Artificial Intelligence – AI – You either love it or fear it. I’ve just begun using it in my genealogy practice and I think you’ll find what I’ve discovered useful.
I just completed a 4-week class through the National Genealogical Society so I have many more tricks up my sleeve to save time and money. I’ll be sharing my personal discoveries over the next four weeks.
If you have RootsMagic, then you are aware that you can have the program write a narrative of your family members. Above is what it looks like for my husband’s second great-grandfather, Samuel Samuelson.
Short and not very sweet, right?! Lots of corrections are needed. Not a very entertaining story.
Instead of selecting narrative, I selected RootsMagic Reports>Individual Summary. It is a compilation of all the facts you’ve found about your ancestors. I’ve highlighted it below to stand out from my blog content:
Individual Summary 24 October 2023 1 Name: Samuel “August” Samuelson1–3 Sex: Male Father: Samuel Howard Erickson (1810-1890) Mother: Anna Elisabet “Lisa” Torstensdotter (1797-1868) Individual Facts Residence 1700–1882 (age 0–about 43) Västra Harg, Östergötland, Sweden4–10 Residence 1700–1882 (age 0–about 43) Lake; Porter, Indiana, USA11–12 Birth 3 Jan 1839 Stora Haddebo, Västra Harg, Östergötland, Sweden13–57 Arrival 1851(about age 12) 37,51,58 Departure 10 May 1851(age 12) Östergötland23,35,49 Emigration 1852 (about age 13) Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA59–61 Residence 1860 (about age 21) Residence Post Office: Coffee Creek; Westchester, Porter, Indiana, USA14,26,40,53,55,57 Residence 1862 (about age 23) Calumet, Lake, Indiana62–64 MilSvc 16 Aug 1862 (age 23) Civil War 73rd Indiana Infantry Regiment19,31,45,65–67 Residence 28 May 1863 (age 24) Calumet, Lake, Indiana, USA68–70 Residence 1870 (about age 31) Westchester, Porter, Indiana, United States17,29,43 Arrival 1874 (about age 35) 24,36,50 Residence 1880 (about age 41) Westchester, Porter, Indiana, United States15,27,41 Residence 1900 (about age 61) Westchester Township (North Half), Porter, Indiana16,28,42 Occupation 13 Jan 1908 (age 69) Farmer; Chesterton, Porter, Indiana18–19,30–31,44–45 Death 14 Jan 1908 (age 69) Chesterton Township, Porter, Indiana18,20–22,30,32–34,44,46–48,71–76 Medical 14 Jan 1908 (age 69) Skull; Chesterton, Porter, Indiana18,30,44 Accident 15 Jan 1908 (age 69) Tribune, col. 3, p. 5.; South Bend, Indiana77–79 Accident 15 Jan 1908 (age 69) Tribune, col. 2-3, p. 10.; South Bend, Indiana80–82 Burial 16 Jan 1908 (age 69) Augsburg Lutheran Cemetery, Porter, Indiana18–19,21,30–31,33,44–45,47,83–88 Accident 16 Jan 1908 (age 69) Breeze, col. 1, p. 2.; Monroeville,Indiana89–91 Accident 24 Jan 1908 (age 69) Banner, col. 3, p. 2.; Bristol, Indiana92–94 Lawsuit 5 Mar 1908 (age 69) Argos Reflector, col. 6, p. 6.; Argos, Indiana95–97 Alt. Name A. Lifelong Republican19 Arrival Nordamerika23,35,49 Residence Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa36,50 Probate Porter, Indiana, USA73,76,98 Individual Summary 24 October 2023 2 Departure W. Harg37,51,58 Marriages/Children 1. Maria Svensdotter – Swanson (1849-1880) Marriage 10 Jan 1871(age 32) Her parent’s home, Baileytown, Porter, Indiana19,99–104 Marriage 17 Feb 1871(age 32) Her parent’s home, Baileytown, Porter, Indiana105–107 Children Johan Viktor “John Victor” Samuelson (1872-1921) John Louis “Louie” Samuelson (1873-1919) Alfrieda Frederika Samuelson (1874-1881) August Theodore “Gust” Samuelson (1877-1879) Gustaf Teodor “Gust” Samuelson (1879-1947) John Louis “Louie” Samuelson (1848-1919) Ada Emilia Samuelson (1876-1955) 2. Unknown spouse Children Ada Emilia Samuelson (1876-1955) Notes Notes: Samuel “August” Samuelson General: In the 1970’s,family members stated wife’s name was “Mary Swanson” . Samuel was a lifelong Republican.
The summary isn’t very easy to read, either. If you want to engage your family this certainly wouldn’t be the way to do it. Enter ChatGPT.
I did pay the $20.00/month with cancellation at any time for the 4.0 version to try out its capabilities. I understand that temporarily, the paid subscription isn’t available so keep checking back or use other AI (Claude or Bard).
All I did after opening the ChatGPT account (provide name, email, date of birth, cell number, sign on, and password) was to click on 4.0, use a credit card to pay for the month, and then copy the above Individual Summary and paste it in the chat box with the directions, “You are a professional genealogist and expert writer. Please write a narrative for the following:” In seconds, it was complete. But it was missing the sources so I replied, “Wonderful job! Please include source citations.” Seconds later, the finished product.
There were some errors, but they were easily corrected. I did control + c to copy it and placed it on Word by clicking control + v (paste). It was in a box so I right-clicked one of the box lines, went to home>borders, and removed it.
There were three errors. The first was the computer misreading from an authored work. It wrote that Samuel had emigrated at the age of 42 instead of 12. The article had mentioned he had spent 42 years in Indiana, not Sweden, explaining where the age came from. AI is not very good at math! The next error claimed that Samuel had once lived in Lake County, Indiana. He hadn’t but he did go there to enlist in the Civil War. Deleting Lake County was a quick fix. So the computer did what genealogists shouldn’t do – it assumes. Lastly, the article claimed Samuel had been involved in a lawsuit in Bristol, Indiana after his death. Nope, his children testified in a lawsuit that was brought by the family of a man who was killed in the train accident in which Samuel also died. The Bristol, Indiana newspaper reported it. This took a minute longer to correct.
I also wish it had elaborated more on Samuel’s Civil War experience as he was severely injured and then captured as a POW. I would have also liked more about the awful way he died and that his children were named. All items I can easily add. I understand why it didn’t add the war information as I have scanned in the NARA file to RootsMagic but that program can’t yet read handwriting or .jpg yet.
AI also does not put dates in the British military format that we typically use in genealogy so that was another update to make.
My biggest wish was for the source citations to be entered correctly. I gave ChapGPT that request. I plan to develop a template that I can easily fill in info going forward.
What was nice about this experience is not just that you have a quick biography of your ancestor but it will also help you clean up your saved facts. I had saved a naturalization record but it wasn’t for my Samuel. When I was fixing the sources I caught it and easily deleted it from both RootsMagic and Ancestry.com where RootsMagic had gotten it from. Hadn’t thought of using AI to clean my tree but it did accomplish that.
I’m not done with the bio but here’s what ChatGPT came up with. Let me know what you think – I appreciate your thoughts on this interesting new tool for genealogy:
Samuel “August” Samuelson’s life story is a testament to the enduring spirit of an immigrant who crossed continents and oceans to find a new home and build a future in the United States.
Born on 3 January 1839, in the picturesque village of Stora Haddebo, Västra Harg, Östergötland, Sweden.[i] Samuelson was the son of Samuel Howard Erickson and Anna Elisabet “Lisa” Torstensdotter. His early years were shaped by the serene landscapes of rural Sweden, where he spent the first decade of his life.[ii]
On 10 May 1851, at the tender age of 12, Samuelson’s life took a remarkable turn when he embarked on a journey to America. Leaving behind his familiar homeland, he sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in Chicago, Cook, Illinois, in 1852.[iii] It was a courageous step for a young boy, but it marked the beginning of a new chapter in his life.
Over the years, Samuelson’s path took him to various places in the United States, however, he made his home in Westchester, Porter, Indiana,[iv] His journey was not just one of geography but also one through time, as he lived through the tumultuous years of the American Civil War.
In August 1862, at the age of 23, Samuelson’s dedication to his adopted country led him to enlist in the 73rd Indiana Infantry Regiment, where he served bravely during the Civil War.[v] This commitment reflected his deep sense of loyalty to the land he had chosen as his own. ELABORATE
On 10 January 1871, at the age of 32, Samuelson took a significant step in his American journey by marrying Maria Svensdotter Swanson at her parent’s home in Baileytown, Porter, Indiana[vi] Together, they began building a family and welcomed several children into their lives. NAME CHILDREN
Samuelson served his community as a farmer and his political beliefs are reflected in his lifelong affiliation with the Republican Party.[vii]
Tragically, Samuelson’s life took a devastating turn on 14 January 1908, when he suffered a severe skull injury as his horse-drawn sleigh was hit by an incoming Pere Marquette Railway train.[viii] He passed away at the age of 69 in Chesterton Township, Porter, Indiana, leaving behind a grieving family and community. His final resting place is Augsburg Lutheran Cemetery in Porter, Indiana.[ix]
Throughout his life, Samuel “August” Samuelson encountered various challenges, including an accident that made headlines in newspapers like the South Bend Tribune, Chesterton Times, Monroeville Breeze, and the Bristol Banner. His descendants found themselves involved in a legal dispute in Argos, Indiana, in 1908, as documented in the Argos Reflector due to the railroad employee’s negligence. ELABORATE.
Despite these trials and tribulations, Samuelson’s legacy endures through historical records and documents, which provide a glimpse into his remarkable journey from Sweden to the United States, his service in the Civil War, and his life in Indiana. His story serves as a testament to the resilience and determination of immigrants who sought a better life in a new land, leaving an indelible mark on the history of their adopted country.
What do you think? Are you ready to give AI a try?
[i] “Sweden, Church Records, 1451-1943,” Västra Harg, Östergötland, Sweden, Samuel Samuelson, digital database; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023, citing C:1, Fodde, 1797-1840, Roll IJ-532, p. 503.
[ii] Weston A. Goodspeed & Charles Blanchard, Editors. Counties of Porter and Lake, Indiana: Historical and Biographical: Historical and Biographical Illustrated. Chicago: F. A. Battey & Co, 1882 p. 310, digital image; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023, image 306 of 770.
[iii] “Sweden, Emigrants Registered in Church Books, 1783-1991,” Samuel August Samuelsson Eriksson, 10 May 1851, digital database; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023 citing p. 202.
Ibid. Goodspeed & Blanchard.
[iv] 1860 United States Federal Census, Westchester Township, Porter, Indiana, population schedule, John Johnson (sic), Dwelling 277, Family 211, page 34 (handwritten), digital image; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023, image 10 of 23, citing NARA Roll M653_289.
1870 United States Federal Census, Westchester Township, Porter, Indiana, population schedule, Augt Samuelson (sic), dwelling/family 185, page 23 (handwritten), digital image; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023, image 23 of 35, citing NARA Roll M593, RG29.
1880 United States Federal Census, Westchester Township, Porter, Indiana, population schedule,
Samuel Samuelson, Dwelling 253, Family 265, page 27 (handwritten), digital image; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023, image 27 of 38, citing FHL microfilm 1254304.
1900 United States Federal Census, Westchester Township, Porter, Indiana, population schedule, Samuel Samuelson, Line 13, sheet 8 (handwritten), digital image; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023, image 15 of 26, citing NARA Roll T623.
Indiana State Board of Health, Death Certificate, Samuel August Samuelson, 14 January 1908, Record 193, digital image; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023, image 996 of 2808, citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis, Roll 9.
Findagrave.com, Samuel August Samuelson, (1839-1908), Memorial No. 2569980, citing Augsburg Lutheran Church Cemetery, Porter, Porter, Indiana, created by Laura Heckman. Photo by Angelo D. Angeles and Laura Heckman. Obituary and news article of accidental death by Steve Shook.
[v] Ibid. Goodspeed & Blanchard.
“American Civil War Soldiers,” Samuel Samuelson, 16 August 1862, digital database; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023.
“Civil War and Later Veterans Pension Index,” Samuel A. Samuelson, digital database; Fold3.com: accessed 24 October 2023.
“Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana,” Samuel A. Samuelson, digital image; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023.
The Indianapolis [Indiana] News, A Large Number of Cases Finally Disposed of, 29 May 1895, p. 6, c. 5, digital image; Newspapers.com: accessed 1 November 2022.
The Indianapolis [Indiana] Journal, Pensions for Veterans, 31 May 1895, p. 7, c. 3, digital image; GenealogyBank.com: accessed 1 November 2022.
The Indianapolis [Indiana] News, Pensions for Indianians, 13 June 1900, p. 2, c. 5, digital image; Newspapers.com: accessed 1 November 2022.
The Indianapolis [Indiana] Journal, Pensions for Veterans, 23 July 1901, p. 7, c. 3, digital image; GenealogyBank: accessed 1 November 2022.
[vi] “Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941,” S. A. Samuelson, 11 February 1871, digital database; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023 citing Porter County, Indiana, Marriage Record Volume 3, p. 572.
“Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001,” S. A. Samuelson, 10 January 1871 Marriage Registration, digital database; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023 citing FHL microfilm 001686156.
[vii] Ibid. Goodspeed & Blanchard.
[viii] The Argos [Indiana] Reflector, No Title – “Samuel Samuelson,” 5 March 1908, digital image; Newspapers.com: accessed 13 February 2021, p. 6, c. 6.
The South Bend [Indiana] Tribune, Two Killed at Crossing, 15 Jan 1908, digital image; Newspapers.com: accessed 13 February 2021, p. 10, c. 2-3.
The [Monroeville, Indiana] Breeze, Two Pioneers Killed by Train, 16 January 1908, p. 2, c. 1, digital image; Newspapers.com: accessed 13 February 202.
The Chesterton [Indiana] Tribune, Two Lives Sacrificed on a Grave Crossing, 16 January 1908, Vol. 24, N. 42, p. 1, c. 3-4, digital image; Findagrave.com: accessed 24 October 2023 posted by Steve Shook.
The Chesterton [Indiana] Tribune, Had a Premonition, 23 January 1908, Vol. 24, N. 43, p. 1, c. 1, digital image; Findagrave.com: accessed 24 October 2023 posted by Steve Shook.
The Chesterton [Indiana] Tribune, Funerals, 23 January 1908, Vol. 24, N. 43, p. 4, c. 1, digital image; Findagrave.com: accessed 24 October 2023 posted by Steve Shook.
The Bristol [Indiana] Banner, Two Killed at Crossing, 24 January 1908, p. 2, c. 3, digital image; Newspapers.com: accessed 13 February 2021.
“Indiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999,” Samuel A. Samuelson, digital image; Ancestry.com: accessed 24 October 2023 citing Porter, Indiana Will Record Vol. C-E, 1891-1914.
[ix] Ibid, Findagrave.com.