20 July 2015

What do you remember about your great-grandparents? 52 Questions W7

This week we will focus on the question - 

What do you remember hearing about your great-grandparents?

Good follow-up questions that easily go with this questions are:
Did your great-grandparents come to the U.S. from a foreign country? What stories are told in your family about their journey?
Did you ever meet any of them?
Do you remember seeing any pictures of your great-grandparents?
When and where were they born? When and where did they die?
Where did your great-grandparents live?

Family History gains personal value when we get to know our relatives that we haven't known very well. Of my eight great-grandparents, only four of them were alive when I was born but I only really remember one of them.

My great-grandmother, my father's mother's mother, Clara Mae Orton Taylor, passed away during my freshman year in college. She had gone blind later in life but could play the organ. She was the organist at her church for 60 years. She loved to crochet afghans I even have a couple that are prized possessions.  I remember when she would come to dinner and my grandmother's house. My grandma would dish up her plate of food and then tell Clara Mae where the food was on the plate like it was a clock, turkey at 3 o'clock and potatoes at 6. The grandchildren lovingly called her blind granny. I remember being scared of her when I was little. She would play my grandma's organ for Christmas when she would come. I also remember visiting her home several times. She had a large TV set but I could never understand why, if she was blind why did she need a TV? I was her first (and favorite) great-grandchild.

Two of my great-grandmothers died within five years before I was born and three of my great-grandparents died within four years after my birth. Besides my blind granny, all of the knowledge I have of my great-grandparents was given to me by others. Some of the tidbits were true and some are questionable.

As we compile our family histories the evidence or sources we use to support a fact becomes very important. Not just for documenting the person to whom the source is about but also to find other possible relatives and clues to help us to build our family trees.

Please do not let sources or evidence become a barrier to your Family History work!

There are two different types of evidence, direct and indirect. Direct evidence points straight to a fact. A death certificate is direct proof of the person's place, date and cause of death. Indirect evidence is circumstantial or allows a person to infer information. The year of birth can be inferred from a baby's christening record. The year of death can be inferred from a burial record.

Sources are different types of evidence. Sources can come in two forms, primary and secondary.
"Primary Sources are documents, oral accounts, photographs, or any other items created at the time of an event. Some primary sources include birth and marriage certificates, deeds, leases, diplomas or certificates of degree, military records, and tax records. 
"Secondary sources are documents, oral accounts, and records that are created some length of time after the event or for which information is supplied by someone who wasn't an eyewitness to the event. A secondary source can also be a person who was an eyewitness to the event but recalls it after significant time passes." Genealogy Online For Dummies, 7th Edition.
Death certificates can be both primary and secondary sources. They are the primary source for the date, place and cause of death but most times a secondary source for the date and place of birth. Census records are a primary source for the place of residence and makeup of the family but a secondary source for birth dates and the spelling of names.

A common mistake among beginners is that they do not keep track of their sources. We I first started my research I came across a document about my grandmother's first marriage. Later I tried to add his name to my database and I could not find the information. It took precious time to research this one piece of evidence.

A second mistake beginners make is not to record all of the information contained within a source. It is very common to see multiple family names in close proximity within a census record. The witness or informant in a death certificate is commonly a relative, friend, acquaintance or neighbor of the deceased. These types of clues can lead to more relatives and ancestors for your family tree.

There are several sources that are commonly used. These sources are easy to use and cover large portions of the population.

  • Birth, Marriage and Death Records - Usually held in either government or church records.
  • Census Records - Usually held by national governments. Census records document the makeup of family and the locations where they live.
  • Draft Cards - within the United States these records contain not only the names of those who are registering for the draft but also the names a parent and location where they live.
  • Social Security Death Index - This is a United States record of those who have died within the last 100 years. This is a great source of place and location information as well as death date.

The above 1910 census record shows my great-grandmother Clara Mae with her mother, father, three brothers and a sister living in Parowan, Utah.

This above 1920 census record shows Clara Mae in the household of her step-father with her mother, sister, aunt, and grandmother all living in Kanosh, Utah. The changes between these documents allow us to infer information and create a plan to find more information. What happened to Clara Mae's father, uncle and grandfather? Have her sisters all married? All of these people are my direct relatives. Because if these two sources I have 12 different relatives who I could possible do work for.

This obituary for Clara Mae shows evidence of her birth, marriage, death and burial dates. It also lists the names of six more relatives for a total of 17 between the three sources.

As I build my family tree I add these names and use them as a to-do list of those I need to do research for. Although my example is not typical, I have found over 10300 relatives using the above outlined method. I strive to have at least three sources for each person, some I have more and some less.