09 December 2013

Why Blog When the Genealogical Cart is Ahead of the Genealogical Horse

How much should one blog about research in progress? It is a good question.

One of the main reasons for not blogging about in-progress research is that there is the chance that readers will take hypotheses about the individuals as being fact when they are not. These individuals may even credit me with  statements that I did not make.  There's also a chance that others will "use" my hypothetical statements to further their own research without giving me credit.

One of the main reasons for blogging is that the very act of writing often cleans the cobwebs out of the research and may allow one to reach out to others researching the same families. Past experiences indicate that the majority of potential relatives who stumble upon a blog post about the people for whom they are searching will never communicate with the poster of the blog entry.

But then again, most readers of published genealogies don't communicate with those authors either. And it certainly is less expensive and time consuming to write a blog post than it is to publish a book.

That all being said, I will keep blogging about in-progress research, making clear what is speculation and what is not.

The potential relative that got me to thinking about this process is Rufus D. Stephens, who resided in Ontario County, New York; Ontario, Canada;  and  St. Clair County, Michigan, at various times in the first half of the 19th century.

I often blog about Rufus, but have never really mentioned his connection to me. I try and avoid referring to him as "my" Rufus as I'm not certain whether he is "mine" or not. It is possible that I should not even be researching Rufus and that I've gotten the genealogical cart ahead of the genealogical horse.

Or maybe not.

Rufus may be the maternal grandfather of my known ancestor Florence Ellen (Butler) Sargent. Florence was born in the mid-1850s, probably in the state of Missouri. No birth or death record for Florence exists--that's part of the problem. In fact her name only appears on three records: her 1870 marriage, her 1880 census enumeration with her husband and her probable 1870 census enumeration with her parents. The first wife of the man presumed to be her father was named Margaret Stephens and it is presumed (based upon the ages of Benjamin's children) that Florence Ellen's mother was Margaret Stephens as well, although more work needs to be done.

So why Rufus D. Stephens? After all, Stephens is a common last name and one has to be careful grabbing any old Stephens and hypothesizing he is Margaret's father. And I have to remember that my connection to Margaret Stephens (Butler) is not solid either.

The reason for Rufus D. Stephens is that he is of the age to be Margaret (Stephens) Butler's father and he more importantly appears as a neighbor to Benjamin and his probable brother Arvin Butler in both Michigan and Ontario over a fifteen year time span. The appearance of Rufus as a neighbor to the Butlers in both locations is more than coincidental. But "more than coincidental" is not enough. I need more to connect Rufus to the Butlers.

And I also need to connect Margaret (Stephens) Butler to her children.

And that's why I'm researching Rufus as well as the others. It is possible that some record on Rufus during the time period he lived near the Butlers will reference Margaret or Benjamin Butler directly. The records that indicate they live in close proximity hint at a connection, but there may be other materials I have not yet located that may strengthen the connection.

Benjamin and Margaret (Stephens) Butler moved around quite a bit and have still not been located in the 1860 federal census. Perhaps some record on Rufus, perhaps a will, probate, or "heirship" deed will include residential information on his heirs.

If I wait until I have solid a solid connection to Rufus before I "research" him, I may never get that solid connection in the first place.

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