Last weekend I had the great fortune to hear genealogist and speaker Amy Johnson Crow give several talks at the Missouri State Genealogical Association‘s terrific conference. One of her talks was called “How to Milk a Source for All It’s Worth” and in it she shared tips and techniques for harvesting every bit of information you can from a source.
That got me thinking about the source documents I had found early on in my genealogy research, six or seven years ago. Back then, I was focusing on direct-line ancestors, so I’m sure I left a lot of information on the table. Rather than entering every scrap of information into my genealogy database (Reunion), I would have just glossed over it.
That was confirmed yesterday when I was going over an Alabama Census of Confederate Soldiers questionnaire my 2nd great grandfather, Laban Taylor Rasco (1844-1926) had filled out in 1921. I had found that source in 2012. (It’s source #127 in my database; I now have 834 sources.) I was shocked to see that I hadn’t recorded the information about his living children that was shared in that questionnaire. They were in my tree, because I’d added them at a later date, but back in 2012 I just wasn’t adding collateral lines. (I know, I was short-sighted.)
So I started adding that info and in doing so solved a little mystery. My grandmother Beatrix Rasco Adams, who was born in 1907, was living in Memphis, Texas, with her family on the 1920 census. In 1910, they were in Alabama, where she was born, and in the 1930 census they were in Washington state, where she lived the rest of her life. I never knew why they lived in Texas in 1920 (though I didn’t try very hard to find out). But I learned yesterday by focusing on that Confederate census, that her uncle, Joseph Taylor Rasco (1872-1964) was living in Memphis, Texas in 1921 and is nearby in the 1910 and 1920 censuses. Her family must have joined him. Mystery solved, or at least illuminated.
That made me realize that I have a lot of work to do with the source documentation that I have already downloaded and entered into Reunion. My genealogy research skills have improved so much that I find myself drawn to look at all those less recently found documents so I can pick all the meat off the bones.
Two summers ago, I started systematically going through my source documentation, primarily to correct the citations and to make sure that each source document was attached as a multimedia file to the source record in Reunion. At the time, I had 300 sources in my database. I got through Source #85 by the time I stalled out on that particular endeavor.
Fast forward two years and I now have an additional 500+ more sources, but I’m hopeful that the last several hundred were much better analyzed.
Last month, I shifted my focus on my father’s maternal line, the Rascos, and plan to work on them for the rest of 2018. So this is what I’ve decided to do: I’ve created a list of all the sources that pertain to the Rascos and I’m planning to systematically check each source record, making sure the citation is correct, that the source document is attached to the source record, and that all possible information is gleaned. When I see clues for further research within a document, I will either make a note of it in Evernote or, depending on time constraints and my whims, go ahead and pursue that clue.
I think this process will give me more confidence in my source citations and it will help me feel comfortable that my research is thorough–plus it will doubtless garner a lot more facts to add to my database! I also love that it will give me an easy starting point for research each day.
I’ll let you know how it goes!