The advent of the internet has resulted in a sort of "golden age" for amateur genealogists, since many sources are now directly accessible from remote locations and communication by electronic mail is convenient and rapid. Therefore, it seemed natural to set up the present work as a series of linked hypertext documents. The format chosen is similar to that of "canned" templates available in various commericially available family tree software packages; however, to avoid limitations associated with these, all pages have been constructed as simple documents rather than as a structured database. The disadvantage of this approach is that they are not as easily searchable.Terms of Kinship
The basic form used here is the "individual data sheet", each of which corresponds to a single electronic "htm" file. Each sheet begins with a "summary of vital information", which is headed by the the name of a particular or primary individual shown in bold face type. When included, diminutives and nicknames are given in parenthesis; titles and honorifics (Lord, Captain, Deacon, etc.), generationals (Junior, Senior, etc.), and descriptives follow after a comma. Descriptives are italicized to indicate that they would likely not have been applied to the person in his or her lifetime. In the case of females, married names are not used and must be inferred from associated spousal information. The primary individual's name is immediately followed by birth and death information, which consists of relevant dates and locations as well as burial information, if known. In addition, adoptions and divorces are also noted when appropriate.
Dates are represented formally as "dd/mmm/yyyy" with all months (except May) indicated by the standard three letter abbreviation. The Julian, i.e., old style, calendar was in use in England and the colonies until the year 1752. However, it had been replaced by edict of Pope Gregory XIII in Catholic countries, e.g., France, Spain, etc., by the Gregorian, i.e., new style, calendar, in 1582. Accordingly, dates before 1752 are to be understood as old style for all locations in England and the colonies. The corresponding new style date or more frequently, just the new style year for dates between January 1 and March 25, is then given in parenthesis. (Particular emphasis is placed on the year in new and old style dates because in England from the late Middle Ages up to the change of the calendar, the first day of the new year was taken as March 25; however, this was changed back to the ancient Roman usage of January 1 when the new style calendar was adopted by an act of Parliament.) Similar conventions are applied to other locations for which the Gregorian calendar was adopted at different times or other dating schemes were used (e.g., Scotland, which in 1600 began using January 1 as the the first day of the year, although Julian dates were retained until formal adoption of the Gregorian calendar.) Slashes, hyphens, and question marks are used to indicate uncertainty in dates.
Locations within the United States are formally represented as municipality, township, or precinct, followed by county, followed by state or territory all separated by commas. The names of all US states are represented by standard postal abbreviations of two capital letters. Foreign locations are represented accordingly, e.g., Canadian provinces, but, of course, must also generally include the name or standard abbreviation for the particular country as well. All locations are given as they would have been known at the relevant time in the past rather than as they are at the present day. Within this context, standard abbreviations for the names of US states are extended to pre-Revolutionary colonies that subsequently ratified the Constitution and were admitted to the Union, i.e., the thirteen original colonies. Other colonies are denoted appropriately. The names of Federal Territories are either written out explicitly and/or represented by older three and four letter abbreviations. City and county names are generally written out in full. Moreover, it must be emphasized that county boundaries have changed substantially over time and that, as indicated previously, contemporaneous county names are used to identify a given location and not present day county names. Although this convention might seem confusing at first glance, the rationale is quite simple: local civil records nearly always remained with the historical county and were generally not moved to a different county if boundaries were changed or a new county organized. Similar conventions are applied to organization of territories and admission of states as well as to changes in international boundaries.
Following vital information for the particular individual, parentage is given if known. Within this context, unknown given names or surnames are indicated by five asterisks and, naturally, attachment of a question mark to any name indicates substantial uncertainty. Likewise, if competing names are included, they are written as a grammatical series separated by commas and the word "or" written in italics. Moreover, if an individual data sheet has been constructed for a parent, then only the corresponding name appears as an active hyperlink (red underlined text) to the associated "htm" file. Vital information is included for persons other than the primary individual only if no corresponding individual data sheet exists. It is the intention of the author that information for any particular individual should be repeated as little as possible both for economy and reduction of typographical errors.
Parental information is followed by spousal information including name, marriage date, and location. In the case of females, the spouse's surname is written in bold type to indicate that this is the surname of any children that are born as a result of this marriage. In addition, if the primary individual has been married more that once, spousal order is explicitly indicated even if exact marriage dates are unknown. As in the case of parents, if a data sheet has been constructed for a spouse, his or her name appears as an active hyperlink and no vital information appears except marriage date and location (which, of course, also applies to the primary individual). Similar conventions are followed for children, which are listed without surnames in order of birth immediately below the appropriate spouse. Again, vital information (including names of spouses, marriage dates, and locations) is included for children only if no individual data sheet has been constructed, otherwise names appear as active hyperlinks to associated electronic files. As a further convention, the term "spouse" indicates a legitimate marital relationship within relevant social custom, with the term "consort" reserved for an illegitimate liason.
This concludes the description of the summary of vital information for a particular individual. Again, it is the intention of the author that this be as accurate as possible and, thus, if any conflict is found with any written text, notes, or citations appearing elsewhere on the individual data sheet or generally within this work, it is the summary of vital information that should be considered as authoritative. (Of course, it is to be devoutly hoped that no such disagreements occur.) With this in mind, it should be stated that certain commonsense restrictions are generally observed, e.g., no birthdates of children after the death of their mother or more than nine months after the death of their father, no births of successive children within nine months, etc. In addition, according to the social conventions of the time birthdates of children should not precede the marriage of their parents nor with the exception of the special case of Mormon polygamy, should dates of marriage, death, or divorce indicate non-monogamous relationships.
In most cases, a short summary of "biographical details" for the primary individual is included in the individual data sheet following the summary of vital information. This is an original work by the author that allows the subject person to be placed in social and geographical context and for more recent individuals preserves personal recollections and anecdotes that might otherwise be forgotten; hence, it should not be cited elsewhere without attribution. Links to notes are also placed as numeral superscripts within the biographical text to allow expanded discussion of difficult points and citation of original sources. The author has made every attempt to cite all relevant sources both primary and secondary, published and unpublished. Moreover, the biographical summary is not meant to be final and authoritative, but to be a working document that integrates the usual annalistic form of genealogies into a continuous historical narrative. Therefore, it includes discussion of the general historical background, local geography, opinions of others, speculations, conjectures, etc. Within this context, the author has tried to use conditional language where appropriate to give the reader some indication of the factual certainty of particular statements. Conditionals are not used only if the statement is certain beyond doubt. Hopefully, this has not resulted in a stilted and cumbersome style; however, the author makes no apology for this because accuracy must take precedence over style in this kind of work.
Notes and citations follow the biographical exposition. Since electronic format is much less restrictive than conventional paper publishing, the author has liberally included summaries of and quotations from previously published works. Every attempt has been made to attribute these correctly; however, some mistakes may still be present and the reader is invited to inform the author of any he or she observes. In some cases, primary documents such as grants and deeds have been transcribed for which an effort has been made to preserve original spelling and punctuation (or lack thereof). Although not uniformly followed as a convention, in these transcriptions handwriting is generally represented by italics and printing by an ordinary unitalicized font. Likewise, titles and other emphatic constructions present in the original document may be represented by bold type, both italic and unitalicized, as is appropriate. The symbol, /s/, is used to indicate original signatures. For secondary sources, quotation marks generally indicate a verbatim citation from another author. They are not used when quoting official government records. Particularly in the case of published histories, italics instead of quotation marks may be occasionally used to indicate a verbatim citation. Although not the rigorous grammatical standard, this usage is adopted to allow a more seamless integration of such citations into the narrative. Both published and electronic documents are cited as secondary sources. Of course, electronic publishing is not without difficulties, perhaps, the most severe of which is the rapidity of change. Therefore, some of the electronic references may quickly become obsolete. Again, readers are solicited to inform the author of such occurrences.
Obviously, the idea of kinship must provide the elementary basis for genealogy and, as such, might seem so simple that it needs no further explanation. Even so, the study of formal kinship systems and associated relational semantic terms is of fundamental interest to anthropologists. Indeed, there is considerable cultural variation found throughout the world regarding the reckoning and description of family relationships. Furthermore, these frequently turn out to be far more complex than might be thought upon just a cursory examination. However, such complications are beyond the scope of the present work and will be left for academics. Within this context, common kinship terms in English for members of a nuclear family consisting of two parents and any putative offspring, i.e., husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, need little or no formal explanation. Almost certainly, equivalent words have existed in all languauges since the very beginning of human speech. Likewise, terms for lineal relationships separated by two generations, thus, denoting the parents of one's parents, i.e., grandfather, grandmother, or the children of one's children, i.e., grandson, granddaughter, are also unambiguous. Of course, in the English languauge these are extended to more remote generations by the successive attachment of the hyphenated prefix modifier "great-". Hence, as is common usage, the parents of one's grandparents are definitively identified as great-grandfather and great-grandmother and, concomitantly, the children of one's grandchildren as great-grandson and great-granddaughter. Clearly, these terms denote lineal relatives, i.e., either ancestors or descendents, separated by three generations. Accordingly, for lineal relatives separated by an additional generation (to be precise, four) one would apply the terms great-great-grandfather and great-great-grandmother or great-great-grandson and great-great-granddaughter. Naturally, this convention, although clumsy, can be extended indefinitely; however, owing to the finiteness of the human lifespan it would be quite unusual for lineal relatives separated by more than four or five generations to be living contemporaneously. Therefore, it is typical that only within the context of genealogy corresponding designations might be useful which, concomitantly, are frequently abbreviated informally as "3rd great-", "4th great-", etc. or more simply, "3g-", "4g-", or something similar. Moreover, English, in contrast to many other languages (particularly those of primitive societies), contains relatively few specialized kinship terms and, as such, does not distinguish maternal and paternal lineages, but requires somewhat cumbersome constructions to make these distinctions, e.g., for paternal grandfather one might say, "My grandfather on my father's side," or its equivalent.Explanation of Sources
Of course, ignoring sibling, i.e., brother-sister, relationships, the nearest collateral relatives one can have are uncle, i.e., a brother of a parent, and aunt, i.e., a sister of a parent, or nephew, i.e., a son of a sibling, and neice, i.e., a daughter of a sibling. Naturally, these terms may be modified generationally, again, by the attachment of "great-". Hence, a great-uncle and/or great-aunt are, by definition, siblings of one's grandparent. Likewise, a great-nephew and/or great-neice are grandchildren of one's sibling. Therefore, just as for lineal ancestors or decendants, repetitive application of the prefix "great-", e.g., great-great-uncle and great-great-aunt or great-great-nephew and great-great-neice, serves to shift the relationship the indicated number of generations. Obviously, corresponding abbreviated forms as described previously for lineal relatives may be used if the number of generations becomes cumbersomely large. In passing, one might wonder why terms, "granduncle" and "grandaunt" or "grandnephew" and "grandneice", are not the common convention even though they are evidently analogous to corresponding terms for lineal relatives, i.e., grandparents and grandchildren. Indeed, such usage is known, particularly, it would seem among aristocracy and upper classes in Britain and to a lesser extent in America. Moreover, these terms are universally recognized as equivalent to the conventional ones. Even so, their usage is relatively infrequent. Within this context, all other collateral relatives may be recognized as cousins, but unfortunately, reckoning the precise "degree" can be somewhat complicated. Nevertheless, by definition, first cousins share a common set of grandparents, i.e., each of them have a parent who is a sibling to a parent of the other. Accordingly, second cousins share a common set of great-grandparents, third cousins a common set of great-great-grandparents, and so on. However, it can happen that two individuals share a common pair of lineal ancestors that, for example, might be grandparents to the former and great-grandparents to the latter and, thus, there exists a so-called "generational step". Even so, it is clear that a parent of the latter individual must be a first cousin of the former, i.e., they share grandparents. Therefore, the original two individuals are said to be first cousins once removed. Clearly, this scheme can be extended to any degree of collateral relationship and, in general to reckon cousins, one must first determine the individual having the closest degree of lineal relationship to common ancestors, which determines "primary degree", i.e., first, second, third cousin, etc., and then any additional "steps" in generation associated with the remaining individual, which detemine "degree of removal". Hence, in the previous example, the former individual and any child of the latter become first cousins twice removed, the former and any grandchild become first cousins three times removed, and so on. Alternatively, a child of the former individual is a second cousin to the latter, i.e., they share great-grandparents, and the latter individual and a grandchild of the former are second cousins once removed. At this point it should be noted that degrees of cousins are also reckoned more simply, especially in America, as merely the aggregate degree of lineal relationship to common ancestors. In this scheme, first cousins once removed merely become second cousins, first cousins twice removed and second cousins become third cousins, first cousins three times removed and second cousins once removed become fourth cousins, etc. In some sense, this simpler system, perhaps, rather better represents actual family relationships but, clearly, some details are lost and for the purposes of genealogy the standard system is generally adopted.
It comes as no surprise that kinship relations can become quite complicated in the event of multiple intermarriages between families, spousal deaths or divorces and remarriages, etc. Clearly, in the event of intermarriages individuals might be related by more than one line of descent and, hence, might be reckoned cousins more than one way. Of course, all would be correct and there are no simple terms to express such a relationship with the exception of two marriages involving two siblings from one family and two siblings from another. In this case, offspring of the two marriages would be accounted first cousins twice or double cousins. Concomitantly, individuals sharing only one parent, presumably due to multiple marriages of that parent for whatever reasons with different spouses, are said to be half brother or half sister as is appropriate. Unfortunately, this kind of relationship has historically also been called step-brother or step-sister, but this is now considered incorrect usage. Accordingly, the latter terms are reserved strictly for application to unrelated individuals whose parents have married, again, perhaps due to death or divorce. Indeed, these can be considered as examples of more general relationships by marriage, which are typically indicated by appending the hyphenated suffix modifier "-in-law" to a lineal or collateral kinship term appropriate to a spouse, i.e., either husband or wife. Thus, the mother or father of one's spouse are known as mother-in-law or father-in-law and, similarly, the husband or wife of one's child as son-in-law or daughter-in-law. Concomitantly, terms for sibling relationships by marriage are commonly expressed as brother-in-law or sister-in-law. Of course, this convention could be extended to other relatives such as grandparents and cousins; however, this is rarely done and such relationships are usually described by circumlocutions such as, "My wife's grandmother," "My husband's uncle," etc. Alternatively, the husband of one's aunt, i.e., uncle-in-law, or the wife of one's uncle, i.e., aunt-in-law, are, respectively, simply called uncle and aunt without any further indication of a relationship by marriage. Again, this illustrates the relative poverty of the English language in kinship terms since the exact relationship an individual has to an aunt or uncle clearly requires further specification of whether it is by marriage or not. Within this context, it should be noted that the whole idea of "-in-law" relationships derives from medieval canon law which prohibited marriages between close relatives. For example, at that time a marriage between a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law would have been considered as incest even though they were not biological relatives. In addition, antiquated legal doctrine affirmed that a married woman had no rights independent of her husband and, consequently, a daughter's husband could actually be considered as an heir of her father, that is to say, as a literal "son in law". Similarly, when a woman married she was considered as having joined her husband's family and, accordingly, could be called "daughter". Indeed, this accounts for the common social custom still widely practiced in Western societies of a wife taking her husband's surname after their marriage. To make matters worse, formerly step-son or step-father were used instead of or synonymously with son-in-law or father-in-law, respectively; however, as above this usage is now generally considered as incorrect. Moreover, before the eighteenth century the term cousin was widely used in an imprecise sense as simply a synonym of "kinsman" and, thus, merely denoted kinship more distant than that of the nuclear family including distant relationships by marriage. Hence, very frequently neices and nephews might be called cousins in colonial and medieval civil records. Consequently, the language appearing in older documents such as wills and deeds can often be confusing because of such imprecise usage as well as because no distinction might be made between relatives by marriage and actual "blood" relatives. Clearly, these issues imply that kinship relationships are not invariably simple and that sources must be carefully considered.
Genealogy is by no means an exact science. Moreover, it comes as no surprise that the further one goes back in time, the more difficult it becomes to obtain and verify reliable information. Nevertheless, the discovery of any new detail regarding one's ancestors, irrespective of apparent significance, often seems to have its own intrinsic reward. Consequently, family researchers are often tempted to "leaps of faith", which although they may be initially labeled correctly as speculative or conjectural, tend to become accepted "facts" upon citation by others and the passage of time. This has led to the unfortunate propagation of many false pedigrees, which continue to confuse and disappoint later descendants. For this reason, it is very important that facts be verified, as far as is possible, by primary sources that were written down contemporaneously. Among these are personal autographs (letters, diaries, etc.), civil records of local, state, and national governments, court records, land grants and titles, conveyances of real and personal property, mortgages, indentures, etc. Secondary sources, e.g., ex post facto published histories, descendancies, etc., are valuable only inasmuch as they can be believed and demonstrated to be accurate. Within this context, it is useful to explain the rationale and usage of various sources in the present work.List of Abbreviations
If authenticity can be reasonably verified, personal autographs provide, perhaps, the very best sources genealogical information. In particular, contemporaneous letters and diaries often allow a unique perspective into the life and even, the mind of one's ancestor. Unfortunately, such sources are quite rare, not the least because the keeping of a diary required considerable time and effort, which would have been in direct competition with activities required for sustenance of daily life, especially in pioneer communities. Likewise, letters were written relatively infrequently and, in addition, were more often than not, discarded after serving the primary purpose of communication. Indeed, correspondence was often intentionally destroyed if it contained sensitive or embarrassing information, which ironically, of course, would have been of great interest to later generations (especially with regard to questions of paternity or inheritance). Furthermore, literacy was not as common in earlier times as at present, which obviously must have precluded autograph sources in many cases. Even so, it is likely that most extended families would have had at least one literate or semi-literate member and, accordingly, it was a common practice to record dates of births, deaths, and marriages in a family Bible. Such records are of considerable value and may be the only reliable source of information in many instances. Consequently, there have been noteworthy efforts made by various public and private institutions and organizations to collect and preserve such records. Obviously, personal autographs are by their very nature quite varied and, as such, merge into less reliable oral history and family tradition.
Federal Census Population Schedules
Clearly, in the absence of individual testimony, one must resort to an analysis of civil records. Of particular value are the original population schedules of censuses taken by the United States Government at ten year intervals beginning with the year 1790 for the fundamental purpose of determining legislative apportionment. By statute, these documents cannot be released into the public domain until seventy years have elapsed. Therefore, population schedules of 1930 and earlier are currently available on microfilm from the National Archives and can be considered to be primary sources. (The 1940 census will not become available until 2010.) In addition, electronic images are accessible from a number of libraries and commercial services. Transcriptions of population schedules have also been widely published, however, these should not be strictly considered as primary sources since they necessarily include the transcriber's interpretation of the original handwritten record, which is often difficult to read. Unfortunately, nearly the entire 1890 census was destroyed by fire and, thus, is unavailable. Moreover, early censuses listed by name, only heads of household. Even so, some additional family information was included, which is often found to be useful. However, beginning with the census of 1850 and all censuses thereafter, the names of every member of a household, including ages and locations of birth (typically a foreign country or a US state or territory), were recorded. Even more detailed data was included in subsequent years. (Indeed, the census of 1900 is particularly valuable since the month and year of birth was recorded for each individual.)
However, having said this, it is important to note that census enumerators commonly took shortcuts and made mistakes. For example, names were often shortened and abbreviated as initials, although it is still usually possible to make definite identifications. This is quite understandable if one considers the difficulty of travel and just how large a task it would have been in the nineteenth century to visit each household, merely in even a portion of a city or county. Indeed, it is clear from examination of original population schedules that demographic information was collected over periods of weeks and months. Therefore, it seems only natural that a census enumerator might ask neighbors for information about a family that was not found at home just to avoid laborious backtracking. Obviously, such practices can be expected to have resulted in errors and omissions in the census record. Furthermore, it appears that census enumerators were often given inaccurate information by the families themselves. This seems particularly the case for stated ages of individuals. Perhaps, this is hard to understand in the context of the present day when standards of literacy are high and ages of individuals govern many aspects of modern life. However, in the nineteenth century this was not the case. Indeed, it was common for illiterate people not even to know their exact age. Therefore, it is usually necessary to examine a sequence of census records taken over a period of twenty to thirty years to obtain an accurate picture of an individual family. It further seems that ages given for children are generally more accurate than ages given for adults. Indeed, this makes sense since approximate age is more physiologically evident for children than for adults and elapsed time intervals from birth would have been relatively short. Although contrary to the present tendency to understate age (especially for females), ages of elderly individuals often appear inflated in census records. Again, this probably reflects contemporary custom since a person of great age was much more of a rarity at that time and, as such, was a particularly honored member of the family and community. Even so, census records should nearly always be given precedence over secondary sources, i.e., any secondary source that does not agree with population schedules should be discounted unless a there is a very good explanation for an error in the census.
Land Grants and Patents
Establishment of title to real estate is an especially important concept within English common law, which in the present day has given rise to the complex statutory structure governing modern real estate transactions, both in the United States and the United Kingdom. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to determine a chain of title leading back to an original land grant or patent. Of course, in the colonial period these were given at the pleasure of the Crown. After the American Revolution this function was taken over by state and federal governments. However, because of their fundamental importance, original land grants and patents have been carefully preserved. Consequently, colonial land grants and patents remain in control of each of the original thirteen states. In particular, the Commonwealth of Virginia has made images of land grant and patent records dating back to the seventeenth century availiable electronically from the Library of Virginia. These are of great value and not only contain original descriptions of land parcels and names of original owners, but also information regarding headrights exchanged for the grant or patent and even some of the names of persons transported from the British Isles in indentured status. These images are searchable and can be accessed for download at the following link: Virginia Land Office.
When the United States was first established under the original Articles of Confederation, with the exception of Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts from which the future states of West Virginia, Vermont, and Maine were later taken, the borders of the thirteen original states were established essentially as they are today. As a consequence, territorial claims of the original thirteen states were eventually extinguished in "the West" and title to vacant lands passed into the sole control of Congress, although not without resistance and controversy. Within this context, the Congress of the Confederation declared it would sell or grant unclaimed lands for the common benefit of the United States, i.e., to raise money for the Treasury. Concomitantly, the United States gave up any claim to lands within the boundaries of the thirteen states, which consequently remained in control of unclaimed lands within their borders and, hence, are known as "state land states". This arrangement was continued after ratification of the Constitution in 1788. Moreover, since Maine, Vermont, and West Virginia were later formed from territory originally included in the original states, they are also state land states. In addition, due to a close historical association with the original states of Virginia and North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee also remain state land states. Kentucky provides electronic summaries of many of its records at the link: Kentucky Land Office. Indeed, the situation for all of the territory east of the Mississippi River is quite complex, especially in Tennessee and Ohio, owing to the grant of land titles by a number of different agencies and under various legal authorizations. Of particular interest are Revolutionary Bounty Warrants, which were commonly given by the original states to veterans of the Revolutionary War in lieu of any cash reward for military service. Indeed, much of northeastern Ohio was part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, which was set aside to satisfy military bounty warrants for veterans from that state. Therefore, the federal government did not issue any land patents or grants for this territory and corresponding records are preserved by the state of Connecticut. With the exception of Texas, which remained in control of its public lands when it entered the Union and, hence, is a state land state, all other of the forty-eight contiguous states and Alaska were established on federal territory and are, therefore, "public land states". Records of surveys, grants, and patents are maintained by the General Land Office of the United States, which is part of the Bureau of Land Management under the United States Department of the Interior. These are searchable electronically and many images of original documents are available for download. Information concerning land grants made by Spain or Mexico within the boundaries of Texas, by the Republic of Texas, or by the state of Texas can be obtained from the Texas General Land Office. Similarly, the state of Hawaii retains control of its public lands owing to its status as an independent kingdom before it became an integral part of the United States.
Under the Land Law of 1800 a credit system was established that allowed purchasers to pay for vacant land purchased from the federal government in installments made over period of four years. However, delinquency or non-payment of the full balance resulted in forfeiture of title back to the United States. Because of economic hardship, Congress quickly abandoned the credit system and through the Act of April 24, 1820, required full payment for land to be made at the time of purchase. This policy was maintained throughout the first half of the nineteenth century up to the Civil War. However, the Preemption Act of 1841 modified basic land sale procedure by allowing persons, i.e., "squatters", that occupied and improved unpatented land prior to survey and sale by the federal governement, a preemptive right to purchase it at a minimal sale price. Land patent certificates indicate this procedure by including the word "preemption" at the upper left corner of the document. The federal government abolished the requirement for cash purchase of vacant lands by passage of the Homestead Act, which became law on January 1, 1863. Under the Act, settlers could obtain one hundred and sixty acres of unclaimed land, free of charge from the federal government. The only requirements were that they must be twenty-one years of age and live on and improve the land for a period of five years. At that time they could "prove up" to obtain clear title to the property. Naturally, such a liberal policy encouraged rapid settlement of Western territory. Moveover, passage of the Homestead Act after secession of the Confederacy was no coincidence since it was primarily supported by an antislavery, free-soil constituency and opposed by proslavery politicians. The Homestead Act remained in effect until 1976, with provisions for homesteading in Alaska in force until 1986. However, since that time and contrary to what is still believed by some members of the public, government lands can no longer be obtained free of charge and, consequently, remain under control of the federal Bureau of Land Management or other agencies. (Of course, for various reasons the federal government does occasionally buy and sell real estate much as any other large institution.)
During the colonial period and for some years afterward, land was surveyed using the method of "metes and bounds", which established survey lines in terms of a direction (usually given as a compass heading specified as north or south some degrees east or west) and distance (specified as some number of poles, perches, or rods, all of which are equivalent to sixteen and one-half feet) defined sequentially from some fixed reference point at which the survey began and to which it returned at the end. In addition, natural features such as creeks and trees were often included to further specify the survey as well as names and boundary lines of abutting property owners. Obviously, such a system divided land into an irregular patchwork, which could and often did result in disputes and lawsuits. However, in 1796 the United States Congress enacted a method of dividing public domain lands into theoretical six mile square divisions known as "Congressional Townships", which are defined from a fundamental set of orthogonal surveying axes, viz., a longitudinal axis called a "Principal Meridian" and a latitudinal axis called a "Base Line". (This was a reauthorization and extension of the Land Ordinance of 1785 passed by the Confederation Congress.) By convention, Townships are consecutively numbered to the north and south of the Base Line in increments of six miles. They are further specified by "Ranges", which are numbered to the east and west of the Principal Meridian, again, in increments of six miles. Therefore, any particular six mile square division is specified as "Township (number) North or South of Range (number) East or West" relative to a specific Base Line and Principal Meridian, respectively. Historically, only a relatively small number of base lines and principal meridians have been officially specified, which typically are applicable to territory covered by all or at least a large portion of one or more states. Therefore, specific citation of reference axes are often omitted as understood in legal descriptions associated with real estate transactions. Moreover, except for land parcels lying in close proximity to an associated surveying axis, directional designations can generally also be omitted as understood in any particular locality, since north and south townships and east and west ranges having the same numerical designations are usually separated by relatively large distances. (Indeed, surveying was sometimes carried out in only one direction from a fundamental axis, hence, range and/or township numbers may be unique in a given region.) Each Congressional Township is further subdivided into a grid of thirty-six one mile square divisions called sections, which are numbered sequentially in a serpentine pattern starting from the most northeasterly unit. (Thus, although irregular examples exist, for any regular Congressional Township, "Section One" lies in the northeast corner, "Section Six" in the northwest corner, "Section Thirty-one" in the southwest corner, and "Section Thirty-six" in the southeast corner.) In the absence of any surveying errors, each section would contain exactly six hundred and forty acres; however, odd sized sections are specified occasionally to correct errors and offsets. Typically, sections are further divided into quarter sections of one hundred and sixty acres, which are subdivided into half quarter sections of eighty acres and/or quarter quarter sections of only forty acres. (Obviously, this system provides the basis of colloquial description of land parcels by farmers as "eighties" and "forties".) Concomitantly, these subdivisions are generally further designated by appropriate directional qualifiers, viz., northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest. Accordingly, the location of any particular land parcel specified by the Congressional system is easily found using topographic maps compiled by the United States Geological Survey, a bureau of the Department of the Interior. Electronic images are available at the link: Topographical Maps. In addition, a database of all geographic names within the United States is accessible at the link: Geographic Names Information System.
Wills, Deeds, etc.
Historically, wills, deeds, and other civil documents were witnessed and recorded in books kept at the local county courthouse. This tradition descends from common legal practice which began in late medieval England and descended through the colonial period down to the present day. Deeds are generally useful for establishing locations, but usually do not contain much information concerning family relationships. This is also the case for many other civil documents. However, by their very nature wills generally do contain detailed family information as well as descriptions of property, etc. Of course, these documents have been preserved by local governments and are available to researchers at county courthouses. Unfortunately, over the years many courthouses have been destroyed by fire, storms, war, and other misfortunes and, thus, some records have been lost. To prevent such occurrences, the states have reproduced county records on microfilm and collected them in central libraries and archives. It is likely that these will become available as electronic images in the future, although this is not yet widespread.
Vital and Military Records
Vital records generally refer to official government records of vital events, i.e., births, deaths, marriages, and divorces, compiled by local and regional authorities. However, in medieval and Renaissance Europe as well as colonial America, such records were commonly compiled by churches. (In this case, baptism rather than birth was generally recorded.) Of course, separation between church and state was not at issue at that time and church records were considered equivalent to official government records. After the American Revolution, with the exception of marriage bonds (which were a sort of civil contract), vital records were generally not officially kept. Fortunately, from the colonial period onward many families kept private "Bible records" of vital events, many of which have survived to the present and are now being collected into central archives by state governments as well as private organizations.
During the nineteenth century, particularly the latter half, a number of states mandated county governments to collect and record vital events. These were to be maintained at local courthouses just as other civil records. However, this was not a uniform practice and recording was quite haphazard. Even so, many of these records remain available, having also been collected into central archives by state governments and private organizations, and can be quite helpful to family researchers in particular cases. Generally, the modern practice of compilation of vital records at the state level did not begin until the early part of the twentieth century. Of course, these are very extensive and accurate; however, they may not be easily assessible to genealogists because they are still in active use and contain information about many living individuals. Although practices vary from state to state, commonly, one must specify an exact individual and pay a fee to retrieve any vital record from these central state compilations. To protect the privacy of living individuals, they are usually not open for incidental browsing. (Indeed, in the future access to vital records may become even more restricted to prevent "identity theft" and associated criminal activity.)
The most extensive compilation of civilian vital records collected by the federal government is maintained by the Social Security Administration, which on March 31, 1995, became an independent federal government agency not under the control of any of the executive cabinet departments. For living persons, records are closed to non-related individuals; however, for deceased persons Social Security records are public information. These have been privately collected into a database and are available at the link: Social Security Death Index. Further information on deceased individuals can be requested in writing directly from the Social Security Administration.
Naturally, military records are the property of the federal government. Recent military records are maintained by the Department of Defense and historical records, such as those for the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, etc., by the National Archives. Extracts and summaries of many of early records, especially those for the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, are available electronically from private sources. Of course, as with all transcribed records, one must be concerned about errors in transcription and overall accuracy. Nevertheless, many of these sources are quite valuable.
Collection and preservation of all existing cemetery tombstone inscriptions and documentary records has become a passion for many amateur genealogists. This is a worthy objective, which should be encouraged and expanded. Moreover, this information is becoming increasingly available electronically and, thus, is a convenient source of information for family researchers. Nevertheless, one must proceed with caution when considering tombstone inscriptions as a source of vital information for an individual. One obvious problem is that over time inscriptions often become illegible, which naturally can result in errors. Even so, conscientious collectors of tombstone inscriptions usually make some indication if this is the case. A more serious issue is that although an inscription on tombstone can legitimately be considered a primary source for a date of death, it should generally not be considered a primary source for a date of birth. The reason for this is quite simple: in most cases the tombstone has been placed by contemporary survivors of the individual, who knew the date of death accurately. However, except in the case of the death of children or young adults, these same individuals were probably not present at the birth of the person. Indeed, it is not uncommon to find birth dates transcribed from tombstones in conflict with census records. Although no hard and fast rule should be made for this situation, it is the author's opinion that the census records should take precedence, especially if they are early and consistent.
Published Historical and Genealogical Works
Finally, there are a myriad of published historical and genealogical works available both in print and electronically. Indeed, many of these include personal testimony from long deceased individuals and provide the only early information available for particular families. Nevertheless, they must be used with caution since they are by definition, secondary sources. Indeed, it is not unknown for entirely false pedigrees to have been published by unscrupulous individuals for personal aggrandizement as well as monetary gain. Less egregiously, even honest individuals can make mistakes and come to wrong conclusions to which they are devotedly committed. Therefore, it is of paramount importance for any serious family researcher to consult as many different sources as can be found. Of course, one often finds that different published genealogies contain exactly the same information, which obviously derives from the same, perhaps lost, primary source. In this case, these should not be considered as independent authorities. More to the point, if one verifiable, primary fact is found to be in conflict with even a long established published pedigree, then the pedigree must be abandoned. This situation seems to be most commonly encountered in association of immigrant individuals to the American colonies with families in the British Isles and other locations in Europe.
Another common temptation for amateur genealogists is to make connection with noble or even royal families since such pedigrees often extend deeply into time, perhaps, backward longer than a thousand years. In this regard, it is this author's opinion that such connections should be avoided unless they are absolutely irrefutable. Indeed, long pedigrees of this kind are relatively uninteresting since if one considers the actual degree of genetic relationship between an individual currently living and a corresponding ancestor of a thousand years ago, it is very small and essentially the same as that between two randomly chosen members of the same ethnicity, e.g., English, Dutch, Irish, or even all Europeans. Furthermore, an inordinate desire to "connect" with noble lineages often seems to be a characteristic of an immature researcher suffering from a severe lack of objectivity. (Such researchers are also likely to fall prey to commercial purveyors of "coats of arms" and other associated genealogical claptrap, which should be avoided by any serious family researcher.) In any case, especially for residents and citizens of the United States, it seems to this author that placement of one's family on the larger historical stage of migration and settlement of this country is a more interesting and worthy goal of genealogical research. Of course, this may lead back to the "mother country", which if a solid connection can be made, is also quite interesting and worthwhile.
Within this context, it is common for situations not to be so clearly cut. Naturally, this often results in conflicting pedigrees and longstanding disputes, which may or may not ultimately be resolvable. In this case, it seems that the only alternative for any honest researcher is reliance on an inner sense of consistency or "ring of truth". This will, by necessity, be a personal judgement and open to criticism by others. Nevertheless, if the goal of genealogy is connection of oneself as a member of a family, to the larger cultural and historical context, it seems well worth the risk of error or the discovery of unpleasant facts about one's background. Indeed, the ultimate realization to be made is that all people are members of one and the same family.
b - born, birthAll linked pages copyright, David R. Evans, 2014.
d - died, death
bp - baptized, baptism
nra - no record after
bur - buried, burial location
m - married
div - divorced
adop - adopted, adopted at age
orig - original, originally
n - name, named; sn - surname, surnamed; gn - given name
unk - unknown
O. S. - old style (Julian calendar date)
N. S. - new style (Gregorian calendar date)
B. C. - before Christ (equivalent to B. C. E., "before the common era")
A. D. - Latin: anno domini; English: "in the year of the Lord" (equivalent to C. E., "common era")
Jr. - Junior
Sr. - Senior
Rev. - Reverend
Co. - County
Pct. - Precinct
Twp. - Township
Par. - Parish
Fed. - Federal
Terr. - Territory
Dist. - District
Col. - Colony
Prov. - Province
Cess. - Cession
unorg. - unorganized
Eng. - England
Des. - Deseret (Mormon Utah)
Mex. - Mexico, Mexican
Cem. - Cemetery
B. Gnd. - Burying Ground
Ch. - Church, Chapel
Cr. - Creek
R. - River
St. - Saint
Str. - Street
Gr. - Great
/s/ - signature follows
Wit. - Witnessed by
c. or ca. - "approximately" (Latin: circa)
cf. - "compare" (Latin: confer)
e.g. - "for example" (Latin: exempli gratia)
et al. - "and others" (Latin: et alii or et aliae)
et seq. - "and following page(s)" (Latin: et sequens, et sequentese, or et sequentia)
etc. - "and so forth" (Latin: et cetera)
i.e. - "that is" or "that is to say" (Latin: id est)
ibid. - "in the same place" (Latin: ibidem)
op. cit. - "in the work cited" (Latin: opere citato)
pass. - "everywhere" (Latin: passim)
q.v. - "which see" singular (Latin: quod vide)
qq.v. - "which see" plural (Latin: quae vide)
sic - "thus" or "just so" (Latin) - indicates an exact citation, including errors and misspellings
viz. - "namely" (Latin: videlicet)
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