Recognizing and Overcoming Inconsistencies in Genealogy Research
It is a good practice to refrain from drawing conclusions about your genealogical findings until you have exhausted a very every avenue of research. The records that you turn up that are not consistent with your current findings or theories to help you know you are successful. How do you feel when your findings cause you to question the opinion you have formed, and what do you do about it? Keep in mind that you rely on historical documents and other people's memories which may create a spotty recount of your ancestor’s life at best. Even the accounts shared by those who lived during the same era can become tainted with time.
Gather all the evidence and pass the baton. Share your interpretation of your findings, but do not lead the next generation into believing everything you share is a cold, hard, and irrefutable fact. It only takes the discovery of one word record like one more child born out of wedlock or a different spouse in the home to change the whole course of events in your family history. You are always on the cusp of that occurrence. Who knows everything about their ancestors like they thought they did when they started?
In a perfect world, all family historians compile research would stand the test of the length of the DNA testing, but that is not possible in every case. If it were, what things might you discover differently about your progenitors? However, that does not mean you should not take your research nor the interpretation of your findings seriously.
With all the many historical records available online today you may feel you have finished with certain lines. Records that were not available at the time you were researching should be reviewed, such as:
· Newer census records
· Vital records (especially death records)
· County/parish records
A death record from 1941 can still reveal information about a person's ancestral line two and three generations back. For example, Henderson and Lucy Nelms were listed in each census going back from 1920 until 1880. One of their children was Ora Nelms Foster, and another was presumed to be her sister, Olean Nelms. For no apparent reason, a desire to search for this family in Memphis, Tennessee, ensued.
The widowed, Olean (married to George Long) was living with his sister, Ora Nelms Foster, in Memphis when she died, and Ora was listed as an informant on Olean's death certificate. Ora gave the name of Sam Bradford as the father of Olean. This entry throws a wrench at twenty years of research on this ancestral line. No one knew or admitted that Henderson was not the father of both Ora and Olean.
In My Best Genealogy Tips: Finding Enslaved Ancestors, I show how I came to know that Lucy Nelms was the mother of Olean Bradford Long. I also showed how Lucy Nelms was once married to Sam Bradford:
A. Name of decedent: Olean Long (search 1940 Census and marriage
C. Name of father: Sam Bradford (search census and death records)
D. Name of mother: Lucy Nelms
E. Informant (also sister): Ora Foster
F. Cemetery: Norfolk in Walls, DeSoto County, Mississippi
These types of inconsistency cause you to have to begin all over again searching for other possible missed clues, and that is what will be done in this case. Further research will prove this entry. Our research must be validated or invalidated and not just overlooked.
Fortunately, the cemetery where Olean is buried was revealed. Walls. Mississippi was the birthplace of her formally enslaved mother, Lucy. Norfolk could very well be the family burial ground. No matter where these clues lead, the researcher’s interpretation will be shared as well as all evidence, conflicting or otherwise.