Friday, August 9, 2013

Sleuthing for Smiths in Alabama and Mississippi

This blog doesn't normally reach so far south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but blog rules were made to be broken. And what better time than to take note of Laurel Baty's methodological tour de force that leads off the current (June) National Genealogical Society Quarterly (online issues free to NGS members)?

Given a Smith family, she deals smoothly with an array of erroneous records, not to mention the ones that aren't there at all: "Three generations of Martha's family left no estate records. Her parents' marriage record is missing, her father owned no land, and he appears in a single census, which supplies no ages and birthplaces."

She maps and lists land, court, and church records to help identify a father who appears in none of them. The footnotes are revealing: the four words "He witnessed no deeds" are backed up by an every-page search of 23 years of Wilcox County, Alabama, deed books. This article will benefit any researcher, in the South or elsewhere, who's troubled by common-name ancestor issues.

Laurel T. Baty, "Parentage of Martha Smith of Alabama and Mississippi: Overcoming Inconsistent, Incorrect, and Missing Records," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 101 (June 2013): 85-102.

Harold Henderson, "Sleuthing for Smiths in Alabama and Mississippi," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 9 August 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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