How To Trace And Record Your Own Ancestry Part III


by Frank Allaben and Mabel Washburn
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Treasures In Your Town Library

After America entered the World War, the great Genealogical Department in the New York Public Library, guarded by its stone lions at Fifth Avenue and Forty-Second Street, was often thronged with Service men in uniform, who had come to our town enroute to their victorious defense of American rights which had been insolently flouted by America's enemies.

The writer asked one of these seekers after genealogical lore, a handsome young aviator of Austrian descent, just what had aroused his eagerness at that time to know more of his ancestry. He replied that his great-grandfather, of noble stock, had voluntarily left land and kinsfolk to seek "in the land of the free" that liberty and governmental respect for the rights of the individual which were lacking under Hapsburg rule. The scion of this idealist hoped, he said, that our forces would reach Austria before the War ended, and that he might, thus, have opportunity to seek there data on the ancestry which had produced such a man as his great-grandfather. Therefore, he sought to learn what he could here of his family line and environment, that he might be better prepared to go on with the research in Austria.

Not many libraries, of course, have the works on British and Continental genealogy, to be found in the new York Library; but many libraries in the United States now contain published family histories and books on the American localities where our ancestors lived. These latter often give more data on a family line than will be found in a printed genealogy.

If your library does not have such books, why not try to arouse interest in the subject in your community, and then present a request, endorsed with your and your neighbors' signatures, to the Directors of your library, that genealogies (perhaps on specific families residing in the place), and town and county histories (especially of localities in which you and your friends signing the petition are interested), be added to the library's collection?

When you go to a library to seek records of your pedigree, take with you plenty of paper of regulation size, eight and a half inches wide and eleven inches long. In taking records, use either full sheets, or, for brief records, half-sheets. You will find that, when you have accumulated an enormous mass of papers, having these of uniform size makes for convenience in filing them away and keeping them in order.

Speaking of filing your records, it is advised that you buy a box of manila folders, such as are used in offices for filing letters. If you get what is called "letter-size" folders, they will hold properly the paper-sheets of the dimensions named. One hundred folders cost about a dollar. You should have a box (of course, a regular office file-cabinet, or a separate file-cabinet drawer, is preferable, and single drawers may to bought for a few dollars from stationers), the box to be a little wider than the length of the folders and a little higher than their w3idth. Keep the folders standing up, their openings at top, and write, on the extending margin which goes along one lengthwise side of the folders (filing so that this margin will face you as you file), the designating titles of the contents of the folders. These folder-titles should be written on the right-hand side of the margin.

For instance, you may accumulate many records of one ancestor. These should be kept in a folder inscribed, on the said margin, with his name. Sometimes you will gather records galore concerning a place of your family's residence. Put these in a folder designated something like this: Smith Family of Litchfield County, Connecticut. Another way would be to write the family's name on the right-hand side (as you face it in the file), of the extending margin, and, on the left-hand side of the margin, put the name of the locality. Folders should be filed in alphabetical order, from front to back.

Many libraries do not permit the use of ink, so take plenty of well-sharpened pencils, with rubbers on their tips. Take also to the library a box of clips (five cents a box, and a convenient kind is called "Gem"). These are useful in keeping together papers you write about one ancestor or about one place of ancestral residence, or, perhaps about the brothers and sisters of each ancestor.

At the library, consult, first, the card-catalogue, to see if there are any books listed under the name of the family you wish to trace. Make a list, to keep, of such books, noting titles, authors, dates of publication, and library shelf-marks. Then, put these items also on the little slips which the library will furnish, and which you must fill out before asking the librarian to bring you the books.

Follow the same procedure with books on the localities where your ancestors lived, as town histories, county histories, sometimes State histories. When you are further along in your work, you will find, too, that there are books on subjects or events which should be consulted. Some of these may be lists of Revolutionary soldiers and sailors of the State where your ancestors lived at the period of our War for Independence; or they may be works on a special class of immigration in the Colonial period to America, such as the early Swiss and German settlers in Pennsylvania; or they may be church records, though these are usually catalogued under the names of places where the churches were.

Many libraries have the published official Archives of the States, or of some of them. If your ancestors lived in Pennsylvania, you will find a mass of records, filling many volumes, and in this material you will, almost certainly, find much relating to your line.

At the top, right-hand corner of every sheet or half-sheet of paper you use rite, first of all, the name of the family on which you are working. Do this, even though you plan working on but one family. You may gather records of other families from which you also descend, through your ancestress, and you will find it very confusing if you mix these records with those of the main line or lines which you are tracing.

Across the top, on every sheet or half-sheet of paper which you use, write the title of the book from which you are copying, the author's name, date of publication, volume, and page. If your copy extends to more than one sheet of paper (which may be used on both sides), repeat these items on the second and on every successive sheet of paper which you need for the special record you are then copying. On the second and successive sheets, however, write the word, continued, or its abbreviation, Cont., after the items of the book's title, etc. Also, number such second and successive sheets. By following these two last suggestion, you will avoid the calamity of getting your records mixed, should one sheet be dropped, misplaced, or taken out for some use from its regular place in its special bunch of papers or its file.

From long experience, this writer knows too well that you will perhaps think these directions "finicky," and of small practical importance. Probably you will many of you who read this little book ignore them. But, if you wish to make researches with the least confusion of mind, and to be able to assemble your facts, when found, most speedily and easily, you will make the rules for writing and repeating your full authorities as "the law of the Medes and Persians which altered not."

Besides your strictly genealogical reading, of course, you should "soak yourself" in atmosphere of the periods and events of your ancestors' lives and participation. If you think you had "Mayflower" ancestry, learn all you can of England in that period, and of the Pilgrims' ideals, their way of living, their influence on later American history. If you are of Virginian, of Pennsylvanian, of "New Netherlander," or any other early American stock, follow similar procedure.

Too much cannot be said of the necessity of making all that you copy absolutely verbatim. Begin and end what you write with quotation marks. Follow exactly the paragraphing, punctuation, capitalization, spelling. If, as often happens, matter, extraneous to your subject, appears in the part of the book which you are copying, you may leave this out, but put in its place a series of dots, thus:.....This indicates omission, without break of quotation. Never omit words necessary for completion of sentences, however.

If you find, in the book, a serious error,__of fact, spelling, or what not,___copy it just as it appears, but follow it with the word, Sic (A Latin word, meaning thus or so), and your initials, word and initials, enclosed in brackets.__not in parentheses. If you think the statement made in the book to be erroneous in fact, a brief explanation may be given, following the word, Sic, and preceding your initials, all within the brackets.

If an inner quotation occurs in what you are copying, use single quotation-marks for the said inner quotation.

Suppose you are consulting a genealogy on your family, and you find many records to copy: the method of copying is as follows. Put down, as a continuous quotation (if this account appears continuously in the book you are using), all the account given about one ancestor; and this continuous quotation may include the records of his children (except anything more than brief mention of the child who was your direct ancestor or ancestress), as they are described briefly in his own biography. Then, take another sheet of paper, and make a new, separate record for the account to be copied of the next ancestor or ancestress in the line. Sometimes, it is true, one record may cover several sheets of paper; but, as a rule, one sheet or half-sheet will suffice. Never (and this writer would like to emphasize the word in what printers call Blackface Type, and make it "as black as Egypt's night"), under any circumstances, to save time, or paper, or for any other reason, copy two or more records on one sheet of paper. If you do, you will live to rue the day, when you come to the task of compiling your family lineage from the records you have copied. Even if what you wish to copy for one record occupies but a single line on your paper, let it have a half-sheet of paper to itself, and remember to cite completely your authority for that tiny record.

In connection with citation of authorities, it should be said that, sometimes (as, for example, in a list of soldiers in a regiment), it is necessary to copy an explanatory heading, or chapter-title, before beginning the chief part of your quotation. The latter, in such case, may be prefaced by writing, directly after your citation of authority (book's title, author, date, volume, page, etc.); Under heading, Page__,"....................." Give the page-number and put the said heading in quotation-marks.

In all genealogical research, work back from yourself, not down to yourself. If you attempt the latter course, you will have to trace every single descendant of the progenitor with whom you start, lest you skip the one who may have been your ancestor. Of course, if you already know your line, and have proof of it, and are only seeking confirmation, or additional records, this rule does not apply.


Website: The History
Article Name: How To Trace And Record Your Own Ancestry Part III
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY:  How To Trace and Record Your Own Ancestry by Frank Allaben and Mabel Washburn; The National Historical Company-New York; Copyright: 1932 by Mabel T.W. Washburn.
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