Friday, September 24, 2010

Dear Randy - Family Tree Information

I love it when readers comment and ask questions - then I can use them as blog fodder on days that I need a blog post - like today!

Kimberly commented on my (Not So) Wordless Wednesday - Post 121: Georgia (Kemp) Auble in 1898 post, noting that she and I are cousins on two different lines, and noting (Kimberly's comments are in red, my responses in black):

I have a couple of ideas/questions that if you have time to explore in a blog post or point me to places where you have already explored this I would be very interested...

1. What did your tree look like when you were first starting genealogy, ie how many of your ancestors were known from records or memories kept by your own family?

When I first started my research in 1988, I had some of my mother's family papers, including two family Bibles, a Kemp family paper, some Seaver and Richmond family pictures with names on the back, a Seaver genealogy manuscript (later found it was copied from a town history book), and a fanciful story about being descended from Peregrine White of the Mayflower in 1620 up the Richmond line.  So I had information on most of my great-grandparents, but only the Seaver line back to Robert Seaver the immigrant to Roxbury in 1634 before that.

Because I had this fine New England ancestry in the Seaver and Richmond lines, and the incentive to prove the Mayflower connection, and had many of the Seaver wives names, I was able to quickly collect names, dates and places for many lines using books at the local libraries and the LDS IGI and Ancestral File databases.  I had quite a bit of the Seaver/Richmond tree defined by mid-1990 when there was a family reunion in Massachusetts, including the White line.  Then census work, trips to New England and England, contacts with other researchers on Prodigy and by mail, and I was off and running. 

2. What percentage of your ancestors in your tree were in previously published compilations, and what percentage were researched by yourself?

This is really hard to determine for me.  I currently have 39,387 persons in my database.  Of those, I have over 2,000 known ancestors of my own and about 200 of my wife's known ancestors.  I have also performed surname searches on Seaver, Carringer, Auble, Vaux, Dill, and Buck and they are in my database also. 

In general, I have mined published books, published periodicals, manuscripts from the Family History Library, online databases, online family trees (especially Rootsweb WorldConnect), message boards and mailing lists, in order to find information about names, dates, places and family history. 

I researched some of my families extensively since there was nothing published about them - usually back through the great-great-grandparents - finding vital, census, military, land, probate, city directory, and other records.  I have made an effort to find and transcribe probate records for many ancestral families in an effort to "prove" connections.  Fortunately, many of my New England families before 1850 are in the printed vital record books, so I've used those to source names, dates and places for them.  For the surname studies, I've used vital, census and military records to provide information up to the 1930 time frame. 

As you can tell, I've searched and found family information in published works and in online resources for almost all of my ancestral families, and I've researched more deeply for some of my ancestral families.  If I were to guess how many ancestors that I've done original research on (meaning defining family members, doing a reasonably exhaustive search for records, etc.), then I would guess I've done that for maybe 10% of my ancestors (or about 200), which is less than 1% of the persons in my tree.  For the rest, I've relied upon the collective wisdom of other researchers.

What I've done - the name collecting, the family definition, and finding the family history material - has taken me 22 years, and I'm nowhere near done with it.  It;'s been a part time quest also - really only Saturdays and some evenings until I retired in 2002, and then blogging has gotten in the way of doing more of my own research since 2006.

3. As you progressed through your genealogy research, who were the most exciting discoveries? And what was the biggest brick wall overcome? Do you feel a special kinship with any ancestors that were especially difficult to trace?

Good questions, all! 

The most exciting discoveries have been few and far between it seems:

*  Getting back to Peregrine White was exciting early on for me and the extended family. 
*  Figuring out that Isaac Buck (1757-1846) was the illegitimate son of an Isaac Buck in Southborough MA was exciting, and was one brickwall overcome. 
*  Finding that Devier J. Smith was adopted by Ranslow and Mary (Bell) Smith was exciting and deflating - it cost me a nice Dutch ancestry in the Hudson River valley. 
*  Finding the marriage record of my wife's Norwegian great-grandparents in Wisconsin in 1876, with their patronymic names, broke open her Norwegian ancestry - and that was a lot of fun, since we went to Norway soon after.
*  Finding the parents of Jane (Whittle) McKnew has been really fun this month!

I have almost all of my brick walls that I had in 1992, but not because of not trying!  I still have these brick wall ancestors:

Thomas J. Newton of Maine (ca1795 - ????) - who were his parents?
Elizabeth Horton Dill (1794?-1869) of Eastham MA - who were her parents?  I have conflicting evidence.
Hannah Smith (1767-1827), wife of Josiah Sawtell - who were her parents?
John Richman (1788-1867) and Ann Marshman (1784-1856) of Hilperton, Wiltshire - who were their parents?
Anna Kenyon (1742-????), wife of John Kenyon - who were her parents?
Devier J. Lamphier Smith (1839?-1894) of Jefferson county NY - who were his birth parents?
Martin Carringer (1758-1835) of Pennsylvania - who were his parents?
Mary Hoax (1768-1850) wife of Martin Carringer - who were her parents?
William Knapp (1775-1856) of Dutchess County NY and Newton NJ - who were his parents?
Sarah Sephrona Fletcher (1802-????), who married Abraham James Kemp - who were her parents?
*  William Hutchinson (1746?-1826) of New Jersey, New Brunswick and Norfolk County, Ontario - who were his parents?

There are plenty more in earlier generations, of course. 

The biggest brickwall overcome would have to be the Norwegian marriage in Wisconsin - that unlocked my wife's Norwegian line.

Do I feel a special kinship to ancestors difficult to trace?  I feel a special kinship to those that have had hardship in their lives and who overcame those hardships.  Isaac Buck, Isaac Seaver, Devier Smith, David Jackson Carringer, James Richman, etc. 

This is one reason I'm so interested in the Alexander and Rachel (Morley) Whittle story and history - there is tremendous heartbreak in their family history, I think. 

Thank you, Kimberly, for the questions!  I hope that I answered them to your satisfaction.

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