Monday, January 26, 2015

Just Grunt Through It

Sometimes, the only way to face up to the tedium of genealogical research is to sit down, roll up your sleeves and do it. Just do it.

I took a deep breath and did just that, yesterday.

Well, let me amend that: I took a very deep breath and began this process of genealogical grunt work. This will be a long slog. There are kazillions of Taliaferros. And I am setting out on a task to document them all.

I had thought it might be brilliant to isolate all the Taliaferros who had been married—along with my (possible) third great grandmother, Mary—in the Georgia county of her marriage to Thomas Firth Rainey. At least, then I’d have some strands to trace backwards through time to their Taliaferro parents. It would give me a snapshot in time of which of the family members were living there in Oglethorpe County at the same time.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Using several digitized copies of old genealogies, I tried re-assembling the family line. I started out with three books: Pilcher’s Historical Sketches of the Campbell, Pilcher and Kindred Families, Ivey’s Ancestry and Posterity of Dr. JohnTaliaferro and Mary (Hardin) Taliaferro, and Sketches of Some of the First Settlers of Upper Georgia, by George R. Gilmer. For good measure, I threw in Genealogies of Virginia Families from the William and Mary College Quarterly, volume II, to double check those auxiliary lines.

Let’s go back to the marriage records. The Georgia marriage collection included nine entries—although several duplicates were included—that fit my search parameters. The trouble was, once I moved beyond the Oglethorpe County records I was seeking for Taliaferro weddings, comparing the details with those in the published genealogies brought more frustration than resolution.

Perhaps I just need to remind myself that, from our computerized vantage point, we have instantaneous access to more records than the average researcher in the early 1900s could ever hope to have.

Perhaps I can set the record straight on some of these lines.

Perhaps, though, I need to tread carefully and not assume I’m just setting things straight. Even government documents have been known to contain errors—not to mention their transcriptions.

And so I went, carefully treading through the text of four different publications, toggling back and forth between the open tabs on my computer, seeing which author said Person A married Person B when another author insisted it was really Person C. For now, I’m banking on the government documents being the voice of authority—but I’ll sure be open to the possibility that it was otherwise. I’ll take time after going through this mind-numbing process to run the names through newspaper archives and other resources to see if I can find any further mention confirming correct names and identities.

I have to remind myself of my underlying purpose for all this. Sometimes, when we get mired in the overwhelming details of the search, we need to cling to that all-important purpose. It’s the anchor that lets us hold firm to our resolve, no matter how much we might want to give it all up.

In the case of this Taliaferro chase, I’m seeking the identity of my third great grandmother and her kin for two reasons:
·       First, to break through the brick wall ancestor that may help me connect with my mystery cousin—and adoptee—with whom I share exact mtDNA results
·       Second, to fill in as many blanks as possible to give me the genealogical road map to navigate through all my autosomal DNA matches I’ve received since testing last December.

In the meantime, I’ll continue the search under cover. No need to dread countless posts recounting endless details. You know how I’ve compared watching genealogical research unfold with witnessing sausage-making. Neither does genealogy lend itself well to becoming a spectator sport. But if I stumble upon something interesting or exciting, you can be sure I’ll bring it up.


  1. One thing that is obvious - this branch of the family has been in the USA for many generations - and the good part is, it has some "well known" names and many descendents - so its cousin bait galore - even if you can't tell which cousin is which! (Got to get a scorecard to tell the players!)

    1. Now, that's a thought, Iggy! I could always use some good cousin bait :)

  2. Now that sounds like a real project I hope you don't find many more Marys:)

    1. Looks like Mary is a perennial favorite in this family line...

  3. Sounds like you have your work cut out for you! That groundwork can be so tedious at times and often there are so many interruptions. How are you recording all of those of the same name? Are you using a spread sheet or how are you doing it?

    1. Though I don't often like to do it this way, Michelle, I'm actually entering in the names in my genealogy database. I'm cross-checking each name against these established genealogies, then with each name, searching online to find any documentation to support the contention. Yes, it will be tedious, but I'm starting the work first from the point of my known Taliaferro relatives, and working out from there. While there are discrepancies, I'm seeking first those whose documentation supports their placement in the database. If I have to go to Plan B with any problem discoveries, I'll deal with that as the problem arises.


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