GENEALOGY AND TENNESSEE
GENEALOGY TIPS #2
By: Nancy P. Goodman,
Genealogy Instructor for Senior Citizens
KEEPING AN OPEN MIND IN GENEALOGY
One of the most important things you can do while researching your family's
history is to learn to 'keep an open mind'.
Why, you might ask? My answer is this: All of us are human and therefore
subject to simple human error. Also our equipment is capable of malfunctioning
and making mistakes. Even in a printing shop, errors may be made. Did you
ever see a book with some of its pages missing? Or with some pages reversed?
Or part of a page not printed? Whether it is human or equipment error, you
may not be viewing the entire scope of what may be available.
The policy of indexing books is a excellent one. But even an index is not
infallible. Consider this: Some who make an index will place a name which
starts with MC before or after the names beginning with M. But most computer
programs will place an MC surname immediately after a name starting with
Mb__, if such existed. If you are looking for a MC surname, also remember
to look under both MAC and MACK. If you are looking for McKinney or McMullin,
look also for Kinney, Mac or Mullin, Mac.
Some genealogy books do not list all names in the index. For instance, the
valuable genealogical work of Worth S. Ray titled TENNESSEE COUSINS has several
listings of early marriages which are not included in the index. And
I have found other books where names are not listed in the index, so only
by reading or scanning each page for your names will you be assured of success
in your search.
It is helpful to check the beginning and ending of an index for the 'unknowns'
which could not be classified elsewhere. Look also for a page titled: ERRATA.
The name you thought absent by simply checking the index, may be listed here
because it was misspelled or was omitted from the regular text or index.
And then there are some books which may have two or more sections, with
a separate index for each section.
Much depends upon who wrote a name, so you may find several variations for
the same time period, even within the same family. For example:
The early LANE family in Wilson County, Tennessee is shown in the census
records as recently as 1910 as LAIN. But there are descendants of this family
in Wilson County, Tennessee today who use the spelling of LAINE. Or may also
be found as LAYNE.
Brothers within the same family in Robertson County, Tennessee show up as
PHILIPS and PHILLIPS in the 1850 census.
A family in Houston County, Tennessee named AVERITTE has tombstones in the
same cemetery with three different spellings of the same surname.
Any 'sound-alike' name should be checked, regardless of the spelling. Use
your imagination! As my friend Mamie is apt to say: "Turn over every rock!"
And if you reach a 'blank wall' as some of us are prone to say, then try
to go around it by using your imagination.
Census takers were sometimes told to list schools and institutions at the
back of their notebook. Or you may find the residents of the jail under the
jailer's name. Other institutions may have been treated the same. You don't
know the name of the jailer? Thumb through a printed census index and look
for a large listing of people who do not share a common surname; if you find
one, it is likely a school, jail, or similar institution.
Family history programs for computers are great and much information can
be gleaned from an index of the names listed through this medium; however,
due to the incorrect entering of data, an index from a family history program
may list names in this manner:
Jones Jr., Adam
Jones Sr., Adam
Twin Phillips, A. N.
Twin Phillips, C. N.
Unknown, Anne M.
Unknown, Betty Jo
Vickers, S. A.
Jr. Jones, Adam
Jr. Stark, William
Junior Smith, Joe
Senior Smith, Joe
Sr. Jones, Adam
Sr. Stark, William
Towne, W. E.
Adams, Dr. Worth
Adams, Mrs. J. W.
Adams, Rev. Bill
As you can see from the above illustrations, it is important that titles,
such as Jr., Sr., Dr., Rev., or Mrs., be entered into the proper place in
a computer program so the title itself does not interfere with the accurate
indexing of the material. Sadly, not everyone is aware of this, so only by
checking the entire index can you be sure of the information contained within
Remember, keep an open mind and treat any printed information as a starting
point for your own research. Just because something is printed does not
make it so! A few years ago, a reporter for my hometown newspaper called
to interview me for a story on my interest in genealogy. I had known the
lady for several years so the question of how to spell my last name never
came up during the interview. Just imagine my surprise when my last name
of GOODMAN was mispelled as GOODWIN fourteen times on the front page
of my hometown newspaper! To make matters worse, the reporter moved to another
state shortly after the article appeared and no correction was ever published,
so I am forever known as Nancy GOODWIN to everyone who read that article!
So, remember to take the printed word 'with a grain of salt', especially
if it is from a 'secondary' source, and not from a 'primary' or original
Return to my Index Page
All rights reserved by Nancy P. Goodman, PO Box 863; Hendersonville,
TN 37077. April 3, 1996.
Last updated Sunday, September 22, 1996 - 1:13:25 PM, with minor revisions
on 02 Jan 1999.