I’ve been researching my Stephens line from Russell County, Kentucky for years now, but I’ve only been doing DEEP research (more than census records and birth registries) for the last couple of months. My very first information on my line came from the book “Russell County, Kentucky: history & families” which gave names, a few locations and some dates, but no sources. Do a search of families trees on Ancestry and there is no shortage of people researching this same line and the majority of the information matches among every tree, but again, few to no sources. And that’s fine, I don’t enter all of my non-Ancestry sources either.
So I use the information that I see in other trees as clues for places to look and I’ve really been hot on the trail of tax records and deeds, but obviously, the further back I get (currently back to around 1800) the harder it’s becoming to find records. But when I do find a record, what I’m really saying is “yes, there is a man named Welcome Stephens in this county at this time”. Is that really proof of anything? I can say, there’s a Welcome in Wilkes Co in 1800 and he isn’t there in 1810, while there is a Welcome in Buncombe Co in 1810, but have I proven that they are the same man?
The dates and locations kind of match the various locations that different trees have for Welcome’s children, but do they have some source to prove a birth in this location, or are they assuming a child born around this date must have been born in this county because there’s a Welcome Stephens in that census or tax list? Granted, there aren’t a TON of men named Welcome Stephens out there during this time period (unlike Williams who lurk behind every bush!) so I feel like I’m probably on the right track, but can I say I’ve proven it?
I LOVE collecting records. Do I really need a scan of EVERY tax record over a 25 year span when very little of the information changes? YES! The more records in a surname file, the more satisfied I feel with my research effort. On top of that, if I already have the scan, then I don’t have to wonder if I ever looked at it or not. But I’m not going to fool myself into thinking that a “fat file” means I’ve proven any relationships at all unless I have a record that proves a tie. Does the fact that only 7 of 10 children are mentioned in a will mean that perhaps some of the children in my file aren’t REALLY part of Welcome’s family? I wish I knew. But I suppose that until I have some type of proof otherwise, I’ll just keep collecting records and hoping that those clues I’m chasing are based on some record that SOMEONE has seen somewhere! If they can find it, then so can I!