“Those who agree with us may not be right, but we admire their astuteness.” ~ Cullen Hightower

Please accept my apologies for using quotation marks in the title line–I know it screws up your email subject line with illegible characters. I send each Genealogy News Sheet to a special Yahoo email and it screws up there too.

The quotation is just too true to life to ignore. More about this important concept later on…

The My Ancestors Found Research Retreat ended–and those attending have had super great results–UEL [United Empire Loyalists] identified with pedigree extensions up to three generations. Barbados records have yielded piles of data securely transfered to flash drives. And maps in color–I wish you could see them and the excitement they have created.

And more than 18 participants on Leland Meitzler’s Heritage Christmas Tour (also known as the Salt Lake Christmas Tour)–3 Dec-8 Dec–have already arrived. Jim Friar, a veteran of the Christmas Tour, has down-loaded more than 75 Ohio Death Certificates from http://www.labs.familysearch.org. We call him the “Death Certificate” King.

We are having such a great time. With snow flurries in the air, Christmas carols sung, for the first time, in the Family History Library public commons at noon and 7:00 pm, and hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights twinkling in the night–this will be a Christmas to remember!

“Those who agree with me, may not be right, but…”

I advocate document analysis as you research, so that the data in the records dictates the direction that the research takes. I am always nervous when someone asks me to take a pre-conceived ancestor and prove that person on the pedigree.

If I read just the records already searched to verify that they are correct, what I prove is that you can read the record. Not prove the ancestor. You prove that the ancestor is correct by searching the total life environment of that ancestor. Who else appears in the records? Does anyone else have the same name? Follow the same occupation? Interact with the same neighbors?

Take the case of Stephen Senter, Sr. And you can guess the rest–sure enough, there are two of them:

  • born one month apart
  • living across the VA-NC border from each other
  • kids of each one settle in Eastern Tennessee and intermingle with the same people in the same same records

It takes careful study of all the Senter/Center entries to ensure that you don’t miss the right connectors for each one.

Or the two Mary Minears who marry John Saylors in Randolph County, West Virginia. The only way to prove that there are two couples of the exact same name, a generation apart, is to prepare individual family groupings from each of 5 deeds transferring ownership of land from John Minear, Sr. to his heirs. The second Mary–who is the ancestor of my client–is hidden in the documents.

Or consider Elizabeth Hook, a married woman with three small children, who travels from Kentucky to Missouri with the Thomas Hook family–yet none of Thomas’s children prove to be her husband. Hidden in the Kentucky tax rolls, carefully tabulated, was her husband William Hook, who died as a very young man, leaving Elizabeth in control of his property.

The answer–Elizabeth was a Hook, the daughter of Thomas, before her marriage to William. She became a widow and went to Kentucky to be near her father and to live under his protection to raise her children.

Consider: what if … the ancestor you seek is hidden in the documents? Chart the evidence as you go. The hidden ancestors will appear when you chart the information which applies to them. If you mix all the evidence together into one chart–these ancestors usually remain hidden.

Try it–what have you got to lose? If you need a guide to take you by the hand, order Family History for Fun and Profit, 30th Anniversary Edition, by Arlene H. Eakle and Linda E. Brinkerhoff. The Mary Minear-John Saylor problem is provided as a special example in our book. You will find it under Books on the menu at http://www.arleneeakle.com. Your favorite genealogy guru, Arlene Eakle

PS When I get tired, I read the FHL catalog. Nothing energizes me like that exercise! You’ve heard of such strange persons. And I am going to direct your attention in the next few weeks to some of my findings. Do you doubt that I have a 96% success rate? I keep searching until I find the right entry. Some appear sooner than others–most appear once I get into the right record group. Stay tuned!


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