Documenting the lives and relationships of antecedents in various lines of descent
The aim of the Genealogy component of The Forrest Project is to provide interested persons (termed associates) with the skills, researching approaches and techniques in utilizing the Internet, to document the lives and relationships of antecedents in various lines of descent.
Here we set out key steps in the process of researching and publishing on the Internet through this website.
Genealogical researchers can be members of a family who seek to understand their origins and in many cases, wish to investigate family folklore handed down for several generations. A researcher is today rarely commissioned to investigate the lineage of a claimant to an estate or title. There are many historical researchers and biographers however, who have a genuine need to get their facts right when documenting the lives and descent of individuals from previous generations.
Researchers differ in their requirements for accuracy when documenting a line of descent. To satisfy a court, in handing down a finding on claimed lineage in order to qualify for ownership of an estate, evidence has to be objectively verifiable. For this type of research emphasis is given to evidence from publicly available records.
Many family researchers are simply interested in setting up a line of descent in a tree and are content to rely upon unverified statements from well-meaning friends. Once having constructed a tree with names on it, many people are satisfied that they understand their lineage. The only problem is that sooner or later, others tend to use the tree as a starting point, go over the same ground and sometimes produce a tree with different names on it. There is therefore a need for all genealogical researchers to cross-check data, which can be undertaken with different degrees of reliability. There are as a result researchers and researchers. Accepting data from a researcher of unknown reliability can only be undertaken if such data is cross-checked.
The Internet has all levels of researchers scrambling for data. There are many researchers who are genuinely interested to assist when somebody puts a request for information on a notice board.
A valuable lesson was learned by members of a research team when an apparently complete set of data on a person in history was unearthed and most surprisingly, matched in every way unverified data which had been speculated upon 12 months previously. Someone had put the speculative data onto a tree on a website, which was soon snapped up by a less discriminating researcher who had been invited to visit the tree. A year later it was being bandied around and even offered back to members of the research team as a random act of kindness. It was soon realized that the data unearthed was their own which had long ago been discarded.
Working with an Editorial Researcher:
It is recommended that a genealogical researcher should contact The Forrest Project before commencing. Upon acceptance the person would then be designated an associate of The Forrest Project.
An experienced genealogical researcher will be assigned to work with an associate through the full period of researching and writing up of the final work. This can save a lot of time and avoid the need to have to go back and research periods, resulting in a need to re-write chapters which had earlier been considered to have been completed. It can be a most rewarding time for a less experienced researcher, who can learn on the job. Editorial researchers will be experienced genealogists, staff members from university departments of history and writers, who have had their own works published.
The experience given here at no cost to associates, is considered one of the ways that The Forrest Project may deliver its philanthropic objective. The Project hopes to encourage people who are already in employment to learn a new field, building income as sales of their works occur around the world. A genealogical researcher who has successfully published will be considered for a position as a researcher with The Forrest Project.
Planning the Electronic Manuscript:
As a result of the Internet, a genealogical researcher is presented with the opportunity to investigate in ways that did not previously exist and as well, to present findings as never before. The researcher is now able to plan his investigation with the final manuscript in mind.
In the past many families whose members indulged in this pastime found at the end of the day that they had amassed a voluminous collection of data and numerous illustrations, which were far beyond the resources of any publisher. Even if divided into many volumes, the number of coloured plates would render the work too costly to produce. As a result such research was set within very limited terms of reference. Publishing could still only be undertaken on a ‘self-publish’ basis because of the limited number of copies required by family members. Writing a research publication to appear on the Internet for downloading by clients, is now possible because many restrictions that apply to bound books no longer exist.
An experienced genealogical researcher may for the above reasons benefit from an early association with an editor. This researcher may welcome being encouraged to freely include coloured illustrations. As well, the researcher may find it strange to not have to consider the eventual length of the manuscript. These factors can significantly influence the methods of research as well as the structure of the manuscript.
Genealogical publications which typically overrun length limitations no longer present a problem. However, there is a need to structure chapters of the final publication so that it is most meaningful to readers. As well, the placement of large numbers of illustrations needs to be carefully considered. The traditional practice of a publishing house, which involves inserting a collection of photographs on glossy paper into the centre of a book, can now be done much more effectively.
A Need to Plan for the Writing up of Ongoing Research:
During a genealogical investigation undertaken by several members of a family group, it will sometimes be found that a particular area of study has been completed and ready for writing up, when a someone unearths a piece of evidence which reveals the existence of a whole new area in another place or time period. When the new area has been thoroughly investigated, the researchers are aware that when the manuscript has been completed, such new areas can still arise.
The new areas that often come to light in this way have, in the experience of The Forrest Project, concerned the earliest antecedents studied in a line of descent. If an area arises in more recent times then it will invariably concern a distantly related member of the family. If the distant relative has been a person of historic importance, then a decision might be taken to include that person in the study.
The manuscript should from the above be structured so that further findings from a future research study may be easily included. This might involve abandoning a traditional system where all references are shown in a single table at the end. Referencing might then be undertaken at the end of each chapter. As well, illustrations might be included at the end of each chapter.
The manuscript could be structured into sections, each of which encompasses a major area of interest. When a decision is made to report on findings from an earlier century or another country, then a choice is given as to the inclusion of either further chapters or new sections, depending upon the amount of material to be added.
Planning should as a result not preclude the possibility of new researchers reworking a family line of descent. The Forrest Project itself had an earlier family researcher who had in 1854 published all that was known. This was regarded as a valuable starting point. Upon verifying and correcting certain data reported by that researcher, who did not have access to public records as is available today, the investigation quickly progressed back through the Seven Years’ War and into the Glorious Revolution of Scotland. Only a limited amount of the family’s history had been known during the Seven Years’ War. Nothing had been known of family history either during the Glorious Revolution or of the antecedents who settled in Jamaica in the 17th century. There is today still more research to be undertaken, which may reveal details of the lives and styles of those family members who lived in Jamaica prior to 1672, perhaps as far back as 1655 when Cromwell’s forces invaded the island.
Researching from Private Family Resources:
Researching the origins of a line of family descent should commence with documentation of all readily available information, commencing with verbal, written and photographic records possessed by family members. All members should be approached, despite the fact that some will invariably declare that they have no interest. Some quite surprising finds will usually appear, such as photographs from the 19th century and correspondence from deceased family members. Among the photographs will be some faces that no one today will be able to recognize.
With luck, a particular family member will be found who has become the repository for keepsakes from a grandparent, who may also have received documents and photographs from earlier generations.
The search should be systematic and of course include documentation of everyone alive, together with records they may have of their parents and grandparents.
The process of verification should commence as early as possible, testing the accuracy of received information by looking up dates and places of births, marriages and deaths. If folklore can be tested at this early stage then it should be commenced. For example, a story about a relative having worked for the British Sovereign can easily be confirmed by writing to the Archives at Windsor Castle.
Every record obtained should be scanned and recorded as a file in a computer, then backed up on a portable drive. Photographs should be scanned, labeled and restored using suitable software, which can make faded old images look as if they were taken last week.
At this early stage errors in records will already start to appear. There are reasons for the existence of some errors, which will cause an associate to develop a sense of diplomacy.
Researching from the Internet:
The Internet affords different means of researching: via a search engine, from scanned books that are out of print, digitized press reports and publicly available records. Here we refer to the use of search engines as provided by Google and Baidu.
Google affords access to a wide range of documents, which include some that require payment of a subscription. This type of search engine is expanding each year with many new documentary sources being added.
Merely searching on the name of a person of interest, who would at some time have featured in printed documents, can bring up quite interesting information, e.g. listing in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography or in a Scottish Scandal Sheet! A name will often be found if coupled with another associated word, which could refer to an interest, career, place of residence or event.
A search of this type cannot be bypassed because other avenues do not encompass the same sources of information.
Records containing information about a person should be downloaded, stored and backed up in the project research file.
Researching from Books out of Print:
Google can direct an associate to many out of print books which are available for downloading. The search engine will have done all of the hard work, recognized the name and directed the searcher to the relevant book.
A file of downloaded pdf books, each of between 20 to 50 Mb, should be kept with references to facilitate easy access at a later date.
Researching from Digitised Press Reports:
The National Library of Australia and libraries of certain other countries have digitized newspapers from the early 19th century and made them freely available to the public. These searchable records contain much information that is presently not available via a Google search engine.
Researching from Publicly Available Records:
The UK and certain other countries have opted to privatise digitised newspapers and publicly available records of births, deaths and marriages, military service, census records and many others. Payment of a monthly fee to Ancestry.com will enable a researcher to access these records. Digitised newspapers in the UK also include those from the 18th century.
The FamilySearch records of The Church of Latter Day Saints at Salt Lake City is available free of cost. Researchers of this organization have undertaken a lot of work to systematically record births, baptisms, deaths and marriages from a number of countries. The record may appear incomplete, but enquiries are welcomed from searchers, who can be directed to records stored and available on film.
These types of search are absolutely necessary. The information gleaned complements that from Google and press reports.
Researching from Solicited Acts of Genealogical Kindness:
Ancestry.com operates a system of notice boards upon which searchers may place a message to solicit help from anyone with information about a subject person.
The comments above about the need to verify such information should be taken seriously. Very often a person who responds will sensibly direct the associate to a source rather than simply supply actual data without verification.
Distribution and Sales:
The resulting manuscript will be displayed in the same way as other downloaded publications for sale on this website. Although a manuscript would be titled with the name of the principal family investigated, there would for each family be a further 10 or so conjoined lines of descent. The number of family groups possibly interested in downloading a manuscript could be considerable. If the family record ranged from the 18th century and through the 19th century, then the number of potentially interested clients could well be several hundred.
The Forrest Project will set up a professional CV for a genealogical researcher, to be provided to families interested to commission the services of an appropriately skilled person to undertake such research.
It needs to be recognized that not everyone has the drive, patience or discipline to adhere to the rigorous procedures followed by a trained genealogical researcher. Very often family members undertake such research and find that there is no apparent finality or end to it. If the work survives, it will typically be consigned to a drawer and perhaps not be seen again for another generation or two. Many families would as a result prefer to commission a trained person with an appropriate track record to undertake research for a fixed period. The Forrest Project would be happy to recommend a successful researcher for such paid employment, with a minimal percentage retained by The Forrest Project, who would take responsibility for quality assurance.
Assistance Required from an Editor and the Agreed Percentage Distribution of Income:
The Board of Partners has proposed that a researcher should receive up to 80 percent of the retail price paid for a downloaded publication, i.e. the same rate of remuneration as for other publications. A person with no skills whatsoever, who needed to appear as an author in association with the experienced researcher, would receive 40 percent, the same amount as the researcher.
Negotiations to agree upon an acceptable rate of remuneration for an associate should be undertaken at a suitable time, when the degree of assistance required from a researcher had become clear.
Writing and Editing the Manuscript:
The relative responsibilities of the associate and researcher are similar to those of a writer and editor. However, the researcher for this type of project would introduce the associate to a number of proven methods of filing scanned records, creating a running file to contain the life details of people and their offspring and most helpfully, to assemble large charts that depict the appearances of family members by year.
Upon being assigned a researcher, the associate should be prepared to make full use of his/her skills. The researcher should be considered to be a sounding board, mentor and backup throughout the planning phase and while writing each chapter.
Upon sending each chapter to the editor and receiving confirmation of one’s self-efficacy in dealing with the topic, an associate can progress with much more confidence.
Illustrations and Photography for the Title and Cover:
Numerous illustrations tend to be collected in this type of search. Most require skilled treatment with software to repair poor resolution and aging effects. There is today no need to have to accept the standards which predominated in past years, so a researcher will be able to teach an associate how to upgrade illustrations.
Designing the title and cover illustration for the manuscript is important for the family client, who will in most instances treat the work with reverence. The choice of cover photographs will usually present no difficulty when several hundred are likely to have been amassed.
A Statement by a Distinguished Person:
A family manuscript can have considerably more meaning if a distinguished, senior member of the family has been encouraged to make an introductory statement on the first inside page. The Forrest Project researcher will work with the associate to help an elderly person compose an appropriate statement.
Automating Percentages of Payments from Sales to be Paid Direct to Agreed Accounts:
As for other published works, a research manuscript is able to be structured so that agreed percentages of income from sales are automatically paid into the accounts of verified recipients, i.e. The Forrest Project and its partners, associates and researchers.