Beginning the Process of Clicking Your Way to Success
I think the best way to begin this detailed discussion of the interaction between online resources and finding ancestors and relatives is to start with an actual example. In my other family history blog, Rejoice, and be exceeding glad..., I have been writing a series entitled, "Building a Family Tree: An Example on FamilySearch.org" that illustrates using online sources, primarily the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, to find ancestral information about selected people in the Family Tree. I decided to use one of the people featured in that series.
I have already done some research on this person and his family. I know that the main researcher, Holly Hansen, has done extensive research in Georgia. So far, in the Family Tree, there are four sources listed excluding a Legacy NFS source. The Legacy NFS source comes from new.FamilySearch.org, a discontinued program. The sources listed support a conclusion that Ignatius Gilpin lived in Georgia. When I first looked at this person, the link to the probate record was broken and does not link to Ignatius Gilpin. The marriage records support a second marriage to Nancy Denham, but the other information about a first marriage and a list of children is unsupported by any sources in the Family Tree. This is not a criticism of the state of research on Ignatius but only the fact that anyone starting with this individual on the Family Tree will have to, in essence, start over doing research. In this case, as is the case in every family tree, there are always individual at the end of every family line.
From my contact with Holly Hansen about this person, I know that there is a considerable amount of information about this family but not a lot about Ignatius. This is one reason why I have chosen him for this project.
Here is an important suggestion about beginning your online research. The internet is a vast communication network. The core idea of doing genealogical research online is to gather information from a variety of sources and build up a web structure of information about families that supports reasonable conclusions concerning the details of their lives. When genealogists accumulate information on paper or keep it to themselves, even when they are "working" on their "preliminary" research, then anyone who is also working on that person or family has to repeat all the research. This collaborative model of online research is the antithesis of traditional genealogical research. This is a something that both Holly and I have taught and talked about many times.
The status of this particular family right now, according to the data in the Family Tree, is that there is no supporting data to tie the children listed to these parents. Consequently, any researcher has to assume that the information is questionable. When I switch to a descendency view of Ignatius Gilpin, I see a huge number of descendants tied to this particular individual. There are extensive descendants listed for 4 of the 5 children. Here is the family as it is shown in the Family Tree.
Perhaps the missing probate record is the key to tying this family together. I immediately found the probate file for Ignatius listed on Ancestry.com. I also updated the link so I could get back to this source in the future.
The probate documents are all on Ancestry.com and consist of 47 pages of documents. Interestingly, the probate in Laurens County, Georgia is being handled by Charles Denham as administrator. Because he is the administrator of the estate, this means that there is no will. If there was a will, he would be the executor or whoever was named would be the executor. This name is not listed as a child of Ignatius, so who is he? By asking this question, I am beginning the process of building a web or cluster of people who can become the basis for identifying the main person who I will call the target person. I would suggest that it would be a good idea since family trees on Ancestry.com are not generally collaborative, to download copies of the documents and add the entire probate file as a Memory on the Family Tree. Then anyone, whether or not they have a subscription to Ancestry will be able to see the probate file.
In the Family Tree, there is a Charles Denham who is listed as a brother of Nancy Denham, the second wife of Ignatious (various spellings) Gilpin (also various spellings). This is likely the administrator of the estate. But why aren't any of the children acting as administrator? This illustrates the process of beginning to ask questions about the research. Some of these questions may ultimately be answered, others may not be.
There is a receipt from a "J. Gilpin" probably "John Gilpin." Who is this? There are no Gilpin children listed with the name of John or starting with a "J." There are other names in the probate file, mainly regarding debts owed to or from the estate. Who are these people and do we have them located in Laurens County at the time of the probate case? There is also a receipt from Putnam County. So here is another county for consideration.
A quick look at the Newberry Atlas of Historical County Boundaries Project shows that in 1818, these two counties were separated by two other counties; Wilkinson and Baldwin. This is where I begin the process of identifying the locations involved in the research. Many of the problems associated with "end-of-line" problems are caused by looking in the wrong place. Where were these people? The receipts in the probate file show two different counties. By the way, the probate records show the Book and Folio of the place where the probate was recorded. If that record is available, it might answer the question of where the probate was administered.
As I work through the probate file, I find a receipt from Green Gilpin to Charles Dunham in 1825. Here is the first document supporting the name of a child in the family. Next is a promissory note from a "J Gilpin" to Green Gilpin dated 1815. The dates on the receipts and notes start in 1811 and continue through 1821. One document looks like it is dated 1825. Another observation, the appraisement of the property of the estate shows that Ignatius was very poor, the total value of the estate being about $100. The date on the appraisement is 1818, so this is likely around the time the estate was filed. The earlier dated documents were probably part of the estate. This supports a death date in 1818. This date is also supported by the Administrators' bond dated 7 September 1818.
Well, the probate documents start us on the road to discovery. They leave us with many questions. Here are a few:
- Who is J or John Gilpin?
- Why was Charles Denham the administrator and not one of the children?
- Why is there no mention of a wife?
- Who are all the other people mentioned in the probate file?
- Why were there two counties listed?
- Why were no other children listed with receipts?
Here are also a few speculative conclusions.
- Ignatius (spelling) had no real property to list in the administration
- He was quite poor
- He died without a will
Where do I go from here? That depends. After asking these questions, I need to find out if there is already someone out there with some more documents, not immediately available to me.
My next step is to see what shows up in the 1790, 1800 and 1810 U.S. Census records. Stay tuned.
It is extremely important in today's world to have your research online in a collaborative family tree, preferably the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and to have copies of all the records you find either attached as copies or linked online to any entries. It is also very important to extract all the possible information you can from the records you do find and then ask all the questions about the record. You might also have noticed that it is important to understand the records. In this case, we have a probate record so understanding the process and documents is crucial to making any progress in finding more information. It is also important to look at the places mentioned to see if they make sense. In this case, we now have two counties to look at.
You can read the previous post in this series here: