Thursday, March 11, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: Week 10 Challenge

I am currently reading Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. 

What has drawn me into the book is how I can relate to Elizabeth Philpot's compulsion to find fossils.  In one particularly eloquent paragraph, she states the difference between collectors and hunters:

Collectors have a list of items to be obtained, a cabinet of curiosities to be filled by others' work...  They have little understanding of what they collect or even that much interest.  They know it is fashionable, and that is enough for them.

Hunters spend hour after hour, day after day, out in all weather, our faces sunburnt, our hair tangled by the wind, our eyes in a permanent squint, our nails ragged and our fingertips torn, our hands chapped.  Our boots are trimmed with mud and stained with seawater.  Our clothes are filthy by the end of the day.  Often we find nothing, but we are patient and hardworking and not put off by coming back empty-handed.

This particular description has stuck with me, because are not genealogists like that?  Dirtying our hands and knees to clean off a gravestone, or spending many hours going from one place to another in search of information, perhaps traipsing through a heavily wooded area to find an old homestead or cemetery, or cutting our hands on books or card files as we seek out information...

How does this book - this paragraph in particular - relate to this week's 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy Challenge?

I have been utilizing the new Family Search Pilot since its inception. 

At the moment, I am focused on the 1871 Canadian Census.

The problem is that if you search a particular name and age range, you only get those results.  The names are not linked to the whole family or head of household. 

The name I am searching is Murphy in Nova Scotia.

Go on.  Select the 1871 Canadian Census, then type "Murphy" into the search form.  You will get 1,123 results.

Naturally I am searching for Emma Anna Murphy, my elusive great-great grandmother, and using all the variations (and then some!) that she used in the 1900-1930 U.S. Censuses.

However, while I can make a list of which ones are possibly "my" Emma, I have no way of knowing for certain without seeing the parents or family of each result.

This is where what separates the "collectors" from the "hunters" comes into play.

I have put in the time and energy to compile an Excel database of every single Murphy entry in Nova Scotia from the 1871 Canadian Census. 

Yes, I am rebuilding it so that I can now see family groups and ultimately (hopefully!) answer the question as to whether or not "my" Emma is there.

The new Family Search Pilot is a great database, and I highly recommend you check it out.  The volunteers have put in a huge amount of work, and continue to do so!


  1. Hi Wendy,
    I did a quick check with Ancestry, and there are three Emma Murphy's in Nova Scotia. One b. 1825, with a lot of children, one b. 1856, father Michael, and the last born 1861 age 10, living with the Flavins. If I can help more, pls. let me know.

  2. Thank you, Barbara. I don't have Ancestry Canada; just the U.S. Collection.

    Could you please tell me about the Emma Murphy born in 1861 and living with the Flavins? I would greatly appreciate more information about that particular household and knowing which town/county in which they resided.

    Since Emma went by a whole variety of names in the U.S. Census (often as Annie), and there are many, many Annie's born between 1860 and 1864, I have to find the "right" one and hope for the best!

  3. Yes, I will do it and send it to you via email.

  4. You are so kind. Thank you.

    Take your time, of course. I know you're very busy. I will look forward to the email. :)

    Hope you have a great weekend!

  5. Wendy, I love the quote from the book! And truth to tell, as a genealogist/family historian, I'm a little of both... sometimes collector, sometimes hunter. The beauty of that is that when you go out hunting, you rarely have to come back empty-handed. You may not come back with whatever it was you were hunting for, but usually some sparkly bit of something will turn up as sort of a consolation prize.

    I love Family Search Pilot--I've found several awesome things there! But I've had the same problem as you in the cases where the image isn't included. Your database proves you are a driven woman, LOL!! Reminds me of when I was searching for ancestors in a town in Germany. I had two or three reels of microfilm going back to... early 1700s or late 1600s, I forget... so I set up a new file in Family Tree Maker and entered everyone who had the surname I was searching, and everyone who married into that surname, and everyone who was related to them, and etc. until I ended up with about 700 people. I was able to pull together a number of family groups that way. Fun stuff!

    After my Littlefield post yesterday and the bit about being two kinds of cousins with Millard Fillmore, today the fine print under your blog title really hit me where I live and totally cracked me up!