Analyzing Census Anomalies—and Why We Should

The 1840 census of Marion County, Alabama, presents a situation I had never seen before. I had visited that census in search of one Benjamin Foster. I found on him p. 59 (reverse), line 1, with a white family of 10 and 25 enslaved people assigned to his household. Curiously, in 1850, he is enumerated again in Marion County, at which time is property valuation was set at $300. Hmhh. What happened in that decade to the Benjamin Foster family? ...

Having a Record That Says Something Doesn’t Prove It!

Every researcher has heard this advice: To prove a point, we need multiple sources: multiple sources, independently created. Not multiple sources that all copy each other. Decades ago, we were told that we needed "three sources that agree." In recent years, that "instruction" has been streamlined. Supposedly now, all we need are two. If that’s been your guidance, forget it ....

Family Meetings

Family meetings were a vital step in the succession (probate) process in the parts of America settled by the French, They were convoked when minor heirs or disabled heirs were involved. Bouvier's 1856 Law Dictionary explains the particulars this way:

The Importance of Context

We can not just take a record at face value. We must always study the context of the information. Never mind this document that seems to say Moses Hornsby married again about 1797. He didn’t. When we put this one-line entry about Moses into the context of all the other entries on this page—their construction and their wording—we’re left with a totally different interpretation of the record.