Monday, March 18, 2024

Genealogy by Wikipedia, Part II


Whenever I stumble upon a promising old genealogy book on one of my family lines, I already know to contain my exuberance until I've verified the key assertions by documentation. Still, finding yet another old family history tome, this time on my Lewis line, I couldn't help but feel cheery about it. Despite the rather pedestrian title, Genealogies of the Lewis and Kindred Families, the book's author claimed a name which I could relate to: John Meriwether McAllister. This line has some of those Meriwethers, too.

However, finding the 1906 near-posthumous publication was eclipsed by another discovery. Forget dusty old books on library shelves—or even in digitized collections. It turns out I can now actually research my old family lines by simply looking up their names on Wikipedia. Yes, genealogy by Wikipedia—a concept I never expected to consider, at least until my ancestral early arrivals in North America had roots digging deep enough into colonial business.

It was back in the pages of George R. Gilmer's 1855 Sketches book that I discovered the names of my fifth great-grandmother's parents: Thomas Lewis and Jane Strother. Because Elizabeth Lewis was born to them in the 1760s, I was fairly sure the only document which I could turn to for verification would be her father's will, so I was quite fortunate to have the guidance of these tentative names.

It didn't take long to discover that Elizabeth's father Thomas had had a hand in politics in his colonial Virginia home. I'm not even sure what prompted me to try my hand at finding his name listed in Wikipedia, but there it was: a brief entry on Thomas Lewis, billed as a Virginia politician. Like all Wikipedia posts, the article included several references which I'll be checking out. Better yet, the Wikipedia article on Thomas included mention of his father, John Lewis—imagine searching for a name as common as that—and led to a separate Wikipedia entry on the patriarch and apparent founding immigrant in that Lewis line. You can be sure I'll be harvesting that entry for reference leads, as well.

With even more names to search for in those old Virginia wills, I consider it fortunate that FamilySearch Labs has recently come out with their Full Text search. I will certainly be putting that innovation through its paces as I work to confirm the entries in this newly-discovered old Lewis genealogy book this week.

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