Swiped, Stolen, Borrowed…What To Do When Your Work Is “Shared”: Tuesday’s Tip

Portrait of Unknown Man, Minor Family Album, p.1Light colored eyes, weak from age and illness, stared out from between a headful of thick, wavy hair and a chinful of white whiskers.  The photograph was among a list of search returns for John P. Minor on a major genealogical website. The problem?  This is NOT John P. Minor.  The PROBLEM? Two different ancestry.com users had conducted a google search, found their way to an old Shoots, Roots, And Leaves blog post in which yours truly had misidentified the whiskered gent as my patriarch, John P. Minor.  Without contacting me, they lifted the photo and uploaded it to Ancestry, perpetuating inaccurate family history.

Two things have gone awry here.

1.) My original attempt to identify an old, unlabeled photograph found in an album that belonged to my mother.  I had ascertained a probable chain of provenance, and reached the conclusion that the photographs were collected by Mary Jane Minor in the late 1800s.  With limited technical knowledge of dating photographs and limited contact with other relatives, I made a stab at identifying the guy primarily based on his age and the placement of the photograph in the first page.  I certainly did not have enough sources or experience to make a solid claim–as I did–that the whiskered man was John P. Minor. I have since acquired more skills, and conferred with relatives, to know with certainty that this is NOT J. P. Minor, and I have written two subsequent blog posts about this research here and here.

2) Readers did not collaborate before sharing.  I give my contact information for a reason–to collaborate.  I also have the “comments section” activated for a reason–to collaborate.  Had these tree climbers been willing to use either method I could have shared the newly discovered photographs, and collaborated on a possible identification of Mr. Chin Whiskers.  Instead, the readers perpetuated my error.

What’s a Geneablogger to do?

Well, I sure as heck will not stop blogging and sharing.  The collaborations and contacts have proven to be insightful, stimulating, and fun.  But I have established a few guidelines for error catching and correcting!!

1.)  If the error is perpetuated on Ancestry.com:  Leave a note in the photograph’s or document’s comment section attributing the original source, your blog, and stating the error that is perpetuated.  THEN contact the user directly with the Ancestry.com in-house mail, with the same message.

2.) Review the past post.  Delete the inaccurate information.  If the remaining text is nonsensical, delete the whole darn post.  If a wonderful story still deserves to be told, note that the post has been updated to reflect new information.  Don’t forget to update your tags and photo captions!!

3.) Up your game. If a post’s story is a mere “perhaps”, generate reader engagement.   Ask questions instead of making statements.  Write a piece of fiction, based on a piece of intriguing data, and ask readers if they think that interpretation to be likely given the source.  In short…if you are not confident that the family story is probably or certainly true, then flag the post as a work in progress.

I am a writer, a blogger, a family historian, a researcher, and collaborator.  I know by putting my work out here that it will sometimes be taken, reused with and without attribution to me.  That is the risk I take, gladly, willingly, for ultimately every reader is a potential friend and collaborator.

I am curious to know how other geneabloggers have handled this situation.  I look forward to reading your comments!!

 

On The Trail of S. A. Stevens : The Minor Family Album

The second, third, and fourth pages of the Minor Family Album were all taken by Oliver Eugene Aultman, in his West Main Street studio, in Trinidad, Colorado.  I made a thorough study of the photographs’ internal clues and narrowed down the timeframe for the shoot as being between 1889-1893.  With no annotations to aid my identification, I turned to the internet and googled the photographer.  This switch in focus may seem counterintuitive, but, as I reported here, perserverance paid off with an amazing, unexpected clue: the discovery of MY photograph in the online Aultman Collection shared by History Colorado.

So these folks are the Stevens Family

The online file confirmed that the photo had been taken in 1890, and the name associated with the woman was S. A. Stevens.

Still means nothing to me.

I found online copies Trinidad Directories from the 1890s and discovered that there was a Sanford H. Stevens living in Trinidad.

Still means nothing.

I searched the digital Denver Library files and found an 1892 photograph of Sanford H. Stevens surrounded by his colleagues at the Trinidad Advertiser where he was business manager.

Still no connection to me and mine.

Damn the fire that destroyed the 1890 census!

So relying on the 1850-1880 and the 1900 US Federal censuses, I reconstructed the life of this Sanford Stevens and found a sliver of a clue.  Sanford Stevens was born in 1849 to Greenwood W. and Maria Stevens, farmers in Monongalia County, (West) Virginia.  The family moved to Dunkard Township–just south of my family’s Greene Township home!!–by 1860.  Sanford was listed as a school teacher in Dunkard Township in 1870, and must have married soon after, for the 1880 census has Sanford and wife, Phoebe, farming and raising two children in Monongalia County.  Since they sat for a photograph in 1890, the family moved west sometime in the 1880s.  By 1900, the Stevens family was complete, and Sanford and Phoebe were living on Colorado Avenue, Trinidad with four children, Clyde (1875), Frank G. (1877), Chellie M. (1881), and Mary E. (1884).

So this is Sanford H. Stevens.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

And this is Phoebe Stevens.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

And, from left to right, these are Clyde, Chellie, Frank, and Mary Stevens.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.

But. Why are these folks in the album?

I googled my accumulated terms–Sanford, Stevens, Trinidad, history, Advertiser, newspaper–and hit upon a 1913 Semi-centennial History of the State of Colorado, Volume 2, by Jerome Smiley.  Page three hundred and thirty was my perserverance reward, three glorious paragraphs describing Sanford H. Stevens’ family, employment, and public service. And most importantly yielding the golden ticket, the clue that solves my mystery.

Sanford H. Stevens was married in 1873 to Phoebe H. Evans, daughter of Benjamin Evans. OH!  I know that name!!

That’s it!!!

That is THE connection. Benjamin Brice Evans was married to Margaret Minor and Margaret was the sister of Francis Marion, my great-grandfather.  Mary Jane included these photographs because they were her niece’s family, folks who had successfully navigated their way to an exciting new life out west.

With tremendous satisfaction, I introduce Phoebe Evans Stevens, the Minor link to Trinidad, Colorado.

One in a set of three photographs taken by Trinidad, Colorado photographer, Oliver Eugene Aultman, in 1890 and sent to the Marion and Mary Jane Gwynne Minor Family. Located in the Minor Photograph Album, archived with author.