A few weeks ago, I consulted the early Kentucky land patents databases online. And ran head-on into some of the most difficult problems of indexing records for digital recall.
- Multiple spellings of surnames. You know the importance of watching for other spellings of your surname of interest. Anticipating those spellings enables you to search databases more completely. And while some online programing, like Ancestry’s online census access, includes a variety of surnames alternates, some does not.
- Indexing the principal parties in a document vs every-name indexes. If one record series has an every-name index, do all the record series include every name? When these indexes are merged into a single index, the gap may not be obvious. It takes use to spot the problem.
- Are multiple entries for the same name on the same page all individually indexed? The typist may conclude that seeing the multiple names as they appear on the page is enough. The index does not have to be expanded to a separate entry for each instance of the same name.
What the Kentucky government has done is extraordinary. Twelve (12) different record categories are now indexed online:
__Virginia and Old Kentucky Patent Series (called Virginia Surveys and Grants)
__Revolutionary War Warrants
__West of Tennessee River (Jackson Purchase) Military Patents
__Certificates of Settlement and Preemption Warrants
__Virginia Treasury Warrants Database
__Lincoln Entries (Lincoln County)
__County Court Order Patents
__Jackson Purchase Database
__West of Tennessee Non-Military Patents
__Wills included with Land Patent Files
__County Formations and Boundary Changes Database
And when you request a name in the search screen, the pages where that name appears are links. When you clkick the links, the name you requested appears on the page highlighted in yellow for easy spotting.
Just be very careful that you request, separately, all the different spellings for your surname of interest.
For example: I requested Isaac Ruddell in the search screen. Yellow highlights appeared on two pages–as Isaac Ross and as Isaac Ruddell.
Then I requested Isaac Ruddle. Yellow highlight appeared on one entry for Isaac Ruddle. Immediately above the Isaac Ruddle entry, was an entry for Isaac Ruddell, not highlighted. Nor was it found in the Ruddell search.
Since the entries are alphabetical by surname, I then checked under the alpha spelling of Ruddle–Bingo! Two more Isaac Ruddle entries that did not appear in the index search. AND: two entries for George Ruddle, one entry for James Ruddle, four entries for John Ruddle, Heirs of and listing James Ruddle & Heirs as the grantee for each of those four entries. Also discovered were two entries for Cornelius Ruddell, in the alpha list for that spelling.
The four grantee entries for James Ruddle were lost–since they were not in the alpha section, where they could be easily retrieved. And no entries appeared for Stephen Ruddle/Ruddell, although he was a resident of Woodford County KY where he died about 1800.
- Check under each and every spelling of your surname of interest.
- Search the alpha arrangement to spot additional entries not yet found.
- Note other persons named in the entries with your surnames. And check each of their entries by index and by alpha arrangement. Often, men had partners as they applied for land.
This way you have a greater chance of finding all the entries. And when you are trying to fit everyone into family units eventually, you need everyone identified in the record series.
This is not a commentary meant to question the integrity of the indexes. It is a commentary to ensure that you find all the entries that concern your ancestry. Online indexing is an art, not a science. So is research. And you and I both need to invest extra time when we use digital indexes.
Too many genealogy/family conclusions are based on shallow use of indexes. And those conclusions are too often faulty. Break your losing streak! Invest the time to find the entries. Your favorite Kentucky genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS I am planning a genealogy research trip into KY and TN the first week in May 2010–I have a conference in Dallas TX then and I will have time to do the research. If you have research problem that you have not been able to solve–let me take a crack at it–in the field–in records you have had access to. I am often able to get your research going again. So let me know by email of your interest!