Author Topic: Advice for when you're snowed under with records?  (Read 824 times)

Online M_ONeill

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Advice for when you're snowed under with records?
« on: Monday 08 July 19 18:09 BST (UK) »
So I know this is a better problem to have than there being no surviving records, but I'm currently struggling with how to deal with a part of my tree where there are seemingly endless possibilities.

I've been looking into the Smallmans/Smalmans of the area of Monkhopton/Ditton Priors in Shropshire in the 18th century and there are absolutely hundreds of them running around the place. This is perhaps unsurprising as they'd apparently been in the area for hundreds of years.

I have 100% confirmed this part of my tree back to my 4x grandmother Mary Smallman and her marriage to a Richard Davies in 1787. Along with this, I've confirmed two of her siblings via shared witnesses, later census return links, etc.

What I'm having problems with is going back further. There seem to be no lack of records, with the survival rate being very good across the board, but that's almost the issue. Not only parish BMD records, but also various court records and other documents, there are plenty of Smallmans to choose from. Almost too many!

My suspicion is that Mary might be the daughter of a Thomas and Mary Smallman, based purely on age and the link to Monkhopton. There is a Mary that would fit, but sadly the surname wasn't recorded in the register. All three confirmed sisters were married by license, so I've reached out to the relevant record office to see if there are any surviving associated documents.

So partly this thread is me getting this stuff off my chest, but I wondered if anyone else here had found themselves in a similar situation and had tips for how to move forward.

Thanks in advance!  :)

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Offline Guy Etchells

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Re: Advice for when you're snowed under with records?
« Reply #1 on: Monday 08 July 19 19:45 BST (UK) »
One of the best ways to handle multiple possibilities is to make trees for each set of parents using BMDs, census, parish registers & wills.
If you fill out the trees with the obvious subjects you can narrow down the possibilities for your own ancestors.
If possible browse the parish registers rather than search for individuals as that way you can develop full/complete families, look for birth patterns for the different families.
Cheers
Guy
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Offline andrewalston

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Re: Advice for when you're snowed under with records?
« Reply #2 on: Monday 08 July 19 20:57 BST (UK) »
What you have is a smaller version of what is known as a One-Name Study. Similar tactics can probably work for you, but it may be a big task.

I use software offline to do this sort of thing. Trying to do it online in Ancestry or FindMyPast seems just too clunky, and they don't let you have the right record types. Work on it as a separate project.

Assemble records about everyone with the right name in the period - say 100 years before your Mary's birth to 50 years after.

Try to piece the families together. Don't worry about the fact that they are not YOUR line; you are crossing them off your to-do list, and they may end up being cousins in any case.

Several children in the same place with the same-named parents in a short period are almost certainly one family, or at most two with common given names.

Make sure that you also deal with deaths/burials. They reduce the number of possibilities enormously.

Eventually you will rule out virtually all the other possibilities. With a little luck you will be left with a very small set of people. You can then look for other records, such as wills, for the relatives of the select few.
Looking at ALSTON in south Ribble area, ALSTEAD and DONBAVAND/DUNBABIN etc. everywhere, HOWCROFT and MARSH in Bolton and Westhoughton, PICKERING in the Whitehaven area.

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Offline coombs

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Re: Advice for when you're snowed under with records?
« Reply #3 on: Monday 08 July 19 22:58 BST (UK) »
If you have the time, then a good suggestion is to look at all the marriages from 1754 onwards for Smallman's in the area of interest and note down the names of the witnesses to the marriages, although if you say there are many instances of the surname then it can be a big task.

If your ancestor married in 1787, I guess she was born c1765-1770. So her parents (whoever they were) probably married inbetween 1735 and 1770.

Witnesses often were relatives, although sadly many were just the churchwarden/parson/clerk/local poor relief overseer, friends etc which has little to no help in tracing relatives of the spouses (if elusive).
Researching:

LONDON, Coombs, Roberts, Auber, Helsdon, Fradine, Morin, Goodacre
DORSET Coombs, Munday
NORFOLK Helsdon, Riches, Harbord, Budery
KENT Roberts, Goodacre
SUSSEX Walder, Boniface, Dinnage, Standen, Lee, Botten, Wickham, Jupp
SUFFOLK Titshall, Frost, Fairweather, Mayhew, Archer, Eade, Scarfe
DURHAM Stewart, Musgrave, Wilson, Forster
SCOTLAND Stewart in Selkirk
USA Musgrave, Saix
ESSEX Cornwell, Stock, Quilter, Lawrence, Whale, Clift
OXON Edgington, Smith, Inkpen, Snell, Batten, Brain

Offline gazania

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Re: Advice for when you're snowed under with records?
« Reply #4 on: Tuesday 09 July 19 00:49 BST (UK) »
I was in a similar fortunate situation when I first started out in pre-internet times with good eyesight.  Luckily, after all this time, I find myself in a similar situation again, after breaking down a very longstanding brick wall.  I now find myself using the same tactics I worked out before. You may find them of some help.

I worked out a colour coded card system for each family grouping and/or parish, I identified.  These days I use coloured sticky notes or pens.  These days, when I identify a family grouping, I place it on my Family History computer data base as a separate tree complete with all my findings and resources. If and when I can identify a tree with links to my main family and where it fits, I can then merge it with my main tree. ( I happen to be still using Brothers Keeper)   

As I live in OZ and not very familiar with county boundaries etc, I had maps of the areas to understand the distances between parishes etc. to plot any likely movements or bride's parishes etc.

I also make a list of what I call Strays, eg people who I find on censuses,  particularly outside the county who may have no obvious links but may come in handy as my research widens. ( It happened several times) Colour code them too.

Finding and contributing to a One Name Study was extremely helpful.  Migration records out of England filled in a lot of gaps, particularly when my ancestors used the same few christian names - Sarah and Mary, William and Thomas.

Also if you have some spare time (and being a bit obsessed helps) make across the board time line for all or for the most relevant events like births, marriages, deaths, addresses etc.  Colour code them too and you may see some patterns or geographic movements.

Have fun,  Gazania
ALDERMAN, Bucks
BELK, Yorkshire, London
CARLING, Bedfordshire
CUNDITH,CUNDILL, Yorkshire, PALIN. Lincolnshire
FOX, Essex; Camberwell Surrey
LANE, Cork IE;Askeaton LIM, Liverpool, Clifton, Bristol
VOLLER, Surrey
WALL Clonlara Co Clare Ireland
WAREHAM, Esher, Surrey; London
WINCH, Surrey

Offline pinefamily

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Re: Advice for when you're snowed under with records?
« Reply #5 on: Tuesday 09 July 19 00:56 BST (UK) »
I can't add much to the excellent advice you've already been given.
If you have access to the relevant record office, look at other parish records besides the registers, to see if any of your ancestors were named.
Also look for any wills. They are a great way to sort out family groups.
I am Australian, from all the lands I come (my ancestors, at least!)

Pine/Pyne, Dowdeswell, Kempster, Sando/Sandoe/Sandow, Nancarrow, Carrington, Hounslow, Youatt, Richardson, Jarmyn, Oxlade, Coad, Bentham, Holloway, Lindner, Pittaway, and too many others to name.
Devon, Dorset, Gloucs, Cornwall, Yorks, Bucks, Oxfordshire, Wilts, Germany, Sweden, and of course London, to name a few.

Offline Ruskie

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Re: Advice for when you're snowed under with records?
« Reply #6 on: Tuesday 09 July 19 06:02 BST (UK) »
The Smal(l)man surname is not registered yet:

https://one-name.org/about-the-guild/how-to-join/

 :)

Offline cristeen

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Re: Advice for when you're snowed under with records?
« Reply #7 on: Tuesday 09 July 19 07:15 BST (UK) »
I too have gathered all the data onto a spreadsheet, one page for baptisms, one for marriages etc and the used colour highlights to group potential families together. The initial entering can be time consuming (although you can download records from Family Search straight to Excel which helps) but at least stuff is easily altered if new information comes to light, or you make a mistake. As others have said, at the very least you can rule out some individuals or groups. :)
Newson, Steavenson, Walker, Taylor, Dobson, Gardner, Clark, Wilson, Smith, Crossland, Goldfinch, Burnett, Hebdon, Peers, Strother, Askew, Bower, Beckwith, Patton, White, Turner, Nelson, Gilpin, Tomlinson, Thompson, Spedding, Wilkes, Carr, Butterfield, Ormandy, Wilkinson, Cocking, Glover, Pennington, Bowker, Kitching, Langhorn, Haworth, Kirkham.

Online M_ONeill

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Re: Advice for when you're snowed under with records?
« Reply #8 on: Tuesday 09 July 19 10:42 BST (UK) »
Thanks to everyone for the fantastic advice in this thread, these are all incredibly useful ideas! I had not come across the concept of a one-name study but it definitely seems to be the direction I need to go in, albeit on a smaller scale.

It's an interesting concept, really. I think when we start out in family history we naturally go for an 'inside working out' methodology (working from our known relations outwards to their parents, spouses, relations, etc). It sounds like what I need to do in this case is move to an 'outside working in' method, cataloguing all the local Smallmans/Smalmans and then narrowing down the candidates.

I've already started cataloguing the local records as suggested and am already building up something of a picture of the Smallmans of Monkhopton, as it seems to be a large but manageable outside branch. However, there's also the suggestion of a link to Ditton Priors and that's where things get daunting; that really seems to be the centre for the name in the local region!

Thanks once again for all the suggestions, I'll keep this thread open in case I need to drop in for further advice.  :)