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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Night Genealogy Fun - Relationship Calculator

Every Saturday night Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings offers up a "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" challenge. Although it's Saturday night in Randy's time zone, it's already Sunday morning when the post is published here. As I don't get a chance to sit and blog until the evening, this is my Sunday Night Genealogy Fun!

The challenge this week is:

Genea-Musings: Saturday Night Genealogy Fun- your Relationship Calculator:

1) Open up the genealogy software program of your choice.

2) Think about two special people in your family tree (your parents? your spouse? a famous person? a distant cousin? yourself?).

3) Use the Relationship Calculator in the software to determine the relationship between the two special people. If you don't know where to find the Relationship Calculator, go to the Help button and find out. Follow the directions!

4) Tell us about it in a blog post on your own blog, in a comment to this post on my blog, or in a Note or comment on Facebook.

1) Yes, OK, software open. Genbox, if you're interested.

2) There are many special people in my tree, most of whom don't happen to be famous. I'm going to look at not one but a few, carefully selected cases:
a) The Australian author, Frank Hardy (Wikipedia entry).
b) A lady by the name of Agnes Carrey (c1824 - 1907).
c) Five people whose burials in Oakleigh Cemetery were authorised by my great-great-grandfather, Daniel Miller Couper.
3) The relationship calculator is easy to find. It's located in the Tools menu and is called "Relationship Calculator".

There are boxes for "First Person" and "Second Person". The boxes use predictive text, so as you start typing a name the rest of the name appears. If the name is too long, or too common, you can access a search box by double clicking. Beneath that there is a box called relationship which describes the relationship in general terms (father, brother etc) and a box called linkages that names the key individuals eg. the shared ancestor.

Using the Relationship Calculator I determined that:
a) Frank Hardy does not share a direct bloodline with me. He was the husband of my first cousin twice removed.  
b) Agnes Carrey is my first cousin five times removed. As she married her first cousin, she is also the wife of my third great-granduncle. Both relationships are listed.
c) The relationships of each of those five people to my great-great-grandfather were father-in-law, wife of father of wife, nephew, nephew of wife, and first cousin.
Genbox will only take descriptions without a direct bloodline so far, which is just as well as even "wife of father of wife" (father-in-law's second wife is another way of putting it) makes my head spin.

The other tool in Genbox to help you work out the relationship between people is the convergent chart. Like the relationship calculator, it gives you the option to plot only direct bloodlines, or any relationship. This was the feature that sold me on Genbox, years ago. When I trialled it, I was able for the first time to create a chart which showed the relationships in case c) above. Fantastic! I finally understood what was going on!

Unfortunately, the latest version (which hasn't been updated in quite some time, but I AM holding my breath for version 4!) seems to have developed a bug in the convergent chart when there are more than two or three people. Instead I was able to reproduce my result this evening by using one of the other chart types, limiting the scope to one or two generations from my key individuals, trimming off the extra people and right clicking to "reorganise chart". 

Chart: A visual representation of the relationships between Daniel Miller Couper, and the five people whose burials in Oakleigh Cemetery he authorised. Created using Genbox.

I could go on for hours about the unique features of Genbox that you mightn't see straight away (it can include source citations on charts!!!) but will save that for when version 4 finally comes out, whenever that may be.

4) See above.

That's my weekend over. Enjoy whatever is left of yours!

Update: I just noticed that the order of marriages in the chart for Caroline Jones is wrong. John Allsop should be the second marriage. The error was mine, I've fixed it in my database now.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Newspaper clipping puzzle solved

The puzzle
Back in January I found a clue to a mystery that although minor, had been puzzling me for some time. The mystery was the connection of a young man, mentioned in a newspaper death notice among my grandfather's papers, to my family. The young man had accidentally drowned overseas in the late 1970s.

Why did I think there was a connection? Well, most obviously because the clipping was kept with family papers. It also mentioned that the young man had a grandparent known as "Couper" - which is one of my family names.

My apologies for being a little coy about naming names here. I have decided not to name the people, as some family members close to the deceased man may still be alive.

The clue
The clue I stumbled across was the burial place of the young man. It appears his body was returned home to Australia for burial, as he was buried in the same plot as one of my great-granduncles. Also in the plot was the relatively recent burial of a woman whose first name was a variation on the mother's name from the death notice and surname matched the son's surname. Always check who else is in the plot!!

It looked very much as though my great-granduncle was the "Couper" mentioned, the woman was his daughter and the young man his grandson. It all looked very promising, but I wanted a bit more certainty before I entered anything into my database.

The search
The dates were too recent for birth and marriage information (births and marriages in Victoria are currently only available up to 1908 and 1942 respectively). I had an subscription at the time so I checked out the Australian electoral rolls. I was hoping to find the mother living in her parent's house before marriage, then disappearing and neatly turning up in her husband's house with a new surname.

I didn't get quite what I had hoped for. I did find the couple, but when they first appeared on the electoral roll they already shared a surname and were living in her (supposed) parent's house. This was completely consistent with my theory. The only trouble was that all it really showed was that the couple seemed to have a close relationship with my great-granduncle.

I put the puzzle to the side for the time being.

The solution
A few days ago I finally found something that gave me the confidence to enter the relationships into my database. Like so much of the information I have found lately, it was thanks to the wonders of Trove! More years of newspapers have come on line since January. Enough years, that I found a marriage notice. It gave full names and parents for both partners and even had a photo of the happy couple!

If you haven't tried Trove, I encourage you to give it a shot, even if you're not Australian! So that there can be no excuses, here's the search box...

Let me know if you find anything!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My genealogy filing system - Part 3 - The decision

The decision is in. I am going to change my filing system.

I hope that this will prove to be a good decision, and not one that just comes from wanting something to do while I wait (im)patiently for some documents I've ordered! I think that it will be good. I have thought it through. As I mentioned in my earlier post, now is a good time to do it because I need to do some routine maintenance anyway.

My new system will work something like this...

Filing system
  • Documents will be filed according to family groups, sorted on the male surnames. This will hopefully minimise the need for duplication of documents.
  • I will file a person's records from birth up to (but not including) when they married/partnered, with their parent's family group. I will have some decisions to make about where to file information on people who eg lived a long and busy life but never partnered up with anyone. A person's records will include both documents I've found and my notes on searches undertaken, analysis and conclusions etc.
  • I will have a separate folder(s) for information on places, maybe occupations, or other information that could relate to many families.
  • I may also set up a separate folder for a few surnames where I have a lot of information on families that may not be related, or only distantly related.
  • I will also keep a folder for organisational information. eg expense tracking, database subscriptions, filing system details... !
Physical setup
  • Original copies - I will leave where they are in archival storage containers. No point moving these around if I don't have to, and I don't have so many original copies of documents that I wouldn't be able to find things.
  • Working copies - I will continue to use lever arch folders, but upgrade to more rigid ones. My pretty metallic purple ones looked lovely on the shelf at first, but quickly sagged under the weight of their contents.
  • Copies to be kept in copy safe sheet protectors.
  • I have found some extra wide tabbed dividers. Each surname will have one. Family groups will be marked out within the surname by an initial coloured sheet protector with summary information - as described below.
Colour coding
Family groups will be colour coded as follows.
  • No blood connection to me - blue
  • Blood connection (either partner) - green
  • Ancestor (either partner) - red
The first page for each family will be a sheet protector with a coloured strip down the side, with a printout of summary information on the family from my database. That printout will not be family group sheets. Instead, I am going to create a simple chart for each family. My genealogy software (Genbox) allows me to pick and choose what types of events to show on the chart, and to colour code names. It can include source citations on the chart output. So, I will be able to see all the same information as included on a family group sheet but in a format that I find easier to take in. I can put up an example of the output, if anyone is interested.

In addition, yellow in the surname folders will be for information that relates to all of that surname - such as information on the surname's origin, unproved connections, or whatever else I haven't thought of.

Hard drive organisation

Will mirror the system above of surnames and sub folders. Files will be named according to the following convention:


  • Date = year followed by month and day, if appropriate. eg today would be 20100518. The folder will then sort by date.
  • Event type = type of event the document primarily relates to. I will borrow GEDCOM tags for this where possible. eg BIRT, MARR, DEAT.
  • Document type = eg letter, image, transcript, register entry, newspaper clipping.... I will have to devise my own list of abbreviations to keep these a bit shorter. If anyone can direct me to such a list that would be appreciated.
  • Detail = citation details if relevant depending on the source. Could be an archive file number, page reference...
  • Description = a few words, if the file name isn't getting too long.
  • SourceID = S followed by the source number allocated by my software. So at least I can search for that if my system doesn't work as planned!! If there are documents that I haven't entered into the database, for whatever reason, I will see that from the file name and will be able to search for that type of file.
  • FamilyID = F followed by the ID number for the family allocated by my software. As a proxy for a name reference supposing that I often won't have enough space for that in details.
This seems to work quite well with the few test documents I've tried out. Mostly the file names are around 50 characters in length. Again, there are dozens of exceptions that I can think of but I will just have to work my way through those as I get to them.

Wow, I feel more organised already, and I've barely begun to set everything up!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Surname Saturday: Tregoning - Gwennap, Cornwall to Victoria

Surname Saturday is a daily blogging theme suggested on the geneabloggers site. I intend to use my Surname Saturday posts to highlight, briefly, each of my male great-great-grandparents and their families. All information presented should be considered a work in progress, requiring further research and verification.

William Tregoning

The surname Tregoning (or sometimes, Tregonning) is strongly associated with Cornwall. In 1841, 384 of the 400+ Tregonings in the England census were enumerated in Cornwall. Of these, 92 were in the civil parish of Gwennap.*

William Tregoning was among them. In 1841 he was 15 years old and like so many others living in Gwennap he was working as a copper miner. He lived in a household with his parents, John and Mary, and twelve other young Tregonings. I'm still in the process of confirming that they were all his siblings, but so far it appears the family had a remarkable infant survival rate.

William married Elizabeth Martin, the daughter of a stonemason, in May 1848 and later that year they had a son, William Henry Tregoning.

William, Elizabeth and their son remained in Gwennap long enough to be enumerated in the 1851 census, but only by a few months. In September they arrived in South Australia. I only recently found a transcription of the shipping record, and have yet to look up the original passenger list myself, or to try and learn more about their time in South Australia.

What I do know is that their stay in South Australia was not long. By 1855 they were living in Amherst, Victoria, looking for gold. Life could not have been easy. Three of their five children died young, and Elizabeth herself died in childbirth in 1860. My great-grandmother, also named Elizabeth, was just two years old when her mother passed away.

William remarried quickly. His new wife was another Elizabeth - Elizabeth Hill. The couple had one daughter, Mary Ellen Tregoning. The family remained in the Victorian goldfields area (Avoca), taking up farming. Elizabeth passed away in 1878, and William in 1887.

* Total census counts were taken from FindMyPast on 30 April 2010. Cornwall and Gwennap census counts were taken from FreeCEN. FreeCEN claims 100% coverage for Cornwall in 1841.

Please get in touch with me if you are connected to this family!

Thursday, May 13, 2010’s Top 100 Genealogy Sites

Yes, Twigs of Yore is among the 100 blogs selected for's "Top 100 Genealogy Sites" of 2010.
Top genealogy site awards

I'd like to thank my mother and my father, my paternal and maternal grandparents, my great-grandparents (with special mention going to James Black, Frances Gertrude Lewis and Elizabeth Tregoning), my 16 great-great-grandparents, and the countless thousands of more distant ancestors whose names I may never know but without whom, Twigs of Yore would never have existed! Another special mention goes to my husband, who is always willing to get me a cup of tea and who said that I really ought to thank him too.

More seriously, looking at the list, and seeing the company I'm in, it is indeed an honour. Many of the blogs listed are already favourites of mine. The others, I think I'll have to explore! Congratulations to all those named, and thanks to those who have congratulated me!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My genealogy filing system - Part 2 - But maybe I should try it your way

Why change?
As I described in my last post, my filing system is based on record types and it has served me well. Give me the source citation for any document I hold, and I can put my hands on it in 30 seconds, easily. So why consider changing to some variation of a surname based system?

My system works well when I want to look at a birth certificate and I know the year of birth, or my database is open to quickly check. It doesn't work so well when I can't remember the year of birth. Not that looking up the details on my database is difficult, but it's an extra step to take.

More annoying are the times when I want to compare multiple documents, or even look at all documents, for an individual. While I can find each document easily, it takes a little longer to pull out a collection of documents and then of course I have to file them all in the right places afterwards.

In short, I rather like the idea of grabbing one (or a few, depending on the system I settle on) files and being able to see all the documents relating to whoever I'm focusing on at the time.

The other factor influencing me is discussions on some of the blogs and web sites I have seen recently. Early on in my genealogy life I tried a surname based system, with families filed according to ahnen number. I think it was the system suggested by whatever how-to book I was reading at the time. It didn't work for me. I didn't 'get' filing by surname. While there is no particular 'Aha!' moment I can identify, the combined effect of the descriptions of systems I've read has been the same. I am starting to see ways that maybe, just maybe, it could work for me.

Pages that have sparked ideas for me include (in no particular order):
And of course, assorted links in Cyndi's List.

Changing your filing system is a big commitment. I'll let you know if I make the jump!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My genealogy filing system - Part 1 - I did it my way

Is it just me?!
Am I the only one who organises their genealogy files by the type of record? From browsing numerous blog posts and "how-to" sites, it seems like everyone else has their information filed in some variation of a surname system.

The reason that I'm thinking about this now is that it's time for some routine maintenance of my system. I need to catch up on filing I should have done, make sure I have both hard and electronic copies of everything, and do some general fine tuning to accommodate the variety of record types that I'm now seeing. Newspaper clippings, for example, really need to move to a dedicated folder after all the digging about I've been doing on Trove! Plus, I want to literally straighten up my folders, either by using shelf dividers or by replacing them with folders that aren't quite so floppy.

Given that I need to work on my filing system anyway... if I was going to make a change, now would be the time to do it. But before I discuss any possible changes, let me describe my current system more fully.

My genealogy shelf

Within the folders -
  • The majority of items in my birth, death and marriage folders are certified copes of certificates from Victoria, Australia. I arrange them by year and registration number. I also note the name of the person or couple. I need to decide what to do with registrations in other jurisdictions, and the baptism entries that have snuck in. I'm thinking a subdivision in the folder for each jurisdiction, and a separate folder for baptisms.
  • Burial information is grouped by cemetery, then by name(s). 
  • Immigration records are organised by date and ship, plus name(s). 
  • Census records are by year, then place, then name of head of household.
  • The large unlabelled folder contains a copy of a long family history manuscript (by another author, many years ago) for one of my branches. 
  • The Indexes folder contains print outs of microfiche index pages (yes I've had it a while!) and more recently some database search results on particular surnames that I thought I may want to refer back to.
I also have folders for correspondence, wills/probate, inquests, and various other bits and pieces (newspaper clippings, pages from books etc) and of course proper archival photo storage for my precious original photos.

My electronic filing system matches my hard copy system, so I only need to work out where a document goes once. The folder and name for my electronic files also reflect the patterns I've described for filing hard copies. Or at least, it almost does and it will again when I've done my routine maintenance!

The advantages I see of this system are:
  • Each document needs to be filed only once, reducing filing workload and storage space.
  • The hard copy and electronic filing systems are consistent. I only need to work out where to file things once.
  • It is quick and easy for me to put my hands on any document.
  • It is logical - someone else should be able to work out what things are and where to find them.
So with these advantages, why am I considering change?  
More on this next time...

Meanwhile, I'd be interested to hear more about other your filing system in a comment or a blog post (new or old). I know what I'm going to say in Part 2... but Part 3, where I describe my decision, is changing by the minute!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Surname Saturday: French - Channel Islands to Victoria, Australia

Surname Saturday is a daily blogging theme suggested on the geneabloggers site. I intend to use my Surname Saturday posts to highlight, briefly, each of my male great-great-grandparents and their families. All information presented here should be considered a work in progress, requiring further research and verification.

James William FRENCH

My great-great-grandfather, James William French (1824 to 1896), son of mariner James Henry French and Elizabeth Adelaide De La Roche, was born in England. At some point the family moved to the Channel Islands, where James William French married Ann Spence in 1845.

James and Ann travelled to Victoria Australia in 1848 as assisted immigrants on board the ship, Mahomed Shah.

The move to Australia may have been driven by financial difficulties. In 1848, while James William French was en-route to Australia, bankruptcy proceedings against a man by the name of James William French were being undertaken in the Jersey Court. He did not make an appearance in court. I have not yet taken the (daunting) step into Channel Island research to determine if it was indeed the same man and to seek further information.

James and Ann had the following children:
1.  Matilda Sarah Ann French (1847-1919)
2.  James Henry French (1849-1915)
3.  George Walter French (1852-1854)
4.  Helen Catherine French (1844-1931)
5.  Annie Jane French (1858-1862)
6.  Catherine Hope Fremch (1860-1862)
7.  Louisa Jane French (1866-1939)

All but Matilda were born in Victoria Australia.

James William French lived in Collingwood and worked as a painter, before making his way to the goldfield area of Lamplough, near Avoca, where he worked as a miner and later a farmer. He died in 1896 and was buried in Avoca.

Please get in touch with me if you are connected to this family!