Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Many Lives of GW Edison Jr. -- NGSQ Genealogy Olympics

We expect records to be occasionally mistaken, but few of us expect our ancestors to lie repeatedly. When they do, we have to step our research methodology up a notch. That's what Tom Jones did in the fourth of four articles in the amazing June 2012 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. (I've already posted on the Pratt, Hackenberger, and Northamer articles.)

Those of us who enrolled in the first Advanced Evidence Practicum at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy in January got to wrestle with this problem for a day, in confidence, prior to publication. I think I'm safe in saying that it pinned most of us to the mat.

The individual in question -- George Wellington Edison Jr. (1861-1940) -- came from a good family and often held a skilled job. He also, in Jones's words, "used four names, married five times, was divorced twice, committed bigamy once, and had twelve children." Raised in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, he bounced around Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana, helped build the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and died in Decatur, Macon County, Illinois.

Genealogists tracking an accomplished con man like this need to be wary, maintain a broad focus, and constantly test and correlate information from a variety of sources. For the specifics and the many intriguing sub-problems, I encourage you to read and reread!

Thomas W. Jones, "Misleading Records Debunked: The Surprising Case of George Wellington Edison Jr.," National Genealogical Society Quarterly vol. 100, no. 2 (June 2012):133-56.

Harold Henderson, "The Many Lives of GW Edison Jr. -- NGSQ Genealogy Olympics," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 11 September 2012 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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