In today's post, Paul Howes describes how the Ruby study has taken on a contemporary approach by looking at UK files that reflect a primarily English one-name study of a different era. Aside from electronic vs paper, a primary focus in today's one-name study is family reconstruction from the beginning.
A different dynamicThanks to another member of the Guild of One-Name Studies, we recently became aware of some considerable work done on a large number of Ruby families by a man named Reed, now deceased. The member had prepared a large number of electronic files for transfer to the Society of Genealogists (SoG)* together with ten boxes of paper files. The SoG now owns this material but has kindly given us access to Mr Reed's work in advance of its being fully accessioned and we acknowledge with thanks their kind contribution to our effort.Mr Reed was not a Guild member but as I viewed the paper copy of his material at the SoG it was clear that he had gone about his study the classic way over a twenty-year period, amassing large quantities of data by transcribing by hand from original sources. He had then made a lot of progress putting them together into ten core family trees, mostly for England and Wales, several of which refer directly to the county of Devon, the home of most Rubys in the British Isles. In total, there were about 1,700 people in those trees, although we have already found many additional people.What we are doing here is, I think, a slightly more modern way of going about things, in significant part because we are in a hurry to achieve as much as we can publicly in a limited time. We have only a few core data sets and are using them as checklists rather than spending time amassing yet more data and then using that data as source material for the family reconstruction.For example, see the picture of a page from our core data set of post-1837 births for England and Wales, which we are marking off in yellow highlighter as we include each person in a tree. We thus ensure that two people are not working the same tree, or at least not for very long! Other core data sets for England and Wales are post 1837 marriages and deaths and the 1881 census. For the US, given immigration levels, we are using the 1900 census as the sole core data set and are using a similar minimalist approach elsewhere.
If we were starting a new study today and weren't under time pressure and we weren't too bothered about showing results to the public early on, the traditional way would still have much to commend it. But the Ruby study was started precisely to show the public what Guild members can do within two years from a standing start, by putting our findings onto a website and thus making it valuable to the general public. We could have spent the two years on producing even more than the 256 electronic files that Mr Reed had produced (with his emphasis on the UK) but the results would all be so dry and uninteresting to Joe Public that nobody would spend more than 8 seconds on it.So, we are thus short-circuiting the process, leaving much of the original data where it now resides: with the commercial data providers who can organize it for us (transcription errors notwithstanding) and heading straight toward family reconstruction instead.I say all of this because I fear that if as team leader I just put all 256 electronic files out there without saying anything, as a team we could easily drown in data and "lose the wood (or forest) for the trees". Don't misunderstand: some of those files may well turn out to be useful but, honestly, what do we care about having a listing all all Rubys from the 1891 England and Wales census when are are going to find most of the people more easily direct from Ancestry, FMP, FS, MyHeritage or whoever as we reconstruct family units?So, what we may well do is put the files in yet another folder in our team's google drive and write some kind of commentary so that we can use them more usefully, and learn from each other. It could well be that Mr Reed had a better organized set of UK immigration files than any one single data provider. We just don't know right now. We will only find out from using them, but if we all spend time looking through all 256 files we will stall our efforts at what we need to be doing.I hope the above gives some insight into how we are doing a One-Name Study in a hurry.
* The Society of Genealogists is Britain's largest family history organization, maintaining extensive collections in its library and providing genealogical education. It is located in London, England and can be accessed through its website at: http://www.sog.org.uk/