Wednesday, July 19, 2006

9 years of research: Birth record dilemma

From: Joy Erickson
I was chatting with Jody at the Family History Center this morning and she said that you were moving to Washington to take care of your parents. We will miss having you in the area but no one understands better than I the needs of aging parents. Was happy to hear that your daughter has recovered from her terrible accident.

Jody suggested that I send you an email about a question I have been dealing with. Hope you will be patient as this may take longer than is normally appropriate.

The sticky situation involves naming and date differences with one of my ancestors. Need your experienced look at this to help me make the right decision. In the interim, I will continue to look further for more resources.

I have been having a 9-year discussion with a Weller cousin who is a published genealogist. He has been very helpful and we have mutually contributed a great deal of family information. Our ongoing discussion, first of all, has to do with my 5th great grandmother, Ann's maiden name. Spellings below from transcribed records.

Ann STOTT'S marriage record was found in 1794, the Goshen Presbyterian Church in Goshen, Montgomery Co, NY where she married Andrew WELLER. There were 4 other STOTT women in the same record who were married within the previous 10 years who could be her sisters. Andrew WELLER was of German [Palatine] heritage and attended the Montgomery Brick Dutch Reformed Church near where they lived after marriage. Records there were kept in a mixture of German and English during that time. Her name in the German birth records for their children were transcribed as STOTT, STATT, SLOAT, SLOT and even HUNT. I have not been able to access the original records to look more closely at the spellings.

My Weller genealogist felt that her surname was probably SLOAT because there were two families by that name in the German records but upon closer inspection neither family profile worked. Nor did info from SLOT/SLOAT family histories on the internet. Could not find an Alexander or Ann of the right ages or area. Searched Revolutionary War, census, (local histories), all church records available in the area. Agreed, some church records had burned so the task seemed hopeless.

One helpful clue was found in Ann & Andrew's children's names. Their first born was named John Wilkin WELLER after Andrew's step-father who raised him. Son 2 named Phillip after Andrew's birth father who died when he was 2 years old. 3rd son named Alexander Statt WELLER. (The "a" could easily have been an "o" in the original.) By custom, this child would [could] have been named after Ann's father.

Just this week, I found an Alexander STOTT and wife Mary Wilson who had at least 3 daughters christened in the First and Second Presbyterian Church of NYC in the 1760s and 70s. NYC is about 30 miles southeast of Goshen & Montgomery, NY. The three on the NYC Presbyterian record for children of Alexander and Mary Wilson STOTT are the same as 3 of the women who were married in Goshen: Ann, Mary & Judah. When available I hope to find the others there. Do you feel that this evidence will be enough to establish the family connection even though there is another hitch?

That hitch has to do with Ann's birth record in NYC which is different from the one inscribed on her tombstone in Hamilton County, OH where she was buried. NYC Presbyterian record says born 25 Oct 1771, christened 15 Dec 1771. Her tombstone says "Born 5 Oct 1772."
I know this is not an unusual problem. Normally the church record would be considered the official one but is that so in this case?

Sorry this took so long. Hard to condense 9 years of search into just a few words.

You've done a marvelous job attempting to summarize the info you've collected. This summary should appear in notes for your ancestor, so that those who follow will know EXACTLY which original documents (usually on microfilm) you've searched. I particularly like where you mentioned that you only looked at transcriptions of the church record, and not at the original marriage entry for Ann and her husband. Transcription errors do occur, and this can throw indexes way off, particularly where the beginning letter of a name such as "S" is mistaken for a "B" or an "F". If so, you can easily miss the entries for an ancestor that could be 50-100 pages earlier in a large index book.
YES, I believe you are on the right track, but you need a little more work. The coincidence of Alexander Stott is just too strong to ignore.
-- SPELLING OF NAMES was not standardized in the US until the 1930s with the Social Security Administration's influence. So the variable of an "a" instead of an "o" doesn't bother me a bit. You could list Ann's name as STOTT, if (when you view it) her original marriage record lists it in that manner. Be sure to discuss the alternative spellings in NOTES in your genealogy management program for Ann.

-- TOMBSTONES are least accurate about birth dates, when compared to death dates which is the most recent info.

-- 30 MILES was a great distance in the 1760s and 1770s, but it is not inconceivable that a woman (and her 2 sisters) would move with her husband (and their spouses) to the hinterlands where land may be cheaper. That is the story of westward movement in the US.

-- Ann and Mary are fairly common names, so I would not consider them as definite sisters on just that info. However, Judah is a little more unusual. The fact that Ann named one son Alexander is most intriguing.

-- NAMING PATTERNS are not etched in stone either. It could be that Alexander was named after a favorite uncle, and that the women's names were repeated among families of cousins. That happens today, doesn't it?

-- MONTGOMERY COUNTY, NEW YORK was created 1772 (as Tryon; renamed 1784) from Albany. You may have to look at Albany County records as well. See the FHLC Family History Library Catalog for available microfilm/fiche records.

-- GOSHEN is cataloged in Orange County, New York in the aforementioned FHLC. I found books, fiche and microfilm in these categories which might be useful to your research:
New York, Orange, Goshen - Archives and libraries - Inventories, registers, catalogs
New York, Orange, Goshen - Centennial celebrations, etc.
New York, Orange, Goshen - Church history
New York, Orange, Goshen - Church records
New York, Orange, Goshen - Directories
New York, Orange, Goshen - Newspapers
New York, Orange, Goshen - Vital records

-- CENSUS Run a surname-only search of's index to the 1790 census (yes, much later) to see how many STOTT/SLOT/SLOAT etc. families exist in each area. Follow the likely ones as far forward as possible. Often we just look for our own family, and ignore others by similar names in the area. Sometimes it is in THEIR land and probate records that we find clues to OUR side of the family.

-- LAND RECORDS in the known area of Montgomery, Albany and Orange counties NY should be searched for clues about others living there by the same name. Consider doing the same for NYC if you don't find your answers upstate.

-- TAX RECORDS ditto

-- PROBATE RECORDS should be searched in Montgomery, Albany and Orange counties NY and NYC areas for STATT/STOTT/SLOT/SLOAT etc. If there is a NYC will or distribution of estate mentioning your ancestor Ann and 2 sisters in Goshen, then you've got a definitive answer to your query.

Ol' Myrt feels that in the last three years, more old records with better indexes have come into view for your research. Please also read the following research outlines from
-- New York Research Outline
-- United States Research Outline
-- US Military Research Outline

The online versions of these helpful guidelines are better than the easily out-dated printed versions we loved in the 1990s. There is even an online guide titled: Name Variations in United States Indexes and Records IBID.

Joy, you already know to base your lineage assumptions on more than one document. And whatever you do, continue to summarize your findings and place them in NOTES for the ancestor in question. This explains your reasoning process and leaves an audit trail for those that follow.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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