Tuesday, January 12, 2010

SDGS Saturday Seminar - Post 2: "Back Door" Deliveries

I summarized Jean Wilcox Hibben's first presentation "Clue to Clue..." at the San Diego Genealogical Society seminar on Saturday, 9 January in SDGS Saturday Seminar - Post 1: "Our Sainted Mother."

Jean's second talk was "Deliveries in the Rear! Getting Family History Information Through the Back Door." The emphasis in this presentation was finding alternative sources of information when the "conventional sources" (e.g., census, military, vital) don't answer the research questions that a researcher has. In these cases, experienced researchers identify the potential relatives (siblings, in-laws, uncles/aunts, cousins), family associates (neighbors, employers, witnesses, minister), and the historical events in the time and place that they lived (wars, migrations, events, disasters). Many researchers call this :Cluster Genealogy" when the researcher gathers records of a group of people and sifts through it to find ancestral information. It usually works, but is time consuming and challenging, especially since many records are not in
online databases.

In this talk, Jean detailed her searches for answers to questions like:

* Where did John Adam Hollander learn his trade? Turns out his brother-in-law was a barber.

* When did John Adam Hollander come to Milwaukee, Wisconsin? It was before 1862, as found in an affidavit in his brother-in-law's Civil War Pension record.

* What was the name of his business? It was the "Hollanders Human Hair Emporium" - she found newspaper articles, and then a notice on eBay for the business.

* What was place of birth, names of parents and siblings of Maria Theresa (Knoetgen) Trapschuh? Jean found family letters and photographs with names and dates, and the immigration record and passport with her birthplace.

* Did Nathan Wilcox have siblings? Jean knew about Calvin, but then found Luther through wills and deeds in county records (on FHL microfilms). An obituary card at a library had name of a descendant of Luther's, who was putting flowers on his grave - a new cousin! A local history told of Luther's parentage, and named his brother Nathan.

* Why was Nathan Wilcox in Tennessee after the Civil War? Well, he was an architect and builder, and period newspapers mentioned him in rebuilding efforts. The 1890 Veterans census identified where he was then.

* When and where did Fritz Mueller die? Jean found his Civil War Pension file, which listed his first wife's name, death date, and oldest child's name. The death place led to a record in a soldier's home in New York.

* Who was Gertrude (Wolbert) Mueller's mother? An 1880 census record for Gertrude (Wolbert) and Fritz Mueller in New York City showed Philipp and Elizabeth Wolbert in the same apartment building. Elizabeth was Gertrude's mother, but Philipp was her second husband. This connection led to many more records in Germany which defined the family.

You can see how the "delivery" of information through the rear - the "back door" if you will, can lead to solving many research problems.

Every research problem is different, and the records easily used for one problem may be useless for the next problem. Knowing what records to search for, and where to find them, is the path to solving the problem.

This presentation was inspirational in that it provided examples of problem solutions by searching for the relatives, associates and events in the locations of the "problem ancestors."

Note that this was not a talk with "linear problem resolutions" like the first presentation, so I may have some details mixed up here. My notes are not the best, sometimes!

Full disclosure: I am a card-carrying member of the Jean Wilcox Hibben fan club - because she is a really wonderful person and an excellent researcher and presenter. Doing these types of presentations are not easy, I know that from my own experience. The neat thing is that when you do present your research problems, your audience "rides along" with you and feels a closeness because of similar experiences. When you share, you may find other researchers with the same families or the same localities, and are able to help each other. The same principle applies to genealogy blogging and message boards - if you share your problem, you may get help having it solved, and meet new cousins in the process.

1 comment:

Jean Hibben said...

Head continues to expand here ... Butch says there will soon be no living with me. I sincerely appreciate your comments, Randy ... your opinions are highly respected (by me as well as many of our colleagues), so what you say means that much more.