What constitutes a “variety of sources”?

It is obvious, at least to me, that the BCG wants to see a variety of source material cited in the various reports that are written for the application.  In the extreme, if only one source was used and it was found incorrect, where would you be?  Starting over.  If, on the other hand, you used a variety of sources and they were consistent (maybe not exactly so) then it lends credence to the proof you are presenting.

As I was listening to the BCG tapes on Kinship Report (to access click on the link on the sidebar), Tom Jones outlined that one should look for the list of sources in Val Greenwood’s book , The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.  So, I did!

Listed there under “Part 2, Records and their Use” is a series of sections where Mr. Greenwood has listed some of the original sources one might use to  document and enrich the story of your ancestors.  I have listed them below and have made notes after each of these to give you an idea of where most of my evidence is generated.  Please note that internet sources are not listed; this could either be because the internet is a tool or that the explosion of original sources on-line has expanded exponentially since the last edition was published in 2007.

Possible Source Material

  1. Newspapers and other compiled materials:  Because my US based immigrant family (for my kinship paper mostly) is the point from which I am “going back from,” I have not relied on many of these.  However, I do have a good number of obituaries of the children.
  2. Vital Records:  These are the records of major events (BMD) that are kept by governmental authorities.  I actually have a small number of these.  It is now more difficult to procure some of them because I am not closely enough related and would have to prevail upon cousins whom I have never met to apply on my behalf.  It’s a problem/opportunity.
  3. Census returns:  I collect all of these on any given family (including Household Examinations, the functional equivalent of annual censuses taken by the pastor in Sweden) that I can find.  The good news is the my families didn’t move around much; the bad news is that when they did move it tended to be during census years and they cannot be found!
  4. Probate records:  I have some of these for close relatives and I have one from the early 1800’s in Sweden (who knew!).  These provide a listing of heirs and much context.  I do wish I had more but geography has distanced me from the records making them difficult to obtain.
  5. Wills:  I do not have too many of these either.  But the person of record, Johanna (Jönsdotter) Anderson died intestate so …..
  6. Miscellaneous probate records:  I found an interesting document naming Johanna’s son, Alex, the administrator.  Johanna had to sign that she was OK with her son being the Administrator.  She left her mark, although she could read and write.  My grandfather wrote out an attestation that it was her mark and my grandmother signed Johanna’s name.  It’s a nice record for me.
  7. Government land:  Since my folks came late, they bought land from others.  I do have some remote relatives that purchased South Dakota property as bounty lands but they will not be the subject of any of the reports.
  8. local land transactions:  I have a fair number of these.  As an architect I find our relationship to the land and its geography a base part of my being.  My Ostfriesen side (near Holland) immigrated and settled on land that others thought was too wet to farm.  The immigrants took advantage of low prices, bought the soggy land in northern Illinois and set about to drain it.
  9. Court Records:  I cannot think of any of these I have that I don’t have covered under some other more specific topic, e.g. Probate records.
  10. Church Records:  My overseas work relies almost entirely on these records.  They include Household Examinations (Sweden) and the recording by the pastor of BMDB.
  11. Immigration records:  Sometimes hard to find but critical.  I like collecting information about their sailing and find that the newspaper on the day in that city will often have a listing of the ships at dock.  Other stops in the journey might also be included.
  12. Military records: once again I do not have many of these.  It is implied in a letter my ggrandfather, the immigrant, wrote to his brother in Germany that one of the advantages of coming to the US was that one did not have to serve in the military.  I have one great great half uncle who served in the Civil War and then nothing until my Dad was in WWII and my brother in Vietnam.
  13. Cemetery and burial records: I love seeing the tangible product of my ancestors having lived.  Burial records in Europe are much different as the family rented the plot in the cemetery and if they did not keep up the payments, after 30 or so years the marker was pulled up and someone else was buried in the same location.

A type of record not included in the list above that I have used is “manuscripts and theses”.  This are original sources which provide secondary information usually for the purposes of context.

Happy Hunting!


What I did since last post:  really reassessed the Lineage report.  I decided to just write large sections of it (get off the dime, as it were) working from my software program;s data entries (so I know I got the information from somewhere) and then I will go back and find out what I am missing and go get it or modify my writing to accommodate the fact that I cannot find it.  Since I have been meticulous about sourcing information in my database I am very confident there will be few items that fall into the latter category.


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