Saturday, June 11, 2011

Inferential Genealogy Study Group Report - Case 2

Genealogists in Second Life met this past Tuesday to discuss Case 2 of the Inferential Genealogy Course by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS is available for free at FamilySearch. Here's the direct link to the video file:

A big thanks to Ginger for taking notes of our meeting for this blog post:

Initial thoughts:
  • Would have been helpful to see original docs, not "recreated" docs.
  • Dates were not given on the documents, and had to be retrieved from the citations.
  • You could not copy and paste the citations from the website.
  • One citation gave the date of the book, and omitted the date of the transcribed document (VA History).
  • There was definitely a technical disparity between what Dr Jones was saying and what FamilySearch presented in the documents online.
  • Myrt says when class is done in real life with real docs, it makes better sense.
  • There was a disparity between the number of docs in spreadsheet and what was presented
  • Making a timeline and using the spreadsheet would be worthwhile exercises.
  • If we didn’t trust Jones, we would think he had made too much of a leap of faith from only those 7 docs to draw a conclusion. There were too many assumptions.

A couple of times Jones said Howerton, but we saw Overton in the reconstructed docs. One doc looked like "Harrison" but these were "reconstructed".

Focused Goal:
Tom Jone's "Who were the parents of Obediah Overton?" was not specific enough as we needed location and time period to include in your research question. We thought Jones could have even been more specific, since he had just made the point in Case 1 to include some other specifics to distinguish this ancestor from others in the area. He did not include a time period, locality, spouse or child with which to identify him.

Hard to make a focused goal without having any initial info from documents about Obediah in hand.


Document # 1:
Deed from George Overton and Mary his wife to Benjamin Massey and Thomas Moore. 1795. Dr. Jones said there was no record of George Overton ever paying taxes on this land.

Why did Jones say there was no evidence of George Overton paying taxes on this land?

  • Did he inherit the land in the last year?
  • Was he too old to pay taxes?
  • Could he not afford to pay taxes? maybe but might be consequences or impediments with selling the land
We didn’t get any information about whether he paid taxes from this document, so why was this mentioned here?

Document # 2: Tax records showing Benjamin Massey and Thomas Morris paying taxes on land bought of George [Harrison]. This part of the video was confusing because the "reconstructed" document clearly says George “Harrison” however, when describing the record, Dr. Jones said it was land purchased from George “Howerton.” Ben Massey paid taxes on the George Howerton property.

Document # 3: Deed in which [Jas] [Overton] gives land to his son George Overton in Spotsylvania County, VA. Again, this was confusing because Dr. Jones described this as a deed in which “John Howerton” gave land to his son George Howerton, however you can clearly see from the scan that it says “Jas Overton.”  No time period listed in the document although citation says 1791.

Several stated we were wasting our time with these "recreated" docs.

Document # 4: A petition that was signed taken from the Orange County, Virginia History book listing George Overton, Obediah Overton, and Thomas Morris as signers of the petition: was problematic. While the publication date of the book was in the citation, but there was no mention of the date the petition was signed. Using information from this document doesn't seem relevant without the date. 
Document # 5:
 1842 deed from the heirs of George Overton of land to Willis Overton, signed by Willis Overton, John Overton, William Carmmack, William Davidson, and an attorney for Wish H Overton and George. Dr Jones said we meet Willis Jones “Sr.” in this doc but we did not see mention of a “Sr.” anywhere in this document.

Document # 6: A deed that John Howerton witnessed. We were not given the date, but the citation says 1740.  Citation: Spotsylvania Co, VA , Deed Book C:400. Dowdey to Marsh, 21 Aug 1740; County Court, Spotsylvania; FHL microfilm 34,069.

Document # 7: Tax records – two separate tax documents - one that showed two Willis Overtons listed – one was said to be “son of George” and the other was “son of Obediah.”

The citations for these two tax records should have been recorded as two different records ~ tax record one said this and tax record two said this. You never know if one or the other of the docs end up being disproved as essential to this research problem.

Dr Jones says one Willis Overton was son of George and one son of Obediah. One is a Sr and one is Jr (2nd tax list); 2nd tax list says one of those Willis’ is son of George. Dr. Jones says once we figure out which one was son of Obediah and son of George, ie Sr or Jr, we can figure out who married whom.

At least one participant is convinced they will look at tax records, to broaden their search to include tax records.

Citation: Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts, Personal Property Tax Lists, Spotsylvania, Co, 1798, district of Andrew Frazer, p. 10 and 1799, District of A. Frazer, p. 10, Willis Overton entries’ Archives, Library of Virginia, Richmond; FHL microfilm 1,905,732, item 2.

Document # 8: The Will of John Howerton, written 1791. Dr. Jones said that it listed several of John’s descendants, however the scan does not show any descendants’ names. It only shows the witnesses’ names which were David, Samuel, and Sam G Partlow Jr. This was another "reconstructed" document - date of death was date entered in record book. At first he says the descendants were named, but he did not give us the names. Then later in his journal entry Jones mentions a granddaughter. So why the partial view of a "reconstructed" document?

Some thought the witnesses were the heirs, otherwise, why were they shown but the names of the heirs were not?


  1. Dr Jones says that they used the names Overton and Howerton interchangeably
  2. Obediah and George were about the same age, in same location across the span of about 50 years, each had a son named Willis, which made us wonder if they had a father named Willis.
  3. Just because John was the oldest did not mean he was the father
  4. Why was Obediah not in the tax list table?

We did not get to see all the documents that Dr Jones reviewed. The docs were fed to us in an incomplete manner.

We felt the best information was provided by Dr. Jones's table listing the land records and taxes paid by Howerton and Overtons over a 20 year period. This effectively demonstrated the progression from the use of Howerton to the use of Overton for the family surname.

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: If we take Dr. Jones at his word alone, Case 2 makes sense. However, the method of presenting "reconstructed" and incomplete documents through the FamilySearch interface made it impossible to arrive at the same kinship conclusions without a great leap of faith in Dr. Jones.

We will meet at the following dates, times and places in Second Life to share our work in this course:

  • Tuesday, 31 May 2011 - 6pm at the Just Genealogy Fire Pit (Intro)
  • Sunday, 5 June 2011 - 5:15pm at the Tabernacle near the Family History Centre (Case Study 1)
  • Tuesday, 7 June 2011 - 6pm at the Just Genealogy Fire Pit (Case Study 2)
  • (Note we will skip a week as several participants of the study group will be attending the Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.)
  • Sunday, 19 June 2011 - 5:15pm at the Tabernacle near the Family History Centre (Case Study 3)
  • Tuesday, 21 June 2011 - 6pm at the Just Genealogy Fire Pit (Conclusion and Feedback)

REMEMBER, the Study Group won't meet until Sunday 19 June 2011 owing to many participants being out of town. Heather remarked if Case 3 is anything like Case 2, we will all need the extra week to study.

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

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