Tuesday, March 8, 2011

WHO Is He and Where Is He?

I have a great grandfather (well I have four, just like everyone else); but this one is a mystery to me!

His name probably is William T. Dorrance; the T. may stand for Tully. He may have been born in Connecticut and may have served in the regular army. He is said to have married Mary Murphy in New Orleans before they moved to Missouri. Mary Murphy (she's a mystery also) is said to have come to the U. S. from County Cork, Ireland. She is supposed to have entered the country through New Orleans. The foster mother of her younger son may have arrived in the U. S. on the same boat.

As you can tell, what I have to work with is family stories; there is not one single proven fact in the above paragraph. The probable cause of this collection of non-facts lies in the words "foster mother." My grandfather was young when his parents died (although probably not as young as family stories say — again, I don't know). I DO HAVE a copy (positive form) of a microfilm of the will of my grandfather's foster father. These papers include the bonds for guardianship from the guardians of Henry Dorrance, my grandfather, and Wm Dorrance, his (older?) brother. I remember my mother and her sisters talking of "Uncle Will" and I also remember meeting "Mr. Lloyd, my foster brother" one day at my Grandfather's house.

These bonds for guardianship were filed Oct. 5, 1863 (when James Henry Dorrance was 9 years old). I know that this date is a clue to the deaths of "William T." and his wife, "Mary;" but I DO NOT know where to go next! How much time elapsed between the death of the parents and the authorization of the guardianships. I know that this procedure varies from state to state. Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy says that in Missouri these records are under the jurisdiction of the County Probate Court; Genealogist's Companion and Sourcebook has less than that on the subject (unless, of course, I have misused the index). Where do I look next?

I suspect that I should be looking at probate records and land ownerships in order to establish the Dorrance family in Jefferson County in Missouri. How do I do that? (Well, I DO have some ideas on this one. I'm learning from the online sites of the Jefferson County Historical Society and the Jefferson County Genealogy Society and I have locations I can travel to where I can examine the society holdings for each group. I have joined the MOJEFFER group at RootsWeb. Also, I have met a librarian in Jefferson County, who has charge of one of these collections, and who can probably direct me to the best local places for my research in that area. I can reach her quickly via Facebook, which should save valuable time ffor the people who may be dealing with my searches — as well as for me,)

In the meantime, being poorly organized, I forgot to begin at the end of Mr. Dorrance's life. Instead, I began by looking into the military service. And I DID find some records which may belong to my William T. Dorrance.

These records confused me. Today we spent about an hour at our local family history center getting help with these records (which appear to be in Salt Lake City, among other places). I learned several things. 1) Although the clue to these records came to me through those "leaves" at Ancestry.com, Footnote is a better place to search for military records. I have a Footnote subscription, I just didn't think to go there. 2) Be more flexible! I love my laptop, which is "my" primary computer, but the screen on my "husband's" desktop is much larger. If I sign off access to my accounts on my machine, I can go to his larger screen in order to read those two-page wide records that are too difficult to follow on my smaller screen. (Now WHY didn't I think of that!). 3) There is a button pointing to additional information on some of these screens that just didn't make an impression on me. Be more thorough!

Concerning these military records: since I HAVE gotten to them, I should record the information (with sources), save it to my records as TENTATIVE information, and then put this line of research on hold while I return to my great grandfather's death and trace him backwards in time.

I have had lots of help this week and I have learned a lesson or two (which is indeed valuable and much of the fun of genealogy for me), BUT William T. Dorrance (or whoever) is as enigmatic as he was last week.

Here's to facing our frustrations,
Frustrated Sue

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A "Real Genealogist"

This will be an occasional blog, charting my way through the land of genealogy.

Someday I want to be a "real genealogist." (No, I don't mean a professional genealogist.)

According to my personal definition:
1. A real genealogist is organized. In contrast, my papers, my searches, and my thoughts wander all over the place.
2. A real genealogist is disciplined. In contrast, I jump from goal to goal, leaving other searches up in the air. (Sometimes the jump is because you get a new, hot clue and you pursue it at least long enough to be sure that you can get back to the lead. I believe that "real genealogists" act this way. But the "real genealogist" has a plan and gets back to it. I have a plan, but I don't stick to it for one whole day.)
3. A real genealogist cites sources, and doesn't post without sources. OK, I'm almost a "real genealogist" here. I do make note of my sources; I am even organizing my citation styles so that they will be consistent with each other (all census citations are similar, all birth certificates are similar, and so on). And my public postings have at least one source to verify the listing. The trouble is that the one source may be only a census or a statement on a death certificate.
4. A real genealogist evaluates evidence, adhering to Genealogical Proof Standards before posting information. In contrast, I don't even understand the path to this goal. Some things are clear: a death certificate has some "good" evidence (such as the physician's statement) and some "hearsay" evidence (such as place of birth of the deceased). Or the fact that census information is mainly hearsay. Please notice that I'm avoiding the terms "Direct and Indirect" evidence, "Original and Derivative" source, "Primary and Secondary" information; when I have these terms in front of me, I have a fair idea of the meaning. But we're at a recognition stage of knowledge, not at recall, let alone at an ability to have these decisions as part of my working tools. (I had to go to my copy of Genealogical Proof Standard by Christine Rose to be sure that I had the correct terms.) What is more, even if I were skilled with these steps, I'm currently completely unsure as to how to used them in evaluating the validity of my data.
5. A real genealogist gets results. In contrast, — well examine the "in contrasts" in points 1 to 4 above.

I am comparatively new to genealogy. I find it both fascinating and frustrating. (I've been heard to declare that genealogy was invented in order to ensure that we would never run out of being frustrated.) The comparative newness explains some of the "in contrasts" mentioned above. But I'm afraid that I have a grasshopper brain. Also, my pattern appears to be periods of intense concentration followed by "burnout" which causes me to embrace another activity with equal intensity for a while. These personal traits will probably be with me for the rest of my life; I just need learn to work effectively within this pattern.

What should I do about the comparative newness? Well, learn. I have taken several steps in this direction; I belong to my local genealogical society (Genealogical Society of Central Missouri or gscm), to the St. Louis Genealogical Society, and to the Wabash Genealogical Society  (my father's Indiana roots). I attend the meetings of the two Missouri groups, and learn many things from these meetings. I have "met" Dae Powell and Jayne McCormick through their GENTREK presentations at GenealogyWise. Through these presentations I have learned of books, of other Genealogists, and of specific techniques. Genealogy Wise has special groups where I can ask questions, and an active chat room where more experienced genealogists can give me research points. I subscribe to Ancestry.com and to footnote.com; I also do online searches through FamilySearch.com. I have begun to read Blogs (a suggestion from Jayne and Dae), and I've begun to attend Webinars more systematically. I believe that all these activities will help me grow in my ability to become a real genealogist.

This blog will be another approach to growth. (Thanks to "Dear Myrtle," whose blog today, led me to her first blog on this subject, and therefore to this first posting. Thank you, Myrt!)

My father used to drive me wild, by saying "Unexpressed is half thought!" (When I got older, I used to retaliate with "…thoughts that lie too deep for words …). But my father had a point. If I discuss specific frustrations in this blog, I may begin to solve them, simply by clarifying the problem. I hope that the blog will catch the attention of others, who may then add comments that can help me get closer to becoming a "real genealogist."

If you like this idea, keep up with me — and tell any friend who likes genealogy. One thing I HAVE learned in the past two to three years, is that Genealogists love to help each other.

Here's to facing our frustrations,
Frustrated Sue