Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Finding parents and grandparents despite multiple missing records

The landscape of eighteenth-century Maryland is littered with tax, property, probate, and vital records that aren't there. Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean. My friend and colleague Michael Hait has taken these genealogical lemons and made them into an astonishing amount of lemonade in a sixteen-page tour de force in the current National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

He starts with three records for Thomas Burgan, born in the 1740s. From there he distinguishes two men from two different localities, and goes on to identify both parents and all four grandparents for the man associated with "Dear Bit" and "Black River Hundred," even though direct evidence is sparse and the indirect evidence is constantly interrupted by the static of missing deeds, missing probates, missing tax records, and mislabeled records.

The basic principles are not complicated -- most notably, follow the land even when inadequately described -- but in this records environment the application of them is intricate. Separate arrays of indirect evidence support this Thomas's descent from Philip the father, Rebecca Green the mother, and them as a couple.

William Litchman recommends reading studies of this kind four times for best understanding. Anyone who claims to understand this article after only one or two readings is either a liar or a prodigy.

Michael Hait, "Parents for Thomas Burgan of Baltimore County, Maryland," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 101 (March 2013): 19-33.

Harold Henderson, "Finding parents and grandparents despite multiple missing records," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 1 May 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Michael Hait said...

Such high praise! Thank you! (And see you next week.)

Dawn Watson said...

I enjoyed Michael's article. Thanks for pointing us toward Litchman's article as well.

Tammy said...

I joined the NGS just to read the article and was quite pleased with the detail provided. The information was presented in a manner that was very easy to follow and I was simply thrilled to have found this excellent article that would be of interest to anyone researching the Baltimore Burgans.