17 April 2014

In the Absence of Documents

Recently I was contacted by a ‘cousin’ that had found this blog while searching online; .  Yeah!  Cousin bait works!  Which of our families do we share?  The LINDSEYs.  Turns out that they are a descendent of one of my 3x Great Grandfather’s siblings.  And, over the course of the next few days we exchanged information.

Armed with names, dates, marriages and deaths and a bit of information on where our ancestors had been recorded in county history and in compiled genealogies, I set about my research.  I Googled the county history and found my ancestor(s) mentioned, but the information I was finding online didn’t note source citations for where they obtained that information, although they did refer to the county history and the compiled genealogies.  I next took a peek at the online LINDSEY trees on ancestry.com – this was more a curiosity thing, I don’t, as a rule, look at online trees, however, on occasion I have found them to provide helpful clues or nuggets of truth – these trees had the same information that was shared with me.  Hmmm, did any of these trees have actual documents that sustantiated their findings? Nope, not a one.  They had three cited sources . . .  the county history; the compiled genealogies; and other online trees which cited the same three sources. 

Okay, the compiled genealogies had been published in the 1800’s by a LINDSEY descendent, surely it had to document, via source citations, the information that was referenced, right?  So, I googled the name of the book, “THE LINDSAYS OF AMERICA” by Margaret Isabella Lindsay, and found that I could order a copy from Barnes and Noble, which I immediately did.  In my naivete, I anxiously awaited the delivery of the book – I had it shipped overnight; what’s a couple extra dollars, when you are trying to document your family, right?  So, did the book hold any more information?  Did it cite sources?  Was there anything more that would advance my research further than what I already had?  Nope.  Again, what was especially disappointing to me was the lack of source information.

Okay, it is a bit of an understatement to say that I was getting a bit frustrated in my search.  The county history and the compiled genealogies made reference to a migration of our Lindsey immigrants from ‘across the pond’ to first settling in Virginia than migrating to Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, etc.  They also mentioned service in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, to one of my direct ancestors owning a Newspaper in Glens Falls, New York, and to marriages and so forth.  So, surely, this information was documented and obtained from somewhere . . . right?

Do not get me wrong, I don’t have anything against county histories nor compiled genealogies.  After all I was bitten by the genealogy bug because of the compiled genealogies on my maternal side and the oral history that was passed from generation to generation on both sides of my family.  But . . . I didn’t rely on them fully.  I spent the time, effort and money to research and document my ancestors and their life’s stories over the years.  I’ve been blessed, a good portion of what I learned of my family through their compiled genealogies and oral histories was fairly accurate.  The rest was close but was either embellished or omitted for whatever reason.  So, I view the new information that I have from the county history and compiled genealogies on the LINDSEY family in the same light . . . there are hints and nuggets of truth there.  I just want something a little more substantial to corroborate the information and ‘hang my hat’ on.

So what do you do in the absence of documents?  What I did was ‘walk away’ for a day or so.  Then I came back and read through all the new information I was given.  I re-read the county history and the book, “THE LINDSAYS IN AMERICA” and started noting the information I thought I might be able to research a bit further to ‘prove out.’ 

So armed with that list, I will be spending some time researching and culling information – I hope – to document my family.  But what if . . . ?

What do you do; how do you document your family in the absence of documentation?

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