Archive for the ‘Genealogical Proof Standard’ Category

What is a conclusion?

The final condition of the Genealogical Proof Standard is that we arrive at a “soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.” This may seem to be the simplest part of the GPS and a part that many take for granted. Yet in my experience this is really the most important part of the Standard. It is also often confused and therefore I will take the time to address this further here.

To understand this last condition fully you must ask yourself “what is a conclusion?” How one defines conclusion has a profound impact on one’s understanding of the Genealogical Proof Standard as a whole.

Professional genealogists often consider the term conclusion in the professional context, in the sense of the conclusion (or end) of a research project or agreed-upon time frame. Even for non-professionals, it is too easy to think of meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard only in terms of our long-term research goals, or the “big picture,” as opposed to the many facts that lead to that “big picture.”

If I state that my great-grandfather was born on 24 October 1897 (not the real date), as if this was a fact, then I am stating a conclusion based on my research, right? In actuality, every fact reported as such is a conclusion reached through research into that specific research goal.

Each of these conclusions/facts may provide evidence that leads you to a “big picture” conclusion, a more complex research goal.

If you accept that every fact is a conclusion, then it should follow that every fact is subject to the Genealogical Proof Standard, and all that it entails.

When I reported my great-grandfather’s date of birth, have I:

  • conducted a reasonably exhaustive search for all records that may contain pertinent information?
  • fully and accurately cited every source used in my research?
  • analyzed and correlated the information provided by the sources that I have located, assessing their quality as evidence?
  • reconciled any conflicting or contradictory information?

If I cannot honestly respond that I have met each of these conditions, then my statement of the “fact” of my great-grandfather’s date of birth can be called into question.

It is far more likely, for example, if I have not searched for every record that might hold relevant information, that additional information might arise in the future that contradicts my conclusion. This new information might be more accurate, and it might force me to completely abandon my original conclusion. Had I evaluated my conclusion based on all of the conditions of the Genealogical Proof Standard, it would have been a more reliable conclusion, and the likelihood of its being contradicted by a newly discovered record would have dropped significantly.

It is important to note that the likelihood of new information emerging that will contradict your conclusions will never fall to 0%. This always remains an open possibility–no matter how slight–and an honest genealogist will not dismiss emerging information simply to protect one’s earlier conclusions. Even if it means that hours of research on “former ancestors” (to borrow a phrase Martin Hollick used in a comment to another post on this blog) will be lost.

In other words, a conclusion does not equal the end.

The points addressed here also raise another important question: how do I cite a research conclusion?

I will respond to this question in a future post.

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “What is a conclusion?,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 20 February 2012 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

Schedule of IGHR Evening Sessions now available

The schedule for the evening sessions at Samford University’s Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research, in Birmingham, Alabama, from 10-15 June 2012, has now been posted on the Institute’s website.

The scheduled sessions are as follows:

Monday June 11, 2012

“The Library of Congress: An Introduction and Overview for Genealogists”

This lecture discusses U.S. passenger arrival records, 1820-1957, which are available online and on microfilm. It explains what facts researchers need to know to begin their search for an immigrant ancestor’s ship, as well as how to conduct that search. Specific examples illustrate how to exploit Internet databases, National Archives indexes on microfilm, indexes published in book form and other pertinent research tools. How to find the ship of an ancestor who arrived before 1820 is also addressed briefly.

  • Presented by John Philip Colletta
  • 6:00-7:15 p.m.
  • Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall

“Americans Abroad: Consular Records of the State Department”

In addition to diplomats, military personnel, or those abroad on official or semi-official assignments, Americans abroad-particularly in the nineteenth century, but also earlier-included many “ordinary” citizens: merchants, business men and women, middle-class travelers, naturalized citizens returning to their native countries, students, missionaries, artists, and others. Often circumstances caused them to seek assistance or support of the federal government while abroad. In such situations, as they interacted with the American government through its embassies or consulates, they created records, many with genealogical value. Those records are part of the State Department records in Record Group 59 at the National Archives. They begin as early as 1789 and continue to the present.

The presentation cites mostly records created in U.S. consular offices in France. However the examples are illustrative of similar records created in any other countries with which the U.S. had diplomatic relations-and thus had consulates where such records were created.

  • Presented by Claire Bettag
  • 6:00-7:15 p.m.
  • Auditorium, Brooks Hall

Tuesday June 12, 2012

“Certification: Procedures, Questions, and Answers”

  • Presented by Thomas Jones and Elissa Powell
  • 6:00 – 7:15 p.m.
  • Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall

“The 17,000,000 Stories of Ellis Island: What’s Fact? What’s Myth?”

Ellis Island occupies a mythical place in the history of our nation. And rightly so! But many myths and misconceptions about the place persist, distorting genealogical research and reporting. This lecture puts Ellis Island into its proper place in the larger context of U.S. immigration history, and in so doing, sets the record straight as to what’s fact and what’s myth.

  • Presented by John Philip Colletta
  • 6:00 – 7:15 p.m.
  • Auditorium, Brooks Hall

Wednesday June 13, 2012

“Genealogical Research: Online Resources – for Free!”

In the economically challenged world we are in today, free is good! There are many choice websites that have digital images, databases, text files, etc. available free to use. The presenter will provide the attendees with insight into what is in store for them when they search some of the popular, and some so not well known, free websites available to them.

  • Presented by C. Ann Staley
  • 6:00 – 7:15 p.m.
  • Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall

“Using the Genealogical Proof Standard to Research Slave Community”

The Genealogical Proof Standard provides a measuring stick to evaluate the validity of your conclusions. By allowing the Proof Standard to guide your research, you can be sure that your research is as accurate as possible.

During the Haitian Revolution in the 1790s, many planters fled the French colony Saint-Domingue (Haiti) for the United States. The Vincendiere family settled in Frederick County, Maryland, on land now part of Monocacy National Battlefied (a National Park), bringing several slaves with them. Within a few years, they owned several dozen slaves.

This case study will show how the Genealogical Proof Standard was used to research the slaves owned by the Vincendieres, from Saint-Domingue to Maryland, South Carolina, and Louisiana.

  • Presented by Michael Hait
  • 6:00 – 7:15 p.m.
  • Auditorium, Brooks Hall

Thursday June 14, 2012 — Banquet

TBA

  • Banquet Speaker: Larry H. Spruill
  • 6:30 p.m.
  • Cafeteria, University Center

For more information, visit the Evening Sessions page on the IGHR website at http://www4.samford.edu/schools/ighr/IGHR_sessions.html

 

Reconciling conflicting information–a case study

The fourth precept of the Genealogical Proof Standard is that we “resolve any conflicts caused by contradictory items of evidence or information contrary to your conclusion.” To read more, see “Reconciling conflicting information.”

Regardless of what fact it is you are trying to prove, it is necessary to meet the Genealogical Proof Standard. This includes not only collecting all relevant records, but also analyzing and correlating the information. This process will almost invariably reveal conflicts. For this reason, the Standard requires that researchers consider the contradictory evidence.

1.         Gabriel Diggs, the son of George R. and Charlotte (Simmins) Diggs, was probably born on 10 September 1875, in Marlboro District, Prince George’s Co., Maryland,[1] and died on 2 December 1930, in Upper Marlboro, Prince George’s Co., Maryland.[2] On 15 May 1894, in Prince George’s Co., Maryland, Gabriel married first, Christianna Tolson,[3] daughter of William and Roxana (West) Tolson.[4] She was born ca. 14 October 1873, in Prince George’s Co., Maryland, and died on 9 April 1912, in Prince George’s Co., Maryland.[5] After Christianna’s death, Gabriel married Susie Lee, daughter of Jupiter and Harriet Ann (Young)[6] Lee.[7] She was born ca. 1885-1886, in Prince George’s Co., Maryland.[8]

Gabriel’s date of birth

Though he was born after the abolition of slavery, Gabriel Diggs was still born before the advent of vital registration in the state of Maryland. The first vital registration laws in Maryland were passed in 1865, but the birth and death registration programs were abandoned just a few years later. The state would not again begin recording births (outside of Baltimore city) until 1898.[9]

In order to estimate the date of birth with optimum accuracy, it is therefore necessary to correlate the dates and ages of multiple sources. Gabriel’s age is provided in the federal census enumerations for the years from 1880 through 1930; two separate marriage records; a military draft registration card; and his death certificate. Each of these records must be weighed according to its individual reliability, allowing us to come to a reasonable conclusion. The following chart shows the ages, stated or estimated dates of birth, and dates of record, for each source for Gabriel’s age.

Source

Date of Record

Stated Age

Date of Birth

1880 U. S. Census[10]

1 Jun 1880

5 yrs

btw. 2 Jun 1874-1 Jun 1875
1894 Marriage[11]

15 May 1894

21 yrs

btw. 16 May 1872-15 May 1873
1900 U. S. Census[12]

1 Jun 1900

24 yrs

“Apr 1876”
1910 U. S. Census[13]

15 Apr 1910

34 yrs

btw. 16 Apr 1875-15 Apr 1876
1915 Marriage[14]

25 Jun 1915

39 yrs

btw. 26 Jun 1875-25 Jun 1876
World War I Draft Card[15]

12 Sep 1918

43 yrs

“Sept. 10th 1875”
1920 U. S. Census[16]

1 Jan 1920

44 yrs

btw. 2 Jan 1875-1 Jan 1876
1930 U. S. Census[17]

1 Apr 1930

54 yrs

btw. 2 Apr 1875-1 Apr 1876
Death Certificate[18]

2 Dec 1930

53 yrs, 3 mos, 22 dys

10 Sep 1877

The 1918 draft registration card contains both primary information and direct evidence of Gabriel’s date of birth, provided by Gabriel himself.[19] The ages reported in the 1915 marriage record and the census records from 1910 through 1930 support this date.

Of the remaining sources of information concerning Gabriel’s age or date of birth, the conflicting information can be generally explained. Federal census records do not record the informant, and cannot be judged as simply as other records might; their reliability as sources of genealogical information therefore varies from record to record, household to household.

The earliest record in which Gabriel appears is the 1880 federal census, as a young child. This record reports his age as five years old.[20] It is not rare among census records to find a small child’s age to be slightly inaccurate, especially since there is no way to know whether or not the child’s parents served as informant for the record.

The 1900 federal census provides the correct age, but reports the month and year of Gabriel’s birth as April 1876.[21] Again, the informant for this record is not known, so its reliability cannot be empirically evaluated. In light of the other evidence, however, it would appear that the record is simply mistaken.

The 1894 marriage record likely contains primary information provided by Gabriel himself, yet conflicts by the greatest variance with the birth date provided on the draft card. Whereas all other records examined place Gabriel’s date of birth at around 1875 or 1876, this record states Gabriel’s age as 21 years of age, placing his date of birth in 1873. In 1894, the age of majority in the state of Maryland was 21 years, so it seems probable that Gabriel deliberately misstated his age on this marriage record so that he could be married without parental permission.[22] This theory is corroborated by the 1930 federal census record. In the column where it asks “Age at first marriage,” the census reports that Gabriel was first married at age 19.[23] If he was indeed nineteen years of age at the time of his 1894 marriage, then Gabriel would have been born ca. 1875, as other evidence suggests.

Finally, Gabriel’s death certificate records his date of birth as 10 September 1877. This is two years later than all other estimates, but shares the same month and day as Gabriel himself reported twelve years earlier on his draft card. Most death certificates are signed by the informant, but this certificate does not name the informant.[24] In this case, it appears that the informant was someone who knew Gabriel’s birthdate, but not his exact age.

All evidence thus being considered, it seems certain that Gabriel was born in either late 1875 or early 1876, and most probable that he was born on 10 September 1875.

SOURCES:

[1] See discussion under heading “Gabriel’s date of birth.”

[2] Maryland Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate no. 16201 (1930), Gabriel Diggs; Maryland State Archives microfilm no. SR 3111.

[3] Prince George’s Co., Maryland, Marriage Record, Liber JWB 1, ff. 76-77, Gabriel Diggs and Christianna Tolson, 15 May 1894; Maryland State Archives microfilm no. CR 7537-1.

[4] Maryland Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate not numbered, Christiana Diggs, 9 Apr 1912; Maryland State Archives microfilm no. SR 3025. 1880 U. S. Census, Prince George’s County, Maryland, population schedule, Third District, ED 123, SD 3, pg. 40, dwelling 316, family 326, William Tolson household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 Jan 2010); citing NARA microfilm T9, roll 513, FHL microfilm 1,254,513.

[5] Maryland death certificate, not numbered, Christiana Diggs, 9 Apr 1912.

[6] Prince George’s County Marriage Licenses, 1879-1886, f. 32, Jubiter Lee and Harriet Ann Young, 9 Jun 1883; Maryland State Archives microfilm no. CR 50,230-7.

[7] 1910 U. S. Census, Prince George’s County, Maryland, population schedule, Third Election District, Upper Marlboro Town, ED 62, SD 4, sheet 16B, dwelling 51, family 51, Jupiter Lee household; digital images, Ancestry.com; citing NARA microfilm T624, roll 567.

[8] 1910 U. S. Census, Prince George’s Co., Md., pop. sch., 3rd Election Dist., Upper Marlboro Town, ED 62, SD 4, sheet 16B, dwg 51, fam 51, Susie Lee.

[9] For a general overview of Maryland vital registration laws, see Maryland State Archives, “Death Records,” online article, Guide to Government Records (http://guide.mdsa.net/viewer.cfm?page=death : accessed 23 Nov 2010).

[10] 1880 U. S. Census, Prince George’s County, Maryland, population schedule, Third District, ED 123, SD 3, stamped page 66, page 11, dwelling not numbered, family 84, George Diggs household; digital images, Ancestry.com; citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 513, FHL microfilm 1,254,513.

[11] Prince George’s Co. Marriage Record, JWB 1: 75, Diggs to Tolson.

[12] 1900 U. S. Census, Prince George’s County, Maryland, population schedule, Melwood, 15th Election District, ED 107, SD 3, pg. 19B, dwelling 259, family 260, George R. Diggs household; digital images, Ancestry.com; citing NARA microfilm T623, roll 626.

[13] 1910 U. S. Census, Prince George’s County, Maryland, population schedule, Third Election District, ED 62, SD 4, pg. 2B, dwelling 35, family 36, Gabriel Diggs household; digital images, Ancestry.com; citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 567.

[14] Prince George’s County Marriage Record, Liber BDS, ff. 76-77, Gabriel Diggs and Susie Lee, 25 Jun 1915; Maryland State Archives microfilm no. CR 7538.

[15] “World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” digital images, Ancestry.com, Gabriel Diggs, serial no. 610, order no. 248, Draft Board 0, Prince George’s County, Maryland; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, NARA microfilm publication M1509, roll not cited, FHL microfilm roll no. 1,684,364.

[16] 1920 U. S. Census, Prince George’s County, Maryland, population schedule, Mellwood District, ED 90, SD 4, stamped page 123, sheet 11A, dwelling 195, family 206, Gabriel Diggs household; digital images, Ancestry.com; citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 674.

[17] 1930 U. S. Census, Prince George’s County, Maryland, population schedule, Marlboro District No. 3, ED 17-9, SD 5, stamped page 83, sheet 14A, dwelling 214, family 228, Gabriel Diggs household; digital images, Ancestry.com; citing NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 877.

[18] Maryland death certificate no. 16201 (1930), Gabriel Diggs.

[19] World War I draft registration card for Gabriel Diggs, serial no. 610, order no. 248, Prince George’s Co., Maryland.

[20] 1880 U. S. Census, Prince George’s Co., Md., pop. sch., Third Dist., ED 123, SD 3, pg. 11, dwg not numd., fam 84, George Diggs h/h.

[21] 1900 U. S. Census, Prince George’s Co., Md., pop. sch., Melwood, 15th Election District, ED 107, SD 3, pg. 19B, dwg 259, fam 260, Gabriel Diggs.

[22] Prince George’s Co. Marriage Record, Liber JWB 1, fol. 75, Diggs to Tolson, 15 May 1894.

[23] 1930 U. S. Census, Prince George’s Co., Md., pop. sch., Marlboro Dist. No. 3, ED 17-9, SD 5, sheet 14A, dwg 214, fam 228, Gabriel Diggs.

[24] Maryland death certificate no. 16201 (1930), Gabriel Diggs.

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “Reconciling conflicting information–a case study,”Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 4 February 2012 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

The Genealogical Proof Standard – it’s not just for professionals!

Though I started researching my genealogy (in the loosest sense of the word research) when I was about eight or nine years old, I have been involved with genealogy off and on throughout my entire life. I started researching at the National Archives (Archives I in Washington, D. C.) at age sixteen, when I was still in high school. By the time I was nineteen I was spending every Saturday cranking through microfilmed federal census records, passenger lists, and military indexes, looking for my family.

I learned everything I could about the records available where my ancestors lived: Stamford, Connecticut; Harrisonburg, Virginia; Schoharie, Suffolk, and Saratoga counties, New York; and other places. Doing this I was able to find out quite a bit about my ancestors, but there were plenty of brickwalls. Inch by inch I would creep forward, relying often on derivative sources and a network of other researchers found through word of mouth and (eventually) surname email lists and message boards.

Learning methodology–“how to research”–never entered my mind.

Fast forward a few years. After a couple of years without active research, I learned that my wife was pregnant with our daughter. The pending addition to my family inspired me to jump back in with renewed excitement.

Internet genealogy had changed significantly within just two or three years! Those old surname- and location-specific mailing lists and message boards barely scratched the surface of what was available online.

But more importantly, I started to read about research methodology. Elizabeth Shown Mills’s Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian and Christine Rose’s Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case taught me that research does not end when you find a record. These books taught me the importance of evidence analysis and other skills that I learned to apply to my research.

Not client research as a professional genealogist. My professional career came later. I learned to apply proper research techniques to my own family research first. (And one of these days I will go back to some of my older research and bring it up to par.)

As I learned about the Genealogical Proof Standard, and started to apply it to my research, the brick walls amazingly started to crumble before me. I was able to “form logically-reasoned, clearly-written conclusions” based on a “reasonably exhaustive search for records that contain pertinent information,” and by “analyzing” and “correlating” the information and “reconciling conflicting information.” These conclusions carry so much more confidence because they meet the standards.

One comment I have heard from time to time is that the Genealogical Proof Standard or the more detailed BCG standards are “just for professionals.” In my experience, and I would venture to say the experiences of all other researchers who apply them to their own personal research, the Standards are definitely not “just for professionals.”

The Standards are for anyone who wants to accurately research their family history.

Reconciling conflicting information

The fourth precept of the Genealogical Proof Standard is that we “resolve any conflicts caused by contradictory items of evidence or information contrary to your conclusion.”

For many genealogists, who struggle with some of the more difficult research concepts, conflicting information poses a particularly tricky situation. Conflicting information is inevitable, especially when we have truly conducted a “reasonably exhaustive” search for records.

When records disagree, how can we possibly discover the truth?

The most important skill that we develop as genealogists is the skill of analysis. Genealogy research is far more than just finding the records. Once we have found the records we must determine what relevant information each record holds, and how reliable that information is.

Some of the questions that we must ask ourselves, when faced with conflicting information, are:

  • Who provided the information?
  • What was the level of participation of the informant in the event being reported?
  • What was the level of understanding of the informant in the event being reported?
  • How long removed was the creation of the record from the event being reported?
  • Did any bias or external pressure exist that may have caused the informant to intentionally report inaccurate information? (I know, none of us want to believe that our ancestors would have lied, but sometimes there were “good reasons.”)

Based on your reasoned responses to these questions, regarding each record containing conflicting information, you should be able to determine that one report can be deemed most likely to be more accurate than the others.

An example of this process will follow in a subsequent post.

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “Reconciling conflicting information,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 21 January 2012 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

Correlating information from multiple records

When trying to correlate information from multiple records to confirm the identity of the subject of the records, you will often find that the information does not agree completely. In these cases, the only way to identify the subjects as those you are researching may be to correlate all of the information contained in the two records, as a whole.

Consider the following case, for example:

In the 1880 U. S. federal census, the household of William Waters in Baltimore, Maryland, contains the following inhabitants:

  • Wm. Waters, black, age 40 years
  • Cornelia [Waters], black, age 39 years, wife
  • Caroline [Waters], black, age 20 years, daughter
  • Charles [Waters], black, age 16 years, son
  • Augustus [Waters], black, age 14 years, son
  • Nellie [Waters], black, age 12 years, daughter
  • Louis [Waters], black, age 10 years, son
  • Bessie [Waters], black, age 8 years, daughter
  • Frank [Waters], black, age 6 years, son
  • Virginia [Waters], black, age 4 years, daughter
  • Carrie [Waters], black, age 3 years, daughter
  • Adele [Waters], black, age 1 year, daughter
  • Augustus Ridgely, black, age 16 years, nephew
  • Gertrude [Ridgely], black, age 8 years, niece
  • Catharine Williams, black, age 34 years, boarder[1]

Compare this household with the following household in 1870:

  • Otho Hagan, white, age 35 years
  • Cornelia [Hagan], white, age 27 years
  • Caroline [Hagan], white, age 11 years
  • Charley [Hagan], white, age 5 years
  • Augustus [Hagan], white, age 4 years
  • Mary [Hagan], white, age 2 years
  • Catherine Williams, black, age 23 years[2]

The only similarity between these two records is the presence of a Catherine/Catharine Williams in both households. Yet these are the same family. How do we know? By analysis and correlation of the information.

Look at the two records side-by-side:

  • Cornelia Hagan, white, age 27 years (1870) = Cornelia Waters, black, age 39 years (1880)
  • Caroline Hagan, white, age 11 years (1870) = Caroline Waters, black, age 20 years (1880)
  • Charles Hagan, white, age 5 years (1870) = Charles Waters, black, age 16 years (1880)
  • Augustus Hagan, white, age 4 years (1870) = Augustus Waters, black, age 14 years (1880)

Is this enough to prove the identity of this family? Not by itself. But we must continue to search for other records.

The most revealing is in the Baltimore city marriage records:

  • On 12 December 1878, “Wm. Waters,” age 39 years, colored, widower, married “Cornelia Hagan,” age 36 years, colored, widow, in Baltimore.[3]

These three records clearly confirm the identities of these families. Often, it is only through the correlation of multiple records that the identities of the subjects of records can be known with certainty.

If you are interested in throwing more trouble into the mix, take a look at the following record, from the 1860 U. S. Census:

  • Caroline Ridgeley, mulatto, age 51 years
  • Augustus [Ridgeley], mulatto, age 29 years
  • Cornelius [Ridgeley], mulatto, age 28 years
  • Arthur Harkins, mulatto, age 25 years
  • Caroline [Harkins], mulatto, age 5 months
  • Cornelius [Harkins], mulatto, age 22 years[4]

In this record, “Arthur Harkins” is actually “Otho Hagan” and “Cornelius Harkins” is his wife “Cornelia Hagan.” Their daughter Caroline, the only one expected to be alive at this point, appears as the infant “Caroline Harkins.”

Caroline Ridgely was Cornelia’s mother. In 1844, Victoire Vincendiere of Frederick County, Maryland, manumitted her 39-year-old slave Caroline and her 5-year-old daughter Cornelia.[5] In Victoire’s 1854 will she refers to her slave “coloured slave Augustus (son of Carolina whom I have heretofore manumitted).” She bequeaths Augustus to her nephew Enoch Louis Lowe, who was Governor of the state of Maryland from 1851 to 1854.[6] On 16 June 1857 E. Louis Lowe manumitted “mulatto man Slave Augustus (commonly Known as Augustus Ridgely) son of Carolina a free mulatto Woman he being the Same who was bequeathed to me in and by the last will and testament of Victoire Vincendiere.”[7]

This series of records provides the surname “Ridgely” to the family of the slave Caroline, and provides relationships between Caroline, Augustus, and Cornelia. If each record were considered in isolation, the history of this family could not be determined. However, by correlating information from all of the records, the astute researcher now has a history of the early life of Cornelia (Ridgely) Hagan Waters.

SOURCES:

[1] 1880 U. S. Census, Baltimore City, Maryland, population schedule, Part of 2nd Precinct, 13th Ward, enumeration district 114, page 19, dwelling 164, family 218, Wm Waters household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed Jul 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 501, FHL microfilm no. 1,254,501.

[2] 1870 U. S. Census, Baltimore City, Maryland, population schedule, Tenth Ward, Baltimore City post office, page 205, dwelling 1077, family 2160, Otho Hagan household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed May 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 575, FHL microfilm no. 552,074.

[3] Baltimore City Court of Common Pleas, Marriage Record IFR 6, ff. 552–553, Waters to Hagan (1878); MSA C214-6, MdHR 20,221-6; Maryland State Archives, Annapolis.

[4] 1860 U. S. Census, Baltimore City, Maryland, population schedule, 12th Ward, Baltimore City post office, page 27, dwelling 151, family 190, Caroline Ridgeley household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed Jun 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 463.

[5] Frederick County Court, Land Record HS 21, ff. 523–524, Vincendiere to Caroline (1844); digital images, Maryland State Archives, MDLandRec.NET (http://www.mdlandrec.net : accessed Jun 2011).

[6] Frederick County Register of Wills, Original Wills, Victoire Vincendiere (1854); MSA C900-24, MdHR 11,532-964; Maryland State Archives, Annapolis.

[7] Frederick County, Maryland, Land Record ES 10, f. 411, Lowe to Ridgely (1857); digital images, Maryland State Archives, MDLandRec.NET (http://www.mdlandrec.net : accessed Jun 2011).

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “Correlating information from multiple records,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 30 Nov 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

Who is this? Confirming the identity of a record’s subject

One of the most important—and most overlooked—forms of analysis that genealogists must perform is confirming the identity of the subject of the record.

Much has been stated about the difficulty of researching common names like Johnson, Smith, Jones, etc. Researchers must be careful, though, not to assume that the unusual name of their ancestor was unique to them, however. Some surnames seem unique to us but were common in that time and place. Even a unique combination of given name and surname could be common within a certain generation, and not as unique as it might seem to us. So you must be careful to confirm the identity of the subject of every record you locate.

In some cases, you will not be able to tell by looking at the record by itself. This is what the Genealogical Proof Standard means when it requires “correlation” of information. We must compare the information in one record to the information in other records.

Federal census records comprise the most popular record group in use by genealogists. For an ancestor who lived 80 years, he may appear in seven, possibly eight, separate census records. Finding these records is important, but it is also important to recognize and confirm the identity of the families in each household.

Census records allow one of the most useful techniques for confirming identity: using relationships with other people. I discussed this in an article originally published in the “National African American Genealogy” column on Examiner.comon 11 August 2009, Using ‘clusters’ to track your ancestors through multiple census years (part one).”

But how do you confirm identity in other records?

Most records contain more than just our ancestors’ names. Records may contain ages, occupations, street addresses or neighboring farm owners, names of their fathers (as in “Henry son of Aaron” or simply “John of Thomas”). You can often compare these other details from record to record in order to confirm identity.

The more records (and information) you obtain, the easier it becomes to confirm identity, specifically because of these details.

Take the following death certificate, for example:

[You can click on the image to see a larger image.]

There are a few details on this death certificate that will be useful for identification of this John A. Meagher in other records: name (of course), age, and address of residence. The name of the cemetery also suggests additional records for research.

Using this information we can easily find this John A. Meagher in the 1900 U. S. Census, where his household also contains his wife Mary C., and several sons and daughters.[1] Taking this further, we can find him again in the 1880 U. S. Census, where his household contains the same wife and children.[2] By comparing and correlating the information relating to John’s age (and corresponding implicit date of birth) among these three records with his street address as reported in 1900, the names of his wife and children between the two census records, etc., we are able to confirm that all three records relate to the same man.

We can take this research further by comparing other details–like the street address in 1880, the date of marriage in 1900, the date of death, etc.–with the details provided by still more records. Marriage records, probate records, land records, pre-1880 federal census records, etc., could all be consulted to gain additional information about John A. Meagher’s family.

Each of these records may also provide more details that would lead to more records, each of which may contain more details, etc. The process of confirming identity requires attention to detail, which in turn allows us to create full (and accurate!) profiles of our ancestors’ lives.

Are you taking the time to confirm the identity of the subject of every record you consult?

SOURCES:

[photo] Baltimore City Health Department, Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate no. B-37632 (1901), John A. Meagher; Maryland State Archives microfilm no. CR 48116.

[1] 1900 U. S. Census, Baltimore City, Maryland, population schedule, Ward 17, enumeration district (ED) 222, sheet 1B, dwelling 12, family 15, John Meagher household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed Mar 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 615.

[2] 1880 U. S. Census, Baltimore City, Maryland, population schedule, 1st precinct, 12th ward, enumeration district (ED) 104, page 21, dwelling 147, family 175, John Meagher household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed Mar 2011); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 501, FHL microfilm no. 1,254,501.

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “Who is this? Confirming the identity of a record’s subject,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 30 Nov 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

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