Monday, September 14, 2009

Methodology Monday in Philadelphia

This month the article study groups of transitional genealogists (mailing list archives here) are reading and discussing an article from the December 2004 National Genealogical Society Quarterly by Kathryn C. Torpey, CG: "Assembling and Correlating Indirect Evidence to Identify the Father of Susan Kennedy (1815-59) of Philadelphia." (The issue is available free in PDF format to NGS members. Aren't you one yet?)

One rule about all these articles is that rereading them pays off, and sometimes rerereading too. The writing is packed. A single sentence may stand in for months of frustrating work, such as this one from page 258: "Extensive research in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chester County, Pennsylvania sources -- church registers, Bible transcriptions, military records, pension files, tax lists, deeds, wills, estate papers, and orphans' court records -- has turned up no direct evidence that Robert Kennedy was her father."

The only direct evidence (that is, evidence that says straight out who her father was) came from family tradition and from an unsourced family history from 1906. She was able to find various bits of evidence that confirmed various elements of family tradition, among them a newspaper marriage announcement of Robert's 1811 marriage, a city directory entry calling him a carpenter, and -- most importantly -- an 1841 city directory entry locating Robert's mother Margaret either in or next to the household of Peter Devlin and Susan (Kennedy) Devlin. Of such gossamer threads are proofs woven.

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