keep in their clubhouse.

The relatives want to rebury the warrior, who died in 1909, near his birthplace in New Mexico. But the justice department has asked a federal judge to dismiss their lawsuit.
The society, known as Skull and Bones, is alleged to have stolen some of Geronimo's remains from a burial plot in Oklahoma in 1918.

Government lawyers want to remove the U.S. goverment as a defendant in the case, saying that the government was not involved in the alleged theft of bones. The same lawyers have no objection to the lawsuit's claims against the other defendants: Yale University and the Order of the Skull and Bones."

Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 4, # 2

When Roots Television debuted on September 29, 2006, it was a low-key launch in beta mode intended to draw enough traffic to test the site and work through the technical bugs that are a part of experiencing new online ventures on the Internet.  However, the low-key launch has quickly become a tremendous success as the word has spread about Roots Television which drew viewers from five continents in the first 24 hours!  Not surprising really, since family history commands one of the largest and fastest-growing markets in the world.

Roots Television has a huge variety of content to choose from.  They've filmed many very interesting conference lectures, but their strengths are the pieces on real people and their ‘lighter side’ videos. There are four channels which includes a British Channel, a Hispanic Channel, a Societies Channel, and a Libraries & Archives Channel. This is still an evolving method of presenting genealogy topics on the web, but the Roots Television library of offerings continues to grow and it's entertaining as well as informative.

Roots Television is a great site that is excellent for genealogists. Many of the programs available for viewing are taken from genealogy seminars. Here’s what they have to say about their endeavor, “Perhaps what is surprising is that no one thought of launching a family history channel sooner.  After all, there’s a golf channel, a wine channel, a sailing channel, a horse channel, and poker channel, and even a shipwreck channel.  Why not a channel for what’s said to be the second most popular hobby? Some of the topics they presently have are DNA, Homeland, How To, Legacy, Civil War and much more. Future plans call for “special” programs that will require a fee to view, but for now, everything is FREE!

Today, roots fever is hotter than ever, with over 113 million Americans interested in their family history, and roots-sleuthing running at near-epidemic proportions in other countries, such as the U.K.  Yet this audience has been largely neglected by television.  Roots Television is uniquely positioned to be one of the first media outlets to take advantage of the inevitable merge between television and the Internet – and in so doing, serve this global and long-ignored audience.”

According to Family Tree Magazine, Roots Television is “TV That Won’t Rot Your Brain.”  Their review noted, “We give it two thumbs up, but the addiction potential is high, so get hooked at your own risk.” 

Headquartered in Utah, Roots Television, LLC is an independent media company that is the brainchild of national media producer Marcy Brown and professional genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak (yes, her real name).

Largely a virtual operation with partners scattered around the globe, Roots Television takes a broad view of family history and is committed to providing programming – both original and from talented producers and independent filmmakers around the world – that appeals to avid genealogists and family history lovers of all types.

Whether you’re an archives hound, scrap booker, cousin collector, roots-travel enthusiast, Civil War re-enactor, DNA fan, reunion instigator, sepia-toned photos zealot, Internet-junkie, history buff, old country traditions follower, cemetery devotee, story-teller, multicultural food aficionado, flea market and antiques fanatic, family documentarian, nostalgia nut, or mystery-solver, Roots Television has something for you — and that “something” is quality programming. They have an online shop to buy books, DVD or videos, and Roots gear (including t-shirts). They sell the set of Roots, Civil War and Ancestors in their shop.

Future plans will unite the computer with television to watch these programs. The best part is it’s available from home! (NOTE: One caveat – the videos won’t work in dial-up mode only DSL or cable).

Genealogy Workshop

Fact: Roots Television also has a blog site which contains online columns. Also, something unique labeled Vlogs. While a Blog is like an online journal, a vlog is similar but in video form. For example, one is called “Your Ancestors Are Watching You.”

Tip: Interested in being on Rootstelevision? Become part of the Roots Television revolution! For those passionate about any aspect of genealogy, heritage or history -- from cemeteries to the Civil War to DNA -- they want to hear from you! It’s possible to submit videos to RootsTube. Just follow the simple instructions or upload a sample to Google Video or YouTube and email them with the link.

Genealogy News

The following announcement was written by FamilySearch:

“Two million new records were added to the FamilySearch Records Search pilot. The completed statewide deaths index for Alabama was published—over 1.8 million names. This collection covers deaths from 1908 to 1974.”

From Dick Eastman’s Online Newsletter is this interesting item:

Video Teaches Correct Citations of Online Sources
Mark Tucker has created a YouTube video that describes the process of source citations. The seven-and-a-half minute video consists of two sections.  The first section discusses some of the current issues with citing sources especially when it comes to online sources.  The second section demonstrates an approach to quickly and accurately cite online sources.  As Mark states in the video, "The technology needed to accomplish this exists today."

The video stresses the use of standardized citations as specified by Elizabeth Shown Mills' excellent book, Evidence Explained. The video focuses on the correct citations of online sources.

Mark's video clearly shows step-by-step instructions illustrating how to create proper citations in one of today's leading genealogy programs. Similar techniques can be used with any modern genealogy program.

This video is a great tutorial and I would suggest that all genealogists should view it to make sure they are entering proper source citations of online references.”

View Mark Tucker's A Better Way to Cite Online Sources on the Heritage Room’s blog ‘The Bones Collector.'

A Better Way to Cite Online Sources

This video requires the Adobe Shockwave Player. To download the latest version, visit Adobe.

"Every genealogist and family historian from beginner to professional will at some time confront the issue of source citations. Although great advances have been made in recent years to standardize and simplify citations, it is still too difficult. This video shows how citing online sources can be easier." - Mark Tucker

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