Friday, October 31, 2014

Testing your lineage

A great way to test your research is by preparing a lineage report for a lineage society.  Even if you have no intention of actually applying this exercise will show you if you have done good research.

See if you can trace your line from yourself to one of your ancestors.  Pick a soldier that fought in the Civil War, a soldier in the War of 1812 or a Revolutionary War solder.  If you are lucky enough to claim someone on the Mayflower as an ancestor use him/her.  These are the most popular lineage societies. 

It isn’t as easy as it sounds even if you think you have a lot of documents.  Documenting the facts of a person’s life usually isn’t too hard.  Where it gets more interesting is when you are trying to prove the familial link from parent to child.  How do you know that your Marmaduke Jowers is one and the same as Mordecai Jowers’ son who happens to be named Marmarduke? Here is an example:

Let’s say you have this family group listed on the 1850 census. 

David Merchant, age 30, farmer, born in Georgia
Ann Merchant, age 27, born in Georgia
Wesley Merchant, age 8, born in Georgia
Marion Merchant, age 5, born in Georgia
Janie Merchant, age 3, born in Georgia
Daniel Merchant, age 1, born in Georgia

It appears that this is a husband, wife, and four children but the relationships are not specifically named.  This is NOT enough to say that the listed children belong to either or both of the listed adults.  It is also not enough to say that the two adults listed are actually married.  A lot of people make this mistake.  In the above family, the man’s wife died and his unmarried younger sister moved in to help him with the kids.  It looks as though they are a married couple but they are not.  One of the four children is the son of a brother whose wife died in childbirth.  The father of that child felt ill equipped to raise a newborn so he handed the child over to his brother and sister to raise.  So, 3 of the children belong to David, none of the children belong to Ann, and one of the children belongs to David and Ann’s brother.

Using the same family above I can create another scenario.  Ann is David’s 2nd wife.  Wesley and Marion are his from his first marriage.  Janie is Ann’s from her first marriage but the census taker recorded David’s surname.   Daniel belongs to both of them.

Back to my original example.  Let’s say Mordecai Jowers left a will and in it is says “to my son Marmaduke.”  Your ancestor is Marmaduke but do you have enough to say that he is Mordecai’s son?  No, not without additional evidence.  How do you know that there weren’t two Marmadukes?  Even though this is an unusual name you still have to treat it the same as if his name was John Smith.  It depends on the time period as to what records you can use but the first thing I would be doing is checking the census records to make sure that there was only one Marmaduke in that entire area during that time period.  If there were more than one you will have to document each one of them fully.  I would also want to have an unbroken chain showing my Marmaduke back to the time period of the will.  You want to make as strong a case as possible so the more different types of records you can bring in that support this relationship the better.  This is the type of evidence you will need if you were really submitting a lineage society application. 

A lot of researchers err here.  Not only do you have to document each vital event for a person but you have to also prove the relationship between parent and child.  Many times you will not be able to do this with direct evidence and you will have to put together an indirect evidence proof argument (circumstantial case).  Even if you have direct evidence (like the will that says, “my son”) that still may not be enough evidence to prove the connection.

For more information on lineage societies click HERE.


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis




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