March 16, 2013
Over the past little while, I’ve had several inquiries by researchers asking if I could point them in the right direction with their research. In some cases, I was able to help because the researchers could explain exactly what they needed. The remaining researchers did not, and in return, I asked a series of questions designed to elicit their research goals for the particular individual or family they needed help with.
The thing is, we all have goals in the back of our minds for the research we’re conducting. When we look at a particular ancestor or family, we think, Wow, it sure would be great to know who Dixie Lou’s parents were or I wish I could figure out where Bobby Jean is buried.
Go ahead, try it. Now, see what I mean? The goals are there whether we articulate them or not.
Unfortunately, formal goal setting is one simple action researchers fail to do, yet it is a necessary step in the research process. Defining and articulating the research focus (i.e. the goal of the research) can keep research on track and help the research process flow efficiently.
February 6, 2013
In last year’s lecture on researching the poor, I included a somewhat lengthy discussion of bastardy records. One question someone posed, either during the lecture or afterwards (I cannot remember which), was whether or not a man who had been singled out as the father of an illegitimate child had recourse if he was not, in fact, the father.
Why, yes, he did, and here’s a great example of that from the 25 December 1861 minutes of the county court for Macon County, North Carolina.1
January 5, 2013
While compiling Rabun County’s earliest writs and petitions for publication (available soon), I came across an 1843 court case between the heirs of the estate of William Hamby and the administrator of the estate, James Hamby. Naturally, the petition named all the heirs “to the second degree”: Ezekiel Hamby; Jonothan Roach and his wife, Huldah (Hamby) Roach; Benjamin Shelton and his wife, Keziah (Hamby) Shelton; Daniel Inman and his wife, Rebecca (Hamby) Inman; Martha Hamby; Sophia Hamby; Martha Hamby, the mother of William Hamby, the decedent; Amos Forrister and his wife Elizabeth (Hamby) Forester; James Hamby, the estate’s administrator; and Thomas K. Forrister and his wife, Polly (Hamby) Forrister.
The initial petition provides excellent information on the dynamics of this Hamby family, but there are many other documents attached to this suit, including an inventory of the estate, the sale of personal property from the estate, and the deceased’s account books,1 all of which were written into the record.2 The latter two items should be of particular interest to area researchers, even those uninterested in the Hamby family per se, because they can be used to reconstruct William Hamby’s neighborhood.
January 4, 2013
I keep waiting for someone to ask me why I included all the local and regional news in my book on Rabun County’s earliest newspapers, instead of only the obituaries and death notices as many compilers do.
No one’s asked, but I think it’s an important question, and my answer is this: Newspapers are, in and of themselves, an important resource outside of the fact that they can serve as a substitute for vital and court records. To demonstrate this, let’s look at excerpts from early issues of The Clayton Tribune and The Tallulah Falls Spray pertaining to a gentleman named C. J. Crunkleton.
January 3, 2013
Michael Hait recently announced the release of a free PDF e-book, U. S. Census Pathfinder. Yes, my friends, this is a free resource for those who want to find information about U. S. censuses on the web. But don’t take my word for it. Reviews are abounding, including a thorough one by Judy G. Russell.
If you haven’t poked around Michael’s professional web site, please take the time to do so. In addition to a list of publications, with links to online articles where available, many free to the public, Michael has generously placed several case studies and other free resources on his web site as well. There are plenty of fascinating and informative tidbits available there for researchers of any stripe.
December 19, 2012
One of my favorite resources for genealogical research is historical newspapers. At one time, old newspapers were difficult to find and scattered between various courts, archives, libraries, and historical societies, or even held privately. The U. S. Newspaper Program, with branches in all fifty states and some territories, sought to gather these disparate collections together so that various issues could be preserved, first through microfilm and eventually through digitization.
November 12, 2012
A while back, I posted a comparison of the 1850 federal census’ free population schedule to the 1849 through 1851 tax records for the Roberts family of Jackson County, Georgia. While doing research in the poor school and academy lists for Jackson County, I found the following record naming two children of Shiner [China] Roberts who were school-aged in 1852.
July 30, 2012
A quick reminder that I will be in Conyers, Georgia, on August 12 presenting “Poor People, Rich Records: Researching Georgia’s 19th Century Poor” to the Rockdale County Genealogical Society. The meeting is free and open to the public, and I would very much like to see my Atlanta-area research friends there.
This is a topic I’ve been hoping to develop into a lecture for a while now. When the program director for the RCGS contacted me to see if I would be interested in speaking to that group, I jumped at the opportunity. Initially, I offered her the choice of two lectures, but we eventually settled on this one.1
July 16, 2012
The Rockdale County Genealogical Society has invited me to speak at their monthly meeting on Sunday, 12 August 2012 at 3:00 p.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Flat Shoals Road in Conyers, GA. The topic will be “Poor People, Rich Records: Researching Georgia’s 19th Century Poor.” The meeting is free and open to the public.
This lecture will include a brief overview of research strategies as well as information on specific records useful to researching the poor.
July 8, 2012
I’m always interested when Boy Scouts take on history (since my son is a Scout and a budding historian), so I was delighted to see this article: Boy Scout Takes on Massive Job of Replacing Civil War Headstones in Harrisburg Cemetery.
One of my favorite blogs is Reclaiming Kin by Robyn Smith. Robyn is a Southern researcher (mostly). Her blog provides an excellent model for publishing a family history online. I particularly enjoyed two of her more recent posts, the earliest on Alabama Convict Records and a newer one, Criminals in the Family: Joseph Harbour about one of her wayward ancestors. If nothing else, stop by Robyn’s blog to see all the wonderful pictures she’s placed online.
Finally, Elizabeth Shown Mills is one of the more well-known names in genealogical circles. There’s a reason for that, one of which is her volume on source citation, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (available through Heritage Books and other retailers). The companion web site, Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage offers a number of resources, including forums where researchers can post their own citation problems and a section of QuickLessons. In the latter, Elizabeth covers a number of interesting topics, such as “QuickLesson 2: Sources vs. Information vs. Evidence vs. Proof,” a timeless topic. All of the QuickLessons provide a fascinating glimpse into the analytical mind of one of the top researchers of our time.