Making Good Use Of Documentation



One reason you will want to search for documentation is that the more you know about the life of your Ancestor the better “story” you can develop about them. It is usually easier to write the history of your parents or your Grandparents, however the farther back you go the more difficult it can become. You will want to have more information on them than just their name, date of birth, date of death and where they lived.  John H. McGowan, my maternal Great Grandfather, was born and raised in the State of Missouri. His Great Grandfather, Francis McGowan had immigrated to this country from Dublin, Ireland when he was 13 years old and became a Naturalized Citizen in 1811 at the age of 17. Francis was a farmer and he owned a considerable amount of land in Tennessee. His son James D. McGowan was born in Tennessee and he moved his family to Missouri after the Civil War. He too was a farmer. So when I was inputting information on my Great Grandfather John I naturally put down that he was also a farmer. When I decided to really get organized and make sure that the information that I had on each Ancestor was not only correct but as complete as I could get them I re-read the Census records I had for John and his wife. Imagine my surprise to find that he was not a farmer! All of the records showed that he had been a Coal Miner. In 1930 at the age of 67 he was still working in the mines. I was amazed. Not only did it blow my assumptions out of the water but it showed me what sturdy stock I come from. If I didn’t have this documentation then I would have never known.  This is a perfect example of why we need to slow down, read the documents we find and to never make assumptions!

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