Friday, December 23, 2016

Those Old Timey Family Group Records

Want something to do over your Christmas vacation? How about looking at some old timey family group sheets.

You know the ones I'm talking about. If you are close to my age you recall the days before the internet and stable genealogy family history software. back when family group sheets were king. The really long ones that fit in those special two post binders?  No, I don't have mine anymore. I have a few sheets I inherited when family members passed away that I haven't brought myself to throw away yet. They were painstakingly filled out by hand, or perhaps typed. You had to use a special typewriter wide enough to fit them or you could cheat and fold the sheet in half to fit it in your regular typewriter. No matter how you did it it was work to get them filled out. And mistakes were hard work to fix. Nothing like the backspace button today.

Were were asked to fill them out for our selves and for our ancestors and send them to Salt Lake. They went to a huge archive and you could go to Salt Lake and look at them, copy them, or whatever. Nowadays we hop onto Family Search and that's it. We compare to original records and make quick edits when we need to. Don't get me wrong. I am fully in the digital age. I wouldn't go back for a minute. But there is something we lose when we go strictly digital. I can't see my grandmother's handwriting in the sheets she filled out. I can touch the paper she touched. If a baptism was done twice I could easily fit both dates in that box; one above the other. Paper gives you a flexibility that does exist in a database that someone else built.

So today I went looking for those old family group sheets. I know they are chock full of errors. Typos, strike-throughs, misconceptions, and outright lies. But those are in Family Search too, so how is this any worse? Plus there is an immediacy to the first paper collections of family history. Maybe the person filling out the form knew something, or someone, first hand. Maybe someone's name was spelled phonetically giving you a clue to how your great grandmother pronounced it. Maybe you will find the source of a transcription mistake made by your great uncle LeRoy. Maybe you will discover just how hard it was to research your ancestors 75 years ago and you'll gain a newfound respect for how few errors there were. Maybe something else altogether.

So with that in mind I give you.....

Family Group Records Collection, Archives Section, 1942-1969

Thousands of family group sheets waiting for your perusal. No, it is not indexed! No, there is no OCR searchable text! Yes it is alphabetized, though not perfectly. And identical names are organized chronologically. They are in roughly 1000 page chunks. So find that name. Hint: don't page through one at a time. Guess at what page number you want an type it in at the top left. You can narrow in on the name you want through repeated guessing. For example I might go to page 100, and then 200. If that is too far I'll go back to 150, then 175, until I get pretty close. Try it, you'll get the idea.

For extra credit, there are other collection of Family Group Sheets that are not online but are available on Microfilm. You can read about them in the Family Group Records Collection.


Amy T said...

I like to use these kinds of records to see what the family claimed as their genealogical data before online family trees. They can help track when certain errors entered family records: fake middle names, extra children, etc. Sometimes a Mormon family will later deny the existence of plural marriages. I'm dealing with one such family now, and it's been a real problem since the dates of the plural marriages help explain what happened to the slaves in the family. I was eventually able to find the names and dates in the Pedigree Research File, another similar resource, and confirm elsewhere. As you explain about the FGR Collection, the PRF must also be used with caution, since it can have lots of compromised data.

BruceCrow said...

Yes, these records are more like research logs, giving insight to the people who kept them and perhaps what was important to them.

Plus I have been looking at a family search record that claims someone was baptized on Feb 1, 1836. That was 4 months before the missionaries arrived at her home. Plus none of the rest of her immediate family joined the church. But a check in these files showed that the baptism was performed Feb 1, 1936, by proxy. Mistakes are everywhere. Verify the data, then if it still doesn't make sense check again in another way.