Genealogy Blog, July 23, 2019
Research Summary Write-ups for Individuals
I get asked periodically about what kind of data to save for individuals when you are doing genealogical research, and my generic answer is ‘everything.’ But when it comes to actually recording the information for display to others or for use by others, summaries seem to be of greater values. Not everyone wants or needs to know about ancestor George’s falling off a horse when he was 15, unless, of course, the accident had a major impact on the rest of his life.
When doing summaries for my own ancestral tree records, or for FindaGrave memorial posts, I find they are sometimes different, but when put together, they should tell the same story about the ancestor.
For example, FindaGrave is the online burial story for ancestor George, so spread amongst the FindaGrave data fields, there will be designated data locations for George’s birth and death dates and locations, cemetery name and location, and burial plot location. Also available are places to link in memorial numbers for other people in George’s life, people like his father, his mother, his spouse(s), his sibling(s), and his children.
And then there is that magic section used to insert a text version summary of George’s life story. All of this information is of research value to others because it helps tell George’s story. And, as a side note, now that FindaGrave is presently owned by Ancestry.com and it is considered a research source when doing family research.
On Ancestry.com, or on your own local Family Tree Maker (or other local family tree program) trees, there are similar locations for data as you will find on FindaGrave, but perhaps a bit more detailed. For example, you may not know all of George’s children’s names, or where they are buried (so there may be no FindaGrave memorials for them), but from certain government or church records you do know they existed, so on Ancestry or Family Tree Maker you may enter their names as Child 1, Child 2, or maybe even Male 1, Female 1, etc. if you know their gender.
The individual’s story summary that you craft for either FindaGrave or your own family tree may be different, but can be of a similar structure. Here are a couple of examples of individual summaries for both FindaGrave and for Family Tree Maker.
The quoted comments below are found in the brief summary I originally inserted for Moses Twombly on the FindaGrave memorial I created for him.
“Moses Twombly was born January 23, 1793 in Berwick, Maine (we say that, although Maine separated itself from Massachusetts and became the 23rd state on March 15, 1820, so Moses was really born in Massachusetts) to Ephraim Twombly and Joanna WENTWORTH Twombly.
“Moses Twombly married Phebe J Fogg in Berwick on March 20, 1817 and the couple had ten children, all of whom were born in Berwick. The children included: Sally (Sarah), Joanna, Julia H, John F, Albion, Horatio Nelson, Phebe Jane, Joseph F, James Madison Benton, and Howard Moses.”
Note that the summary includes information about Moses’ own birth date and location as well as his parent’s names. The second paragraph includes what information I found at the time about Moses’ spouse and his children. Had I known the dates for his spouse and his children, I would have included them in the summary. I know the dates and locations now, and have updated both FindaGrave memorial data as well as my own Tree information.
It turns out that while Moses was in my own family tree, there was no FindaGrave listed cemetery for his burial location, and I created both the cemetery and the memorials for Moses and the others buried in that same small cemetery. I also wrote a brief story about the cemetery so that others would understand its story as well as the burial stories.
“This small cemetery is on private property, formerly a working farm, originally owned by the Samuel Perkins family. The cemetery is located on the west side of Blackberry Hill Road, in the field behind the present day Dragonfly Farm. The cemetery itself is located in a grove of trees, enclosed with granite posts and iron rail fencing. This cemetery includes 13 burials from two families: Twombly (5) and Fogg (8). There are four known rows of burials, and graves are numbered left to right.
“The cemetery was first described in Wilbur Spencer’s publication entitled “Burial Inscriptions and other data of burials in Berwick, York County, Maine to the year 1922.” Spencer’s original document described a total of 107 cemeteries, the people buried in the cemeteries, and the gravestone engravings. This cemetery was identified as cemetery number 32 in Spencer’s book. In his publication, Spencer listed two Perkins family members (Samuel H Perkins and Sarah ALLEN Perkins) who have since been moved to Evergreen Cemetery at Lot 474 and Highland Ave.
“In the 1990s, John and Robert Philbrick reviewed many (maybe all) of the original Spencer cemeteries, and found this cemetery (# 32) still intact. Their findings are described in their document entitled “Berwick Cemeteries” by John and Robert Philbrick.
“If you wish to visit the cemetery, you should stop at the farmhouse and ask permission from the present land owners.
“Regarding photographs, I suspect that the cemetery is not being maintained by anyone, and I also suspect that the gravestones have fallen into disrepair. Under those circumstances, and because I seem to be the only one concerned with this cemetery and with these burials at this time, you have my permission to clear and/or clean the stones as makes the most sense for photographic purposes, making certain not to damage the stones in the process. The object is to record readable images of the stones for historical purposes. Thank you.”
So this was the summary documentation about both the cemetery and about Moses Twombly that will hopefully help other researchers understand that small section of Maine’s history and some of its ancestors. It took a while to learn and consolidate the histories, and then it took a local FindaGrave volunteer (Anne Blake) to actually go out to the cemetery and photograph the cemetery and the identifiable grave markers.
In summary, I like the subject of Genealogy because it opens the doors for research on both individual histories as well as on local histories, and thus helps to identify, learn about, and tell the truth about both. In this age of great disinformation, finding and determining the truth about people and places is of great importance. For example I have already noted in other posts about some individual(s) who want their own ancestral DNA test results to locate their ancestors as being from one specific location, rather than where the DNA test results show they are from. Deception and fraud have been with us for a long time. My suggestion? Seek and tell the truth no matter where it leads your research. It’s the least we can do for our own descendants.
Getting back to Moses Twombly, the FindaGrave summary I used above was the same summary I used on my own family tree, simply because I had no additional information about Moses in 2015. For example, Moses was referred to as a Captain, but I found no records of his military activities. So, did I just not do a thorough enough job of researching Moses? Was Moses actually a captain in the military? Are there two Moses Twombly individuals and did I confuse them?
Family genealogical research may be one of those human subject areas that are never considered as being completed. There is always more to learn. Good luck to us all in our own research efforts, and may we find the true and accurate answers to our own questions.