Ah, yes – the name game. Growing up, I heard many names mentioned about people and never really thought of how they relate to me, if at all, until in my later years in the service. How many times do we remember a name and try to piece together the relationship? Many times names are recycled through the generations. With the advent of the internet, a plethora of names cascades off the webpages such as Ancestry.com, Fold3, FamilySearch, and others. Our job as genealogists is to sift through the names and generations to see where the people fit in our ancestral or correlative puzzle. Unfortunately, the above named websites, particularly Ancestry.com and FamilySearch, contain much bogus information in the form of mis-keyed entries.
As a “baby” genealogist I ordered Family Tree Maker 2005 software and I searched for my ancestor, William Barker and came up with several hundred thousand hits. By the time I finished merging trees, the poor man had15 wives and several hundred kids. I knew he was born in the 1840s and had one wife. In extreme frustration, I deleted my great-great grandfather from existence (and yet, I’m still here) and started over. The story illustrates important points – start with yourself and work back, don’t rely on the internet for all information, and use a variety of records from the courts, libraries, historical societies plus other reputable sources.
In order to prove each event in our ancestors lives, each record must be cited and verified by cross-referencing with other records. What do I mean? For example, my ancestor William Barker entered into this world 6 January 1842, Millwood Township, Guernsey County, Ohio. The event is precise, but no birth records were kept in Ohio until the late 1860s. How can it be cross-referenced? Using a death certificate from the Ohio Department of Health or perhaps a probate record from the court. I obtained the death certificate that gives his birth date, trouble is the birth is secondary. I checked the probate court and there is no probate records for William.
Another way to cross-reference is to use the 1880 census. The 1880 census gives relationships and an approximate year of birth. Actually, the more censuses used the better, even if no relationships are stated. Land records can be used as well because of the transference of property, in addition to a marriage being written into the record. Tombstone photos in cemeteries will help.