Friday, January 13, 2023

The Broyles Family:
Finding What Others Are Saying


While genealogy research can be wickedly challenging for some of our family lines—I'm thinking here of the false tales promoted by my mystery grandfather—other lines seem to come pre-packaged with complete documentation. Those whose ancestry has been compiled in genealogy tomes from the past century may seem to have a head start: simply acquire a copy of the decades-old volume, see what others are saying, and start retrieving data.

Published genealogies may seem to be a boon, but we need to remember that even the most well-meaning, thorough researcher can make mistakes. As I push back through the generations on my mother's ancestry, I'm discovering related surnames for which published (as well as unpublished) manuscripts still exist. The Broyles family of Virginia's Germanna settlement is no exception.

While the Arthur Leslie Keith manuscript which we have been reviewing this week seems to be the mainstay of that family, I was aware that there have been other published resources which we can consult. With the benefits of online access to many digitized materials, finding such books sometimes takes not much more than a search query, direct to Google or another search engine, or through a specific website.

Prime among those websites, at least for our family history purposes, is the FamilySearch site. Included in the FamilySearch offerings is a catalog of their book holdings. That is where I found the two volumes of the Keith manuscript, the first volume being the one I am currently consulting, but searching for the Broyles surname pulls up many more reference materials at FamilySearch than just that one volume.

There is, for instance, another book which I've used in the past, The Broyles, Laffitte and Boyd Relatives and Ancestors of Montague Laffitte Boyd, Jr., M. D. While the book is listed as published by Mrs. Einar Storm Trosdal, it was actually written by Montague Laffitte Boyd, himself. However, while the book does include information reaching back to the original Broyles settlers at Germanna, Dr. Boyd descended from Ozey Robert Broyles, my third great-grandfather, so the relationship and the book provide information focused on those family lines which are closer than my research purposes this month.

Seeking Broyles information directly from the Internet provides some older resources. For instance, in one online search, I found a listing of Broyles genealogies gleaned from the old RootsWeb site. Included among the databases mentioned there is actually one from Marcia Philbrick, who just recently posted a comment here at A Family Tapestry about her own Broyles connection.

I always make it a point in my search to include the old books uploaded to websites like Internet Archive. Checking just now, I was able to find several books containing entries on my Broyles ancestors. Some of them were quite directly linked to my family, like the Broyles entries in Richard Simpson's 1913 History of Old Pendleton District. Some of the references were to genealogies which were not directly related to the Broyles family, but for which mention was made in another family's genealogy, such as A History and Genealogy of Some of the Descendants of Colonel John McNeal, 1680-1765. Of course, some of the references in this Broyles search yielded families for which I don't yet know the connection—if there is any at all—such as this publication honoring the Eighth Annual Reunion, Biggs, Ballard, Broyles published in 1938.

If it is an old copy of a now-not-accessible book, a discovery like this makes one grateful for the volunteers who uploaded such material onto a site like Internet Archive. Montague Boyd made mention of such out-of-print volumes in his book, noting that some of the references used he doubted could even be accessed at the time he wrote his book. Some of the books he did mention I have actually been able to locate through online resources like Internet Archive.

While researchers are now resource-rich in the sheer number of materials we can access online—not even discussing those which can be found through an in-person visit to the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City, or the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana—there is one question we still need to encounter. How do we deal with the fact that these resources will also likely contain mistakes?

The more references cited and the more documentation a book includes, the more reliable it will be for our research purposes. Still, for a book published in the early 1900s—or even Dr. Boyd's book, released in 1959—the ability to access documentation is the key element. Our ability to access resources is far more advanced now than any of these well-meaning authors could ever hope to achieve.

With that, our task is to use these older genealogies as trailblazers, coupling that resource with our current access to online records, where we can confirm or reject any assertion made in the decades-old books we find. As trailblazers, those books are useful, pointing us in a possible direction, and I still see them worth the consideration.

That said, the age of book publication is not something behind us. There are some skilled genealogists even now publishing noteworthy volumes on various genealogical material, including family histories. One such volume I recently discovered, published just this past year, focuses specifically on the early years of the Broyles family immigrants in this country. We'll take a look at that volume tomorrow.  

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