[APG Public List] "First Papers"

Ray Beere Johnson II raybeere at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 29 13:54:25 MDT 2010

--- On Thu, 7/29/10, Elissa Scalise Powell, CG <Elissa at PowellGenealogy.com> wrote:

> Expecting that naturalizations in all time periods (you don't say when 
> this one was) carry the same information of birthplace or ship name is 
> an unrealistic expectation. Educating this client about what was asked 
> in the timeframe her ancestor naturalized might have set expectations 
> better.

     True, but there's another aspect. Knowing what information was _requested_ on certain records during certain periods is useful, but says nothing about the quality of the information _supplied_. I've looked at naturalisation papers expecting to see nothing but a country of birth, and discovered a precise location, down to the village. I've looked at others, hoping for detailed information, and found only a country name.
     One very useful point _every_ genealogy student needs to understand is that _there are no certainties_. Sooner or later, every one of us will pay for a record that doesn't tell us what we hoped it would. _But_, sooner or later, we'll glance at some record we thought might, at best, confirm what we already knew - and discover a treasure trove of information we never expected!
     If we are serious about our research, we should never get so hung up on what to expect that we consider _any_ record useless. One very important lesson is the uncertainty over just what we might find, even when we know exactly what information the record is _supposed_ to contain. Knowing enough to, under the right circumstances, search through even the "dull" records is a vital lesson, because we never know what we'll find, and we never know when a few tiny clues will accumulate into a detailed enough picture to take us further. I'm sure the "first papers" referred to may have provided less than hoped for, but I very much doubt they were useless from a research standpoint. Just knowing "this person was in this location at this date" is a step forward in some lines...
     I believe the most important lesson this person can take away from this process is that you never know just what to expect. One time, disappointment, another, a breakthrough! It's all part of the process. (Yes, I do like the breakthroughs better, too. ;-)
                        Ray Beere Johnson II


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