Saturday, May 30, 2015

Old & New Resources

Part of the beauty of NEHGS and other publishers is that they are always producing new books on genealogy and our ancestors. Many older resources missed, overlooked, or simply did not contain certain information because the research couldn't find it or didn't know where to look. New discoveries happen every day, and genealogical societies try to keep at the forefront of this by sharing the news.

It's difficult to believe, for example, that many people still don't know the correct maiden name of Richard Warren's wife, even after the discovery of the will proving she was Elizabeth Walker, daughter of Augustine Walker. But this also reminds us that there are still new things to learn every day about our ancestors and keeping up with the newest genealogical publications is a good way to also keep up with this news.

Another thing recent publications do is correct misinformation, such as the belief that Richard Warren's wife was Elizabeth Jewett. They may also help clarify the differences between two people of the same name. I had quite a time differentiating "my" Joseph Bartlett, who married Anna Clark, from another Joseph Bartlett born in the same town and decade, and also with a wife named Anna. In this case, I had to move beyond birth, death, marriage, and census records to find a way to tell the two apart. My answer lay in books that let me know the second Joseph was an attorney who ultimately moved to and practiced in New Hampshire.

Sometimes, older publications simply omit readily available information. Robert Charles Anderson notes in his article "Documenting New England's Founders in The Great Migration Directory" that previous volumes omitted certain significant immigrants, such as one of my ancestors, William Blake of Pitminster in Somerset. He eventually settled in Dorchester and the number of his descendants is vast.

This is not to say older volumes, such as James Savage's A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England are not worth the time and effort to seek out. This collection of volumes, for example, can make an excellent jumping off point to guide your research. In fact, I simply love using Google to find such older books when I am working on a family. This is a great way to find PDFs of books that may be out of print or not available locally. Several times, Google Books has led me to fascinating and unexpected information.

Just be sure to reconcile the information with primary sources (such as birth, marriage, and death records), as well as newly available databases, books, articles, etc. to ensure it remains consistently correct. We know (I hope!) that we shouldn't take online family trees for granted as being true, and I think we also shouldn't consider the authors of genealogical books infallible. They are doing the best they can with the information they have, and I believe most books from certain publishers are quite reliable. However, go ahead and look for the resources they cite anyway.

You never know. In following-up on the author's research, you might find something they overlooked.

Copyright (c) 2015 Wendy L. Callahan

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