Genealogy & Family History Community
Even with our home computers, internet access and email, we've all done our share of whining about cost! delays! missing records! inaccuracies! inconsistencies! The genealogists of 100 years ago complained about the same sort of things, though I think it is fair to say a good many of them found ingenious ways around their difficulties. Today I thought I'd focus on the rants for a little relief from some the stresses on the rest of the site.
In fact, I think I'll focus on the guy I consider to be the crankiest genealogist of my research acquaintance.
In researching my g-grandmother Ada's paternal grandmother's family, I was excited to find the Levering Family History, published in about 1897, which seemed to have some very detailed research and analysis of evidence. However, I became fascinated with the lengthy introduction -- nearly 100 pages of rants of the difficulties he had to overcome with his project.
As with many of us, Col. Levering was just going to update work that someone else had published earlier:
When inaugurating my work, I contemplated an easy start in the genealogical feature, by beginning where he ended, save supplying the poverty of dates which characterized his publication. I found this a difficult undertaking. A third of a century had elapsed since he gleaned the field. A generation had passed away, and the scent had become cold. ... So, my first labor was expended in dusting old bibles and family registers. Many of these revealed a condition in the publication of 1858 that I had not anticipated, viz.: Want of names, as well as dates. Members of families, and whole families of lineal descent, had been omitted. ... So while the labor of my whilom friend and relative...was of immeasurable value to me as a pointer...I could use it only as material "bricks without straw"Before I go on, I should note that "colonel" is not merely a courtesy title -- friend Levering had quite a career in running military and governmental agencies, which might put some of the following rants into context. He just couldn't order up the research in the way he had been accustomed to order subordinates in his career. He goes into great detail about the many who helped him, but for those who were less than helpful he had this to say:
Adversely, there are others whom I might name, but who should be grateful to me for the several return postage stamps which each absorbed. When I adressed educated, cultured persons, I felt sure of a prompt return, but my very numerous letters of inquiry exposed the existence of some mere bas-reliefs in the connection, lacking individuality. ... Some who were addressed, depended upon their sisters, as custodians of the family Bible, to furnish information, but the latter, dear souls, thought to conceal a wrinkle, or to efface the crowsfeet which had crept upon them unawares, by preserving the stamp.This particular section rather makes me smile:
While I have been very particular in requesting properly spelled names and legible dates, from correspondents, I have had to wrestle with much careless writing, and have been compelled, in some instances, to ask such writers to repeat.Then there were those who relayed misremembered family legends:
I recall a report received from a man of business experience, who listed and named eight children, three of whom he reported as born within two years, as single births, and his youngest, as having been born two months after the date given, of its mother's decease.
Criticism of dates and names has cost much labor and many corrections. When a two-year-old has been reported as named "Dickey," I have felt compelled to save the matured man from mortification by substituting Richard. In like manner, I have transformed some grandmother's "Billy" into William. But, when confronted with Puss Thomas Doe, I preferred to write back, than to translate it Thom-Cat, which would, at best, leave the gender in confusion.
Mrs Greider (born 1799) of [Bethlehem, PA] stated in a letter of March 30, 1856 "My great-grandfather, to my knowledge, was Abraham Levering. He was a son of Wigard, who died, as much as I remember my father say, near Philadelphia. My father and mother went to his funeral. They then resided here at Bethlehem. He lived to be 109 years old." While Mrs. G. is correct in the main, I observe that the traditions are confused in her mind. Her father--who was also named Abraham, but of the fifth generation--could not have attended the funeral of the pioneer Wigard, who died at the reputed age of 109 years, as his funeral occurred a dozen years before her father was born. Her parents may have attended the funeral of another Wigard, a grandson of the pioneer, who died in 1782..."Then there is the shoulda/woulda/coulda rant we all know so well ... information that used to be available but no one knows where it is now:
The system of apprenticeship by legal indentures, which was practiced in all mechanical trades in Pennsylvania at that period, and during my youthful days, as I well remember, suggested to my mind that the record of John's indentured relation to the tailoring trade might be found, and therein the name of his father would appear. Hon. Abraham H. Cassell, whom I addressed upon the subject, answered this part of my inquiry, viz: "Yes, Montgomery County has had such a record of apprenticeships, where it was or in whose custody it formerly was I know not, but when I saw it it, was in possession of the old antiquarian and historian, M. M. Auge, the author of 'Eminent Men of Montgomery County.' He picked it up somewhere, among old rubbish; it was in a very dilapidated condition, but he prized it very highly, and had numerous extracts from it pubolished in the county newspapers. He was nearly all his life a resident in and about Norristown, but died in Philadelphia within the last year. I called a few days ago, while in the city, hoping to find Mr. Auge's family, and to see the old Apprentice manuscript, but learned that they broke up housekeeping directly after his funeral, so I have no clew to their whereabouts, and am extremely doubtful as to that old mutilated manuscript being preserved."I guess when it comes to genealogy research, there are no new rants under the sun.
Now the floor is yours ... what walls have you been banging your head against?