Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cornelia found - Egg on my face

Back in the very beginning of my search for the parents of Cornelia Bresee (who was born 5 December 1780 in NY, married James Bell about 1797, lived and died in Jefferson County NY), I searched the LDS International Genealogical Index (IGI) for her using her Bresee surname. It looks like I didn't try all of the surname variations.

While looking for the families of the Brissie people I found in the Greenbush (NY) church records yesterday, I found a Cornelia Bresie, with a birth date of 5 December 1780 in Churchtown, Columbia County, NY, daughter of Petrus and Maria Bresie. This is a church record from St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Churchtown (which is near Claverack, I believe). Bingo.

Oops! Wipe that egg off my face! All of that time and effort to search every nook and cranny of the Internet for her parents, and I missed it in the first two days. One of my favorite sayings, "Pobody's Nerfect" applies here. Another of my favorite sayings probably applies - "No one is a complete failure - you can always be a bad example."

So how did this eggsplash happen? I can blame the LDS Search system for the mishap, or my own lack of thoroughness. Ultimately, it is the latter.

But I want to explain how it happened, and hopefully save other researchers from making a similar mistake. Here is my survey of the LDS IGI search system:

For all searches, I used Cornelia as a given name, North America as the region, and 1780 plus/minus 5 years for the Event date. The "Exact Search" box was unchecked. Then I plugged in the following surnames:

* Bresee - 3 hits, spelled Bresee and Bressie
* Bressi - 3 hits, spelled Bresee and Bressie (same as Bresee)
* Bressey - 3 hits, spelled Bresee and Bressie (same as Bresee)
* Bressie - 3 hits, spelled Bresee and Bressie (same as Bresee)
* Bressee - 3 hits, spelled Bresee and Bressie (same as Bresee)

* Brisee - 0 hits
* Brissee - 0 hits
* Bresey - 0 hits
* Breesy - 0 hits
* Breese - 0 hits
* Breesey - 0 hits

* Bresie - 1 hit spelled Bresie
* Brisie - 1 hit spelled Bresie
* Brasee - 1 hit, spelled Bresie
* Brazee - 1 hit, spelled Bresie
* Brazie - 1 hit, spelled Bresie
* Breesie - 1 hit, spelled Bresie

The last group is the one that had the Cornelia Bresie born 5 December 1780.

Why did the other surname searches not reveal the Cornelia Bresie entry? In every case, the consonants are the same - the Soundex code would be identical for all of those listed. It is apparent that the Search Engine on the IGI is not based on sounds but is probably based on some sort of key word for a given spelling. The key word was probably determined by someone with a list of surnames. 'Tis a mystery! Another one. If someone knows how the key words get assigned, I would appreciate knowing it.

So what should I do now? My plans are:

1) Review the Bresee surname book on microfilm that is on order at the FHC. This may define the Bresee (and variant) families in the Columbia County NY area based on all of the church records in the region. Will Cornelia be included in the book?

2) Order the Churchtown church book to obtain the actual record of Cornelia's birth date and check the parents and sponsors names. Also, I will collect all of the Bresee (and variant) surname entries in that particular book.

3) Contact the correspondent who gave me the birth date of 5 December 1780 back at the start of this search. I need to find out if this date was obtained from some other record, or from the IGI record. If it was some other record, then I need to get a copy of it.

What else should I do? Does anybody have a fresh washcloth? Rotten eggs smell terrible. I'm embarrassed. But glad I found the lead!

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