Monday, April 14, 2014

Methodology Monday and the man with two last names (NGSQ)

People who change names without warning shake the ground that genealogists walk on. In US research, especially prior to 1850, it can take serious digging to figure out whether the two names represent two people or one.

In the March 2014 National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Mary Foote W. Lund deals concisely and precisely with such a problem. Using mostly indirect evidence, she shows that Micajah Bennett  fathered four distinctively named Bennett children born between 1800 and 1810. The same four children were directly identified by a seemingly reliable neighbor and relative as children of Micajah Wheeler. The author can't explain why Micajah used both surnames, but she does marshal additional evidence to confirm that there was only one of him.

Two lessons stand out:

(1) Research the whole family; you're probably going to have to anyway. Records from a grandson and from Micajah's father-in-law -- including one created after Micajah's death -- provided key information.

(2) NGSQ-worthy problems do not all require 15 or 20 pages to solve. Small is beautiful.

Mary Foote W. Lund, "Parents of Stephen Preston Bennett of Franklin County, Virginia," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 102 (March 2014): 5-10.

Harold Henderson, "Methodology Monday and the man with two last names," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 14 April 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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