On most Mondays, I publish brief e-mail interviews with some of our lookup providers. This week’s interview is with Ray Whidden, whose Genlighten username is edmontongenealogy.
From edmontongenealogy’s profile
Ray specializes in Edmonton-area vital records, obituaries, land records, wills, and cemetery photos / transcriptions. He has roughly 30 years of experience compiling his own family history and is proficient with a wide array of genealogy software packages and related tools.
Nine questions with Ray Whidden
1) How did you get started doing genealogy lookups/research?
I was doing Nova Scotia Canadian census lookups on microfilm for my Whidden family in the 1990s and I got an email saying a researcher had found some Whiddens in the Vassar, Michigan cemetery—was I interested? Having Whiddens known to have gone to Michigan certainly I was. When we were done collaborating with cemetery/court house records, I had three more generations previously recorded as “gone to USA, no further record.” In return I was able to do Ontario census lookups to help this researcher.
I have been a participant in the “Books We Own” project since it began almost 20 years ago and helped a number of researchers looking for Nova Scotia families. Once I found out about Genlighten it was an easy decision to join to continue the sharing.
2) Do you have a genealogy “superpower”? If so, what is it?
Most large libraries have yet to fully include the indices from books in their online catalogues. I find it very helpful to pull book after book off the shelf to check for indices and photocopy whatever I find to be analyzed at home. I’ve quickly collected a large number of stories I wouldn’t have otherwise ever found if only using the search results on the computer.
3) Describe a tricky research problem you’re particularly proud of having solved?
Prevailing wisdom is that the “Capt.” James Whidden, m. Abigail Sanborn, who went to Nova Scotia in 1760/61 was at Louisburg in 1745. Yet when I began collecting a large amount of info I discovered another Capt. James Whidden (later established to be the NS James’ uncle), whose sons are found with him at Louisburg, who had a daughter Abigail. It seems this confounded others who use the two James interchangeably. I haven’t definitively proven this but the clues suggest our James didn’t go to Louisburg after all. Needless to say some researchers aren’t very willing to accept the new evidence as easily. The Capt. Samuel Whitten also at Louisburg remains a mystery.
4) What are the ideal elements you like to see in a well-formulated lookup request?
Provide as much info as you can share: names, dates, places, stories. Identify what you think is speculation. Explain what you found and where. Summarize where you’ve looked with no result.
5) What’s the most interesting record source or repository you’ve utilized in your area?
I have access to “Worthies of Devonshire [, England]” by Rev Richard Prince published in 1703 – have compiled a table of contents. I can also access Alberta homestead records on microfilm directed by a computer index.
6) What technical tools do you use to produce the digital images you provide to clients?
Epson scanner; Pentium IV 2.8 GHz computer; Irfanview image handling software which I use if, needed, to reduce the size of the resulting JPG. I also have Photoshop Elements to stitch multiple files into a panorama view.
7) Any new lookups you’re considering offering?
Various Edmonton area cemeteries once the snow is gone; that’s a spring/summer/fall activity, except for accessing the office records.
8 ) What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started as a lookup provider?
Consider the benefits of exchanging info with other researchers. It may take three or more researchers to enable this but if you help someone at distant location #1, they may be able to help at location #2 where a third researcher (you being the first) may be able to help you with the location you’re interested in.
9) What other passions do you pursue when you’re not at the archives doing lookups?
I’ve worked for 40+ years in the computer business as a tech specialist and spent four years supporting high speed internet customers by phone so I enjoy helping others solve their computer/internet problems.
Lookups Ray Offers
- Edmonton and Alberta, Canada Vital Stats, mid 1800s – present
- Edmonton and Alberta vital stats Edmonton Public Library, 1800s to present