Sunday, February 1, 2009

GPS - exhaustive search necessary

Genealogical Proof Standard - Why do we need to know what it is? Why do we need to follow its principles?

If we want to have credible information in our family histories and our historical research, we need to follow these principles.

Mark Tucker at ThinkGenealogy has a very useful one page Research Process Map that summarizes the key elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard. He also has a slide presentation Navigating Research with GPS

The following illustrates why it is necessary to undertake an exhaustive search and to write things out and to cite and evaluate your sources. At this point, I am not able to give specifics of the home in question and the individuals invovled. I will try not to confuse you.

Back in November, a friend from the historical society started researching one of the homes in the city and its early owners. I got involved and did some searching of census and vital registrations. I realized that there were two men in the city at the same time with the same name who died about two years apart. As I read my friend's information that she had gathered from a number of sources and I related it to what I was finding, I decided that the two men with the same name were being confused. This confusion had not started with my friend's research.

Time to look at land records to see if that would help sort things out. We looked at the abstract indexes for the property in question. We noted the names of the principal players.

The Bruce-Grey Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society have prepared the "Surname Collection" on microfiche organized by surname. It primarily consists of obituaries but it includes some articles on individuals that appeared in the newspaper. We checked on the family in question and found several articles that helped clarify things.

Not content to leave it at that, I checked to see if the men in question were listed in Surrogate Court Index, 1859-1900 volume 27 Grey County 2nd ed indexed by Elizabeth Hancocks, CG Campbellville, ON : Global Heritage Press, 2005.

Yes, the two men were listed. One where the record was probated in 1885 and another that was probated in 1887. This matched the death dates of the two men. But who was the third one shown for 1900? Since I was curious, I ordered all three films through my public library from the Archives of Ontario.

Well after a wait of two months, the microfilm finally came in this week. Yesterday, my friend and I headed to the library. I decided that since the 1900 record was the mystery person of the same name, let's look at it quickly so that we could spend our time on the other two films.

To our surprise and delight, this record related to the man who died in 1887 (the one who owned the property). A daughter was petitioning the court because the original estate had not been settled before the death of the executrix (widow of the man deceased in 1887). The widow had remarried and her new name was provided. The children were all named in this document.

Next we looked at the probate record from 1887. Yes these were the original documents from when the will was probated. Lots of good details to be gone through here concerning his business and his partnership with his brother.

We then looked at the microfilm for the man who died in 1885. Yes it too was matching up with our previous research. It gave his occupation, his wife's name and the name of his children.

The library was closing soon but there was still enough time to do a little more work. In the daughter's petiton, it said that the widow had died with a will. Could it be listed in the index? Yes it was. It was also in 1900 and it was on a reel that we had brought in. The documents added some more interesting information.

So where do we stand now? What do we need to do?

  • The estate papers need to be studied.
  • The handwritten documents transcribed. (The writing is faint in places. I will scan them.)
  • Key land records should be consullted.
  • Finally, a carefully documented paper needs to be written that shows who owned the property.

I will work with my friend on this project. I want to see this brought to a conclusion.

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