14 June 2010

Google your ancestors

Search engines are wonderful tools for finding information on your family tree, as long as you can separate the wheat from the chaff. For an example, let’s use Google to find information on one reader’s ancestor, Samuel Bass, who died in Braintree, Massachusetts, in 1694. Here’s what the query looks like:

“Samuel Bass” 1694 ~genealogy

The name is in quotation marks so that all results have the phrase “Samuel Bass” listed together. Since the year of death is known, it’s listed to narrow down the focus. The tilde mark (~) before the word genealogy acts as a synonym finder; it will look for web sites with similar words, such as family or even misspelled variations of the word genealogy.
The query brings back about 1,950 hits. Of course, we can narrow down the hit list by adding to our query, with spouse’s name or a specific location. But let’s just see how well this query worked.

Hit #1: The Pane-Joyce Genealogy 
This personal web site does include a Samuel Bass, son of John Bass (1658-1724) of Braintree, Massachusetts. It looks like a grandson or great-grandson. Luckily, source notes are provided, suggesting we look at Susan E. Roser's Mayflower Increasings for more details on John Bass (and possibly our original Samuel Bass). The web site’s index does not list a Samuel Bass who died in 1694, so we go to the next hit.

Hit #2: Ancestry.com surname board for Bass
Although she’s not related to this line, Basketlady420 posted an entry from Melinde Lutz Sanborn’s book, Supplement to Torrey’s New England Marriages prior to 1700, p.7, “BASS, Samuel (c1600 -1694) & Ann SAVELL (c1600 -1693); m. Saffron Walden, Essex 25 April 1625 Roxbury/Braintree. [GMSP].” This is great information, with an estimated birth date; a spouse, a marriage date and location; and a residence. The data comes from the Great Migration Study Project sponsored by New England Historic Genealogical Society. Before moving on, you should check to see if any more information on Samuel Bass is posted on this surname board.

Hit #3: Family Tree Circles
This free web site provides “journal” space in order to link researchers and trees together. Phatbug313 lists Samuel Bass’ marriage as above, plus their children. Although this entry is from 2006, it’s worth contacting Phatbug313 for details, especially since she has provided source notes. On her profile, you can see the journal entries she’s written as well as a link to her TribalPages (a genealogy web site).

Hit #4: The Genealogy Forum
ConnieB5 posted a GEDCOM file of Samuel Bass (1600-1694), his children, and grandchildren. This file was uploaded in 1994, so it may not cover current sources—or any sources, for that matter! Personally, I’d skip this hit because I don’t download unknown files to my computer and too many GEDCOMs floating around my computer can lead me to confusion. However, I may look at the homepage of this site to see if there’s current information on the author and contact her.

Hit #5: Damon and Tabor Family Connections
Another personal web site, with sources. Worth mining for details as long as you fact check the sources. 

Hit #6: Genealogy
This page refers to the son of Samuel Bass, but I don’t have much confidence in its source, as stated at the bottom of the page: “Material on the Bass family culled from The Compendium of American Genealogy, Vol IV, pages 46, 153, 181, 424, 519, 571, 635, and 731, by Frederick Adams Virkus, pub. by the Virkus Company, 1930.” (Site no longer active.)

Hit #7: Genealogical and personal memoirs relating to the families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts 
In his 1908 compendia, William Richard Cutter provides a good overview on many families, so it’s well worth culling this digitized book for information.

Hit #8: Deacon Samuel Bass (person sheet)
Celia Snyder has uploaded a personal page from her Reunion genealogy software program. It looks like much of the material comes from the profile of Samuel Bass in The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, which is available by subscription at AmericanAncestors.org, the New England Historic Genealogical Society's web site.

Hit #9: History of an American Family: Samuel Bass
Another genealogy software upload, referencing the grandson. With a couple of clicks, you can go to the page for the grandfather.

Hit #10: Genealogy of 14 Families of the Early Settlers of New England
Another Google digitized book, this one by Elisha Thayer published in 1835.

The first 10 hits provided additional information to flesh out the original query. With some fact checking, you can build a family profile from this Google search and check out the references for more information.

Before you look at web sites, though, you may want to read Genealogical Standards: Guidelines for Publishing Web Pages on the Internet as recommended by the National Genealogical Society to find out the best practices for creating and using web sites.

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