So, you've worked on garnering all the facts about your ancestor from governmental records—wills, marriage records, maybe even census enumerations—and you still come up short. Are there any other ways to fill in the blanks on your ancestor's story?
That's where I'm stuck with my research goal to discover the roots of my fourth great-grandfather, Job Tison of Glynn County, Georgia. Supposedly, he settled there from a previous home in Pitt County, according to what other researchers assert—but I'm not uncovering a satisfactory paper trail leading back to that North Carolina location. Since my research schedule allots one month for each project—and then I must move on to the next of my Twelve Most Wanted ancestors for the year—I'll need to set aside my goal of determining Job Tison's parents and origin for another year.
Though I set him aside, that doesn't mean I can walk away without gathering notes from my unfinished trail of discoveries. I've found some possible clues which will need some follow up, and if I don't write down those details for future reference, you know I'll forget where the trail has led me, next time I journey down this same research path. That means the last step I take, before wrapping up this belated January research project, is to note possible directions for my first steps, next time Job Tison is on my research agenda. As they say in the restaurant business, at the end of my work day, I need to "close to open."
There were indeed some tempting resources to explore this past month. In trying to learn more about the many Tisons who did live in Pitt County, I found Tison land grant records from the North Carolina Land Grants website. If my Job Tison did turn out to originate in Pitt County, he had plenty of relatives in the neighborhood.
As I do for many of my research puzzles, I look at Internet Archive for any digitized copies of local history books. In this case, finding mention of a young Job "Tyson" in Sketches of Pitt County makes me wonder whether that narrative provides the explanation for my Job's sudden break for land farther south in Georgia at about the same time. Of course, as has already been suggested, I also perused pertinent entries via Google Books, and encountered a footnote regarding two Tisons in Beaufort, South Carolina. Though it involved a much later era, it reminds me of a possible intermediate settling point for my Job as well, which also piqued my curiosity—again, for ongoing research possibilities.
Internet Archive is one target-rich research opportunity, if one can adequately sift through the myriad digitized resources available there, but not everything online is as easily found. One recently-updated resource is the Periodical Source Index—PERSI for short—which has now been re-located to its new home at the Allen County Public Library. Cari Taplin has recently posted a three-part series, explaining what to expect at PERSI's new host location, how to put PERSI through its search paces at its new host home and, finally, how to access the articles you've found through the PERSI system.
On my trial run of the relocated PERSI, I discovered—no surprise here—some articles on the Tisons published in the Pitt County Genealogical Quarterly. How to find them? Google revealed that several of the issues are available through DigitalNC. Sure enough, when I followed the links, I found there are at least twenty two volumes already digitized and accessible. I'd call that an ample start.
That's not to say I won't also consult ArchiveGrid in hopes that Job Tison, his forebears or descendants might have bequeathed their "papers" to a participating repository—once again, a multi-step process to be learned and exercised, but worth the effort when something off the beaten research path is located. And I'll continue my search through the various historic newspaper collections. Maybe even a foray into the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections could prove helpful. And I won't forsake reviewing the basics, such as the FamilySearch wiki for places like North Carolina's Pitt County or the later Tison home in Glynn County, Georgia.
The real task is to locate material which provides not necessarily the specifics on Job Tison or his family—ancestors or descendants—but on the communities in which they lived. Finding the breadth of the narrative through writings of his own time period may open a researcher's eyes to the way of life experienced by our ancestors.
While Job Tison may only have been a handwritten entry with trailing tick marks in an 1820 census record, we may be able to reveal more about the likely components of his life by locating and absorbing the details in published material on the local history of places he once called home. Though we'll need to set aside our Tison research task for this year, with a hefty future to-do list tucked in his file, I can hit the ground running, next time his name comes up for a research project. There's always more to learn about our ancestors—and always more resources which will come available in the future—making a policy of revisiting our research targets periodically a smart move.