You wrote “I know that some of the original records of my family were destroyed in places like different states due to fires, like the Great Earthquake & Fire of SF, CA in 1905, or the US Federal Census of 1890, or home fires where important correspondence and other documentation were stored from the 1880s onward. How do I recreate these wheels from just a scrap of a letter from 1900 to find the records that were gathered and lost in the fire?"
Let us not assume we will be able to accumulate the same number and type of documents to prove each generation's relationship to the prior generation. As you say, some records have been destroyed.
So we won't be able to merely collect a birth, marriage and death certificate for each person on our family tree. We'll have to expand our understanding of family relationships using church, census, and other records.
Sometimes a document will provide direct evidence stating that so-and so is the father of your known ancestor.
Other times you are lucky if a document provides indirect evidence.
An example of indirect evidence would be where in "document A" man states his son is so-and-so, AND in "document B" that child has stated he is a sibling of your known ancestor. This indirect evidence might lead you to conclude that your ancestor is possibly the child of the man in "document A". Of course, with step-parents, early deaths of mothers, and unofficial adoptions; other documents may prove that theory to be inaccurate. However, as you build your case, compiling as much direct, first-hand information as possible, you will merely summarize your argument in notes for that individual. This leaves an audit trail for you to follow when you pick up the scent in future research.
For more help on analyzing your stack of documents, be sure to print out Mark Tucker's Genealogy Research Process map found at ThinkGenealogy.com. Just click on the image below, and you'll be taken to the website.
Mark devised this map from extensive review of the Board for Certification of Genealogists' The Genealogical Proof Standard [discussed in yesterday's blog entry] "and the many works of Elizabeth Shown Mills into a single visualization." Ol' Myrt here interviewed Mark on my 4 March 2008 podcast. This was a lengthy interview, and you'll want to listen. (You don't need an iPod to listen, just turn on those computer speakers and click the play button on the radio graphic.)
Now for some specific assistance regarding the loss of all but 6% of the 1890 US Federal Census, consider wherever your ancestor lived that there may be a Veteran's schedule listing him or his widow, that there may be state and/or territorial census taken on the "off" years. In the case of California, however, you might not be as fortunate.
Consider, how did your ancestors arrive in California. Perhaps Ancestry's California Passenger and Crew Lists, 1893-1957 will be useful? Bet you didn't think to also view California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968 , and I just noticed Ancestry has something on California City Directories.
Look for ancestors by name in city directories (also perhaps on microfilm) which go back as far as the early 1800s in some places. The listing will include address and employer. I've had a case where in the next directory, the wife is listed as "wd. of Charles" at the same address where Charles resided the previous year. That gives a big clue about his death during the previous year. FamilySearch.org's
California Research Outline explains: Directories of heads of households were published for major cities of California. The Family History Library [FHL], for example, has:
View the films and fiche by borrowing a copy through your local Family History Center. Books must remain in the FHL. Check www.FamilySearch.org for the location of the centers closest to you.
FOR FURTHER READING
- Board for Certification of Genealogists. BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. Orem: Ancestry.com. 2000.
- Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence! Citation & Analysis for Family Historians. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company. 1997, reprinted 2006. [The little book.]
- Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company. 2007. [The big book.]
- Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Analysis - A Research Process Map. Board for Certification of Genealogists. 2006.
- Mills, Elizabeth Shown, editor. Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company. 2001. [Ol' Myrt is studying this
book with a group of professionals during the next 18 months.]
- Mills, Elizabeth Shown. QuickSheet: Citing Online Historical Resources Evidence! Style. First Revised Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company. 2007. [A laminated chart I keep right next to my monitor.]
- Evidence: A special issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. National Genealogical Society Quarterly 86 (Sept 1999) no. 3. [I have three copies of this, one from my original subscription, one I purchased to mark up, and one to share with my students.]
Happy family tree climbing!
Your friend in genealogy.
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© 2008 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.
This and previous blog entries are fully searchable by going to http://blog.DearMYRTLE.com. Myrt welcomes queries and research challenges, but regrets she is unable to answer each personally.