Saturday, January 29, 2011

Using Wordle to Generate a Family Name Cloud

Now that I'm finished Randy's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, I decided to have my own fun by playing with word clouds.

Earlier today I was in a presentation where my boss had used the Wordle tool to generate a word cloud that described our library. A word cloud visually captures a snapshot of text and presents the words in different font sizes and weights to illustrated the frequency of a word used within that text.

This is a tool I've heard of before, and had played around a little with, but had never seen used in a meaningful or illustrative way. I wondered if I could find an interesting way to generate a genealogy-related word cloud. Particularly, I wondered if I could somehow extract surnames from my genealogy software and create a cloud that would illustrate how frequently a family name appears in my database.

I have to say I'm fairly pleased with the results:

For privacy reasons, I decided to first exclude all living people from my cloud, since there are a handle of names used in recent generations only among the living. To generate the data used (using Reunion):
  1. Identified all non-living people using one of Reunion's preset searches. It finds all people with a death date, death place, burial date, or who is over 100 years. Imperfect, I know, since it is possible to have relatives living more than 100 years (I have none). It also omits anyone who has no birth or death dates at all -- many of whom in my database are in fact deceased. Nevertheless, I got a decent sized sample of 590 people.
  2. I marked the resulting people Reunion had identified as non-living, then exported a text file of their surnames.
  3. Copy and pasted the list of names into Wordle to generate the word cloud. Once in Wordle, you can play with fonts, colors and layouts, though Wordle determines the sizes of the words. (Regarding privacy: By not saving my Wordle to their gallery, the site claims none of my text was saved to their site:
My cloud turned out to be a pretty decent visual representation of the families populating my database. The largest names do tend the be the most populous. But in general most names in the cloud I can read with "the naked eye" (with a couple of exceptions) are families I remember researching and entering in Reunion.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - The Date You Were Born

From Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings, this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun has to do with date research:
  1. What day of the week were you born?
  2. What has happened in recorded history on your birth date (day and month)? List five events.
  3. What famous people were born on your birth date?
For each of the above, tell how you found out.

I used the Wolfram-Alpha search engine to answer all of these. Wolfram-Alpha is different from search engines like Google in that it delivers computations and factual information rather than linking out to external resources. It's not a resource I use often, but I decided to try it for this challenge, and I was able to answer all three questions with a single search.

I typed the date (month, day, and year) into Wolfram-Alpha's search box and received a page telling me not only day of the week, but other interesting facts such as time difference from today, official holidays or observances (if any), events taking place (including famous people born), anniversaries falling, and time of sunrise/sunset.

1. October 6 of the year I was born (I'm not telling which year) was a Tuesday.

2. As mentioned above, Wolfram-Alpha lists events and anniversaries taking place on a given date. Here are five for October 6th:
  • 1769 - Captain James Cook lands in New Zealand
  • 1889 - Thomas Edison shows his first motion picture
  • 1908 - Austria annexes Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • 1927 - 'Jazz Singer' premieres
  • 1949 - Mutual Defense Assistance Act is signed
Because Wolfram-Alpha is calculating these events based on the year I input in the search, everything listed takes place on or before the year I was born. To find events on recorded history that took place after I was born, I re-ran the search using month and day only. By omitting the year, Wolfram-Alpha defaults results to the current year (2011) and turns up a few more items:
  • 2000 - Slobodan Milosevic resigns
  • 1981 - Anwar Sadat is assassinated
  • 1979 - first pope to visit the White House
3. The famous people Wolfram-Alpha lists as born on October 6th are mostly people I've never heard of. So either I was born on an odd date, or my general knowledge of 'famous people' is limited. (Probably it's a combination of the two.) Here are some I've actually heard of:
  • 1887 - Le Corbusier (architect)
  • 1914 - Thor Heyerdahl (explorer)
  • 1970 - Amy Jo Johnson (actress - seems best known as 'The Pink Range' in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Building a Research Toolbox - Open Thread Thursday

From Geneabloggers:
This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

"Do you maintain a Research Toolbox? A group of links to genealogy research websites that you frequently use? A Research Toolbox could be as simple as an unorganized list of bookmarks or favorites in your web browser. Or it could be a website that you publish much like Cyndi’s List but for your own use or for a specific area of genealogy.

Tell us a) what’s in your Research Toolbox, b) what is the most unusual resource in your Research Toolbox, and c) how you keep it organized."

My research toolbox is an assortment of links of vital records sites, online books, maps, cemetery information, and blog posts on topics I want to remember.

I'm not sure I have many unusual resources. I think they're fairly standard as far as genealogical research goes. But if I had to pick one... I'd say either the Hamilton County Ohio Probate Court online archive of records, or my list of GEDCOM tags.

Why these? The Hamliton County, Ohio site is only unusual in that it's the only Ohio link I have in my family at this point. My 3rd great grandparents, Joseph Harrison Collins and Martha Ann Judkins are listed in the marriage register for 1849. The marriage records are arranged alphabetically by both last name and first name, which amuses me. For example, all the last names starting with "J" are together, then subsorted by first names starting with "A", then "B", etc. The other thing I like about this site, is not only are the records online, but a number were recreated after fire and water damage.

My other unusual resource is a list of GEDCOM tags. As a librarian whose origins are in cataloging, I like understanding how data is being imported, exported, and displayed in my genealogy software. I don't do nearly enough exploring with this as I'd like, but I've got the links in case I get inspired some snowy weekend.

I use the Delicious social bookmarking site to keep my links organized. Delicious allows me not only to make a list of bookmarks stored in the cloud that I can access anywhere, but to write notes explaining why it's useful (or other evaluative information). I can also assign tags (keywords) to the links to keep them organized. I can then sort my tags into groups (location, record type, family name, etc.) and keep a nice menu handy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New York State Historical Resources

I loved seeing Dick Eastman's post a couple of days ago, "More Than Two Million Northern New York Historical Newspapers Online," in which he points users to the Northern New York Library Network's historical newspapers site.

NNYLN is part of New York's NY3R's system. Various of the 3R's networks have being doing great things in digitizing their regional heritage over the years. The projects are also expanding across the state, with other regions beginning to digitize their own local papers.

The New York Heritage site seems to be becoming a gateway to the partnerships evolving in these efforts. (I don't know that it's an official gateway, but many of the 3R's are cooperating in its ongoing development.)

Genealogy Insider Photo Checklist

From the Genealogy Insider, 'Got the Picture? Using Your Digital Camera for Genealogy.'

I really liked this checklist of sorts from the Genealogy Insider on digital photographs for genealogy. The gravestone and record/documents lists are pretty close to what I do currently. For the gravestones, I also always take photos of landmarks (buildings, fences, walls, trees, notable stones) near the site/plot I'm visiting so that I'll have a visual reminder to help me find the spot again on a return visit. Adding a ruler to photos of heirlooms is a great idea, and I'm embarrassed that it hasn't occurred to me before this.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Emily Roebling Cadwalader: Lying About her Age or a Reflection on the Men in her Life?

Today's 'Genealogy Tip of the Day' by Michael John Neill of Casefile Clues is, What Were They Smokin' When They Gave that Information? I found this quite coincidental as for the last couple of days I've been amusing myself with an age mystery for a relative whose birth dates in various documents are quite inconsistent.

Emily Roebling Cadwalader (d. 1941) was the wife of my great-great-uncle, Richard McCall Cadwalader, Jr. (d. 1960) These two were never high on my list of relatives to research, so the fact that I'm posting on them is a bit surprising to me. This all started a couple of days ago when I was updating entries for the Cadwalader family to Find A Grave, and posted photos of both their graves. [Richard ; Emily]

I originally posted Emily's birth date as it appeared on her gravestone, September 9, 1881. Since I had done no prior research on this, and really had no intention of doing much more, I normally wouldn't have gone further. But coincidentally, a few days before I'd received a book via interlibrary loan on the Roebling family [1] which happened to be sitting next to me. So I looked up Emily Roebling and found the following:
"Charles Roebling married, January 25, 1877, Sarah Mahon Ormsby of Pittsburgh. ... Five children, including one dying in infancy, were born to the couple : two boys, Harrison Ormsby, born November 7, 1877, died January 12, 1883, and Washington Augustus, 3rd, born March 25, 1881, died April 15, 1912 ; two girls, Emily, born September 9, 1879, and Helen, born December 15, 1884."[2]
The book is unsourced and gives no basis for these dates. I took them with a grain of salt and shrugged them off. But it does note that Emily's brother, Washington, was born in March, 1881. If these dates were at all accurate, it calls into question Emily's Sept. 1881 birth date on her gravestone.

Next step... The 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Trenton, NJ lists 9-month old Emily M. Roebling living in the household of her father, Charles Roebling, with her mother 'Sallie' and 2-year-old brother Ormsby. The 1880 census form also asks for the month born, if the listed person was born within the last census year. Emily's month of birth is listed as Sept. The family was enumerated on June 8, 1880, making 9-month old Emily born in Sept. 1879 -- the same date as in the Roeblings book.

Emily's birth date is also listed as Sept. 1879 in the 1900 census, while living as a 20-year-old in her father's household. Her brother, Washington, also in the household, has a birth date of March 1881 --again agreeing with the Roebling biography.

However, after Emily's marriage, begins the period of irregular reporting of her birth date. In all cases, the fact the she was born in September remains consistent. Among census data, a passport application, and ship passenger lists, her birth year changes.

In thinking about this, I found several things interesting.
  • Emily birth date while in her father's household is consistently reported (based on sources found) as Sept. 1879.
  • After her marriage to Richard Cadwalader, her reported birth year changes, though month remains consistent.
  • None of the dates I found match what I believe to be Emily's real birth date - 9 Sept 1879, or the date on her gravestone - 9 Sept 1881.
  • Her husband's birth date for the same sources is consistently reported as 7 Nov 1878. The one exception I found in his reported birth date is his World War I Draft Card.
  • The date on the draft card -- 7 Nov 1877 -- is the only one to match the date on Richard M. Cadwalader Jr.'s gravestone.
I'm left wondering if the change in Emily's age was self-reported out of vanity of some sort. But I also wonder if her husband, who may have been reporting data on her behalf in generation of these sources, reported her birth date wrong -- but why? Might he not have remembered it consistently, despite being able to report a date for himself fairly consistently? Or more vanity? I have no answers, but I found it a curious problem. If I get to the New Jersey State Archives some day, I can look up Emily's birth certificate on microfilm.

[1] Schuyler, Hamilton. The Roeblings : A Century of Engineers, Bridge-builders and Industrialists : The Story of Three Generations of an Illustrious Family, 1831-1931. Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1931.

Note: I borrowed this book as Schuyler wrote another work I used recently in my research, 'A History of St. Michael's Church, Trenton,' and was interested to see his treatment of the Roebling family.

[2] Schuyler, p. 315.

Edited for image readability.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

iPhoto Settings to Upload Photos to Find A Grave

I've accumulated a 'bunch' (more than a little, less than a lot) of photographs I've taken of ancestral graves from various cemetery visits. For a good long while I've been wanting to upload these to Find A Grave. But the photos are too large in their native format off my digital camera to meet Find A Grave's size requirements (200-800 pixel width, 350 KB size). And working with the image software I've been using (which I won't bother to name) has frustrated me no end.

So I was fiddling in iPhoto, which I use to organize my photos, preparing to export a file or two to try resizing (again), and accidentally hit on what is probably a basic feature in iPhoto that enabled me to easily resize the photos exactly as needed without a lot of extra editing.

My problem in the past was not paying enough attention to the available options when exporting a photo. (I export photos out of iPhoto for my blog and Find A Grave so I can post smaller sized images, as well as keep photos used in the blog and uploaded to Find A Grave together in their own folders. Thus the larger originals are retained, unedited, in iPhoto.)

This time I used the 'custom' size option, which enabled me to select the pixel dimensions of the exported photo. I like a dimension of 640 pixels on the longest size for basic service image, a standard I've been using for years because it generally displays well on most monitor resolutions without requiring the user to scroll.

The resulting image is the size I need in both dimension and resolution. I don't think iPhoto can replace my usual photo editing software, but I do think there are some basic things I can get a handle on to make my online life a bit easier. Perhaps a resolution for the coming year.

Wednesday's Child - Baby Christine

I posted for Tombstone Tuesday last week about locating the graves of my great-great grandparents, Richard McCall Cadwalader and Christine Williams Biddle. Also in this plot were graves of three of their seven sons. Two more sons, my great-grandfather and another of the uncles are nearby in the same cemetery.

The collective in my family thought surrounding this family group is that of men and "the uncles". Seven boys, of whom we collectively have a number of photographs and one large oil portrait. Thus I was especially touched to find the tiny grave of the lone baby daughter, Christine, who was just one month old at her death in April 1887.

One interesting thing I noticed about this grave was the engraving on the top of the tombstone in addition to the more standard engraving on the side -- almost as if her parents wanted to ensure her tiny stone didn't get missed by those looking from above.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Library of Congress - Smith/Miller Interactive Family Tree

I'm not related to the Smith/Miller family. I stumbled across this site a few weeks ago while doing research at work on Elizabeth Smith Miller. The collection at the Library of Congress is the Miller NAWSA Suffrage Scrapbooks, 1897-1911 -- one of the features is an interactive family tree. Laid out in pedigree format, you can zoom in and out, move around, hover over people to get additional information or print the whole thing out on a page. I thought it was a useful addition to an archival collection that mentions family members, though I did find myself wishing for source information associated with the tree, particularly if referenced in other collections at LC.

'The Story of New Jersey's Civil Boundaries'

Book reviews aren't something I've done before on this blog but I recently came across an extremely useful source that I want to remember and as such put a few notes down.

Trying to keep track of the evolution of places, place names, and their various boundaries is one of the more frustrating parts of genealogical research for me. My genealogical software of choice doesn't have any terrific features to assist me with this -- particularly in making notes associated with a particular location's boundary or name changes.

I've been working on my Cadwalader line of late, with an eye toward some day completing an application for the DAR. Back in November I was doing some research correspondence with a woman from the New Jersey State Archives (extremely helpful, BTW), and asked after any sources she could recommend to help me understand the changing county boundaries around Trenton. She recommended The Story of New Jersey's Civil Boundaries, 1606-1968, by John P. Snyder (Trenton, NJ : Bureau of Geology and Topography, 1969).

The book goes into much more detail than I need at this point. But there are detailed timelines for each county in New Jersey, with additional notes the townships contained within a given county. There are plenty of state and county-level maps illustrating boundary changes over time.

My personal confusion lies in Hunterdon County, Burlington County, and Mercer County. My ancestors had property in the Trenton area, and I was consistently goofing up which county they and their estate was in at nay given time. Looking at a map of New Jersey's county boundaries from 1714-1775, I see that Trenton was then in Hunterdon County, though right on the Burlington County border, which appears to be the Assunpink Creek. I need to double-check my notes, as Hunterdon County comes up often in my research, my ancestors may actually have been in Burlington County.

Mercer county wasn't established until 1838 (16 years after the death of Lambert Cadwalader, my 4th great grandfather). Mercer was formed from a number of townships from Hunterdon, Burlington, Middlesex, and Somerset counties.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday, Or, What I Did on My Christmas Vacation

St. Thomas Church Cemetery, Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania.

A couple of cemetery-related events came together while I was home visiting my mother, in the town where I grew up, over the Christmas holidays. Many of my mother's ancestors are buried in this cemetery. I've slowly been locating their graves over the last year, taking pictures, and documenting for myself where my ancestors lie. I've been hoping to find my great-great grandparents, Richard McCall and Christine Biddle Cadwalader, for some time now. I knew they were buried at St. Thomas', but had no idea where.

So the day I arrived home, my mother and I set out to take some photographs, with maybe 45-minutes of daylight left if we were lucky. Not knowing where they were buried, we started at my great-grandparents' graves, but did not find other Cadwalader graves in the vicinity. But where else to look?

My grandmother had long told us about the family graves to be found "straight out the doors of the church and past the light post". But before I got into genealogy with any passion, I never gave much thought as to who we'd find there. However, with no better ideas, my mother suggested we head straight out into the cemetery from the doors of the church, past the light post. We did so, coming to some distantly related Cadwalader graves. Based on landscaping, we turned right and hoped for the best. After a little bit of walking, Mom noticed the grave of Alexander Cadwalader (1888-1918), the youngest of the Cadwalader siblings, who supposedly took his own life. We stopped, looked around, and realized we'd found the family we'd been looking for, buried together in a little plot.
  • Richard McCall Cadwalader (1839-1918)
  • Christine Biddle Cadwalader (1847-1900)
  • Thomas Cadwalader (1874-1933)
  • Charles Meigs Biddle Cadwalader (1885-1959)
  • Christine Cadwalader (1887-1887)
  • Alexander Cadwalader (1888-1918)
I visited the plot a few days later with my sister to take some additional photographs, and this time had no trouble finding my family -- straight out the door of the church, past the lightpost.