Thursday, January 13, 2022

Not Where They Found it


Footnotes are great for helping other researchers replicate the paper trail that led you to the family history answer you've been wrestling with for days (weeks, years). When it comes to noting an online resource, though, the troubles begin when URLs start shifting.

URLs—those online addresses with the unwieldy official title, "Uniform Resource Locators"—apparently can change over time, as webmasters rearrange the organization of their website. Clicking on a hyperlinked address is like magic: it can whisk you immediately to the location of a specific file—if, that is, the file hasn't since changed its address. Sometimes, though, the promised document other researchers might have told you about in the past is not where they found it anymore.

Keeping that URL address steady over time, no matter what, is like a gold standard, in my opinion. Of course, that's provided the specific online record we're seeking has been cited with a URL. In some cases, only the descriptor of the document set might be provided—and if that footnote's resource undergoes reorganization, well, there you go once again. Just because we find a footnote for the document we covet doesn't mean the document will still live at that same spot when we go to find it.

Take my fourth great-grandfather Job Tison's trail from, supposedly, North Carolina to Georgia. Since every mention of the Tison name seems to be coupled with a report on his father-in-law, Revolutionary War Patriot West Sheffield, I figured I'd add that name to my FAN Club research approach.

It might have seemed a stroke of luck to stumble upon an article mentioning West Sheffield's extensive estate papers in a 2017 post at Legacy Family Tree's blog, but alas, I couldn't replicate the footnote's way marker once I took it for a spin at I did, however, locate the Sheffield will itself in the browse-only online collection. Sadly, none of the juicy details were in that part of the file, though—only the factual litany of descendants which, admittedly, does serve to help in the strictest genealogical sense.

None of that, however, serves to point me backwards in time to that mystery spot in North Carolina where West Sheffield was said to have originated. Nor did it help me, by any hint of association, discern where West Sheffield's daughter Sidnah might have pledged her troth to my Job Tison.

Fortunately, however, the Legacy Family Tree author was not the only one to willingly share resources. Once again, another subscriber came to my rescue, posting a copy of the same marriage document which Michele Lewis had reported in the Legacy Family Tree Legacy News article. And in this case—thankfullythe researcher also noted the exact URL so I could find it at, too.

Of course, it's not the documented marriage woes of that other daughter of West Sheffield that I'm interested in, but merely a hope that something else in the apparently extensive file might provide me a clue as to his origin—or at least a tip regarding his family's complicated timeline that brought them from that unknown location in North Carolina to their final home in Wayne County, Georgia.

Now that I've found the spot, I'm in for a long season of reading up on all the details.

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