This is the portal page to a genealogical research project located at stellacilento.org. The project is composed of three parts:
1. This portal page, also referred to as front or home;
2. the database itself where all the genealogical data is stored and organized; and
3. the weblog/wiki pages where I keep notes on research conducted for individuals and families, on technological issues and on genealogical issues more generally. The distinction between a post and a page is somewhat loose, but in general I use posts for information about individuals and groups of individuals, and pages for more complex subjects. Posts are listed in the right hand column under ‘recently.'1Most everyone is familiar with Wikipedia, but you may not be aware that wikis are used widely across the internet to organize information. I ...continue
If you are familiar with a traditional family tree, this new technology may strike you as odd, but the underlying structure is simple: each individual in the family history has a page. You can look at a page to see the facts of the person’s life, including (where available) photos and documents; you can also see that person’s ancestors or descendants in a traditional tree format.
This two-part approach (wiki/database) is something I decided on after more than a few years of consideration. There are many interesting stories tucked away in the database that the casual visitor won’t easily find. And stories are the meat; stories are a basic human need. So I’ve begun to drag the stories out of the database, put them into a more accessible (and I hope, engaging) format, and present them up front. This is not a quick process, and as I actually have work to do, I restrict myself to (at most) an hour a day for this project. You can tell if I’ve made progress by looking at the category list in the right hand sidebar.
Database v Wiki
There are two possible sources of information here for each individual: (1) a database page, which is a collection of facts and dates as well as the documents and sources to support those facts and (2) a wiki page. Wiki pages are far less structured than database pages. Wiki pages can include large documents and images and discussions of such materials.2Note that only a small proportion of people in the database have wiki pages, although I add to them regularly.
If you run into technical difficulties or something here is broken, please contact me
There are also wiki pages for places, historical events, legalities such as copyright, resources, documents, and a wide range of other topics. Eventually people who are interested in contributing to the project will be able to submit relevant reports or essays to the wiki. For example, this article about slavery in the north and ancestors who held slaves in rural Pennsylvania.3Unless otherwise indicated by a source and citation, I wrote all the material you’ll find here.
Below is a comparison of a database page and a wiki page for one individual, Grietjen Westercamp, one of the most colorful ancestors you’ll find here. Grietjen was born in New Amsterdam, while her husband Jan Gerritsen Decker immigrated from Holland sometime before 1664. The evidence indicates that they were both taken prisoner by the Lenapi tribes in the course of the Second Esopus War. They later married in Wyltwijck (now Kingston, New York). There are pages of court transcripts about these two, who were often in conflict with neighbors and the law. Those materials are available on her wiki page.
|database page||wiki / article|
Before you go off exploring, there are some things to keep in mind.
Access and Privacy
Any and all information about persons still living is blocked from public view. You may be included in this database, but you won’t be able to see your page unless and until you register. I take privacy and security concerns very seriously and will verify identities before allowing access to anyone.
However, you can use the search form at the top of the page to explore the no-longer-living who are in the database. You could also look at the surname page or one of the other access points available in the pull down menu at the top of the page. Once you’ve located an interesting name, clicking on it will open a login prompt. If you aren’t registered, you can look at the page for someone who is no longer living by using the following login information:
USER ID: visitor
If you are a relative who would like to be more involved, please see this page for more information about getting registered and set up.
Ancestors: the who of here
I’ve been working on four different lines, or sets of families: Green and Clarke (out of England); the Lippi, Russo and Gionti families (Italy); Bjick (Prussia) and the Ennis line which reaches back to New Netherland and the original British colonies, before they left their homes in Holland, France, England and Scotland. There is a great deal of already established research and documentation to draw on for the Ennis line, so those family names are disproportionately represented in the database. The Clarke and Green lines are moderately well represented, while the Italian families are in need of considerable work and more effort as the materials are harder to trace.
The four base lines represent my parents (Lippi, Ennis) and my husband’s parents (Green, Clarke). The recipient of all this research is our daughter referred to here as EEG. Where an ancestor number is indicated (for example, 9x great grandmother) it is in reference to her, as first generation in this project.
Please note that because the database had to be rebuilt quite recently, links to images and documents will often be missing. I’m working on getting that resolved. I’m also working on getting access reestablished for those who had already contributed to the database. If that’s you and you’d like an update, please get in touch.
Ancestors behaving mysteriously
In genealogy a brick wall is understood to be an individual who defies all efforts to discover even basic facts. It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that women ancestors are far more likely to put up a brick wall. In centuries past women were often considered so irrelevant that their names were not recorded. Unfortunately this is also true for some women who were born in the 19th century. My paternal grandmother is one of the most stubborn brick walls you’ll find here. You can read about the many mysteries concerning her — starting with her name — on her wiki page. Other female ancestors I have had no luck with at all include almost everyone born in Italy, as well and Eleanor Decker and Eleanor Sherman born in the United States, and a great many female ancestors from England and the Netherlands.
Ancestors behaving badly
It won’t come as a surprise that there are some unpleasant people in the family, but the scope is kind of impressive. We have Pennsylvanian slaveholders (one of whom had a son by one of his slaves, a boy he baptized ‘Sin’); ax-murderers, vendetta and family feud enthusiasts with murder in their hearts, bigamists, innkeepers with less than ethical business practices, and sticky fingered persons of all ages, nationalities and both sexes. So be prepared for the occasional shock. I’m in the process of compiling a list of the less-than-good examples. Do let me know if you have a name to add to that list.
There are also many examples of interesting people who led lives within the boundaries set for them by church and government even when they were accused of high crimes. Winifred King was three times arrested and tried as a witch, but was acquitted in every instance.
Is this stuff true?
For more on the subject of copyright, fair use, and intellectual property, please see this page.
For those who haven’t really looked into the finer points of genealogy, this important note: If you do not see a reliable source cited as evidence for a piece of information, then you must consider it to be conjecture. If you happen to know an undocumented fact is true (for example, you find your great grandfather here, and you’ve got a copy of his death certificate) then please email me about that. Otherwise please think of what you read as possibility waiting for documentation. It might be fun or shocking or just plain absurd. It might be true. It might not be. We may never know.
If you (or one of your kids or grandchildren) has to come up with a history project for a school assignment, let me introduce you to some of the more interesting ancestors who would lend a hand. We have ancestors who fought in all the recorded wars on this continent, for example, some in the company of very famous men. Among the ancestors are the first Europeans to settle in the Delaware River Valley (one of them was a one-armed school teacher), and in every colony from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania. From the database you can figure out where your great grandmothers (or some of them, at least) were on the day Washington was inaugurated as the first president. There are ancestors who were expelled from Puritan colonies for their sins, and ancestors who went to jail for protesting overtaxing. Get in touch, tell me what you’re looking for, and I’ll see about getting you started. There is even the possibility of writing an article for this wiki, for anybody interested in both the research and the technology.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Most everyone is familiar with Wikipedia, but you may not be aware that wikis are used widely across the internet to organize information. I incorporate that structure here because the genealogy pages themselves are not a good place to tell longer stories or to look at large images or documents such as trial transcripts, newspaper clippings, book and article excerpts.|
|2.||↑||Note that only a small proportion of people in the database have wiki pages, although I add to them regularly.|
|3.||↑||Unless otherwise indicated by a source and citation, I wrote all the material you’ll find here.|