It is a given that when you start work on a line in genealogy, you investigate what might already have been done. NOT because you will incorporate the findings into your own tree, but to see what might be out there, and if any clues are to be found.
I have heard for years that my mother’s line came from the “Coffee County (Georgia) Tanners,” but never could find any solid evidence.
Finally I decided the only way to prove -- or disprove -- the Coffee County connection was to do look more closely at that line. Ward’s History of Coffee County (Atlanta, 1930) has a section on the Tanners, and it was my intention to start by creating a separate database for these individuals. Well, let me tell you …
How do you deal with multiple nicknames, absence of dates or places, and zero documentation? Betty and Lizzie are listed as two women, Hampton is also shown as “B.H.” and first and middle names are used interchangeably. These folks might as well have been characters in a Russian novel.
In trying to more closely identify who reputedly belonged to whom, I went online and found a database called “Descendants of Cal Tanner,” which seemed to tie in with the Coffee County gang, though again minus details. I also looked at some other "trees" posted here and there online, just for clues.
There seemed to be connections among the trees/charts and I was able to straighten out a few puzzles (Betty/Lizzie was the same person; B.H. was Berry Hampton) and add a few more children.
However, after putting together a couple of generations from these sources, it became clear that going further with Coffee County project would not help me with my research. My John Tanner was NOT the son of the patriarch of this line -- though he had a son with the same name.
But I’m glad I did go as far as I did. Sometimes it really helps to disprove something, if only to keep us on track.
Need a break? Tired of banging on that brick wall? Try filling in some gaps with the many census records and vital records databases to be found on FamilySearch.org. They add new material all the time, and it is SO gratifying to find a birth date, marriage record, or parent name with a quick search of this free service. (And there are source citations which can lead you to the original, if it is not displayed.)