I was poking around on South Carolina Department of Archives and History looking through their online digitized images, specifically looking for transcribed wills. And I discovered Petitions to the General Assembly while searching for my ancestor Bird Martin.
And I found this entry: Inhabitants of York District, Petition Against the Proposed Altering of the State Constitution.
It’s an interesting document. South Carolina in the 1830s and 1840s was all in an uproar about tax tariffs and this brought on the Nullification Crisis. In 1843, South Carolina wanted to update its Constitution, specifically, Article IV to be a little bit more state centered. (Different post, coming later to this blog.) And these gentleman disagreed with the idea of amending the constitution.
Looking at the document, we see that the petition itself is type written. This suggests other counties and groups may have been given this petition as well to circulate and gather signatures. While most of the names are in different handwriting, the names of John Mooreland, all the Martins, and Ransom Collins, who was married to a sister of the Martins, looks like it was written the same person.
Now to be honest, this document doesn’t do much to help me fill out the family tree of Bird Martin. No relationships are stated. It puts Bird in a place and time, but there are other documents that do that as well. If I was looking for evidence to create an indirect proof that Bird was related to the rest of these Martins, I could use it along with other documents. But I have better documents for the family relationships. Bird’s father Thomas died intestate and you know what a great source of information that is.
I really don’t learn anything I don’t already know about Bird’s family relationships.
But I can’t be done with this document. It’s really interesting, at least to me. I went digging for the South Carolina constitution in around that time looking for the differences. I read up on the Tariff issues that preceded this. But what I don’t have is a way to store it. We all have a construct to show parents and previous generations, i.e., the family tree. And it exists in a wide variety of places: online, desktop software, and hand written forms. We have another construct to show the family unit, which is the family group sheet. Not as common, but it exists in multiple places.
I created a timeline, which is a great tool in looking at a person’s life.
But there is more on this document. There is a cluster of men who lived in York County, SC that believed a specific thing at a specific time. And that tells me something about my ancestor and this cluster of men that I didn’t know. Where is the tool or form that records cluster information? How do I know what information I’m supposed to collect?
I use Family Tree Maker to store my genealogy data. And I’ve attached this document to all the men I could identify on the petition.
But when I’m doing cluster research or FAN research or whatever you want call it, what exactly should I be collecting? And how should I store it so it is useful to me? And how do I use cluster data to tell the story of my ancestor? Where are the tools to help me put that together? And a Kinship Determination Project is a report, not a tool or set of tools to pull this together.
I feel like we are missing a few things in our genealogy toolkit. Standards and forms that help us collect cluster data. And tools that tie it all together. Standards, forms and tools that can be easily explained and easily replicated. If you have forms or other tools you use to collect this information, let me know.
But I’ve been Mulling and Pondering (h/t to J Mark Lowe) for a long time. And I’m on a mission to try and figure it out.