Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 4, Number 6 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 March 21, 2012
About the Author
James L. Douthat, owner of Mountain Press and author of the Genealogy Gazette, was recently recognized. The Chattanooga Area Historical Association chose Mr. Douthat as the first recipient of the James W. Livingood Historian of the Year award. The Chattanooga Area Historical Association, founded in 1948, is dedicated to preserving the history of the Southeast Tennessee Region with special interest in sites within a fifty mile radius of Chattanooga. A plaque celebrating the Chattanooga Area Historian of the year will be on display at the Hamilton County Library in Downtown Chattanooga.
Click to see the full article in the Chattanoogan.
At one time or another, we all find ourselves up against a brick wall in our genealogical research. We want the answer to our questions, but where do we turn? It may seem that we have exhausted all of our options in finding the answers. At this point in time, we have to think outside the box for the answers.
Never give up!! This is the main axiom of our thinking in the genealogy world. The answer may not be where we think it should be, but it is out there somewhere and we only have to find it. Remember we have to search for the answer, not just look it up in some source of materials. The answer sometimes appears where we least expect it.
The first thing to do is to take stock of where the ancestor was living at the time in question. There are many records surrounding them in the area where they lived. The way our nation grew and developed seems daunting at times, but knowing the changes in the geography of the area certainly helps. Are you looking in the right state? This may be an obvious question, but remember state lines have changed over time. One would assume that Wisconsin residents were always in Wisconsin. At one time, part of Wisconsin was included in Virginia. When this occurred were there many residents? Where there many records? Where would these records be located? The state is one question, but then the county is a much larger question since these boundaries changed frequently even up into the last century. Are you looking into a town area? Has this town moved across county lines? Remember, you cannot do good genealogical research without knowing the geography of the area first and foremost.
The second thing to realize is that we do not live alone, even Robinson Crusoe sought out other human companionship. We generate records within a community and not just as an individual. Even if there was a crime, there are others involved in the case such as judges, lawyers, jurors, witnesses, etc. I’m not saying your ancestor was a criminal, but many people were involved in the resolution and your ancestor might be one of them. Your ancestor could also be involved within the community in a variety of ways such as church, school, business or just community business. All of these leave records of one kind or another. Even in the 1830 or 1840 census, we find the occupation of the people listed. This can be a clue as to where you might find records, especially for those in commerce or manufacturing. In the 1840 census, teachers are listed as “...learned, professional, engineers...” and the number of students are given even when the county paid for some to be educated in this school. As we discussed last time, the one record most often overlooked is the county court records. In these records, the day to day running of the county is noted with guardian records, divorces, land transfers, road orders and just general records about people in the county. Even if your ancestor was not involved, there might be a newspaper story about them somewhere. Just think outside the box.
In the third place, read, read, all records from the county in question. Most areas now have some kind of history written about them, so read the history and not just the index. Most of the indexing is just names and not necessarily the events. Your ancestor could have been involved in some of those events. If you know about those events, then this may lead you to search records you might not have thought of in the past. He may not have made it to the indexing of the book, but he was probably involved in some of those events going on in their day and time. A historian may mention an organization, but will seldom give many details. Somewhere that organization has records and these are floating around in the area. You might start with the local genealogical or historical society to try and locate these records. They generally have or know where they exist, even if they exist in someone’s attic.
Happy Hunting as you overcome these brick walls in your genealogy search!
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