Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Czech Land Record Transcription Process

I want to publicly pat myself on the back for correctly transcribing and translating page one (of two) of a 1799 Czech land record written in German current script, in Czech. This record is like a cross between a deed and a will; it has lots of information about the land, and who was going to "own" it next, including names of family members, family relationships, occupations, and debts and credits. 

These land records are really hard. 

Here is a break down of my transcription and translation process: 
Divide the text into manageable chunks. In my case, this meant 13 paragraphs, some which were not at natural breaks.

Then I do a quick first transcription. It's very quick, very rough, looking for patterns and obvious words.

Then I print the document out and trace it. For this one, it was super slanty, so I purposefully distorted the image to make the letters less slanted. I mark up this physical copy, circling similar words).

Then, I go back and do a first "real" transcription, sans dictionary.

Then I do a second transcription, with my 1890 Czech English dictionary, google translate, and my brain. I type it next to the first transcription. By now, the words are starting to make sense in a context. I bold the words I'm still unsure of. There should not be more than one or two per paragraph.

That's where I am with page one.

Next, I think I will try to write a comprehend-able translation, guessing from the context the meaning of the unknown words. Probably some will become known at that point, by simply walking away for a while, seeing other words in the document, and  referring back to the unaltered image.

I feel confident I can do this well this way, but I'm looking for other ideas for the actual process of deciphering difficult to read texts. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Find-a-Grave and giving back

Hey! So, a lot to write about. Today I went to the 3S Genealogy Symposium hosted by the Friench Simpson Memorial Library in Hallettsville, TX.

There were some excellent speakers, and I learned a lot. Enough for several blog posts.

During the break, I went to the Hallettsville City Cemetery. I have some collateral lines who ended up in the area, and was interested in checking it out. While there, the thought crossed my mind, "Hey! I wonder if Find-a-Grave could use some photos from this cemetery?"

On my android phone, I searched for "Halletsville City Cemetery" on Find-a-Grave's website. I saw on the right hand side of the page that there were some 30-some odd "photo requests." I scanned the requests, paying special attention to the Czech names, which for some reason stick in my head a lot easier than Anglo or German names. Weird.

I spent the next 40 minutes searching the cemetery for those names. I also took photos of interesting graves.

My phone is set up to automatically upload my photos to google plus, on a private setting. Basically, it's a way for me to save my photos without doing any work whatsoever.

At home, I got on my computer, and found the Hallettsville City Cemetery. The first thing I realized was that I would need a username and password to be able to upload photos.

I quickly signed up for that  Receiving the email from them took literally about 1 second. I confirmed my email address, and was able to log in, find the Hallettsville City Cemetery again, and then on the right side look at those photo requests.

The way the site is set up makes adding photos to a "memorial page" super easy. I was able to fulfill two of the photo requests, and uploaded about 10 other photos, 4 or so of which had not yet been entered into the cemetery's database. I was quickly able to add a new memorial page for these people, using the data directly from their headstone. It was interesting that it was mainly Czech families who had not been added to the database - surnames like Drost, Kallus and Pustejovsky.

I felt really happy about doing this because I use this website all the time, and now I have given back to some poor researcher without the capability of traveling to the grave site to actually "see" their ancestor's grave. It was especially fun to fulfill the photo requests for names that I know are being researched.

I would challenge anybody who has a bit of free time to check out Find-a-Grave for the cemeteries local to you. Some have been completely photographed, others partially, and some not at all. Uploading photos and adding memorial pages to the site was fun, easy, and rewarding.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Discrepancy between standards for temple submission and the GPS

I am working on submitting my ancestors' names to the temple, where temple ordinances will be done in proxy for them. Here is a link that explains more about temple ordinance work.

The purpose of this blog post is to point out an interesting discrepancy that I see between the bare minimum requirements to submit a name to the temple, and the Genealogical Proof Standard, or GPS.

In full disclosure, I am not an employee of I don't really know the program's bare minimum requirements. A brief perusal of the internet leads me to believe that these requirements have changed as new.familysearch and family tree have evolved. Researching what they used to be is not interesting to me.

So, speaking purely from my own experience, in the latest iteration of the LDS church's temple name submission program (Family Tree), it seems the minimum requirements to submit a name to the temple are that you have the name, the gender, a date (even just a broad "before [year]"!), and a place (even something as unspecific as "Texas", or as shady as, "[Texas]" meaning, I think they were born in Texas but I really don't know).

That's it.

What's even more crazy is that you don't even have to cite your information. In the past, public source citations weren't even possible. Happily, now they are, but they aren't a requirement.

I'm totally not dissing the program. I really, really love familysearch. I love family tree. I understand why it is this way, and I'm totally okay with it. I'm not sure that citing one's sources should be a requirement. For me, personally, oh my gosh of course it is are you crazy I would never submit my ancestor's names without citing the sources!!!!

[deep breaths]

I just find it fascinating that if I were to submit such unsubstantiated information to my BCG application, or a client, it would be unacceptable, yet it is somehow acceptable for our ancestors' temple work?


I don't know Ms. Eileen O'Duill, but I really appreciated her opinion on the "Why Certify" section of the BCG website. Basically, her point is that her ancestors deserved the best research she could give them. I feel similarly.

Though, on the other hand, I am happy that I don't have to create a kinship determination project for every family whose names I want to submit to the temple. And my minimum standard for temple work doesn't technically meet the GPS, I think.

Last month I completed a massive client report, which I had been planning on using for my BCG portfolio. I was advised against this by several people. They hadn't read the report or anything - aka they didn't think it was horrible based on it specifically, but just knowing that it was my first time doing it, they cautioned that it would be much better for me, and my chances of becoming a CG, to write several reports and pick from the best one. One reason I arrived at the decision not to use this report is because it relied almost exclusively on one type of record, Czech Parish records.

Now, these records are highly reliable. They are awesome, and I could spend a whole other blog post writing the specifics of their awesomeness. But the GPS requires a "reasonably exhaustive search." This means:

  • Assumes examination of a wide range of high quality sources
  • Minimizes the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion

One type of source isn't going to cut it for proving to the BCG judges that I know and follow the GPS.

But it is far beyond the bare minimum for temple name submission.

Honestly, because of the nature of these specific records and the lack of availability of records (both physical and financial accessibility), working with clients, I DO mainly rely on these parish records. I don't use one sole record by itself, but many (even hundreds!) to figure out the web of relationships, places, and people. Baptisms, marriages, deaths, burials, witnesses - lots and lots of information in these records.

But parish records are still only one type of record. It's kind of a conundrum to me, and I find myself wishing that I understood it better. I'm excited to read Tom Jones' book, "Mastering Genealogical Proof." Maybe that will help me understand the GPS better.

When I started submitting my ancestors' names the to the temple, with Temple Ready, there was no way to cite a source in that program. Instead, I cited it in my PAF file. My father drilled into my mind that you must always, always cite your sources. I only did this a few times before new.familysearch went live in 2008. When I started using new.familysearch, I cited every piece of information that I found for every ancestor. Even when I linked my husband's living parents to me, I found out their information and cited it as my own personal memory.

I continue this same practice today. I can usually find birth, death, and marriage (if they lived long enough) records for all of my Czech ancestors in the parish records. When I don't find a death before they turned 8, and I know (from the other births and deaths in the family) they were still living in the same residence, I use that as negative evidence. This person did not die before the age of 8 so we can do all the temple work for him, not just the sealing to parents.

To me, this level of research is my own personal minimum. I'm not going to submit a person for proxy work if I only have one census with a vague reference to being born in "Austria." Or, before double checking the deaths to make sure that they didn't die young. I just really, really don't want to waste peoples' time! If I'm going to go to all the trouble to go to the temple (here in Houston, it's about an hour away) and do proxy work, by golly, those people had better be real, and it better not be duplicate work! I read of a person who had his temple work done by proxy 8,000 times. What!!! Noooooooo!

But it is so weird to me that the research I have done for these people, with solidly cited sources, doesn't meet the GPS.

I'm also not dissing the GPS. I think it's fantastic. I am so glad that somebody way smarter than me came up with standards for genealogical proof. It's truly, truly wonderful, and I don't have any suggestions to make it better, yet.

Basically, my point is: isn't it so weird that there is a discrepancy between what I need to submit my ancestors' names to the temple, and the GPS?

My goal for 2013 has been to submit 1,000 names of my ancestors to the temple. I'm on track to completing that goal, which is great. This non-BCG portfolio related research will help me know which branches of my family would be best (aka easiest) for compiling a solid, GPS-sound, BCG-worthy kinship determination project, as well as the other sections of the portfolio.

I really hope I can decide where to research soon. It's already been two months and the only parts of my BCG portfolio that I have partially completed are the BCG-supplied document and the applicant supplied document. And I haven't done the research plan (the important part), just the transcription and citation.

Okay kids need lunch.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The purpose of this blog

I am a fifth generation Texas Czech. I am passionate about history and research. I love deciphering old documents, and analyzing the information they contain to form an understanding of the past. I am particularly interested in Czech records and research. My enthusiasm and energy for genealogy is driven in part by the need to do something that is not directly related to the physical labor of caring for my preschool aged children and all that entails. My personal dream is that I can monetize my passion by helping connect others to their past. 

My first step towards creating a profitable genealogy business is to become a Certified Genealogist by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. These first posts will be focused a lot on the certification process itself, which involves doing some really in-depth research. I am "on the clock" officially as of March 2013.

This blog is a place to showcase my research talents, questions, strategies, interests, case studies, etc. A blank slate for me to advertise my business, help educate other Czech researches, organize my thoughts, and practice writing in a public way.

My goal is to post frequently. Here is the current plan:

3 weekly posts (minimum)
1. Czech Research Strategies
2. Update on my BCG application process
3. Proof Argument (if not for my family, I will first obtain permission from the client)

We'll see how this goes. Before three small kids, I was a pretty adept personal blogger, with followers who I didn't know personally. Now I find that keeping up with my personal blog just feels like I am selling my life. My life isn't all roses and pinterest-perfect shabby chic, more like, "Crap, I have drain flies. How do I get rid of these?" and, "Well, that was the fifth exploding poopy diaper of the day." Spending some time "aspiring" to be that picture perfect mommy blogger in my absolutely not picture perfect environment, I found I dislike it. I don't want to sell my self; less than that, I don't want to sell a fake self. Plus, I found that unless my posts were [extremely offensive to people I love] rants, blogging became way too much of an investment of my [super uber duper limited] time, effort, and thought to continue on a long term basis.

I'm MORE THAN okay with selling my genealogy services, though. In fact, that is my end goal. That is why I think this blogging experience will be different than my personal travel/home/life blogging. I'm also quite good at "ranting" about Czech research, and it's much less offensive. These rants may actually prove helpful to other researchers! As for the time, effort, and thought that will go into this project, I feel I desperately need it (well, or, something!) to maintain a personal level of sanity in this difficult phase of my life. What phase isn't difficult, I really don't know. Probably the post-mortem phase. Maybe we should ask our ancestors.

Anyway, thanks for coming by. I hope this blog will be useful to you!