When researching complicated families with many men of the same name, how do you track them? Can you really sort out individuals and come up with a possible father for your difficult ancestor? You may think it impossible, but with good research practices and a way to visualize the information it can be done.
I first wrote about the Norman family research project a year ago in Researching Low-Tech Style With a Whiteboard. I outlined the five steps I used to tackle the challenge:
-1 Sort Records chronologically – do an initial sort to put the records in order from earliest to latest.
-2 Start with the wills – use any available wills for the surname to build a framework for the family.
-3 Fill in with additional records – attach land, tax, and other records to individuals.
-4 Make it permanent – take a picture of the completed whiteboard or transfer to an electronic program such as Lucidchart.
-5 Write up your conclusions -put your conclusions into a research summary or report.
I finished the blog post with this statement:
My report included several suggestions for future research and I’ll be using my chart to make my research plan for the next phase of the project. I already have an electronic research log entry for each record used and as I work with key individuals I can begin to build timelines for them to help analyze and correlate the information. Seeing the family as a whole will be key to putting together the puzzle.
Reviewing Previous Research
One year later I picked this project up again and was glad to have my research log, report, and Lucidchart to remind me of the research I had previously completed. I used my recommendations for the next project to set up a prioritized strategy.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
• Build a family tree for the descendants of Isaac Cox of Culpeper County, Virginia, based on documentary evidence to discover any other possibilities for a family for Moses Norman
• Search additional land records of Culpeper County past 1800, seeking for information on the land inherited by “grandson Isaac Norman” from Joseph Norman.
• Search census, land, probate, and other records for Culpeper County, Virginia. Use the tax table to sort out families and determine a connection to Isaac and Moses Norman of Rockingham and Bath/Rockbridge Counties.
A New Research Plan
After reviewing the previous research, it was time to create a strategy for moving forward with the next phase of the research. Because the suggestions for future research weren’t necessarily in a prioritized order, I used them for ideas but didn’t feel that I needed to address each one. New ideas sometimes come to light as you review the research. Maybe you learned about a new record set or methodology that you’d like to now try.
When I returned to the Norman project I created a new research plan using these steps:
State the objective and key identifying information
Research Moses Norman with the goal to extend his ancestry. Moses was born 10 October 1773 in Rockingham County, Virginia and died October of 1845 in Martin County, Indiana. Moses married Mary Higgins 3 October 1795 in Rockingham, Virginia.
Summarize known facts
-1773 Birth in Virginia
-1796 Marriage to Mary Higgins in Rockingham County, Virginia
-1797 Taxed in Rockingham County, Virginia
-1800 to 1809 Taxed in Bath County, Virginia
-1810 Census of Bath County, Virginia
-1813 Taxed in Rockbridge County, Virginia
-1820 Census of Martin County, Indiana
-1825 Land Patents in Indiana
-1830 Census of Martin County, Indiana
-1831 to 1840 Death of Moses Norman
-1840 Census of Martin County, Mary Norman listed alone
Create a working hypothesis
The ancestor Moses Norman and his possible brother, Isaac Norman, first appeared in Rockingham County, Virginia in the mid 1790s. Both men moved on to the neighboring counties of Bath and Rockbridge where they were listed in the tax lists and 1810 census. Moses and Isaac were born between 1770-1780 making their possible father born about 1750.
Previous research pointed to the possibility that Moses Norman was the son of Isaac Norman and Sarah of Culpeper County, Virginia. This Isaac died by 1777 when his estate was inventoried. The will of Joseph Norman, named his grandson Isaac Norman and Sarah Norman, “wife of my son Isaac Norman.” Could the grandson, Isaac Norman, be the associate of Moses Norman of Rockingham County? If so Moses could be another son of Isaac and Sarah Norman.
With their father deceased, when the young men came of age after about 1790, perhaps they moved on to Rockingham County, Virginia where they were named in the tax, marriage, and court records from 1794-1796.
Identify sources to search
I had a good list of identified sources from two previous projects. Some that I had not yet checked were the following:
– Culpeper County, Virginia, Tax Records 1782-1790
-Fauquier County, Virginia, Tax Records 1782-1796
-Culpeper County, Virginia, Land Records 1796-1820
-Bible Records for Norman
-Military Records – Revolutionary War
-PERSI search for Normans of Culpeper
-Culpeper County, Virginia, Court Records 1782-1800
Prioritize a research strategy
Part of the research strategy for this project was analysis of previous research, so my prioritized plan included that as well as looking at additional records.
1 Add the land and tax records already discovered to each Norman individual on the Lucidchart, attempt to separate them into family groups.
2 Search the Culpeper County tax records for the years 1782-1790 to help separate the Norman men into family groups.
3. Search the original Fauquier County tax records from 1782-1796 to eliminate this as the county of origin for Moses Norman. Edward Norman was also in Rockingham County, Virginia, at the same time as Moses and Isaac Norman. A marriage record for an Edward Norman in Fauquier points to a possible connection.
As I filled in the Lucidchart with the data from my research log I was able to make some very valuable conclusions. First of all, my initial hypothesis about Isaac Norman was rejected. Analyzing the tax records I realized that Isaac, the son of Isaac and Sarah, had a brother named Joseph and both were in Sarah’s household in 1795. This was the same year Moses and his associate, Isaac, were living in Rockingham County, Virginia. Also, the younger Isaac Norman continued to be listed in the tax records after 1795 when the Isaac Norman of Rockingham County had moved on to Bath County. Clearly these were two different Isaac Normans.
Next I refreshed my memory about Virginia tax laws – all white males were to be taxed upon turning 16. If Moses was born in 1773 as noted by the family records, he would have first appeared in his father’s household about 1789. Viewing the tax table I had created for the Culpeper Norman men, I realized that there were only two households that worked – those of brothers, Ezekiel and William Norman. Interestingly, William had three tithables in his household in 1793 and only 1 after 1794. I hypothesized that Moses and Isaac could have been the sons and moved to Rockingham County by 1794. Looking at the sons of Moses Norman, I saw he named sons William and Isaac. Could these sons be named for his father and brother?
Although I had analyzed the records and formed a new hypothesis that William was the father of Moses and Isaac Norman, meeting the standard of reasonably exhaustive research didn’t allow me to stop there. I recommended Y-DNA testing, analysis of autosomal DNA test results and additional work in the records.
When I return to this project in the future, my research log, reports, and Lucidchart will get me up to speed and I’ll be able to continue the quest for the origins of Moses Norman.
If you’re working with men of the same name, it may take several research projects to eventually gather enough evidence to come to a conclusion. Good record keeping with a research log, Lucidchart, and research report will help you continue your research journey.
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!