Friday, November 20, 2015

...Yet Never Discounting Those Staples of Sound Genealogical Research

While I'm grateful—as I mentioned yesterday—for those book-digitizing projects that are bringing hundred-year-old publications to the forefront of our researching attention once again, those books were penned by people who were no less prone to error than are humans of our modern era. Admittedly, those authors faced the same snares we face—and we all know the foibles of family fables—and yet, they had other research challenges we now can bypass with a click of a mouse. When you think of the snail-mailed, personal-memory-riddled reports authors of a bygone century once had to overcome just to compile their genealogies, it's a wonder they got as much right as they did.

One aggravating aspect of riding the online family history wave back through the centuries is the lack of scanned documentation, once the census records drop off the scene. While everything seems to go along swimmingly back to 1850, before that, researchers may—or may not—have at their disposal copies of any other actual pertinent governmental documents., for instance, offers up a lot of "data collections" which may or may not merely be compilations of user-contributed say-so reports. It is nice to peek at these collections for hints, much as one queries a trailblazer before attempting a wilderness journey never before traveled. But we all have to prove our own way, eventually.

On the other hand—at least for those of us with ancestors firmly (and successfully) interwoven into the American social fabric of the last two or three centuries—our well-heeled forebears left significant paper trails of another sort: court records and land records. While I am exploring the possibilities in my Meriwether, Gilmer, Lewis and Strother lines, I'll be corroborating—or disproving—the details unearthed by other researchers via governmental records of a type entirely different than the scant details offered up in pre-1850 census records.

That, of course, becomes the part of my daily research which goes underground as I pursue it, mainly owing to my observation that, like the making of laws and sausage, the tedium of genealogical research can sometimes get both messy and boring. While we all live for the stories, it's the sound genealogical research methods that provide the skeletal framework upon which those family stories need to hang.

Not that I won't make a peep about it, from time to time—one never knows when an exceptional or curious anecdote may surface that simply must be shared. In addition, as I hit each matrilineal node, based on my mtDNA quest, and turn around to trace that other woman's female line back down to the present, I'll track my progress in connecting to my mystery cousin. But my first love, at least for blogging purposes, is to share the stories. It's just that there aren't too many stories amidst all the grunt work of reading legal proceedings or land records.

Above: "Autumn in the Welsh Hills," watercolor on pencil, circa 1860, by British landscape artist, George Price Boyce; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. Hi, Jacqi,
    That is why we need to write their stories. How did they live? What historical events did they live through? What was their community like? Even for women, court and probate records can tell amazing stories.

    1. That's my passion as well, Michael: to tell the stories! I'm looking forward to finding some of those treasures in probate records.

  2. The stories are the best part, and sometimes there is so little:(

    1. Sometimes, it takes some reading between the lines ;)

  3. Sometimes - the story is kind of dull. Seems like my Dad's family, were for the most part, obsessed with working long hours running foundries. Only one, seems to have done anything fun - and he created Christmas toys and took post card photos.

    From a Google book

    "The Mousley Co s New Home Philadelphia January 5 1915 The George Mousley Company is now ready for business in its capacious splendidly lighted and centrally located new building on Ranstead street above Fifth street Though the entrance is unpretentious a small court the building has been appointed tastefully The lower floor gives splendid opportunity for the display of samples the upper floors have much space for the manufacture of Christmas stockings Easter rabbits and other specialties The company proposes to do a general import business in dolls toys Christmas tree ornaments and fireworks During the week it received a large shipment from Germany of metal trains tin toys etc which should have been on hand last September but which were delayed because of the war until now "

    1. Sounds delightful. Perhaps this one fun relative made up for all the other workaholics?

      Even so, while running a foundry may not sound like an exciting story, I imagine there will be some, in the future, who might perk up their ears at hearing that. Different people are interested in different things.


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