Thursday, February 27, 2014

Family History Hints, Part 12

Ente Provinciale Per Il Turismo. From the collection of Gena Philibert-Ortega

Wouldn't it be nice if the map never changed? Well, that is not practical, of course. The adjustments of boundaries have been necessary to accommodate politics, economics, ethnicities, and other elements. When America was young, it was subject to many, many boundary adjustments, causing the present day genealogist to be alert to historical issues as well as familial ones. And we won't even begin to discuss the boundary changes throughout Europe over the centuries! When we researched the cases for Genealogy Roadshow, we found it necessary to do our homework, which I explained to the staff expecting us to find whatever we sought:

County Lines, City Lines

My 3x great-grandfather was born in Montgomery County, New York. So was his first wife. His second wife was born in Herkimer County, New York. But they were all born in the same town: Stark. How does that happen? Simple: boundary lines change, counties get divided or combined, and some counties disappear altogether. But when that happens, the towns don’t move (though they may get re-named, as do counties, from time to time).

What does that have to do with genealogy? Everything! At least when one is researching for the records of an ancestor who may have been born in one county, got married in another, and died in yet another while never leaving the village in which he was born. So when I do research I must remember to look for records in the appropriate county. I need to know when counties were split or otherwise changed so that I can go to the correct county Courthouse or (if available on line) database. So when I look for the birth record (in this case, a baptismal record) of Edward Freeman, my g-g-g-grandfather, I must go to the library, historical society, and courthouse in Montgomery County. When I search for his marriage record for his first marriage, I also look to Montgomery County. But when I look for the marriage information for the second marriage, I find it in the historical society in Herkimer County.

Genealogists must be alert to the changes that take place in the geographic locations of their ancestors. There are many resources to keep them abreast of this information, but we can’t forget to look for it. And some records may have been transferred to the other courthouse so we should double check there for a probate record (it may not have been filed where the person died). That is why, when we attempt to pull a record from a distance (hiring an on-site genealogist to handle that), we might have to pay more if more than one location needs to be searched.

            Now you know what we do with all our time!

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