Friday, May 20, 2011

What Writing Reveals - Part 2

Last week, I posted that the act of writing up some of my research revealed many of the gaps I had in my documented 'facts'. For instance, once I started writing, I quickly realized that I had no real evidence that all the sources that I had for my g-grandfather, Gottlieb Veith, were documenting the right or even the same man. For some of the facts, I had no source information. Since my great-grandparents were added to my family tree in the very early stages of researching my family, I added some of the facts from family knowledge (but didn't document who had told me what - and none of those people are still alive) and some from published sources but my source citations were so scanty that I can't figure out what the sources are.

Somewhere along the line in my genealogy research, I learned to always document any fact that I add to my family tree. Luckily I did learn the importance of source documentation fairly early in my research although I didn't necessarily always apply that knowledge. One of my mistakes  was that if I had a fact in my tree already, I didn't document where I had found that same fact again in a different source. Because of this sloppiness, I don't really know if I have found several independent sources for each 'fact' or not. And having independent sources for any fact is necessary to solve any discreprancies that creep up.

One example of the problems this has led to involves the marriage of my g-grandparents Gottlieb Veith and Hannah Zeiler.

In my family tree database, I noted that the 'marriage certificate gives Gottlieb's mother's name as Anna Maria Heller'. However, there is no note in my records who the father was on the marriage certificate. Even worse, I have no idea where that certificate is. Does this even mean I had it at some point? Or saw it somewhere? I have Gottlieb's father as Johann Martin Veith but no source was noted for that name. Did I not document it was on the marriage certificate because the name was already in my database? Or was the name not on the certificate?

I really don't know the answer and since I can't find the marriage certificate in any of my files, I need to send away for it (again??).

Sigh... If only I knew then what I know now about documenting sources...

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the best thing a person can do with their brick walls is to attempt to write about them. It really does force you to look realistically at what evidence you have (and don't have) and re-evaluate assumptions you've made.

    I wonder if there's any family historian out there who isn't kicking themselves about early documentation issues?? :)

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