Reconstruction Period Research Forum
Re: Reconstruction Research - a start
In Response To: ROSS in Monroe Cnty MS- Reconstruction ()
Your question is a good one; I have no simple answer.
For instance, have you researched each census record and compared it against what is known? have you accounted for, or at least made note of, EVERYONE appearing in your ancestor's household AND every household in which he and his family appear? Do you have a timeline for each relative or family in your research?
Do you have family group sheets, a pedigree chart, research notes, obituaries, cemetery records, death records, marriage records, land records, probates, tax records for each of your direct ancestors, when available?
Have you milked the Census? Census records show given names, nicknames, initials, estimated birthdates / birthyears, birthplaces, children's birthplaces, and parents' birthplaces. They give estimated marriage dates, the number of children born and still living, number of years married. They also show relationships (after 1870), occupations, residence, neighbors, communities, plantations,'military service (Civil War), work status, 'color', and land ownership. From census records, we can estimate generational group, helping us identify potential relatives. With census information, you can find the nearest church community (preacher/minister), work community (planter, overseer with farm laborers nearby), employers (shop owners, stable keepers, butchers, bakers, iron works owners, farmers, overseers), co-workers and/or those sharing the same occupations.
The number and types of workers can be calculated for a given area (house workers, cooks, nurses, maids, carpenters, cobblers, brick masons, pattern makers, etc.). Both skilled and unskilled laborers tended to 'pass down' their occupation(s) to family members - at least through reconstruction.
The object is to get a wider view of the area and the times. Every little bit of information can be an important piece of the puzzle.
State, county and family histories may supplement your understanding by naming the first settlers, slaveholders, large plantation owners, migration patterns, family histories and, sometimes, names of enslaved individuals who moved into the area with their 'owners', who served as substitutes in the confederacy, or who were fugitives or emancipated.
What about military records? If your ancestor(s) served in the Civil War, did you look for a pension record? If there are none, what about the pension records of those that served with him? Do any siblings, cousins, friends, neighbors (1870) have pension records?
Slave Narratives are another resource that is often overlooked. Even if you are unable to find interviews with any of your direct ancestors, how about those of other relatives, friends, neighbors, people in the neighborhood, community members with the same surname and/or place of birth or members of the same church or military company?.
Once you gain a wider perspective, then you can begin to narrow your focus as a "preponderance of the evidence" dictates.
Assuming your research is fairly thorough back to 1870, you should then begin to look at Post-Civil war resources in more detail.