I have been working on my family tree for 45+ years and through the years have acquired the skills necessary to help others build their trees. When I started, I was 13 years old. My great-great-Aunt, Alice Perry Campbell, wrote a book on the history of our family. She was in her 80s when she wrote it and relied on her memories. It is amazing what she recalled of the stories passed down from her grandmother, Elizabeth Perry, especially given that Alice was only 3 when Elizabeth died. She even recalls Elizabeth's death as they crossed a river near the Boston Mountain in Arkansas in 1880.
No doubt her parents, Queen Elizabeth Hutson, and father, George Washington Perry, continued the oral history as she grew older. Despite the gaps in generations and time, Alice was amazingly accurate in her tales. She wrote in the days before computers and easily accessible microfilms of newspapers, census records, and other such documents which only later became available to me as a teenager. Even then, the internet did not exist. And computers were only used by the government and large corporations on large systems before Apple and Microsoft changed the world.
I used to sit and listen to Alice tell stories about her parents and grandparents and great-grandparents that had been passed down to her. She did not always get the details right - she called her great-grandfather, George Perry, when it was really James, and her great-grandmother, Dolly, when it was really Mary, and stated that Mary (i.e. Dolly's) last name was Hatchett. That has yet to be proven, and maybe never will.
The oral family history started in Sneedville, TN, in the 1800s, now in Hancock County. Alice had no access to any documentaion to back up her stories. It has taken me years to find the documentation needed to prove what she recalled; however, due to court house fires, not all records can be found. This happens in many familes. And when that happens, there is no way to recover the lost information; however, with DNA testing, it is now possible to find lines.
As a teenager, when I started trying to find the people she talked about, I had to go through reels and reels of mocrofilm at the Oklahoma History Library on Saturdays and sometimes wait hours for a reader I could only use for two hours at a time before having to wait another two hours for my turn again. The only census index published of any help was the 1850 census because this is the first census where family members are listed in addition to the head of the household. The indices for future census records, i.e. 1860, 1870, 1880, etc. were not yet published. And in Oklahoma, there were very few records from Tennessee. Later, as more census records were indexed, and as I grew up, married, and moved away to Kentucky, then Virginia, then Tennessee, I was able to go to more libraries and start going to the county courthouses where the actual records were kept. Nothing made me happier than holding in my hands and seeing with my own eyes the actual deeds, marriage records, and other such documents that helped me piece together my family's history. This goes for all family lines, not just my father's "Perry" line.
Later, after the advent of websites such as www.ancestry.com that started adding newspapers to their online records, in reading about Alice's tales, in addition to legal documents and census records, I tried to find events that might be published in an old newspaper to back up or validate her stories. As an example, I found an article on an Earthquake she felt when she was 6 years old - she described the event when she and her brother, Isaac Perry, my great-grandfather, were sent to the spring for some water one day near Sulphur City (Sulphur Springs?, there are two Sulphur Springs in AR, one in Logan County and the other in Yell County), and all of a sudden "the earth began dancing" under their feet. It was a minor quake but when they returned to the house, they found some dishes broken. I found this article in "The News" Frederick Co., MD, Dec. 8, 1883, Vol. 1, No. 47, Page 1 - "Earthquake in Arkansas - Seven shocks of earthquake occured Thursday at Bovenden Springs, Arkansas. They lasted forty seconds, and broke glassware and crockery in stores and houses. Large rocks were loosened and fell in the cuts of the Kansas City, Springfield and Memphis railroad near by. One shock was accompanied by a loud noise, and there was a violent jar of the earth." What a gem! I have since discovered other records and articles to substantiate her claims.
As far as my goals - Mainly, I want to avoid the traps that so many genealogists fall into. Since the advent of the internet, many genealogists / reseachers/ bloggers rely on what others post in a family tree that someone else has posted. About 99.9% of the time, neither the original researcher, or the person who uses this information, I call secondary and tertiary sources, cite the original (primary) source, i.e. deed, will, birth, marriage, death, census, etc. And even fewer provide pictures or copies of the original record.
Once an assumption is repeated so many times, it becomes what others declare to be the truth. Someone may find someone with the same name in the same county, or worse yet, find documentation on someone with a similar name, and because they have NOT found any documents which discount their own assumptions, they think they have found the missing link. However, sometimes, it is not what IS FOUND that proves descent. Sometimes, it is what is NOT FOUND until later which disproves it.
One example I can think of is that of William Bean of Monroe County. Some say his mother was Sarah Bane, daughter of James Bane, out of Chester, PA, and who was the son of Mordacai Bane. That is because James had a daughter name Sarah. Unfortunately, Sarah married a man named Smith according to James' will. So end of story. She did not marry William Bean and move to Monroe Co., VA (WV). Unless Smith died and she remarried. But there is no proof of that. Sadly, whoever first decided that Sarah was the daughter of James, did not have access to James' will, and so the story was perpetuated without documentation.
And so, for those fledgling genealogists reading this, always, always, ask what documentation someone has used to link a proven ancestor to that ancestor's parents.
So, it is with my greatest hope that I should never lead anyone down the wrong path without proof. If an assumption is an assumption based on a lack of proof, I will always note it as such - i.e. "this is a secondary, unproven source".
I know that sometimes, as with Alice's information, there may be a kernal of truth in every tidbit of information, so it is important to note what isn't as much as what IS. And with that, I hope to start the journey back into the past to lead future generations to the truth of who they are, how they came to be, and of what type of people they come from.
It my ultimate goal to provide a list of documents I have gathered (and there are thousands) which are not available elsewhere, and be able to provide copies for a small fee (to try and recoup the many thousands of dollars I have spent over the years making copies at courthouses), and additionally, provide a list of books I am writing on each line and sell them either in a hard copy, or in a pdf format. Some of my books are too large to print out. For example, my book on the Cronkhite - Cronkite - Conkright - Conkwright, etc., family is thousands of pages long. It would not feasible to sell it in a hard copy because, with today's economy, very few people would be able to afford just the printing costs. So, some of my books will only be available via a pdf file. However, in the meantime......
This website is under construction.... More to come later......