Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 4, Number 1 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 January 12, 2011
As we begin another year, hopefully you can take the time this winter and review all your records you have accumulated in the past. A careful review may just help give you a clue into a new avenue for finding that missing piece of the puzzle.
Also, The NGS collection has been moved to the St. Louis County Library, Special Collections department, and is available interlibrary loan. Please contact Ruth Ann Hager with questions.
If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at email@example.com.
James L. Douthat
Review - Review - Review
Happy New Year!!! I hope your holiday season went well and now things are settling down to their usual dull roar. By now most of our resolutions have been dismissed and we are back into our routine.
Here in lies one of our down falls in genealogy - routine. The New Year gives us a chance to stop what we are doing and review our progress, or lack thereof, as the new year begins. At this time of the year, with things at a slower pace and maybe a few snowflakes flying, is the time to begin a review of our work from last year. I like to take a blank sheet of paper and draw a line down the center from top to bottom. On one side I label “I Found Last Year” and on the other side “Things yet to find”.
If we have been active during the past twelve months, there are things to be put in each of the two columns. Don’t be surprised if the numbers are about equal. I have found that often times when a fact is discovered, it leads to several more questions. If you have not discovered the truth about genealogical research, it is never ending. There is always one more bit of information that we lack, one more name of some ‘grandmother’ back in 1732. In reality, this is the excitement of the search. We are looking for the pieces to a very large puzzle that has no borders, so it is never finished. We just start in the middle and work ourselves outward in all directions.
Now let’s look at the process of reviewing your records. You will need to review all those files, drawers, and piles of collected records. You are going to go back over each item with a renewed eye. You will probably see things differently this year than you did last year. Each piece of information that you have found helps to understand each fact - new or old. During our research, we always, or at least should, pick up odd bits and pieces of information. Some of these may or may not fit into our records, but we have to understand them fully. Let me give an example from my own research.
The marriage records for my wife’s grandmother and grandfather became a search for over thirty years. We looked in eleven counties and several states making numerous trips and nothing was found. We knew that they moved around a lot so this meant a lot of looking. After they had eighteen children it was almost a mute point, but we wanted to know. This is a family that is very close knit except they could not all agreed on their mother’s name. We don’t even want to think about their grandmother’s correct name.
One day in a review of newspaper clippings my mother-in-law had in a box filed away, I found two clippings that related “Grandmother” and “Grandfather” had been selected as Man and Woman of the year separately for the local newspaper. In the clipping for grandmother there was a real clue - “...they met on Mowbray Mountain...”. This was a spur of the same Walden’s Ridge where we live today. I had not ever looked locally, since they were always traveling between Tennessee and Arkansas in the early years. In addition, both of them were raised in another section of Tennessee than here.
Sitting on a shelf beside my computer were the marriage records of our County on microfilm that I have had for more than twenty years. I picked the one I thought might be of interest and after about an hour of going frame by frame, there they were!!! End of search.
How long the clippings had been available, but never really looked at just amazed me. If I had not taken a third for fourth look at those clipping, I might still be looking where the couple lived from time to time.
Each time you review your old files and clippings, you will discover something new and exciting. Often the first time around, we do not gather all of the facts. In the beginning, for example, we look at the census for just the one name that is of interest. However, a year or so later, we go back and find that three names down is the family of a spouse. We might have missed this the first time, because our tunnel vision kicks in and we are looking only for that one name. No matter how many times in workshops were are told to look at the larger picture, most of us let this go over our heads.
A real review of your records will reveal some true surprises. You may have found more that you realize just in one year of research. At the same time, look carefully at the list of those facts that are needed or just wanted. We can take this latter list and do some selective casting of our rod and reel. Sometimes trolling is okay when we are not too sure of the waters, but with something specific in mind, we more likely will find the answer shortly by concentrating on one fact.
I will have to confess that after over fifty years of research, I am no closer to finding my fifth- great grandfather. I have his son born in Maryland in 1767. That is still all I have after several trips to the area of his birth, dealing with a name change from German into English and other families in the area fully researched. Hopefully someday I will find out more information.
Now is the time to review the past and plot the course for the future. Good fishing!!
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