Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 9, Number 6 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 April 12, 2017
Publisher's Notes In this article we discuss mistakes made in genealogy. I have certainly made my share of mistakes and will probably continue making a few. The key is keeping great notes on all our information and verifying all research.
As always I enjoy hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
James L. Douthat
OOOPS, I GOOFED!!!
In all of our research, we make mistakes. Mistakes happen out of lack of understanding of what we are researching. All we have to do is say, I goofed and then move on and correct our mistakes. However, if we do not discover our mistakes and move ahead, the results will damage anyone that follows us in the future for generations to come. Now is the time to double check our records from the beginning.
When I started researching my Douthat line about fifty years ago, I was in a position to research in a large university library with a cousin that worked there to help. I knew that my Robert Douthat came from Augusta County, Virginia in the 18th century. Easy enough, right? This is certainly not a common name, even for Virginia with its first state park named Douthat State Park. I found lots of records in Augusta County in the beginning. Robert Douthat seemed to be everywhere. I even had him with three different wives.
Years later, I was going back through my research and began to wonder about all of the data on him with his three wives. I did a simple task of setting out a time line of events and discovered I had three separate Robert Douthats in the same area at the same time operating on three different levels of activities. In putting all of the data down on paper at one time, they separated nicely into three different men. This activity made me rewrite my research.
Since then I have found other information that tells me that my Robert married in Augusta and quickly moved down to Montgomery County where he raised his family. Another of the Roberts remained in Augusta County and ran a tavern in the area of Natural Bridge while the third Robert went down the James River to a plantation between Richmond and Williamsburg and his family remained there.
Had I left my original research intact, those that followed me would have had a very distorted view of the origin of the family in Virginia.
All research needs to be verified by second, third, and even fourth references. Take for example the dates on a tombstone. These dates are added to the stone sometimes many years later and those that give the information may or may not have even been present at the burial and certainly may not have the correct date in memory. We can verify this with newspaper obits, death certificates, family Bible records, military records, etc. What happens when each of them gives a different date? We don’t just pick one and let that be the official date of the date/birth. Our foot notes to the research must state that the date on the death certificate is - - -, the date of death in the Family Bible is - - -, etc. Someday down the road the corrected date might be found, but at least you acknowledge there is a problem. All of the dates might be within a few days of each other, but we have to put all of them down.
At times, the Courthouse records might be in error. I have transcribed thousands of pages of courthouse records and due to the various handwriting, spelling or rather misspelling, we find many variations. The clerks were not perfect, and sometimes they will put the wrong year or day on a document. This is just human error. We can only report what we find and let future research prove it right or wrong.
We cannot assume that the misspelling of a name is incorrect as that may be the way our ancestor spelled their names at the time. Certainly don’t assume an unusual name is easy to trace either. I researched a name “Col. Return Jonathan Meigs”. Now with name “Return” you would expect this to be an easy one to trace. Wrong!! I found in the first three or so generations of that family there were about sixteen individuals with the same name - Return Jonathan Meigs.
The same is true with abbreviations. In cleaning out our house which has been in my wife’s family since about 1869, I found three letters from a Civil War veteran. These letters describe his adventures of going to Kentucky to join the Union Army and then their plight in several battles in east Tennessee. The letters stopped when he was captured and sent to Andersonville Prison where he died. He signed these letters “J.N. Levi”. They were written to his wife at the time. Now in clearing up the name, which is not a common one either, I found two different J. N. Levi’s in Hamilton County, Tennessee during the Civil War. I think they were cousins, but have never researched this out. One was Jasper Newton Levi and the other John Nelson Levi. Since one was alive in the 1870 census then I knew which was the J. N. of the letters I had. Do you see the problem?
Research, to be honest and true, must be verified in more than one possible way. It takes time and real effort, but when finished you can be assured the truth will stand the test of time.
25% OFF ENTIRE SITE
Through April 17th receive 25% OFF THE ENTIRE SITE including books, maps, and CDs. Just type in APRILSALE in the Coupon Code Section on the Checkout Page. The code must be entered for the discount to calculate.
If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at email@example.com.