What is that one best piece of evidence that you have? Wisdom Wednesday

So why would you need to write a summary of the basic vital facts about a person?

Case in point, Laura Cecile Donald Gillespie:

Wyatt Paul Gillespie and Laura Cecile Donald ca. 1894. I suspect that this is their wedding photo.

Wyatt Paul Gillespie and Laura Cecile Donald ca. 1894. I suspect that this is their wedding photo.

Laura Cecile Donald was born on 13 February 1877 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, and died 23 August 1864 in Rockbridge County, Virginia.1 On 24 January, 1894 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, Laura married Wyatt Paul Gillespie.2 He was born 15 July 1865 in Amherst County, Virginia, the son of Jeremiah and Mary (Gillespie) Gillespie,3 and died on 19 February 1941 in Rockbridge County, Virginia.4   Laura and Wyatt are buried in Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery. 5

Genealogy is about defining kinship and identity. Birth, marriage, death all are critical in defining both.  Getting the evidence correct is critical.  So let’s look at what I have:
Birth
I have a tombstone.  Now that may be all you ever have, but for someone who was born in 1877 in Virginia, you should have a birth record or a line in a birth register. This will also most likely tell me who her parents are.  So more work to be done.
Marriage
I have a certificate from Virginia that has the information recorded on Wyatt and Laura’s marriage record.  This is probably sufficient, but it is a not the original.  I do believe that I have a digital copy of the record somewhere.  This is one of those times where horrible organization comes to bite you big.  The marriage record documents Wyatt’s parents as well and his birth date.

Death

I have a tombstone.  This is not bad.  But a will (or wills), or obituaries might really be a better source.  The date originially on Wyatt’s tombstone for his death was wrong.  My uncle had it fixed.
Gravestone of Wyatt Paul Gillespie and Laura Donald Gillespie; Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, Lexington, Virginia

Gravestone of Wyatt Paul Gillespie and Laura Donald Gillespie; Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, Lexington, Virginia

All this is in my tree. But this is actually a great tool, for examining what you have and determining what you need.  And for anyone reading it, it lets them know how deep you have gone.  I have some work to do. :-)
Footnotes
[1] Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery (Rockbridge County, Virginia), Wyatt Paul and Laura Donald Gillespie Tombstone; photographed by Anne Gillespie Mitchell, 1 August 2010.
[2] Virginia, Virginia Department of Health, Certification of Vital Records, Marriage Certificate, Wyatt Paul Gillespie, Laura Cecil Donald, 24 Jan 1894, Rockbridge, Virginia; Department of Health – Division of Vital Records, Richmond, Virginia. (Is this citation right?)
[3] Virginia, Virginia Department of Health, Certification of Vital Records, Marriage Certificate, Wyatt Paul Gillespie, Laura Cecil Donald, 24 Jan 1894, Rockbridge, Virginia; Department of Health – Division of Vital Records, Richmond, Virginia. (What is the short version of this?)
[4] Stonewall Jackson Cemetery (Rockbridge Co., Virginia), Wyatt Paul tombstone.
[5] Stonewall Jackson Cemetery (Rockbridge Co., Virginia), Wyatt Paul tombstone.

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2 thoughts on “What is that one best piece of evidence that you have? Wisdom Wednesday

  1. Jacqi Stevens January 9, 2013 at 11:07 am Reply

    Anne, I can so totally relate to what you mentioned about the tombstone (although how great that your uncle actually had the misinformation corrected there). As you’ve seen on my own blog, I’ve come to find problems with the obituary, too, in some cases. Or–who knows?!–maybe the death certificate had errors, too. But we still need to gather all those documents. Sometimes all we can do is hope that, within the preponderance of all that information, we can perceive what the correct information actually was–as long as we’ve done our due diligence in ferreting out all the available documentation.

  2. RoreyCathcart January 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm Reply

    For those of us that rely heavily on database programs, a family summary of BMD can be an essential tool for putting all those little event lines into a broader perspective. Helps you see the holes better.

    Sometimes tombstones are all you get. Particularly for infants. Sometimes, a birth certificate which is factually accurate will lead you astray. Can’t tell you the number of family members who were born under one name but baptized under a completely different name. We try to get what documents are available and make our best analysis of what they say. That is all we can do.

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