Monday, January 14, 2013

Looking for Rachel Conder

Amy's post over at Keepapitchinin got me to thinking more about documenting my research on Tennessee Mormon families into the LDS Church's newest online family history tool: Family Tree.  I had been to the site a couple of times, but saw that many of the errors from New.FamilySearch were perpetuated there. Amy's post has given me hope that perhaps the new mechanisms for fixing them might make a difference.

I'm not so naive to think that family history always has clear easy answers. Sorting through the clutter of rumor and ill conceived ideas is part of the fun of history and family history. Creating Family Tree does not remove the clutter. But at least it creates an easier way to store sources which will make the effort of documenting the process and sorting out the problems easier.

Lets take for example the Conder family of Cane Creek. Family Tree shows they had four children, Martin, Visey, Rachel, and "P". I know Malinda and Jim  had six children together, but for three of them their names, gender, birth dates, and death dates were never recorded. They appear to have died very young and before the family met the missionaries. Malinda also had a son with her previous husband, but we'll leave him out of the current discussion. In Family Tree "P" is listed as a son, but I think "P" is really a duplicate of Rachel.

A couple of years back I ordered a copy of the a micro film showing LDS Church Records for Middle Tennessee. This particular record was dated 1910. The record has been a great source, and includes some records of members in Lewis County where some survivors of the Cane Creek Massacre lived. Below are the names listed for the Conder family
It is a pretty close match to Family Tree. As you can see there are four of them. I believe they are...

Visey J. Conder = Lavicia Jane Rebecca Conder
Wm. J. Conder = William James Conder
Malinda Conder = Malinda Conder
P. Conder = Rachel Ann Conder

I think most people would agree with my first three matches, even without knowing the family, but the fourth might give you pause. In what world does "P" = Rachel?

Let me guide you through my thought process.

Rachel lived with her parents for the rest of their lives, foregoing marriage in order to take care of them. Malinda could barely walk due to her injury, though she could get around with a cane. In the days before automation, the chores of housework would have been significant. Rachel would have been very busy  cooking, cleaning, and taking care of her mother. In every interview she gave she is with her parents, and she explains why she stayed. That she might not be on the record is odd.

I also know that she was very dedicated to the church. Even in the face of the horrors inflicted on her family, she received and treasured the church literature sent to her. After both of her parents passed away and she moved in with her Methodist sister, she kept her collection of church publications locked up. After Rachel's death, her brother-in-law took the whole cabinet outside and burned it with all its contents. So for her not to be included in the Church records would be odd.

The record above shows other problems which indicate it was a copy of an older record,and  not an original compilation. In 1910 Visey's name is 13 years out of date. She had married Will Haley in 1897. So it must have been transcribed from an older source and not verified for accuracy.

With a little more digging I did find this record (below) as a possible match for the older record. [There were several names between the header and the Conder family entries. For the sake of space and perhaps privacy, I have cut them out.] Based on the dates of the records around it, it had to be written between Nov 1901 and Sept 1903, though because it was in the same hand writing as the 1901 entries, I am guessing it was closer to 1901 than 1903.

It still has the wrong name for Visey, but in 1901 she had only been married 3-4 years. She had joined the Methodist church when she married and likely did not care to update the Church records. The spelling of each abbreviation and the order of the  names is identical to the first record, making me pretty sure this is the source for the first. In fact this record book has been transcribed many times. It is full of notes, names circled, crossed out, check marks, and on and on. Other than perhaps a note at the top of the page indicating this book was used to generate a 1930 church census, the meanings of the marks are lost, probably stored only in the head of their creator.

Note that Rachel and "P" don't appear on the same record in either case. In this entry, "P" clearly shows a birth date and a baptism date which match Rachel's further validating my opinion that "P" and Rachel are that same person. There are no other options than for "P" to be Rachel. But how do I explain why  "P" was written and not at least part of her real name? So far I have a few options.
  1. The intent was to write an "R" but it just looks like a "P" to us. Although I don't know why the clerk would just write an "R". In the second and earlier record, however, it looks even less like a "R".
  2. Perhaps the writer for both records was working from a third incomplete source record, not collecting the data first hand. This would also explain why Visey was not listed with the name Haley. He may have misread his source. 
  3. "P" was Rachel's nickname. There is no evidence of this whatsoever.
  4. Rachel had a twin brother named "P" who died young. But their names got mixed on an early church record and never sorted out since. (this is pure fantasy).
I have not yet figured out where the death date for "P" came from. Family Tree only says "LDS Church Membership" as its source. Plus I also don't know how the gender for "P" was determined. There is nothing in either record indicate the sex of the person.

I'm not ready to delete "P". But if I can figure out how Rachel came be recorded as "P" and answer these last two questions I'm sure I would.


Amy said...

Wow. That's a strange problem but it sounds like you've come up with the most likely answer.

BruceCrow said...

Most likely? maybe. I can't help the thought that I'm missing something.

Amy said...

Well, there's no arguing with a nagging feeling. If you have a nagging feeling that something is missing, it undoubtedly is. Every time I've delayed a project because something didn't feel right, a new source has turned up, or there were additional records I needed to examine.

Sorry I don't have any practical advice on Rachel Conder. Well, I guess I have one thing I do when I reach a dead end on a nuclear family: make sure I've looked at the entire extended family. (At least one generation up, one or two to the side and two generations down.)