Why research siblings?

Professional Research vs Novice/Beginning/Hobbyist:

Often I see research work done by novice/beginning/hobbyist researchers that encompasses hours of time and is unsuccessful.

Many factors make up the causes: Detail matters!
1. Failure to document research adequately.

a. Many people use existing published information on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Genealogy.com, Genforum.com and others without documenting or verifying the information. Much of this published information is undocumented. Some of it even has disclaimers, stating you need to document and verify it. Major blunder.

ex. Years ago I posted some personal family research on Genealogy.com and Ancestry.com. Later I learned that each charged people to get my information and didn’t pay anything to me for it. Not only did people copy the information but they deleted notes that identified information only as proposed or requiring further research. They also failed to identify where it came from. (Sources) I was following up on this proposed information and came on several people posting on it. After hours, weeks, months and in some cases years, I found my researched information utilized by many others. So and so got it from so and so and they got it from so and so and eventually this person got it from me, James Clemans postings. What frustration and agravation? My number one question became: What do you have as sources to document that information on a particular, person, and event. I.E. Ebenezer Clemons as the son of Philip Clemons. If the answer was none, (Which it unfortunately always was) I moved on. So while undocumented information can give clues it can also be a dead end and cause hours of wasted correspondence. On the other hand it can sometimes …… be fruitful so remember to ask about sources and documentation always.

B. Some people do one basic census lookup and assume the information is correct.
Correctness of information on censuses varies depending on who the enumerator spoke to. (which is not listed. )
Or the enumerators understanding of language, spelling, and own education.
Places can be wrong, ages off, assumptions could have been made on step children coming from their current mother, etc. Searching multiple censuses will give a more clear picture but cannot replace the value of primary source documents like birth, marriage, death, burial, military, church, etc. Error in the Sex – Male or Female or son or daughter are common. Sometimes relatives are listed as servants or borders.

2. Failure to cite research sources properly.

a. It was common years ago for people to record names and dates on bible records but not locations or relationships. Searching other records in tandem can turn up many mistakes.
Many books identify names and dates but no sources other than to say Family records, or Lists a long list of sources for the book but not the individual information. Checking other available records often identify descrepancies.

b. Some have listed a source at the bottom of a family group sheet but not identified with event or individual it is associated with. Always identify the event and individual to whom the source is referring.

c. Some abbreviate or partially identify only 1850 Census or 1850 Ohio Census under the father’s notes. This saves time initially but it may cost more time later if further information or reference is necessary. This incomplete citing also makes it unclear to determine if it just applied to the father, mother, or which children. Noting the source on each individual is preferrable, and saves time now and in the future if questions arise. Ex. 1850 U.S. Census, Toledo, Lucas, Ohio, ED 123, Page 8, Folio 10 is more appropriate.

d. It is sometimes useful on key ancestral connections to extract all the information from primary or secondary sources and put it as notes in genealogy software programs on the individual and event. Review of such may identify the person living next door was really a relative or person living with them, or attending the wedding, or baptism.

e. Frequently variations in name are not cited accurately or with each source. Doing this properly initially can save a tremendous amount of time for researchers later. ex. Annet, Annetta, Annette, Ann, Mary A., Mary Annetta. and which document said what.

3. Failure to fully identify places correctly.
a. Names of town can change, counties and boundaries change, languages documents are in can change. People can live in the same place but the boundaries keep changing meaning the locations for records change also. ex. Bitter Creek becomes Delta, or Paris is in a county in Idaho, then later in Utah, then later back in Idaho, then changed to another name and later another town by the name of Paris was started in Idaho that is totally unrelated to the first. Another example is a client has ancestor born in Posen, Germany. Well, Posen is both a town and province. They paid a researcher to look in Posen town and after two sessions of research wasted quit researching for 10 years. We recommended the need to verify the town, found more on the siblings and other relatives in New York and located the family properly in Posen Province (also Poznan, Poland) and other names and extended the ancestry another 10 generations eventually.

4. Failure to incorrectly assume name changes.
Had a client with surname Johnson, family thought it later changed to Johnston. It severly lacked any documentation and sources. Family searching for a Peter Johnson and found a Peter Johnston in nearby town. Pursued that line and Cyrus Johnston famous military instead of correct Robert Seymour Johnson, Peter’s father. Careful checking revealed middle name of Peter Harvey Johnson vs Peter Henry Johnston so details matter.

5. Failure to research spouses and siblings (Naming Patterns)

a. Often people want to extend the ancestry – extend, extend, extend. But they hit brick walls because their ancestor doesn’t have a linking document to the next ancestor. So they keep looking for documents to link their ancestor.

b. Research of siblings can often lead to success. They may have the family bible, or had parents living with them, or dying with them, or buried next to them, or selling them land, or moving with them. ex. Allen research, Eliza Allen, sister of ancestral Mary Cecelia Allen. By researching her we found a mother Mrs. Mary Allen, living with Eliza and her husband, Henry O’Hagan. Also Mary’s brother John Flood. This contradicted the marriage of Mary Cecilia Allen saying her mother was Mary Cornielson. Further research from this clue identified Mary Cecilia Allen’s father had Eliza, another son James (who appears to have died young) and then Mary Cecilia and then Mary Cornielson/Allen died. James remarried Mary Flood who was living next door.
While researching Eliza we located her also with other siblings, one who was married into the Meade Family. Several Meade biographies identified several siblings marrying, and Allen ancestry going back into Ireland and exact town locations, a rare find for Ireland ancestry and a necessary one. The result full families documented, extensions of research on both Mary Cecilia Allen’s mother and father’s lines and especially extensions on Allen line. So years of going no where by the family were solved in one research project by researching siblings.

c. Research of spouses – frequently we see people take census information as fact. This child with that mother and parents as listed. They fail to factor in deaths of spouses. One such case involved Joseph Nichols. Research had stalled until spouses were researched. Death of second wife and her family revealed children by a prior wife, thus giving proper naming patterns for further research and resulting in line extensions on both first wife, second wife, and husband lines plus all children of each wife grouped properly.

6. Failure to understand naming patterns:

a. Naming patterns are first son named after paternal grandfather, second son after maternal grandfather, third son after father and fourth son after uncles on paternal or maternal side, the same pattern for girls. While not always followed or followed exactly, the numbers of this pattern being used are frequent. So if you research the spouse you then know names that don’t come up on her side that maybe from the main surname. Thus is redefines the names and patterns to look for. So don’t forget to research the spouses family.

b. Scandanavian, Welsh and other country or ethnic naming patterns. i.e. Patronymics.
A big word for countries and nationalities that didn’t use surnames like we do today. John Williams names his son William and he becomes William Johnson and his sister Anna becomes Anna Johnsdatter/Johnsdotter. Understanding this can correct many common novice research mistakes. Also Native American/Indian and so other cultures only used first names and were matriarchial orders so names are also misleading and follow patterns. Don’t assume because your ancestor was Ole Olson that he’s related to Other Olson’s in Norway or Denmark as their may be no relation whatsoever.

All for now, So sweat the details. James Clemans, ForGenerations.com

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