Sunday, September 23, 2012

Brick Wall Boundaries

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.
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