22 February 2010

Great Books: Marsha Hoffman Rising

Virtually all genealogy guidelines say to talk to your family members now, since you never know when it will be too late. Now, I add, 'Communicate with your favorite authors or researchers because you never know when it will be too late.'

Two of my very most favorite genealogy books, both in general and for Missouri research, are FamilyTree Problem Solver [1] and Opening the Ozarks: First Families in Southwest Missouri, 1835-1839 [2 ]. This is a very sad blog entry for me because the author, Marsha Hoffman Rising, died this week. I never had the chance to hear her speak, let alone to meet her.

Opening the Ozarks
In this impressive and well-documented 4 volume set, Rising set off to investigate the first 1000 people to file land claims at the federal office in Springfield, Missouri. She wanted to see to what extent the origin of a pioneer can be found by studying their neighbors and she wanted to document successful research strategies for the early 1800s. Counties represented are Benton, Camden, Cedar, Dallas, Greene, Hickory, Miller, Polk, Pulaski, St. Clair, Texas, and Wright. The research techniques, history, and migration patterns, etc., that Rising discussed are all useful for anyone doing early Missouri research.

Unfortunately for me, my RICHARDSONs, SHAWs, & HIX/HICKSs are not in her main sample. But, they were in adjacent Cooper & Morgan counties at the same time and they and some of their in-laws are listed & discussed in Rising’s research. She even cited Cousin Donald’s RICHARDSON research!

In support of the books, she established a website and encouraged submissions of additions and corrections to the book. I found one correction to submit last year and greatly regret that I didn’t get around to it sooner.
Not knowing if anyone will maintain the website, I’ll publish my correction here in honor of Marsha Hoffman Rising.

In Volume 2, page 1373, the Benjamin F. McFarland who married Sarah Richardson in 1830 is discussed. This Sarah/Sallie is almost certainly a
daughter of Amos Richardson and Elizabeth/Betsey Hicks/Hix. Rising places the couple correctly in 1850 in St. Clair county, Missouri [3] (but did not show images nor list family names since this family was just extra data she added and not part of the main study):

However, by 1860 Sarah is apparently a widow and Rising places her in Cass County. The related census image appears to be [4]:

This Sarah's age is much more than expected and the names & ages of the children do not match well at all with the names from 1850. However, there is an alternative Sallie McFarland in Greene County, shown here beginning on line 39 in the household of John Spears[5]. It was common for my Richardsons to use Sally & Sarah interchangeably.
And, the children continue on the next census page:
The Green County Sarah is a better match for age and an almost perfect match for the children from the 1850 census. I am as certain as we can ever be that the Sarah Richardson who married Benjamin McFarland is really in Greene County in 1860 as shown above.

I also have a comment on Rising's listing Benjamin F. McFarland as one of the possible children of James McFarland and Frances Webb on pages 1372-1373. Now, this is a collateral line for me and I have only researched it a bit in hopes of finding a clue for Benjamin's father-in-law's ancestry, but I don't think that James was Benjamin's father.
Morgan County, Missouri probate court records [6] have a series of proceedings for the estate of a Benjamin McFarland, who died before 5 August 1840, and is periodically referred to as 'senior.' A 'junior' Benjamin is specifically listed. Yes, it is possible that 'junior' & 'senior' are used for relationships other than father-son, but this relationship must at least be considered and disproven before assuming otherwise. Also, there is a film of wills for the time period but I have not yet seen it [7]. It could well have a definitive solution for this issue.

Overall, given the location, dates, and names of the administrator and others listed, I am fairly sure that these records belong to the Benjamin McFarland who marries Sarah Richardson. Rising's James McFarland may have had a son 'Benjamin' but I am fairly sure that it is not the Benjamin who married Sarah and appears in the census excerpts above.

FamilyTree Problem Solver

From the Introduction: "Relatively few genealogy books are intended for the advanced researcher, as this one is. Instead, this book is intended to give each reader new ideas for tackling those knotty problems that have been sitting on the backburner of the research schedule for months or even years." [p. 2] The emphasis is on analyzing records, especially those before 1850. Courts, census, and land records are discussed, as is the importance of following collateral families and neighbors. Most examples are from Missouri, Kentucky or New England but definitely applicable to all locales.

For Missouri researchers, the specific record samples are a bonus. After reading just 2 chapters, I had a list of 5 types of records that I have never heard of before and will be checking to see if they exist in my counties! Overall, I just cannot emphasize enough how useful and enjoyable this fine book is to me.

These are really great books, the kind I read and go back to often.
I regret that I did not take the time to communicate with Ms. Rising and tell her myself.

I do not have any connection to the publishing company nor any sales company nor ancestry.com. I use Opening the Ozarks at a local public library and I bought my own copy of Family Tree Problem Solver.


[1]Marsha Hoffman Rising, The FamilyTree Problem Solver: Proven Methods for Scaling the Inevitable Brick Wall. Cincinnati: Family Tree Books, 2005.

[2]Marsha Hoffman Rising, Opening the Ozarks: First Families in Southwest Missouri 1835-1839. Derry, New Hampshire: American Society of Genealogists, 2005.

1850 US census image at ancestry.com, cropped from Dist 72, St.Clair County, Missouri
1860 US census image at ancestry.com, cropped from Sugar Creek, Cass County, Missouri
1860 US census image at ancestry.com, cropped from Pond Creek, Greene County, Missouri
[6] FHL # 981,210: Missouri, Morgan County, Probate Court Record, vol. 1A, 1834-1847. Estate of Benjamin McFarland: pp. 96-97, 113, 121-3, 136, 144, 170-1, 185, 196, 235, 257.
[7] FHL # 981,623: Missouri, Morgan County, Probate Court -- Wills, vol. 1-2 1835-1903

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