Help in Writing Short Case Studies for Teaching Genealogy

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While looking for something else on the web I stumbled on an interesting site regarding the use of short case studies or case histories for promotional use. I began to wonder if the tips on writing them could help us fine tune our case studies for classroom and workshop use. Take a look at this item from Wordbiz Report and see if you can use the tips in this and linked articles to write a simple, short case study based on one of your own research bluders, challeges or problems. Leave the solution open, posing some sort of open-ended questions. Remember, short case studies bear a resemblance to those word problems we got in arithmatic class in 5th grade.
Regular readers will note I am getting you to learn by doing! Like a good facilitator, I hope.


3 responses to “Help in Writing Short Case Studies for Teaching Genealogy

  1. Ken,

    I’ll give it a try using one of my thorny problems:


    Title: The Good Data is Wrong or Conflicted.

    Problem: Who are the parents of Elizabeth Horton Dill (ca 1794-1869) of Eastham, Dedham, Medfield and Leominster MA?

    Previous Research:

    Elizabeth Horton Dill was born in Eastham MA on Cape Cod, became a schoolteacher in 1822 in Dedham MA and joined the church there, married Alpheus Smith of Medfield MA in 1826, had children Lucretia T. Smith in 1827 and James A. Smith in 1833 in Medfield, was widowed in 1840, appeared in the 1850 census (age 52) and 1860 census (age 60) in Medfield, and died on 28 November 1869 in Leominster MA where Lucretia (Smith) Seaver lived with her family. There are no probate records for Elizabeth.

    There are two death records in the MA VRs – one in Leominster that says her parents were Thomas and Mary (Horton) Dill, and one in Medfield that says her parents were Jabez and Mary (Horton) Dill. Both records say she was 75 years, 6 months, 9 days old at death and she was born in Eastham. That computes to a birth date of 19 May 1794.

    A complete search of all available (on the LDS FHLC microfilms) Eastham and Wellfleet records reveal a Dill family in the town records that starts with Thomas and Mehitable (Brown) Dill marrying in 1733 and settling in Eastham in 1739. By the 1790 to 1800 time period, there are four Dill families with young children – James, Thomas, Benjamin and Moses. Their families seem well defined in the town records. The only Elizabeth is a daughter of Thomas Dill, whose first wife was Hannah Horton. This Elizabeth is born 9 May 1791 in Eastham, the 6th of 9 children.

    The first Jabez Dill in the records is born in 1789 in Eastham, the son of Thomas and Hannah (Horton) Dill.

    Hannah (Horton) Dill died before 1797, leaving at least 4 and perhaps 9 children under the age of 13. Thomas Dill married (2) Ruth Linkhornew in 1797 and he married (3) Susanna Hatch in 1813.

    The Challenge:

    I believe, but cannot yet prove, that this Elizabeth Dill, daughter of Thomas and Hannah (Horton) Dill, is my Elizabeth Horton Dill (ca 1794-1869), but the records are in conflict in many ways:

    1) The census ages don’t match the age in the death record or the town record.

    2) The age 75-6-9 in the death record doesn’t match the calculated age from the birth record, 78-6-19.

    3) In the death records, her mother is listed as Mary Horton, rather than Hannah Horton.

    4) In the Medfield death record, her father is identified as Jabez Dill, which is certainly wrong, based on the birth records for the larger Dill family.

    What research opportunities or resources would you consider next?


    I realize this is probably not a “short case study” format that you wanted, but how would I go about shortening it? How do you do this in bullet points and still be coherent and reasonably complete? I have lots more detail data on the families, sources, etc.

    Cheers — Randy

  2. Randy, I hope you can work your way through this case.

    My only suggestion is that you not get too hung up on ages as shown in the census. My experience is that they are often off, sometimes a little, other times a lot. For example, my gg grandfather is listed as 29 when he was actually 39. (His 17 year old son is living at home). I don’t know if the census taker got it wrong, or if my gg grandfather was sensitive about his age.

    Is it possible that Hannah Horton was Mary Hannah or Hannah Mary? or that Mary was her nickname?

    I feel your pain. My ggg grandmother is Dorcas Ordella Stamper. There are more Stampers in NC than you can shake a stick at, but I cannot find her parents. She is said to be born in Ashe County around 1815. Married there too, probably around 1830. (Her first son is born 1831) On vacation last week I was all over the Appalachian Regional Library in Ashe County, but could find no paper trail…even though I found 3 different books on those pesky Stampers.

  3. Hi Desta,

    Thanks for the comments and encouragement.

    I’m not hung up on the ages in the census, believe me! They are just points on the curve…with a name like Eliza Smith it is not easy to figure out that I have the right one. 1850 was actually easy, she was with her daughter Lucretia T. Smith, my GGGM. In 1860, Eliza was next to the same neighbors as 1850, so I figured it was her. I just assumed she didn’t age as much as everybody else, being a widow and all.

    The Mary vs. Hannah mystery is just that – I figure that the person who gave the info to the town clerk was the daughter Lucretia (Smith) Seaver (or her husband Isaac), and since Hannah had died 70 years before, she may not have known her grandmother’s given name, and guessed. Or she was confused by something her mother told her – there were two step-mothers after Hannah, but neither named Mary! The conflicting item that gets me is that Eliza’s father is Thomas Dill in one record and Jabez Dill in the other record – you would think that the same person gave the info to the two town clerks. Hmmm. Lots of conflicting evidence here!

    I take it that Stamper is Dorcas’ maiden name? Do you know any sibling names? I would use the 1820 and 1830 census data to identify potential parents, then search for probate records for each of them – you may be able to find many who are not Dorcas’ parents (Dorcas would not be included in a list of heirs) and cross them off your list, leaving fewer potential parents. Then I would try to find other records, like deeds, that might mention Dorcas or her husband. Have you looked for deeds for her husband? If her father gave them land, the deed would say so and be signed by her father. My two cents — good luck!

    Cheers — Randy

    PS. Ken, hope you don’t mind if we try to solve some thorny problems down here in the weeds of GE.

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