Saturday, January 1, 2011

Great articles in the new NGS Magazine!

Hi all, I got my new NGS Magazine (Oct-Dec 2010) in the mail a few days ago and was really excited about a few of the articles included. The first one is by Debbie Mieszala, CG and is called "The Curious Case of the Disappearing Dude". It's actually the article that made me want to revisit the 1905 New York State census in search of my Ward family members (as described in the previous post). I think we can all relate to having at least one, if not more, of those relatives who shows up for one census enumeration or in one record just enough to peak our interest and then flies by the wayside, never to be seen or heard from again. That is, until you start to dig deeper and start piecing apart your research. Debbie's article tells about her journey towards finding a subject who first shows up as a 2-year-old and then disappears from the records. Along the way, she finds that not just her subject, but his whole family disappears from the records until she starts really tracking those members she can find and those leads open more leads to the others until eventually she has found all but her initial subject but has gained a slew of evidence pointing towards his possible whereabouts. It's a great article and I found it to be pretty inspiring for my own research because I ended up heading right back to the last known location for my own family: the 1905 NY census. So give it a read and see what kind of inspiration you get for your own projects.

The second article in the Oct-Dec 2010 NGS Magazine that I found to be a wonderful resource for future research was Jean Atkinson Andrews' article on neighborhood reconstruction pre-1850. It's called simply, "Developing a Neighborhood of Associates". I think we can all agree that finding the neighbors can be especially important when you're trying to gain as much info as possible about your target person/family. From 1850 onwards, we are lucky to have the snapshot of the neighborhood and to make great use of that, it's common practice for us to take note of those people listed on at least the page before and the page after your subject appears, as well as all those people who appear on the same page. This is even one of the assignments in the NGS HSC, for the lesson on migration, so it's a great exercise to keep in mind. Tracking neighbors can help lead you to birth and marriage locations, places of origin, intermarried families, and lots more. But what do you do when you are looking at a person/family alive prior to the 1850 enumerations? Not only do we lose out on the names of the family members living within a household, but we also lose the neighborhood snapshot because the addresses were not recorded as they were in later censuses and no townships or specifications on where the individuals listed were living within the given county were shown.

This wonderful articles gives you a great idea for how to proceed with creating a pre-1850 neighborhood reconstruction beginning with land entry case files. The author has a subject who can be traced living near someone else and even migrating to another state around the same time as the other person before disappearing from the records. Without the use of those later records, such as death certificates and possible appearances in later censuses, to help give clues to his origin, the author needed to find another way to learn where he came from through other means. Fanning out her research to include his neighbors in the census enumerations she did have for him was the way for her to start. To begin, she orders the land entry case file for her disappearing subject which unfortunately did not give an explicit info on his origins or family breakdown. That didn't mean her research stopped however. Instead, she developed a research plan which dove into the land purchasing process in the state where her subject obtained his land, and studied those who purchased the land near his, where those people came from, the history of the area which they chose to purchase in, and tracking those people both forwards and backwards in the census and lots lots more. What she was able to do was create a grid with information on virtually all of his neighbors and then track them in the censuses and expand her search in the county histories to include those people which then gave her information on migration paths to add to what she had learned about the origins of her subject's neighbors. All of which could be useful tools in finding out where her subject was from.

It's an amazing article to keep on hand for future research not just because it gives us all something else to try when we feel we're at a roadblock with those early censuses, but also because so often researchers just stop once their research takes them to those often-less-than-satisfying pre-1850 census enumerations. They just don't seem to give some people that same high of finding what you want to find as the later censuses do and a lot of people don't seem to be all that keen to put the extra effort into moving forward from them. This article might change that for some people by giving them an option to try rather than giving up. It's a must read!

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