Week 6: 6 Feb – 12 Feb 2015
* Evaluating Evidence
Is the source original or derivative? Primary information or secondary or even tertiary? Direct or indirect evidence or unknown? That is how I approach what I find and how much “weight” I give it in coming to a conclusion. For the example I’ll show you, my first thought was, “Oh my gosh! I found her elusive middle name!” After evaluating the evidence, though, I came to a different conclusion.
Book owned by Nancy Pearson Ballard, my 3rd-great-GM (one of my most prized possessions)
Question: Is Nancy Pearson Ballard’s middle name Ann?
Source: Original, an original printing of the book, published in approximately 1827, with Nancy’s own inscription (“Miss Nancy Pearson her book this the 19th of October in the year of our Lord 1828”), under that appears to be her initials, written as N. . P. Is there an initial between the N and the P? Under that, signed with her married name “Nancy Ballard” (she was married in 1832). On the next page, at the top, is written “Nancy ann.”
Information: Possibly primary; I compared the “Nancy Ballard” signature here with her signature on her widow pension application and they match. The other handwriting styles I can’t be sure of.
What I know about the Pearsons, most or all of Nancy’s siblings did have middle names. Nancy’s youngest sister, the last child born to her parents in 1829, was named Mary Ann. Was Nancy doodling in her book, trying on the name “Ann” for size, so to speak? Did one of her children doodle in her book as kids are wont to do? We’ll never know. Therefore, in good faith, I can’t say definitively that her middle name was Ann. And, let me tell you, I was chastised about not adding the name Ann to my DAR application! I was told, “If you know her middle name, why don’t you put it on the app? Is there a reason you don’t want others to know?” Seriously. I’ve seen Nancy’s signature on official documents and on her headstone, no where have I ever seen Ann connected with her name except for in her little book that I’m not even sure is her handwriting. To go along with this deduction is a letter her father wrote to Nancy and her husband, naming his children and their birth/death dates. For some of the children, he wrote their middle names, some he didn’t. Nancy was one where he didn’t include a middle name. The letter was written 20+ years before he died so I am going to guess he knew his children’s names. Obviously, I’ve put a lot of thought into this situation. My conclusion is I just don’t know; I wasn’t there to witness her writing in her book. From all of her signatures I’ve seen, not once have I seen Ann or even the middle initial A associated with her name. I don’t want to pass on incorrect information to others; I will, however, tell them about her book, my deductions, show them the pictures, and let them come to their own conclusion. Most items are not so ambiguous as to their meaning; I’m glad I took the time to evaluate this piece of evidence and didn’t add Ann to my DAR application. I stand by my decision.
* Reviewing Online Education Options
I’ve been checking into online genealogical options for at least a year now, trying to decide what to do, what I can afford, the time involved, etc. I’ve tried to get to as many conferences as possible and sat in on many a webinar. My ultimate goal is to complete a ProGen study group. ProGen study groups take 19 months to finish. There is a readiness checklist on their website to help you get a feel if you’re ready to participate. I have also taken an online course through NGS. I need to sign up for the next course, then hopefully they will have the entire home study course online. There are several genealogical institutes offered around the country (Alabama, Pennsylvania, Illinois, even virtually), but the odds of me getting to one of those are few and far between. I was hoping to try to get to the Illinois institute (it was the first one to be held), but there wasn’t enough interest and they had to cancel it. 😦 Boston University has an online program, but I can’t afford it at this time. Most likely, I will finish the NGS course, then set my sights on a ProGen study group, and finally “start the clock” for BCG certification.
I really should set a goal for myself as to when to sign up for a ProGen study group. After going through the readiness checklist, I feel I could be ready by the end of 2015.