Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


February 9, 2009

Genealogy, like politics, is local and is about “where”

EVIDENCE and PROOF; What are those?

Before going further, you must be come to realize that many commonly used labels such as “hearsay,” “circumstantial,” “primary,” “secondary,” “direct,” “indirect,” “derivative,” etc., are next to useless; none of those tell any listener what you mean.

For you to be considered a thorough researcher, you must dump your pride and admit that you neither understand, nor can you give us a definition for any of those words. In fact, across now 50-plus years I have yet to hear or read a definition for any of those terms that will work for all occasions. Try it yourself.

One example will serve; you will hear that a cemetery is unreliable because it is “hearsay,” and in fact such stones are hearsay and in its most classical form. So do we ignore what is written there? Of course not; every single one tells us about something.

Cemetery headstones, even if you can’t read more than the family name, reveal that the dead person had SOME relationship — great or small — to that place. For a couple examples; folks buried there before about 1900 likely lived nearby since a horse drawn hearse with people moving at about the same speed traveled about 2.5 miles an hour.

Then too, the placement in the cemetery usually reveals that those buried nearby were known or related to the dead person.

That stone alone should send you to the cemetery, death, church, land and estate records for that “where” county. Start with finding the local genealogical/historical society, then a large source such as LDS records, then the local library, then any experienced researcher who lives there.

After that, search the state library and find a detailed map of land owners at that time. That person who tends or mows grass there has a phone; call and ask what he/she knows about your family and whether or not anyone has visited that part of the cemetery during the past few years. Remember too that the same fellow mowing (“Sexton,” ask who pays him?) The neighbors may know who the last preacher was, what members yet live nearby and where the church records were taken.

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