The last several months have been a bit harried with a move, work, and the odd existential crisis… but I’m still here and I was thrilled to see Thomas MacEntee’s great post about his “Genealogy Do-Over.” While everyday life has also interfered, I think I’ve been quiet on my blog because I’ve been working through similar issues since coming back from GRIP @ Orchard Lake in August. Thomas Jones’ class made me want to clean up my research, get everything properly cited, and appropriately researched and I have been quietly backtracking and making sure there is solid research with multiple sources for my genealogy. And Thomas MacEntee (and everyone who chimed in) is right, that’s a daunting task after nearly 20 years. Yet (very) slowly but surely that’s what I’ve been working on these past few months. I didn’t toss (or set aside) everything, instead deciding to start with my father and work backwards filling in missing citations, reexamining sources to wring out additional information, and examining sources I didn’t have on hand (or for that matter think to use) when I started my research.
A great example of the latter has been using city directories. I made a tremendous leap forward on my mother’s very urban ancestors by working my way through the directories of Detroit, Michigan. It filled in tremendous gaps, raised interesting questions and ultimately led me to the discovery of the Massey family. But when researching rural Arkansas families I had not thought to apply that same idea, so in this pass I searched the city directories that have been loaded into Ancestry only to find that those men I always thought of as rural lumberman and farmers spent a fair amount of time in the cities. I found Grandpa Levie working in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, before moving to Detroit and one of his (and my grandmother’s) cousins, Dewitt Trotter (from an earlier Trotter-York marriage), is well-documented in the directories for El Dorado, Union County, Arkansas.
This review, so far, has exposed paths I had either missed or turned away from—including some that have led to fascinating new finds such as: two relatives with intriguing probate files committing them to the Northern Michigan Asylum; a previously unnoticed marriage between a man I believe to be my great grandfather’s older brother and my great-grandmother’s aunt; and the 50-year career of my a 5th grand aunt, Dr. Louisa Skiff Millard Clark, a respected homeopathic physician in the late 19th century in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Without systematically working through the siblings of my direct ancestors I was missing so much texture—not to mention information that directly connected to my ancestor.
To be fair to myself a lot of these things I have done well in my recent research but the work I did when I was in college is not up to par and those relatively large sections of my research need the review. As the new year unfolds you may see me chiming in on aspects of the “Genealogy Do Over” while I continue my own style of review but I definitely agree with the concept and think everyone needs to step back from time to time and try to look at their work with new eyes and the finer honed skills that come with practice and education.