Blog Jan 2010
My latest efforts at clearing out / cleaning up the little room I use for my office are stumbling along. Old notes, newly unearthed, tempt me with immediate search possibilities. Besides that, a couple of problems have surfaced (besides the obvious one, which is that I can’t stay on track) that are not, strictly speaking, genealogical.
I have a collection of travel notes and souvenirs (did I tell you I collect printed ephemera -- a fancy term for odd bits of paper?) which date back to the 1980s, when I was fortunate enough to visit friends in Tokyo. I think there’s even a Japanese placemat from McDonald’s in there somewhere. This accumulation is in various boxes and envelopes, heaped on the floor. At one point I started making scrapbooks, but that came to seem like overkill, and a project I probably would never complete. Some trips, while interesting and enriching, simply do not justify enshrinement in those imposing acid-free albums. I need to rethink the whole thing and get these bales of material out of there!
The other “problem” is a precious aggregation of family video tapes, 8mm home movies and a CD or two. These need editing and transferring to a contemporary medium, probably DVDs; meanwhile they, too, are in cartons on the office floor, awaiting the ministrations of some skill greater than mine.
So, in a strenuous effort to ignore these issues, I go back to my endless rearranging of pieces of paper. And in so doing I have come up with some actual genealogy-related ideas.
A challenge alluded to before in these columns is about the ancestral line of my Mintons. There was a John Minton/Mintun in the Revolutionary War; I have a copy of his pension application, with a faint facsimile of some Bible pages appended, showing his children and their birth dates. He had a son Jacob, born in the 1790s. The proven ancestry I have been working on includes a William whose father seems to be a Jacob, also born in that decade. John enlisted in NJ, and my William was born in NJ. Wouldn’t it be exciting to connect these two, and give my kids bragging rights?
Well, it hasn’t quite worked out as I’d hoped, but in untangling the various bits of data, real and wishful, I’ve come across a useful way to sort things out.
Instead of simply creating another file in my genealogy program for the so-far-unrelated folks (which does sometimes help), I wrote up a brief summary for each of my significant documents, showing what was stated in particular about any Jacob Minton born in that time period. There was the Rev War pension application, a DAR application (which actually ignored Jacob but names John), a five-generation pedigree chart I copied at the Family History Library last year, a partial genealogy of unknown authorship which gives interesting particulars but no documentation, and a digitzed copy of some diary pages, which a correspondent sent to me.
As you can see, most of these would not pass the “evidence” test, though they do provide tantalizing clues. But by the act of summarizing such sources, I have been able get a better grasp of the possibility of a relationship between our Minton line and that Rev War guy. (It does not seem to exist, alas, despite similar names, dates and locations.)
I do recommend this technique if you are faced with a number of conflicting “facts” and need to examine them in a new way.
Meanwhile, back to … well, you know. [And I have promised myself to take care of the home movies and videos in the next few weeks.]