It’s not always this easy

We all hope to find the answers readily available like the below from the Revolutionary War pension application of Jacob Higginbotham. [i]

Here, Jacob’s son, John, gave the date of his parents’ marriage, names of all the children along with their dates of birth.  We see that Joseph and Benjamin are twins and that Jacob Senior died in January 1836.

 

Truth is, these can be found but are very rare indeed, normally we have to hunt and search for them.  Even now I am trying to determine which, if any, of these children are the father to a specific Higginbotham.

 

Sometimes the answers are well hidden and we must use all possible records.  The above came from a military pension record which is where I found proof that one of my scoundrel 2nd great grandfathers ran out on wife number 1 and therefore was never legally married to wife number 2.  If you see that there is a pension record, you should get it.  Whether it is a military pension or a railroad pension.  In them, they were required to show evidence of marriage if the spouse was to get any benefits, same with children.

 

After looking in all the standard places like census records; birth, marriage, and death registers; probate, and land records, you should start looking at possible military service, church affiliations, and even historic government meeting minutes.

 

Sometimes you will need to think outside the box.  I have found missing information in Visa applications, in history books that are written about a neighbor but the family of interest gets caught up in the storytelling.  I have found proof on how to distinguish a previously unknown son with the same name as his father in a small memoir book written by someone else.

[i] Higginbotham, Jacob Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Applications, pension number R 4977, Fold3.com (www.Fold3.com: accessed 24 May 2021) citing NARA publication M804.

Is your Family Tree Naked?

So many times I have been asked to help someone do their research and when I look at their family tree, there are very few branches because either every family had only one child or none of the siblings were added to the tree.

You may be looking for William Bishop and there are many of them in the area but the one you are looking for had a sister named Patience and a brother named Thomas Jefferson.  If you exclude the siblings you risk missing hints on Ancestry.com ® and similar sites as well as not looking at records pertaining to Patience and her family as well as Thomas Jeffersons.  You may find that Patience’s husband puts in a will that W. Bishop is named executor to his will and given guardianship of the minor children.  Or, if you lose site of William you might be able to determine his father from his father’s estate records showing children William, Patience, and T.J. and it might indicate that William is now living in Coosa County, Alabama.

At the same time, you may learn about William Bishop through his wife’s father’s estate or land records.  If William was married more than once, don’t limit that research to only the wife of your person of interest.  Research all wife’s parents and siblings.  I am looking at one in St Mary’s County, Maryland, where the father never mentions his daughter but leaves his son-in-law, Hopewell Addams, half his estate for “Love and Affection.”  He must have been some kind of son-in-law!

By putting the person of interest in context with his whole family and the spouse and spouse’s family, you better your chances of finding the information you seek.  While it might be a challenge occasionally when there are 14 siblings, but you will be glad if it pays off.

Think about how you can find your person of interest in the census.  If you do not consider the whole family you might have the wrong one.  That was a mistake a distant cousin of mine made concerning the census of where my Great Grandfather, General Jackson Thomas, was about 8.  Seems there was another G. Jackson Thomas in the county who was 7 and she did not look at the entire family to notice that the father was not Banner, the mother was not Mary, and none of the siblings lined up.  While there were also other indicators it was the wrong family, had she looked at all the names she would have caught it.

Speaking of General Jackson’s family, Appling County did not assemble the U. S. Census pages in the correct order and 45-year-old Banner is the last name on one page and at the top of the next page is a 20 something Mary and an infant instead of a 40ish year old and several kids.  A retired archivist advised me to go to the archives and look at the official records which bound into a book and it was that book that was scanned by all of the agencies.  By looking at the date the enumerator went to each area, I found that the pages are out of true order and were numbered based on the way it was bound.  So Banner’s family is about ten pages before the page where his name is located.

Final thought, do not limit your research to just the direct line of your research if you want to stay on the correct path.

When March 1743 to June 1744 equals 3 months

If my 7th Great Grandfather, Lawrence Gailshiott signed his will on 4 March 1743 and died around the first of June 1744 how could that be about 3 months later?

I promise you, this is not any kind of new math nor am I intoxicated!  It really is three months later.

We must first understand a bit of history and the calendar because it all changed in 1752 for the American Colonies.

Prior to 1752, the colonies and most of the British Empire operated under the Julian Calendar which did not calculate the actual time the Earth takes to complete a single orbit around the Sun. [i] It did add a Leap Day every four years similar to the current Gregorian but in reality, it was adding too many days and getting the users off the true date.  So in 1582, the concept of the Gregorian Calendar, which was named after Pope Gregory but designed by Luigi Lillio who was an astronomer of his day, was first proposed and many Catholic countries adopted it. [ii]

It was determined that about 10 days too many had been added since the calculated beginning of A.D. Anno Domini and these would be dropped when converting.  The Julian Calendar, established by Julius Caesar in 708 B.C. [iii] The British Empire being protestant, did not make the change until 1752 by which time 13 days had to be shaved off.  What this meant was that everyone went to bed on Wednesday, 2 September 1752, and woke up the next day on 14 September 1752. [iv]

But that still does not help the initial situation.  The other change was moving New Year’s Day from 26 March to present-day, 1 January.  Therefore, 4 March 1743 was actually in 1744 by current standards but the year did not change until 26 March. [v] You may also see the date written as 4 March 1743/44 or 1743/1744 because they all knew it was already a new year.

Now you know.


[i] https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/julian-gregorian-switch.html

[ii] https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/gregorian-calendar.html

[iii] https://www.britannica.com/science/Julian-calendar

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adoption_of_the_Gregorian_calendar#Great_Britain_and_its_colonies

[v] https://libguides.ctstatelibrary.org/hg/colonialresearch/calendar

Beginning Family Research (AKA Genealogy) – Where do I begin?


If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that question, I could have retired by now. If you attend any seminars, including the one I participate in every year, the standard answer is, “Start with yourself.” However, most people who are asking that question will tell me, “I already know who my parents are and my grandparents. That is not what I mean. I mean, now where do I begin?”

Let me answer that question without alienating my colleagues and friends. When we discuss starting with yourself, we are referring to putting the information down on paper on a Family Group Sheet or in a computer program. Forming the foundation from which all your remaining research will build upon. Your initial point of reference for conducting any research on your family is yourself. If you’re doing this on your husband or wife, then they are the starting point.

Since you already have information on yourself, including a copy of your birth and marriage record (if applicable), you begin entering that information. Inside of 5 minutes, that is completed. Next, enter the same information for your parents. Put in everything you know and can prove. By prove, I refer to having a copy of birth, marriage, and death records, and any other material you enter. If you enter military information, do you have any supporting documents or evidence?

If you lack the proof, that is okay, then annotate on the paper copy of your Family Group Sheet where you do or do not have the documentation. If only using a computer program, in the source area, annotate the source record as not having it, which will serve as a reminder to go get it. Now you have spent a total of about 30 minutes on your project getting started and have established a reference point. You might consider doing the same for your grandparents and anyone else you can readily do.

Now you are ready to answer the big question, where to begin. My answer to that is always the same, “What is the most burning question you have about your family?” Recently, a lady said her grandfather, born of a former slave, was one of 16 children and she knew practically nothing about any of them. My response, “Pick one, preferable the easiest, and gather as much information as you can on that one, then move to another one.” When she started to tell me her grandmother was also 1 of about 12, I stopped her and repeated my previous answer. “Pick Just One!” Otherwise you grow frustrated be-bopping back and forth and feeling like you have accomplished nothing.

Maybe you have a family story like I do that says a father and son fought together in the Revolutionary War and you might be interested in joining a lineage society. Here is where some of my colleagues may disagree with me. I say, check both Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) to see if your patriarch is already there and if some of the lineage has already been proven to the satisfaction of the society. Now, your job is to draw the line from yourself to where the other researcher left off or turned down a different branch. I like working smarter rather than harder; but you will eventually have to corroborate the previous researcher’s work.

Maybe the family lore is that your 5th great grandmother was the sister of President Taylor’s wife, Margaret Smith. Instead of trying to draw a line from you to her, you should start by researching the family of Margaret Smith. Starting with her parents; did she even have a sister? If yes, then start researching each of them and their families and their descendants while simultaneously researching from you going towards the Smith family.

So you see, there are multiple approaches but first you must start with the foundation. If you do not have a burning question but simply want to see how far you can trace your family and the multitude of branches, then I would suggest you do 1 complete generation before starting on the next. Each generation will double the number of base pair people to research. Another suggestion is to select one branch and take it as far as you can before starting on the next branch. My final suggestion,
Get Started! Oh yeah, and Have Fun!