Category Archives: Methodology

Reminder: Always Check the Original Source!

As I research various families, I always seek out the original source. That’s not always possible – originals are sometimes lost, repositories not cited, etc. – but often, the original source is extant, can be found and definitely should be viewed before accepting details as accurate.

Here is an excellent example from my husband’s Larrison family.

Revolutionary War pensioner John Stufflebean married Elsee (Larrison) Ketchum in Estill County, Kentucky in the summer of 1795.

Without a doubt, Elsee is part of the colonial New Jersey Larrison family, but connecting the dots from Elsee to parents and grandparents is problematical.

George Larrison, also in Estill County, Kentucky in the 1790s, is almost certainly Elsee’s brother.

Therefore, I have been collecting Larrison clues in the great expanse of land between New Jersey and Kentucky.

Here is a tidbit I found in a book online:

Note that the bottom line of this abstract mentions the Larison Brothers. The patent is dated 1784 and would prove that at least two Larrison/Larison family members had land in Kentucky and were possibly already living in what was then Fayette County.

I’ve tried to find this land patent, but haven’t been successful. However, recently, a new Larrison cousin, who lives in Kentucky AND works as a land surveyor, had no problem finding this patent and kindly shared an image of it with me.

Here is a crop of the pertinent portion:

This is beautifully legible handwriting for the time period. Look at the last line:

to a Hickory Corner of Terrason & Brothers & John Carnan thence

I have no idea who thought this entry said Larison Brothers, but it absolutely does NOT!

How many hours could I have wasted tracing people and places mentioned in the original abstraction see above? Answer: Too many!

Many thanks to my husband’s distant cousin who got to the bottom of it very quickly!


Applying What I’ve Learned in My One-Place Study to Genealogy Research, Part 1

For the last several months, I’ve been hard at work on my one-place study of St. Dimitry’s Greek Catholic Church neighborhood, which is made of up two small villages in Slovakia – Hajtovka and Ujak, which today is called Udol.

My project consists of two parts – an Excel database of entries of all baptisms, marriages and burials found in the parish register, which begins in November 1827 – and a Word document in which I’ve built out the parish families through the 1800s and added in bits about the earlier history of the area and lists of the house censuses in 1853 and 1859.

I’ve also transcribed the Ujak and Hajtovka families found in the Hungarian census of 1869, when the villages were part of what was then called Saros (sounds like Sharish) County.

This is the first post in a series about how much can be learned with a one-place study.

Before you think, “Oh, I’ll never do a one place study!” –  what I have learned applies to any genealogist seeking “hatched, matched and dispatched” records. In other words, my discoveries might open your eyes, too, as to what is and is not found in official records.

This series will be examining multiple factors in the life of a town:

History of the Region
Religion – Clues to other records
FAN Club
Surnames – Spelling Variations & Aliases
Church Records – Accuracy, Errors & Missing Entries
Social Context
Daily Life in Udol and Hajtovka, Gleaned from the Church Records

Today, let’s delve into the history of a region. While history is important everywhere – for example in the U.S. when county borders changed in a state or the country changed, as with Texas and the Southwest, those were not events that repeated often in the same place in American history.

For those studying families that lived in mainland Europe, history becomes extremely important.

Let’s look at the history of my maternal grandmother’s villages, Hajtovka and Udol, formerly called Ujak.

First, where are they? Before the internet, you’d be hard pressed to locate either village. I couldn’t find them on any maps back in the 1980s. Queries from Nana elicited only that they were not close to any big cities and the nearby river was the Poprad.

That clue meant that her villages were in northern Slovakia near the Polish border. Today, online maps have simplified the search:

Udol is the light green area in the center. Hajtovka is a mile to the west

Slightly southwest is the town of Plavnica; to the northwest is Matysova while Maly Lipnik and Starina are to the north of the village.

These are ancient towns, as most are mentioned in records dating from the Middle Ages.

Populations? Today, Udol has 417 inhabitants, Hajtovka 72, Maly Lipnik 457, Matysova 72 and Plavnica with a whopping 1600.

Still lost?

These villages are in today’s eastern Slovakia in the foothills of the Tatras Mountains. Udol is also one of the westernmost ethnically Rusyn villages.

Historically, they were in the path of many governmental changes. Passing through were other Rusyns, a few Jews, definitely Slovaks and Hungarians and even Russians plus other Slavic peoples. Surprisingly, Chmel’nica, due west of Udol and Hajtovka, was settled by Germans.  A number of Romanis (wanderers) also meandered through the area.

What did this mean politically? In the 1800s, the powers that be determined the official language of government records and documents, which included church records.

Hajtovka and Udol shared one parish church, St. Dimitry’s Greek Catholic Church, which still exists in Udol today. Literally overnight, and I don’t mean 1 January and the start of a new year, the scribe changed the language in which he recorded baptisms, marriages and burials.

While most of the records are thankfully written in Latin, there are time periods where entries are in Hungarian and several decades (including 1851-1857 and the early 20th century) where the Cyrillic alphabet is used.

There isn’t much of a learning curve from Latin to Hungarian, since most entries are in rows and columns so it is a matter of recognizing that Latin Michaelis and Susanna equal Mihaly and Zuzka (Susie) in Hungarian.

I have to admit, though, that sloppy Cyrillic cursive has put a crimp in my extraction progress.

In summary, understanding the history of an area allows a researcher to recognize influences in the daily lives of our ancestors. As we shall see in the next post, it forces us to cast a wider net than we initially expected to catch some big fish!







Using a Timeline for Genealogical Research: William Sturgell

A timeline is a valuable tool in genealogy research. It’s one of my favorites, but a timeline isn’t necessary for each and every ancestor in the family tree!

Source: Pixabay
Public Domain

How Do I Use Timelines?

The passage of time can be a huge help when researching a person or family, but it can also be a giant hindrance. Each of these situations provide perfect opportunities to use a detailed timeline.

Time is my friend when families stay in one place for years or even decades. I rarely use timelines in this scenario unless I want to write a specific story with many details.

On the other hand, when a genealogical subject refuses to stay put, like William and Isaac Sturgell, for example, a timeline is a visual display of known facts. A timeline can point the way from beginning to end and it can highlight gaps in knowledge and documentation.

Tech tools make creating timelines simple, whether using an Excel database or Trello with its cards or with an online program such as Visme or SmartDraw.

However, my preference is actually a Word document. I like the clean look (no databoxes as I’m working), I can cut and paste rows to keep chronological order and I can add details as I like. timelines can be created vertically, in a graph format, with years along the bottom and facts extending vertically upward, but the way more useful display for genealogy is to have the years and facts set up horizontally.

For whatever reason, the Sturgell ancestors been calling my name lately – hence the posts about all my loose ends in this family.  William Sturgill, who I believe to be the father of Isaac Sturgell, seems to be a fitting subject for a timeline table.

William Sturgill/Sturgion/Sturgell is a man who left a small paper trail. At least, it’s small in terms of what I have found. He’s an excellent timeline subject, as he was probably born in and lived first in North Carolina before he migrated into Virginia and then Ohio before reportedly dying in Arkansas or Missouri before 1850.

A timeline puts all the facts together in one succinct visual display, which I love. The Sturgills might have been living over the state line in Virginia in 1790 and 1800, as they are not in North Carolina. Virginia is missing those census records.

I need to begin my timeline with William’s reputed father, Francis Sturgill and then add William to it as he comes of age.

1782 – Francis Sturgeon appears on tax list of Montgomery County, Virginia. Grayson County, Virginia was eventually set off from part of Montgomery County.

1785Approximate birth year of William Sturgell, probably Wilkes County, North Carolina (parent county of Ashe) or in Virginia

1798 – Francis Sturgill bought land from Zachariah Wells in Wilkes County, North Carolina (Ashe County set off from part of it in 1799).

1804 – William Sturgill reportedly married c1804 to Sophia King. Family lore places her as daughter of a Newport, RI doctor, which is a bit outlandish given the time period and distance. One Edward King lived in Morgan, Ashe, North Carolina in 1800. House had 1 male over 45, one female 26-44, 1 male 16-25, 2 females 10-15, 1 female under 10. One of the females 10-15 could be supposed daughter Sophia. Unfortunately, Edward King died 1800-1804, so wouldn’t name Sophia as Sturgill if there was a will or land sale. His apparent administrator was widow Phebe, who sold land to Edward King in 1804. Deed was witnessed by John KingCourt minutes don’t begin until 1807.

1810W. Sturgill in Ashe County, North Carolina, male 16-25, female 16-25, 3 females under 10; also in Ashe County are J., J, R., J. and F. Sturgill.

1820 – Wm Sturgill, Ashe County, North Carolina, male 26-44, female 26-44, 2 females 10-15, 2 females under 10, 2 males under 10

1822 – 5 March – State of North Carolina to William (X) Sturgill, 165 acres in Ashe County

1830 – William Sturgen, Grayson County, Virginia, male 40-49, female 40-49, 2 females 20-29, 1 male 10-14, 1 female 5-9, 1 male 5-9 (thought to be Isaac), 3 males under 5.

1837 – 5 August, William Sturgill, Chillicothe Land Office, Ohio River Survey, T5, R17W, S10 in Lawrence County, Ohio

1837 – September – William Sturgill to William Jones, NW1/4 of SW1/4 T5 R17 S2, Lawrence County, Ohio. Alvin and William both signed (X), but Alvin not recorded as seller in the deed text.

1830-12 March 1839 – First wife of William Sturgell died.

1839 – 12 March, Wm. Stirgill married Catherine Elizabeth (Yingling) Brown, Lawrence County, Ohio

1840 – Wm. Sturgen, Symmes, Lawrence, Ohio, male 50-59, female 40-49, 3 males 20-29, 1 female 15-19, 1 male 15-19 (Isaac), 2 males 10-14

1844 – 24 June – Wm. Sturgill mentioned in court minutes with Joseph Yates.

1844, 24 June – 1850 – William Sturgell reportedly died in sawmill accident in “Arkansas or Missouri” according to family lore.

1850 – 14 October – Elizabeth Stergion lived in Aid Twp., Lawrence County, Ohio with son Milton Brown’s family.

1850 – 29 August – Isaac Sturgion and family lived in Barry County, Missouri, which borders Arkansas and is in the Ozarks.

As you can see, I have a decent set of documents relating to William Sturgell, his purported father, Francis Sturgill, and probable son, Isaac.

What is missing is a definitive place of death, although it seems certain that he died before the 1850 census, when Catherine was living with her son’s family in Lawrence County, Ohio.

I also feel the Isaac Sturgell’s settling in Barry County, Missouri, near no known FAN club of his or his wife, Mary Bandy’s, is pointing the way to a possible trip to the Ozarks with William, Isaac and possibly Alvin, who was older than Isaac.

The mystery now and a great research question is: In which county of the Ozark Mountains did William die and is there any court record or probate, particularly if he hadn’t purchased any land?

My timeline has helped solidify the possibility that his first wife was Sophia King, but not a child of a Rhode Island doctor, and strengthened my belief that my husband’s 2X great grandfather traveled to southern Missouri with his father. Then, after William died, Isaac stayed in the area for the rest of his life because he liked it.

What do you think? Has this timeline helped you to visualize the life of William Sturgell?