30 January 2010

Logan County Record of Poor Persons

I just finished entering records from the Logan County Commissioners Record of Poor Persons. This is a single volume of records of poor people whose care was under the auspices of the Logan County Commissioners. From this book I extracted information on individuals for whom Logan County paid for coffins, burial services, cemetery lots, etc. In all there are 125 entries. Not a "major" source of pre-1920 burials, but an important one none the less.

The oldest record is for Edward Taylor who died 11 Jan 1892. John Cheatham was paid for providing a coffin. The last record is for Mrs. Dan Daniels age 74 who died 11 Mar 1903. Mr. West was paid for providing a pauper's grave. Unfortunately, there are gaps in the records from 1896 to 1900 and from 1900 to 1903. Most of the entries are for Blacks. And many of these were buried at the Cimarron River Bridge Cemetery (north of Guthrie). Others were buried in the Winsor/Windsor Graveyard. From what I've been able to determine, neither of these cemeteries are still in existence.

So here we have 125 entries for people who died in early Oklahoma Territory, but for whom it is unlikely there is any other record of their deaths. Nor is it likely that there is a marker for their grave anywhere. How many other county court houses have records like this sitting on a top shelf, in a corner, or in the basement, and no one knows about them?

I am always on the look out for burials of Civil War veterans. As a member of the Nation Graves Registration Committee for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), I enter information on any Civil War veterans graves that I come across. From this record of Logan County Poor Persons I found Andrew Hendricks, male, age 62, Black, died 2 Oct 1894; his coffin was provided by Mr. Porter. A subsequent check of the Civil War Pension Index resulted in finding Andrew Hendricks whose wife filed an application for pension dated 12 Nov 1894. His service was as Private in Company H 3rd US Colored Troops Heavy Artillery. His pension was #64142 and his widow's was #411840. Although the cemetery of burial is unknown, it is likely it was in the Cimarron River Bridge graveyard, along with many of the other Blacks identified in this Poor Persons book.

Moral of this story: Don't overlook the "unlikely" records. Check out your local court house for unusual records. Record information they contain. Publish on your own, on the internet, or in a genealogical journal! So many records are overlooked. So many records are unused because no one is aware they exist!

10 January 2010

Problems With Indexes

Overheard at the Oklahoma Genealogical Society meeting last summer:

" I just can't find my ancestor in the census anywhere!"
"Did you try the soundex listing?"
" yes, and it didn't turn him up either!"
" Did you try any other variations of the name?"
"I tried a couple and didn't find anything...besides, he ALWAYS spelled his name the same way. I've given up on finding him in that census!"

When I heard this I just had to shake my head. Too many of us research as if we were the ones who created the records. Just think of one of your ancestors' more unusual surnames. If you heard that name how would you have spelled it? Did the family move into the area from a different area with a different accent? What kind of education did your ancestor have? What kind of education did the census taker have? Did other families of the same surname live in the area but spell the name differently? Did your ancestor speak with a lisp? Or with a guttural voice? Or did he mumble/garble his words?

There are so many reasons a surname may NOT show up in an initial census search. For nearly 20 years I published the "Beckwith Newsletter". I would spend hours abstracting Beckwith families from census and other records. Some of the variations of the name Beckwith showed up on the census as: Beckwith, Beckwirth, Beckworth, Buckwith, Becketh, Beckett, Brickwith, Brickworth, Bockwith, Bockweth, Peckwith, Deckwith, Beckurth, etc.

Notice that some of the Beckwith variations based on typos. Others are simple spelling errors. Others are transcription errors (the loop at the end of a cursive "B" looking like an "r", for example). An yet others are regional variations based on accent (try saying Beckwith with a southern accent- the soft with coming out as worth).

My point here is that you have to think outside the box when you get stumped. I spent an hour yesterday checking my Oklahoma Death index of over 100,000 entries for certain spelling variations:

cemetery: cemetry, cemeterey, cemertery, cemetey, cemetety.
buried: bruied
grace: grce
ordered: orderd
Thomas: Thoams

As you can see, most of the mistakes that I catch myself making are typographical errors. That's what happens when you get someone who "hunts and pecks". Imagine yourself as a menially paid indexer. How careful would you be? How diligent would you be? How tired would you get reading and typing hour after hour.

Think outside the box. Try typing your ancestor's last name but intentionally type a wrong letter (the same letter you often "miss" when typing). Try a search in THAT name and see what turns up.

PLEASE....remember that indexes are research aides ONLY...ALWAYS check out the sources your self to verify. As my football coach taught in Jr. High...never ASSUME...It just makes an ASS out of U and ME. In real estate they talk about Location, Location, Location. I guess in genealogy we need to talk about Verify, Verify, Verify!

Until next time.....