Saturday, November 21, 2015

A lesson learned about proof from the DAR AIR

DAR AIR? What's that, you might ask. When you submit an application for DAR membership you must prove your line from yourself back to your Revolutionary War Patriot. Every individual on the Lineage page of your application must have a date and place of birth, a date and place of death, and for the first three generations, must have the marriage date and place. Not only will you enter those items on the application form but you'll have to submit a supporting document proving each of them. It might sound all but impossible at first, but once you get looking in the right places, it's amazing how easy it is to find much of it... and how hard it can be to find the last few. Finding those last missing documents is the best part of this game, at least to me:)

Once your application is approved by the highly professional DAR Staff Genealogist, or Genie as we lovingly call them, you can then submit what's called a Supplemental Application for another Patriot. And you can keep on going and going. With each Patriot approved you earn the right to purchase a lovely little Ancestor Bar to pin on your DAR ribbon and insignia. The pin looks something like this, below.

Ancestor Bar

Some of the ladies really enjoy the hunt for new ancestors! I know I do. I have just four so far with three more awaiting approval. But I've heard of ladies having 30, 40, or more! Here's a photo of a ribbon offered on eBay with a couple of ancestor bars, but not in the correct position. And yes, the order of the pins matters.


When you submit an application either to be a member or as an supplemental application after your original application, if you mess up and don't prove the name, date, or palace to the standards required, the Genie will send you an Additional Information Required letter, or AIR.

Recently I submitted two supplemental applications, one each for Isaac Workman and Peter Trautman. Each got an AIR. Bummer for me. But each one was an opportunity to learn and become a better genealogist. Read on!

When I got the AIR letter I must confess to being shocked. I knew this family cold. Knew them all because my Grandma Kelly talked about all of them as if they were still alive. Mom collected documentation on this line fore years and I've added to her treasure trove. So to have the Genie cast a shade of doubt on Elisha Workman as the son of John and to doubt John's date of death, well that was ... shocking.

How many times as genealogists do we have someone call us out on our conclusions? When was the last time someone called you out like that? And a high ranking professional genealogist at that! I had to take a moment to gather myself! Then I got to work:)

The problem with Isaac Workman's son John was that I found his probate file and worked off of that to determine that he died about 12 July 1859. The Genie writing the AIR pointed out that the previous application for Isaac through his son John used that date but exactly a year later: 12 July 1858. The AIR requested more information. I had no idea where the previous app got the date they did so I had to go look and try to determine what they used as a source. Luckily it was obviously the obituary of John's sister, Margaret, and I had that at hand. I tried to reconstruct the original source and had to contact an older researcher who had known Margaret of the obit. He said that it had been copied out of an old family bible. Well! It is no big stretch of the imagination to see where coping a date out of an old bible could go wrong.

What I used as the source for the death date was John's probate file. From the doctor's bill, it could be seen that the last visit to Isaac was July 11 of that year. The bill from the undertaker stated that he delivered a coffin on July 12th. Therefore, it could be concluded that he died on or about 12 July 1859. Hands down, the probate file was a better document that the missing bible record with the date passed down from generation to generation.

I knew I was solid on the probate file and the date of death so I started writing that up as I took time to think about the best way to prove that Elisha was the son of John. Of course the probate file contained a good number of documents that named John, but the Genie asked if there might be another John in the area: how did we know that this Elisha was the son of this John? I had to admit it: it was a good question.

The big red flag was the 1850 census that enumerated a John Workman in the dwelling place listed adjacent to John Workman in Allegany Co., MD. We can't say that they "lived next to each other" and that proved anything because we don't know if that was what happened. Maybe the dwelling were 10 miles apart and over the hill. Can't tell from this census record. What we can say is that the two were enumerated in the 1850 census, one after the other on the same page.

And that isn't even the worst of it!! Elisha Workman, the son, is listed as 29 years old. John is listed as 50. That makes him 21 years too young! Good grief!

The only thing to do, I felt, was to search all of the census records for Allegany County, MD for 1850 and 1860 to see if there was any other male named John who was the correct age for our John. And there wasn't. Whew.

It might be said that one of the biggest conundrums of the DAR Genealogy Consultant is the Multiple Men of the Same Name. I groan audibly every time I run into it, and it happens a lot back before 1850. The same set of names are handed down from generation to generation results in more John and Elijah combinations that you want to see. And why is there a Cuthbert in every generation? What you're going to need is a spreadsheet, or a chart at least. Names on one side and records on the other, or in whatever combination works for you.

And the key, most of the time, is location. Where were they when that happened? The same man can not, luckily, be in two different residences at the same time. Just go ahead and plug it all in that spread sheet or chart and have faith that it will work out. And it will. Give it time to breathe, and make sure that you haven't overlooked any records. The check tax records, and land records and any other local records you can dig up. Go local!! Use Excel if you're comfortable, or a chart or table. Or just spread them all out on the floor. But get them out there so you can see them all. Then give it time. Don't be in too much of a rush with this.

That worked for me on the Isaac Workman AIR. Between the probate file and a thorough examination of the census records for all Elijah and John Workman in that location at that time, it all made sense and the puzzle was solved.

I was so happy when I got official word that my supplemental application had been verified. The in the blink of an eye, I ordered my ancestor bar for Isaac Workman!

Another time I'll share what happened with the Peter Trautman and his granddaughter. That would be the wife of Elisha Workman, Nancy Ann Trautman. It's another case where the census helped, along with a probate file.

The Workman Settlement land, Zhilman, Allegany Co., MD.

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  2. Congratulations on solving your "AIR" (I can't stop calling them by the old name, though)! And hello from a California DAR! :-)

    1. Hello there Elizabeth! I usually revert to the old name too;) Hard to change habits!
      DAR rocks!!