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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stepping Off Into the Past -- Moving up a generation

You could do as some records I have seen and that is add the next generation automatically by calling them Mr. Smith and Mrs. Smith or whatever and adding in approximate birth and death dates and an imaginative birth place, such as "born abt. 1800 in the United States." If that makes you feel good then I guess that will suffice, but as for me, I feel some obligation to be more specific. Blanks in my record don't bother me nearly as much as making up the data does.

End of lines are inevitable. Where it ends is not. In the past weeks I have seen several instances of people looking for their fathers and mothers, not remote ancestors. Because of our privacy laws and our social structure, finding someone who lived within the past 70 years or so can be more difficult than researching in the 1800s. Finding these more recent people is sometimes completely beyond the pale of genealogy.

The one ironclad rule about moving your research back one generation is to be fully satisfied with the record and sources for the originating generation. In other words, when you focus your research on your Great-grandparents, you need to be satisfied that you have first adequately identified your Grandparents. Too many researchers jump back a generation or two or more before they are even acquainted with the intervening generations. Never assume. Always question any inherited pedigree. It is tempting to race back to some remote ancestor, but it would be heartbreaking to find out that because of faulty research in between, you aren't really related to that person.

So what do you need to know to move back one more generation? To be intentionally repetitious, you need an adequate level of knowledge about the jumping off generation. If you are trying to extend your ancestral line and all you know is that your ancestor was born in Ohio or Pennsylvania, how are you going to find his or her parents? Start where the specific information ends.

Another issue that arises frequently is that the information passed on to you is incorrect or incomplete. Your record may show that your Great-grandfather was born in Virginia but that may not be correct. To assume that the information you have been given by someone else is correct is always a mistake. There is one exception and that is if the information is well sourced and you verify that the sources say what they are supposed to say. Even if you have a level of confidence in your grandmother or aunt's genealogy, assuming that is correct without verifying the information may lead you to exactly the same dead ends that your relatives passed on to you.

During the past few editions of this series, I have been examining on the lines in my own family that ends in a quandary; that is the apparent marriage of step-siblings, where the father is the same for both the husband and his wife with different mothers. This could be true, but not very likely. It is possible that the two fathers, both with the same recorded name, same recorded birthplace and the same year of birth, are really two different people. But this is the challenge. Despite all the research in my family, no one seems to have solved this question.

In order to begin the process, I started doing research two generations down the line closer to me. Here is the line I am researching, starting with my Great-grandmother:

Frances Ann Thomas (b. 1864, d. 1950)
who is the daughter of
David Thomas (b. 1820, d. 1888) and
Adeline Springthorpe (b. 1826, d. 1891)

Adeline Springthorpe (b. 1826, d. 1891)
was the daughter of
James Springthorpe (b. 1785, d. 1851) and
Frances Springthorpe (b. 1797, d. 1862)

This last couple show the same father with different mothers. Now I am satisfied with my research so far concerning Frances Ann Thomas (b. 1864, d. 1950). So it is time to move on to the next generation. I will set aside the issues with David Thomas for now and move on to Adeline Springthorpe.

Stay tuned for further installments. This series is designed to show my methodology in extending family lines. In this case, I have no predetermined results. You will see what happens when I do.

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