Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 2007-01 > 1167799363
Subject: Re: [S-I] Johnstons in Co. Monaghan
Date: Wed, 03 Jan 2007 04:42:43 +0000
The commonest reason that folk do not solve their family problem is because they hold mistaken beliefs about the spelling of the surname. I didn't make that up -- I read it a number of times. Yet people persist in believing that spelling in the past centuries was the same as now. It was not. The concept of a correctly spelled surname didn't exist till somewhat late. How late? well, I have a customer who of course knows how to spell his surname. Yet his ancestors spelled it differently. In the 1930 census it is spelled 'wrong' consistly for his own parents. How could surname spelling not be rather fuzzy? Not only did the concept of 'correct spelling' not exist, but most of our ancestors were illiterate. So you are not going to be able to convince me that someone illiterate or barely literate knew much about how to spell a surname. Everyone has relatives who would swear on a stack of Bibles that their surname was only spelled a single way. That doesn't mean that these people !
ght. For one thing, the only period for which they are an expert witness is their own life. Before that they can produce some evidence -- how about a Bible entry recorded at the time of the event?
I also have a client with a Johns(t)on in his ancestry and he was as adamant it is only spelled one way. yet his ancestress herself spelled her surname both ways. We're talking here early 20th century -- when I was frankly surprised to see it that late. She claimed she was literate in the censuses <grin>!! His other grannie was known to the family as Lisa Ziegler but she was unfindable as was any family that coulda produced her. She was really Elisa Seigler. Found her finally in the census living with parents also from the same state she claimed (after marriage) to have been born in.
When you do genealogy professionally, you work with a lot of different 'cases'. You've generally also invested some effort in getting educated. However feel free to not explore both spellings -- it's not brain surgery. You won't die. You just fail to extend your family. You'll be telling us "I've searched for her for 20 years". There's a reason people don't solve their genealogical problems. Long searches don't impress me....I got my own failures and I know only too well why I ain't found them <grin>. So do like a hound dog: expand the size of your circle. Going around and around under the same tree for 20 years is not impressive.
It doesn't matter how many relatives claim this or that. Genealogy is based on records. Also circumstantial evidence. In Ireland the records run out right quick. You are very lucky in that it sounds
like you have researched the family group so you can flush some clues from some relatives.
If you review the pages in my prior email, the URL to the British Isles family history society will I believe give you the location of the apprenticeship records for Britain. If not it was in a course I took. However they are definitely microfilmed and in LDS. The originals are in London. To understand why your
ancestor may or may not be in them you need to do some reading. I learned about them in a course.
I can't put an hour lecture in an email. At this hour of the night I can't find my syllabus either <grin>!!
The book suggestions are on our webpages. We all need the same ones and it gets very tiresome retyping them. Usually wrong too so people really think I'm an idiot.... . The website is better proof read: http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~merle . However since you edit textbooks then you know that you turn to the back and find a bibliography in any of these to get into more depth. The definitive work on Irish genealogy is Falley "Irish and Scotch Irish Ancestral Research". A newer one is "Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors" by Roulston. However there are very few sources for learning methodology to do pre 1820s research. Much can be learned in periodicals. People are amazingly resistent to pursuing standard methodologies because they are too much work or they conflict with great grandma's advice, etc. Unfortunately if you don't learn methodlogy from someone, you are unlikely to rediscover all the wheels you need before you die. Every day someone figures out a better way to do s!
g, so it's good to read periodicals.
Ireland is a unique situation -- it requires some rather strange methodologies and relies heavily on secondary collections due to records distruction. It was a society very different from the one we live in as well, so your assumptions are usually wrong. Not just yours but all of ours <grin>. So you have to spend time learning about how it was. You probably want to read "The Catholics of Ulster" by Eliott. It'll give you a good understanding of the complexity of the situation. It includes a sizable bibliography.
Also LDS has a MASSIVE Irish collection. You need to spend a lot of time in the catalog learning how to find things in it. Then you will know what exists. There's a lot of material from the National Archives of Ireland as well as about 70 film from PRONI. Most people cannot find these. Actually I have a hard time finding them fast and I've been doing this for 15 or more years. You need to learn to use this
repository because you cannot expect to go to Ireland and find much in a week. If it were that easy someone would have already done it. In another generation you will not have church records and
you'll enter a time where most would tell you you can go no further back. It'll be true unless you are willing to put the work into learning how to do 'the work'. Just like Captain Kirk heading out into no where, you go well prepared. Yet many try to do this research and don't even know that it's considered impossible by many. It isn't impossible but it is very hard work.
Especially in Ulster family history almost always means surprises. So unless you are willing to be open minded, perhaps drop it now. Most likely without DNA you will not get very far with a name as common as Johnston, but the DNA will cover a lot of surprises. The folk who are absolutely convinced their ancestors are Scots so often turn out to have Irish DNA. The Irish turn out to be Scots. You have a few clues but the only ways to determine the origins of these people is to work very hard and get lucky (otherwise, in Ireland, you will just work very hard) or do DNA research.
Read the front essay in "English Surnames" by Reaney and Wilson (it's actually British surnames) and by all means try Bell "Book of Ulster Surnames". Black "Surnames of Scotland" also has a very good front essay that helps you to understand that surnames change. Rapidly, you move into a time too where no one really has a fixed surname. What will you do then??
I got email from a person on this list this week who used DNA evidence to prove his Ulster ancesters were Welsh. He thought they were from the location and surname. It's conforting to know there's at least one person whose ancestor was who he thought <grin>. If you read "The Catholics of Ulster" you'll understand why.
Unfortunately this is a long winded way of saying, stay open minded and do good research <grin>!! My apologies.