Before I get too involved in a research project, I always check for published genealogies that mention the folks I am working on.
How do I do this?
- Google “genealogy Marden” and “genealogy Mardin”
- Check book archive sites such as
- Google Books (books.google.com/)
- Family History Archives (http://www.lib.byu.edu/flc/index.php)
- Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org/details/texts)
- Heritage Quest Online Persi & Books (many public libraries are hooked up to this service and if you are a library member you can usually get the password to use it from your home computer)
- Check the URSUS online catalog (http://ursus.maine.edu/search) – This covers most libraries in my region including the Maine State Library and Archive, which is only 30 minutes from my home. You may need to find a similar service that covers your favorite research libraries.
- New England Historic Genealogical Society library catalog. You don’t need a membership to search the catalog. If you are a member, you get discounted prices for their services.
- Check trees at Ancestry.com (my last choice!)
In this case I was quite lucky to find not 1 but 3 published books that contain reference to the Marden family I am investigating. Since I did so well with items in print, I didn’t bother with the Ancestry trees as they are the least desirable and least reliable source of information.
Published Family Histories
- Marden Family Genealogy by Sylvia Fitts Getchell (1925-?), 1974 – Pages 471 to 495 deal with the descendants of Edward Mardin. This work is covered by copyright so I will only be able to provide glimpses of specific items of interest.
- A Genealogical History of Freeman, Maine 1796-1938 in Three Volumes, by George A. Thompson and F. Janet Thompson, Heritage Books, 1996 – Volume 2 pages 368-372 cover the families of Chapin and Nathaniel Marden. The book is still covered by copyright, so will not appear in full here.
- Genealogy of David Annis of Hopkinton and Bath, New Hampshire his ancestors and descendants by John McNab Currier, W.B. Bullock, 1909 – This is available online at a number of sites such as Open Library, Internet Archive, and Heritage Quest. The appendix has transcribed letters from Marden family members that contain some useful details.
Now it is important to take a minute to evaluate the potential value of the resources I found. Not all published material is accurate and reliable information.
Older published material may have more information directly from descendants who knew the ancestors personally. They may include data from source documents now lost or destroyed. They did not have the internet, so had to do things the hard way by traveling to distant places and reviewing source documents with their own eyes. This is good and bad – good that they probably made extensive use of historical documentation, but bad because they had to record and track everything by hand on note cards etc.. The more human intervention and copying of data, the more chance for errors to creep in.
Newer publications may have access to newly discovered resources not available to researchers 20, 50, or 100 years ago. They also may rely on oral history statements made by descendants who never knew the people they are talking about, so there is often much less first hand accuracy in the oral history presented.
A great number of published genealogies do not state where they found the information. This is a major issue. How do I know the author was a diligent researcher? How do I know they viewed actual documents rather than relying on the work of others? The more times data is copied and transferred the more likely errors creep in!
My general analysis of the sources
Getchell’s Marden Family offers the most comprehensive coverage of the family and does mention some of her sources. I will use this source for the basic family organization when entering my data.
The Freeman material is the most recent work but is limited to the local family lines. Data for the lines covered is probably the most reliable, since the authors are from the region and have access to local town records. There is very little data beyond the stadard birth, death, marriages, children. Unfortunately, specific data items are unsourced. I will use it to flesh out the vitals for the local family lines.
The Annis Genealogy is the oldest resource and very limited in what it has to offer for the Marden family, but what it has is pretty juicy. The Marden and Annis family intermarry at several points in time, which is why the family is included in this published work. The appendix has transcripts of family history correspondence between the author and members of the Marden family. I will discuss these letters in detail and post links to the specific pages at another time.
Although none of these genealogies are properly sourced, they still give me a good framework with which to begin my exploration of the family. The next thing to do is to enter all of this new data into a genealogy program. This step gives me a good opportunity to review the entire family.
I always start a fresh database, even if I expect it to eventually merge with a line I have in my main database. I do this so I am not distracted by other families and thousands of names when navigating or printing reports. My software of choice, RootsMagic, makes it easy to merge this database into my main database at a later time.
Do you have genealogy software on your desktop or do you use an online service? What is your favorite and why?