FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

Thanks! – William Guyselman – A County Recorder

Every once in a while we find written entries in our ancestors records that make our day.  Yes, it may be ‘THE’ record that crumbles one of our ancestral brick walls or it may be a piece of information that although important, is just a piece of an overall well-sourced record.

Then, there are the men who entered information in records with a flare.  Sometimes the flair consists of fancy script embellishments, at other times it is concise handwriting that fills the page of a census record.  And then, there are the men who spent long hours entering the facts associated with births, deaths and marriages but still had the blossom of art in their hearts and pens.

William A. Guyselman was one such fellow.

I first encountered his entries as a recorder in the Marriage Books of Macon County, Missouri while looking for the marriage date of my great granduncle, Alfred Farrar.

There it was … on page 69.  Alfred Farrar married Emma F. Sawtell on the 7th day of June 1869 in Macon County, Missouri.  William’s script was beautiful, readable and structured to be attractive to any future reader. 

While the tall, leather-bound book would never be a best seller, William Guyselman took pride in his work and frequently embellished its stark pages with hand drawn works of art to commemorate the extremely important marriage event in the lives of citizens of Macon County.

Farrar Alfred Sawtell Emma marriage license art2

Page after page of superbly written flowing text and art unfold as you scroll through the pages he wrote.

His own marriage to Nancy Jane McKee is recorded with an eagle comprised of scrolls and flourishes from his pen.

Guyselman William McKee Nancy Jane marriage certificate art2

I feel an affinity to William and wish I could tell him ‘thanks’ face to face.  I’ve spent more than five decades puzzling out the scribblings and markings of tens of thousands of recorders.  Every time I encounter a document written by a recorder who had good penmanship and used it in the performance of their duties, I offer a verbal ‘Thanks’ hoping it will wend its way to them.

 

 McKearp Nelson marriage certificate art2

Wondering what happened in William’s life, I spent a little time seeking his records.  

In 1850, he was listed as a 10-year-old son of John and Sarah Guyselman in Warsaw, Kosciusko, Indiana.

By 1860, the family had moved to Wayne, Buchanan, Missouri, where the family was recorded as ‘Gisleman’ in the census.

1870 found him as a young married man in Macon, Macon County, Missouri.  He is listed as being 30 years of age and a school teacher by occupation.  His wife, Nancy was 17 and their son John as two months.  His short stint as the recorder for Macon County may have already been over.

In 1880, he was forty, lived in Breckenridge, Colorado with his wife Nancy and three children, William Jr., Lou and Emma.   He reported that he was an attorney by profession and was born in Ohio, while Nancy was born in Indiana and their children in Missouri.

My uncle Alfred Farrar was married in 1869, thus, William Guyselman was about 29 years of age when he served as the recorder of Macon County, Missouri.

Guyselman William recorder art2  In 1900, he still lived in Breckenridge.  The census says that he was born in November 1839 in Ohio, still worked as an attorney, but unfortunately, Nancy had died.  Two sons still lived home with him, 13 year old McKee and 10 year old Plain. 

During the Civil War, William served as a corporal in the Union Army.  He enlisted in Company A, Illinois 113th Infantry Regiment on 15 August 1862 in Chicago until he mustered out on 19 October 1863 and transferred to the U.S. Signal Corps. 

His military service proved to be providential because in his 70’s he was able to both claim a military pension and assistance from a military home, the front runner of today’s veterans hospitals.

By 1923, William had been in and out of a military home six times.  He had served in the army as a private from August 1862 through the end of the ward after 1865.  His military training in the U.S. Signal Corps served him well in later life as his occupation was listed as a telegraph operator during his stays in the military home.

Guyselman William A Veterans Home

I haven’t found a death date and location for William yet, but think that the event took place in or near Breckenridge.  

Because I can’t tell him ‘Thanks’  in person for his clear writing, entertaining and reverential treatment of marriage records in the Macon County, Missouri vital records he maintained, this post is my way of remembering William.

Thanks to all the recorders and government employees past and present who took the time to write clearly.  Family history enthusiasts everywhere not only thank you but appreciate your work.  That’s a praise you probably didn’t receive on the job.

 

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17 May 2010 Posted by | Certificates, Marriage Certificate | , | Leave a comment

The Problem With Primary Source Documents

We know that primary source documents always are desired to assist in proving our lineage.  Can we count on their accuracy?

Drew Helen Marr Farrar death certificate_72dpi The answer is NO.  They frequently contain errors.  Dates are wrong.  Locations are frequently wrong.  Names are wrong or misspelled.   Why does this happen?

Looking at my great grandmother’s death certificate, I immediately noticed that her name was different than the one written in various publications and family records.

Great Grandma’s birth name was “Helen Marr Farrar”, yet the name listed on the certificate is “Helen Mary Drew”.  Did the recorder hear the information wrong or accidentally write a name frequently used in his family?

That is one possibility.  I make the same error at times.  However, her certificate offers a greater clue to the problem.  The informant listed on the certificate is “Lula H. Johnson”.  For some reason, great grandma’s death information was given to authorities by her niece rather than by any of her six children that lived in the area.

Can you provide the full birth name, birth date and parents names for your aunts and uncles from memory?  Not many of us can.  Lula, was probably helping the family take care of ‘foot work’ while the children arranged the funeral, burial and mourned the loss of their mother.

We know that the birth information listed on a death certificate is suspect.  It came from someone’s memory.  The only facts that should be correct on the certificate are the name, death date and place and burial date and place and even they are ‘suspect’.

The birth information and even the parents names on death certificates are secondary sources at best.

One of the key indicators that grandma’s name was Helen Marr was a letter from her “family historian” granddaughter that states that great grandma was named after her mothers sister, Helen Marr Tirrill.

Wondering if “Marr” was a rare name in that day, I searched for others that may have had that name and was surprised  how frequently it was used.  A misspelling was undoubtedly less of a factor than I initially suspected.

Errors abound in the birth and death certificates that I’ve found for my family.  In fact, they are more common than not.

My aunt died as a young child in the now non-existent town of Knightsville, Utah.  My grandparents lived in the area when grandpa had a wagon and horse team hauling supplies and anything else needed between Salt Lake City and the remote mining towns in Juab county.

Drew Gladys death certificate_sm The informant listed on Gladys’ certificate was my grandfather but unfortunately, the registrar, Mr. E. J. Howell incorrectly recorded her burial location.  It states that aunt Gladys was buried in the American Fork, Utah cemetery, yet she and her baby sister are actually buried side-by-side in the family plot in the Alpine cemetery.

Was she initially buried in American Fork and later moved to Alpine?  No.  Her uncle Charles and aunt Ada were buried on the plot in 1901 and 1904 respectively.  Two other aunts and an uncle died as babies and were buried on the family farm in the late 1880’s – early 1890’s, so the family didn’t own the cemetery plot then, but by the time their eldest son was buried in 1901, they owned or had purchased the lot.

Gladys was buried in Alpine not in American Fork.  The “primary source” information on her death certificate is wrong.

I wonder how many errors exist in the thousands of certificate that that I’ve collected over the years yet don’t have enough other information to cause me to suspect errors in them.  There are probably quite a few, but since I know that even “Primary” source documents frequently contain errors, I still list them in my databases with the highest level of confidence.  What else can be considered a “Primary Source Document”?

You have the same problem in your own source documents.  Don’t let it throw you.  Don’t obstinately argue over minor factual differences with other researchers.  Establish a rule in your negotiations with others declaring that the primary source documents are the base used for accuracy but that codicil statements can be added to that knowledge to argue or exhibit additional information to consider in the decision of the ‘true facts’ associated with the record of your family member.

7 June 2009 Posted by | Birth Certificate, Death Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Primary Source Documents | , , , | Leave a comment