Monday, August 17, 2009

Methodology Monday in La Salle County, Illinois

Last week I spent a profitable hour at the La Salle County Genealogy Guild (you'll see their sign on southbound Illinois Route 23 in downtown Ottawa), where Jim Collins kept me hopping between all the newspaper indexes and probates and county histories and cemetery readings collected in their building. We were disappointed that the relevant 1873 marriage license (on microfilm) was too old to be likely to contain any juicy information like parents' names.

But we looked at it anyway -- and a good thing, too. In addition to the preprinted forms was a handwritten note, where the bride's father gave consent to "the marriage of my adopted daughter."

There's nothing sophisticated or earthshaking about the idea of looking at original records. (Hey, it's the middle of August! You want sophisticated, you have to wait until the Midwestern average temperature gets below 70!) This is just a reminder that the reason for looking is not because it's a Rule, but because you really don't know how that record might change what seemed like a genealogically unproblematic situation.

"Change," of course, is a euphemism. Elizabeth Shown Mills puts the point more sharply in Evidence Explained {16}: "Any relevant record that goes unexamined is a land mine waiting to explode our premature theories."

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