September 23rd, 2012

Style Differences

When I was in college, I had a brief interaction with one of my professors about some choices I made in a particular project. He felt I had not done a careful enough job. I pointed out that it was a very nice, efficient solution for at least 80% of the cases and was an approximation to a good solution. He said, fine, you'll get an approximation of a good grade.

Ah, well. That approach to programming did, on balance, pay off.

I'm still that person today, and I can see the difference in my approach to genealogy when I look at the work of other people on I was poking at one of my great-grandfather's marriages (one who predeceased him, so not one of the divorces) and was surprised to see that everyone else with her in their tree had a birth date for her. Since she was born in the Netherlands and I even had the town of birth, I was particularly surprised. But then I went, yeah, but the Zeeland birth records aren't in genlias. I even double checked, in case they'd been added since the last time I checked.

Then I thought, oh, I haven't found the Zeeuws Archief yet; I should find that. So I did, and there she was, on the birth date everyone else had, and in the town that I had -- which now that I looked a little closer, was not the town other people had, altho to be fair, the town other people had was very, very, very obviously not actually a town in the Netherlands. Hmmm. Where did _that_ come from?

I eventually realized that it was all coming off of my great-grandfather's naturalization application. He'd gotten his wife's birthdate right, but whoever typed up the application got "Halvedslaus". I assume Henry said "Hellevoetsluis". Possibly that was the last place his wife lived before emigrating with her previous husband and their first daughter. Other people had painstakingly gone over that Naturalization document and extracted every bit of information they could and reproduced it with perfect fidelity. I glanced at it the first time I saw it and went, who is Wilhelmina? and went sleuthing through the Washington Digital Archives marriage records in an effort to better understand Henry's marital career. I probably went back to it at some point, but must have decided the town name was bogus so the birth date probably was, too, and I'd eventually get them from a better source in the Netherlands so why even bother?

I'm not a very painstaking genealogist. I wasn't a very painstaking programmer, either. But it does seem to work out okay.