Tuesday, August 25, 2009

There’s More Records Than the Census

This article is one in a series of session reports from the recent BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. I tweeted the session live, but I hate to send you to Twitter to read them because they appear there in reverse chronological order. I’ve straightened them out for you here.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Michael John Neill, "100 acres, 1 mortgage, and 3 sisters: An Ohio Case Study." http://www.rootdig.com
Missing Abraham Wickiser in 1840 census in Harlem Township, Delaware, Ohio. 1840 is a "tick-mark" census.
I'm in Michael John Neill case study. He suggests writing down your assumptions. When stuck in one set of records, go elsewhere.
He went to land records. Anytime index leads to deed, look pages before and pages after. Deeds were not recorded at time of purchase
Michael found the same piece of land recorded 3 times in quick sequence, giving him names of others, and assumption that event led
... to getting all these deeds recorded. He later finds it was someone's death. He had to reorder sells by sell date,not record date
He drew picture of the 100 acres, and its divisions. Some transfers not recorded. Mortgage may have defaulted.
Could do accurate metes and bounds analysis. But don't worry about 3 quarters of an acre discrepancies in 1800s land measurements.
Land analysis shows Abraham owned no land between 1839 and 1846, so he didn't show up as a head-of-household. He is a tick-mark in
... someone else's household. He probably didn't move out of the county and then back.
Analysis techniques: Write your assumptions and reasons, revisit them, question them. Get maps on variety of scales listing all
...geo and political features. Create a timeline, including ordering your documents. Create diagrams, drawing out what you can,
... because words don't always give you the "complete picture." Remember informants and records are not always consistent.
Be open minded and consider all possibilities.
Use Polya's 4 step process: See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polya#P.C3.B3lya.27s_four_principles
1. Understand the problem. Learn about the records in the area, ethnic group, social class, occupation.
2. Devise a plan. Decide what you want to research. Aside on court houses: keep your cool and your wits about you, avoid court-day.
... clerk has more authority than the regular help.
3. Carry out the plan. TRACK WHAT YOU DO AS YOU DO IT. When you leave, you will have enough info to write follow up inquiries.
While "Genealogy is a game and whoever collects the most papers wins," no points awarded for duplicates. Logs are important.
4. Review/extend. Write up your research. Revisit your assumptions. Decide what follow-up needs to be done. Submit to a publication.
"Infant" used to mean hasn't arrived at the age of majority, 21 historically in some places.
Research log doesn't have to follow traditional format. He's used his to-do list with different check-marks indicating results.


Remember that tweets are limited to 140 characters. Less the #byugen hashtag, each tweet could not exceed 132 characters. Hence, tweets use abbreviations, bad grammar, and lack proper punctuation.


  1. Assumptions point is a very good one.

    Here's one from the tweet of the presentation:

    "Land analysis shows Abraham owned no land between 1839 and 1846, so he didn't show up as a head-of-household"

    Plenty of non-land-owners were heads of household enumerated as such in US Federal Census enumerations. Renter, lessor, tenant farmers or grandfather living in 'grandfather house' could all be head of household in these enumerations. Was this not a US Federal Census enumeration?

  2. Geolover,

    If he were living in someone else's house, he would have been enumerated under the house's actual head.

    -- A.I.

  3. AI, enumerations show many instances of both families and individuals boarding which are described as separate households. In some cases the boarders may own land nearby or elsewhere.

    The point was that "owned no land" is not equivalent to "not head-of-household." The quoted statement from the tweet was a non-sequitur.


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