A Major Grain of Salt

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Source: Weknowmemes.com

Source: Weknowmemes.com

That item I posted in yesterday’s update had some errors. I realized that after I posted it. After spending three years with this family and its records, I like being able to spot errors and confirm the information via my collection of vetted sources. Yay, research!

But the errors…does that make the source invalid?

I think that The History of Florida: Past and Present is still a useful source of information, as long as you don’t rely just on the word of this tome as the Gospel truth. (I know a lot of folks who will look something up in Wikipedia, and nothing else, and voila, feel they are accurately informed.) The History of Florida: Past and Present, is a pretty good starting point for information; you just have to read it with a major grain of salt in your back pocket somewhere, and be sure to fact check the information.

Also: We have to remember that Harry Gardner Cutler was culling all of his data the old-fashioned way (which was not the old-fashioned way in 1923), by interviews, correspondence, and checking other sources that might not have been complete or accurate. He might have been under a deadline to get this massive tome out, especially the second volume. We don’t know what kind of a researcher he was, either.

One thing I do know, is that Cutler was a prolific writer. He published dozens of historical reference books, so, it seems that he may have outsourced a lot of the hands-on research to assistants who may not have been as careful with the data.

Even though some of the info in Cutler’s work makes me question its validity, it is not worthless: The incorrect information give you some clues as to where to look next in research. For instance, if a name is misspelled, it may be that when Cutler was collecting his information, the respondent or interviewee was referring to the individual via a nickname. Cutler, not knowing any better, wrote that down instead of the formal name.

Anyway, here’s another look at yesterday’s item, with my annotations:

It's officially Wiselogel. Source: Interview with Nannett Wiselogel Jordan.

It’s officially Wiselogel. Source: Interview with Nannett Wiselogel Jordan.

This item made me contact one of the Wiselogel descendants, who has become a much treasured friend (we met via this research project — thanks, Emmett!), Nannett Wiselogel Jordan, who told me that, indeed, ‘Wiseloyel’ was an old spelling of their family name. This isn’t an error, but, the official spelling was “Wiselogel.” While it is also correct that there is a large branch of this family in Michigan, the Louis Wiselogels moved to Florida from Illinois. Lula was born in Chicago.

Next:

She actually went by "Mamie." Also, she was born in the District of Columbia. Source: U.S. Census

She actually went by “Mamie.” Also, she was born in the District of Columbia. Source: U.S. Census

Ceph Jr.’s wife went by “Mamie,” although her official name may have been Mary. I’m in the process of confirming this, but I lean towards “Mamie,” because that is on the official marriage license and records from D.C. government archives. Mary’s birth record says she was born in D.C., too; although, her family may have moved to Maryland later. This might have been confusing for Cutler, and I can understand that, as I live 1500 feet over the DC/Maryland state line. I can see DC from my house. I think perhaps that “Mamie/Mary’s” family lived in suburban DC, also known as Maryland, and that’s why it says “Maryland” in Cutler’s record.  (Yeah, OK. Nit-picky. But trust me, this makes a difference, especially during voting season. There’s a reason why DC is denied statehood all the time, but that’s a topic for some other blog.)

This last item, though, was simply wrong:

Kathleen's husband was Ira H. Martin. The son was Ira H., Jr. Source: U.S. Census, Florida State Census, Florida Marriages.

Kathleen’s husband was Ira H. Martin. The son was Ira H., Jr. Source: U.S. Census, Florida State Census, Florida Marriages.

I can imagine Cutler (or, one of the research assistants who didn’t know any better) interviewing the Wilsons, and they, perhaps, pronounced “Ira” as “Arr-ah”, and then, Cutler wrote, “R.” This, to me, sounds as if it the information was gathered by interview, and not by official documents. There’s a big difference between “Ira” and the letter “R.”

(This reminds me of my old Algebra teacher at MSU, who used to pronounce the letter “R” in quadratic formulas as “Arr-ah.” That used to drive me nuts.)

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