Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Handling Contradictions and Anomalies

It seems like your genealogical research is going on really well until you find out that your great-grandfather is listed in separate sources with two different wives at the same time! Or the bump in the road might come when you find two different census records listing different birthplaces for the same person, one in Kentucky and one in Ohio. The crisis may also appear when it turns out that the Albert Jones you have been researching for years really was married to your great-great grandmother but to some one else. The worst case, it seems, is always just around the corner.

Let's face it, some genealogical records, even supposedly primary source records are just wrong. People are human and make mistakes. I was recently asked to look into a well know pioneer family in Arizona with hundreds, perhaps thousands of related descendants. I was given the standard pedigree sheet listing my friend's great-grandfather as the first person on the sheet born in 1862. So we were already back aways to start. I hesitate to use any of the names of the parties due to the ongoing research and lacking permission from my friend to publicize the research, but the general facts illustrate the issues in finding contradictory data.

I will just refer to them as ancestors of the primary person who I will call Richard Roe. Roe's father is listed as being born in 1830 in Georgia. He was the pioneer who died in Arizona in the 1800s. Let's get some parameters here to start, that is always useful in trying to untangle years of poor research and records. Georgia was one of the first states to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1788. English settlements in the area called Georgia began in the early 1700s with the original charter issued in 1732. Why is this important? Well, this is just the barest of beginning to resolving contradictions and anomalies. How can you possibly know if the dates and places listed in your genealogy are correct without placing them in the historical context?

Here is a summary of what I found on the pedigree chart (with the names changed):

Richard Roe (b. Calhoun, Gordon, Georgia 1862 - d. Arizona 1951) son of
Howard Roe (b. Franklin, Georgia abt 1830 - d. Arizona 1878)
Robert Roe (b. 1795 Georgia - d. Dalton, Whitfield, Georgia 1870)
Richard Roe (b. abt 1768 Wilkes, Georgia - d. 1830 Murray, Georgia)

Richard Roe (1768) is the end of the Roe line. At this point I should remind you that this family has thousands of descendants and has been "active" in genealogy for years.

But here are some of the dates and places for the spouses listed on the pedigree:

Gladys Doe Roe, wife of Howard (1830) (b. DeKalb County, Georgia 1828 - d. Arizona 1888)
Mrs. Roe, wife of Robert Roe (1895) (b. Indian Territory, Georgia 1801 - d. Dalton, Whitfield, Georgia bef. 1880)
Evelyn Soe Roe, wife of Richard Roe (1768) (b. Franklin County, Georgia 1777 - d. Carnesville, Franklin, Georgia 1856)

So here are the locations and the dates: (The convention on printed or written pedigree charts for years has been to add extra commas in front of a location to indicate missing details as to town or county. So look for these commas).

Calhoun, Gordon, Georgia 1862
Franklin County, (as indicated by an extra comma) Georgia abt. 1830
Georgia (not further identified) 1795
Wilkes County, (again by an extra comma) Georgia abt. 1768
DeKalb County, (again by an extra comma) Georgia 1828
Indian Territory, Georgia 1801
Dalton, Whitfield, Georgia bef. 1880
Franklin County, (again by an extra comma) Georgia 1777
Carnesville, Franklin, Georgia 1856
Murray County, (comma again) Georgia 1830

Quite a list. Now, remembering all the effort and time that has gone into compiling this pedigree, I do not want to cast aspersions on anyone. So, I am proceeding very carefully. Umm, I think the first thing I would do, is to check if any place and date on this list makes any sense at all. Going to the that fount of all knowledge, Google, I find the following:

There is quite a history of Calhoun, Gordon, Georgia. See Wikipedia:Calhoun, Georgia. But it passes the first test. The place did exist in Gordon County in 1862.

Franklin County was incorporated as Georgia's fourth county in 1784, so the first date passes muster but the second date in 1777 is before the county was created. We are starting to see some anomalies.

The references to Georgia are OK since the state has been around since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Well, now we do have a problem with Wilkes County. The first eight original counties, including Wilkes, were created in 1777 and Wilkes was the first real county, the others having been formed from colonial parishes. So it looks like a strike out with a reference to Wilkes County in 1768.

DeKalb County was created in 1822 from Henry, Gwinnett and Fayette counties. So the date of 1828 is OK so far.

Indian Territory? What is that? The date of 1801 is a problem. Yes, there was Indian Territory but that designation doesn't tell us much at all. The U.S. Government took over all the Indian lands beginning in 1802 that hadn't already been ceded to the government of Georgia. So saying Indian Territory doesn't tell us much at all.

Both Dalton and Whitfield Counties were around in 1880 so that works. Also, Carnesville is the county seat of Franklin County.

Murray County is another issue. It was not created until 1832 and contained, at the time of creation, Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield, Murray, Gordon and parts of Bartow and Chatooga Counties. So who knows where the event occurred.

This analysis illustrates my point. There appears to be some substantial work that has gone into this pedigree, but it also appears that so far, no one has looked to see if the information recorded is consistent with historical reality. As you can tell, some of it is and some of it isn't. Since I have no source citations for any of the entries. I am basically back to the beginning of any previous research. If this project is to proceed any further, whoever does the research is going to have to figure out where all these events took place and see if there is a moderate chance that the record can be fixed and then extended.

I am not ever going to be through with this topic.

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