Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 6, Number 4 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 February 12, 2014
In this article we discuss quick searches. While quick searches can point you in the right direction, you still need to verify all the information you collect to make sure it is your family line.
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James L. Douthat
In doing our genealogical research, most all of us at one point or another want to search quickly for a name or location that matches our work at the moment. There are some short cuts to searching quickly, but we must all be aware that these points that come into view may or may not be the answer we are looking for. We can be lead astray just as quickly and follow the wrong rabbit down the wrong path for a long time and never know the difference. We still have to apply the basic rules of good research in spite of the direction we are taking. Like most things in life, if it seems too easy it probably is so be very careful. At least it is not right until we have passed it thorough all of the steps of good research.
For most of us, the temptation is to “google” the question. We will get answers, maybe even several hundred thousand of them in the same step. Which one is the one we wanted? What do we do now? I always take the step that seems to fit my problem best and then research it more carefully to see if in reality it is part of the solution or the wrong rabbit on the wrong trail. I have ‘googled’ my own name several time in the last twenty-five years and have gotten many answers each time. At least half of them are repeats of other answers, and then there are a few other James Douthats in the world. I have known one or two of them, but also know that this is not a common name in my family nor any other branches of the family.
You especially need to be careful when there are multiples of the same name in the same county. In my own family I found out that there were three Robert Douthats in Augusta County, Virginia around the same time. I ended up having to look into all three of them in detail to know the difference. The first step was easy as one of them was married to a Jane, but the other two were married to a Mary. Mary gave us the most trouble until several of us in the family began to put down every piece of information on a chart by date.
Once we had the information on a chart by date, they were easier to identify. One Robert was so much older than the other two and he began to drop out with his Mary very quickly as most of the tidbits of information were dated prior to my Robert’s marriage to his Mary. In running a quick search of deeds, the older Robert acquired land and possessions long before the other two came on the scene. Robert and his wife Jane dropped out almost immediately as they left and went east. Yes, they went east and not west. He had won the Philadelphia lottery in 1765, acquired land in Augusta County, Virginia but sold this quickly to Lighthorse Harry Lee and then went down on the James River near Williamsburg and acquired a plantation that his descendants owned up until the mid-twentieth century. My Robert married his Mary in Augusta County, Virginia and moved rather quickly to Montgomery County, Virginia where he was a worker in leather, shoes, harnesses, saddles, etc. A number of his heirs followed him in the trade, both sons and grandsons.
A second step in the quick method is to rely on many of the reference books that are readily available in many of the larger libraries. There are different ones for different sections of the country and different time periods. You will have to have some guidelines when looking. If your ancestors were from New England, it would be foolish to look in the mid-south references at the time period in question. Here are just a few of the references that are readily available:
The Greenlaw Index of the New England Historical Society from 1900-1940 with over 35,000 references to families of three generations or more.
The Index to American Genealogies, 1984 with supplement for 1900-1908.
Library of Congress Index to Local History Biographies, 1992 with 170,000 names from 26 states primarily the Southern States.
PERSI or The Periodical Source Index, produced in multiple volumes by the Allen County Public Library
Genealogical & Local History Books in Print started by Netti Schreiner-Yantis, but later taken over by the Genealogical Publishing Company is available in multiple volumes. A quick search showed used copies were available on Amazon.
In the area where you are focusing your research, there are probably a number of additional sources which you need to check out. You may not find the exact information you need to fill in your charts and graphs, but you will find clues as to where you might find the information you need. Remember every little tidbit is a piece of the puzzle to create your family tree. You might find the clue one time and never again, so keep them down somewhere and go back periodically and go through the information. You will be amazed what is hidden in those little tidbits of information you thought were useless.
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