Saturday, June 02, 2012

Those nagging questions!

Sometimes research is so frustrating I wonder -- fleetingly -- why I even bother with genealogy.  Mistakes, mine and those of other people, can be so trying -- at least until I find the answers. 
Here are a few problems that have hampered me:
One -- I mentioned this before --  was about the mysterious “James” Sherwood, from Virginia, who showed up in the 1850 census for Bartholomew County, Indiana.  I was stumped, as this was a family whose previous head was my ancestor, Thomas E. Sherwood.  I knew Thomas, born in KY,  had died much earlier, leaving a wife and several children.  It seemed probable that Thomas’s wife has also died, and that this new person was a caretaker relative, but from a different state? And who was the young Susan Sherwood who had abruptly inserted herself into this family?
The answer finally came when I found proof that Thomas’s wife was not dead at all.  Furthermore, she had a daughter, Susan Fisher, from a previous marriage.  A long hard look at the census record (which quite clearly showed James, age 4, MALE) finally helped me realize that “James” was really Jane, and Susan “Sherwood” was actually Susan Fisher.  
Here’s another case, quickly solved, but only because I knew someone involved:
Digging into the 1940 census for a family group from Lake County, Indiana. I found the family of my son-in-law’s grandparents.  The census clearly indicated that his mother had a brother named “Camilla.”  Oh?  Well, not exactly.  Tim knew Camilla as “Auntie Cam,” and she was definiately not a male!  
Can’t be too hard on the census takers, though.  After indexing a few pages of the 1940 census I am seriously in awe of their efforts in gathering all this information, and am surprised there aren’t more obvious errors. (Yes, I am a newbie volunteer, and find it's a lot of fun.)
Of course census records aren’t the only source of bafflement. Just this week I was trying to straighten out some Tanners and Raulersons in Florida. I had long ago copied data for Bertha, wife of Wesley Tanner, from a Family History Library index of death records.  Her parents were listed as  F.E. Henderson and Virginia Moody so, rookie that I was, I just assumed Bertha’s birth name was Henderson.
But I could find nothing helpful about Hendersons in that Florida area at the time.  Furthermore, after Bertha died, the children were listed in the 1940 census as “grandchildren” in the household of Stephen Franklin Raulerson and his wife Clara V.    Huh?
Piecing together information from other sources, I was able to determine  that Clara V. was Clara Virginia Moody.  “F.E. Henderson,” I can only surmise, is a serious misreading of the name “S.F. Raulerson.”  That would make Bertha's full name Bertha Raulerson. Of course, to confirm my suspicion, I will have to look at the original image. (Should have done it before!)
The lesson here is simply to be persistent.  Try to look at oddball records from a different perspective. And do be sure to look for more than one source for each piece of information. (Note to self: never accept an index entry as the final word.)

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