The approach that I take to searching for my ancestors was borne from the discovery that many persons residing in the same districts or counties, were related. In fact, a goodly number of first and second cousins possessed identical names! Unraveling these names led me to realize the importance of identifying each person within the proper family group sheet. In other words, each person needed to be listed with his parents and siblings. It was that practice which enabled me to see more clearly and better understand how the relationships went.
People used the same names so as to identify relationships. They were named after Uncle Joe and Aunt Sally. Also, surnames were frequently part of the name. As I began to gather all of the relative family group sheets and identify each surname, it became clear that variable surnames were used for grandparents, and even great-grandparents. So now, genealogy also became a “study of names” and that the naming of children was a family identification (or pride) meant as a signal to later generations.
As a cousin once asked me “There were only two people named Truman in the Holland lineage. Why was I given this name?” I began to think that “someone” in the family knew of an old Truman connection. Answers would come much later, after a deeper study into the genealogy and a comparison between family group sheets.
This is why I read the contents of every last will and testament in the counties where my ancestors resided. That is a logical beginning to understanding more about the circumstances of the times and the neighborhood in which the families built their dreams. Even if the ancestor died intestate, the estate records are quite informative as the inventories of the estate lists descriptive items (such as tools, etc.) and the names of purchasers. During colonial days the planter (or farmer) had to create a lifestyle from the resources of the countryside and generosity of his neighbors. Friendship was a virtue, very much needed for survival. That is why lazy people or those without integrity came to be labeled as the unwelcome “the black sheep”.
The irresponsibility of such derelicts usually found its way into a newspaper where they were “disowned” and others were warned. A good reason, then, to carefully peruse the old newspapers for tidbits of data. Local…