TN-KY and AL Research Trip–Report from the Field, Part II: Printed Evidence

Every library and archive that I visited in TN-KY and AL offered and preserved different stuff. Family histories and family files peculiar to that specific local area and the families that lived there, passed through there, or are still living there. Some overlap always occurs. And there is always sufficient new stuff, that it is worthwhile visiting adjoining library districts just to see what they have that is different.

My big secret–I start with the printed materials first. Why would I do that? Every genealogist knows that the original record is where the proof is found. Right? While this may be a true statement, the question is: which original record holds the proof?

The answer: use the printed information first. Printed books have indexes–at least most of them do. And tables of content. And appendixes with alphabetical lists. And introductions describing the records, what years are missing, what records are included, what sources are omitted, what portion of the population is being indexed, where the original records are located, and how best to access them.

Some introductions even evaluate the records: how complete are they, how accurate are they, what problems were encountered as the compiler worked on the project, if the compiler used other sources to fill gaps, check spellings of names and places, add missing dates. Footnotes and marginal notes written by the original clerk are included, and indexed.

You can do the same thing by searching the original record yourself, providing you have access to the original. And there are even times when you will want to do just that. I recommend, however, that you take advantage of the leg work already done for you by the compiler to eliminate non-ancestors, identify your ancestor’s potential kinship networks, determine how often your ancestor and his kinfolks appear in the record, and which spelling variations your ancestor’s surname has in that record. These research aids will save you a ton of time and ensure that you don’t miss something significant because you overlooked a variant.

And as you check all the printed volumes for a specific county or town, you can spot those sources where your ancestor is listed as a member of someones else’s family unit–providing you with maiden surnames and spouses for children and siblings.
Armed with this knowledge, you can search the original records expertly and with great success.

Included in the “all the printed volumes” are these overlooked or “hidden” gems:

1. “filler” items in genealogical and historical periodicals. When an editor has too many pages at the end of the copy, “filler” items are used from local records.
__written in pencil inside the Tippah County MS Circuit Court Docket Book:  Sion Rogers, first Sheriff of Carroll County TN, 1822.  “Ansearchin'” News (Spring 1990) bottom of page 14, Vol 37 #1.

__”parole proof of marriage,” loose papers of Probate Court, Shelby County TN Archives, joint affadavit of William Randolph and Ellen Randolph of Marion AR that they are personally acquainted with Simon Russell, now deceased and his wife Adaline Robinson, of Crittenden County AR.  They were present at their marriage 8 Sep 1858 near Bastrop LA.  Adeline applied for a pension for her husband’s military service and needed proof of marriage.  (the note includes facimile signatures of William and Ellen and the witnesses to the document.)  “Ansearchin'” News (Spring 1988) bottom of page 8, Vol 35 #1.

2. observation “tips” based on a compiler’s experience in the records (watch footnotes carefully for these valuable insights):  Here are two diamonds from Mary B. Kegley and her research on Southwestern Virginia:
__churches in Wythe County Virginia held services in Danish and German in the years before the American Revolution.
__there were no agricultural implements listed in probate inventories in Southwestern Virginia, Southeastern Kentucky, Northwestern North Carolina, or Northeastern
Tennessee. Not a plow, not a scythe, not a level.  Those early settlers were not farmers.

3. “submerged” details in the genealogical or biographical references to someone else:
__An account of Jacob Barger and his wife Elizabeth, nee Hedrick, is given in A Historical Sketch of Michael Keinadt and Margaret Diller His Wife prepared by a committee appointed by the Michael Koiner Memorial Association of Staunton VA, 1892.  They moved near South River, County of Augusta and here they closed their lives.  “Jacob did not live to be old.  Elizabeth lived to see the fourth generation of her descendants.  She died 4 April 1841 and was about 90 years old…”

4.  examples used in articles and how-to-do-it-yourself guides.
__Gideon Morgan, who commanded the Cherokee contingent of Andrew Jackson’s army in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814), is highlighted with a brief review of his life and the Indian Relatives he acquired when he married Margaret Sevier, daughter of John Sevier.  See Finley McElwaine, “The Horseshoe,”  Historical Review and Antique Digest:  The Magazine Devoted to the Enjoyment of History and Antiques (Spring 1974):14-22, 64.

****Recommended for all Genealogists****
FREE Report: “Cutting Edge Documentation for your Genealogy”

What if much of what you thought you knew about genealogy evidence and how to fit the pieces all together is just plain wrong? Would you keep doing the same things over and over again, getting the same dismal NIL (No Information Located) results? Or would you be willing to try something radically different? Something new and excitingly effective? Order your copy of my FREE white paper “Cutting Edge Documentation.”

Just send me your postal address (the report is illustrated and too long to email) and I’ll mail your copy of this revolutionary report–absolutely FREE, no strings attached.

Next episode, 11 Sep 2006:  News from the Genealogy Library Center, Inc.–and a more detailed description of collections which will soon be available to the public.  Be sure to tune in, your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

P.S.  Our subscribers have tripled since our News Sheet launch!  And I am so excited to receive all your emails and your comments.  At the end of September, we will have our first Q and A.  Get your questions ready and send them to

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to TN-KY and AL Research Trip–Report from the Field, Part II: Printed Evidence

  1. BarbGlassel says:

    Where can would you like us to send email requests for the report mentioned in the 4 Sept 06 entry? [FREE Report: “Cutting Edge Documentation for your Genealogy?] Thanks!

  2. arlene says:

    See my contacts page
    I was advised by my webmaster to keep all the contact information in one place so that if a change was made, we wouldn’t have to hunt for where all to change it.

    Thanks, Arlene

Leave a Reply