This week has been a challenge for me. This was spring break for my son’s school and we had been planning to rent a cabin close to Norfork Lake (click here for more info – it’s beautiful!). I had been looking forward to spending a week on the boat, grilling at the cabin and running flea markets with the family. Thanks to COVID-19, however, those plans got cancelled. Since I am now stuck “sheltering in place” until at least April 17th when the governor will reevaluate letting schools and work resume, I decided to join the Research Like a Pro 14-day Challenge put on by FamilyLocket.com. The idea of the challenge is to follow their step-by-step process for digging into a research objective for 14-days (duh) to get comfortable with the concepts.
For this project, I chose a simple objective. Nicole and Diana, the brains behind FamilyLocket, suggested picking something simple for an ancestor born in the last century or so when records are more prevalent. My project is to identify the birth location of my Great Grandmother (Granny to me), Lillian Atris Evans. Granny was one of 8 kids, I’ve discovered, even though most of the family only knew of 5 siblings. She was the third born, in 1903. I was only 9 when she died in 1983 and when I was old enough to have an interest in genealogy, only folklore survived about the specifics for her birth. My aunt thinks she might have been born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, but there isn’t really any documentation to back that up.
At this point in the challenge, we’re on Day 6 of the project, each step occupying 2 days so far. I’ve identified the objective, analyzed existing sources and created a timeline of Granny’s life. Days 5 and 6 involve researching a locality. In all of the research projects that I’ve done, locality research is my biggest downfall. I hate it. Not gonna lie. I don’t like taking the time to learn about the location because I’d rather jump in and start searching. However, being true to the challenge, I made myself slow down and follow Nicole’s instruction. What I found out surprised me and has made me rethink my dislike for locality research.
I focused my research on Pemiscot County, Missouri, even though Poplar Bluff is a few counties away. Why? It’s simple. Her family had owned land in Pemiscot county in 1900 and had moved south into Arkansas by 1910 after the death of Lillian’s father. It seems unlikely that they family would’ve moved north further into Missouri, just to turn around and move back south again. The logistics just don’t fit to me. In focusing my efforts on Pemiscot, I started looking at record collections. I didn’t know that they had birth records as far back at 1817 digitized! There were also state censuses to supplement the federal census, and these are indexed online, as well. Even though I only spent a few minutes (30-45 or so) looking into the location, I learned a lot; enough to have changed my opinion about the necessity of locality research.
I did go ahead and search three of the record collections I located – I can’t change that much about myself that fast! But I stopped there and will spend some more time digging into Pemiscot county. I have other projects that are going to take place there so having a guide to refer back to will definitely come in handy in the future. Tomorrow we’re starting on the hypothesis – for my project, it will be the idea that Granny was born in Pemiscot county, not Poplur Bluff (Butler County) as previously thought.
I look forward to finishing this project. I’m a stubborn person, but being open to the process has really changed my point of view and I think it will considerably change the way I research.