26 March 2017

How I Make Use of Internet Information

I’ve written before about my cousin John Black, who died at the age of 90 in 2014.  As the family historian of his branch of the family, he was part of my inspiration to pursue my own family history.  I did, however, adapt his advice to accommodate current technology and Internet resources. Sometime around 2005, I had a conversation with him about information I had found searching the web. He said “you can’t trust anything from the Internet!” To say that he was “old school” would be a tremendous understatement!  In his 80s, he was not an Internet user (he sent letters to me by postal mail, typed on a manual typewriter), but he had certainly heard stories from other genealogists about the danger of taking data from Internet sources. He had valid reasons for his distrust of the Internet, but that was just part of the story. 

The Internet can be a source of good information as well as bad.  As with any type of research, data found from something other than the original source should always be verified.  For me, I consider “original source” to be a somewhat fluid thing: reproductions of original documents work for me, as well as transcriptions or abstracts from trusted sources. Published research (private or public) conducted by genealogists and researchers of good reputation is also considered solid.  But a lineage taken from an online family history service or private website should be taken with a grain of salt.  I have developed the following process to validate the data I find online.

08 March 2017

The Unknown Relation (part 2 of 2)

(Continued from March 1, 2017)

Althea Chase Rowland Woodruff circa 1947
with 11 grandchildren!
In 2006 I received the last big batch of general family documents from my mother’s side of the family.  I added them to the filing cabinet which already contained my father’s family papers (inherited from him in 1992 and added to by other family members over the years).  The combined batch of documents filled more than six lateral file drawers and were not organized or protected in any way.

As I have mentioned in past posts, I am slowly making headway through the family papers in my possession.  The was the case, too, in 2010.  It was to these papers that I turned to try to solve the mystery of the woman I met in 1985 on the day of my graduation from college (see part one of this post).  I had made some small headway, at that point, in getting through the crowded file drawers (this is how I had previously come upon Althea’s wonderful photograph in the first place), but now I went back to these papers to see what I could find of Althea’s children.
The Rowland Descent, updated in 1999


01 March 2017

The Unknown Relation (part 1 of 2)

Althea Chase Rowland Woodruff "Woody"
with 11 of her grandchildren circa 1947
In June 1985, I graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles.  My maternal grandparents, Barbara and Joel Dirlam, came out from Rhode Island for the ceremony and stayed in Claremont with Barbara’s first cousin, Jack Woodruff.  Bear in mind that this is my mother’s line – Woodruff is my father’s line, so it was odd to find a Woodruff cousin on that side of the family.  As it turns out, there is an entire branch of maternal Woodruff cousins who grew up in the Los Angeles area.  

My great-grandfather, Edward Gould Rowland (b. 1878), had two younger sisters, Althea Chase Rowland (b. 1880) and Eleanor Harris Rowland (b. 1882).  In 1904, Althea married Clarence Merle Woodruff and they settled in Akron, OH.  Widowed in Akron in 1922, she raised her children there and then later moved to Santa Barbara in the 1940s to be closer to her adult children and her sister in Los Angeles.  In 1947, she sent this photograph from southern California: Althea Woodruff and all but one of her grandchildren (the 12th had not yet been born).  She sent the photo to her niece, Barbara Rowland Dirlam (my grandmother) to introduce Barbara’s young daughter Hilary (my mother) to all of her Los Angeles cousins.