Custodial History of Source as Evidence

 
 
 
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genealojist
genealojist's picture
Custodial History of Source as Evidence

I am working to differentiate two people of the name Jacob Sommer who lived in Philadelphia county during the Revolution.  The differentiator between the two individuals is mostly place - one lived in Germantown and the other lived in Moreland.

I recently discovered many original papers related to the Sommer family of Moreland, which I would like to use as evidence.  The issue is that not all pieces of paper that have the name of Jacob Sommer also have the place name of Moreland.  However, I believe all these papers relate to Sommer's of Moreland because of the history of how the documents were passed down.  Jacob of Moreland had only one granddaughter to survive him down the line, and when she died without issue, all the Sommer family papers, which apparently had been saved and passed down to that point, went to the granddaughter's husband, and all his paper's somehow ended up in a museum collection in Wilmington where I found them.

I believe that the fact the documents were passed down the known family line of Jacob-Moreland is evidence that those documents were once his, even if the content of each document does not identify him as being of Moreland.  Am I correct to be thinking this way?  And if so, how do I cite the custodial history of the document as evidence?

thanks for any help,

Mary Ann

EE
EE's picture

Mary Ann,

The custodial history of that collection is an important factor and you are justified (indeed, wise) to use it as evidence to help you sort the identities of those two same-named men.

As to how to cite the custodial history, does the museum have a catalog (or inventory) description that clearly states what you have related above? If so, you need only cite the catalog description. EE 13.43 demonstrates how to cite an archival catalog that's published in print or online. If it's an unpublished inventory, see EE 8.37.

If the museum does not have an existing catalog description that meets your needs, then the issue is not one of citing. It's writing.  You will need to write a concise discussion of the provenance of that collection—essentially, a proof argument or proof summary for the point you are making. For each assertion you make in that argument, you will need to cite the evidence that supports it. When you say that Jacob of Moreland had only one granddaughter to survive him, then you cite the evidence. When you say that all the family papers she accumulated then went to her husband, you cite the evidence. Etc. A proof argument of this type is best done in your narrative, with the evidence cited in your reference notes.

The Editor

genealojist
genealojist's picture

Thank you, thank you.  I have been struggling with this one.  The museum does have a catalog, but it only identifies who the husband was (Howard Newcomb Potts), and that a scrapbook in his collection contains many papers of John and Jacob Sommer - but the catalog does not further identify either Sommer.

So, the work is on me to write the proof summary, but that's fine.  This collection of papers from the museum all but makes my case, so it's worth the effort.

regards,

Mary Ann

EE
EE's picture

It's definitely worth the effort, Mary Ann.  Thank you for raising the question and—in the process—alerting other users to an approach that may help them one day with a problem of their own.

 

The Editor

DearMYRTLE
DearMYRTLE's picture

Thank-you Editor. It was as I suspected. The necessity to formally write up a conclusion in the narrative format is not something our typical genealogy software encourages. 

Using a word processor, Mary Ann will skillfully guide us to h
er conclusion, sentence by sentence, citing evidence she construes at each step. 

Her first step, as I see it, is proving the ancestor's relationship to earlier generations making that ancestor likely to have inherited original deeds, etc. This would eliminate concern that Mary Ann's ancestor had purchased the documents, say from eBay, in the course her own genealogical research.

The fact that I have certain original paper or digitally imaged documents in my possession does not mean they concern my family. Rather they may represent people I've eliminated as kin, from my reasonably exhaustive research of all in a locality by that surname over perhaps 150 years. 

Or it may simply be a odd looking document I've saved to spotlight in an upcoming presentation.

EE
EE's picture

Wise thoughts, Dear Myrtle. Thanks for adding them.  EE is also looking forward to a glorious future in which the relational databases we use to organize our research findings will also include the word-processing capability we need for analytical discussions of the evidence.

 

The Editor