Monday, June 26, 2017

Explaining Likely, Probable and Possible Identifications to my Cousins

This week I have been getting scans of some mid-1800s family photos ready for upload to Snapfish (I have no affiliation) so that I can have copies made to take with me to the Dean reunion in August. In doing so I was reminded that there are a number photos that have no identification and also some that are labeled with names that mean nothing to me.

Identified as
Mary McCullough
Mrs. Oliver Emerson
Mrs. Oliver Emerson
Identified as Oliver Emerson

When I took these photos out of their original album, which is preserved separately, put them in protective  sleeves and labeled them, I omitted Mary McCullough's name from her label and identified her only as Mrs. Oliver Emerson, so that is where my search began.

Even though it seemed to me like a common name, I searched All Collections on Ancestry for an Oliver Emerson in Quebec, Canada. That was it, no other information. I was rewarded with a top result that was a marriage record for an Oliver Emerson and a Mary Ann McCullough at the same church in Waterville, Quebec where my great-grandfather Dean and his siblings were baptized and he was married. Again, as I was looking at this record, I had no idea that the woman in my photo was Mary McCullough but my interest was piqued anyway because I have another photo in my Dean box that is labeled Alex McCullough.

Reading the marriage record brought me another clue, the bride's mother was named Martha Irwin (God bless pastors who included maiden names). Irwin is a known name in my family. My third great-grandmother, grandmother of the same Dean generation baptized in this church, was Jane Irwin. So who is Martha?

Well, I was already in Ancestry, so I decided to take a look at some member trees. Not the best research method, I know, but I was just trying to ID some photos. One of the first trees that contained Martha Irwin showed that one of her siblings was a Jane with a date of birth consistent with my Jane. The tree was not documented but contained dates and other facts consistent with my research. It showed that this Martha had married Thomas McCullough, that they had ten children including Mary Ann and a son named Alex. Following Mary Ann, this tree showed that she had married Oliver Emerson with whom she moved to Manitoba and had three children. A quick check of census records show an Emerson family in Manitoba with a family of three children and a Martha McCullough.

If I were thoroughly researching this collateral line, these searches would be just the beginning. But I am satisfied, for now, that I have identified the reason that these photos were in a family album. I mean, what are the chances that this is another Oliver and Mary Emerson?

Last night I was kind of picturing myself explaining these relationships to my cousins, telling them that Mary McCullough was likely the daughter of Jane Irwin's sister, making her the first cousin of John Dean. I was wondering if the words like likely, possibly or probably would even make an impression as they take in all this family history. These words are so meaningful to genealogists and family historians, be they hobbyist or professional. But will the mean anything to my cousins, or will they just take my searches at face value?

Maybe I should have time for a genealogy class added to the itinerary.

2 comments:

  1. Really enjoyed following along on your voyage of discovery here--sounds like you've pinned down Oliver and Mary. I like that you used Ancestry trees just to try to ID the folks in your photos. I use trees for "clues" and to contact "possible cousins" for exchanging info on common ancestors. Then, like you, I do my own research. Have fun at the reunion!

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  2. I too check family trees on Ancestry for clues. I find lots of idiocy, to be sure! But the clues are valuable for tracking down good sources. Your point about "likely" and "probably" is so true. We family historians understand that we could be wrong, but I suspect others will not hear the meaning behind the word. But say it anyway; give out those pictures anyway; educate the next generation anyway.

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