Saturday, September 17, 2016

Of Blogs And Cousins And Long Distance Genealogy


     It began with an innocent enough email from a far distant cousin, (in both distance and genetics), inviting me to join in her search for details of our Vincent family from Halfmoon, Saratoga, New York.  We initially connected through this blog, and have shared bits and pieces over time, but that one email has elevated our collaboration to something approaching obsession.  Like so many of these family journeys, this one has twisted and turned and taken us far afield of the original quest.  (Which in truth I'm not sure I even remember, and since I'm the undisputed queen of lost emails, will probably have to ask my cousin to remind me of.)

     Together we have uncovered a staggering amount of information and on the way proved beyond any doubt that the genealogy, published in book form, of the line of Revolutionary War soldier Captain Jeremiah Vincent, his son John and John's son Thomas,(my fourth great-grandfather), is incorrect and incomplete.  How did we do it?  By egging each other on from opposite ends of the continent for one thing, but once again the amazing internet played a huge roll.  From census records and a genealogical society application on Ancestry, to wills and land deeds at Family Search; from a guardianship noted in the previously mentioned book to burials on the Find a Grave site, along with obituaries and other sources, a picture slowly emerged from the shadows of centuries.

     The book claimed Thomas, son of John Vincent and Mary Clements, died and was buried in French Cemetery in Victory, Cayuga Co. NY in 1842, which we found to be true.  It also claimed his wife Matilda Taylor died in 1847 and was buried in Saratoga County, which is not.  In fact, Matilda married a man named Rockwell Rood after Thomas' death and lived until 1890.  I found her with Rockwell and several of her Vincent daughters in the 1850 census and other sources.  There is in fact a Matilda Vincent buried in Saratoga, her stone even reads "wife of Thomas" however-- there is also a Thomas Vincent buried there with her.  The author of the genealogy book apparently overlooked that and so didn't consider this could be a different couple, which it was.  Clearly Thomas can't be buried in both Cayuga AND Saratoga.

     The guardianship was major in the search.  The book and every single tree and site I've viewed claim that John Vincent and Mary Clements had only one child, the above mentioned Thomas.  Yet guardianship papers filed in 1817 named Mary Vincent and John Clements (who turned out to be Mary's brother) guardians of the minor children Matilda, Thomas, Maria and Janet Vincent.  Now our search began in earnest to find these children, (except of course Thomas whom we had already documented).  And we did find them with the exception of Maria.  Pretty good detective work if I do say so, since they were married females using their husband's surnames.

     There's lots more-- for instance, as it happened Mary Clements Vincent also remarried, but to detail all our findings and sources here would take me six or seven pages and I like to keep these posts concise and readable.  Any Vincent's out there who would like to know more can email me, but a few points apply to all researchers:
  1.  Just because a genealogy has been published in book form or any other form doesn't mean it's infallible.  
  2. Those trees on Ancestry whose only source is another unsourced tree?  Great for clues but not much more. No matter how many trees say the same thing, if they just copied it from each other it's the same as one tree.
  3. What seems like a sure bet, like in the burial of, "Matilda wife of Thomas Vincent", is sometimes just a coincidence.
  4. Genealogy is ever so much fun with a co-conspirator.
  5. Lastly--verify, verify, verify. I always spend a little time trying to disprove my current theory.  It may not be fast, but when I'm done I'm reasonably sure the finished genealogy is accurate.






  1. This co-conspirator has learned a great deal from you about research and been having a blast - thank you!!

  2. Many thanks to you too Christine! I'm also learning and having a great time doing it.