Friday, September 30, 2011

BWP(34): A Coding System for Genealogist

A previous post describes my JONES family coding system which has served me well over the years of tree climbing. See:

This coding system was also discussed in BWP(17). However, there comes a time when you will find yourself in a nest of surnames. It may be at a particular geographic area, or historical time period, or a religious group with many members. There will be multiple folks with the same names being used. How do you keep them straight? How do separate and identify which John Johnson, John Smith, John Brown, and John Jones is the path you will need to follow? The following method is a coding system I have found helpful. It is different from my family coding system, since it involves only one surname, and needs to code for multiple generations. This approach will help separate and code each individual among a large number of folks with many different surnames.

It is very simple. First you label each person identified by their surname. You take the first two letters of their surname and then assign them a number. If the first name is John Johnson, you would code "JO-1". If you have another John Johnson in the county at the same time, you would label him "JO-2". Now if you have a John Jones living next door, you would code this "JON-1", knowing that you have already used "JO = Johnson". Thus, "JON = Jones". Now if there was a John Johns in the same neighborhood, you code him "JOH-1", using the next letter of the alphabet that was not used in a previous surname group.

Any surnames that share the same letters would take the next letter to separate and code it. Thus, Saul would be SA-1, Sampson would be SAM-1, and Samuel would be SAMU-1, etc., etc.
You would then start a record of the families identified in this geographic area, coding each individual, and you would not used the same letters for a different family surname.

Start with a small number of folks that you are working. These often will be those around your brick wall. Then start a listing for the codes you use, allowing you to keep a record of the surnames. Let's get started!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

BWP(33): Using History

Time changes things. Well not really time, but as time passes, things that seem familiar often change to mean different things. Taking time to try and understand these changes will often make a difference in many brick wall solutions. For instance, early settlers to Kentucky had land grants given for military service. [Mostly called "Military Warrants".] When finding these ancestors, knowing the amount of land that was granted will help determine their rank. Knowing how much land was granted will often help separate individuals who share a common name. [Like John Jones!] Virginia was responsible for using [what was to become Kentucky] land unoccupied to pay it solders. A post called :

"Land By Rank- Virginia Land Laws 1763" gives the ranks by which the amount of land was determined. See:

Perhaps this will help someone else to go around their brick wall.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

BWP(32): Any Questions?

For those who are using The Brick Wall Protocol for the first time, things might be getting a little hairy. You may have questions regarding the concepts, method, or tools presented. Please fill free to ask questions, or make comments regarding this approach to brick wall demolition. Place your questions in the comment section of this post and we can begin a dialog regarding the issues. This might help everyone get a little further out their tree branches!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

BWP(31): What Year is It?

A detailed chronology is the platform on which many brick walls are demolished. Of course, understanding this chronology is often difficult, especially if two modes of computing dates are used in one historic period.

Starting in England from around the 7th century to as late as the 13th century, the year was reckoned from Christmas Day. But, in the 12th century, the Anglican Church began their year on the 25th of March. Over a period of time, the civilian population adopted this calendar. Thus, the civil, legal, and ecclesiastical year were united. However, this produced a change in the "historical" year, which by historians began on January 1st.

To help clarify this dating, a method was developed to add the date of the historical year to that of the legal year. This was necessary when speaking of any day between the 1st of January [starting of the historical year], and the 25th of March [starting of the legal year]. This became written as January 30, 1648-9. The first year being the civil and legal year, the second date being the historical year.

For the genealogist, this becomes confusing when this method is found in deeds, wills, surveys, and other civil or church documents. Just remember that the last figure (year) always indicates the historical year, or the year according to our present time.

The legal year was ordered to commence on the 1st of January by the reformation of the English Calendar by law titled: "Stat. 24 George II. c 23". Thus, dates recorded before 1753 must take these matters into consideration.

Monday, September 12, 2011

BWP(30): Count Your Pennies

Understanding how money was counted and utilized during certain periods in history is often helpful in genealogical research. For instance, if you find in a will that the family had personal belongings that were valued at a certain amount, you could judge approximately the social rank or status of the family. For those of us who share an "English" background, the silver penny is the foundation.

A post titled: "The Silver Penny" outlines this topic:

A text titled: "The World We Have Lost, England Before the Industrial Age", by Peter Laslett, gives a number of tables which help define social class during the period prior to 1700. A very valuable reference.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

BWP(29): Follow the Leaders

Those who have gone before often leave a path to follow. For many, this is a helpful way to find direction and help in genealogy. Finding this help will save many a hour (or days) in tree climbing experience.

Perhaps it is a family member who has already done most of the work on the family's history. Perhaps it is a writer, or historian, or just plain Sam who loved to climb trees. At any rate it is often helpful to seek this source.

My Dad gave his advice on "Dirty Books".


A path well worn.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

BWP(28): Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands

After doing genealogy for many years, it became evident that having fun in the process was part of the excitement. Making up your own ways to remember difficult topics, or areas of history that seemed complex, was always fun. [Part of the challenge I guess.]

Memory tools they might be called, and I present one that I made up to help me remember the major rivers and their relationship to one another in tidewater Virginia. It was literally taking matters into my own hands! The post is:

It is an illustration of how one might create a way to help remember geographic landmarks. Go head. Take matters into your own hands. It is not as hard as it might seem.

Monday, September 5, 2011

BWP(27): A Dating Method

A genealogist is often faced by an individual ancestor with an unknown birth date. One method to help this uncertainty is presented in a post called "Brick Walls". It is found at:

hope this method is helpful! It has helped me over the past years get around a few brick walls!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

BWP(26): Ping-Pong

Methods to get around brick walls often vary. A method frequently used I call "Ping-pong Genealogy". This method is presented in a post:

Any one want to play?

Friday, September 2, 2011

BWP(25): Gunter's Chain and The Rest of the Story

Making surveys were a major part of land settlement in the early colonial period. The methods used were standardized so that 1,000 acres would be reasonably close to 1,000 acres. By 1624 this was helped by the introduction of Gunter's Chain, which became the instrument of choice for use in Virginia, and as far as I know in every other English settlement. Its description is given in a post:

The rest of the story is presented in a series of post that deal with the development of measurements. This all started with land use and a kernel of corn! For the rest of the story see:

under : "Leaps and Bounds", July 22, 2011

"The Legal Acre", July 27, 2011

"Paramount", August 1, 2011

Amazing what a kernel of corn can do!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

BWP(24): Social Roles

Time travel often makes it difficult for one to appreciate the differences that existed in the period we wish to explore. Understanding these differences will help in grasping our ancestor's lives and the forces which surrounded them.

Male social roles were a significant part of the lives of many during the English migration period 1600-1700. [Here English means all those on the great islands.] The figure to the right is drawn to represent the male social system active during this period. Age is shown on the left column, and social "rank" is shown across the top. It made a difference in expectations for those of different social environments. It represents the time frame from birth to adulthood, generally completed between the ages of 21-27 years.

The topic is discussed at:

Remember that you can click on the figure to enlarge it. It was taken from my research notes used to break down one of the many brick walls surrounding the surname JONES.