Monday, February 18, 2013

Source verification - Day 18 of the Family History Writing Challenge

Verification of sources

This is mostly a note to me. My wonderful cousin who found the documents did another search yesterday. In doing so, he found several more papers and some very old pictures. Most of them are unidentified but several have names. He is going to try to find out who they are. In the meantime, he sent this list. I know the names and have them on What I found interesting is several of the dates are the same but some are different. I don't know who wrote it or when it was written so I don't know what sources are correct. Since we are often faced with unsubstantiated documents, deciding or determining what is right can be difficult.

The question I am struggling to answer is does it really matter if the dates are off by a few days? Written records for the times were not very accurate. Even the transcribed documents that have made it to the Internet can be wrong as well. My father loved to play with the fact that his actual birth year was incorrect. He teased my mother he was seven years older when in fact it was only six. We know the correct year simply by the date they arrived in Montana. Beside, my grandma said it was wrong and we never disputed anything she said.

In the list below, all of the family members were "Borned or Bornd". While the spelling seems incorrect to me, it does show someone was educated enough to write this down.

Sterling Rhea was Borned March the tenth 1827

Elisa an Rhea was Borned October the 10, 1829 (Elizabeth Ann)

James A Rhea was Borned April the 7th, 1832

George W. Rhea was Borned September the 13, 1834

Abijah Rhea was Borned November the 4, 1836

Jesse Rhea was borned February the 22, 1839

John C. Rhea was bornd March the 2, 1842

Robert F. Rhea was bornd May the 11, 1844

Sela Jane Rhea was bornd December the 8 (?) 1846

Saria Caroline Rhea was bornd November the 11, 1848

Lafayett M Rhea was bornd January the 6th 1851

John Rhea was bornd August the 30, 1813 father of above

Lucy Anderson Rhea was Bornd September the 3, 1807 mother of above

Some of the names are incorrect too but we know who they are. John C. Rhea was my great grandfather.

I don’t care if the dates are wrong. My cousin will be sending me a copy of the original handwritten document. It’s not so much the accuracy of the document, it is the fact that it is real. It is a tangible link to the past. I felt very much the same way when we visited Springfield, Illinois and visited Lincoln’s home. The docents shared that the banister on the stairs was original to the house and Lincoln had used it. It may seem silly but Lincoln touched it, as did we as we climbed the stairs and for only a second, the past became the present.

Family history is our desire to figure out who we are and how we got to where we are. My great grandmother’s letters are very real and in my possession. She wrote on the paper that I have the privilege to hold in my hands. She addressed the envelope. Martha Jane (McColloam) Rhea was a very real person and not just a mention in a census.

So a big thanks goes out to Sheldon for taking the time to join me in my quest. I don’t think he has any idea how much I appreciate him!

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