About "Good to Know: A Genealogist's Guide"

A multi-discipline approach to genealogy - A genealogist's way of working generally encompasses several different fields of study at once, thus the more well-rounded your genealogist is concerning various disciplines of study, the better that genealogist will be able to locate your ancestors, and maybe even tell you a little about what they were like.

This blog will discuss what types of things are "Good to Know" for a genealogist or for anyone researching his/her own family tree.

Friday, August 19, 2011

VIII: A Genealogy Quiz

I noticed there weren't all that many genealogy quizzes out there on the web, so I typed up one of my own.  Rather than have every question be a genealogy question, I decided to cover a broad range of topics that relate to genealogy as well, staying in line with my blog's multi-discipline approach.  Topics include photography, history, medicine, math, statistics and even chemistry.

The answers are at the bottom of the post.

Good Luck & Enjoy!

1) How many square perches are in an acre?
    a) 40
    b) 80
    c) 125
    d) 160

2) What does GEDCOM stand for?
    a) Genealogical Explanation of Distinctive Chromosomal Markers
    b) Genealogical Descendant Configuration Methodology
    c) Genealogical Data Communication
    d) Genealogically Extracted Data Common to Other Mediums

3) When was "The Great Chicago Fire"?
    a) 1871
    b) 1892
    c) 1906
    d) 1918

4) What does a "cordwainer" do for a living?
    a) make rope
    b) assists a midwife
    c) building construction
    d) makes shoes

5) If you have a photograph of your ancestor that has the words "Kodak Velox Paper" stamped on the back, it was developed:
    a) after the mid 1930s
    b) before the late 1960s
    c) after the early 1950s
    d) in the late 1940s

6) In genealogy research, what does "P. O. E." stand for?
    a) Person Offering Eulogy
    b) Partially Obstructed Evidence
    c) Port of Entry
    d) Parents of Edgar

7) If all of these records provide a date of birth, which one is the most reliable or most likely to provide an accurate date of birth?
    a) a date of birth for the deceased on his death certificate where the informant was one of his children.
    b) a birth certificate for your ancestor
    c) a marriage record with dates of birth provided by the couple
    d) a 1900 census record

8) If a probate states that the deceased died "intestate" and "without issue", it means...
    a) he left a will and had children
    b) he didn't leave a will and had no children
    c) he left a will but had no heirs
    d) the will is contested by heirs

9) If a death certificate stated that your ancestor died of "consumption", what did he die of in today's terms?
    a) tuberculosis
    b) meningitis
    c) typhoid

10) In 1900, the life expectancy for whites/caucasians was ___ years longer than for blacks/African Americans.
    a) 3
    b) 5
    c) 8
    d) 10

11) Who's epitaph reads, "I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."
    a) Dorothy Parker
    b) Winston Churchill
    c) H. G. Wells
    d) Alfred Einstein

12) What famous American was the defense attorney for the British Soldiers involved in "The Boston Massacre"?
    a) James Madison
    b) Thomas Jefferson
    c) Thomas Paine
    d) John Adams

13) How many 5-greats grandparents do you have?
    a) 64
    b) 81
    c) 128
    d) 252

14) This wood polymer is responsible for causing paper to yellow and deteriorate over time.
    a) lignin
    b) polyethylenemine
    c) glycogen
    d) melamine

15) In 1870, the percentage of those 14 years of age and older (of all races) who could not read or write was:
    a) 12%
    b) 20%
    c) 28%
    d) 32%


1) D,  2) C,  3) A,  4) D,  5) C,  6) C,  7) B,  8) B,  9) A,  10) D,  11) B,  12) D,  13) C,  14) A,  15) B

Friday, April 29, 2011

Part VII: Profiling Your Ancestors

[FYI: You may notice there are links for two identical words. The words are the same, but the links are different.]

As someone who holds a degree in criminal justice, it will come as no surprise that I am inextricably drawn to crime dramas like "CSI", "NCIS" & "Criminal Minds".  I also happen to know that genealogists work in much the same ways as those in the criminal justice field & even some of the characters in TV crime dramas.  I've written about several of these similarities in an earlier post, "Pt. IV: Get to Know Another Occupation".

Knowing what your ancestors were like
can not only help with your genealogical research, it can also enhance your written family history.  Analyzing what the data you've collected on your ancestor means in respect to dates, ages and parentage is good, but what kind of person were they, what talents did they have, what events affected them and how?

"Profiling" is a method used by the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit (aka. BAU) on "Criminal Minds" to help find their "unsub" (aka. "unknown subject"): the person or persons who committed the crime(s) they're investigating.  They use profiling to learn more about the criminal.  As you well know, there are plenty of "unsubs" in genealogical research.  Finding out who they were is just part of the puzzle.  As family history detectives, we want to find out as much as we can about them, so why not use the same method we see on "Criminal Minds" and profile our ancestors?  You don't need a psychology degree in order to do this, just common sense and the willingness to learn about that which affected your ancestor's life.

The BAU is able to create profiles from their analysis of what is known about the 
circumstances surrounding the crime(s), the crime scene(s), the unsub(s) and the victim(s) (aka. victimology).  At the start of the show, the team learns what they can at headquarters from the case file, which often contains very little information on which to create a profile. Through the course of the show they eventually have enough information to form a more complete profile which they can then present to the local authorities in order to apprehend the unsub.  The profile includes not just information and analysis about the unsub(s), but also their analysis of the crime(s), the victim(s), the timeline and the circumstances.  Professional genealogists often begin with very little information in their "case file" (information provided by the client) and on their "unsub" (the ancestor they're requested to research) as well.  However, unlike the BAU, genealogists generally focus only on those records or documents that mention the ancestor or his family by name.  If genealogists were to broaden the range and scope of their research and analysis beyond the ancestors themselves to include the events, time period, social norms, daily life and other circumstances affecting their ancestors, they could use the product of that additional research and analysis to create profiles of their ancestors.  Broadening the range & scope of the research in this manner provides the genealogist with the necessary context to create a profile. 

The Search:
So, how does the BAU
find their unsub?  The same way we find our ancestors: by looking at the records available to them.  The BAU doesn't just examine the records, they analyze them so they can figure out the significance of each, how each recorded event (e.g. divorce, conviction, debt, etc) impacted the unsub's life and how the events as a whole shaped that unsub's world view.  They analyze these documents to learn more about their unsub so they can put themselves in the unsub's shoes.  By doing this, the BAU is more able to predict his behavior and find a way to secure an arrest. If genealogists were to do the same, they'd also be able to gain enough insight into their ancestor to put themselves in their shoes.

So, how does the BAU find these records?  Well, luckily, the BAU has the wise and
wonderful Penelope Garcia (played by Kirsten Vangsness) as their technical analyst.  If a record exists out there, Penelope can find it.  If you're a fan of the show, you may notice how many of the records she searches through are the same types of records genealogists research, such as deeds, marriage records, divorce records, court records, military records and newspapers.  As she obtains more and more search criteria (e.g. where they live, likely employment, marital status, aliases, etc), she eventually narrows down the suspect pool to just one.  Sound familiar?

With every tidbit of information genealogists find, we obtain new search criterea as well.  With each new criteria, we set the parameters for our search and eliminate all other possibilities (aka. "the process of elimination").  Whether you work in the field of criminal justice or genealogy, the process of elimination is an effective tool that you will use time and time again.  Penelope's talent, to not only know just what she's searching for and where to find it, but how to most efficiently and effectlively search for it, is one that is a highly prized and sought-after talent of genealogists as well.

Using Timelines:
The team often uses timelines to help them find, comprehend, profile and predict the actions and behaviors of their unsub.  Timelines are also an effective tool used by real law enforcement officers, detectives, CSIs and attornies in the courtroom.  They are a terrific tool for genealogists as well.  Why use a timeline?  Because until you put all the records & events in chronological order you may not realize exactly what your ancestors experienced and how those events may have affected them.  You may not realize how some events overlapped with others or happened at the same time, compounding the effects on your ancestor.  This timeline can not only include your ancestor's personal & familial events, but also global, national and local events that likely had an impact on them as well.  For example, you may know your ancestor lost four of her five children, but you may not have realized that they all died within five years, three of which was while her husband was off fighting a war and all of this happened during a localized yellow fever epidemic.  Put all these events together and you have an incredibly tragic convergence of events.  Had each happened years apart from one another, your ancestor would likely have experienced them quite differently.  Since our goal is to put ourselves in our ancestor's shoes, knowing not only what events affected their lives, but how thechronology of those events affected them is important as well.  Knowing the details of the timeline can help you form more accurate hypotheses concerning the recorded actions of your ancestors (e.g. moved out of the area struck by the epidemic, apprenticed their surviving child due to inability to care for them from the overwhelming grief).

What to Research: 
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to include the "whys" and not just the "whats" when writing your family history?  On "Criminal Minds", the BAU tries to find answers to a myriad of questions so they can form their profile.  They use that profile to figure out who their unsub is, what his motivation was and his modus operandi (aka. "M.O." or the unsub's "signature").  So, what kinds of questions do they want answers to for the profile?  Many questions will concern the unsub(s), the crime(s), the victim(s), the timeline & the circumstances.  Why do they research all these aspects?  Because if they focused only on the unsub, they wouldn't get very far.  Knowing what kind of crime they comitted or victims they chose can shed light on the unsub's motives, behaviors and actions.  Did the unsub use a knife in an up close and personal murder or did he use a gun, distancing himself from the victim?  Is the unsub targeting women in their 30s who look eerily similar to his ex-wife or does he target only those who are of a particular race in a crime of hatred?  Are all his bludgening victims currently abusing their children and look like the unsub's deceased father?  Does the unsub take wedding rings from all his victims as a sort of trophy?  What do these questions reveal about the unsub?  Many of these questions bring up even more questions, but at the same time, they also give you clues as to where to look for certain types of records.  Why go over so many questions about the unsub, their M.O., the crime & victim?  Can you imaging trying to solve a murder if you didn't consider all of these things?

In genealogy, we want to find out all we can about our ancestor, but just like the BAU, we can find out more about that ancestor if we look not only at the ancestor himself, but at the events he lived through, what impact they may have had on his life, his occupation, daily life and the social norms of the time period?  When you broaden your search to include various circumstances & events, your analysis will be all the more accurate and those shoes of his will fit better.  We've all heard the saying, "the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts".  This rings true not only in the field of criminal justice, but in genealogy as well.  We can analyze each bit of information individually, but also analyze what information and analyses we've collected as a whole to unearth even more information about our ancestors. 

In order to better understand your ancestor, it would be good to learn about the circumstances surrounding his life (I discussed some examples of these in my first blog, "Pt. I: Historical Events"; I also discussed the behavioral aspects in "Pt. III: Sociology & Behavioralism").  You may know what events your ancestor lived through, but did you put them into context with the social norms of the time period?  You may know what it takes to be a doctor in today's society, but how would that occupation differ if your ancestor was a doctor in 1823?  Each thing, person and event described in the records are best understood when we know the circumstances, and thus their context.

We all know what the "social norms" of today are, which is why the BAU team doesn't need to do any research in this area, but what were the social norms during your ancestor's lifetime?  If you know the social norms, you'll be able to put your ancestor's behavior and actions (gleaned from the analysis of the records) into context.  I have learned more about the social norms of the time by reading about them (see
my "Recommended Reading List").  There's also a great deal of information on the internet.  At the end of this blog is a list of links and books I have found while preparing this blog that may be of help to you.

Both the BAU and genealogists benefit from looking into events that had an impact the unsub's/ancestor's life.  These events likely had a role in shaping their personality and world view and may help explain why they behaved or acted as they did.  As I stated earlier, the BAU doesn't need to take into account the social norms of yesteryear, so when the team uncovers an event that affected their unsub, they are already viewing that event in context with the time period. When a genealogist researches events that affected their ancestor, they have the added step of needing to put those events into their proper context by researching the circumstances and social norms of the time.

Just as the BAU would handicap their profile by analyzing only the unsub and not the crime, a genealogist would also be handicapped if their focus was only on the ancestor and not the historical global, national or local events.  Consider a biography written about someone who lived in New Orleans for the past 62 years.  The biographer would be remiss not to mention Hurricane Katrina. 

If we learn about what happened in and around an event, we can better be able to figure out its effect on the
people who lived through it.  Many events affect more than just the local area.  Was there a presidential election?  How did your ancestor's state vote?  What were the issues of the campaign?  The issues of a campaign tell you what the current concerns of the day are, such as in the most recent election.  So, knowing the campaign issues (especially those issues the winner ran on) will help you understand what the majority of Americans (or at least the majority of the Electoral College) believed was important at the time your ancestor lived.

Another thing to consider is your ancestor's age and gender during the event.  Events affect children quite differently than they would a fully grown adult and males differently than females.  Imagine witnessing the horror on 9/11 as a young and impressionable 12 year old versus a retired 75 year old.  Let's say your ancestor witnessed a war braking out in his country.  The 12 year old might go through his adolescence without a father figure while the 72 year old might deal with outliving his son who died in battle.  A male might join the cause and choose to fight for his country while a female might have to deal with twice the amount of work and responsibilities at home while her husband was away.  Not sure how events could've effected people?  Try looking for someone who experienced the same event (or one similar to it) and has a biography, autobiography or surviving letters & journals that gave accounts of that event.  Just as in the field of criminal justice, first-hand accounts, written at the time of the event, are far better evidence than 2nd hand accounts written later by people who were not witnesses (aka. "hearsay"). 

Occupations, Roles, Talents & Traits:
Unless you have your ancestor's journal, personal letters, or other papers that directly state his personality or talents, it's unlikely you'll know what they were without a profile.  Even obituaries aren't really reliable evidence as to what a person was like as many people tend to inflate certain positive traits out of courtesy for the deceased's friends and family.  Afterall, it's really bad form to bash someone right after they've died...even if they were a jerk.

Because there is a lack of data on a person's personality in the existing records, genealogists must figure these things out for themselves. 
Was your ancestor a doctor in 1740 in Philadelphia?  Check out the local historical society to learn about what that city was like and what events took place when your ancestor lived there.  What were the educational requirements for becoming a doctor?  You can imagine what talents a doctor would need based on what we know of doctors today?  Here's where that extra research comes in.  If you look into 1740, you'll find that when your ancestor was a doctor, no one had any idea what "germs" were and most believed illness came from "bad air" or an imbalance in the humors of the body.  You'll also notice that the first hospital in America didn't show up until 1751.  Knowing the profession is one thing, putting it into context with the time period is another. 

The more information you are able to put in context, the better you'll be able to fully comprehend what you have and the better you will be able to judge what their personality was like and why they did what they did. 
What kind of personality traits or talents would your ancestor have needed for that particular occupation?  Would it have required someone who was able to pay attention to detail, was unafraid of public speaking, had good hand-eye coordination, was able to read and write, etc?  How would his occupation have affected his life, his health and his family?  Was he a farmer who had to do back-breaking work every day?  Would this man be likely to develop arthritis at an early age?  Was your ancestor a slave?  How would the uncertainty and anxiety over never knowing when that day would come when he would be sold and separated from his wife and children affect his mental health...his heart?  How might the parents in a family of slaves deal with the ever-constantly looming event when their child reaches that age where he is told he is a slave?

What if your ancestor didn't have an "occupation" per se?  You can still form ideas as to what they were like by looking at some of the same things I've already mentioned: events, daily life, social norms and customs.  Consider a woman in the early 1800s.  What would have been expected of her as a wife and mother?  What sort of things would she have needed to do every day to keep the house and care for her children?  Perhaps she would've had to spin and weave just to get the thread and fabric to sew so she could clothe her family.  She may have had to milk the cows every morning, make cheese & churn butter.  Do you know what kind of time and effort goes into churning butter?  I don't, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be that hard to find out.  Just preparing dinner for her family would've been a huge task as pretty much everything was made from scratch and any meat was probably from whatever animal she decided to slaughter in the yard or what remained of the heavily salted meat that was preserved.  If we want chicken for dinner, we go to the fridge.  If your ancestor wanted chicken for dinner, they'd reach for the axe.

When it comes to your ancestor's childhood (or lack thereof), there are several questions you could research. Did your ancestor go to school?  What level of education might he have attained?  Did he ever learn to read or write?  Did his parents apperntice him to learn a trade?  How young was he when he was apprenticed?  Was he the only child in the family to be apprenticed?  Did he choose the same occupation in adulthood that he learned in his apprenticeshp? Does this trade run in his family?  

Some children actually did have jobs.  A large number of children were employed for low wages. This helped their family economically, but at the same time, the types of jobs children had put their lives, bodies and health in danger.  They might work at a textile factory, threading machines or crawling under large mechanical equipment to clean remnants left over from production off the floor.  Children's were well suited for these jobs because they 
had small hands, small fingers and their bodies could fit into tight spaces.  Children as young as 4 or 5 years of age had jobs in various industries.  How might the long hours, hazardous working conditions and repetitive motions affect a child of 5 years old?  What would their view of the world be when they never had the opportunity to experience childhood?

Ready to start profiling?
Good Luck!

Equations to Remember:
Things, People & Events + Circumstances = Context
Context of Things, People & Events + Analysis = Profile

Useful Books & Links:
Historyorb.com - Historical Events by Year
History for Genealogists: Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors by Judy Jacobson
OurTimeLines.com - creates personalized timelines for your genealogical research

Medicine, Disease & Health Care

National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems - History of Public Hospitals in the United States
Beginnings of Hospitals in the United States - Pt. I Pt. II by John E. Ransom [pdfs]
The Story of the Creation of the Nation's First Hospital
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington
Harvard University Library Open Collections Program - Contagion : Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics

Timeline of Epidemics
Death Investigation in America: Coroners, Medical Examiners, and the Pursuit of Medical Certainty by Jeffrey M. Jentzen

Colonial Occupations
Colonial Craftsmen: And the Beginnings of American Industry by Edwin Tunis 
Female Occupations: Women's Employment from 1840-1950 by Margaret Ward (specifically aimed at the family historian)
Children Bound to Labor: The Pauper Apprentice System in Early America by Ruth Wallis Herndon & John E. Murray (Editors)

GenDisasters - Events that Touched our Ancestor's Lives

Presidential Elections
History of Presidential Elections including popular and electoral votes in each election, states won, issues in the election and voter turnout

Sociology, Anthropology & Archaeology
Domestic Manners of the Americans Vol. I & Vol. II by Fanny Trollope
Pilgrim Hall - America's Museum of Pilgrim Posessions
Uncommon Ground: Archaeology & Early African America 1650-1800 by Leland Ferguson
Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle … by Carol Berkin The Face of Our Past: Images of Black Women from Colonial America to the Present by Kathleen Thompson, Hilary MacAustin & Darlene Clark Hine
Women & the Law of Property in Early America (Studies in Legal History) by Marylynn Salmon
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom, 1750-1925 by Herbert G. Gutman
Voices From Slavery: 100 Authentic Slave Narratives by Norman R. Yetman
Good To Know blog post - "Recommended Reading List"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Recommended Reading List

I've been reading quite a bit lately, seeing what I can learn about the time periods I research. A knowledge of history is so important in the field of genealogy. The more you learn about the way people lived their day-to-day lives, the better able you are to understand the choices these individuals made and why.

Amongst the mass of books I've ordered in the past year, I found a wonderful series that focuses on the day-to-day life of people from various time periods in America. They are a treasure trove of information. I'm currently on the third book in the series and it's just as good, if not better than the one before it.

Even though they are written by different authors, the three I've read so far are all very well written, informative & not easy to put down. I highly recommend the "Everyday Life in America Series".

1) "Everyday Life in Early America" by David F. Hawke
2) "The Reshaping of Everyday Life: 1790-1840" By Jack Larkin
3) "Expansion of Everyday Life: 1860-1876" by Daniel Sutherland

If you're interested in Colonial Medicine and Doctors, here's a good book on that topic.
"The Doctor in Colonial America" By Zacharry B. Friedenberg

This book is full of information about how they practiced medicine in the colonial period, which includes the Revolutionary War. It's not one of those books that's filled with medical terms, but accessible & simply understood language by an author who is also a doctor himself. He writes about amputations without anestesia, war wounds, sanitation controversies, bleeding, scurvy (and it's somewhat accidental treatment), dysentary, smallpox, inoculations, strange diagnosis, probable misdiagnosis, treatments that include such things as mercury and so much more...

Happy Reading!

Ancestor Approved Award Nominations

As a recipient of the "Ancestor Approved Award" I was also asked to pass on the award to 10 other genealogy bloggers.

If you should choose to accept the award, the requirements of said action are as such:
1) Write a blog which explains the "Ancestor Approved Award":
    Include the image above as it represents the award itself.   
    It was created in Mar 2010 by
Leslie Ann Ballou, author of Ancestors Live Here.
    She created the award as a way to show how much she appreciates and enjoys "blogs full of tips and tricks as well as funny and heartwarming stories...". 
2) List ten (10) things which surprised, humbled or enlightened you about your ancestors. 
3) Nominate ten (10) blogs for the "Ancestor Approved Award"

My Nominations for the "Ancestor Approved Award"  (in no particular order):
1) Genealogy By Ginger's Blog

2) Finding Family Stories
3) Keeping the Story Alive: Sharing genealogical resources, stories and techniques from one determined researcher to others 

4) Searching Every Corner, Researching Every Turn  
5) Family History Tech: Leveraging Technology for Genealogy
6) The TechnoGenealogist

No Contact Info Found
The Modern Genealogist 
8) Digicopia Genealogy Resources
9) Resting in Pennsylvania
10) Civil War Women Blog

If anyone knows a way to contact those on the "No Contact Info Found" list, please let me know or direct them to this page.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ancestor Approved Award

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Irene Winterburn who writes the blogs: Jirene's Genealogy Tips & Jirene's Genealogy Treasures.  I was thrilled to find she had nominated me for the "Ancestor Approved Award": an award created in March 2010 by Leslie Ann Ballou, author of Ancestors Live Here, as a way to show how much she appreciates and enjoys "blogs full of tips and tricks as well as funny and heartwarming stories...".  Thank you Irene Winterburn! 

As a recipient of the "Ancestor Approved Award" I'm supposed to list ten things which surprised, humbled or enlightened me about my ancestors.  It took me a while, but I finally came up with those 10 things.  I was also asked to pass on the award to 10 other genealogy bloggers.  I haven't yet figured out who they're going to be yet, but I'll be sure to let you know when I do.

So, what are the 10 things that surprised, humbled or enlightened me about my ancestors?  Many of them involve one of my Civil War ancestors, probably because I know so much more about him than most of my other ancestors.

1)  I am humbled by the courage & strength of my several greats aunt, Sarah Towne Cloyce, who stood up for her sisters' wrongful deaths when they were hung for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusettes.  It's not just that she stood up to the court that murdered her sisters, it's the fact that she was a woman who was standing up to the all-male court in the early 1700s.  Seems fitting to honor her during this Women's History Month.

2)  I am humbled at how my ancestor, Samuel H. Melcher, was able to treat his patients in a time when so little was known about the human body, diseases & treatments. 
I've been reading up about doctors, medicine, and treatments in colonial and later times, and the more I learn about what little knowledge they had, the more surprised I am that they were able to do so much with so little...not to mention the lack of technology.  In those times, treatments were often one of the following: mercury, bleeding, blistering & purging.  They also didn't really know what "germs" were and many thought pretty much all diseases were derived from "bad air".  Possibly due to this reasoning of bad air being the cause of disease and illness, many doctors and surgeons didn't wash their hands before, after or between patients. Yuk.

3) I was surprised to learn that my Civil War Surgeon (from above) ancestor went through his entire life without ever having to perform an amputation.

I was surprised to learn that the Civil War Surgeon (from above) was able to successfully divorce his wife on the grounds of "desertion" when he was the one who moved away and did the "deserting".  Why did he move away?  He was caught with a prostitute when he was the head of a hospital and was dismissed.  When he told his wife they were moving, she told him she wasn't coming with him.  According to the courts, the fact that she didn't go with her husband amounted to her desserting him.  Weird, huh?

5)  I was surprised to learn that two of my ancestors, Thomas Goodfellow & Charles Woodbury Melcher (son of Civil War Surgeon mentioned above) were inventors and actually had patents.  I was also surprised to find that Google has a way to view those patents.

6)  As a "trekkie", I was surprised to find I had a connection to Star Trek with a distant cousin, the granddaughter of Bing Crosby: Denise Crosby.  She played Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation for the first two seasons before she was killed off by a tar-like creature on an away mission. Still, woo-hoo!  

7)  I'm humbled by the fact that had those individuals on the Mayflower not rescued John Howland after he went overboard, I wouldn't be here today.

8)  I'm surprised at how addictive genealogy is.  Whether it's the name printed on the back of a football jersey or watching the credits roll by on a tv show or movie, I think about genealogy.  I've had trouble getting to sleep sometimes when faced with a particularly difficult genealogical challenge.  I often find myself analyzing the data I have in my head trying to think of places I can search, what I might have missed or where I haven't looked instead of just letting myself relax and drift off to sleep.  I've even had genealogy-themed dreams.

9)  I know I'm supposed to say how I was enlightened by my ancestors, but it's important that I include here how I was enlightened by my genealogist father as well.  I worked with him, learning the techniques of genealogy research as I was doing my criminal justice internship. Prior to this, I was unaware of all that genealogy entailed.  It wasn't just knowing what records were out there, but which ones to search at what times, how every case was completely different and it required your brain to adjust to totally different circumstances and then reach a conclusion as to when to look where and how to analyze the massive amounts of data.  There's so much about genealogy that involves you, the genealogist, to know what bits of information are important and should be taken note of, and which things aren't.  Every step of the research involves you making decisions, and every decision is entirely different as we have totally different information and a totally different goal for every search.  We have to take into account what we have, what we don't have, and what we are searching for and where to look for it.  The complexity of it all & the ability to organize and multi-task is paramount in how successful one will likely be in achieving their goals in the rhelm of genealogical research.  Not all of this is easily taught, even by a genealogist who has been doing research since before I was born.  Somehow, though, I learned these things.  Thanks Dad!

10)  Finally, although this isn't about my ancestors per se, I'm pleasantly surprised at the generousity of genealogists I have come into contact with.  Even though, it may have taken hours upon hours to create a tree that goes back hundreds of years, they are gladly willing to share the information with those who request it without expecting anything in return.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Part VI: Where's My Ancestor's Land?

A fair amount of people interested in their family tree want to know where their ancestor's land was, but not just where it was...where it is now.  Not that it moved or anything, but having a map of your ancestors land that was made in the 1820s doesn't necessarily mean you'll know where it is in 2011.  Understandably, descendants would like to stand on the same land their ancestors stood on, feel the soil, smell the air, see the trees their ancestors once set their eyes upon.  In a recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (American version), Spike Lee, when first introduced to the land where his ancestors lived, he actually gathered up some of the soil and put it in a bag to bring home to his children (FYI: you can find the full video of this episode here).  It's amazing how much a bag of dirt can mean to a person.

Unlike today, it was a regular occurrence for people to give birth at home rather than at a hospital.  Due to the lack of available health care facilities & the beliefs of the family, many people didn't leave their home to give birth.  Some people today would think it extremely unusual (not to mention risky) to give birth at home.  There's a time line of midwifery & childbirth in America that can help to get a good idea of what was practiced when.  Also, learning about what surrounded the childbirth experience in early America can help you visualize the differences between what they did then and what is practiced today.

It was common for a family member to die at home, instead of in a hospital, as well.  Prior to 1915, most people died at home...it still happens today, obviously, but deaths at the home are far more rare than they once were.  Early Americans sometimes even buried family members at the home: in a family plot in the yard.  Of course, nowadays, it's illegal in some places to bury family members on your land (check your local laws).  I believe it has something to do with public safety and health.

Figuring out where an ancestor's land is now isn't all that easy, but I recently tackled this job and wanted to share the process (FYI: If you want to skip the in-depth description of how I did this, step-by-step instructions are included at the end of this blog).  In this case, I was lucky enough to have found a map in the Orphans' Court records of New Castle County, Delaware.  This is the case of James Faris of Pencader Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware.  He was the son of William Faris who bequeathed a large plot of land to his son James.  The land in question was originally part of a huge plot of land called "The Welsh Tract", and part of that tract eventually came into possession of William Faris when he purchased the land from Jacob & Mary Clement on 16 Aug 1743 [NewCastleCoDEDeeds O:42].  Unfortunately, we will never be able to see this 1743 deed because it did not survive the test of time and no longer exists.  We know it did exist because of the reference in the 1810 deed of his son James [NewCastleCoDEDeed I3:7] when he sold a portion of the land.  When William died in 1786, he bequeathed this land to his son James.  Although James did sell some small portions of the land he received from his father, he kept the bulk of the lot until his death in 1826.  Figure A shows the land that was in James' possession at the time of his death.  This map was found in Orphans' Court records where the land was described in metes and bounds, neighbors were stated, landmarks given, land was valued (for the purposes of fair division or sale so that the proceeds can be split up among the heirs) & a portion of the land was set aside as "the widow's third" [NewCastleCountyDEOC N1:444-450].  The practice of the widow receiving a third of her deceased husband's land was referred to as "The Rule of One-Third".

I scanned the map from the microfilm (you can also use a photocopy) and opened the file in Photoshop (you can also use another photo editing software).  As I examined the map (see Figure A), I could see how the land was laid out as it was described in the metes and bounds of both the Orphans' Court records and James' deeds. 

If you don't have a map, you can use a deed platter.  You can also see if there is a map of the area that was made at the time your ancestors lived which shows the landowners.  An example of this style of map is the Atlas of the State of Delaware by D. G. Beers in 1868.

On 11 Mar 1801, James Faris & his wife, Elizabeth (Moody), sold 17 acres to James Beckum [NewCastleCoDEDeeds I3:9].  The land was described as having been the land of William Faris, now in possession of James, his son.  You can see James "Bakum" on the 1828 map as a neighbor (at bottom).

On 29 May 1810, James Faris & his wife, Elizabeth (Moody), sold 8 acres to Eleanor Thomas, Mary Thomas, Benjamin Thomas, Joseph Thomas & Aquilla Thomas, all of Cecil County, Maryland [NewCastleCoDEDeeds I3:7].  The Thomas' don't appear on the 1828 Orphans' Court map [Note: James' daughter married Aquilla Thomas].  They probably sold the land between 1810 and 1828.  This deed also referred to a 16 Aug 1743 deed where William Faris (grantee) purchased the land from the Clements (grantors). The deed I mentioned earlier that no longer exists.

On 26 Jan 1811, James Faris sold 4 acres of land to Joseph Graham [NewCastleCoDEDeeds T3:334].  This land bordered the land of Robert Moody.  If you look at the map, you can see "Widow Moody" (on the left of the map, probably widow of Robert Moody) & Graham (top left, above Moody) were neighbors in 1828.  Using this information, you can see where that land was that James sold that used to belong to his father William Faris.  If we platted the land in the three above deeds, we could expand this map even more to see what it looked like and what area it covered when James' father, William Faris, owned it.

In an 1847 deed, I found that James Faris (grandson of William Faris & son of James who died in 1826) and Jane, his wife, conveyed land to Levi Faris (James' brother & grandson of William Faris) through a Deed of Release on 4 May 1846.  In the 24 Mar 1847 deed, Levi Faris, of Philadelphia, sold the land (formerly belonging to his grandfather, William Faris) to John Hanna of Philadelphia [NewCastleCoDEDeeds U5:307].  Levi sold 130 acres of land in "Pen Caddy" [Pencader] Hundred which was described as bordering lands of Capt. William Barr, James Purnell, Andrew McIntyre, Samuel Hyatt & George Boulden.  This plot of land was further described as containing the New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad (something not mentioned in the 1828 Orphans' Court record because it didn't exist then) & the New Castle & Frenchtown Turnpike.  Levi also stated that the land was located 1 1/2 miles from the border of Maryland and Delaware. 

Now, I was tasked with finding land on the modern day map which was 1 1/2 miles from the Maryland/Delaware border and contained both the New Castle & Frenchtown Turnpike & the New Castle & Frenchtown Railroad.  Well, that wasn't going to happen since there is no such railroad on the modern day map & there is no New Castle & Frenchtown Turnpike either.  At least the Maryland/Delaware border was still there.  So, like anyone else might do in a situation like this, I turned to Google.  The Historical Marker Database website informed me of the New Castle & Frenchtown Railroad and how it ran parallel to the Turnpike, just south of it (which falls within the boundaries of the 1828 Orphans' Court map).  I also found out that the portion of the New Castle & Frenchtown Turnpike which ran from the Northeast to Southwest (the part which was featured in the Orphans' Court map) was now called "Frenchtown Road". 

Using the drawing tools in Photoshop, located all the landmarks I could and marked them on the map.  I made the New Castle & Frenchtown Turnpike (later Frenchtown Road) green, circled the house and other buildings in red and drew thick black lines over the boundary lines on the map. These markings will serve as an overlay to be used later (see Figure B).  I also checked the map & the description to make sure I knew which way was north.  Maps weren't always drawn so that north was pointing toward the top of the page.  Luckily, mine was orientated that way (see upper right corner of Figure B).

After drawing the boundary lines over the Orphans' Court map, I removed the map from the background so I was left with just the lines and markings I drew over it.  Then I saved the file in Photoshop.

Next, I needed to figure out exactly how big this plot of land is in today's measurements (e.g. feet & miles).  I used the description of the metes and bounds which used directions (North, South, East & West) as well as distances (in perches) to figure this out.  I wrote down all of the measurements and converted each one into feet (see Figure C).  I also separated the two plots for visualization purposes (see bottom of Figure C) with the help of the copy and paste features.

Because each plot was described separately, I knew some of the metes and bounds would be repeated due to overlap (e.g. the boundary between the two lots of land).  I typed these repeated measurements in blue.  [Note: the first blue measurement in Lot #1 is the last blue measurement in Lot #2...they went the opposite direction from beginning to end in the description.  There is also an error with one of them where the same boundary line was described as 16 perches in Lot #1 and 6 perches in Lot #2.  This is how it was written in the Orphans' Court record. I can't re ally call it a typo, but it looks like they just forgot the "1" in Lot #2.  It's probably supposed to be 16 perches.]

In the 5th line up from the bottom of the list of metes and bounds for Lot #2 (directly below the last blue entry), you'll see that the boundary described was exactly 20 perches long.  After converting 20 perches to feet, I found that it equaled 330 feet.  I used this information to figure out how big this lot of land was.  First, I printed out the outline and measured the length of that specific boundary which was described as equaling 20 perches (330 feet).  It was exactly 1 centimeter long (this 330 foot boundary line is at the north end of where the New Castle & Frenchtown Turnpike intersected with Lot #2).  Since 1 cm equaled 330 feet, every centimeter measured on that printout will be the same length.  Next, I drew a dotted line at the uppermost part of the outlined plot of land and another one at the bottommost part.  Then, I measured the distance between the two.  It measured exactly 16 centimeters which equals 5280 feet.  I was quite surprised that it would come out to equal that since 5280 feet = exactly one mile (see Figure D).

After figuring out that the distance from top to bottom of the land was exactly one mile, I needed a modern day map with a scale.  I grabbed an atlas of New Castle County, Delaware which provided a scale with the maps.  I photocopied that scale, scanned it into my computer (retaining it's aspect ratio), copied and pasted the overlay of the boundary lines from the Orphans' Court map and then shrunk the overlay until the two dotted lines lined up to equal one mile on the scale (see Figure E).  Now, the plot of land matched up with the scale of the modern day map.  This will enable me to overlay the plot of land on that modern day map to see where it fit.
I located approximately where the land was likely to be using information from deeds & the Orphans' Court records (e.g. landmarks).  I scanned the modern day map, opened it in Photoshop and marked the points of interest (Figure F above).  I drew a red dotted line parallel to the MD/DE border and 1 1/2 miles inside of Delaware & marked Frenchtown Road (formerly the New Castle & Frenchtown Turnpike) in green.  I knew the land would have to fit all three criteria.

Once I knew where the landmarks were on the modern day map, it was time to put the (to scale) overlay from the Orphans' Court on it (Figure E).  I copied and pasted the overlay so that the Frenchtown Road was lined up with the green line I used to mark the New Castle & Frenchtown Turnpike.  Then I moved the land up and down that road until the land lined up well with the 1 1/2 mile mark from the Maryland/Delaware border mentioned in Levi's deed (Figure G).  Since Levi was selling land in Lot #2 in that deed, I knew the 1 1/2 mile mark had to be located in that lot rather than Lot #1 which was the "Widow's Third" and was later sold by Levi's mother in 1850, Martha Ann, widow of James [NewCastleCoDEDeed F6:95].

Finally, since my client was from out of state, I got a larger map of Delaware to show exactly where the land was located within the state so my client would be able to easily locate the site where ancestors, William Faris & son James Faris, once lived (see Figure H).

Step-By-Step Instructions for Locating Land on Current Map:
1) Find a map of the land your ancestor owned or resided on If no map is present, find a document that describes the land, usually in metes and bounds.  Use a deed platter to plat the land and get the boundaries in the right places (Note: if you used the deed platter, you can skip steps 3-6).  If the land runs next to a creek or river, it may be helpful to plat the neighbors land as well.  The more landmarks you have that can stand the test of time, the better you'll be able to find the land on a modern day map.  Use landmarks in neighbor's land if necessary [Note: Depending on when your ancestors were residing on the land, you may even find a map made at the time of the region that had landowners names included on them such as the 1868 Atlas to the State of Delaware by D. G. Beers].
2) Note any landmarks described in deeds.  If no useful landmarks in your ancestor's land, check the neighbors.  Research landmarks to see if they exist today or to find out where they were/are located so you can find that location on a modern day map.  A Google search can help you find out where things used to be if they no longer exist.
3) Scan the map of your ancestor's land and open it in Photoshop or another photo editing software (see Figure A).
4) Use the drawing tools to draw the boundaries of the land around the map (see Figure B).
5) Remove the map from the background and keep the outline of the land boundaries.
6) Write down the metes and bounds of the land described in the original record & convert perches to feet (see Figure C).
7) Print out the outline of the boundaries for the land & locate where each boundary line is so that it matches up with the distance described in the record.  Often, these distances are included on the map next to the boundary lines.  You can write down the measurement in feet on each boundary line to make it easier when it comes to figuring out the scale.
8) Pick one of the boundary lines and measure it (see Figure D).  The distance + measurement will give you a scale (e.g. 1 cm = 200 feet, thus 4 cm = 800 feet).
9) Find a modern day map of the area w/ a scale providing information on what measurement = a mile.
10) Scan the scale on the modern day map into your computer.  Open in Photoshop.
11) Copy and Paste the outline of the boundary lines so they are next to the scale of the modern day map.
12) Scale the outline of the boundary lines to match the scale of the modern day map (see Figure E).
13) Search the modern day map for the landmarks mentioned in the records & scan that portion.  Use drawing tools to mark where the landmarks are located (see Figure F)
14) Copy and Paste scaled overlay of boundary lines over the modern day map so landmarks match up (see Figure G).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Part V: Archaeology - A Supplement to Genealogy

Most kids want to grow up to be a firefighter, ballerina, veterinarian, actor, pro football player or a pop star.  Me?  I wanted to be an archaeologist.  Well, either that or a historian.  I'm sure Indiana Jones was partially responsible, but my father having been a genealogist likely had something to do with it as well. 

So, what is archaeology?
Archaeology is the
scientific & systematic study of
historic or prehistoric peoples and their cultures by analysis of their artifacts, inscriptions, monuments, and other such remains.

If you're a professional genealogist or are researching your own family tree, you can learn a lot from the field of archaeology.  In my last blog post, I compared genealogy to the field of criminal justice.  Archaeology can also be compared to criminal justice in much the same ways by simply substituting the written records found in genealogy to the artifacts uncovered in archaeology.  In fact, crime scenes are handled in a similar way to how archaeologists handle their dig sites.  At crime scenes, evidence is carefully handled, photographed, bagged and tagged.  That evidence is then analyzed & compared to other evidence on and off the scene in order to discern who handled it, why they handled it, what they used it for & what possible motive existed for the crime.  Artifacts are handled in much the same way with the addition of analyzing that artifact to ascertain how the existence of that artifact contributes to the knowledge of the people and culture of that period and, generally, the exclusion of trying to figure out a possible motive of a criminal.  I say "generally" because there are times when an archaeologist is looking at a possible crime scene or the remains of someone who was a murder victim (or a human sacrifice), even if it happened thousands of years ago.   
There is much to can learn from the field of archaeology in general, but if you are interested in learning more about the time period in which your known ancestors lived, you'll most likely be looking at the subcategory of archaeology called "historical archaeology".

Historical Archaeology is the scientific & systematic study of peoples and their culture from a time in which there was a written record.  The knowledge gained from the study of artifacts from this time is meant to be a supplement to what we have learned from the written record.  Genealogists study of a specific portion of the written record (that which helps us to identify our ancestors), thus historical archaeology is a supplement to genealogy.

In the field of genealogy, anything that can supplement the written record is extremely beneficial.  An example of how archaeologists use the written record that we genealogists know so well is when they excavate a site of a home.  They will look for deeds, probate records, court records & even newspaper articles that may give a description of that home and/or it's contents and help determine when people resided there. 

The written records can help a genealogist locate the site of the home their 
ancestor occupied, but they can also help to visualize the home and it's contents, even if there is no archaeological evidence available to the genealogist.  For instance, you may come across an "Inventory of Goods & Chattels" in a probate record.  This is a written record of the belongings of the deceased, completed by appraisers (usually 2 men) who probably knew the deceased and lived nearby.  If you were to make an inventory of goods and chattels for an estate, how might you go about doing it?  You'd probably walk from room to room writing down the contents: as you complete the list for one room, you'd go to the next, and so on.  Your ancestors' appraisers probably did it the same way.  If this was the case, the order those items were listed can help establish a layout of the home and which objects were likely associated with which rooms.  Knowing which objects were where can help you determine how they were used and which activities were likely to occur in which rooms.  So, even without the actual artifacts, such as the home or your ancestor's belongings, written records can be of great help to aide you in visualizing the home of your ancestor and what their day to day life might have been like.

Of course, there is something to be said about actually seeing artifacts people made and handled 100 or 200 years ago.  Simple day to day items from another time can give you a better understanding about how a family lived and can help you to put yourself in the shoes of your ancestors.  Artifacts can tell you a lot about how someone lived because every artifact had a purpose.  Look around your home for a moment.  Do you see anything that doesn't have a purpose?  Even if that purpose is simply decoration, there's a purpose for each item you have. 

So, what is an artifact?  An artifact is anything made, modified or used by a human culture.  While many think of archaeology as the study of stuff you find buried underground, there are a lot of artifacts above-ground, especially when you're studying more recent historical archaeology.  For instance, there are homes in America still standing (some even occupied presently) that were built and occupied in the 1700s.  It's not just homes, but other structures too.  When I went to high school, I would drive by the Brandywine Creek State Park where a stone wall bordered the road.  It was built by hand without anything but the expertise of how to choose certain shapes of stone for a perfect fit to hold the stones together.  I'd be hard pressed to find someone living today who could build a stone wall that would last for hundreds of years without some kind of mortar or other material to hold the stones together.  There are parts of that wall that have been destroyed in recent years due to cars crashing into it, but due to the expertise involved in building it, a repair job hasn't even been attempted.

What other artifacts are above ground?  Gravestones.  What archaeological 
information can you learn from a gravestone?  Well, there are a myriad of designs & symbols on the gravestones that have been used over the years that can help you to understand the culture and how people thought about death at the time the stone was carved and erected at the grave site.  There's also information on what tools were used to carve the stone, what kind of stone it was & where it came from, what shape it was carved into and even who the carver was.  This is all in addition to what you can learn from the actual written information on the gravestone (e.g. dates, names, epitaphs, etc).  Some consider a gravestone as a historical document and study it as they would any other written record.

Archaeologically speaking, gravestones are a particularly valuable artifact in that one aspect of them is controlled: the date.  Since most people were buried shortly after they died, the date of death on the stone was generally very close to when it was carved.  You may even find mention of the stone carver in probate records of the deceased.  When a certain aspect of an artifact is controlled, it makes for easier evaluation of the other aspects of that artifact.  For example, it helps archaeologists better determine the significance of the designs and symbols, the popularity of a particular design, how that design spread from one region to another and when it was no longer used or replaced with a different design.
Chronology is important in both genealogy and archaeology.  If you don't know when someone was born, it's hard to determine who might have been their son or daughter or which marriage record likely belongs to that person.  If archaeologists don't know when a building was built or occupied, it's virtually impossible to develop a meaningful analysis of what it means to find certain artifacts there.  Artifacts have a particular time period and cultural significance attached to them based on when and where they were invented and distributed, where they were unearthed, what people owned them & the waning and waxing popularity of the item over various regions.  Knowing what time period they were used and by which people within that society, has a profound effect on what it means to find it at a particular site.

Archaeologists use dating techniques to guide them in their analysis. 
Genealogists need dates just as much as archaeologists do.  If a genealogist doesn't have a date of birth, he might say a person was "born by" or "born before", using the earliest date from the records as a guide.  Archaeologists use "terminus ante quem" (the date before which) and "terminus post quem" (the date after which) when analyzing the artifacts found on site.  If you have a knowledge of when certain types of artifacts were invented or used in any specific region, it helps determine how one might date a site.  For instance, you might find ceramics which had a specific technique used for glazing that wasn't invented until the 1770s on a site.  This would mean that site was likely occupied into the 1770s.  Archaeologists review all the artifacts found at a site to determine the latest a person likely inhabited that area. 

Knowing more about the culture or what person may have occupied that home, helps as well.  The wealthier families were more likely to have what was "in fashion" at the time because they could afford the higher cost, while, at the same time, the less economically fortunate could only afford what was in fashion years earlier.  Using the same example of ceramics from the 1770s, the wealthier family probably had them when they were brand new while the poorer families likely acquired them long after they first appeared on the market.  Knowing which family occupied that home can help an archaeologist date the site.

Both archaeologists & genealogists are concerned about the ability of later researchers being able to look at and review their research with ease. Archaeologists use what is called a "datum point" (a fixed location near the site that is unlikely to disappear over the years) so later researchers can locate the same area they excavated.  Genealogists are careful to use source citations, documenting what sources they used so each piece of data can be easily located by a later researcher.  In this way, we find that archaeologists and genealogists are not just focused on the past, but they have a profound respect for the future of research in their respective fields.

Architecture is also studied by archaelogists.  Do you live in a house?  Does your house have a front porch?  As Deetz states in his book, "In Small Things Forgotten" (p.231), "It was a place to sit and swing, make ice cream, pick a tune ot two, and even store a broken wringer washing machine, and we owe it all to those anonymous people who brought it from West Africa".  Europeans didn't build their homes with porches, yet nowadays, millions of homes across the country have a front porch.  They were first seen in America on slave cabins and slowly spread throughout the country.  In this way, we can see how one culture had an influence on another.  Archaeologists see cultural influences in other artifacts as well.  Since many dates in historical archaeology are known as to when one culture came into contact with another, these influences, marked by what types of artifacts were found on site, can help to date the occupation of homes being excavated.

You may have an artifact in your own home: something handed down from generation to generation which can lend itself to a better understanding of the people & culture of the time.  Perhaps you have a pocket watch from a gg-grandfather or an old painting of your ancestor hanging on your wall.  Technically, those are also artifacts.

Although I doubt you'll be digging up the skeletal remains of your ancestors, there is an amazing amount of information that can be acquired from examining the bones of an individual.  You can learn the more obvious, such as their gender, age and, in some cases, what killed them.  There's a reason doctors use x-rays to look at your bones.  Injuries, diseases and other conditions can be discovered by looking at the bones.  You can even see old injuries someone may have had during their lifetime that have healed, or were healing at the time of death.  Some diseases can give a clue as to if a society or individual had contact with other societies.  [Note: If you're interested in learning about what happened when two or more societies interacted with one another in history, which society suffered from that contact and why, I highly recommend the book "Guns, Germs & Steel" by Jared Diamond.]

With testing techniques performed on the bones that are now available, you can even tell if they were likely from the same area where they were buried or what their diet was.  Through examination of the burial, you can learn what that culture's views on death were by how they were buried, where they were buried, the position of the body, and what items were buried with them.  You may not be digging up an ancestor to find out these things, but archaeologists have found the skeletal remains of thousands of individuals over the years.  They may have already examined the remains of someone from the same time and region as your ancestor.
In conclusion, there is a strong relationship between the written record and the artifacts left behind by our ancestors.  Studying one or the other doesn't come close to what you can learn from combining the two.  In my last blog post, I talked about how getting to know someone in another occupation could be beneficial to both, using the field of criminal justice as an example.  Genealogists would also greatly benefit from the knowledge archaeologists have acquired from studying artifacts that have been left behind and archaeologists can benefit from the knowledge genealogists have of the written record.

If you're a genealogist, or researching your own family tree, I would highly suggest visiting an archaeological dig, and if you can find a society, college or other group that will let you, see if you can participate in a dig or just observe and ask questions. 
Archaeology Links:
The Society for Historical Archaeology
The Process of Archaeology via Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center
Society for American Archaeology
Center for the Study of Architecture

Books on Archaeology and Related Topics:
"In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life" by James Deetz (an American classic & a great intro to the field)

"A Guide to the Artifacts of Colonial America" by Ivor Noel Hume
"Doing Historical Archaeology: Exercises Using Documentary, Oral, and Material Evidence" by Russell J. Barber
"Uncommon Ground: Archaeology and Early African America 1650-1800" by Leland Ferguson
"Jamestown: The Buried Truth" by William M. Kelso
"Flowerdew Hundred: The Archaeology of a Virginia Plantation, 1619-1864" by James Deetz
"Time Detectives: How Archaeologists Use Technology to Recapture the Past" by Brian Fagan
"Here Lies Virginia: An Archaeologist's View of Colonial Life and History" by Ivor Noel Hume
"Martin's Hundred: The Discovery of a Lost Colonial Virginia Settlement" by Ivor Noel Hume
"The Practical Archaeologist: How We Know What We Know about the Past" by Jane McIntosh
"The Archaeology of Disease" by Charlotte Roberts & Keith Manchester
"Guns, Germs & Steel" by Jared Diamond

Archaeology & Artifacts on Television:
"Antiques Roadshow" on PBS
"Pawn Stars" on History Channel
"Ancient Discoveries" on History Channel
"American Pickers" on History Channel
"Bone Detectives" on Discovery Channel (focus on ancient human remains) [Reruns on Green Channel]
"The Naked Archaeologist" on History International Channel (focus on Biblical archaeology)
"Skeleton Stories" on Discovery Health Channel (focus on forensics)
"Guns, Germs & Steel" on PBS
There are also occasional specials on channels such as PBS, History Channel, History International, Discovery Channel, etc.