Monday, July 23, 2012

The best laid plans of mice and men .. I love it!

Someone said:  "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry..." -- Robert Burns?

This genea-mouse came home from teaching my OASIS class today after noon, had a quick lunch, and was looking forward to a day of blogging, Facebook and some online research to add content to my database.  I was about to call my daughter on my cell phone about her new car, when the house phone rang, so I answered it.

The call was from a lady from Colorado who was helping someone with a DAR application find proofs for the birth of one of the female children of Burgess Metcalf (1741-1817) and Jerusha --?-- (1750-1817) or Piermont, Grafton County, New Hampshire.

She noted "I saw your blog posts about Burgess and Jerusha, and saw information about them in your Ancestry Member Tree - what sources do you have for the list of their children,and their spouses?"

Um, er, sources?  I quickly checked my RootsMagic 5 database, and saw that I had a list of 11 children for Burgess and Jerusha Metcalf, and some notes gleaned over 24 years of research, but no sources.  I knew that I had a notebook full of paper collected over time for the family.   I admitted that this was a family in the "resource collecting" stage of my research, as many of them are.  I promised to review my briefs (um, Fruit-of-the-loom?  old lawyer joke...) and get back to her with what I have.

She also asked "What would you recommend for research to try to find useful records in Piermont, Grafton County, New Hampshire that might help further this application?" I suggested town records, tax lists, land records and probate records that seem to solve many similar relationship problems and are written up in the peer-reviewed journals.  I knew that the records for Grafton County were on Family History Library microfilm, but they will have to be ordered and reviewed, and it will take more than today, or even one day, to obtain and read them.  I vaguely recalled looking for probate and town/tax records, but not land records.

It took me about 15 minutes to dig out the Metcalf notebook from bookcase shelf in back of the genea-piles (and in the process I found my Whittle folder!! Yippeee...needed it a month ago, of course!).  When I read the compendium of collected papers, I found that I had checked Grafton County NH probate records, and had not found an entry for Burgess or Jerusha Metcalf.  Rats...

There were three excerpts from published books about Burgess Metcalf's life, but they identified only three sons and no daughters.  Oh well.  I checked Google Books too and found nothing more that would help my caller. I added transcriptions of the three excerpts from the books to my database notes with the source citations.

I had looked through the Piermont Town Records, 1765-1825 on FHL microfilm 0,015,276 and had found some references to Burgess and several sons in the 1775-1810 time period, but nothing specific mentioning the daughter of interest.  I did find the reference to the marriage of my ancestor Polly Metcalf, who married Amos Underhill in Piermont in 1801, so I added that source to my database.  I added the town/tax record information to the database notes for Burgess Metcalf also.

I received an email earlier this year from a Metcalf cousin who attached three entries from the Grafton County Deeds which indicate that the husband of the Metcalf girl had two dealings with Burgess Metcalf, Jr. in 1811, a brother of the Metcalf girl, but the relationship is not indicated.  This provides a tantalizing clue - the husband had land dealings with his brother-in-law.  But there is no explicit wording that says "my wife's brother" or "brother-in-law" in the two 1811 deeds.

Another resource I would check is the land and probate records for the husband - the deeds from when it was sold may indicate that it was part of his father-in-law's estate, or similar.  I would also check all Metcalf deeds, and deeds for the other daughters (and their husbands) of Burgess and Jerusha Metcalf to see if a relationship to the Metcalf girl is mentioned.  This goes for probate records,too.  With any luck, one of the Metcalf males may have died unmarried, with property, and intestate, and a probate record may provide the names of his siblings or their children.

Three hours later, it looks like I've struck out on helping my caller, and all of my carefully crafted afternoon plans were demolished, but I added some information to the database, including some source citations for existing information.   The revised plan for the next hour before dinner is to go through the Metcalf notebook (with many more ancestral families in it) and try to source as much information as I can from it so that I don't have to open it again.

This doesn't happen to anybody else, does it?  Doesn't everyone else have all of their collected data in beautiful surname notebooks, and the information entered and well sourced in their database, so that they can access it at a moment's notice?  Hey -- I'm human, used to be a name collector, have a messy genealogy cave and database.   Will I ever be finished?  I doubt it...

Does anybody have a good, "clean" and fully sourced list of the children of Burgess and Jerusha (--?--) Metcalf?  Or a maiden name for Jerusha?   If so, please comment here or email me at  Cousin-bait deployed...

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Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Thanks for documenting what sounds like a fairly typical day of unintended consequences. Welcome to my world! Great post! Best wishes on the cousin bait, as well! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the most innocous family history question from my husband can derail me for days. If I think I've got the answer in my stacks I can't rest until I find it.

I'm fortunate, I think, I only have about 1300 individuals in each of my two databases. I am in the process now of re-writing my sources - and re-researching as necessary - my databases to the GPS prior to going 'on the clock' for certification. It's a great exercise that is adding immensely to my database and raising some new, in-depth questions that need answering.

We've all heard the saying..."fastest way to make G*d laugh is to make plans". Getting sidetracked is half the fun.

Barbara Renick said...

Randy, I would like your permission to use excerpts from your "The best laid plans..." article in my "Tacking Tough Genealogy Tasks with 21st Century Technology" lecture. I type about 98 wpm with a two percent error factor, but only have about one fourth of my research in my computer. The other three fourths is exactly in the same condition as your research--notebooks and hanging files on paper!

Lianne said...

I don't know how you can deal with so much information on paper! My genealogy paper consists of a single folder, and a couple books I got from my aunt. The papers in the folder are all from high school, in my very amateur genealogist days. I just haven't gotten around to transferring it to the computer yet.

But everything I find now is instantly added to the appropriate WikiTree profiles, so the only time I have trouble finding a source is if the source is actually in the person's child's profile, or something, and I forgot to add it to the parents' profiles as well.