Archive for April, 2012

Analysis of the Elizabeth (Smith) Hait family history, 1938, part one

This post is part of an analysis of a manuscript family history written by my great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth (Smith) Hait, in 1938. See “Practicing what I preach…” for more information.

I received a photocopy of this handwritten, unpublished family history in 1998, from a first cousin of my grandfather. In this first part, I will describe the structure and content, and assess the origin and provenance of this manuscript. See “Five things you have to know about every record” for some of the analysis I will be conducting.

One of the first things that we should do, as genealogists, is determine what exactly we are looking at, on the surface.

The manuscript is a photocopy of an original, handwritten narrative. The photocopy clearly shows the edges of the pages on which it was originally written, and additional notes and pagination appears outside the bounds of the original pages.

The first page is dated “May 1938,” and a note in the top margin states, “Written by Elizabeth Nancy Hait, Our mother (Kenneth B. Hait) May 24, 1971.” This marginalia directly states both the author of the manuscript history, and the identity of the person who made the copy, as well as dates for both events.

Who were these individuals?

Elizabeth Nancy (Smith) Hait appears in the 1900 U. S. Census in Brookhaven Township, Suffolk County, New York–the mother of Chester M., George E., Marion, Frank F., Myron, and Kenneth B. Hait.[1] Internal evidence confirms this identification.

According to my source [name withheld for privacy reasons], she received the family history from her father, Frank Smith Hait, the son of Elizabeth and brother of Kenneth. Frank had received it from his brother Kenneth, who sent a copy to each of his six then-living brothers. This story was later confirmed by another cousin, who had received a copy independently from her grandfather, another of the brothers.

(Presumably, my own great-grandfather should have also received a copy of this family history, but it appears that he either did not receive it or did not keep his copy. Though he died when I was only a year old, his wife–my great-grandmother–was very helpful to me in the beginning of my budding genealogy career when I was 8 or 9 years old. She sent me copies of stories and notes about our family. When she died, my grandmother was able to “rescue” innumerable family history scrapbooks and notebooks spanning back several generations. But this family history was not among these papers.)

Kenneth Blaisdell Hait, the son of Elizabeth, died in Lafayette, Louisiana, in September 1980.[2] He was a professor of psychology at the University of Louisiana from 1938 until his retirement in May 1968.[3]

In summary, the provenance of the manuscript is likely as follows:

  • Written by Elizabeth Nancy (Smith) Hait, May 1938
  • Photocopied and distributed to [among others] Frank Smith Hait, by Kenneth B. Hait, son of Elizabeth and brother of Frank, ca. May 1971
  • Copy provided by Frank to his daughter [name withheld], unknown date
  • Photocopy provided by [name withheld] to this researcher, ca. 1998
The organization and structure of the manuscript
The family history is fairly well-organized.
The first seven pages (paginated in the margin as 1-7) are headed “The Smith family of Long Island called the Bull Smiths.”
The next eleven pages (paginated as 8-18) are headed “The Finlayson family.”
Three pages (19-21) are headed “The Hait family.” This section also notes “This is the story as Mother Hait told me. E. N. Hait.”
The next section of two pages (22-23) is headed “The other version of the Hait or Hoyt family.”
The final page (24) is headed “The Van Inwegen family” and notes “What I am writing I heard from Mother Hait who was Annie Van Inwegen.”
The entire manuscript is a family history narrative.

Was Elizabeth, the author, a reliable source for information?

Elizabeth was born ca. 1864 (see note [1]), so she was about seventy-four years old when she wrote this history. Yet the handwriting of the family history is steady, evidence that she probably still maintained her mental facilities at the time of this writing.

Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth (Finlayson) Smith Terry probably served as the source for some of the information Elizabeth reported in the family history. Elizabeth Hait and Elizabeth Terry lived together for over twenty years in adulthood, from at least 1910[2] until Elizabeth Terry’s death in 1932.[3] This afforded much time for the two women, in their elder years, to discuss the family history reported here.

Elizabeth’s mother-in-law, Annie (Van Inwegen) Hait, also likely served as the informant for much of the family history in the Hait and Van Inwegen sections. In fact, Elizabeth specifically cited Annie as the source, as noted already above, with the statements “”This is the story as Mother Hait told me,” and “What I am writing I heard from Mother Hait who was Annie Van Inwegen.”

The manuscript also clearly refers to family papers then in the possession of Elizabeth Hait. Though the citations are not up to Evidence Explained standards of format, the identification of these sources provides reference to original records.

As will be seen, however, much of the history written in this manuscript involved Elizabeth Hait herself, and, as a participant in the events, she was able to provide primary information in her own right.

The citation

What everyone is waiting for:

Elizabeth Nancy (Smith) Hait, untitled family history, dated May 1938; copy by Kenneth Blaisdell Hait, dated 24 May 1971; photocopy provided by [name withheld, address withheld], currently in the possession of Michael Hait, Harrington, Delaware.

One aspect of the citation that should be explained, as it often causes confusion: though various sections bear headings, the manuscript as a whole does not have a title. In the above citation I have not chosen to create a title for this manuscript. However, it is acceptable to create a title for unpublished works, so long as you do not italicize this created title, nor enclose it in quotation marks. Italics and quotation marks generally designate existent titles, so these should not be used where no title exists in the original.


[1] 1900 U. S. Census, Suffolk County, New York, population schedule, Brookhaven Township, enumeration district (ED) 749, sheet 3B, dwelling 65, family 66, Elizebeth Hait household; digital images, ( : accessed 29 April 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 749, FHL microfilm no. 1,241,165.

[2] “Social Security Death Index,” online database, ( : accessed 29 April 2012), entry for Kenneth Hait, SS no. 434-54-1670.

[3] “[Psychology] Department History,” University of Louisiana Lafayette ( : accessed 29 April 2012).

[4] 1910 U. S. Census, Suffolk County, New York, population schedule, Brookhaven Town, enumeration district (ED) 1354, page 224 (stamped), sheet 4A, dwelling 77, family 78, Elizabeth Hait household; digital images, ( : accessed 29 April 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1081, FHL microfilm no. 1,375,094.

[5] Find A Grave, online database ( : accessed 29 April 2012), Elizabeth M. Smith, memorial no. 33496464, Brooksville Cemetery (Brooksville, Hernando County, Florida). It is unknown why Elizabeth M. (Finlayson) Smith Terry’s tombstone does not contain her surname from her second marriage; however, this gravestone lies next to that of her daughter Elizabeth N. (Smith) Hait, and the design is identical, one bearing the word “Mother” and the other the word “Daughter,” so the identification is certain.




Notable Genealogy Blog Posts, 15 April 2012

The following recent blog posts are those that I consider important or notable. Unlike other similar blog lists, I cannot guarantee that they will all be from the past week. (Some weeks I simply do not have time to read any blogs.) But I will try to write this on a fairly regular basis.

Kimberly Powell, “Citations Explained – A Don’t Miss Resource For All Genealogists,” Genealogy blog, posted 3 April 2012 ( : accessed 6 April 2012).

Jay Fonkert, CG, “Sources and Cargo Ships,” Four Generation Genealogy blog, posted 9 April 2012 ( : accessed 11 April 2012). Jay uses a perfect metaphor to distinguish between sources and information.

The APG Young Professional Award


11 April 2012

(APG) Now Accepting Applications for APG Young Professional Award

APG to Honor Student with Strong Interest in Developing a Career in Genealogy

WESTMINSTER, Colo., 11 April 2012 The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG®) is now accepting applications for the APG Young Professional Award. The award goes to a student with a significant interest in genealogy and with a strong interest in developing a professional career in genealogy. The award includes a scholarship registration for the APG Professional Management Conference (PMC) and a stipend of up to $500 towards travel and lodging at the conference. The winner will be announced in August 2012 for attendance at the APG PMC 2013, which will take place in Salt Lake City on 20 March 2013.

“We are excited to offer this award to an up-and-coming professional,” said Kenyatta D. Berry, APG President. “Our Professional Management Conference provides an excellent opportunity for the winner to learn more about the profession. We look forward to receiving many applications.”

APG Youth Awards Eligibility and Application Details

Eligible applicants are between the ages of 18 and 25, enrolled as a high school senior or undergraduate, post-graduate, or recent graduate of an accredited college or university and have at least a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale (or equivalent).

Applications should contain the following: name; address; main contact phone number; email address; school name; school address; GPA; list of extracurricular activities (including student organizations and volunteer activities); a letter of recommendation from a dean, principal, or faculty advisor that also indicates the applicant’s current grade standing or transcript; a letter of recommendation from an individual who has witnessed the applicant’s interest in genealogy; and short answers (500 to 750 words) to two questions. The questions are:

1) Discuss a specific record collection that has significantly changed the course of your family history, or research strategy along with the pros and cons of that record source, and how you used it to resolve a genealogical problem.

2) What do you envision a genealogical career will encompass in the year 2025 and how do you see yourself involved then?

See for the application. Applications should be submitted to the APG office by 1 June 2012. Send applications to APG Executive Director Kathleen W. Hinckley, CG, at .

About the APG

The Association of Professional Genealogists (, established in 1979, represents more than 2,400 genealogists, librarians, writers, editors, historians, instructors, booksellers, publishers and others involved in genealogy-related businesses. APG encourages genealogical excellence, ethical practice, mentoring and education. The organization also supports the preservation and accessibility of records useful to the fields of genealogy and history. Its members represent all fifty states, Canada, and thirty other countries. APG is active on LinkedIn, Twitter ( and FaceBook (


APG is a registered trademark of the Association of Professional Genealogists. All other trade and service marks are property of their respective owners.

Media Contacts:

Kathleen W. Hinckley, CG

Executive Director

Association of Professional Genealogists

P.O. Box 350998, Westminster, CO 80035-0998

phone: 303-422-9371, fax: +1 303-456-8825

Corey Oiesen

Communications Officer

Association of Professional Genealogists

Assessing the reliability of a statement

Several weeks ago, the following question was posed on the APG Members mailing list:

I need to get an idea of whether people think that a statement (follows) in a letter can be reliably accepted as proof of relationship.

Belle (Skinner) Capwell wrote a letter in 1930 to Kate Black, saying, “Sally Goodrich Cheney [Kate’s great-grandmother] was a sister of my grandmother Betsy Goodrich Skinner.” Betsy (Goodrich) Skinner died in 1876, when Belle (Skinner) Capwell was 14; Belle’s father, Daniel Skinner, died in 1881. So Belle might very well have gotten this relationship information firsthand from her grandmother or father. The Cheney family had moved to Illinois before Belle was born, so she might not have known them, unless they came back to NY for a visit.

The Goodrich/Goodridge genealogy by Edwin Alonzo Goodridge included Betsy (and Sally?)’s father, Edmund Goodrich/Goodridge, but Sally was apparently born after the family moved to NY from Newbury, MA, and the list of children in the genealogy includes only the three born in Newbury. I’ve been trying to locate records in Chautauqua Co., NY, where Edmund died, that might tie him to Sally, but so far have had no luck (he lived with Daniel Skinner at his death, and there is no probate file).

I do still need to investigate deeds for him in Chautauqua Co., but in the meantime, I want to get an idea (Elizabeth?) of whether a genealogical journal editor would accept that statement in the letter as proof. Belle wrote the letter to Kate because Belle wanted to join the DAR and was hoping that Kate might have info about the Goodrich family that might lead her to Revolutionary War ancestors.[1]

This researcher has raised a very important issue in evidence analysis by genealogists. How do we assess the reliability of this statement? For that matter, how do we assess the reliability of any statement in any record?

Here are the first questions that I ask myself when assessing any statement:

  • Who made the statement?
  • Who did they make the statement to?
  • Why did they make the statement?
  • What was the informant’s knowledge of the event being reported?
  • Did any reason exist for the informant to deliberately make a false statement?

In this example, the researcher had already identified the responses to most of these questions. Sometimes analysis does come down to asking yourself specific questions and formulating specific answers.

First, let’s clearly delineate the statement being evaluated: “Sally Goodrich Cheney [Kate’s great-grandmother] was a sister of my grandmother Betsy Goodrich Skinner.”

This statement provides evidence of a sibling relationship between Sally (Goodrich) Cheney and Betsy (Goodrich) Skinner. Our objective is to evaluate the reliability of this evidence.

Who made the statement? The statement was made by Belle (Skinner) Capwell, granddaughter of Betsy (Goodrich) Skinner.

Who did they make the statement to? The statement was made to Kate Black, great-granddaughter of Sally (Goodrich) Cheney.

Why did they make the statement? Belle was contacting Kate, her first cousin once removed, for information about their mutual Goodrich family. We do not know whether Belle and Kate knew each other. However, the structure of the sentence explicitly expressing the relationship between Belle’s grandmother and Kate’s great-grandmother implies that Kate did not know Belle personally, but that Kate may have known her great-grandmother Sally. Belle’s appeal was through the relationship that Belle’s grandmother had with Kate’s great-grandmother, rather than through a direct association.

The more specific response to this question is that Belle made the statement in pursuit of her goal to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, a lineage society. Though the proof standards required by the DAR in 1930 were far shy of those required by the DAR today (and even further shy of what the BCG might require), there is still the assumption that, by contacting more distant family members, she was striving for a certain level of accuracy. (Remember these were the days before the Family History Library and the Internet, before even the WPA and their work with historic records, when many records were not yet centralized in state repositories but held in private hands or spread out among various courthouse attics and basements. Research was different then.)

What was the informant’s knowledge of the event being reported? This question is vital, but the answer is much more complicated than you might initially believe. One might immediately think, “Belle was not present at her grandmother’s birth, so her knowledge has to be secondary.” But take a look at the statement we are evaluating: this is a direct statement about the relationship, not about the birth. Could Belle have had direct knowledge that Sally and Betsy were sisters? To answer this, we have to look at the relationship between Belle and her grandmother Betsy.

The researcher had obviously already taken this into consideration: “Betsy (Goodrich) Skinner died in 1876, when Belle (Skinner) Capwell was 14; Belle’s father, Daniel Skinner, died in 1881. So Belle might very well have gotten this relationship information firsthand from her grandmother or father. The Cheney family had moved to Illinois before Belle was born, so she might not have known them, unless they came back to NY for a visit.” This shows that Belle almost certainly knew her grandmother for the first 14 years of her life. We do not know (from the limited information provided) how old Belle was when she wrote the letter, though this could affect the reliability somewhat.

So, as the researcher here noted herself, Belle could have learned of the relationship from her grandmother. Imagine Betsy sitting there talking to her granddaughter, mentioning “my sister Sally.”

It is not entirely unlikely, either, that Belle had met her grandmother’s sister in person. Migrant family members often returned to visit the family left behind. Illinois was not too far from New York. So the possibility definitely exists that Belle had met Sally.

Did any reason exist for the informant to deliberately make a false statement? Regardless of whether or not Belle and Kate knew each other, the bottom line is that they were part of an extended family. The letter was an inquiry about their family history. While the potential for bias existed in Belle’s desire to join the Daughters of American Revolution, this potential bias would most likely manifest itself in the lineage application itself. It would not likely apply to a statement in a private letter from one “cousin” to another, inquiring about their mutual family.

So, after asking ourselves just these first few questions, it becomes apparent that Belle was likely stating the truth of Sally and Betsy’s relationship as she understood it, and that she was in a position to have had personal knowledge of this relationship.

In other words, the statement of the relationship is probably highly reliable.

The next step in assessing the reliability of a statement, after examining the context of the statement itself, as demonstrated here, is to compare this information with that provided by other records. Yet the information provided by each of these records must itself be assessed internally, in the way discussed here, before it can be compared effectively with other records. When contradictory evidence is discovered, researchers must consider how reliable the conflicting statements are in determining which is most likely to be accurate.


[1] Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer (email reserved for private use), e-mail, “Assessment of reliability of a statement in a letter,” to APG Members Mailing List, 9 March 2012. Reprinted with permission of author.

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “Assessing the reliability of a statement,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 9 April 2012 ( : 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.]

Practicing what I preach…

The full title of this blog is Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession. My original goal in establishing this blog was to create a forum in which I could discuss professional-level genealogy. I wanted to write about issues that face professional and “transitional” genealogists–business issues, as well as advanced skills and methodology.

For the most part, I feel that I have succeeded in this goal. Yet I also recognize that many of my readers are not professional genealogists and read to learn about how to research their own families more effectively.

Lately I have been thinking about my audience, and it makes me miss researching my own family. Self-employment does not afford much time for hobbies, which stings all the more when you are employed doing your hobby. I have not had the time or energy to research my own family extensively for a few years.

So I have resolved to kill two birds with one stone, and practice what I preach. I will apply the research skills and methodology that I discuss on this blog to aspects of my own family history.

My first endeavor will be to evaluate a manuscript family history written by my great-great-grandmother in 1938, using the principles of the Genealogical Proof Standard. These posts may be sporadic as I have time to accomplish them.

I am looking forward to spending some time going back over my research from years ago, and applying the knowledge and experience that I now have. I hope that you will enjoy reading them…

Citing the 1940 U. S. Census digital images

You might notice that I have been relatively quiet about the 1940 census release. Nearly every aspect of accessing and indexing the 1940 U. S. Census–released yesterday, 2 April 2012–has been covered extensively.

Now that the images are available, no doubt genealogists around the United States (and probably at least a few other countries) are diving in and looking for their families. So what do you cite once you have found them?

Because images are not yet completely available for all states through every host (and the NARA host site is running particularly slow this morning), I will use the example of a family in Delaware, the only state currently (as of the time of this writing) available on both FamilySearch and For this example I am using the image on FamilySearch, but I will address citing the same record on other sites.

I am not personally researching this family, for either myself or any of my clients. I picked it at random from a family then living in the town where I now live. I did also pick this particular household because it lands on line 29, so the supplementary questions also apply.

First, here is the full citation (in Reference Note format):

1940 U. S. Census, Kent County, Delaware, population schedule, 6th Representative District, Harrington City, enumeration district (ED) 1-23, page 247 (stamped), sheet 4A, dwelling 88, G. B. Colman household; digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 2 April 2012).

Citing a federal census begins with the most general element and moves toward the most specific. In the above example, we start with the record itself (the 1940 Census). The census is organized by county and state, so this is the next element. Then we have the specific schedule we are using. These elements at the beginning are those used by the National Archives in their organization of the census record, so they are key in identifying the specific record.

At the top of each census page are two fields labeled “Township or other division of county” and “Incorporated place.” These divisions must also be noted within the citation. Then we add the enumeration district (ED) number.

Each “sheet” is identified, with either “A” or “B,” but the “A” pages also contain a stamped page number. Both of these should be included where applicable. On the “B” pages, no stamped page number appears, so none need be included in the citation.

One difference between this 1940 census and previous enumerations back to 1850 is that–rather than including two identifying “dwelling” and “family” numbers–this enumeration only identifies households by a single “household” (or “dwelling”) number. We then identify the head of household (or a specific individual within the household) that we are examining.

Note that we have gone from the most general element to the most specific–from the year down to the specific individual.

Next we must include information on the repository holding the records. We separate this section with a semicolon, to show that it is a separate clause.

We first identify that we are using digital images. The 1940 Census, to my knowledge, is not being microfilmed but is only available via the digital images on various websites.

In this case I used the images on FamilySearch, so my citation reflects this fact. We must include the author of the website, the title of the website, the URL, and the date we accessed the record. The same format would be used whether we used the images on, or the National Archives and Records Administration’s official 1940 Census site.

In many of these cases, the title of the website is the same as the name of the corporate entity that publishes the website. In these cases, there is no need to repeat the name. For example, we do not have to cite the site as, ( […]

but we do have to cite the NARA site as

National Archives and Records Administration, 1940 Census ( […]

I hope that everyone is having a great time looking for their family members in 1940!

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “Citing the 1940 U. S. Census digital images,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 3 April 2012 ( : 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.]

Free webinar tomorrow: “The Pursuit from Genealogy Hobbyist to Professional”

Tomorrow afternoon, 4 April 2012, Legacy Family Tree will be presenting a free webinar entitled, “The Pursuit from Genealogy Hobbyist to Professional,” featuring John M. Kitzmiller, II, AG and Claire V. Brison-Banks, AG.

According to Legacy’s website,

Several terms are applied to individuals that are interested in their ancestors. Those who are fascinated by the story but not really interested in the data could be termed amateurs. Moving up a rung on the ladder would be the hobbyists, who gather photos, letters and family memorabilia to share with others. They quite often are members of societies, are familiar with local history, and help others to find their ancestors. This group is quite underestimated, in that many have self-taught expertise and are quite knowledgeable. However, most of them do not charge money for their assistance. The next step is to operate at the “professional” level, which requires perspective, attitude, methods, process, and some business skills. This webinar will discuss various ways to make that transition. Join John M. Kitzmiller, II, AG and Claire V. Brison-Banks, AG for this special webinar, sponsored by the The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen).

For more information, and to register for the free webinar, visit

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