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           April, 2008

      Carol Sanderson, Editor
      Charles Hansen, Advisor

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  Right Name?
— Carol Sanderson

        I have a daughter who says she has wished that her name had been something different from what it is. Funny, I have never asked her why. However, one day when she was looking at some of my genealogy notes she discovered another Sanderson with the same given name. That made hers more palatable, I guess, because the subject has not come up again.

        That started me thinking about my family. My Dad's sister was given a name on her birth certificate that she did not like. Actually, to me, it was a nickname. She did something about it in that she had her name changed legally by the court. My dad and his brother reversed their first and second names so that the names they were called were their first given name. It seemed to carry down to me as my parents and everyone else called me by my middle name. I happened to like both given names so it didn't bother me. However, if I had not been on my toes my high school diploma would have reversed them. To me they would have sounded awkward that way.

        My husband told me once that when we moved away from where I grew up, he was going to start calling me by my first given name. When that really happened, I had to look to see to whom he was talking to or about the first couple of times. I soon became used to it but when I think about it both names were ones that I liked. When we went home, people still called me by my middle name. I answer to both.

        My mother's dad was one of those people. At birth, he was given the name Horace for his dad. Something happened and he did not like it so it was changed (not by the courts just by him) to Wilfred. He was in the Civil War...I knew that as my grandmother received a widows pension. I wanted to know more of his war service than just that he was in it on the side of the Union. The indices that I looked in for him never gave his name. I mentioned that to a cousin one day and she told me it was because he had enlisted under an alias. I asked her if she knew what it was and she told me that he used Henry C. He never changed his surname. Using the alias I found him in the index for the "Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Civil War." When I used the alias to get his pension records, I found the card that led to them, but because of other things they were not where anyone expected them to be. I finally got them.

        In going through his records, I found letters from family and friends who wrote to vouch that Wilfred was indeed Henry C. One friend gave a reason as to why he had used an alias. It was not because he was under age but because he did not want his father or older brother getting the bounty that these enlistees got for having joined.

        Later, in looking at the town vital records, I found that when he went to report the birth of each of his sixteen children he used both Wilfred and Henry C and variations of them. Had I not had the knowledge of this change I would have thought he was someone else.

        Therefore, when you lose an ancestor and cannot discover any other reason for their being missing, you may want to consider a different given name that could be similar to the one for which you aresearching.

  Genealogy and Sources
— Charles Hansen

        I read somewhere that a genealogy without sources is just fiction. While that is not completely true, it is not easy for others to check to see if it is true or not. There have been several books on how to cite your sources, so I will not try to cover that entire subject here. The main reason for sources is so others can check where you got the information. Therefore, the source should tell where you got a birth record, or a marriage record or any other fact in your database. It also helps you not to go back to that, same place multiple times looking for the same marriage certificate you got three years ago.

        Years ago, when I first started my genealogy database I did not source any of the people in my database. My sister had the idea for a Hansen reunion. We contacted all the relatives we knew, and got all the addresses we could find. We sent out a newsletter and asked if our Hansen relatives would be interested in a reunion. One of my dad's first cousins sent us several group sheets of our great grandparents and their children. She said to send out copies in the reunion packet along with blank group sheets for each family to fill out. We got back 350 group sheets. Many were duplicates, but I then typed them into a genealogy program I had and printed a book for each Hansen relative who came. I even mailed copies to several people who did not come. Now the bad part, I did not write the names of those who sent the group sheets, so I have the information but do not have a clue as to who sent what information.

        A few years ago I was on jury duty, and the defense brought in five witnesses to help testify for the defendant. All five had admitted to drinking all day and smoking pot, but were still all sure that the defendant was innocent and that they were helping the defendant. What has this to do with genealogy? Just as a juror has to weigh the evidence of a trial, a genealogist has to evaluate facts. Did the police officer's testimony carry more weight than five drunk or stoned witnesses did? While the information I got from the 350 group sheets was the same from several sources (duplicate group sheets), you will not always find information from several sources that is the same, so how do you determine which source to use?

        When I started genealogy, they used Primary or Secondary source. A primary source is created at the time of the happening. Therefore, a birth certificate is a primary source for a birth, a marriage certificate is a primary source for a marriage, and a death certificate is a primary source for a death. The death certificate also can be a secondary source for the birthplace, date of birth and parents of the deceased person. The reason it was a secondary source for these items was that the deceased person would have been the best source for these items, but that person is dead. Primary sources are sources created close to the time of event happening, secondary sources are probably created much later. Just as a juror has to weigh the evidence in the jury room, a genealogist has to decide which sources are correct if they seem to conflict with each other. Should you discount a secondary source if you have a primary source that differs? What about two secondary sources that differ? Have you ever seen a census that the information changed every ten years? What about five secondary sources that agree with each other but disagree with one primary source? It is possible that one secondary source was copied by the other four and that still does not make them correct. The jury I was on agreed with the police officer and not the five witnesses.

        I was reading about a recently released genealogy program which has the ability for you to rate each source. So will Aunt Mayme's information carry more weight than the 1930 census? Will the marriage certificate you copied from the microfilm at the Family History Center carry more weight than the family bible? Did the death certificate you downloaded from the state archives have the correct date of birth of your ancestor? Just as a juror decides on a verdict, you get to decide.

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