Document Research

Oh, Sidney

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’ve been working on my husband’s 2x great grandmother Sidney. Also, I have been doing a “genealogy do-over” to an extent by going back through my family tree software and writing up a summary for each person. This sounds like a waste of time since I have everything already documented, right? Well, according to the Genealogical Proof Standard it is a required step and I’m finding it to be critical in the process.

Take Sidney here for example.

I have worked on her tree for the better part of 20 years. I remember finding her name originally on a microfilm that I found at the local public library way before Ancestry and FamilySearch were popular. I was so excited to make the connection to her as it gave me one more generation back in a family that is pretty hush-hush. Since then I have worked on her off and on and I felt like I had her life pretty much tied up. The first step in doing my genealogy do-over is to write up what I have documented for each person in my tree along with necessary source citations, and then create to-do lists for items that I still need to research. I then color-code my people based on a blog post that I found (here if you want to read). Going in, I expected Sidney to be a nice solid Green, instead she turned out to be a Yellow (less detail than a Green).

I start by filling out the basics – name, dates of vitals and a list of children. Right off the bat I realized that I didn’t have a death date for her. I had surmised at some point that she might have died before 1940, but no source citation to say where that information came from. After her children are listed, I start building a timeline for her based on the documentation. I quickly realize that although I’ve worked on her for years, I really don’t have much info. All that I have documented are census records and the two marriages that happened after she was widowed by by Thomas James Wall.

This process is really opening my eyes. It has also made me realize that I am not only missing important documents (marriage record for Wall, death record, etc) but that she had at least one child that died for which I have no name.

I can’t say that this process is “fun” – I’d much rather be looking at new records or find new lines – but it has definitely proven to be necessary. I’m realizing that even the people that I feel like I know are still potentially lacking. And that isn’t even starting on building the historical context around their lives…. but that’s going to be an even bigger project.

Sidney’s chronological summary is here if you want to check it out.

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