How did I miss this the first time around?
I'll give myself a little leeway for overlooking it, for I was a beginning, inexperienced researcher at the time. But if I hadn't been careful with the rest of my research the results could have been disastrous.
Inspired by Mark Lowe's most recent webinar I decided to give the research of my 6th great-grandfather, John McCall, another shot. Knowing that researching backwards (from the end of the ancestor's life) is often good genealogical methodology, I opened up his Individual's Information screen in Legacy and focused on his will.
I clicked on the Will event and clicked the Edit button to view the will's transcription I had made years ago. I was looking specifically for the names of any friends, associates, or neighbors (otherwise referred to as the FAN club). Since John's origins have been difficult to trace, I would begin to study the lives of those around him. If I can learn where they came from, perhaps it would help me learn where John came from too.
In the transcription I noticed that there were several words that were represented with --- indicating to me that at the time I made the transcription I was unable to decipher the handwriting. I then noticed that the Media Gallery button was still black/white. In Legacy this is an indication that I've not yet linked a picture to the event.
Apparently I had not yet added the digital image of the will to this Will event so I browsed my digital filing system to see if I had scanned it yet. (Learn more about my digital filing system in Digital Imaging Essentials.)
Nope. So I went to my physical filing system and quickly located all of John's original documents. Thanks to the filing system I use I was able to find John's section in a few seconds. All of his documents are filed behind tab #7853. This corresponds to his Marriage Record Identification number that is shown in the lower right of Legacy. (To learn more about the filing system, click here.)
The photocopy of the microfilmed will was still there, but was of such poor quality that I really needed to see the original again. FamilySearch's Historical Record Collections appeared to have these records online now.
Pretty quickly I found John's will. Wow. All of this took just minutes. What a different experience this is today compared to when I originally looked for his will.
And then I saw it. What I saw could make all the difference in solving a genealogy case. Here's the first line of John's will:
Compare that with the first line of my transcription:
I John McCall of Washington County & State of Tennessee
Did you notice what was missing from my transcription? Senior. This 6-letter word is a big deal. It infers that there is more than one John McCall. While it usually means that this person had a son of the same name, it could also mean there were two John McCalls in town, and this was the elder of the two. Regardless, omitting that word from my transcription is kind of important. Thankfully I've already studied the entire community to identify all McCalls in the area and have learned there are only two Johns - the John who authored this will, and his son.
What does this teach us? First, while there is a place in our research for referring to abstracts or transcriptions, we should always try to consult the original record. Second, take another at your documents. I'm a better researcher today than I was back then. I'm going to see things today with fresh and experienced eyes. You might even have someone else take a look at your ancestor's documents - they might see something you've overlooked. There may be new clues in the records you already have.
More Evidence/Methodology Tips
Learn more genealogy methodology from genealogy's experts at www.FamilyTreeWebinars.com. We've got at least these 10 webinars in the library that will help you see your records with fresh, experienced eyes.