Sunday, September 30, 2012
One of the important ways I have found recently to understand your ancestors is to put their lives down on a piece of paper in the form of a timeline. By putting their known life events down on a piece of paper it better helps us understand new paths of research to fill in the gaps. In a previous post I had talked about writing a biography on your relatives, but this is different in that it only sticks to the facts. The main information is the milestone dates in their lives. Starting with birth and including all the important events that took place in their lives. This not only helps you understand how they fit into the lives of other members in your life, but helps you in understanding the effects of local and national events that make effect the decisions that they have made in their lives. A major pitfall is to think that all the decisions or influences in our ancestors lives were as a result of events withing their immediate families. The opening of the Erie Canal in the 1820's was a major stimulus that caused families to move further west. This is a major reason why folks started to come to Ohio or Michigan during this time period in much higher numbers. Another example would be the opening up of the Black Swamp in Northwest Ohio in the 1840's that caused people to move into that area and up into Michigan. Prior to the draining of the area you had a major block of bug and animal infested swamp. This was a major road block to westward migration. If you follow the average family coming to from the east coast it was why people stopped in the middle of Ohio for long periods of time. It was not until after the 1840 time frame that they were able to easily move further. The opening of the Wabash Erie Canal in the 1840's allowed easy travel from Cincinnati into the area of Defiance on the Maumee River. Looking at a map of the path of the canal will help you understand why your family may of come to a certain area and understand how the canal helped with this process. Understanding the events and history that were going on in the lives of our family will help us in better understanding their lives. Make sure to document all their life events and fit them in with the events that occur around them. Fit them with other family members and see if you can find patterns. Good luck with your search.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
What makes you think our ancestors understood Geography any better than we do? What of the keys to finding someone is knowing where they are. There are numerous times when family is not where we think they should be. It is not only important to know where they are, but why they have moved to where they are. Another important issues is that the person we have identified is in fact the person we are looking for in the search. The earlier you go back in doing genealogy the higher likely hood of confusion on locations. An example for me close to home is the boarder between Michigan and Ohio that was not resolved until 1837. People that lived in portions of Northern Ohio were considered to be in Michigan prior to 1837. Land deed evaluation during this time period can prove to be confusing. If you think your relative in was in Ohio may be wrong,because in fact they were in Michigan. Michigan is where the records will be. Another example of this is county boundaries in early Ohio. In the beginning of the states creation the amount of counties was limited. People would by land at a land office in Defiance, but there land would actually be located in Paulding or Williams counties. A distance of almost thirty of forty miles. A large county in the southern half of Ohio was Greene county. It was split up several times to create more counties. Be aware of the history of the area that your family was living and be aware of potential boundary changes. Once while doing research for a client she had spent decades researching her family in Vermont and could not locate vital records for them. This area was historically very good at keeping vital records and did not have any instances of the records being destroyed. What struck me about this family was their close proximity to the Canadian border. When looking at a map there was a fairly large town right across the border. On the US side I was struck by the distance that the family would have had to file vital records. Since the client had done a search on the US side I looked to Canada. Well much to my surprise after doing the search I was able to find the information we were seeking in the Canadian records. This was a real lesson in looking in the correct place. The client had spent over thirty years looking for this information. Understanding why someone was in a particular area is also important. In the vast majority of situations people moved for a reason and with people they knew. When you find the individual in a new location look at those that are around them. Pay attention to where it says these families are from as well. This will offer major clues on where your family came from. People often lived next to family members in old neighbors in the new place that they had lived before. Pay attention to the person they bought their land from. Understand what the connection may be to your relative. Are they related or did they come from the place that your relative came from before? Finally make sure you are looking at the correct person and have identified them with proof. As a result of naming patterns there were a lot of common names. Don't just assume that the person is your relative, because they almost fit the facts that you know. This is where a lot of bad genealogy occurs. In our eagerness to prove a new fact we accept things that have not been proven. Take the time to document everything. Boundaries throughout time have always moved and understanding the history of the area is a key to solving these brick walls.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
In my years of research it took me a while, but eventually I started to understand the value of writing biographies on family members to better understand them. Looking at family members in the context of their lives helps me better understand them as well as understand the areas I need to do further research for clues. Taking the time to put it into writing has always helped me learn better. The same applies for genealogy. Starting from their time of birth and identifying all the events in their lives helps to understand them. Where were they born? Location? Do I know their parents? Did they attend school? How long did they attend? When did they get married and to whom? Where were they married? Did they go off to war? When were the children born and where? Have they moved? What local and world events were going on that influenced their decision making? What did they do for a living? Did they get married more than once and why? Did they have more than one family? What religion did they practice? Where did they die and when? Who was the witness on the death certificate? All of these questions force you to put your detective hat on to resolve questions on our ancestors. I am always struck how there is one little detail that we miss that when writing the biography sticks out and leads to resolution on our mystery. Stories are what make genealogy fascinating and more interesting to the average family member. The truth is out there we need to identify where it is and retrieve it. So as we move into the Fall months sit down with one of your favorite ancestors and write their biography. Better yet start with yourself. This can be a fascinating way to learn how to write a biography. Who do you know more information on than yourself? One day future genealogist will want to learn your story.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
In upcoming articles I am going to offer ideas on steps to take in order to break down those many brick walls that happen as we do our family search. The first step is to not make assumptions that all things are correct with the information that has been collected on your family. Normally we gather information from a variety of sources when we first start working on our family line. It is important that you take the steps to verify all the information from vital records, census and the variety of other documents. Many errors and miss leading ideas occur in genealogy. Validating information with at least three sources is a excellent rule of thumb. Trust nothing until proven and make sure to document. An example of a common assumption is that the first child was born after the couple was married. This was not always the case. Only through documentation can we actually prove this fact. Many things today that we see as scandal would get easily swept under the rug in the early days. Stay tuned to more postings on Brick Walls. Look forward to your input.