25 June 2009

Smoke & Mirrors

Sometimes what we see may or may not be what we thought it was.

Late yesterday we were traveling across town, eastbound on 14 mile road - as we approached Greenfield Road we saw a Jag pull up along our right side and pass us. This put them in the intersection of 14 & Greenfield about two car lengths ahead of us. As they passed into the intersection a much older car with three teenage girls in it proceeded to turn left - without the fast thinking response of the Jag driver the car of teenage girls would have T-boned the Jag, there were two passengers on that side. I shudder at the outcome.

After seeing this I saw the three girls raising their arms as in a cheer. Were they cheering the fact that they made the Jag take the evasive action or was this a cheer of joy at missing the accident & everyone being okay? Not being privy to the conversations in the cars one can only speculate. In talking with Studmuffin he voiced a different opinion than I as to the meaning of the "cheers".

This happens in genealogy as well. Well sort of. We see things and we interpret them as we see them rather then taking the time to research it and get the true facts. Take the census for example.

The 1870 census is a very good example of the point made. With the end of the civil war many children were left without fathers and sometimes even mothers, the children had to be somewhere right? With the end of the civil war the 1870 census is a prime time for researchers to be wary of census showing very large family units, many times with very large numbers of children. Some things to watch for, multiple children of the same age in the household, babies of very young age with big gaps between other children, mothers having children at very young ages and more.

Such is the case with many families, where sons went off to die in the civil war and wives left behind were either killed or died of starvation or disease often times leaving behind several children. If family were in the area and could take the children they were often farmed out, divided between those who could feed an extra mouth. So those children often ended up being enumerated in households with no explanation as to their origin. Only research would tell that those children were part of an extended family.

Even the 1860 census can show us this. Take for example the 1860 census for Littleberry Nix and his wife, which shows the following:

Littleberry NIX (60 M), Farmer, Real Estate Valued at $250;
Polly (55 F);
Patsey (40 F);
Axsey (30 F);
Larkin (21 M), Laborer, Idiotic;
William (15 M), Idiotic;
Malinda (35 F), Idiotic;
Julia (27 F), Idiotic;
Mary (23 F);
Green (12 M);
Mayers (10 M);
Safronia (9 F); and
John (2 M).

Without relationships being posted we really do not know who all the children in this census belong to. Its possible that some belonged to Littleberry's siblings or other family members, there are many options - but the fact remains that without research figuring out who all these chilren really belong to is an on going research project by the compiler of this data base & blog.

This census is not the only example of things like this. We find it in many census records where relationships were not given. The problem is that many "researchers" take what they see and assume things to be exactly as you see them. Problem is many times, this just is not the way it is. As a good researcher we need to use other records to prove or disprove the things that we find on the census and not just assume that what we see there is fact.

Making assumptions based on what we see, and not on facts is a dangerous practice that I see way too often in today's world of genealogists. We need to take the time to prove the things we find, not just believe everything that we stumble across.

[On a genealogical note is is believed that Littleberry Nix is one of the sons of John G Nix & his wife, Sarah. Littleberry was married to Mary. As of this writing the compiler has found 21 different children - given to this couple by various sources. It is my theory, still in proving stages, that all of the children are NOT theirs. If you connect to this line and have documentation or would like to discuss please email me karen[at]miprofgenie[dot]com and we can discuss the Nix lineage.]

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