Case Study: Magdaleentje Chine, Part 3

15 March 2014 (edited 21 March 2014)

The continuing search for Magdaleentje “Chine.”

In the first part of the “Do” step of the PDAA research process, I covered the history of the places involved in the research question and listed a number of sources that should help identify possible surnames.

This second part of the “Do” step involves examining these sources, beginning with the easiest to access.  Examine Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File (PRF) and the International Genealogical Index (IGI), all of which can be searched from  These are considered only hints and suggestions, not records to be cited in working up a conclusion statement; however, these hints may lead to better records.

There are no entries for variations on the Chin/Chen surname for this time period. 

There are several entries for Antoine Du Chesne in the IGI and the Pedigree Resource File; the IGI entry shown below was submitted before 2008 when the IGI was closed, and the PRF entry was submitted in 2013.  Additional entries duplicate, at least in part, the information shown below:

Antoine du Chesne IGI

Antoine du Chesne Family Tree - AncestralFile

Next, examine for any family trees for Chine/Chene, Chin/Chen, DuChesne and variations.  A number show up and two of the more complete trees follow:

Antoine Duchesne Family Tree - Ancestry - Carol Guiffre

The above information for Antoine shows a daughter Maria Magdalena and a daughter Marytje, both born 1679 and likely the same person, if accurate.  Neither this tree nor any the others for Antoine show a spouse for Magdalena.  Contact with the contributor of this tree reveals no additional information and no sources – a dead end.Magdalena Chine - Ancestry - aclinton541

This tree for Magdalena Chine shows a marriage to John Simpson and a father, Raymond, of Quebec.  All of Raymond’s children resided in Quebec – only this Magdalena seems to have journeyed to New Amsterdam and married.  This is a stretch but it does lead to information on the Chene/DuChesne family of Quebec that may, or may not, be related to the family of the same name in New Amsterdam.  I’ve sent a request to the owner of this family tree to see if sources or additional information is available.

Other possible sources of family information are the message boards at (their GenForum boards) and  These were searched for Duschene, Duchene, Duchesne, Chine and variations. No information/inquiries appeared on the colonial families in New York or Canada.

The web sites for the New York State Archives and the New Jersey State Archives provide useful information on finding aids and materials available at the archives, but no useful information on-line regarding Duchesne, Chine or Chin variations.

The next step is to search on-line for church records, town records and images of printed material that may contain information on the Chine/Duchesne surname.  At this point, there is still no indication that Chin or Chen is the surname of interest but these variations will still be searched.  This search begins with the Family History Library Catalog as well as their book list (that includes materials in the Allen County Public Library and the BYU Harold B Lee Library).  The search also includes the use of search engines to locate digital copies of materials as well as the website to find local repositories (if any).  Because Kings County is one of the locations of interest the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record should also be searched on-line, which can be done if a member.

The listing at the end of this blog has all the sources examined along with some notes on the materials.  None of these have any reference to a Chine or Chene surname but many do refer to variations on the Duchesne surname.  In fact, the following spellings appear:

  • Chine
  • de Chene
  • de Chesne
  • De Sceen
  • Du Ceen
  • Du Ceene
  • du Chaine
  • du Chane
  • Du Chene
  • du Chesne
  • du Chine
  • Duchain
  • duChene
  • duChesne
  • Ducsen
  • Duseen
  • DuShen

Duchesne is pronounced either Du-shen or Du-shain, so it’s easy to see how many of the spellings could occur.  It’s important to know that Chesne is an Old French word meaning oak in English.  In Old Dutch, the equivalent word is Eik and the surnames Den Ryck, De Eycke and Van der Eycke also appear.  So, we see this family’s surname in both French and Dutch renditions.

Unfortunately, none of the sources indicate that Magdaleentje, wife of John Simson, was a Duchesne.

The conclusion of this second part of the “Do” step in the PDAA research model is that many alternative spellings of Duchesne exist, Chin/Chen has produced no candidates for this time frame of the late 1600s and early 1700s, and Chine/Chene appears in only a few family trees (both at and with no source information.

It’s clear that the Duchesne family must be investigated as the only current candidate for “Magdaleentje Chine.”  First, need to obtain the sources listed below that have not yet been examined.  To be continued in the next blog.


The following list is a summary of sources found so far, some of which have not yet been obtained and examined.

Sources Not Yet Obtained or Examined

James Henry Dushane, compiler, Genealogical Record, Dushane Family, 1640-1942 (Washington, DC: n. pub, 1986); FHL microfilm 1,455,000, Salt Lake City, Utah.  Typescript, 9 pages.

Russell L Gasero, Guide to Local Church Records in the Archives of the Reformed Church in America and to Genealogical Resources in the Gardner Sage Library: New Brunswick Theological Seminary ( New Brunswick, New Jersey: Historical Society of the Reformed Church in America, 1979); FHL printed material, call no. 974.9 A1, Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Archives of the Reformed Church in America, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Gardner A Sage Library, 21 Seminary Place, New Brunswick, NJ  08901 732-246-1779

Evelyn Briggs Baldwin, “Names in Town Records of Gravesend, Kings County, New York”; FHL microfilm 17,667, Salt Lake City, Utah.  Names found in town records for 1646-1705.

William Henry Stillwell, History of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Gravesend, Kings County, New York (Gravesend: printed for the Consistory, 1892); FHL microfilm 962,831, Salt Lake City, Utah.  Contains baptisms 1714-1890, marriages 1832-1890 and deaths.

Aaron Goodwin, “Subscriptions for the First Presbyterian Church of ElizabethTown, 1734-1745,” Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey, Vol 84, No. 1-2 (Jan/May 2009): 2-8.

Sources Examined

Nicholas Murray, Notes, Historical and Biographical, Concerning Elizabeth-Town, Its Eminent Men, Churches and Ministers (Elizabeth-Town: E Sanderson, 1844); digital images, Internet Archive, Text Library, American Libraries ( : accessed March 2014).  No surnames of interest to Duchesne/Simson research, although history is helpful.

Tunis G Bergen, “Marriage Records, Gravesend, L. I.,” The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol 4, No. 4 (Oct 1873): 199-200; digital images, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society ( : accessed 1 March 2014).  Available for members only.  No surnames of interest to Duchesne/Simson research.

Charles Carroll Gardner, compiler, Collection of Essex County New Jersey Families 1600-1900 (n.p.: self-published); 70 microfilm rolls beginning with 849,448, arranged by surname, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.  Previously examined entries for Simson.

Walter Kenneth Griffith, “Baptismal Records of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of New Utrecht, Long Island, N. Y.” The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol 73, No. 2 (Apr 1942): 96-105; digital images, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society ( : accessed 1 March 2014).  Covers records beginning in 1718, which is long after Duchesne moved to Staten Island; no surnames of interest.  Available for members only.

Biographical and Genealogical History of the City of Newark and Essex County, New Jersey (New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1898); digital images, Internet Archive, Text Library, American Libraries ( : accessed 1 March 2014).  No surnames of interest.

John Littell, Family Records: or Genealogies of the First Settlers of Passiac Valley, (and Vicinity,) Above Chatham – with their Ancestors and Descendants, as Far as Can Now Be Ascertained (Feltville, New Jersey: Stationers’ Hall Press, 1851); digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 1 March 2014).  Has considerable information on Simpson family but no help with Magdaleentje.

Richard M Bayles, History of Richmond County, (Staten Island) New York, From Its Discovery to the Present Time (New York: L E Preston & Co, 1887)<, [CD]>; digital images, Internet Archive, Text Library, American Libraries ( : accessed Feb 2014).  Nothing of help, other than the history.

E B O’Callaghan, The Documentary History of the State of New York; Arranged Under Direction of the Hon. Christopher Morgan, Secretary of State, 4 vols. (Albany, New York: Weed, Parsons & Co, Public Printers, 1849-51); digital images, Internet Archive, Text Library, American Libraries ( : accessed March 2014).  Has assessment roll entries for Duchesne in volumes 2 and 4, and an oath of allegiance in volume 1.  No Simson or Claassen on this oath of allegiance list that covers Flatbush, Flatlands, Brooklyn, New Utrecht, Gravesend and Bushwick.

Richard S Hutchinson, East New Jersey Land Records 1702-1791 (Lewes, Delaware: Colonial Roots, c.2005-2009), CD-ROM.  No records for Simson.

Stephen M Ostrander, A History of the City of Brooklyn and Kings County (Brooklyn: published by subscription, 1894), 2 volumes; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed March 2014).  No help with surnames but extensive material on history.

Thomas M Strong, The History of the Town of Flatbush, in Kings County, Long-Island (New York: Thomas R Mercein, printer, 1842); digital images, Google Books ( : accessed March 2014).  Detailed map of town of Flatbush on frontispiece.  No surnames of interest to Duchesne or Simson research.

Kenneth Scott and James A Owre, Genealogical Data from Inventories of New York Estates 1666-1825 (New York: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1970)<, [CD]>; digital images, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society ( : accessed Feb 2014).

A P Stockwell and Wm H Stillwell, A History of the Town of Gravesend, N. Y. by Rev. A. P. Stockwell, and of Coney Island, by Wm. H. Stillwell (Brooklyn, New York:, 1884)<, [CD]>; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed Feb 2014).  Reprinted from The Illustrated History of Kings County, edited by H R Stiles.

Teunis G Bergen, Register, in Alphabetical Order, of the Early Settlers of Kings County, Long Island, N. Y., From Its First Settlement by Europeans to 1700 (New York: S W Green’s Sons, 1881)<, [CD]>; digital images, Google Books ( : accessed Feb 2014).  Simson and Duchesne entries for deeds, etc.

Tobias Alexander Wright, editor, Records of the Dutch Reformed Church of Port Richmond, S. I. (Baptisms from 1696 to 1772), United Brethren Congregation Commonly Called Moravian Church, S. I. (Births and Baptisms 1749 to 1853; Marriages 1764 to 1863; Deaths and Burials 1758 to 1828), St. Andrews Church, Richmond, S. I. (Births and Baptisms from 1752 to 1795; Marriages from 1754 to 1808) (New York: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1909)<, [CD]>; digital images, Internet Archive, Text Library, American Libraries ( : accessed Feb 2014).  Wright’s transcription of original Dutch records leaves out diacritical marks and attempts to format the original in a columnar manner, so is not a very good rendition of the original.  Stillwell’s source is preferred.

John E Stillwell, Historical and Genealogical Miscellany: Data Relating to the Settlement and Settlers of New York and New Jersey 5 vols. (New York:, 1903-1932)<, [CD]>; digital images, Internet Archive, Text Library, American Libraries ( : accessed Feb 2014).  This source provides an improved transcription copy of the original baptism records of the Staten Island Dutch Church and is preferred over the volume by Wright.

Charles W Baird, History of the Huguenot Emigration to America, 2 vols. (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1885)<, [CD]>; digital images, Internet Archive, Text Library, American Libraries ( : accessed Feb 2014).  Mentions Antoine du Chaine.

“Flatbush Dutch Church Records: Marriages and Baptisms,” Yearbook of the Holland Society of New York (1898); digital image, Internet Archive – Text Library – American Libraries ( : accessed Mar 2014), pp. 87-152.  Baptisms of children of Antoine Du Chesne.

Robert Lott Billard, “NA Baptisms 1639-1730,” Rootsweb ( : accessed 14 March 2014).  Baptisms of New Amsterdam Reformed Dutch Church; this is a later version of his listing, correcting typographical errors.  Unfortunately, Billard did not make an exact transcription of the original Dutch, leaving out diacritical marks, so his material should not be used as a source.

Ted Brassard, “New Amsterdam (New York City) New York Reformed Dutch Church Baptisms 1639,” The Olive Tree Genealogy ( : accessed 14 March 2014). Bressard, in his own words, did not transcribe the original Dutch but left out “[a]ccent marks on names. . . . so that the data is acceptable to all computer platforms. . . .”  Most unfortunate and his material should not be used as a source.  Need to examine the original records.  Bressard transcribed and placed records on-line.  At the bottom of the webpage are links to years from 1639 to 1760.  Bressard noted that he had copied the original records about 20 years prior to preparing the computer files.  Bressard died in 2001.

Case Study: Magdaleentje Chine, Part 2

27 February 2014 (edited 21 March 2014)

The first part of the “Do” step of the PDAA research process . . . .

The first step in researching Magdaleentje Chine is to better understand the place where she apparently resided, roughly from 1690 to the mid-1700s.  This should help in understanding any migration patterns and locations of possible records.  It should also provide context for events in the lives of John Simson and Magdaleentje.

Timeline for Richmond County (Staten Island) and Kings County, Province of New York

1645 Gravesend patented.
1646 Breukelen patented.
1647 Nieuw Amersfoort (Flatlands) patented.
1652 Midwout (Flatbush) patented.
1654 The people of Gravesend purchased Coney Island from the local tribes for about $15 worth of seashells, guns, and gunpowder.
1657 New Utrecht patented.
1660 New Utrecht settled, though unchartered, on February 16 on a plot of land between the Bushwick and Newtown Creeks by fourteen French and Huguenot settlers, a Dutch translator named Peter Jan De Witt, and one of the original eleven slaves brought to New Netherland, Franciscus the Negro, who had worked his way to freedom.
1661 Boswijck (Bushwick) patented.
1661 Permanent Dutch settlement of Oude Dorpe (Old Town) established on Staten Island.  There were nineteen families of Dutch, French, Belgian and English nationalities, unified by the common purpose of enjoying religious freedom.
1661-3 Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island established as a Dutch fort.
1664 English fleet anchors in Gravesend Bay and capture block house on Staten Island. Dutch surrender to English – August 18th.
1670 Governor Lovelace purchases Staten Island from the Indians – April 13th.
1673 For fifteen months, the Dutch recaptured New York, long enough for Pierre Billiou to be appointed Schout Scheppen (Sheriff and Magistrate) of Staten Island.
1675 Staten Island courts separated from Long Island’s courts.
1676 Population of Kings County: 250 taxables.
1677 New Utrecht Reformed Church chartered.
1683 The English organized the six old Dutch towns of Southwestern Long Island as Kings County; also Staten Island becomes Richmond County – November 1st.Thomas Dongan appointed Governor.  Staten Island contained about 200 families.
1685 Duke of York ascended the throne in 1685 as James II; New York became a royal rather than a proprietary province.
1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, followed by the severe persecution of Protestants in France, alarmed all Protestants in New York and on Staten Island.
1685 Courts moved from Gravesend to Flatbush.
1688 Richmond (Staten Island) divided into four towns – Castletown, Northfield, Southfield, and Westfield.
1688 James II, a Catholic, was deposed after  a short reign of 4 years and William, a Protestant, was proclaimed king of England.
1693 Members who had met for thirty-five years for religious services in churches and barns on Staten Island were honored by the arrival of a resident minister. Reverend David de Bonrepos preached to a congregation of 36 French, 40 English and 44 Dutch settlers.
1695 Population on Staten Island was divided evenly among the French-speaking people, the English and the Dutch.
1696 The oldest schoolhouse still standing in the United States was built on Staten Island.
1698 French Huguenot Church was built at Greenridge, Staten Island.
1698 Two different estimates of population for Staten Island:  One says 1,063; another says the population of the entire island was 727, including about 70 slaves.
1698 Population of Kings County: 2,017 , split as follows: Brooklyn 509, Flatbush 476, Bushwick 301, New Utrecht 259, Flatlands 256, and Gravesend 215.  Negroes were 15% of the population.
1699 Captain William Kidd shipped out of New York for Caribbean waters to pursue pirates, but soon became a pirate himself.  He buried treasure on Long Island.
1702 Yellow fever in New York kills more than 500 people.
1704 Kings Highway, now Fulton Street, laid out.  It began at Fulton Ferry and ran southeast to Flatlands; then on to New Utrecht, and finally to Yellow Hook, ending at Denyse’s Ferry.  This was Brooklyn’s “mother road.”
1705-12 Reverend Aeneas Mackenzie held services at the French Church on Staten Island until the Protestant Episcopal Church of St. Andrew was built.
1712 Population of Staten Island grew steadily to 1,279.
1713 War between England and France (Queen Anne’s War) concluded with the Treaty of Utrecht.
1729 The county seat of Richmond County was established in Richmond Town.  Court was held in the new county court house, southeast corner of Richmond and Arthur Kill Roads.
1723-30 Smallpox epidemic in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
1738 Population: Brooklyn 721, Flatbush 540, Bushwick 302, New Utrecht 282, Flatlands 268, Gravesend 235 (this is total people, including slaves).
1740 Ferry from Staten Island’s east shore to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn established by Thomas Stillwell.
1746 Population of Staten Island was 2,073.


Timeline for East Jersey and Elizabeth Town

1 December 1664 Gov. Nicolls grants patent for settlement on Achter Koll (Newark Bay), subsequently called Elizabeth-Town, which had been purchased from the Indians on 28 October by John Ogden, Luke Watson and others.
August 1665 Capt Philip Carteret, cousin of Sir George, arrives as governor of the new colony.  Elizabeth-Town is named in honor of Lady Elizabeth Carteret, wife of Sir George.
February 1666 Lot owners in Elizabeth-Town take oath of allegiance.
May 1666 Southern half of Elizabeth-Town patent sold to settlers from Massachusetts; becomes Woodbridge. Portion of Woodbridge patent sold to settlers from New Hampshire; becomes Piscataway. The two townships are set aside by Gov. Carteret on 21 May.
1 August 1673 Dutch recapture former New Netherland area; begin to set up government at Achter Koll (New Jersey).
9 February 1674 Westminster Treaty returns Dutch-held New York and New Jersey to the English.
13 November 1675 Four counties are designated (without names) in East Jersey based on settlements at Bergen; Elizabeth-Town and Newark; Woodbridge and Piscataway; and Middletown and Shrewsbury.
3 March 1677 West Jersey’s Concessions and Agreements, drafted in 1676 by Edward Byllynge and signed by the proprietors and inhabitants; sets forth a framework of government and fundamental laws of the colony.
1-2 February 1682 East Jersey is sold by the trustees of Sir George Carteret to twelve men, all Quakers except one, led by William Penn.
August-September 1682 The twelve East Jersey purchasers each take on a partner in the venture, resulting in the Twenty-Four Proprietors.
7 March 1683 East Jersey’s counties—Bergen, Essex, Middlesex and Monmouth—are formalized, each with its own court.
14 March 1683 New patent for East Jersey is issued by the Duke of York to the Twenty-Four Proprietors.
1686 Perth Amboy becomes capital of East Jersey.
late 1680s to 1695 Challenges and lawsuits occur in East Jersey over quit-rents and land titles in the areas patented by Gov. Nicolls.
June 1687 East Jersey Proprietors assure royal council that they are willing to have customs collected and also are willing to surrender governance rights provided land rights are retained. With English proprietors of West Jersey, they petition that East and West Jersey be united rather than annexing East Jersey to New York.
mid-1688 to April 1689 New Jersey and New York are temporarily annexed to the Dominion of New England under Gov. Edmund Andros, seated in Boston.
1689 England enters war with France; New York presses for annexation of New Jersey for reasons of defense.
1690s East Jersey Assembly presses for taxation of proprietors’ unimproved lands; East Jersey Proprietors press for collection of quit-rents or taxation to support government.
31 October 1693 East Jersey’s counties are formally divided into townships for administration of local government; all of Somerset County is treated as a single township.
1696 to 1699 Ongoing crises arise in East Jersey between the assembly and the proprietors during Jeremiah Basse’s governorship.
1697 Sixty-five inhabitants of Elizabeth-Town petition the crown to abolish the proprietary government and unite East Jersey with New York.
1699 “Revolution” occurs in East Jersey, with violence and civil disturbance in Elizabeth-Town, Newark, Piscataway and Middletown. Returning governor Andrew Hamilton calls on militia, but repelled.
December 1699 Clinker Lot Division occurs in Elizabeth-Town, where 17,000 acres of undivided townlands are apportioned in disregard of the Proprietors’ survey.
15 April 1702 East and West Jersey Proprietors surrender governance rights to Queen Anne. New Jersey becomes a single royal colony, although the provincial capitals of Perth Amboy and Burlington continue as dual seats of government for the colony’s eastern and western divisions, respectively. Proprietors retain land rights. Deeds, surveys and other records will continue to refer to the provinces of East and West Jersey into the revolutionary period and later.
1721 William Trent establishes Trent’s Town.
1736-1738 Another allotment of lots in Elizabeth Town.  Roughly 280 100-acre lots.
1738 to 1776 Disputes prevail relative to quit-rent rights of the East Jersey Proprietors and land titles in areas for which patents were granted by Gov. Nicolls.

Summary of Key Events for John and Magdaleantje Simson

Magdaleentje’s spouse, John Simson, was born about 1690-1695, probably in Flatlands (location of his father at this time).  His family removed to Staten Island after 1711 and before 1713 (based on church records in Flatlands and his father’s will in 1713).  Sometime after 1721 John and his family moved a few miles west to Elizabeth Town in the Province of New Jersey, where his children resided for the remainder of their lives and where John died in 1773.  There is no known record of Magdaleentje in New Jersey or of her death or burial.

Magdaleentje and John were married about 1715, probably in Richmond County (Staten Island) – based on birth date of son John and being witness to baptism of sister Tabitha in 1716.  They sold land on Staten Island in May 1721.  By 1729 John’s sister Sarah Janetje apparently married in Elizabeth Town, although there is dispute on this matter.  Certainly by 1751, John was in Elizabeth Town participating in a chancery suit with the Elizabeth Town Associates.

Analysis of Timeline Events and Record Sources

The history of Kings County and Richmond County shows a community of English, Dutch and French with the French being either Huguenots or descendants of Huguenots.  By the early 1700s, this community had lived together for more than 25 years and the French were notable in New Utrecht.  If “Chine” is French then Magdaleentje’s family may well be one of the Huguenots and records of New Utrecht should be examined.  Furthermore, given a marriage on Staten Island about 1715, we should also look for a French family in the late 1600s in that place, particularly on the south side of the island where John owned land.  The timelines for both New York and New Jersey show constant land issues being played out for this period, which is to be expected given that immigration is occurring, land is available and wealthy individuals are trying to profit from their holdings – this suggests that deed, survey and land patent records will be useful.

These timeline events also show that records should exist in archives in England and The Netherlands; however, this avenue of research won’t be pursued at this time.

Records of the churches of Kings County, as well as town records, up to about 1715 should be examined for evidence of John and Magdaleentje; then, records of Richmond County should be examined from about 1715 to 1750 with emphasis on the earlier years.  East Jersey and New Jersey records for the period 1720 to 1775 are available and need to be examined.

Where Are the Sources?

The first places that I look for possible sources are:

  • Research Wiki.
  • Catalog for specific places.
  • State archives of New York and New Jersey.
  • State and local genealogy societies and historical societies.
  • Ancestry’s Red Book, 3rd edition, edited by Alice Eichholz

Some of these sources are on-line, at least in transcript form, and images of the original records can be obtained from the Family History Library ( as well as the municipal archives of New York City (, where the early town records are archived.  See the research wiki at for Gravesend, New Utrecht and Elizabethtown for a good summary of material.  Also, see the Brooklyn Historical Society website ( for additional information on sources.  The New Jersey State Archives website ( has some of the records of Elizabeth Town and the research wiki at has good references at “New Jersey Church Records.”  The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society ( has an extensive database for members as well as a complete copy of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society Record, an invaluable New York resource that has been published since 1870.  The Genealogical Society of New Jersey has its extensive manuscript records housed at the Alexander Library, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey (

Next Steps

This overview of the history of the places that involve Magdaleentje has led to a number of sources for pertinent records.   Now, all that remains is to “examine appropriate records of this time and place to develop a listing of possible surnames.”  This is quite a bit of work and needs to be further broken down to a manageable task that can be done in a reasonable amount of time – always a challenge.  The next blog will cover this.

References for the above material:

Thomas Mateo, “Staten Island History Time Line,” The Staten Island Historian ( : accessed 26 Feb 2014).

Joseph R Klett, “Using the Records of the East and West Jersey Proprietors,” (2008); digital images, New Jersey State Archives ( : accessed 25 Feb 2014).

Ira Rosenwaike, Population History of New York City (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1972); digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 26 Feb 2014).

Lori Weintrob, “Huguenot Staten Island,” Wagner Faculty Sites ( : accessed 26 Feb 2014).

Wikipedia contributors, “Gravesend, Brooklyn,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (,_Brooklyn&oldid=579826916 : accessed 26 Feb 2014).

Wikipedia contributors, “Bushwick, Brooklyn,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (,_Brooklyn&oldid=591011374 : accessed 26 Feb 2014).

Wikipedia contributors, “Brooklyn,” Wikipedia, The Free Enclclopedia ( : accessed 26 Feb 2014).

Phyllis DeLisio and Rose Stella Proscia, “SI350 and the Memorial Church of the Huguenots,” (2012?); digital images, The Reformed Church of Huguenot Park ( : accessed 26 Feb 2014).

Edwin F Hatfield, History of Elizabeth, New Jersey; Including the Early History  of Union County (New York: Carlton & Lanahan, 1868); digital images, Google Books ( : accessed 26 Feb 2014).

Case Study: Magdaleentje Chine, Part 1

23 February 2014 (edited 21 March 2014)

The following case study is intended to illustrate the steps in the PDAA genealogy research process, beginning with the planning phase.  It will take several blogs over the next month or so to complete the case study and this happens to be new research, not previously done.  These will likely be lengthy blogs so I’ll try to make them more palatable by chopping them into smaller pieces.

First, state the research problem/question:  Who was the wife of John Simson/Simpson (c.1693-1773) of New York and New Jersey?  Was it Magdaleentje Chine as purported by several records or was her surname not Chine but something else?

1.  What is known

People –

John Simson – from 1721 deed in Richmond County, Province of New York[1]; from militia records of Richmond County[2];  signer of Elizabeth Town Associates answer to a chancery suit[3]; list of freeholders in Elizabeth Town, Essex County, Province of New Jersey[4].  This information is “documented from original records.”

Wife Magdaleentje.[5]  This information is “documented from original records.”

Children Alexander Simpson and John Simpson – inferred from freeholder list[6], Essex County, and Elizabeth Town Associates chancery suit[7].  This information is “documented from original records.”

Sold land to Henry Johnson and lived near James Clemons circa 1721 in Richmond County, Province of New York[8].  This information is “documented from original records.”  The last page of the original deed is reproduced below – note that ‘John Simson’ is used in the text of the deed and ‘Jan Simson’ in his signature.  Also, note that Magdaleentje’s name is often transcribed as ‘Magdaleantje’ but this is a mis-reading of the handwriting – Magdaleentje is the correct transcription of the handwriting:John Simson Deed 1721 - Magdaleentje p330

Sister of John (the elder) was Sarah Jenetje who married in Elizabeth Town, Province of New Jersey, in 1729[9],[10].  This information is “undocumented.”

There was no “Chine” or “Chene” family living in New York or New Jersey during this time, based on searching indexed, on-line records at commercial genealogy sites as well as publications of records from the late 1600s and early 1700s in New York.  Furthermore, a search of “Chin,” “Chen,” “Chinn,” and “Chenn” in the same sources turned up no families in the time period of interest.  Although many sources were examined, it doesn’t mean the search was exhaustive and these surnames still need to be considered during the research process.

Place –

John Simson’s likely birth place was Province of New York, Kings County, Flatbush [Midwout], based on where his father married [father was from Gravesend and mother from Flatlands (Amersfoort)].

Magdaleantje birthplace said to be Canada by some family trees, Flatlands by others – none have sources, so this information is “undocumented.”

Family was in the Province of New York, Richmond County, before about 1721-1728.  Then in Elizabeth Town, Province of New Jersey, sometime between 1721 and 1751.  This information is “documented from original records.”

Given this migration from Staten Island to Elizabeth Town, only a short distance across the present-day Arthur Kill (a tidewater stream that separates Staten Island from New Jersey), perhaps other families moved with the Simsons.

John Simson was part of the Elizabeth Town Associates in the Province of New Jersey.  This information is “documented from original records.”

Both John and Magdaleantje likely died in the Province of New Jersey. This information is “undocumented.”

Event –

It’s most likely that information from a number of events will be needed to establish Magdaleentje’s maiden name; records of birth, baptism, marriage all might reveal her maiden name but these records can be difficult to locate for the time in question, circa 1700.  The fact that the search is for a female name makes the research even more difficult.  However, let’s be optimistic and see where the research leads.

2.  Develop Sources

  • Deeds of the Simson/Simpson family or the Chine family (if this family exists).
  • Death record or burial record, either through a church record or inferred from a town record for this time period.
  • Some record of the children (John and Alexander), perhaps a church record, a probate record, or marriage.
  • An early census record.
  • A petition with signers names – trying to locate a Chine, if any exist, in the places of interest.
  • A probate record of Magdaleentje’s parents; their burial record or death record.
  • Probate record of John Simson – possibly Magdaleentje’s family is listed.
  • Could there be any military records for John or his sons that might help?  Probably militia records for this time period.
  • Town or county records.

Several of the above sources were previously examined for John Simson/Simpson and need to be re-examined for the Chine (or some variation) surname.

For this particular research question, the surname is in question.  As stated above, an examination of on-line records of New York and New Jersey during the time 1680-1720 shows no Chine/Chene family but there does appear a “Du Chesne” or “Du Chene” family.  Because of the uncertainty of the surname, a beginning task is to examine sources for the known places, broadening the study to “Du Chesne” and variations.

For the known places, start with Richmond County (or Staten Island), New York and look at the time period of about 1680 to about 1720.  Begin with an overview of the history of this period in New York.

3.  Efficient Search Sequence

Based on all the above, the sequence of research will be:

  • Overview of history of Staten Island and East Jersey for 1680-1720.
  • Examine appropriate records of this time and place to develop a listing of possible surnames.
  • Search church records for baptisms, marriages, deaths.
  • Find early census records, if any.
  • Search for wills or estate records.
  • Examine any town/county records (court, mortgage, deed, etc)
  • Search for early militia/military records.
  • See if there are any signed petitions from this time in New York or New Jersey.

This completes the planning step of the research process using the PDAA model.  The next blog will get into the “Do” step of research where the above plan is carried out.


[1] Richmond County, New York, Deeds, Vol C: 328-30, John Simson entry, 13 May 1721; FHL microfilm 941,489, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[2] Second Annual Report of the State Historian of the State of New York (1897; reprint Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000), 549.

[3] Aaron Goodwin, contributor, “The Elizabeth-Town Associates: Signatures on the Original Answer, 1751,” The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 138: 189-198 (July 2007), specifically, 194.

[4] Essex County, New Jersey, “Freeholders List Essex County, N. J. September 1, 1755″, arranged by township then by first letter of surname: John Simson entry for Elizabeth Town; FHL microfilm 1,024,666; Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[5] Richmond County, New York, Deeds, Vol C: 328-30.

[6] Essex County, New Jersey, “Freeholders List Essex County, N. J. September 1, 1755″, arranged by township then by first letter of surname: John Simson Jur and Alexander Simson entries for Elizabeth Town; FHL microfilm 1,024,666; Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[7] Goodwin, contributor, “The Elizabeth-Town Associates: Signatures on the Original Answer, 1751″, 194.

[8] Richmond County, New York, Deeds, Vol C: 328-30.

[9] Gerald James Parsons, “The Parsons Families of the Connecticut River Valley,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 148: 345-359 (1994): specifically, 357-8.

[10] Harry Thomas Cory, Ancestral Lines of Thomas Judd Cory, Clarence Richard Cory, John Harry Cory (Los Angeles, California: printed by Roy Leonard Adamson, 1943), 159.

Plan: Using the PDAA Cycle

17 February 2014

One of the significant differences between advanced genealogists – say Level 3 or 4 on the Maturity Model – and those less advanced is the initial planning they do in preparing to answer a research question/problem.   At the initial maturity levels, most people simply jump into finding great-aunt Martha and spouse John.  They will find a family tree or information from a search engine and believe they’ve located the person they want.  It’s possible for this approach to work, particularly with 20th Century families, but the further in the past we need to search, the less likely this approach will yield any result much less an accurate result.  In any case, this approach won’t yield a defensible conclusion and satisfy the GPS.

For those researchers who intend to reach Level 3 or 4, planning the research task is key to getting the desired results with an efficient use of time and effort.  For those who prefer to “jump in” and don’t find planning suitable to their style, and there are many that feel this way, then they will never get past the beginner stage and will forever make errors in finding their ancestors and their stories.  This is unfortunate because a little effort could produce great results.

Develop the research plan in three steps:

1.     Begin with what is known about three topics: People, Place, Event.

2.     Then develop likely sources that will have records to address the research question/problem/statement.

3.     Finally, prepare an efficient sequence of searches for the records.

1.  What is known

Genealogy is about family connections so people are always involved.  These people lived in specific places where records were kept, and they were involved in many events during their lives – birth, marriage, work, making purchases, engaging in legal actions, children, death, burial, estate resolution.


  • Is the name of the subject known?  Are there known or likely variations on the name?  Perhaps multiple names?
  • Who is involved with the subject?  Spouse, children, in-laws, friends, neighbors, adjacent land owners, legal action participants?
  • Of all the information known about the subject, what is the quality of the information?  Categorize the information as “documented from original records,” “not reliably documented,” and “undocumented.”
  • For each bit of information, be sure of the source and the quality of the source.  If working with a client and the client supplies information, it will likely be in one of the latter two categories – treat the information as a clue, not a fact.


  • The research question always involves, either explicitly or implicitly, a place (or places).  Make a listing of all places that are linked to the subject of the research.
  • Try to attach time frames to each place.
  • What jurisdiction controlled each place – that is, if the place is a township, then what county or parish had jurisdiction over the township?  Did the jurisdiction change during the time frame – say the county boundaries changed, placing the township in a new county.
  • If a place isn’t known, then what are the possibilities?  Searches for records have to start somewhere, even if only a state is known.
  • What are the historical events relevant to the time and place?  Is anything happening that might shed light on the research or move the investigation in a particular direction?


  • What event(s) is the subject of the research?  Birth?  Death?  Children?
  • What types of records are associated with the event(s)?
  • If the subject has appeared in multiple places, is this the result of migration or have boundaries changed?  If migration, were other families involved?  Perhaps a religious group journeyed together? 

2.  Develop sources

Put together a list of sources that may have information on the research question.  Make this as extensive as possible – it can always be whittled down later.

3.  Efficient search sequence

Order the list of sources to make the research efficient; that is, get to the answer/conclusion as quickly as possible while still examining a wide variety of sources; it’s still necessary to reach a convincing conclusion.   Some sources will be easy to access – perhaps on-line and perhaps located at a repository nearby.  Others will be more difficult and take more time to locate.  Some sources will have a higher likelihood of producing the results desired.  So, some combination of “easy to access” and “likelihood of results” is needed to come up with an efficient sequence of search.  This isn’t a science so coming up with a search scheme is up to the judgment of the individual researcher.

Before moving on to the other steps in this particular research process (PDAA), it’s time to work on a case study to illustrate the planning phase – that will be the next blog.

Another Approach to Research – PDAA

5 February 2014

Here’s another way to think about the research process, demonstrating that there’s no single, rigid formula to follow in conducting genealogy research.

Many of the things that businesses undertake involve a process, sometimes simple and sometimes complex.  For example, the development of a new airplane goes through a complex, lengthy process of conceptualization, contract, design, implementation, testing and delivery (to simplify a complex process).  Even a new meal at McDonalds goes through a process of mostly the same events, albeit much more quickly and with a different skill set of the participants. Genealogy research follows the same path, which I’ll simplify to Plan-Do-Analyze-Adjust, a variation of the original Plan-Do-Check-Act process created by Walter Shewhart at Bell Labs and popularized by William Edwards Deming for improving and controlling business processes.[1],[2],[3],[4]

My goal is to show a simple, easily-remembered approach for creating consistent genealogical research that meets your requirements.

PDAA Diagram
Let’s start with defining terms before getting into an example:
Blog - PDAA - Plan
Blog - PDAA - Do
Blog - PDAA - Analyze
Blog - PDAA - Adjust

The next blogs go deeper into each of these research steps and use an example to illustrate the pathway.

[2] “PDCA,” ( : accessed 27 December 2013).
[3] “Plan-Do-Check-Act,” ( : accessed 27 December 2013).
[4] William E Lewis, PDCA/Test : a Quality Tool Framework for Software Testing (Boca Raton, Florida: Auerbach Publishers, 1999).

Critical Thinking

28 January 2014

A word of caution about this particular blog — it may be tough sledding.  This is not a straightforward topic and is not easily discussed in a brief document so I’ve taken liberties in simplifying what is extensive academic literature on the topic of thinking, and critical thinking specifically.  Any deficiencies are mine and not the referenced articles.

There are two comments on critical thinking (CT) that I find useful in explaining its role in genealogy researchBlog - CT - Definitions

This latter definition of CT seems compellingly appropriate to genealogy research.

CT as it applies to genealogy research (and many other fields of research) exhibits many aspects and is all of the following:Blog - CT - Aspects

To expand on each aspect of CT:Blog - CT - Aspects Expanded

Here is an abbreviated listing of the steps in the genealogy research process:

Blog - CT - Research Process

This genealogy research process is thoroughly interwoven with the above four aspects of CTBlog - CT - Research & Aspects

The 4th and 5th elements of the genealogy research process require validation, analysis and judgment regarding the information obtained, and the quality of carrying out these steps determines in large measure the quality of the conclusion(s) reached.

For example, when evaluating the body of information, what criteria and values are used?  This can be answered in part by applying CT through the use of questions such as:

Blog - CT - Questions

Helen Osborn has contributed quite a bit more questions that deserve to be answered regarding any source.[3]  With this as a starting point, it’s possible to develop a more extensive list of “testing” questions for any particular research problem or source type – these will become your criteria and values for critical thinking in genealogy research.

1 Sharon Bailin, “Critical Thinking and Science Education,” Science and Education 11 (2002); digital images, ( : accessed 27 Jan 2014), pp 363-4.

2 Rick D Rudd, “Dimensions of Critical Thinking,” Journal of Southern Agricultural Education Research 50 (January 2000); digital images, Texas A & M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences ( : accessed 27 January 2014), p. 137.

3 Helen Osborn, Genealogy: Essential Research Methods (London: Robert Hale, 2012), p. 126.

Some Comments on the GPS

22 January 2014

Any intermediate or transitional genealogist needs to know about the  Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) of the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG).  Hmm. . ., couldn’t avoid the use of the word ‘proof’ as well as the word ‘evidence’ in this writing.  Both words hearken back to the last century and earlier when genealogy related itself to certain aspects of the legal profession.

Why know about the GPS?  Two reasons: The transitional genealogist that wishes to work with clients and be paid can benefit from being certified by the BCG; secondly, moving up the research maturity ladder from Level 2 to Level 3, the GPS is a necessary tool, even if clients aren’t in the picture.

The GPS has been around for about a decade but doesn’t seem to have made much of a dent in the research capabilities of the broader genealogy community.  At least, this seems so based on the many flawed family trees that have proliferated on the web in this decade. Unfortunately,, where many trees reside, doesn’t help by allowing unsourced and flawed work to be published on their site – they are not alone in this practice.  Nevertheless, a serious genealogist seeking to improve his/her skills needs to know about the GPS.

 As a brief introduction, the GPS is summarizedGPS Summary

 The GPS is a process of investigation that addresses a specific hypothesis or question, stated simply as

  • Conduct a search
  • Create source citations
  • Correlate and interpret the evidence
  • Resolve contradictory evidence
  • Create a conclusion

But it’s a bit more than this.  It’s also a standard, that is, it’s a model of what is considered acceptable research quality by a certifying agency.  To be a Certified Genealogist, certified by the BCG, then you must establish that you know how to correctly apply the GPS to your research.

Being a standard, the GPS states what is acceptable for each step.  For example,

  • The search must be reasonably exhaustive
  • The source citations are applied to each statement of fact and must be complete and accurate
  • The evidence is reliable and it is skillfully interpreted
  • The contradictory evidence is resolved (no standard applied here)
  • The conclusion is soundly reasoned and coherently written

There are many more standards listed by the BCG in their manual (a new edition is being prepared for release in February 2014), which expands on those listed above.  Dr Thomas Jones has written an extended explanation of the GPS in a recent book,[1] well worth a review if you seek certification.  Also, a well-written book[2] by English genealogist Helen Osborn was published in 2012 and should be studied for its insights on genealogical research as well as the GPS.Books - Jones & Osborn

More later on the GPS, certification, research processes, and critical thinking.


[1] Thomas W Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013).

[2] Helen Osborn, Genealogy: Essential Research Methods (London: Robert Hale, 2012).

Case Study for Research Process

12 January 2014

The case study is relatively short but strikes me as a bit wordy because all the steps are included along with some commentary.

Step 1:  State question.

Question: What is the name of the father of Thomas Henry Young of Walker County, Georgia?  Thomas was born in 1883 in Georgia and died in 1958 in Virginia.

Step 2:  Determine and access sources.


  • Census of 1900
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage license
  • Draft Registration document
  • Death certificate

These are five sources that may provide the answer – note that these are unrelated sources in that they are independent records.  Also, these are original official records (records sanctioned by or derived from authority), not listings in published family trees or indexes or transcriptions.  These are listed in a priority order with the source most likely to easily (and quickly) produce an answer listed first.  This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all possible sources, but is suitable for a start (for example, military records might be considered).  More sources will certainly suggest themselves while examining these five.

Census of 1900 –Henry Young - 1900 Census Thomas Henry appeared in the home of his uncle John S Young in Chattanooga, Tennessee (this relationship can be confirmed by other sources) and his father seems to have dropped out of the picture because two of Henry’s siblings, Alice and [Robert] Augustus Young, were also in John’s household.  This is a good example of negative information where something we expect to see is lacking.  The inference is that something happened to Thomas’s father – he died, he left the family, he “went west” or perhaps he had his brother take care of his children while he worked elsewhere.  This is an inference from the negative information that needs to be explored at another time. Other sources are needed to find the name of Thomas’s father.

Birth certificate –

Birth registration was not required in Georgia until 1919[1], so finding a certificate is unlikely.  May need to examine church records (goes on list of possible additional sources) but first let’s see if other sources are more helpful.

Marriage License –

Thomas Henry was married in Chattanooga to Grace Rudd and shows a marriage record to the correct person:Marriage Cert - Young & Rudd Unfortunately, this source doesn’t reveal his parent’s names but does show his first cousin helped with the bond and gives both Thomas’s and Grace’s full names.  Again, it’s useful to note that Thomas’s father was not part of the record, confirming the 1900 census observation.  On to another source.

Draft registration document –Draft Registration Thomas Young There is no helpful information to identify Thomas’s father but he reported that he worked for the U. S. Food Administration, which might be useful in locating additional sources such as government employment records (add to list of possible additional sources).  On to the next source.

Death Certificate –

Thomas died in Virginia and Virginia’s death certificates are available as public records 50 years after the death, which is the situation here.  I can order a death certificate through the Virginia Office of Vital Records but, while waiting for the certificate, let’s see if there are other sources.

Thomas was a railroad man and worked most of his life as an office worker for several different railroads (this comes from personal knowledge of Thomas but can be determined from the 1930 and 1940 censuses).  The Railroad Retirement Board is a likely source of useful information so a request to them for their documents on Thomas’s retirement pension would be in order.  This is a good example of a non-obvious source that wouldn’t show up until the later census documents were searched.  The researcher would need to know that such a thing as the Railroad Retirement Board exists and that also isn’t obvious, unless you do a fair amount of reading and exploration – here is an example of where experience counts.

I made a request of the RRB over a decade ago and one of the documents in their file was a copy of a certified copy of Thomas’s death certificate so there’s no need to order this record.Death Certificate - Thomas Henry Young The retirement file also contained Thomas’s application for a pension:Thomas Henry Young - RailroadRetirementBoardInfo Step 3: Derive/determine the information provided in a source.

The Railroad Retirement Board file has yielded two sources that state the name of the father of Thomas Henry Young as well as other particulars appropriate to the source.  Both are official sources with the death certificate yielding a name of Willard Sampson Young and the application yielding William Sanford Young.  The other sources had no relevant information on the father but did suggest additional sources to investigate, if needed.

Step 4:  Explain each piece of information and judge the reliability of the source.

Who provided the information?  In the case of the death certificate, it was Ethel C Young.  She and Thomas married in 1950 (her third husband and Thomas’s second wife) and lived together eight years before his death.  She would not have directly known his parents and her information may be suspect with respect to given names.   For the Employee’s Statement, Thomas was the author and his recollection of his parent’s names is probably reliable, more so than Ethel’s.  Furthermore, note that Ethel knew only the surname of Thomas’s mother, not her given name.

Step 5:  Assess full body of information from both sources.

There is a conflict in the name of Thomas’s father between the two sources with the Employee Statement being judged the more reliable.  The choice between Willard Sampson and William Sanford can be aided by extending the research and going back to census records and other records (deeds, especially) of north Georgia now that we have some idea of given names of Thomas’s father.  This additional research determined that William S Young was, in fact, the name in question, validating the information provided by Thomas and invalidating that provided by Ethel.   Further information may be found by research on Thomas’s siblings (part of a reasonably exhaustive investigation into collateral family), which uncovered a passport application by his brother Robert Augustus Young in 1919, wherein he stated his father’s name was William S Young, born in Walker County, Georgia and died in 1894.  This information, from yet another independent source, not only yielded a name but a reason for the absence of William S with the family in the 1900 census – he had died.Passport App - Robert A Young 1919

Step 6: Draw a conclusion.

William Sanford Young is the name of Thomas Henry’s father.  There was more than one source to provide information and the quality of the sources (information provided by sons of William Sanford) is of acceptable quality to draw the conclusion.  The conflicting evidence from the death certificate was from a less-reliable author and there are no other conflicts among the sources investigated.

Final comment.  The research could have stopped at the death certificate with the assumption that it was reliable, “official,” and “the wife should know her in-law’s names.”  Some  people would have stopped at this point but the need to perform a thorough search of sources would not be satisfied.  More can be said about this and the Genealogical Proof Standard in another blog.


[1]  Alice Eichholz, editor, Redbook: American State, County, and Town Sources, 3rd ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004), 700-1.  See also, Virginia Department of Health, “Genealogy,” Virginia Department of Health ( : accessed 10 Jan 2014),

Research Process

9 January 2014

Genealogical research is a process.  If followed with thought and patience, the process will produce results.  That is, the question raised or the hypothesis posed will be answered, one hopes positively but perhaps negatively.

In the following I avoid the use of the word “proof” because it carries a lot of baggage that’s been well-explored in various forums in the past couple of years.  Probably an exercise in futility since the substitute word also has problems, and the word proof seems to be well-established in professional genealogy circles.  It’s worth examining Mills’s work on this topic as well as comments by James TannerTony Proctor and Michael John Neill to get a good feel for the topic.

Do all genealogy research questions have to follow such a process?  Isn’t this too much work?  The answer is:  It depends.  Not satisfying, perhaps, but true.  If the question posed is relatively straightforward, such as, was Jane Smith alive in 1900? then it’s likely that a brief inquiry of the 1900 census could answer the question.  But, what if she can’t be located in the census?  What’s next?  This is where the research process comes in.

Every process has at least one input and one output.  For genealogy research the input is a question or hypothesis or proposition or supposition.  The output is an answer to the question in the form of a genealogical conclusion statement.  That output must/should satisfy the customer’s needs whether the customer is the researcher or a client or an editor or an attendee at a conference.  This is a bit tricky and needs to be explored in another blog.

Gen Process Input Output

The creation of a genealogical conclusion statement follows a process similar to that of many scientific research processes.  At its simplest, the process has six steps: Listing of Research Process Steps The Evidence Analysis Process Map of Elizabeth Shown Mills helps provide definitions of key process components:ESM Definitions Examples are needed to illustrate this process and that’s the next blog. Also, the evaluation of the body of information is key to achieving a satisfactory and useful output.  When evaluating the body of information, what criteria and values are used?  This can be answered in part by applying the skill of critical thinking – a topic for yet another blog.

Two Books Well Used

Maturity Models

6 January 2014

Another way to explore the idea of an intermediate or transitional genealogist is to look at maturity models.  What’s that? you say.

The idea of maturity models started with software development and quality management in the 1970s and has expanded to other occupations and industries.  It’s a straightforward listing of the capabilities/characteristics of an organization’s or person’s process following a five-level model.  The process being examined could be anything ranging from stocking a warehouse, to writing a book, to creating software applications, or to conducting genealogy research.

The maturity levels (perhaps you would call these skill levels) range from “Initial” (sometimes called “Chaotic”) to “Optimized” (you’re an expert at this process).  As an example, a couple of years ago PriceWaterhouseCoopers created a useful model for organization maturity on the use of project management (they modified the labels on each level):PWC Project Mgt Maturity ModelFor example, a maturity model for research genealogists might look like:

Level 1 – Initial At this level a researcher is not using a research plan, the results are incomplete, only a limited variety of records are being accessed and used; no sources are cited and the results can have many inaccuracies; the genealogical proof standard (GPS) is not followed.
Level 2 – Defining At this level a researcher uses a defined research process and has begun to employ more records and different types of records; citations are cited but perhaps not very rigorously; the GPS is sporadically used and analysis of results can be incomplete; the research effort is taking longer than desired and frustration with the process can discourage the researcher.
Level 3 – Integration At this level a researcher is making use of a broad range of records, various types of research techniques; and the GPS is applied diligently.  Each new research task is an improvement over the last: quality of results is improved, analysis reveals further research that needs to be done; there is consistency in each new research task.  Inaccurate results are fewer; critiques from editors and clients are incorporated into the research and there are fewer significant shortcomings.
Level 4 – Management and measurement At this level research skills are applied to all areas of genealogy work.  Feedback from clients, journal editors, blog comments, and conference attendees are integrated into on-going research work.  Research plans are modeled for best results by the researcher and used repeatedly; each research task is not a re-invention of the process.  Planning activities are easily modified for each new research task.  The researcher reaches out to and employs other researchers for distance work.  Research tasks have become predictable in terms of time, scope and degree of difficulty; work with clients becomes more predictable and efficient.
Level 5 – Optimisation At this level the research process itself is studied and improved at each opportunity.  Reach out to and mentor others.  Contribute to the profession through conferences, papers, teaching seminars, shared learning, etc.  Learn from these interactions and improve your own research skills.

You can see that this is a listing of competencies and outcomes at each level from 1 to 5.  It may have some holes but it’s a starting point for understanding how to improve.  The use of a maturity model isn’t to categorize someone or something for just the sake of applying a label.  The model is used to understand how to improve, how to reach the next level and what goals to set in order to achieve greater competency.

If a goal is to work with clients and be paid for that work then a focus on the client’s needs is important while not stumbling around with the mechanics of research.