Links to Collaborative Genealogy Sites

In the interest of seeing that our family tree, the actual genealogical “who, when, and where” is preserved, I have placed some of the research that went into this blog on five websites, four of which actually aim to piece together, person by person, a single family tree for everyone. Taken literally, that is wildly ambitious, not to mention completely impractical, but the effort alone has already produced, flaws and shortcomings notwithstanding, a very special body of research.

These “collaborative” genealogy sites are Geni, WikiTree, WeRelate, and FamilySearch. Each is a little different.

For example, Geni and WikiTree make room for all relatives including living people and then add privacy controls. WeRelate, meanwhile, has decided to forego information on living people and just focus on the near past. Geni makes little use of sources or documentation, but WikiTree and especially WeRelate strive, with varying success, to back up all assertions with primary documents. There are plenty of other differences, but that’s the gist of it.

The main point is that putting the information here means it will survive even in generations when no one inherits an interest in family history– something I see as increasingly  likely.

Here are some jumping off points, categorized first by site, and then by a few key relatives…














Finally, I said there are five sites. The fifth is, which somewhat sadly, has a paywall and curious people cannot simply click over to peruse the material at will. You can see it without a financial outlay, but to do so you’ll have to email me or Elisha Lee to be put on a list of invitees. Sorry, I didn’t make up those rules. If you are already on Ancestry, you can search for our tree which is called Kinsmen and Kinswomen (revised and sourced). [18,000 relatives and counting.] On the plus side, looking for a silver lining, the highly commercial aspect of Ancestry has paid huge dividends in making a vast trove of documents available online, including – in most cases – photocopies of originals. This includes birth certificates, marriage entries in the parish register, passport applications, draft registrations, VA records, medical examiners’ notes, high school yearbooks, biographical vignettes, and on and on. People can also share multiple digital copies of rare family photos.  There really is nothing like it for primary research.

At some point in the distant future, I’ll figure out how to put a version of our tree here, on this site, with measures in place to protect people’s privacy, but until then, the organizations above will have to suffice.

The Swain Migration Chronology, Part II: The Article in the Boston Evening Transcript

As we’ve seen, the early Swains are actually somewhat well-documented, but after branches of the family left the coast and traveled inland towards western New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, multiplying like rabbits as they went, genealogical chaos more or less set in.

With poor record keeping, and an annoying tendency of parents to all give their children the same five or six first names, it can be quite difficult to discern one early 19th century line from another.

Imposing some sort of provisional order on things was this 109 year-old article, reproduced from The Boston Evening Transcript, November 16, 1908.

At the time I obtained it, from a terrible Xerox featuring positively minute typeface, it took a good bit of work to simply put it in the readable format you see here.

Since then, the full set of Boston Evening Transcript articles have happily become available in digital format. I just haven’t accessed them yet.



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The Missing Ancestry of Thomas Burgin and Jane Skudder: What DO We Know?

When I review our family tree in the form of a fan chart, there is one vast swath missing, a cone of “empty space,” expanding out from the center.

If I look, though, using the same format, with not me but my grandfather, Clarence Rodgers Burgin, at the center, the cone widens to consume fully half the page (see below). This glaring blankness reflects the mostly missing ancestry of my grandfather’s paternal grandparents, Thomas Burgin and Jane Skudder.


The explanation runs this way. My grandfather’s father, whose name was Clarence Burgin, was the first person in his nuclear family to be born in America, and his parents, Thomas Burgin and Jane Skudder Burgin, were the last people in our extended family to be born overseas–In England.

Each generation of our family, on the right hand side of the fan chart, has put at least some time into either preserving or rediscovering knowledge of their forebears. I suspect that that happened because, as a practical issue, the information was stored locally and could be researched with some degree of ease. But the net result was a trail of breadcrumbs was created, and so the result is what you see.

In the case of the Burgin family, however, whose recent past was recorded in England not America, almost no investigation went on, and I think the reason why is straightforward: in the pre-internet era, it was hard to do. Really hard.

This post will be devoted to laying out what little we DO know about the Burgins… in the hope that it can serve as a foundation, a jumping-off point, for someone, whether a family member, or a paid researcher, or a combination of the two, to take up the challenge and find out who these people and their ancestors were.


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