Primary records are usually those created shortly after an event by someone having personal knowledge of the event. A birth or death certificate would fall into this category. Aunt Jane's letter to your father may tell you about a birth date or death date but my own research tells me to be cautious in documenting this as a primary source. Primary records are obviously the preferred sources for establishing historical facts.
Secondary records are generally compiled from a primary source or written from memory long after the event....such as Aunt Jane's letter. Sometimes we may need to rely on these sources if no primary resource is available.
We then need to cite these sources to our individual in order to have a documented record. Your sources must be written so that anyone can retrieve the same data bringing credibility and traceability to your family history.
There are so many "closet" genealogists today who think that just by posting information about an individual gives it credibility.
Here's an example of poor documentation. It shows a marriage date of 19 Jan 1869 in Salem, Massachusetts (which may be correct) but doesn't tell us where they got the information from. The second image shows a Loretta Foley Metscher's death documentation via the posting of the obit, and where the obit was found. It only takes a few extra seconds to add this information and I just wish more people would take the time to better document their information.
Now, the above Loretta Foley also happens to be one of the women I am looking at who possibly could be my birth mother. Why is she a candidate? Based on my non-identifying information she fulfills some of the clues:
1. She is of the right age....my birth mother was 16 yrs. old at my birth.
2. My non-id info states that my birth mother was Methodist. I believe Loretta was of the Methodist faith as her son Richard was confirmed in a Methodist church.
3. She was born in Queens County, NY and certainly within easy distance of where I was born in Brooklyn, Kings County, NY.
The only reason why she is not on my priority list, is that her mother was Irish. My non-identifying information shows my birth mother's ancestry as "American/Polish". My DNA profile confirms the Polish link, but this could be through my birth father who was 17 at the time of my birth and whose ancestry is said to be Polish. But I continue to leave no stone unturned.
Back to Alice Foley McCarthy.
Let’s look at her daughter Mary and see what additional information we can get about this family.
The 1920 census gave me a little surprise in that Alice was still alive in April, 1920 and daughter Mary was a young widow with 6 children. I guess probate in the 1920's moved along much faster than it does today!
Alice Foley McCarthy - 1920;Census Place: Southold, Suffolk, New York; Roll: T625_1268; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 153; Image: 516. Living at 133 Central Ave., Greenport, NY
This gives us the approximate age of Mary, born circa 1885, and we can guess by the age of her youngest child that her husband must have died sometime between January 1917-April 1920. Mary's daughter Margaret is shown here as being born Oct 1917, so he had to be alive 9 months prior to her birth.
One other interesting thing on this census is that it shows Alice as not being able to read or write. My guess is that she was just getting too old and her eyesight was poor. Her age here is four years off of the 1910 census revising her possible birth years to 1844-1848.
Notice on the initial record page for this census enumeration....at the top under Mary's name are two corrections. This is where Ancestry.com's platform can be most helpful in finding more clues. One of the names has a link, the other does not. The one that does not have a link just means that the person who initially put this update to Mary no longer is an Ancestry.com subscriber. The one with the link is still a member and when we click on that link this is what we find out:
"Mary Lellmann rather than Mary SillamanThe family name is Lellmann. This on their tombstones at St Agnes cem in Greenport LI NY.
Submitted by jstrasse on 3/13/2011"
Now we've found out where Mary is buried, and also, there is someone who at least recognizes this family.
Isn't technology wonderful?
Time to start traipsing through cemeteries....at least virtually.
Posted November 13, 2011