Monday, March 29, 2010

Methodology Monday with slave ancestors

This month Transitional Genealogists discussed online Curtis G. Brasfield's "Tracing Slave Ancestors: Batchelor, Bradley, Branch, and Wright of Desha County, Arkansas" (National Genealogical Society Quarterly 92 [March 2004]: 6-30). As the author writes in the introduction, this family reconstruction involved three techniques "for solving any difficult genealogical problem:

"Broadening the research to include community and kinship groups, rather than focusing on the parentage of a specific individual

"Recognizing the indirect evidence that records provide, rather than seeking only those records that specify relationships directly

"Combining information from multiple records to reveal evidence not found in any single record, rather than analyzing each record separately from the others."
The article steps through oral history, original post-emancipation records (vitals, 1870 and 1880 censuses, land and probate records, Freedmen's Bureau records), identifying the slave owner (slave census schedules, tax records, estate records, and deeds), finishing with my favorite, "interweaving the evidence," where he pulls together the evidence identifying 22 individuals in two families, name by name. This article is a tour de force of interest to anyone with a tough problem, whether it involves slave research or not.

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