Using a timeline to solve a problem

Use a timeline to solve genealogy problemsIn researching my great great grandparents, Laban Taylor Rasco and Margaret Dye Rasco, whose graves I saw last month in Alabama, I realized that I was seeing marriage indexes that listed their marriage date as March 14, 1865, but in my Reunion software, I’d listed May 14, 1865 as the day they wed. The source for the May date was the Alabama Census of Confederate Soldiers from 1921, a wonderful, information-rich form that had been filled out by hand by (I think) my great great grandfather himself. (I’m basing that on the handwriting in the form matching that of the signature.) Since I haven’t yet seen the original documents that were indexed, I was inclined to take my ancestor’s word for it.

But then I used the Ages feature in Reunion to see at what age Laban Taylor Rasco was when the various events I’d entered took place. And that’s when I realized (a palm-to-forehead moment) that his marriage took place while he was serving in the Alabama Infantry during the Civil War. Thanks to the amazing Civil War records from the National Archives available through Fold3, I knew he had a 60-day furlough starting January 31, 1865. He was residing at a hospital for wounded soldiers in Mississippi (courtesy of a shoulder wound he’d sustained at the Battle of Jonesborough), and his furlough papers listed his residence as Shelby County, Alabama. He returned to the hospital on March 28 and listed on the rolls of prisoners of war paroled at Talladega, Alabama, on June 3. The marriage indexes indicate that he and Margaret were married in Shelby County, Alabama, so the wedding must have taken place during that furlough. (So much for a honeymoon!) May 14 clearly isn’t within that window. So I’m changing my records to say March 14.

Laban would have been 77 years old (and still married to Margaret) when he filled out that Confederate Census form in 1921. So I’m willing to cut him a little slack if we mixed up month of his anniversary.

This was a great reminder of the value of using a timeline (and applying a little logic) when trying to resolve conflicting information.

Document everything

Document everything in your genealogy researchReason number 33,662 that you should document everything in your genealogy research: You can’t rely on your memory.

Today, I was trying to verify which ancestor of mine had fought in the Civil War as a substitute. I remember finding his records on Fold3.com and seeing the document that designated him as a substitute for an individual of means who could afford to pay my ancestor to fight in his place. I thought it was Benjamin Franklin Igleheart, my great-great grandfather. But when I looked at his record in my software, I found no notation whatsoever about that.

At least I remembered having found a substitute soldier, even if I couldn’t remember who it was. So I looked through the records in Reunion of all my male ancestors who were born at a time where they might have served. Nothing. I tried searching on Reunion but got nowhere. So I finally walked across the room and pulled out B.F. Igleheart’s paper file. There it was: all the info that I had printed out, but not otherwise documented. Bad researcher!

If I had finished going through the paper files of the Adams ancestors, I would have found this info and documented it. But that process probably won’t be finished for quite some time.

I’m so glad I have committed to documenting everything by entering information into my software, with source citation, and creating electronic files of the digital images of the documents. I am conforming to my file naming convention and I’m tagging the digital files so I don’t have to have my papers file to find something.

I used to believe that I would never forget certain facts I’ve learned through my genealogy research. As those facts add up (and my research grows), I know that’s just simply the case. Now all I have to remember is to enter everything into my Reunion software and tag and properly file all my electronic files.

Questioning my assumptions

I wrote last year about the importance of keeping a research log and my intention to keep one. I still think it’s important. Despite that, I’m still not really keeping one.

Oh, but I wish I were. My grandfather’s grandfather was George Washington Adams. I had accumulated a certain amount of information about him–and I’d recorded sources for everything. But now as I revisit him, I’m starting to doubt whether the military sources I found are necessarily for the right guy. And I think if I’d been keeping a good research log, I’d have perhaps written down why I was so certain that the George W. Adams from Company A, 35th Kentucky Infantry (Union), who ended up in the National Soldier’s Home for awhile in the 1920s and 1930s was my great great great grandfather. But looking at it now, I’m not so sure.

So I’m going to go back to all the data I’ve gathered for him and cast a critical eye on what I’ve found and make sure that I’ve got the right guy. And I’m going to carefully record my efforts and my reasoning for every fact. I’m not pledging to start keeping a research log for every bit of research I do (though I hope to at some point). I’m just pledging to do it for this one ancestor.

Once I figure out if I have the right guy, I’ll write here and let you know!

Reminder to myself: Follow up!

geowadamssoldiershomecroppedOn January 3, I wrote to the Vermilion, Illinois, County Clerk’s office, requesting a death certificate for George Washington Adams (my paternal grandfather’s grandfather), who I believe died at the National Home for Disabled Volunteers Soldier in Danville, Illinois. I had located a George Washington Adams of the right age at the home on the 1930 census and found a listing for a George Washington Adams in the Illinois Death Certificates Database . (“George Washington Adams” is an amazingly common name, by the way.)

Anyway, I wrote away for the death certificate, noted that the $12 check had been cashed, and never received acknowledgment. I figured it meant that no death certificate was available. Today,  four months later, I finally got around to calling the County Clerk’s office and inquiring. It turns out those efficient people had mailed the death certificate to me on January 8. I just never received it.

So I’m sending another check and they’re sending me another death certificate. I’m considerably cheered by the prospect that I’ll be able (I hope) to verify that this is indeed my George Washington Adams and that I’ll be able to glean some more information about him from it. Then I can go to Fold3 and start gathering information on his Civil War service.

The moral of the story: Next time I write for some information that I don’t receive, I’ll pick up the phone and inquire, rather than assuming the information wasn’t available!