Saturday, April 27, 2013

Comparing Family Notes

I mentioned, the other day, the serendipity of finding Lafayette D. Woodworth in not one, but two volumes of local history—one for the southern California region in which he settled after immigration, one from the place in Wisconsin where he first settled as an adult.

After sharing the excerpt of his travels from the 1901 publication, it would be helpful to jump back in time to compare records with the previously published volume. That earlier book, The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties, Wisconsin, was printed by the Western Historical Company in 1879. Like the more recent California rendition, this book was thick (L. D. Woodworth’s entry appears on page 708), and contained biographical sketches of several of the better known local residents of that era. Thankfully, farmer Lafayette Woodworth was among those considered prominent enough to include in its pages.

The point at which we left off, in the 1901 narrative, was when the editors took up with a listing of Lafayette’s several children. If you’ve been following this Woodworth series, you will remember that listing has already been shared by reader Intense Guy in one of his comments.

Let’s revisit that listing, though, because I want to juxtapose it with a similar list in the 1879 volume. Keep in mind the considerable editorial task it must have been to include the names and birth dates (yes, incredibly, this resource actually provides details down to the kind of miniscule degree only appreciated by genealogists!) of multiple children of enough local residents to fill nearly one thousand pages of text. The caveat: surely there must have been some typos mixed into this tedious task.

Here, just for reference, is the listing of Lafayette and Eliza Smith Woodworth’s children from the 1901 version:
            While living in Wisconsin Mr. Woodworth married Miss Eliza Smith, who was born in Madison county, N, Y., but at the time of her marriage made her home in Kenosha county. Of this union there are eight children living, three of whom reside in California. The names of the children are as follows: Mrs. Frances Patterson, of Sioux City, Iowa; Mrs. Mary Vincent, of California; Joel. N. Woodworth, of Sioux City, Iowa; Mrs. Emma Larrabee, of Kenosha county, Wis.; Harvey P.; William C; Mrs. Lillie Hoskins, of Detroit, Mich.; and Lafayette D. Woodworth, Jr.
Jumping back in time, now, let’s see how that list compares with the previous one, published back east, just outside Wisconsin in Chicago, twenty two years earlier:
Married Miss Eliza Smith, of Kenosha Co., Nov. 31, 1846 [um…that’s a problem], and have eight children—Francis A., born Oct. 9, 1847; Mary, July 12, 1850; Joel N., March 11, 1852; Emily, Sept. 27, 1852; Harvey P., April 26, 1861; Lilly May, Oct. 17, 1864; William, Oct. 7, 1867; Lafayette D., May 31, 1872.
With the exception of a bogus date for the parents’ wedding, and the transposition of children’s names for William and Lillie/Lilly, all seem adequately represented—with, of course, that wonderful addition of the dates of birth.

Those, however, are part of the very tedium I was referring to when I wondered about the possibility of typos. At least, they provide a working record to use as guide until further documentation is uncovered.


  1. Those provide lots of information to work with. That's great!

    1. Betty, I'm loving these history resources. From now on, whenever I research an area where ancestors settled, I'm Googling for any potential titles for hundred year old tomes like these!

  2. That's a rich resource -- birth dates in one book, and home towns in another. Really, really, lucky! If I get first names that just bear a resemblance to each other (in that census cursive script where letters mush into other letters), I'm happy.

    I think every county should be required to keep local biographies! This tedious task should be a paid position with benefits, from the town government! : ))

    1. Wouldn't that be a dream, Mariann? I don't know who inspired those publishers back in the 1800s, but apparently it was in vogue in some regions to do something akin to town yearbooks. Whatever it was, I'm certainly grateful for that today.

      Perhaps, that's what they had in mind.

  3. I suspect with the advent of blogging, these sort of books have a loose form of competition!

    1. Hopefully, blogging will bring these books back to new life again. They are a wonderful resource for contemporary reports--although that is not to say they are error-free. And they are certainly not brag-free!


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