Monday, May 23, 2011

Tuesday's Tip - DANGER, Will Robinson!!!!!

I've never actually watched Lost In Space.  I guess that just shows how that phrase has worked it's way into our culture!  Anyway...

I was intending on posting the next census form this week, but I started messing about on while waiting for an appointment and made some pretty good discoveries that I will be seeking to verify in the immediate future.  What discoveries, you may ask?  Well, after posting George Rosbeck's obituary yesterday, I figured that I'd try to locate his name on the passenger lists on  I do believe I found him and it wasn't terribly difficult.  The names are a good match as are the dates of birth.  Not having any other information yet to verify his parents or siblings, I will be digging deeper until I have conducted my "reasonably exhaustive search" (I loved learning all that stuff at the NGS conference!).

So what's my tip?  Well, after realizing that George and his parents arrived in 1857, I attempted to see if I could find them in the 1860 US Federal Census.  If they are my Rosbecks they hopefully found themselves a nice place in Wisconsin by then.  I couldn't find them.  I initially cursed the new Ancestry search, but then decided it would be more productive to adjust my search parameters.  After all I need to figure out how to use their new search since it's only a matter of time before they eventually take that "Old Search" button away!  So I stopped searching for an exact match with my "Geo* Rosb*" search and used the default settings.  It worked, but I was almost tempted to not click on the result.  Thank goodness my brain was working because this was what I found:

I guessed that the transcriber may have gotten the born in "Australia" bit wrong.  Since my husband's Rosbecks are from Germany (for lack of a better region at this point in my research...if you know the history of the region at all you'll understand what I mean!).   So once I pulled up the image it was exceedingly clear that George and his family were born in AUSTRIA not Australia. 

Excerpt of 1860 US Federal Census - for the city of Wayne, Washington County, WI - John Raseback household

Lesson #1 for today - Keep an open mind and expect errors in the indexes...we all make mistakes!

The surname, while listed as Raseback on the census is close enough to Rosbeck.  It is certainly possible that the name changed over time.  It is just as possible that the census taker wrote the name phonetically. Either way, the spelling difference isn't an enormous concern.

Now for Lesson #2.

I wanted to see what else I could find, so I went back and expanded my search to "all categories".  I was intrigued by the "Photos" section, but they were all private and the information didn't seem to match up very well, so I cringed and clicked on the "Family Trees" tab.  There were 147 trees.  The first few that I clicked on were submitted by people I had been in contact with.  I didn't explore them very far.  I just wanted to see if anyone had made the jump to having Anna and Johannes (John) as his parents and if they had, did they use more than the passenger list and census to make that jump.  I clicked on a few more trees and then came to one that was created by someone I did not recognize so I opened it up.

Yikes!  That's really all I could say at first.  This person had made the jump, but I was no longer really interested in looking at the sources, because of one huge, glaring error that s/he had not bothered to fix or annotate.  Can you see it?  I put some pretty arrows there in case you're feeling a bit tired today:

So daddy died about 11 years before his son was born?  According to this tree he did.  Father, Johan, died in 1841 and son, George, was born in 1852.  A medical miracle.  Particularly since daddy was on the passenger list in 1857.  What you can't see from the image above is that this person has daddy down as dying in 1841 in WISCONSIN.  Yep, that would be 16 years before the family arrived in America.  It could be a typo.  Either way, most genealogy programs will point out glaring errors like that.  Does that mean that all the other information on this tree is wrong?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I mean this person had a few more generations back for my husband's Rosbeck line, and the surname Hassel is vaguely familiar.

So, Lesson #2 - family trees that are posted (on any site) are subject to errors.  Some are subtle.  Some are pretty big.  Does that mean we shouldn't use these trees?  Of course not!  They can be a great way to try to further your research and get through a brick wall or two, but you need to verify the validity of the specific bit of information you are looking for and conduct your own reasonably exhaustive search.  Any researcher worth anything won't mind you testing their conclusions.  After all, researching our genealogy and family history isn't about us being right.  It's about the facts being right.

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