Friday, September 30, 2011

Finding Holes in Your Research

Anna Charlotta was NOT Alma Charlotta  
Hidden Data in Your Collection

I suggest to beginners to collect their data, but don’t just pull document after document to prove your ancestor’s existence without understanding what the data is telling you. What is your ancestor’s story? It is written between the lines, hidden within one word, or in one obscure date.

I recently pulled no less than 30 pages of Swedish records on a Samuelsson family that I was following. I copied birth, marriage, household examinations and death records for a period of about 50 years. Then, I paused!

Write That Report
The best way to analyze your data is to write about it. Begin writing for yourself or your client, not when the project is finished - since it will never be finished – but when you believe you have sufficient data to tell a story. Then, you will find your holes, which will keep you focused toward finding “the rest of the story.”

Analyzing Data
With magnifying glass in hand, I realized that my Samulesson’s marriage record revealed that he was a soldier in the Swedish military and had served in both France and England. It was buried between his homeplace and date and marriage date. Just “aft. sold P. France, Lon England”meaning formerly soldier. . Why not find out what was going on in the 1850’s in Sweden that would warrant such a service?

I mistakenly assumed two children as being one: Anna Charlotta and Alma Charlotta (Samuelsdotter). But in analyzing church records and various household examinations, it was clear that these were two different daughters born within two years of each other. With this knowledge, I was able to find the death record of Anna Charlotta and her losing battle with smallpox. She was born and gone, before her sister Alma ever entered this world but who was given Charlotta as her baptismal name also. With the quality of the microfilm copies on Genline, it was easy to mistake Alma for Anna and not realize that they were two individuals not one. But, by reviewing all the documentation, the one household examination with Anna’s birth date was uncovered. Was smallpox in an epidemic stage in Sweden in 1860?

By analyzing data, you not only can prove a hypothesis, you are able to uncover social history and culture and make your story more interesting. Sure the dates are useful, but it’s the story we are after.

Happy researching and analyzing. Hoping you uncover your story!

Kathleen Brandt

Originally printed 9 Sept, 2009, Are You Analyzing Your Data?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent advice indeed! I have been "pausing" a whole lot laterly. But with good reason!