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THE EDITORS’ VIEW

Genealogists facing a new research problem generally design research plans based on familiar paths through sources they’ve used before. They typically turn first to the information in censuses, vital records, and probate files to begin studying their subject. Certainly these documents can provide a substantial framework for subsequent study. In fact, in some simple cases they may even answer the question being posed. More often than not, however, the search must extend beyond those basic resources to achieve success. Land and tax records, newspapers, and court records, for example, provide some of the additional information usually required to solve a problem adequately.

In many cases, however, the search should not stop even there. Performing background research on related topics, doing your “homework” in relevant subjects, not only adds historical context to your work, but often holds the key to solving longstanding puzzles. Conducting a broad study, often into obscure historical sources, rather than focusing just on names, is one method that successful genealogists use to overcome difficult research problems. Two authors in this issue understand that putting extra effort into the study of historical background can be vital to thorough research.

Author Michael Hait was able to build a solid case with the usual sources, but he didn’t stop there. Armed with the knowledge that his ancestor was known as Elder Henry Hait and had served as the pastor in a Baptist church, Michael researched records of the denomination. He studied the association minutes, the Baptist periodicals, and the principles of Baptist theology. In the process of learning more about the religion, he discovered an unexpected bonus: an autobiographical essay written by his ancestor, which both corroborates and strengthens Michael’s conclusions.

Could a young woman’s nineteenth-century collection of samples of hair from her friends and relatives solve a research problem? This unusual source, certainly not one that would normally be included on a research plan, helped author Patricia Metsch identify the young woman’s likely paternal grandparents. Before accepting the collection as evidence, however, Patricia learned what she could about hair books—the years they were popular; their contents and purposes; and the age and gender of the typical collector. Armed with a better understanding, Patricia more effectively incorporated the clues the book contained as evidence in support of her conclusion.

It cannot be disputed that name-based sources play crucial roles in our research plans. But we often don’t fully understand the documents and sources we’re using unless we’ve taken the time to do our homework. Learning about general topics such as laws, religions, customs, and neighborhoods can reap benefits far beyond putting flesh on the bones of our ancestors. That knowledge can solve research problems.

Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, FGBS

Karen Mauer Green, CG, FGBS

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THE NEW YORK
Genealogical and Biographical Record

VOLUME 145 JANUARY 2014 NUMBER 1

CONTENTS

 
IDENTIFYING THE PARENTS OF WILLIAM H. MACKEY (1786–1864) OF RENSSELAERVILLE, ALBANY COUNTY, NEW YORK
by Patricia A. Metsch .......... 5
 
THE ANCESTRY OF ELDER HENRY HAIT, PRIMITIVE BAPTIST PREACHER OF CONNECTICUT AND NEW YORK
by Michael Grant Hait, CG ..........  25
 
WILLIAM AND JOHN KNOWLES, NEW YORK STONECUTTERS: THEIR ANCESTORS AND DESCENDANTS
by Ronald A. Hill, PhD, CG, FASG, and Barbara Holmes (concluded) ..........  39
 
THE DIARY OF WENDELIN MERK: EPFENHOFEN, BADEN, TO ROCHESTER, NEW YORK
translated and contributed by Roland Geiger (concluded ) .......... 49
 
JAN AERTSEN VANDERBILT, HIS CHILDREN, AND GRANDCHILDREN
by Frederick Doren Stone, PhD, and Laura M. Stone, EdD, with Harry Macy Jr., FASG, FGBS (concluded ) .......... 65
 
Regular Features
 
THE EDITORS’ VIEW ........... 3
 
REVIEWS .......... 76
Johnson, Pyrslopski, and Villani, eds.  Key to the North Country: The Hudson River Valley in the American Revolution.  By William T. Ruddock
Steele. Ebbets: The History of a New York Family.  By Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FASG.