Sort Out Your Questions about Your Ancestor

It seems like for every genealogy discovery I make, I uncover another riddle or puzzle to keep me working. When I find several versions of a name, I wonder is it a misspelling? Which is the correct one and how can I find out? The same problem happens with birth dates, death dates and marriage dates.

Then there are the questions that can’t be answered by the facts listed in a census. I wonder about the way my ancestors lived, why they moved from one state to another. What happened to some family members that don’t show up in later census records? Who are the children with different names that are living with the family?

Unfortunately many of these family history questions will remain unanswered. I’m listing my puzzles here and cross my fingers. Maybe someone will stumble across them in working on their own family history. Maybe they will even have some of the answers for me. Miracles do happen.

???  Why was his 7th child, Ezakins Zacheus Tower (1875) born in Indiana when the family was living in Tyro, Kansas in 1873? Did the infant die in childbirth? I’m not finding further information about him.

??? The 8th child, Rueben Theodore Tower was born May 13, 1876 in Boone County, Arkansas. What was the family doing in Arkansas, when the previous year they were in Indiana?
UPDATE: I found online Rueben Tower’s grandson’s essay about the family. He says Civil War veterans were offered free land in Arkansas. I need to find out more about that.

??? Abraham’s 9th child, Malissa Angeline Tower was born in Arkansas in 1879, but the 10th child Emma Lillian Tower born in 1881 was in Indiana. Were they visiting in Indiana or living there again? I’ve also seen Malissa listed as Melissa which would be a more ordinary spelling.

??? Which of Nancy Angeline Tower’s sisters was living in Missouri? The family story is that she went to Missouri to stay with the sister when she thought Abraham was dead after the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.

??? Prisoners were allowed to send letters to their family while in Andersonville. Abraham did not. It wasn’t due to illiteracy, as he kept a pocket diary after the war. Perhaps he did not have any money for stamps? Perhaps he sent a letter but it went astray due to wartime conditions. Possibly that wasn’t allowed any longer by the time he entered the prison. (I need to find out when the mail was stopped at Andersonville)

??? Prisoners were formed into groups upon arrival for purposes of roll call and food distribution. Was Abraham with other Company G comrades at this time or did they get separated as the influx of prisoners arrived?
(Strategy: make a list of Company G, 93rd Infantry soldiers in Andersonville, date of capture or arrival, died or survived)

I think I’ll get this to help me work out these questions. The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Individual Problem Analysis: A Strategic Plan (Quicksheet)

It looks very helpful in asking the right questions, looking for the right information, and so on. It’s great to have a checklist by you when taking on the big task of genealogy! Make sure you don’t miss anything important, and you know what you’re looking for!

Make Copies of Information You Find Online

You may think it sufficient to bookmark a site that relates to your ancestor. Alas, the Internet shifts, changes, and sites can disappear.

I recommend saving a screen shot on your computer or using a clipping app like Evernote. Even that isn’t enough insurance. What if your computer crashes. Go one step further and print a paper copy to keep.

Last year I’d found a great website about Belgians in the Civil War. It included half a dozen men who were in my great-great grandfather’s company and several were in Andersonville with him. The profiles on this site were most informative and probably written from the pension files of these individuals.

I made a few notes and saved a link, thinking I could always go back for more details later. Unfortunately the profiles are now gone from online. If I want that information, I’ll need to order their pension records. That’s an expense I wasn’t planning on, so I’m really regretting that I didn’t print all that information when I first found it.

Henri Devillez served in Company G, 93rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry with my ancestor. In 2012, I visited his grave in Leopold, Indiana.

Henri Devillez served in Company G, 93rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry with my ancestor. In 2012, I visited his grave in Leopold, Indiana.

I’ve included a few notes about him and other enlisted men of Company G on a web page where I was stockpiling links. From now on, I’m also printing out all that I find.

Organizing My Research Finds

I recently joined a group called The Organized Genealogist. Seeing what the other researchers are doing inspires me to organize my findings. I’m notorious for piles of papers and need to learn to “file, not pile.”

So… I’ve made file folders with categories like early life, 93rd Indiana, Andersonville, Civil War background information, Tyro, old age.  Since I’m also researching the 100 men that were in Company G with my great-great grandfather, I need a folder just for them. Also I need a folder for his descendants as I find details about the lives of his children and grandchildren.