Cooperative family history

Last year we started a family history Wiki, in the hope that it might make it easier to cooperate with others in gathering family history. The Wiki format, which has been so successful in compiling Wikipedia, one of the most useful encyclopedias the world has ever seen, seems ideal for family history, where members of families all over the world  can contribute different parts of the family story.

Daily page views of our Family Wiki 2008i

We began the family wiki in May 2008, and it seems to have attracted plenty of visitors right from the start — more than this blog, in fact. I thought we might get 2-3 visits a day, perhaps 40-50 a month, but it has been quite a lot more than that, rarely dropping below 25 page views a day.

Daily visitors in 2008

Since each visitor usually looks at more than one page, the actual number of visitors is also quite interesting. It seems that it has rarely dropped below 20 visitors a day.

OK, not everyone who visits the site is related. Some may see a surname that they are interested in, but find that it is a different branch of the family, especially with common surnames. They might come, look at the index and a couple of pages, and see there is nothing connected with them, and leave again.

Edits and Editors - 2009

That is rather discouraging.

You can see how discouraging it is by seeing the number of page edits, which has dropped since it started. Also the number of editors is revealing. Only one other person has contributed anything to the pages, and I’ve had to write all the rest myself. The essence of a wiki is that it is cooperative, and many people contribute something to the full story, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. But surely some of the people who visit find a family that is connected to theirs, and could contribute something to the story. And only two left messages.

There is also the question of where visitors come from.

Where visitors came from - 2008

Most of our families were originally from the UK and Canada, and some are from Germany. Some were Huguenots who went from France to Prussia in the 17th century, and spread from there to other parts of the world. The recent generations are in Southern Africa, but we also have others in places like Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Most visitors are from the USA, probably because more people there have internet access than those in other places. But there are relatively few from some of the countries where most members of our families came from or are living now.

So if you go to our family Wiki and find you are connected to any of the families there, please consider contributing something, however small. Ask if you can become an editor — if you can show you are related, we’ll make you one right away. And add something to one of the pages — an anecdote, an extract from a will, whatever. It doesn’t have to be perfect — that’s the beauty of a wiki. Someone else can polish what you write, and one story sparks off another memory, so someone else can expand it and put it in its context, and that way we all benefit.It can be a legend, a rumour, a story you were told, a black sheep in the family. If it’s a legend or a rumour, just label it as such — those things too are part of the family history.

Of course if we are sixth cousins we’ll have a relatively small proportion of our families in common. So what do you do if you want to write something about one of your relatives who isn’t related to us? Why, start your own family wiki, of course, it’s quite easy to do, and then we can link them for the common relatives.

So please, don’t just be a leech, sucking information from web sites without giving anything in return. You can learn lots of things from the web, but you can also pass on sometrhing of what you have learned so that others can benefit. Please visit our family wiki, but if you are related, please contribute something as well.

Sandercock family forum

We started the Sandercock/Saundercock family history forum for people of Sandercock descent in October, and by the end of the month we have had some very useful discussuions.

Several members have been helped to make new family connections, or to solve mysteries with existing connections.

There are now 15 members, representing several different branches of the Sandercock families.

If you haven’t yet joined, please respond to this invitation to do so, and pass on the invitation to others who may be interested. The forum is open to anyone with the name of Sandercock, Saundercock and vatiants, or who is descended from Sandercocks, or married to someone descended from them.

To join, just send an e-mail message to:

sandercock-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

or visit the web page for the group at:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/sandercock/

Group Email Addresses
Post message: sandercock@yahoogroups.com
Subscribe: sandercock-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
Unsubscribe: sandercock-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
List owner: sandercock-owner@yahoogroups.com

The Sandercock family seems to have originated on the Cornwall-Devon border in south-western England, and have spread from there down and around Bodmin Moor. Some of the towns where the family has been established are St Gennys, Poundstock, and Jacobstow in north-eastern Cornwall; Altarnun, Launceston and neighbouring towns in Eastern Cornwall; Cardinham, Braddock, St Tudy and St Teeth on the south and west of Bodmin Moor, and various towns across the border in Devon.

Sander is said to be a nickname for Alexander, and so Sandercock probably originated as meaning “son of Alexander” — Sanderson is another name with a similar derivation. We hope by pooling our resouces, to track the various families back to the original hypothetical Alexander, though of course there is always the possibility that there were several unrelated ones whose children were given the epithet Sandercock.

More on connecting Sandercock families

Did you know that Daniel Sandercock is one of the top ten Twitterers in Thailand?

I didn’t, until I read this: Top 10 Twitter Users With Max. Number of Followers From Different Countries though I did a double-take when I discovered that it scored Scotland and the United Kingdom separately. Obviously Scotland’s early release of the guy convicted of the Lockerbie plane bombing seems to have made a bigger impact than anyone suspected.

My concern is slightly different, however — I’m not so much interested in how many people follw Dan Sandercock on Twitter as in how many Sandercocks and people from Sandercock-related families communicate with each other.

I checked through some of my old Sandercock crorrespondence, and found that mail to a lot of people was bouncing. Research web sites that had been set up in the past no longer exist, and it all seems to be sliding into entropy, or oblivion, or something.

So I took the plunge and set up another forum cum website for people from Sandercock and Saundercock and other related families to communicate with each other, and I hope they will. That’s quite a lot of people. All my Growden and Growdon relations, for example, are descended from William Sandercock and Mary Verran of Cardinham in Cornwall. There are lots of Growdens who are not related to Sandercocks, of course, but all my lot are.

So if you have Sandercock (or Saundercock) family links have a look at the new Sandercock family forum, and start communicating. In order to join in fully you will need to explain your Sandercock links — you need to be descended from one, or married to one, or married to a descendant.

Connecting the Sandercock families

I looked at some old files and found a copy of a New Zealand marriage certificate that had been sent by Harvey and Jan Saundercock. It was for William Thomas Sandercock and Elizabeth Harker, who were married in the Wesleyan Church in Pitt Street, Auckland on 12 May 1887. William’s parents were listed as Thomas Sandercock and Elizabeth Smale.

I checked in the records I had recently entered, to see if I could find their family in England, and it seemed that the parents were actually Thomas Sandercock and Ellen (not Elizabeth) Smale of Egloskerry, and managed to get several generations of the family linked. The Egloskerry Sandercocks don’t seem to be related to us, but at least that eliminates their family members from our search. The William Thomas Sandercock in New Zealand had a son Raymond, and if we can find them, his descendants may be interested, so if this is your branch of the Sandercocks, please leave a comment, and I can send you what I have managed to link so far.

Most of the Sandercocks seem to come from north-Eastern Cornwall. There’s quite a big bunch from the St Gennys-Poundstock area, and another from Tintagel. The ones I was looking at today were from Egloskerry. Ours are from Cardinham, with their earliest ancestors being William Sandercock and Mary Verran. There’s a picture of their gravestone in an earlier post in this blog. Several people have been trying to collect them and sort them out into families, including Alan Sandercott in Canada. Maybe in the end we’ll find links between these different groups.

Is it worth it?

About 18 months ago I started a Family Wiki. It seemed a good way of doing collaborative genealogy, and sharing family stories and information. A blog like this is quite a good way of recording progress, but current posts soon pass into history and are more difficult to find. A Wiki accumulates information as people add to information correct it and discuss it.

But so far only one other person has contributed anything to our family Wiki. Over the last month it has had about 15 visitors a day, with about 25 page views, but hardly anyone, other than me, has contributed anything, or even commented on what is there, or said whether they have found it useful.

Page Views
home 109
Green_family 40
Sandercock Family 29
GreenMAA935 27
Growdon_Family 27
Index_of_People 26
Family index 24
Ahnentafel 23
GreenawayR2405 22
GreeneFT144 22
space.discussion.GreenAW1194 22
Beningfield_Family 21
Brathwaite_Family 20

The Beningfield, Brathwaite, Green, Greenaway, Growden and Sandercock pages all got 20 or more visits during September, but nothing in the way of comments or contributions.

As a result of this, I’ve stopped trying to add to these Wiki pages — there just doesn’t seem to be much point. I occasionally post a small correction to what is already there, but it doesn’t seem to be worth the effort to add much.

What I hoped might happen is that at least some people related in any of these family lines might contribute information on the people they were related to, and possibly start their own family wikis for other branches of their families not related to ours, so that we could then have links between common relations, and contribute to each other’s stories. But it seems that few are interested in such collaboration. And unfortunately there are too many who just grab what information they can from any source, but aren’t willing to give anything in return. As a result I’ve become a little reluctant to give family history information to others unless they show that they are willing to share what they know as well.

Of course it’s possible that most of the people who look at the Wiki pages are not related — most visitors seem to be from the USA, whereas most of our families are in South Africa, the UK, Australia and Canada.

Canadian Growden family redux

It’s nearly three years since I wrote to several members of the Growden family in Canada, asking about the history of their branch of the family, but haven’t had any replies. It seems that none of them are interested in the family history.

I have managed to find a bit more from public records, like censuses and so on.

James Growden, who was born in Bodmin, Cornwall, England, emigrated to Canada in 1857 at the age of 20. He was my great grandfather’s first cousin. He married Harriet Baldwin and settled in Lindsay, Ontario, where he worked as a bricklayer.

They had five sons and three daughters, and several of their children married and had children of their own. One of the daughters, Florence, married a William McKay.

I hope any Ontario Growdens who read this will get in touch — we are probably related, and it would be good to share family information.

What are you looking for here?

What are people looking for when they visit this blog?

According to the statistics people used the following search engine terms to find their way here:

Search Views
dead at my age 37
mysterious names 31
emily growden 25
family history blog 15
greene family history 14
deadatmyage.com 13
freecen 13
greene family crest 9
beningfield history 9
greene family australia 9
greene family 8
interesting children 8
hayes family tree 8
mollie gillen 7
thomas growdon death 6
josephine tsegaye 6
hayes history 6
hayes family history 6
beningfield family 6
edward lister green 6
geni.com scam 6
brenda hundermark 6
saundercock 6
http://www.deadatmyage.com 6
stellawood cemetery durban 6
joseph theodore chelin 5
red cross records 5
red cross war records geneva 5
green family wikipedia 5
greene family tree 5
history of beningfield 5
cade hannan 5
family history blogs 5
ogilvie family tree 5
huguenot bettac 5
family reunion sugar grove pa 5

Some of those are fairly general, and people may have found other sites through the search term that were more interesting or useful to them.

But there are some that I wish had left a message and introduced themselves, when their search term was the name of a specific person in our family tree.

Josephine Tsegaye, for example, is my fifth cousin, so it would be nice if anyone who was looking for her had left a comment to say if they were related or not, and if she was the person they were looking for.

Joseph Theodore Chelin was my wife’s grandmother’s first husband. It would be nice to know if he was the one they were looking for, or if it was someone else of the same name.

Edward Lister Green was my wife’s great great grandfather’s brother, and we are in touch with some of his descendants, and would like to make contact with more. If would have been nice if people left a comment to say if they had found what they were looking for or not — well in his case, perhaps some did, because we have had some comments from that side of the family.

But we have quite a bit more information on some families than is posted on the blog, and if people are related and genuinely want to make contact, we would gladly share it with them.

Geni.com — a flawed site

I was doing an internet search for Growden / Growdon families, on which I’m doing a one-name study in the hope of being able to link the different branches together.

I came across a reference to a Nancy Growden, in a family tree on a site called Geni.com.

I wanted to contact the person who posted the tree, but the only way I could do that was by actually becoming a member of Geni.com. It seemed easy enough to join, and looked quite interesting so I thought I might as well join and see what it was like.

But I had let myself in for a frustrating couple of days.

The registration asked me to upload a GEDCOM file, so I did.

It then asked me to identify myself on the GEDCOM file I had just uploaded by choosing my name from a list.

The choices on the list were the wrong person, or an undefined person.

But by the time it had finally assimilated the GEDCOM file it had me as the wrong person — my wife’s 5-great grandfather, born in 1640. Then began a frustrating search through help and faq files to find out how to correct this. But since I couldn’t find myself on the tree I had just uploaded, there wouldn’t be much point in trying to correct it anyway.

Eventually I decided to delete the entire thing, and try again, registering from scratch, uploading the GEDCOM file again, and waiting a few hours for it to be assimilated.

But the same thing happened, only this time it identified me as my second cousin once removed.

I decided to waste no more time on it, and delete the account for the second time.

But then I saw the message saying that I could ask for assistance in correcting the problem.

Well, I tried that, and then came the real kicker. In order to ask for help to find out how to correct the errors their clunky and faulty program had made, I would need to sign up for a “premium” account at $9.95 a month. Now that sounds like a scam. Offer someone something free, but broken. Then when they discover it’s broken and are about to toss it, offer to fix it if they agree to pay an exorbitant monthly fee! There’s chutzpah for you!

If I try something free, and it works well, and I use it a lot, I’ll consider paying for it. That’s the shareware principle. I’ve done that with two genealogy programs I use all the time — Family History System and Legacy. I used the free version of each for a couple of years, and decided I was going to go on using them, so I sent the money. But that was after I had used them and was satisfied that they worked well.

But when, like Geni.com, they ask money for something that I’ve discovered works badly from the get-go, thanks but no thanks!

And if they’ve tried one scam, maybe they’ll try two — I hope that when I closed my account they deleted my GEDCOM file and the information they imported from it into their database, but perhaps they are the kind of unscrupulous people who will keep that information and then try to sell it to someone else.

William Park of Bath, Belfast and Quebec

My great-great grandmother was Matilda Park (1828-1881). She was born in Belfast, Ireland, and married Richard Vause in Bath, Somerset, England, in 1852 and they emigrated to Natal in the following month.

Richard Vause was born in Hull, and grew up there, and so one of the mysteries of our family history is how he met and married a girl who lived in Bath. He did work in shipping for a while, and that may have led him to travel, but Bath was not exactly a major port.

Matilda was the youngest daughter of William Park (c1780-1844) and Mary Martin (c1784-1851).Her death announcement in The Times (Jun 17, 1881) reads:

On the 12th May, at her residence, Bellevue, aged 52, deeply lamented,
MATILDA, the much-loved wife of RICHARD VAUSE, of Robinson, Vause, and Co.,
Durban, Natal, youngest daughter of the late William Park, Esq., of Bath,
Somersetshire (formerly of Belfast and Quebec, Canada), and granddaughter of
the late John Martin, Esq., of Messrs. John Martin and Co., Belfast,
Ireland. Friends at a distance will kindly accept this intimation.

Also in The Times (Mar 5, 1855) appears this death announcement:

On the 1st inst., in his 35th year, Samuel Martin Harrison, Esq., youngest
son of the late John Knox Harrison, Esq., and grandson of the late John
Martin, Esq., of Belfast.

So Samuel Martin Harrison was possibly a first cousin of Matilda Park, and John Knox Harrison may have married a sister of Mary Martin.

Mary Martin is described as the daughter of John Martin of John Martin & Co, Belfast.

Matilda Park and Richard Vause were married in a double wedding ceremony, along with Matilda’s sister Octavia. The Bath Herald of 10 Jan 1852 carried the following marriage announcement

Jan. 6, at St Saviour’s, in this city, by the Rev. Dr. Stamer, Rector, Frederick Robert Hawkins, esq., of Trowbridge, to Octavia, daughter of the late William Park, esq., of Belfast.
At the same time Richard Vause, esq., of Hull, to Matilda also daughter of the late William Park esq., of Belfast.

The name Octavia could imply that she was the eighth child in the family (making Matilda the ninth), and there were certainly other siblings.

A death announcement in the Natal Mercury reports that Annie G. Barrett (born Park) sister of Matilda Vause died 19 Aug 1871 New York, aged 52. Another death announcement in the Natal Mercury noted that Alice Bruce, wife of John Bruce of the Surveyor General’s Department, niece of Matilda Vause (born Park) died 21 MAR 1877 at Rosehill, Port Louis, Mauritius aged 28. Another announcement in the same paper noted that William Bruce of the Storekeeper General’s Department died at Port Louis, Mauritius on 3 June 1885, and that he was a nephew of Matilda Vause.

A marriage register entry shows that Margaret Martin Park married James Drake in Bath in 1848.

I’m interested in finding out more about William Park, and his connections with Belfast and Quebec. There is some more about him on our family Wiki pages. We’d also like to know more about his children, and descendants of his other children, and more about the Martin family of Belfast. There is more information about Matilda Park and her husband Richard Vause here.

Red Cross records — will they be made available?

Genealogy research textbooks have sometimes mentioned the Red Cross records in Geneva, but usually with the caution that though they could have a lot of important family history information, the public was not allowed access to them.

Now, it seems, there has been a breach in the dyke, and a historian has been allowed to use them for research into a war grave.

BBC NEWS | UK | Piecing together the past:

Peter Barton was commissioned to carry out research into the identities of World War I casualties discovered in a mass grave at Fromelles in France. He was given access to the basement of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva. There, he was allowed to examine records that have lain virtually untouched since 1918.

The Red Cross has accumulated enormous quantities of records that could allow people to trace missing relatives — not only the war dead, but displaced people, refugees and others who have lost touch with family and home after wars, revolutions and other political upheavals.

No doubt the Red Cross doesn’t have the facilities for accommodating large numbers of researchers at its headquarters in Geneva, but perhaps this breakthrough could inspire the hope that they might allow a body like the LDS Church to make copies of some of the earlier records, and make them available to researchers that way.

Here’s an abstract of an article about these records:

Chapman, Colin, 1994. The Central Tracing Agency of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in Family Tree magazine, Vol. 10(7) May. Page 21-22.

The Red Cross was formed in 1863 to care for those wounded in wars, and during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 it formed the Trieste Agency to deal with queries about sick and wounded soldiers. In 1914 the ICRC set up an International Prisoners of War Agency in Geneva. Similar records have been kept for subsequent confilicts and the Central Tracing Agency now has 60 million personal records with names of prisoners, refugees and missing persons. These records are not open to the public, and the Red Cross does not have staff to deal with any queries except for those from immediate family members.

See also this article: BBC NEWS | Europe | Red Cross files reveal WWI cost:

The United Nations considers the Red Cross archive so important that it has incorporated it into Unesco’s Memory of the World programme, declaring it the archive equivalent of a World Heritage Site.

‘These archives testify to the suffering of war. It’s evidence of the fate of millions of people, not just those directly affected, but the relatives and friends as well,’ says Unesco’s Ingeborg Breines.

‘And it’s a huge resource for historical researchers, and for people tracing their genealogy,’ she says.

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