Saturday, July 2, 2016

Seeing Is Believing

When in pursuit of those difficult-to-trace ancestorslike the many George and Sarah Gordons we've been wrestling with this weekthere's nothing like being able to see the actual documents to verify the details in question. Yet, it isn't always possible to travel to the site where our family once lived, five, six or seven generations ago.

Yes, it's true that we can hire professional genealogists to retrieve records for us. Someone who lives locallyand is familiar with the lay of the land (including the land's local archives)can locate documents for us more quickly and efficiently than we could do so, ourselves.

Since I live in Californiaand my husband's Gordon roots were in Pennsylvania and Ohioit otherwise becomes a matter of plane tickets, car rentals, hotel stays and countless restaurant meals, all for the joy of obtaining a copy of a will, or the full application for naturalization, or that elusive headstone or marriage record.

But there's the rub: it's for the joy of the effort that we keep on doing these things. It's the thrill of the chase. Requiring patienceafter all, we only visit our relatives back east maybe once a year, not the ten or twenty times I'd love to let our route detour through Fort Wayne to squeeze in a visit to the Allen County Public Libraryour progress approaches its finish line incrementally. Ever so slowly.

As much as people seem to relish maligning the "instant" results of online research resources, I appreciate the handiness of entering a name on, say,, and pulling up not only a record's transcription, but often a digitization of the very record, itself. I get to see the very items in question: birth records, marriage licenses, death certificates. And I don't even have to send my money order by snail mail (along with a self-addressed, stamped envelopeand then wait six weeks) to do so.

That's why I certainly perked up when I saw the comment on Thursday's post, in which Geolover did a forced searchleaving the key detail in question blank, while providing parameters for supporting factsand found some Perry County records online at for my Gordon family. Following that comment up the next morning was reader Marian Koalski's observation confirming that FamilySearch had scanned and added the images for the Perry County records I was seeking.

I've been in research heaven since then, finding every Perry County ancestor born within the years of that collection. Someday, I'll find that missing file I had tucked away years ago, but at this point, it really doesn't matter. Besides, while I had photocopies of the index to those births and deaths, the FamilySearch collection apparently is of the original registers. In all their handwritten glory.

That means when I encounter yet another previously-undiscovered maiden name for one of those aggravating Sarah Gordons (instead of the Dittoe and the Drumm I already had, adding Drew to the list), I can take a look around on the page and realize that, since the same surname was entered just a line above it, I may be witnessing an old-fashioned clerical error. After all, clerks in the 1800s were human, tooand likely had jobs requiring them to multi-task. Clerical errors are not solely the domain of our modern times in the twenty first century.

Two "Drew" entries for mother's maiden namepossible clerical error?

The beauty of it all is that we'd never be able to spotand analyzethose possibilities without being able to see the documents, themselves. And when it comes to records housed at great distances from our own homes, it's not very likely that we'd otherwise be able to scrutinize those documentsat least without abundant latitude in our travel expense accounts.

So, yeah. Online genealogical websites. I salute you. You do not make me lazy. Or uninformed. You help me accomplish more of my research goals in less time. And with greater accuracy. Because digitized records are records that more of us than ever before can now see for ourselves. 



  1. Just to confuse, there also was a Dumm family (no 'r') in Brownsville area, Bowling Green Twp., Licking Co., adjacent to North boundary of Perry Co. One of my distant cousins married a Frank R. Dumm (1840-1931 per his obit. [Newark Advocate (Newark, OH), Wed., July 29, 1931, p. 1, col. 6]) in 1870 according to his obit (no marriage record found), his parents Louis and Elizabeth (Harvey) Dumm. Obit states Frank was born in Brownsville and was the last living of their children (who are not listed in the obit). This surname could hastily be read "Drum." Or, for that matter, as "Drew."

    Frank's widow was Amelia (Pyle) Dumm who d. in 1938 in Fairfield Co., OH while living with a married daughter.

    There are some pretty careful readings of the large Cedar Hill Cemetery, Brownsville (itemizing adjacent markers, which are lacking from findagrave entries) in the Licking County USGenWeb site. You might find something of interest in this old cemetery, where Dumms and numerous relatives of Amelia are buried.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Geolover! Those GenWeb sites are sometimes forgotten, but still there and often full of useful material. Since people in this area of Ohio seem to have moved from county to nearby county, I'll definitely take a look.

      Thanks also for the heads up on Dumm. As far as all these similar names go, that's why it's not only vital to take a look at the actual document, but to seek out the idiosyncrasies of a specific clerk's handwriting, overall. It helps to know what that person's writing habits were, before trying to decipher whether it was Drew or Drumm or Dumm or anything else.

  2. Drew or Drum - I can't decide myself!


    1. That's why I think it's simply a clerical error. Though I didn't show it on the clipping here, when viewing the full document, it appeared the clerk's style of writing "m" was not at all like the last letter in these two names, so it most likely was two entries for Drew. I am wondering whether the clerk got distracted during the entry of the second line, by seeing Drew in the line immediately above it.

      This one will take comparisons with other documents to determine exactly which Sarah was the wife's correct maiden name.


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