Archive for October 2nd, 2012

October 2, 2012

Social Network Analysis – A Genealogical Tool — #Genealogy, #RootsTech

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

Social Network Analysis has worked again!

This is a broad, umbrella-like, semantically overloaded term. In fact, this term is even known by aliases. GeneaBlogger, Thomas MacEntee, calls it “Cluster Genealogy“. Stanczyk calls it by a more modern term that immediately identifies and places this tool in a perfect context — Social Network Analysis (SNA for short). Both terms are defined by wikipedia pages — follow both links and decide for yourself what to call it, but whatever you call it, start using it in your genealogical research now!

Stanczyk has successfully used this technique three times now.

  • Used to determine siblings for my great-grandfather Jozef Elijasz of Pacanow
  • Inadvertent use in locating another line from  great-grandfather Tomasz Leszczynski
  • Whimsical Use on an Affiliated Family Name that exploded in multiple dimensions

This article and the next article where I elaborate the steps for the last one in the list is my third success.

The first two list items are from two earlier blog posts:

  1. Jozef Elijasz - Inferring unknown siblings from known siblings. A series of 3 articles.
  2. Jozef Fras – Son of Agnes Leszczynski. Proving this Leszczynski family was mine.

Happenstance Scenario

The third research opportunity was a happenstance fluke. To test my connection to Ancestry, I did an Immigration search on ‘ZWOLSKI’. This is one of the affiliated names from Poland for our Elijasz family branch. I also knew that some Zwolski came to America and were related to my great-grandfather’s sister, Pelagia. So I did an Immigration search and clicked on the Passenger List Ship Manifest for Jan Zwolski. A mere random selection of Zwolskich. He arrived in 1910 on the Lapland. Jan was not from Pacanow or as far as I could tell any nearby village of my ancestors. Finally, he was going to Jamaica, NY, also not a locale known for members of my family tree. So I figured that my Ancestry was working since I could see the ship manifest, but this random person was not a candidate  for entry into the family tree.

Now the real genealogy began. I looked down the ship manifest to see if anyone else with Jan was from a nearby ancestral village. Looking down the page I found plenty, so I decided to focus on those affiliated family names that I had researched before in my Pacanow Social Network Analysis (#1 on the list). I started with the first Pacanow resident, Francisek [sic] Luszcz. He was going to  a Teofil Zasucha at 1319 Falls street in Niagara Falls, NY. Now I got interested Zasucha is a big SNA family name and it is the maiden name of my 2nd great-grandmother, Anna Zasucha Elijasz. The location also tugged at a memory from my research. I had a great-aunt (Mary Elijasz) who arrived in the USA in 1910 to her brother Jan Elijasz from a brother-in-law, named Jan Leszczynski in Zborowek and she went to her brother who lived in Niagara Falls. Looking further down the page, I even found a Jan Eliasz from Zborowek (not my great-uncle, but surely deserves a place somewhere in my tree, though his branch is yet missing) and Jan was going to Syracuse (where some distant Elijasz resided and also another Elijasz affiliated family, the Kedzierski, one of whom did marry my great-uncle Jan Elijasz). Alas this Jan came from a wife Maryanna, not a Pelagia.

So I thought to check Ancestry’s City Directories for Teofil Zasucha in Niagara Falls and up popped a 1915 address. Teofil was now at 163 13th street in Niagara Falls (as are all addresses today). I thought to look-up my great aunt’s address from her ship manifest, she was going to her brother at 235  11th street. No match … except the city directory showed two other Zasucha living at 235  11th street in 1915. OK, I was now officially beginning a new SNA and recording my data (a necessary step in SNA).

One final note, further down the page in the city directory of ‘Z’ names was an Albert Zdziebko. Now Zdziebko are quite rare, but they too are from the Pacanow area (and they are related to the great genealogist, Ceil Wendt-Jensen, the current PARI director). So this was becoming a full fledged SNA project. My Pacanow SNA project had just moved across the Atlantic to  Niagara Falls, NY.

Summary

This article and the next one on SNA are about my third use of SNA in my genealogical research. SNA (or Cluster Genealogy) are techniques described in Wikipedia pages (see links above) or another article in my Post Scriptum below. The first two projects were wildly successful with limited data. I had other follow-on successes as a result because I had done those two SNA studies — for example at RootsTech 2012, I found an 1876 marriage record of  Walenty Paluch to Magdalena Major. Neither of these two people were in my family tree when I read their record in Russian (so you know I was committing time/effort on a whim). The Paluch and Major were affiliated names from my 1st SNA project so I decided on that basis alone to read the 1876 marriage record. What did I find? I found that the two people getting married were each a sibling of  two of my paternal great-grandparents in my tree! So I added this married couple to my family tree. SNA is a technique to increase your confidence level in your research to take a guess/hunch/assumption from that level of statistical probability (which is what 10-25% ??) to a level well above 50% maybe as high as 99%. While this may or may not pass muster for a Genealogical proof,  it is actually good enough for civil court (where you just have to prove just 51%, not the 100% required in criminal court). It may open up new lines of research you were unaware of,  that come back to help with your existing “brick-walls”.

Next

The next article will be the details of my SNA research and the results.

P.S. – Another post scriptum. Though I prefer the term Social Network Analysis, thus demonstrating my computer education/bias — I found a very early reference to the term Cluster Genealogy from March 1st, 1994 by a CG, named Connie Lenzen who published this article in National Geological Society Quarterly. Her goal was to develop a higher level of confidence in proving a female ancestor’s lineage when there is no certain paper trail to follow, but only indirect leads. You may want to read her article too. SNA has wide applicability in uncertain circumstances.

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