Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Finding Fathers: NGSQ-style Genealogy Olympics

If you've been dithering about whether to join the National Genealogical Society, this might be a good time to jump in and do so. The current (June) issue of its Quarterly (NGSQ for short) just astonished me to death! Each of its four main articles could have been the lead article in any other issue.

And the 19-page lead article, "Finding the Father of Henry Pratt of Southeastern Kentucky," by Warren C. Pratt, deserves its position. Henry was born to Elizabeth Pratt in 1809; family traditions name his father as a Huff or as a Virginian named DeWitt. Elizabeth had seven children, and one of them stated in court that she had never been married to anyone.

Few genealogical problems challenge a researcher more than identifying an unmarried father more than 200 years ago in a frontier area not known for meticulously kept records. The solution involved both DNA testing and hard-core traditional documentary research on Elizabeth and her relatives and neighbors. And it did not involve at last finding a written acknowledgment of paternity at the end of the rainbow. The evidence is indirect (circumstantial, if you will) but it is conclusive.

IMO it's well worth joining and reading the article several times to tease out its beautiful logical structure. I'll leave that pleasure to you, and just mention three points that made me gasp:

(1) The author used a road record to help establish neighbors. (Yes, we've all heard of them, but when was the last time you used one?)

(2) "A study of Bedford County Witts identified twenty possibilities for Henry Pratt's father."

(3) One piece of clinching evidence (that's a non-technical term, folks) was a mistaken date.

As time permits I hope to post on the other three articles, each at least as amazing in its own way. But you don't have to wait. Check 'em out.

Warren C. Pratt, "Finding the Father of Henry Pratt of Southeastern Kentucky," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 100 (June 2012):85-103.

Harold Henderson, "Finding Fathers: NGSQ-style Genealogy Olympics," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 8 August 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

1 comment:

Cathi at Stone House Research said...

I was awed by this article too! I thought it was one of the best they have published. Gold medal material indeed!