It has been said of our work, “Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I here? Begin the Journey With Genealogy!”
Today we touched the past globally as we asked questions and found answers in a collection of immigrant letters. We were able to acquire and translate 3 letters held by the library of the University of Erfurt for a US client who leaves tomorrow for where his ancestors walked in Hesse-Kassel, Germany. The letters lead back to the ancestral home and another generation. Thank heavens for email and the professionalism of these curators.
We are so fortunate to be able to do research on a daily basis at the premier world-wide genealogy facility – the Family History Library. While we are grateful for all of the online resources including free and subscription websites and databases, full-time research requires much more access to records than can be found on the Internet alone. We are located at the hub of ancestral research here in Salt Lake City, Utah and today we really made use of the FHL collections for over 150 countries. We moved up and down between the floors housing microfilm, books, maps and other resources. We sought and found answers for research questions for multiple localities, historical eras and ethnicities including US and International such as Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Canada, British Isles, Germany, Italy and Russia. What a fun-filled day of research it was!
We closed off the day with New York probate work in modern day records. Somebody is going to be happy with this report of heirs!
In our spare time, we are making good progress on our New Archives African American Project in preparation for our upcoming trip to Sullivan County. We want to find their New York town records that were created because of the 1788 Law for the “Purpose to Manumit and Set Free Slaves” and the 1799 Law for the “Gradual Abolition of Slavery”.
Today we heard back from a local historian about her Town of Neversink and its history and early records. Our search now broadens because she notes they had no town office in 1798 – 1809 when Neversink was part of Ulster County so town clerks would report directly to state government, or hold these early records in their homes. We learned this practice continued following the formation of Sullivan County in 1809 and they have no early records existent today in Neversink. It appears they have been lost either to historical obscurity, and most certainly forgotten due to historical amnesia. We know such records still exist in other New York counties so now our quest for Sullivan Co takes us to the former capital of New York, Kingston of Ulster County, and Albany, today’s governmental seat. Hopefully we will find answers there regarding the early black records that were to be created because of the 1788 and 1799 laws on registering black slavery births and manumissions.
James W. Petty, AG, CGCopyright © 2013 Heirlines All Rights Reserved
Citing Your Documents
Once a document has been found, and a copy made, the most important thing a researcher can do is to cite (or record) the reference data about that source. This information should be recorded on the document itself, so that if the record copy or abstract notes are ever separated from the family record, it can still be identified, and also added to the family group record to which that information applies. Citing your documents adds credibility to the research you produce. Commonly, the information that should be included in a citation are:
- Name of the record
- Author’s name
- Source description
- Publication information
- Location of record
- Catalog number for record
Greater detail can be given for source identification, but the goal is to define the source and direct the reader to where the record can be found.
The following are examples of simple (imaginary) citations:
- Smith County, Arkansas; Recorder of Deeds, Deed Record 1846-1853, Volume 4, pg. 358. (William Jones to Bob Smith). (FHL#642,889)
- William Gunnison, History of Courtney County, North Dakota, 1866-1979. (Willow Springs Press: Bismarck, ND. 1979)263. (FHL#978.446, H2g)
- William B. Cherry Family Bible (American Bible Society: Baltimore, MD 1864). Bible in possession of Anna Leigh Cooper, Smithfield, Iowa in 2009.
For detailed instruction on citing record sources, we recommend:
- Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained. (Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Publishing Co. 2007) 885 pp., ISBN: 978-8063-1781-6
- Board for Certification of Genealogists, BCG Standards Manual. (Orem, UT: Ancestry Publishing. 2000) 125 pp., ISBN: 0-916489-92-2
Documenting your research and citing sources trains a genealogist to be more accurate in their studies. Such training creates good habits. Without such habits a genealogy author may fall victim to the temptation to “convince” his readers that his research findings are justified by using incorrect or even false documentation. I recently studied a published family history that appeared to be well researched, and documented. But on closer examination I discovered that one source pertaining to one person mentioned in the history, was false. The author identified the ancestor as listed in the 1830 Census of Clinton County, Illinois, when in fact the ancestor appeared in the 1830 Census of neighboring St. Clair County, Illinois. This may seem like a small issue, but I found that the source and citation were referred to in on-line correspondence of researchers who hadn’t confirmed the source themselves, and were now passing false information on to others. Remember “Petty’s Paradigm”, when something is published it becomes fact, and when it is quoted it becomes gospel truth. To the unsuspecting this inaccurate and false information can take on a life of its own; and to me, who checked the sources, it meant all of the information in the published history was now suspect. If the author could do this with one person, he may have done it with others. In some ways it would have been better to have never published the book. The ingredients to this chocolate cake weren’t right, and it didn’t taste like it should have.
Preparing a record to be worthy of all acceptation is really a simple matter of taking the time and interest to prepare it properly, that all who see it can accept it as an accurate and truthful document. When we make the effort to prepare our records with this care and interest, we discover that the people for whom we do this work become that much more dear to us. We learn to love them, our hearts turn to them; and in turn that love speaks out through the records we prepare. It is the love for our fathers speaking through our efforts to make such a record, that makes our records worthy of acceptation. The recipe is in the details; and when the details have been properly applied, the result is delicious to all.