Sunday, October 5, 2014

Analyzing Biographical Evidence in a Timeline


One of my “to-do” list items is to scan all of my paper files and post the scanned documents to genealogy websites.  While reviewing an old file on the Newman Family, I found a paper copy of a biography of my 3rd great grand uncle, Thomas D. Newman. 

Biographies of our ancestor’s siblings can be extremely useful especially if they say something about the parents or grandparents.  I like to transcribe biographies and obituaries because it helps me to analyze them.  Often there are inaccuracies in these biographies so it is worth the time to carefully evaluate the statements and try to corroborate them with other records.

THOMAS D. NEWMAN is a pioneer of Linn County, and resides in Washington Township, on section 27. He is a native of Bourbon County. Ky., where he was born May 26, 1829. His parents were Thomas and Nancy (Johnson) Newman, the former a native of Maryland and the latter of Kentucky. Thomas Newman was born Feb. 22, 1788, emigrated to Hendricks County, Ind., and died there March 1, 1848. He left his native State in the year 1836, whence he emigrated to Indiana and pursued the occupation of a farmer all his life. Nancy, his wife, was born Oct. 4, 1795, and died in this county, Feb. 24. 1874. She was born on the banks of a small stream in Kentucky called Boone's Creek, where the brother of Daniel Boone was murdered by the Indians. The place where he was buried was called Buffalo Lick…
Mr. Newman emigrated from Kentucky to Indiana with his parents when he was but a child of eight years. He was reared on his father's farm, and began and completed his education in the common schools. He continued under the parental roof until his twentieth year, when his attention was turned toward the young and rapidly growing State of Iowa. He determined to seek it, with a purpose of establishing a home there, and accordingly, bidding a temporary farewell to old associations, he turned his face Westward. Being pleased with the appearance of the new territory, he at once purchased 104 acres of land on section 28, Washington Township, this county, which tract he still owns. To this tract he added 161 acres, and has made a fine present of land to each of his children..
Thomas D. Newman came to this State in 1854…
A fine view of Mr. Newman's residence appears in this work.

Sometimes it is helpful to break down each statement in the biography and put them in chronological order. I have added names, dates places and clarifications in brackets.  Here is how the above paragraphs would read in a timeline:

  • 1788 Thomas Newman [Sr.] is a native of Maryland, [born Feb. 22, 1788].
  • 1795 Nancy (Johnson) Newman is a native of Kentucky. She was born [Oct. 4, 1795] on the banks of a small stream in Kentucky called Boone's Creek, where the brother of Daniel Boone was murdered by the Indians. The place where he was buried was called Buffalo Lick… [An online article about the the Life and Death of Edward Boone places this site in Bourbon County, Kentucky.]
  • 1813 [From other records I know that Thomas Newman, Sr. and Nancy Johnson were married in Bourbon County, Kentucky on the 9th of August 1813.]
  • 1829 THOMAS D. NEWMAN is a native of Bourbon County. Ky., where he was born May 26, 1829. [He was the seventh of ten children born in Bourbon County, Kentucky.  The last child born in Bourbon County was his sister, Elizabeth Sarah Newman.  Their brother Aquilla Newman was born in Hendricks County, Indiana in 1838.]
  • 1836 [Thomas Newman, Sr.] left his native State [Maryland???] in the year 1836, whence he emigrated to Indiana and pursued the occupation of a farmer all his life. [It is more likely that he left Kentucky in 1836 and moved to Indiana.  This is supported by the birth information on his last two children described above.]
  • 1837 Mr. [Thomas D.] Newman emigrated from Kentucky to Indiana [Hendricks County, Ind.] with his parents when he was but a child of eight years. [1829 + 8 = 1837]
  • 1848 Thomas Newman, Sr. died [in Hendricks County, Ind.] March 1, 1848.
  • 1849 [Thomas D. Newman] continued under the parental roof until his twentieth year, [1829 + 20 = 1849] when his attention was turned toward the young and rapidly growing State of Iowa. He determined to seek it, with a purpose of establishing a home there, and accordingly, bidding a temporary farewell to old associations, he turned his face Westward. Being pleased with the appearance of the new territory, he at once purchased 104 acres of land on section 28, Washington Township, this county, which tract he still owns… 
  • No date  THOMAS D. NEWMAN is a pioneer of Linn County [Iowa].
  • 1854- Thomas D. Newman came to this State [Iowa] in 1854 [There appears to be a gap or inaccuracy in the story here based on the 1849 note.]
  • 1874 Nancy Johnson [wife of Thomas Newman Sr.] died in [Linn] county, Feb. 24. 1874.




Hopefully this illustrates the value in reorganizing biographical information in a timeline. When the information is presented chronologically, it is much easier to see the patterns of residence and migration.  The timeline is also very helpful in identifying additional records which can be inserted into the chronology such as census, vital records, land, taxation, probate, etc.

See my other articles at AncestorPuzzles.com.


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