Dealing with Death Certificates

I love death certificates.  I sort of collect death certificates, well, at least for family history purposes.  They’re a wealth of information – and some of it is good!

Like all documents, the information contained on a death certificate is only as good as the informant. If the informant knows the correct dates, names or spellings, the document MAY be correct IF the document transcriber records it correctly.  As I wrote in an earlier post, good genealogists are good skeptics.

What can we learn about our ancestors from their death certificates?  What is the most valuable information found in these documents?  How should we approach them?  What cautions should we consider?

Consider the certificates of three brothers, three of my great grand uncles.

William F. Ashlock died 12 October 1922 in Wise County, Texas.  These facts and the cause of death are the most reliable facts on a death certificate.  Why?  Because they are the facts provided by an attending physician who is aware of the date, time and place of this event.  This information is found on the right side of the three samples we see here. We look here at only the left side of these samples.

1922 Ashlock, William F. Death Certificate

  • Place of death:  Decatur, Wise County, Texas
  • Name:  William F. Ashlock
  • Sex:  Male
  • Race:  White
  • Marital Status:  Widower
  • Date of birth:  March 18, 1837
  • Age:  85 yrs. 7 mo. 25 days
  • Occupation:  Farmer
  • Birthplace:  Illinois
  • Name of Father:  Joe Ashlock
  • Father’s birthplace:  Kentucky
  • Name of Mother:  Miss Elizabeth Norman
  • Mother’s birthplace:  Kentucky
  • Informant:  W. H. Ashlock
  • Address:  Decatur, Texas
  • File date and official who filed it:  November 6, 1922 by Carla Faith

Joshua Middleton Ashlock died 17 March 1923 in Wizard Wells, Jack County, Texas.

  • 1923 Ashlock, Joshua M. Death CertificatePlace of death:  Wizard Wells, Jack County, Texas.
  • Sex:  Male
  • Race:  White
  • Marital Status:  Married
  • Birth date:  March 27, 1848
  • Age at death:  74 yrs 11 mo 19 days
  • Occupation:  Farmer and Carpenter
  • Place of birth:  Dallas County, Texas
  • Father’s name:  Josiah Ashlock
  • Father’s birthplace:  Illinois
  • Mother’s name:  Elizabeth Nobles
  • Mother’s birthplace:  Illinois
  • Informant:  Mrs. Dora Crabb of Jean, Texas
  • Information recorded by Hattie E. Worley (I think.) on March 28, 1923

James Wesley Ashlock died July 23, 1936 in Wise County, Texas.

  • 1936 Ashlock, J Wesley death certificatePlace of death:  Wise County, Texas
  • Sex:  Male
  • Race:  White
  • Marital Status:  Married
  • Date of birth:  July 31, 1850
  • Age at death:  85 yrs 11 mo 22 days
  • Occupation:  Farmer, Retired
  • Date he last worked:  Dec. 1926
  • Years he worked at this occupation:  50
  • Birthplace:  Dallas, Texas
  • Father’s name:  Josiah Ashlock
  • Father’s birthplace:  Unknown
  • Mother’s name:  Elizabeth Norman
  • Mother’s birthplace:  Unknown
  • Informant:  G. C. Ashlock
  • Burial place and date:  Anneville Cemetery on July 24, 1936
  • Undertaker:  O.L. Christian of Decatur, Texas.
  • Filed July 28, 1936 by J.A. Chandler

Josiah Ashlock was born in 1814 in Anderson County, Tennessee.  He married my great, great grandmother Elizabeth Norman in Greene County Illinois in 1833.  She was born in Kentucky.  They began their family in 1834 with the birth of their daughter Nancy.  Their oldest son William F. arrived in 1837 followed by two daughters and a son. They arrived in Texas in about 1844 as part of the Peters Colony and settled on land along both sides of the Denton and Dallas County lines.  The original grant would be mostly north of the President George Bush Freeway east of where it intersects with with Stemmons Freeway (I – 35).  Joshua Middleton was the first of this Ashlock family to be born in Texas in 1849.  His younger brother James Wesley was born in July of 1850 also in Dallas County.  Josiah would die around 1852.  Elizabeth Norman Ashlock married my great, great grandfather Stephen Riggs.  He also had Peters Colony land surveyed in southeastern Denton County.  His first wife had died sometime before 1850.  My great grandmother Rachel Marinda Riggs would be born in Denton County in 1855.

So how did our three death certificate informants do at the death of these three Ashlock brothers?

The informant for William F. Ashlock was W. H. Ashlock.  I’m not sure who he was.  He may be a son or a grandson.  He knows his family.  He gets William’s birth date, birthplace, mother’s name and birthplace all correct.  He names William’s dad as “Joe” Ashlock.  While I can understand the 1820’s use of this name, I doubt I’ll ever find it in any official documents related to Josiah Ashlock.  He missed the place of William’s father’s birth.  All-in-all it’s not a bad performance.

The informant for Joshua M. Ashlock was Dora Crabb.  I’m not sure who she was. She gets Joshua’s name, place of birth, and father’s name correct.  She misses by one year the correct birth date.  She is also incorrect about Joshua’s father and mother’s birthplaces.  She also gives the wrong maiden name for Elizabeth.  This might confuse a well intended family historian.

The informant  for James Wesley was his son G.C. Ashlock (That’s Grover Cleveland).  He’s right about his father’s birth date, birthplace and name.  He gets his mother’s name correct.  He doesn’t know his father or his mother’s birthplace and he doesn’t guess.  He doesn’t know everything but he won’t confuse you with what he doesn’t know.

What do we learn from these death certificate examples and how we can use death certificates in our genealogy research?

  1. Death certificates are very reliable for the date and cause of death.  I will take this date of death over what is on a headstone or in a family bible.  Why?  Think about it.  Use the comment section.
  2. If the date on a death index is different from a death certificate, I’ll give more weight to the certificate.
  3. The information on any document is only as good as the informant and as reliable as the transcriber.  I like the information from an attending physician and treat everything else with less weight.
  4. What do we do with the other information on a death certificate?  Use it to corroborate other information you have.  Use it as clues on where to research next.

I love death certificates and what they provide family researchers!  I’m just a little skeptical and you should be as well.

Happy Hunting!

Samuel Byrd and the Texas Taxman

You can learn a lot from tax records.  Consider Samuel Byrd.

This Samuel Byrd was born in Tennessee on April 14, 1814.  He was the son of David Byrd and Jane Morehead.  His grandparents were Richard and Elizabeth Buster Byrd.  He (this Samuel Byrd) is one of my great, great grandfathers.  I say “this” Samuel Byrd because he’s often confused with his son Samuel Zedock Byrd (1852 – 1938) by people building online trees.  We know much about this son.  I visited his and his second wife’s grave a few weeks ago in Collin County, Texas.  I also, quite by accident, came across his first wife’s grave in a Hunt County, Texas cemetery while looking for another great, great grandfather.  His death certificate records his name as S.Z. Byrd.  There’s a good article about him and his family in a book on Collin County families.   (Collin County Texas Families, Alice Ellison Pitts and Minnie Pitts Champ; Cutis Media, Hurst, Texas; pages 69, 70.)  The article was written by Bryan Vicars, a proud family descendant.  I can’t prove some of the statements in the article (In fact, I can disprove some and doubt others.), but I do know “this” is Samuel Zedock Byrd, the son of my great, great grandfather Samuel Byrd.

I’m very interested in “my” Samuel Byrd.  I know so little about him.  I know more about his wife Elizabeth Horn Byrd.  I know a lot more about his other children.  I’ve spent considerable time trying to know him yet he remains distant and illusive to me.

Some say Samuel Byrd migrated to Texas in the middle 1850’s.  Someone reported on Find a Grave that he died September 11, 1857 and is buried in historic Pecan Grove Cemetery in McKinney, Texas.  I cannot confirm either of those statements.  The cemetery association was “officially” formed in or after 1870.  It is believed however that people have been buried in those grounds since the 1850’s.  According to land records, the land was originally owned by the McFarland and then fairly soon purchased by the Davis Family.  Both of these families previously lived in Wilson County, Tennessee before migrating to Texas.  It is believed by some that both Jeremiah and Elizabeth Horn were born in Wilson County.  Could their families, the Horns, McFarlands and Davis’s, known each other in Tennessee?

I know my great, great grandmother Elizabeth is buried in Pecan Grove.  I know her second husband Thomas Rodman is buried beside her.  I once thought my 2 x great grandfather Samuel was buried there in a vacant space on the other side of Elizabeth.  I no longer do.  Here are some reasons.

  • There is no record of his burial there. He is not in any plot records including the hand written originals in the cemetery’s safe.
  • The cemetery personnel believe someone may be buried in that vacant space but have no way of knowing who. It’s not in the records.  The plot is actually still for sale.  I give more weight to Samuel and Elizabeth’s six year old son Jeremiah David Byrd being buried there in 1861 and may explain Elizabeth’s decision to return here to bury her second husband and later have her children bury her there.  The name on those occupied plot deeds is Elizabeth Rodman dated from the 1870s.  She only purchased 2 plots when she certainly could have afforded 3 and a headstone for her first husband.  (BTW, my “abt” and “aft” date of 1855 for Samuel’s death date on my family tree is based on Jeremiah David’s 1855 birth date.
  • There are no records of any kind for “this” Samuel Byrd in the State of Texas.   No census.  No probate.  No obituaries.  No bank records.  No land records.  No tax records.  There is nothing you would expect from a man settling in to a new place…or dying!  And, I can find some or all of these for Elizabeth and her children in Texas beginning in 1860.

Death and taxes are the two certain things in life.  The tax man always cometh.  When I thought about this, I decided to firm up my suppositions with “negative proof”.  I would need to show myself there is no evidence “my’ Samuel Byrd ever arrived in Texas –  tax records.  Samuel Byrd was never to my knowledge, and I searched four likely counties, charged a tax in Texas. That means no taxes for land, occupation, income, etc.  None.

But, here’s something interesting.  I began tracking Samuel’s father-in-law Jeremiah Horn and his sons George and John’s tax records.  They began paying taxes in 1846 in Collin County and continued to pay taxes through 1857.  These included taxes on their wagons and we know they were teamsters and had a freight business.  Then in 1858, I lost them and did not pick them up again until 1860.  Why?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it was an oversight on my part.  But it wasn’t just Jeremiah, it was Jeremiah and George and John.  All three owned original survey land in Collin County.

OK, I don’t know what happened.

Here’s something I know.  In the 1860 Federal Census, Elizabeth and her children are living in Collin County near the Lebanon Post Office.  She is the head of her household and works as a weaver.  The community of Lebanon was named after Lebanon, Tennessee the previous home of many of the early settlers in this part of Collin County.  That’s Lebanon in Wilson County, Tennessee.  She lived about nine miles south of her father’s home place and about five miles west of another property once surveyed for him.  She was about nine miles north of her “missing” husband’s cousin James Byrd in north Dallas County and about eleven miles east of her son Pleasant Wesley’s future wife’s family in Denton County.

What if Samuel Byrd, yes “that” one, died in Alabama?  What if the Horns made the trip to where Elizabeth was living in order to help her, her five girls and young sons, finish crops, sale land, pack up and make the move to Texas in 1859?

I don’t know.  I really don’t.  I’m open to new documented evidence.  But here’s what I know so far…the Texas taxman never came for Samuel Byrd, but death did.


Have you ever used tax records in your family history research?  Interested?

Check out Susan Jackman’s great article on using taxes in your genealogical research.

http://www.archives.com/experts/jackman-susan/tax-records-in-genealogical-research.html

Tip # 7: How to Use Other Family Trees

Online family trees can be a blessing or a curse in your family research.

They are a curse if you…

  • Dismiss them as having no value to your research
  • Take them as “gospel” truth without question
  • Use their information without confirming its accuracy
  • Copy them to just fill in the blanks on your family tree

They are a blessing if you…

  • Use them as clues providing direction to your research
  • Ask, “Can I confirm or disprove these statements?”
  • Use them as affirmation when they agree with your completed research.
  • Connect you with other researchers interested in your family line

When I began researching my Byrd family, I met a 1st cousin I didn’t know.  Harold invited me to view his family tree on Ancestry and it has served as an invaluable guide in my Byrd family research.  Thanks Harold Byrd!  Some of the most exhaustive work done on our Byrd family has been done by Randall Byrd.  Much of his work was done in the difficult old fashion ways of the past.  Thanks Randall!

How you use family trees built by others is entirely up to you.  Keep this in mind.  Your decision will be a blessing or a curse to your family research.

Tip #5: Good Genealogists Are Skeptics

Good Monday morning!  Here’s your Backtracking the Common tip for today.  Enjoy!

All good genealogists are skeptics. They have to be. Grandpa Jones “improved” the family’s history. Aunt Sally miss-remembered. Aunt Polly covered up the date of a child’s birth to better match a wedding date. Paw Paw embellished his military record. And the beat goes on. The wrong information was recorded on records at the local, state and/or federal levels. Names are misspelled. Handwritten copies are inaccurate copies. Census takers wrote it down wrong. Informants on census records told it wrong. Informants on death records didn’t know the correct answer. How could they possibly provide it? And the beat goes on…

“I read it on the internet. It must be true.” That’s supposed to be a joke and everyone’s supposed to already know it. But I see many new (and some not so new) would be genealogists/family historians who don’t seem to get it. It’s as if we want to control the narrative of our family’s history instead of uncovering, recording, and reporting it.

To be a good genealogist we have to be truth seekers. We know we’re not bound by the past, so we’re not afraid to reveal it. We may not want to repeat it, but we look for tactful, compassionate ways to tell the true family story. We have to decide. Do we want to be myth tellers or historians?

Good genealogists are skeptics.
Collect all of the family stories you can. Be respectful of family members but be skeptical. The facts have to support the stories or they’re only stories.
• In your skepticism, remember, some stories will prove to be completely accurate and almost all stories have clues in them you need to follow.
Don’t be afraid of conflicting information. Determine to know the truth.
• Use multiple sources and work toward a preponderance of evidence.
• Once you have settled the issue in your own mind, be prepared to change it. Be open to reconsidering old and new facts.
Don’t “break up” with others over a difference of opinion.

Happy hunting!

Doing Genealogical Research in North Texas: a surprise, the status quo and a gem

If you have family or research family history in North Texas, this blog post is for you.  These resources will make your research more productive.

Dee and I recently used the genealogical sections of three North Texas libraries.  One was a surprise, one was status quo in our experience and the third one was a gem.  Here’s our report with some basic information on these resources plus tips for researching any library in any place.

The Surprise

We were in McWright Cemetery in Hunt County, Texas looking for the final resting ground of my 2 x great grandfather William Henry Price.  Three of us were looking (including my sister Debbie from Collin County), but we could not find him.  It’s a large cemetery and has been in use since the 1800’s.  It’s possible his burial marker had been destroyed by time.   I wondered and then hoped someone had recorded the graves earlier before there was a Find A Grave.  That’s when a car pulled into the cemetery occupied by two elderly sisters.  They had lived near the cemetery all their lives, but they could not recall the Price name.  They did remember there was a book in the Greenville library with a listing of all of the graves in the cemetery at the time the book was published and suggested we look in that book for William Henry Price.

W. Walworth Harrison Public Library   

#1 Lou Finney LaneW. Walworth Harrison Library

Greenville, Texas 75401

Hunt County

903-457-2992

Hours:  Monday – Wednesday, 10am – 6pm, Thursdays, 12 pm – 8pm and closed Sundays.

I was surprised by such a large, modern facility in such a small place.  I was also surprised by the generous genealogical holdings secluded in their own room.  The library has a public break area with vending machines, very nice for long hours of research.  The staff on duty this day did not seem particularly knowledgeable in the field of genealogy and appeared to be pre-occupied with preparing to watch basketball on the computer. So, be prepared.  You may have to provide for yourself. (see below).   We found the book our good Samaritans told us about but did not find William Henry in it.  We did however find several other useful facts about other family members.  If you’re researching family in Hunt County, you’ll want to visit this facility.

The Status Quo

We were looking for old Collin County, Texas tax records.  When I say old, I mean from the beginning of the county (1846).  I was looking for evidence my 2 x great grand father Samuel Byrd made it to Texas before his death.   I was pleased to discover the microfilm of the earliest tax records was available in McKinney near my family’s residences.   It would not be necessary (as we had been told by the county officials) to travel to the library at the University of Texas at Arlington.  (BTW, I found no evidence that day or any other day that Samuel Byrd made it alive to Texas in spite of what someone posted on the Find A Grave website.)

Roy & Helen Hall Memorial Library

101 East Hunt St.

McKinney, Texas 75069

Collin County

972-547-7323

Hours:  Mon.-Thu: 10 am – 9 pm, Fri.-Sat.: 10 am – 6 pm, Sun.: 1 – 5 pm

This library is modern and spacious, pleasing to the eye.  The genealogical section is good on Collin County and fair on the surrounding counties.  There is, as there is in most Texas libraries’ genealogical sections, as smattering of books on the states from which Texas settlers came.  The second floor space is shared by an open computer room where it appears mostly young adults are checking Facebook and playing computer games.  There has been an attempt to tuck the research tables back into a corner away from distractions.  This provides a place for others to talk and text away from the crowd.  The staff from which we requested assistance did not come across as knowledgeable of their genealogical holdings or how to operate the microfilm viewers.  It was a fairly standard experience and thus the term “status quo”.

The Gem

And then you find that special place with special people.  I’m talking about the Haggard Library in Plano, Texas.  I speak specifically of the basement in this library and the people who work there.  The basement?  Sounds rather dark and damp.  I assure you it’s neither.

Haggard Center emblem
Click for more details

Haggard Library       

2501 Coit Rd.

Plano, Texas 75075

Collin County

972-769-4250

Hours:  Monday – Thursday, 9am – 9pm, Fri. 9am – 6pm, Sat. 10 am – 6 pm, Sun. 1pm – 5 pm

The genealogical section of the Haggard Library is in the basement.  It’s large, comfortable, well stocked and well staffed.  I could spend a long time here and I did spend most of a day and part of another.  You need to plan your visit or you’ll be going from “one shiny thing” to another.  There’s plenty here for the history hound and the family historian.  And then there’s the staff.  They are knowledgeable, courteous and considerate.  Considerate?  Yes.  When I’m researching I generally have goals and don’t have time for chit chat.  I need the staff to be knowledgeable, but share with me only the knowledge I request.  Otherwise I need them to simply give me space and solitude.  I’ve just described the five staff I met working the basement in my two days at the Haggard Library.  And the gem of this gem was Genealogical Librarian Cheryl Smith.  She is a wonderful and respectful resource for family historians and genealogist researching North Texas families.  She is especially knowledgeable of Collin County.  Thanks Cheryl!  I smile when I think of the staff — and that basement!

My one complaint about Haggard is the lack of a public break area.  Researchers may be in the stacks for long hours and need regular breaks to stay nourished and hydrated.  This would be a nice addition to the library and provide additional income.

Preparing to research a library:

  • Have research goals.  What do you hope to find or accomplish with you visit?
  • Know before you go.  What is available?  What is allowed?  What are the hours?  Where is it located?
  • Search the online catalog.  Have your titles and call numbers ready.  What questions do you have for the staff?  Prepare your research log in advance.
  • Don’t forget your equipment.  Notebooks, computers, cameras (know their policy) and money for the copier

When you’re there:

  • Be courteous to the staff and considerate of others.  Allow them to do their work.  Don’t distract others around you.
  • Follow the library’s protocols.  Don’t reshelf the books.  Place your used materials on the carts if they’re provided.  Know how to use the equipment and properly use it.  Ask for help if you don’t.

Happy Hunting!

 

Tip #4 Interview your family

We think we know them.  We think we know them well.  That is, until we go to write their story.  Our families are often mysteries to us.  This is why we must ask questions…lots of questions.

The beginning genealogist/family historian begins with the interview.  I want the oldest family member to answer my questions as soon as possible, but I’ll begin with whomever I have at hand.

I need FACTS to fuel my research.

  • When and where were you born?
  • Who were your parents?  When and where were they born?
  • Who were your grandparents?  When and where were they born?
  • When did you marry?  Where?  What county?
  • In what states and counties have your lived?
  • Did you or anyone in our family serve in the military?  When?  What branch?  Where?
  • What are your siblings’ names and approximate ages?
  • If their parents, grandparents, siblings are deceased, when did they die?  (Approximate dates are better than no dates.)

I need STORIES to flesh out our history.

  • What was your best childhood memory?
  • What was your favorite holiday?
  • Who was your favorite relative, teacher, neighbor, etc.?
  • Tell me about your best friend growing up.
  • What were your mom and dad like?
  • What were your grandparents like?
  • What is the best place you ever lived and why?
  • Where was the best place you ever visited?

Capture the facts and their stories.

  • When possible, send your questions in advance of your visit and interview.
  • If possible, record the interview.
  • Take extensive notes and “flesh” them out while they’re fresh on your mind.

I cannot overstate the importance of family interviews.  You need this information to backtrack your family.  You need this information to tell their story.  You need it first.  When you begin their story, be prepared to reconnect and ask more questions.  And you will have questions.  Every good historian has more questions.

Chasing Ghosts in North Texas

One reward for the family historian is discovering and walking the ground of their ancestors.  I did this last week with my best friend.  My wife is an incredible person.   I’ve spent the last 40 plus years getting to know her.  In the past three years she’s revealed her hidden talents as a research assistant and photographer.  Dee’s my best help when chasing family “ghosts”.Gary and Dee in Terminal E

Below is a recap of what we did and how we accomplished so much in a limited time, valuable tips for genealogists everywhere.

In five days we traversed five counties.  (The other three days were spent visiting family, porch sitting with Debbie and Jim and antiquing with David and Cheryl.  Family should be fun!)  Here are some of our unearthed treasures:

  • Located in Collin County and took my mother to visit the grave of her two x great grandfather. Before last week, she didn’t know his name. (William Brumley Price)
  • Located in Wise County and visited the grove of trees where my great grandfather pastored a Methodist church for 16 years. (Pleasant Grove) In the adjacent cemetery we visited the graves of my great grand aunt and her family. (Narcissus Byrd Curtner)
  • Located in Wise County and visited the graves of my two time great grandmother’s family. (Elizabeth Norman Ashlock Byrd)
  • Took Dee to see the grave of my great grandparents Pleasant Wesley and Rachel Marinda Byrd, in Wise County.
  • Located in Collin County and visited the graves of my great grand aunt Malissa Jane Byrd Spradley, her husband James Reed Spradley and her first husband Charles H. Gough.
  • Narrowed the date of my great grandfather John Anderson Roberts’ arrival in Texas by the use of microfilmed tax records from Red River County.
  • Located and visited the grave of my great grand uncle Samuel Zedock Byrd and his second wife Martha Josephine Vicars in Collin County.
  • Located in Hunt County and visited the grave of Samuel Z. Byrd’s first wife my great grand aunt Sina Canzada Burke Byrd. (Does anyone know the origin of “Sina” and if it is short for something else?  Her marker reads “S. C. Wife of Samuel Z. Byrd”.  No help here.)  This also gave me previously unknown birth and death dates!
  • Located in Lamar County and visited the grave of my 3 x great grandfather Wiley Laningham. I only learned his name doing research last month!  (We also enjoyed lunch with my cousin Glen Gambill and his precious wife Sarah!  I’ll write more about Glen in a later post or two,)
  • Documented my great grandfather John Charles Wesley Ingram’s first land purchases in Kerr County further confirming the errors on several historical markers and online historical accounts of Ingram, Texas.
  • Further documented the correct arrival date of my 3 x great grandfather Jeremiah Horn to Texas and when he and others actually began the Swayback Methodist Church and school in western Collin County.
  • Documented my 2 x great grand Uncle John Horn’s 1846 Collin County enlistment to fight in the Mexican – American War. (We had located and visited his grave in Stillwell, Oklahoma this past December.  While looking for his grave we also met and visited with his g-great grandson!)
  • Meeting Genealogy Librarian Cheryl Smith of the Haggard Library in Plano, Texas. (I’ll write more about this wonderful resource in a later post.)
  • Finding the surprise resource of the genealogy room in the Walworth Harrison Library in Greenville, Texas.

While this is only part of what we learned, I think it’s the best part!

My post has run a little longer than I intended.  Let’s finish it later.  Come back for those tips on getting more genealogy done in a short amount of time.

Consider pressing the Follow button and registering to be contacted by email when we post here.  Happy ghost hunting!

Tip #3: Wealth Generates Paperwork

Wealth generates paperwork.  Deeds, lawsuits, contracts, account books, purchase records, education, etc. all produce records of our past.  The wealthier you are, the more paperwork is produced.  The more paperwork produced makes it easier to find and follow our relatives and their past.  We follow their extensive paper trail.

Backtracking the common is the challenge.  Finding and following those who have left little to follow is the task of many family historians.  You’ll need determination and tenaciousness.  You may have to get creative.  You will need the help of others.  Reach out.  Ask.  Collaborate.  Be open.  Be grateful.

Consider joining an online community like Backtracking the Common.

Tip #2: No Truth Without Proof

As you’re finding your family’s facts, keep in mind this saying among professional genealogists.

There is no truth without proof.

I know that statement could be debated on several levels but I want us to keep in mind its main point.  People who read your genealogy, your family history records, should be able to go to the same sources you went to and find the same set of facts.

Here’s how the Board for Certification of Genealogists puts it.  Don’t let it scare you.

  • a reasonably exhaustive search;

  • complete and accurate source citations;

  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;

  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and

  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

http://www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standard.html

Here’s my simple explanation for beginning genealogist/family historians.  When you find facts about your family, record with those facts the where, how and when your found them.  Always “leave the bread crumbs” for those who come after you.  Doing this and how to do it is an on going discussion on this blog.  Some of you may wish to use the comments section to share how you do it.

Tip #1: Fact or Fiction

Beginning genealogistsfamily historians – are truth seekers.  They are fact finders.  The stories they tell may be wonderfully crafted (Some do this better than others and that’s okay.) but, these stories are always shaped and supported by the facts.  Aunt Sally’s story may enhance the family’s prominence or save the family’s “face”, but the historian in you must always discover the facts.  Once those facts are known you may tell them in your unique voice and by doing so bless your family, community and world.  What would have been lost history is now recorded history.  Thanks!

Decide now beginning genealogist, family historian – fact or fiction?