Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"What Do You Do With a Document for a Potential Ancestor?"

In Nancy's blog post titled "You Genealogists With More Experience Than Me..." on the My Ancestors and Me blog yesterday, she asked the question:

"When you find a document that may be about one of your ancestors (or may just as well not be about one of them), what do you do with it?"

I have faced this problem several times, and my answer is "it depends."  Let me give three examples of what I've done in the last five years for problems of this nature:

1)  I don't know the names of the parents of Hannah Smith (1768-1827) who married Josiah Sawtell in New Hampshire in 1789, but I think that her parents names are Joshua and Hannah (Baldwin) Smith.  I have no records linking Hannah to these potential parents, but they are the only Smiths in Brookline, NH in the 1760s.  

Consequently, I added Joshua and his three wives, and their known children, to my RootsMagic database, and have added their vital events and all other records I've found about any of them to my RootsMagic database, including document images when available.  I created a Research Log in RootsMagic for this project, and have a To-Do list for the project.  Joshua's little tree is part of my big tree database, but is not attached to Hannah Smith.  I also have a notebook for all of the papers collected for the Smiths of Hillsborough County, NH in past years.  If I find Hannah's parents, then I will digitize the documents I have on paper and attach them to the right persons.  

My research on Joshua Smith will live on in my database for others to see online even if I don't connect Hannah to this set of parents.

2)  My second great-grandfather, Devier J. Smith, was adopted and had a birth name of Devier J. Lamphier, according to Wisconsin State Senate records and his adoptive father's will.  I started a separate database in RootsMagic for the Lamphier family line, and have added all of the families that I've found with the surname Lamphier (and alternate spellings) that resided in northeastern New York before 1850 in hopes of finding his birth parents.  I've added many records and sources to the persons in this database, including document images, and have created a Research Log and To-Do list.  I also have some documents on paper in a file folder labeled "Lamphier."  

If I ever connect Devier with a set of Lamphier parents, I can merge the Lamphier tree into my ancestral tree.

3)  When I save documents in digital format in a file folder on my computer for persons that are not my known ancestors (including potential ancestors, but also persons of the surname who are not my ancestors), I put them in a file folder titled "Other 'Surname' Families" (where "Surname' = the actual surname - e.g., "Other Smith Families").

Here is my file folder for "Other Smith Families" documents:

I hope that answers Nancy's question about "what do you do with a document for a potential ancestor?"

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2013/01/what-do-you-do-with-document-for.html

Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Nancy said...

This was just the help I was hoping to find, Randy! You are very generous to devote a whole post to an answer. Thanks so much!

Judy Webster said...

I have anguished over this myself, Randy, and it's comforting to see that what you recommend is similar to what I am doing.