Thursday, March 31, 2022

Reassessing Research Goals


Perhaps I am unlike other family history researchers. I need to set an end date to my research goals, rather than doggedly persisting in the face of continued failure. I learned long ago that though the documents I need may not be available to answer my questions today, someday in the future, they will surface. What works best for me now is to set one research goal per month—thus, my Twelve Most Wanted for any given year—and wrap up at the end of the month with a to-do list for when I revisit the goal in future years.

In the case of my goal for March—to glean any clues I can find indicating the roots of my fourth great-grandfather, Charles McClellan—while I didn't achieve all I hoped to discover, I did make progress. I located some plausible records bolstering what I had assumed was his migration pathway from his early years in South Carolina to his final years in territorial Florida. I also identified a possible brother who may have moved with Charles from South Carolina to Camden County, Georgia—but no farther.

I missed the mark, however, in being able to document names of either of Charles' parents, or even discover a tentative location for Charles' childhood home. Furthermore, some aspects of Charles' life, passed down to me as family tradition, I was unable to confirm, though I did try. For instance, tradition has it that Charles was a Methodist minister, at least by the time he arrived in Georgia. Though I tried contacting the archivist at a repository of Methodist ministerial records, I have yet to receive a reply. That is one lead I still need to pursue.

I am also aware that there are many others whose publicly-posted family trees include my Charles McClellan. Many of them claim a name for Charles' father. Seeing those as possible trailblazers, I will certainly examine any documentation provided in such trees—if there is any listed. The problem, however, is that not all researchers agree on the identity of his parents, causing me to further doubt such resources.

For the next time I pick up the question of Charles McClellan's roots, I will need to mount that learning curve of geopolitical boundary changes in South Carolina, plus reports of likely immigration pathways for South Carolina settlers of the early and mid-1700s. This McClellan line has been reported by family tradition to be Scottish. We all know how fallible oral tradition can be, but I've also learned to pay attention to such tales; sometimes they contain an element of truth. It didn't escape my attention to learn that among other people groups, South Carolina received its fair share of travelers from Scotland in those early years of settlement.

A final addition to my research to-do list is to seek out more material providing background details on the development of colonial South Carolina and the history of its early statehood. Journal articles and other scholarly works can harbor the most useful details, even in those "boring" footnotes. Pursuing such material is one way to benefit from the findings of other researchers.

With the upcoming month—barring any lapses into Bright Shiny Object Syndrome with the release of the 1950 U. S. Census—I'll switch my research focus away from my mother's colonial roots to the lines of my mother-in-law. Tomorrow, we'll explore the focus for April's Twelve Most Wanted ancestor and the methodology to use in pursuit of yet another ancestor. 

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