Sunday, February 14, 2010

SDGS Program Summary - Caroline Rober

Caroline Braxton Rober gave two linked presentations to about 120 attendees at the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting on Saturday - "Analyze - Key to Further Research" and "Land and Probate Records: Twin Headaches." Caroline's curriculum vitae and short program summaries were published here.

In both talks, she used case study examples from her own research to demonstrate her points. In the Analyze talk, Caroline noted that a good researcher is always analyzing and organizing the information s/he obtains, ideally right after finding new information. She recommended using your pedigree chart to determine what information is missing, trying to find primary information (records made at the time of the event) rather than secondary information (records made years after the event), resolve evidence conflicts by comparing and analyzing record sources and details, and to not take another researcher's word for an event (name, date, place, etc.). By finding the original records such as land and probate records, which are usually not online, the researcher can often solve the research problem.

In one case study, she found a birth date in a death certificate, the 1900 census and a gravestone, all secondary information records. However, a Missouri birth record index provided primary information. In another case study, a search for a death record turned up several persons with the same name, but a funeral home record, found from the listing for a husband and child, resulted in an obituary which gave the death date. Caroline didn't believe what eight other researchers told her was the father of a female ancestor, and uncovered a will that identified the correct father that used the daughter's married surname. In another case, she had to find and transcribe 54 deeds in order to determine the father of an ancestor, and found the name of the mother, and two sets of grandparents, by looking at all of them.

After the case studies, she concluded by saying that analyzing records is the key to solving research problems, and provided these recommendations:

* Start with what you know and work backwards in time.
* Gather all records available for the surname, place and time.
* Make a chronological list of all sources and records found.
* Extract all records for a child before looking for the parents.
* Analyze each piece of evidence as it pertains to the whole picture.
* Update your records after every information search.
* Use all of the records together, they may lead you to the information you need.
* Transcribe all documents found, especially deed and probate records.
* Write a research report for yourself every time you work on the family.

In the second presentation on the Twin Headaches, Caroline said that land ownership was important, that land produced wealth, wealth produced taxes, property comprised an estate, and all of those items produced records for researchers to find and use. Most of the people named in deeds are kinfolk.

She went through some of the definitions for the legal terms used in land and probate records, described probate records in some detail with several examples, and demonstrated finding these records, either in a local courthouse, or repository, or in the LDS Family History Library Catalog in order to obtain them on microfilm. She noted that:

* There is not always a probate record for a person, and some probate records may be found in land records.
* A probate packet may contain a number of different documents and may be available only at a courthouse or historical society. All records in a packet should be obtained.
* Records may or may not be indexed, and may or may not be microfilmed.
* Records may cost money to obtain, but are well worth the cost.
* Probate and land records are often hard to read and understand.
* The researcher needs to understand the laws of the state at the time of the record.
* When there are no probate records available, land records often provide useful information.
* Records may be in parent counties that a current county was formed from after the record was made.

Caroline's five-page handout provided basic information about land and probate research that wasn't in the presentation due to time constraints. Topics included the two American land survey systems, the Federal Land Patents, genealogical data that can be found in deeds, land measurement terms, and more.

These two presentations were interesting and challenging, and demonstrated the types of information that can be found in land and probate records to prove relationships, names, dates and places of family members. The use of case studies to illustrate the concepts and show actual records was extremely effective.

1 comment:

Grandma Caroline said...

I'm inpressed that anyone actually listens. Thanks for the reviews.