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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 7, Number 14
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
August 6, 2015
Publisher's Notes
In this article we discuss reviewing your genealogy research to see how far you have come and where you would like to go. It is so important to step back and look at your research objectively to make sure you are going down the right path. I know it is exciting to find a new piece of information that might fit in your genealogy. Unfortunately, not all leads head in the direction where we want them to go, so it is always good to review your research periodically.  
Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press
In all walks of life and adventures, there comes a time when you need to have a “check-up” to verify progress. Genealogical research is no different. We have to pause frequently to see where we have been and where we are going in the process. It is important to take the time to reflect on your progress. Frequently, we get off track by following a false lead or wrong information and we need to make a course correction. A missed direction is so easy to make in genealogy research. We are in the library and all of a sudden we find that we have discovered a name that matches all of our parameters and so we take the clue and follow that direction. Down the road, we find that we have wasted a lot of time on the wrong path.
Take for example the name Return Jonathan Meigs. This name is unusual enough by itself and so when we find it in the text of material, we think that this is our “man”. Of course, there is Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs, the first Federal agent for the Cherokee Indians. Col. Meigs was a close friend of General George Washington and his son was Governor of Ohio about the same time. He is one of the Returns. In researching the family, we find at least 16 of Return Jonathans in that family. It is easy to get off track there. The old axium “Not all John Smiths are the same” holds true. This is one of the great failings of a beginning genealogist.
Know your person. In my own research, I discovered many years ago that there were three Robert Douthats in Augusta County, Virginia at the same time. One of them was mine and the other two were not related to the best of my knowledge. Every time I ran across the name in Augusta records, I thought it was my line. After about twenty years of research I was totally confused with the information. How do you separate the information?
In order to separate the three men, a cousin and I sat down one day with all of the information before us. We took three sheets of paper and wrote “Robert Douthat” on the top of each. We were going to list each bit and piece of information on the correct sheet. The major separation point was the wives. Each of the three were married, and thank goodness each wife had a different name. This part was easy as it was the first bit of information that separated each of the three men. A careful study of the data was necessary as we slowly began to take each bit and piece and put it on the correct sheet. After several hours of close study and debating the bits and pieces, all the information we had collected over the years was now in place and under the proper man’s name to the best of our ability. In the end, I found out that my “Robert” only had one fact under his name. He was married in the county and that was the last we hear of him in that area. It was disappointing to find he was not all of these other things, but at least we felt that we knew a lot about the other two and then the search was on to find out where our “Robert” went. Had we not stopped to do a check up on the information, the next forty years of research would be wasted time.
A second major point to double check is the source. How much of your information comes from direct sources and how much from secondary sources? As to direct sources, I am referring to court records, government documents, diary, letters, Bible records, etc. We all know that there can be mistakes even in these, but they are generally official enough that the person was directly involved in the creation of them. It is well known that court records and government records can spell the name differently even in the same document. They are created in the eyes of the person directly involved. Our person may not have known how to spell his own name and so misspellings do occur simply by ignorance. Diaries, letters and Bible records likewise have misspellings, but usually close enough to be recognized. When the person helps to create the source, we can assume this is more accurate than other sources. Looking at the histories and biographies of an area, the biographical information has to have come from the individual directly. These are usually more accurate than a third party writing a history of the area and referring to the individual.
Now looking at the secondary sources, we need to study the whole set to determine the accuracy in all other areas of interest. These are third and fourth parties writing about the subject and this is where many errors come into play. Top of the listing on secondary sources are other family histories and genealogies, county, state and local histories. The secondary source is usually gleaned from the primary sources and filtered through the prejudices of the writer. This can change the real intent of the primary in many ways. You find a book entitled, “The War of Northern Aggression of - - - State” then you know there is going to be bias in many directions of the information. The slant will tell you a great deal about the filter for the information.
Check-up time is primarily a time to stop and ponder your research, where you have been and where you want to go. Take the time seriously and be honest with yourself.
Happy Hunting!
Native American

Colonel Return Jonathan Meigs - Day Book #2

Ocoee Land District Maps

Cherokee Valuation Records

Cherokee Ration Books

Creek Ration Book - June 1838

Melungeons - Yesterday and Today




If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at jimd@mountainpress.com.