Sunday, August 20, 2023

Red Flags in Your Research?

Red Flags 
Researchers often miss the red flags because they fail to cross-reference and corroborate sources.  In the 
Vetting Sources: Rotten Trees in the Carpenter Family we were able to witness the results of not vetting your sources and failing to cross-reference data.  Through the Genealogical Proof Standard we know there are primary sources, secondary sources, direct and indirect evidence.  Let's review, shall we?

Genealogical Proof Standard 

Primary sources are original records , created at the time of the event, and most often carry less errors than secondary records/sources, which is a derivative recording of the event. 

Secondary / Derivative sources may include a transcription, translations, abstract - a copy. It has the potential of carrying errors.   

Direct evidence answers a genealogical evidence when contemporary records can be used. A good example is a birth record that names the parents. I say, however, even that must be corroborated. Why? Especially with midwives, or delayed birth certificates, or when time has past, it is possible that the community person, let's say midwife, names the wrong local brother as a father. It was just an error, but it's in the record. 

Indirect evidence is when we don't have the direct answer on one document, but we have enough data from research to answer the genealogical question. Perhaps the answer was provided through piecing together a family unit and satisfied through the data of several siblings. For indirect evidence to be useful, contradictory evidence must have been resolved.

 6 Main Red Flag Culprits

Documents are laden with errors.  This is why we must look for the Red Flags! Yes, question everything! The question to ask yourself is "Was the person telling, recording, the information a witness to the event?" 

  1. Census Records have the opportunity to carry lots of errors: dates, names, place of birth.  Plus, we don't always know the informant; so we have no idea if the informant is a reliable source. 

    Why is there such a big gap between children? The progenitor married in 1824, but besides Elizabeth, wife of Wm. Ody, there are no known children in the 1820’s.
     Matter of fact the known children who appear in an 1860 census, 36 years after the marriage,  appear to be born in the later half of the 1830’s.  This is a red flag. Is a full generation is missing?
  2. Biographical Sketches. Sure, these sketches usually have some truth to them, but was the information provided by a primary source? 

    We have a great biographical sketch provided to us in the Carpenter case. It provided clues, hints, even can assist towards our Next Steps and Research Plan. Yet, through cross-referencing we quickly learned it has obvious errors. It contradicts both direct evidence and information provided generations earlier by a primary source.
          On the podcast we learn that the bio of Elijah Coffelt is not accurate. It list David Ody/Odor [alias Carpenter] as a sibling of Rachel Carpenter, but we know both David and Rachel named different parents. David was raised by his grandparents, the parents of Rachel: George (and Elizabeth) Carpenter. 
    David "Ody" alias Carpenter, was raised by maternal grandfather Geo. Carpenter

  3. Illiteracy. There's no reason to commit to the spelling of a surname (or given name) if the family reports no education or little education.  Sound advice...corroborate, corroborate, corroborate. 
    Illiteracy in itself should raise a red flag to the researcher. Each sibling may have spelled the name differently, each document may hold a different spelling, the marriage record, death record, may have one additional spelling, and that may contradict the obituary.

    In the podcast with Nancy, we learned that she was looking for a William Ody, His marriage record clearly names him William Odor. Some military records use Oda:

  4. Land Records. There are many ways our ancestors acquired land. We musn't assume they were so successful, that they walked in, and paid for acreage using the money in their piggy jars.
    I contend that just having land is a red flag. How did they acquire it? If you are not familiar in how to conduct a land/deed trace through legal descriptions, this is a great time to learn. There are lots of free tutorials online and the courts will assist (if you’ve done your homework).
  5. Posted family trees. Riddled with errors, uncited online trees, ThuLines, and non-cited "family stories," should be reviewed with a wary eye. 
    Researcher beware! Conflating several families with similar names in close proximity has become an epidemic. It's where your real family is buried - in a tree with scrambled roots. When there's data, without sources especially with families with common names, proving or disproving posted data should be a top priority.  And, never be a part of posting a bad tree publicly. A good place to start if your family had assets is with probate and wills. Pull original probate/will (not just newspaper articles.) Probates and wills are usually held at county courthouses, but may be within a state, or county historical/genealogical repository. 
  6. DNA Analysis. We often say we use DNA tests results to confirm our papertrail. But, when I'm looking for my red flags, those hints that just are not lining up as they should, I say DNA analysis might raise a large red flag. 
     Let's say none of your DNA cousins share the same surnames in their family trees. Or your Y-DNA expected matches have a different surname. Or, your 1st cousins match with your sibling but not you. Wouldn't you agree? Your DNA test results have raised a LARGE red flag!
Kathleen Brandt 
Be Historically Correct
Accurate Accessible Answers

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Where Are the Records? NSA, CSS, CIA, Code Girls

Many do not know there is a National Cryptologic Museum (NCM), a public museum in US Intelligence Community, located adjacent to the National Security Agency (NSA in Maryland.  This museum has artifacts and outlines the nation's history in code making and code breaking.  Plus there's a library of cryptologic media. The museum opened back in Dec 1993. It did close for renovations, but reopened Oct 2022. However, there's also a virtual option.  

Cryptographic Equipment WWII

Our Ancestors
I have written about the Code Girls and mentioned the Museum, but the topic came up most recently while enjoying a podcast audio book, Reverse Tell, authored by Stephanie Hartell, a former CIA case office, and narrated by Steve Hall, a former CIA case officer, hosted on Not Necessarily Nefarious podcast. Yes, that's an invitation for you to read, prior to visiting the Museum.

Reverse Tell on the Not Necessarily Nefarious podcast

I know... it's unclassified fiction, but that's what we have to work with when our ancestors keep their coding/decoding jobs a secret. When they take the secrecy of their role at the NSA and CIA to their graves, what we have left is an imagination.  Luckily for us, Hartell fills in some of our creative gaps through a crafted fiction spy novel, that truly should be a TV series. You will forget it is fiction, and be thankful it's much less work than drafting stories of our own ancestors participation in the CIA and NSA. (But, I encourage you to do that too). Here's the link to Reverse Tell audio book provided in 30 minute episodes.   

Where Are My Ancestors Records?
Of course every family historian and genealogist want to get their hands on the personnel records and work histories of our ancestors. Sure, we can get their military personnel records from National Personnel Record Center (NPRC), or Archives I, NARA in Washington, DC for early war records (pre-WWI wars). 

5 Resources to Access NSA/CSS Archival Records
Know up front that records may exists, but may not be releasable (NSA/CSS)

  1. Records of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS)

  2. CIA Declassified Records & FOIA Requests
    For CIA personnel records for yourself after 1946, write to the Information and Privacy Coordinator Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C. 20505. For genealogical purposes request the personnel  file under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

  3. NSA FOIA Request? For realistic expectations, be sure to read: 
    Submit a NSA FOIA Request
  4. Want A File From The NSA? You Can Ask, But You Might Not Get It

  5. The Petticoat Panel
    Did you know the CIA did a study in 1953 on the Role of Women in Intelligence? Read about Code Girls Research Here.  The audio book Reverse Tell on the Not Necessarily Nefarious podcast will peak your interest. Learn about The Petticoat Panel here. 

Kathleen Brandt
Be Historically Correct
Accurate Accessible Answers