Genealogy Wise

The Genealogy & Family History Social Network

Lessons Learned: Tips Gained from Research Experiences

We’ve all learned valuable lessons in our research experiences, one lesson I would like to share with the members is validating your information from “reliable” sources.

My example is getting the correct death date and location for a maternal great-grandmother. Oral tradition, or “word-of-mouth” stated that this great grandmother had died in Cleveland, Ohio about 1930-1931. Without checking any further I entered that information in my database and proceeded to contact a cousin who lived in Cleveland to obtain a death certificate (DC) for me.

My cousin stated he could not find a DC at the Cuyahoga County Health Dept. , I didn’t believe him, thought he just didn’t want to take the time, or spend the money in getting a copy for me ….. at that time only a dollar or two …. but this cousin is cheap.  I contacted the health dept. and they responded no DC for her. My next move was to check the Ohio Death Certificate Index at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus, Ohio. Found it …. great grandmother, Emma (Bridges) Adams had died in Portsmouth, Ohio, not Cleveland.

The oral tradition had stated that she died in Cleveland while visiting a son and his family who lived in Cleveland. The FACT was she died in Portsmouth, Ohio while visiting a daughter and her family that lived in Portsmouth. My great-grandmother’s residence was listed as Urbana, Ohio, so now I go to nearby Urbana and search the obituary file at the County Library and get a copy of that obituary. I now have two (2) pieces of documentation, a primary source, the DC and a secondary source, the obit. My next move was to call the cousin in Cleveland and to apologize “profusely” for not believing him and the fact there was no DC to be found in Cuyahoga County.

Lesson learned ….. don’t be so quick to enter “word-of-mouth” information as factual. Better to use question marks and make a notation that this event needs to be researched further. This incident happened in the late 1980’s when I was a beginner and when I related it to my genealogy mentor, Mrs. Ernestine (Garrett) Lucas, she laughed and then presented me with the book “Cite Your Sources” by Richard S. Lackey which has since become the guideline for documenting my sources.

Would you have any tips or experiences you might care to share?

Art Thomas

Attached: Death Certificate & Obituary


Views: 69

Replies to This Discussion

You are so correct. Oral history can give you clues but never taken as fact. You take the information in, digest it, then prove or disprove the information. Glad you apologized.
Lol Art I too have a story. For years I have been told that my paternal ggrandfather James D Daviss doctored at the Riverside Colored Hospital in Houston Texas. Boy was I in for a shock when Sharon (Sheraph) sent me the plans that she had found regarding the building of that hospital.. My great grandfather died in 1921 but the hospital was in the process of being built and was dedicated June 19,1926.That sure pricked my bubble.. I have however verified that he was a graduate of Maharry in 1898, that he had an office in a building on Milam Street Houston Tx (City Directory)in 1914. and that he was listed in the Directory of Deceased American Physicians 1804-1929, Vol 1 page 384. Practice: Allopath.
I have also obtained a newspaper article that stated that he was was petitioning for a piece of property in Grimes County Texas to open a Sanitarium.
He may have been been a doctor in some hospital somewhere but I have not verified that. I am happy to find what I did find though (smile)

P.S. I am still trying to verify one cousins claim about a gggrand coming over in a canoe( LOL)
Wow, Art, you not only got it confirmed by the death certificate, but also by reading the obituary from the paper of the town where she died!! How amazing!

What a good example of how we often cling certain thoughts and beliefs and end up being wrong. There is a tremendous lessonn in your example!
Excellent post, Art!

We have to listen to those stories with a keen ear.
As Quan states "You take the information in, digest it, then prove or disprove the information."

Coincidentally, you have reminded me and rekindled my research efforts to find my 1st cousin twice removed, Elizabeth Geder-Harlin. She was last known to have lived in Cleveland, Ohio.

"Guided by the Ancestors"
Hi George... Thanks

Don't know if there is a connection, but.........
Check out this DC from Cleveland, OH..... an AA fellow named Thomas A. Harlin & his wife is named Elizabeth, He was from GA & his mother had SC connections.

If the link doesn't work it is found on the LDS pilot site, Ohio DC's from 1908-1953, This gentleman died 13 Mar 1928 and he was a Real Estate Dealer.
Yes Art!

This is my cousin...
I find her in the 1930 census for Cleveland, then the trail goes cold.
It appears that she married late (age 37) and may not have had any children.

Thanks for the post. It is a wonderful reminder of our duty to prove or disprove oral history.
Also, a reminder of the pitfalls of 'memory'. It sometimes contains a 'trace' of truth obscured by generations of memory.

I have an example from the other side of the issue (smile).
My g-aunt told me that her father and (possibly) her mother were both born and raised on a plantation (Rienzi). I searched and could not find any information on the workings of the plantation OR that there were any slaves after the early 1800's. So, I dismissed it and 'failed to remember' this conversation. I continued on other branches of the family.

Years later (LOL), I obtained the Civil War Widow's Pension file and... there in black and white was my gggm, the grandmother of my g-aunt, stating they were brought to Louisiana from Alabama by the Bibbs and were married by an 'old slave preacher' on Rienzi, where her 10 children were born. This gave me my first bit of evidence. Perhaps not a primary source, but it led to additional research. More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson.

"Don't throw out the baby with the bath water".

Thanks for you rreply. I couldn't agree more with your statement on the "baby and the bath water". There is more often than not "bits of truth" hidden in those oral history stories and we need to flush them out before we give up on them as just another old story.




© 2024   Created by IIGSExecDirector.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service