Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Evaluating Records - GPS Study Group Chapter 3

Genealogical Proof Standard Study Group

Homework
Chapter Three – Evaluating Records
Anna Matthews

Reference:
Christine Rose, Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, 4th Edition Revised. San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2014.


"The Immigrants", Sculptor Luis Sanguino
Castle Garden, NYC

A couple trying to hide the pre-marriage conception of their first child, a neighbor supplying your ancestor's census information to a tired enumerator, a child supplying information about grandparents they never met for their mother's death certificate; these are just some of circumstances that could affect the accuracy of information we seek. Knowing your record set, why it was created and under what circumstances will help with those evaluations.

Although I know now that ship's records and citizenship applications are the best places to look for information about ancestors' immigration and citizenship, census records were the first documentation I found (or Ancestry found for me) that contained immigration and citizenship information for my Anderson great-grandparents. Although I have better sources for this information now, conflicting information still needs to be addressed, so understanding census records will be important to my conclusions.

Carl Johan Anderson
1900 - Name: Chas, Born June 1865, Immigrated 1888, Naturalized
1910 - Name: Carl J., 44 years old, Immigrated 1891, Naturalized
1920 - Name: Carl, 54 years old, Immigrated 1895, Naturalized
1930 - Name: Carl J., 63 years old, Immigrated 1888, Naturalized

Mathilda Alfina Anderson
1900 - Name: Alfina, Born Mar 1868, Immigration year blank, Naturalization status blank
1910 - Name: Alfina, 42 years old, Immigrated 1893, Naturalization status blank
1920 - Name: Matilda, 52 years old, Immigrated 1895, Naturalized
1930 - Name: Matilda A., 62 years old, Immigrated 1890, Naturalized

My census experience is distinctly different from that of my ancestors. I received a form in the mail, completed and returned it to the census bureau but my ancestors may or may not have been the informants of their own record. My form was in my mother tongue, but my ancestors were answering questions in their second language. I could answer questions at my leisure but my ancestors may have been rushed by a busy enumerator or interrupted while preparing for dinner, dealing with children or any number of possible distractions. These are some of the things to keep in mind when evaluating census information.  Just this week I was reminded while watching one of Christa Cowan's videos for Ancestry that an enumerator may have recorded information obtained from neighbors if the family they were looking for wasn't home. Of the records available for research only the 1940 census indicates the informant, and even then, not in every case.

Although these census records are a primary source offering direct evidence, the fact that we cannot determine the informant makes the information indeterminable and weakens any case we would make using them alone to answer questions of immigration years and citizenship. I do have more information available to me consider in my conclusion, but I'll share that in another post.

Even a good understanding of our records and informants is not always enough for us to reach a solid conclusion, but whatever conclusion we come to can be recorded. We can then keep searching for records or set aside the question for another time, because there is always another ancestor to be researched.

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1900 US Census, Manchester, Hartford County, Connecticut; population schedule p. 22B, dwelling 383/family 433, Chas Anderson, Alfina Anderson; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 Jan 2017); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623,18, roll 138; imaged from FHL microfilm 1,240.138.

1910 US Census, Manchester, Hartford County, Connecticut; population schedule p. 14B, dwelling 272/family 294, Carl J Anderson, Alfina Anderson; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 Jan 2017); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll T624_131; imaged from FHL microfilm 1,374,144.

1920 US Census, Manchester, Hartford County, Connecticut; population schedule p. 4B, dwelling 65/family 96, Carl Anderson, Matilda Anderson; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 Jan 2017); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 625_181.

1931 US Census, Manchester, Hartford County, Connecticut; population schedule p. 17A, dwelling 244/family 358, Carl J. Anderson, Matilda A. Anderson; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 15 Jan 2017); citing National Archive microfilm publication T626, roll 267; imaged from FHL microfilm 2,340,002.

4 comments:

  1. Nice clear overview of this issue, Anna. And I have a ancestor couple (great-grandparents) where the widowed wife was 11 years older than her husband. Ages are very clear in the parish record, but each census shows them switching their ages. So I always think of census record age/birthplace details as "interesting but not proven". Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Celia. Very well put, interesting but not proven.

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  2. You brought up some great examples of why records can be wrong!

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