Saturday, October 13, 2018
Looking Beyond Genealogy Websites
Because of the huge number of resources available on four or five of the largest genealogy websites, we have a tendency to focus primarily on those resources sometimes to the exclusion of other valuable genealogical records. Perhaps, we need to step back a bit and take a longer view of the genealogical research process and adjust our research habits and methodologies to the reality of document and record availability.
Let me start with a hypothetical situation. Let's suppose that I needed to do some research in North Carolina, United States for an ancestor. I could begin my research by "touching the bases" and checking for the ancestor's name etc. in each of the big online database programs. Because I touched all four or five bases does that mean I have now made a "home run" and can retire from the field? Not at all. What do I do next?
Any search we do online with websites assumes that we have accurate and complete search criteria. This means that we know the variations in the name of our ancestor and all the places where that ancestor lived. Let me give an example. Suppose I am looking for this ancestor:
Cornelius Dollarhide, b. 1746 in North Carolina, United States, d. February 1838 in unknown.
Hmm. Where would I begin to look for this person? You say the answer is obvious, you look in North Carolina. I say, maybe and maybe not. Neither the birth nor the death dates are exact and neither of the dates is associated with a specific location. One thing I did discover with my search is that there are a number of men named Cornelius Dollarhide or with variations of that name who lived about the same time in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and even Maryland. Which of all of those potential candidates is my target person? The main issue turned out to be between a Cornelius in Kentucky and one in Tennessee.
I began the process of expanding my research by looking in records outside of those readily searchable on the main large genealogy websites. I found my first breakthrough on a website called, "The American Revolution in North Carolina." To understand why finding a record of Cornelius in this website was important, we have to step back and look at other details. First of all, this family's verified family line comes from Mississippi. So we need to find out how they got there. It is also essential that we look at the dates and places to determine the jurisdictions of the places at the time of the events. For example, Mississippi did not become a state until December 10, 1817. Kentucky did not become a state until June 1, 1792. Tennessee was made a state on June 1, 1796. Why do these dates matter? When doing genealogical research we look for records created at or near the time of the event in the jurisdiction of the time of the event. In this family, the Cornelius' son, Thomas Jefferson Dollahite said he was born in Tennessee in every census from 1850 to 1880. Since Tennessee became a state in 1796 and the son was born in 1814, he could have been born in Tennessee. It follows that if we find the son's father is Cornelius in Tennessee, then we have good indications that we are looking at Tennessee as the place where this family lived rather than Kentucky.
At this point, I still need more information to conclude that the family in Tennessee is the same as the family in North Carolina notwithstanding the fact that Tennessee was originally a part of North Carolina. I found additional helpful information in the following book available on Google Books.
Hale, Will T. 1913. A history of Tennessee and Tennesseans: the leaders and representative men in commerce, industry, and modern activities. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co.
In that book, it states that the Dollahite (Dollarhide) family came from North Carolina and were early settlers of Henry County, Tennessee.
As I continue to do research using a variety of sources, each new piece of information will help me to be more and more accurate. The cumulative sum of the information I find will eventually be enough to conclude that the family came from North Carolina.