Avoid this critical genealogy mistake in your research. Learn how to find your ancestors, build your family tree and skip costly errors in your research.
They say confession is good for the soul. Well, I have a genealogy confession to make…..
I missed a critical clue in the search for my 4th great grandmother and a significant amount of research time pursuing the wrong family line or just plain stuck.
Whew! I guess I do feel better. ?
Here’s the background story…..
Starting my genealogy research, I inquired of family of any information they could share. Turns out my family knew a lot through oral history. I quickly had the Talbott line back to my great – great – great – great – grandparents Sarah Blanks and Langley Talbott. A copy of the family Bible confirmed the generations.
My first foray into genealogy. Really, could it be that easy? Apparently not.
The Genealogy Mistake I Made
A false assumption in my genealogy research led to years of being unable to find out who my 4th great-grandmother really was.
I assumed my 4th great grandparents Langley Talbott and Sarah Blanks actually married.
In my defense, it was a natural assumption. (Remember, I was a newbie genealogist.)
- Sarah Blanks’s birth and death dates are listed in the family Bible.
- Sarah often went by the surname Talbott in the census records
- Sarah was named in her “father – in – law’s” will as the mother of my Langley’s children.
- All of Sarah and Langley’s children took the surname Talbott.
As a seasoned genealogy researcher I returned to the mystery of Sarah Blanks.
The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Brick Wall Ancestor
Go back to the beginning of your research and start over.
“Forget” what you already know. Go back and re-evaluate the records with a new eye.
Why start over? You are a different researcher than you were when you started your research. This holds especially true if you have a long standing research brick wall. You have more research experience. You are more skilled at evaluating records and following up new clues.
So….go back and start over.
I started over on my research into Sarah Blanks and found an important clue in the 1850 Campbell County, VA will of David G. Talbot – father of Langley Talbot.
In that will, Langley Talbot is named as David Talbot’s son. David Talbot went on to make a provision for “Langley’s children by Sarah Blanks born after 1823″. As a more experienced researcher, that statement was like a neon sign going off!
Why would David Talbot refer to Langley’s “wife” and mother of his children in that way and with surname other than Talbott?
Langley and Sarah were not married, and I had missed it very early in my research.
Was there more to this story?
David’s 1850 will also alluded that Langley Talbot had gambling issues. Yes, I had missed that the first time, too.
Hmm…no marriage and gambling problems. With more experience under my research belt, I headed for the Campbell County and Halifax County court records.
Look what I found! An 1841 summons to appear before the grand jury of Halifax County, VA for “living together in open adultery”.
Notice that date of 1841 on the grand jury summons and the 1823 date in the will of David Talbot. Sarah’s first child with Langley was born about 1823. Langley and Sarah had a long standing relationship and essentially a common law marriage.
So not to leave you hanging, I’ll skip to the end of the story. Sarah Blanks was the young widow of Thomas Blanks and the mother of the couple’s only son Alfred Blanks. Sarah’s maiden name was Talley. Shortly after her first husband’s death, Sarah and Langley got together.
How to Avoid Making Genealogy Mistakes in Your Research
One of the most important ways to prevent making false assumptions and genealogy mistakes in your genealogy research is to take your time in the records. Spend time evaluating your ancestor’s records. Do not just look for a date and your ancestor, but really consider what else the document is telling you.
If your brick wall ancestor is a female, make sure you understand the role of women in society for that time period. Additionally, make sure you understand the culture of the community.
Go after those less commonly used genealogy records such as grand jury records and tax records. Get into the court records and make sure you read every single page pertaining to your ancestor.
Lastly, listen to your genealogy gut. Does the record you found make sense? Do you feel like something’s a little off in the information? Don’t ignore that feeling, but follow up on it! Avoid making the same genealogy mistake I did!
Is some ways I am glad I made that genealogy mistake in my research. I learned a lot as a genealogy researcher and no longer make those assumptions about my ancestors.
Other posts of interest:
- How To Use WorldCat For Your Genealogy Research
- Genealogy For Beginners – Start Finding Your Ancestors!
- How to Create Your Genealogy Research Plan
***Note: If you are a Talbott genealogy researcher, you’ll want out to reach to me. Have I got a story for you…..