Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Inspired, but stalled

After listening to ESM's census talk at IGHR (see my previous post about IGHR here ), I'm really inspired to take a stab at something she showed us. One of our class exercises was to go over some fictional information to find the parents of a woman when she and her husband do not appear in the census and there is only one other person living in the county of that surname with no records connecting the two people as father and daughter and no real direct leads as to who the woman's family might be.

The part about this research that really struck me was the topo map that she did for not just the county where the research started, but also the neighboring county. She placed the neighborhood of the only other person of this name in this county from the census (specifically those on the pages before, after and on the same page) on the plat map and then took the federal land description for the subject couple and placed them on the map as well to get a sense of distance. Then she also plopped the county seat on the map to get a sense of where these families were in relation to the county government. As it turned out, the county seat for the neighboring county was actually closer to the subject couple and that was where doing a plat map for the neighboring county came into play because that ended up being the county where another person of the same surname was found, and yet another lead that led to the right potential father.

So what you end up with is a rectangular grid covering the ranges and townships (the example was in a public land state) for two counties. This is probably pretty similar to what you all are familiar with, however I'm more used to platting out individual properties within a particular township so the idea of taking the span out to include several townships and going into neighboring counties is taking things to another level for me. I thought I could really put this to some use for a few of my "stumpers", especially since most of them involve families who were moving around between the IN and OH state borders. To make matters more complicated, some of these border-settling movers and shakers also appear to have been landless and are missing from the deed books, so their situation can really be compared to the example from class.

I'm really excited to try this out, I'll probably start with the Atkinsons from Clinton Co., Ohio since that's the project I seem to be devoting most of my time to lately (you can read a little about them here and here). I'll post a second part to help get a plan going but in the meantime, it's time to get working on ordering the FHL film. I wish it could all get here quickly, I hate waiting!


  1. You can download quadrangle maps from the USGS website. I did that, printed them out on 13x19 paper and taped them together to try to get a grasp on my SW Virginia/East Tennessee folks. If you are working on just one state the big DeLorme atlases are good. I love plotting out where my people lived!

  2. What a great idea! I'll have to try this on one of my client's families. They appeared on two county's books/censuses, etc in part because they lived on both counties at one time but also I wonder if because the county seat was closer.