Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 4, Number 22 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 December 19, 2012
Author's Notes In this article we look at some of the mistakes we make along the way in our search for our ancestors. Be sure and check several sources, if available, to prove the information. Also, try all avenues to prove or disprove your "theories" before discounting them. We wish you a happy holiday season and hope the new year brings you success in your genealogy research! If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at email@example.com. As always, we enjoy hearing the comments after each newsletter.
James L. Douthat
MISTEAKS WE ALL MAKE
In our research methods, we make many mistakes. Some of these we overcome and some of them linger throughout our efforts. If we can head them off in the beginning, we will be better off in the end. Here are a few that we have all been guilty of doing at some point in our efforts.
1. TAKING ONE SOURCE AND OVERWORKING IT - In the beginning most of us have relied on the census totally and consider this to be “gospel”. As we progress, we learn to use other sources to back up and prove the census either right or wrong. We are all aware of the various spellings used at different times in the annals of history. We should never disregard information because that is not how we spell a name or how we think our ancestors did. Was great great grandpaw even able to read and write? Some of the later census will indicate this for us. Be sure and check a lot of different entries to get a full picture.
2. HANG ON TO A “GOOD” THEORY - After we have gone through a lot of research into the family history, there are always missing pieces of the puzzle. How do we find them? Where do we look? We probably will have an idea or theory of the answer so we need to hang on to that idea until we have run every avenue of approach to find the answer. Case in point, my wife’s great grandfather seems to have just come out from under a cabbage leaf in time and place. In one of the census, it states that his parents were born in Tennessee. That is my only clue. In doing a deed search in the county they came from, I finally found two names that were possibly the grandfather and father of this man. One was there for five years and by 1850 was gone. The other was about the right age to be the father, but he does not show up in any of the census from 1860 until 1900. However, he is buying and selling land there. As you can tell, there is lots of leg work yet to be done. Sometimes a theory is finally proven wrong, we need to learn to let it go and admit that not all theories are correct.
3. IF IT LOOKS OLD, IS IT REALLY PRIMARY RESOURCES? - When we venture outside the box of census and court records, how do we put values on items that come along? Are Bible records valid evidence? Is a tombstone correct? We really have to evaluate each piece of the puzzle to determine the validity of the information. With regard to Bible records, we have to ask who kept the records? When were these records written down? Just because they are written in a 100 year old Bible, are all of the entries that old? These records are a great starting point, but I would not write them in ink in my records just yet. The same applies to the tombstone records. When was the stone erected? Who gave the name to be entered? This holds true for that obit you just found also. These records need to be noted and kept, but wait until you have more evidence before you write these down in ink.
4. I FOUND A NAME IN COLONIAL RECORDS THAT MATCH MINE, I HAVE TO BE RELATED - This is one of those traps many of us fall into, especially if we are trying to get into one of the patriotic societies. In my early research in Virginia during the late 1950s-1960s, I discovered that my grandfather’s mother was related to the “Earheart” of southwestern Virginia. The family kept telling me that we were related to Emelia Earheart. As I studied this concept for years and even told people we were related, I finally came to the conclusion that we were not since she came out of Kansas and I could not find anyone of our relatives that went anywhere near Kansas. Even if you have a very uncommon name, the likelihood is that there is another of that name out there somewhere. I found a Nimrod Kell in my wife’s family and I thought this was great after the hundreds of Williams, Johns and Marys. At my last count, I think I am up to about 18 Nimrods out there. However, even that is better than the succession of Johns in her line.
5. COLLECT ALL OF THE SURNAME AND YOU WILL BE ABLE TO PUT YOUR LINE TOGETHER - Surnames come in all generations and numbers. If you just want to collect names to brag about with your friends, this is okay, but not good research. In my research, I discovered that there were three Robert Douthats in Augusta County, Virginia at the same time. Each of them had totally different backgrounds, wives, families and occupations. It took years to distinguish them apart, but once this was done it was so easy to go down each line separately. Some early writers of the family’s story tried to lump them all into one person. Yet, the facts just did not fit. We had the full name of each of their wives and they were definitely three different women.
Mistakes are so easily made, just be big enough to admit it was an error and move on. At least you will have learned a lot of truth about the subject in the process.
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