Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lessons From The Wall (II) Sounds to Symbols

Schooling during the late 1950s and early 1960s produced a belief that words were to be spelled correctly.  You were given a list of "spelling words"...told to memorize them...and then, you were given a test to rewrite them exactly as they were given to you.  This lead me to believe that there was only one way to spell a word.

This principle would of course apply to surnames.   A family would spell their surname only one way.  A different spelling of this same surname would mean a different unrelated family.  Thus, early in my tree climbing adventure, there was this understanding that surnames [at least of the same family group] would always be spelled the same way....not!

Lesson (II)

Surnames of the same family can be spelled all sorts of ways.

For example, the surname "Taliaferro".   This family was connected to my Jones family very early in the days of colonial Virginia.  During the records of 1623 - 1666, no such spelling occurred.  It was not until 1666 - 1695 did this name first appear among the pages.  For years this made me believe that the Taliaferro family arrived Virginia after 1666...not!

Sounds to symbols changed my understanding.  A surname was first pronounced, then written down by the one recording the record.  For "Taliaferro" it was first spelled "Tolliver" (1661), then "Talifer", then "Taliafro", then "Tallifro", then "Talifro", the "Tallifer", then "Taliafero", before it was ever spelled "Taliaferro". 

Understanding this aspect of genealogy helped me get around a few brick walls.  Sounds become symbols (words) written down to help locate some of those elusive family members.  You may find your surname is spelled (recorded) all sorts of ways.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Lessons from The Wall (I)

Spending time climbing many different "brick walls" gives one a certain perspective on this thing called genealogy.  "Lessons" they might be called.  I do not know how many of these walls presented themselves to this tree climber over the past 53 years of butting heads, but I do think there have been quite a few.  It might be of help to discuss some of these "lessons" in this blog, since the point has been to help ease the grief to some of my fellow tree climbers...so here goes.

Lesson (1)

From my earliest days of tree climbing (starting age 9) it had always been assumed that the formal documents were correct.  Especially government records that had found their ways into court houses and such places.  One such record was the 1840 census of Kentucky.

One of my early brick walls was trying to find the JONES family that connected my family tree to Virginia.  I had found that Nicholas Jones (my direct line) had first come into Kentucky from Virginia in 1811.  Thus, any one who had been born in Kentucky before this date would not be directly connected to my family tree.  One such fellow was a Thomas Jones who had been born in 1796.  In this 1840 census, he was listed as being born in Kentucky.  Thus, his parents (at least mother) would have come to Kentucky before 1811.  Therefore, I assumed he could not be a son of my Nicholas (b. 1762) who was not in Kentucky until much later.  So, I spent roughly ten years checking every other JONES family in Clark County, KY convinced this Thomas was correctly eliminated.  It was not until I had eliminated every other JONES family that I checked the 1850 census to find that it listed this Thomas Jones as being born in Virginia!  What! In one census it had listed him being born in KY (1840), and in another census (1850) being born in (VA).  It just so happened that the luck of the draw, I found the 1840 census before the 1850 census.  This error did allow me to work through all the JONES families in Clark County before the 1870 census, but it sure did make me realize that not all "official" records were error free! 

Ten years...can you believe it?  Lesson (I) = don't trust everything you read...especially census records!