Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Think before you click! Genealogy is more than just clicking and adding hints...

It dawned on me recently when I came across some erroneous data that some people are just clicking, thinking that ALL hints are valid in Ancestry.com.  Granted, Ancestry does a bang up job of finding relevant hints but you need to use discernment and logically plot out what was happening.

Scenario 1 - Young man, son of a deceased Tobacco Farmer in Virginia suddenly ends up on a North Carolina (500 miles away) census and marries a woman there.  Miraculously, they show up with the next census back in Virginia.  However, since both names were John and Sarah, the likelyhood that there was a duplicate couple who was married and lived in North Carolina is a very real possibility.  ....and here is why....

 First lets talk about education.   Leaving your home for college was a pretty difficult choice if there was traveling involved.  You could not really leave your farm abandoned or it would be taken over by interlopers and raided by "carpetbaggers".  When you returned it would be difficult to get the squatters off your land.  If you inherited a wealthy piece of property, you worked it until you left it to your own heir.  The likelihood of the young man running off 500 miles away is scant.  Especially when we traced the route on a map and found that he would have had to cross a sea inlet of some distance, in addition to the strain of 500 miles.  How would he travel?

Here is a table of how far a horse travels in one day.  Since it was frowned upon for a female to ride astride, he would have had to bring her back in a buggy for her and her dowry (luggage).

On Roads / trails
Level or rolling terrain: 40
Hilly terrain: 30
Mountainous terrain: 20

Off-Road (or unkempt trails etc)
Level/rolling grasslands: 30
Hilly grasslands: 25
Level/rolling forest/thick scrub: 20
Very hilly forest/thick scrub: 15

Un-blazed Mountain passes: 10
Marshland: 10

An average quality horse, of a breed suitable for riding, conditioned for overland travel and in good condition.
Roads and trails are in good condition and up kept by whatever local authority deals with them.
Weather is good to fair, and travelers are riding for around ten hours a day.

Halve these distances for a horse pulling a cart or for a very heavily laden horse (e.g. a fully armoured knight who insists on wearing his armour all day rather than having it stowed on a second baggage horse as would be normal!).

Add half again for specially trained horses and riders who are prepared to push hard (rangers, scouts and messengers, etc...) though do bear in mind that horses cannot be pushed like this for more than a few days at a time. You can add a bit more again to this distance if the breed of horse is exceptionally suitable for this sort of thing, but I’d say 2 to 2.5 times the base is the absolute maximum without some sort of magical assistance!

Poor weather such as heavy rain or wind should reduce distances by about one quarter, and very poor conditions like heavy snow or gale force winds, etc.. should reduce distances by at least half if not more.

Finding a place to ford a small river or swimming your horse across a larger river should knock a couple of miles off the day’s journey, other unique obstacles might have a similar reduction. (as a guide remember a horse walks at around 4 miles per hour (compared to a human average of around 2.5 - 3mph) so if the obstacle takes half an hour to deal with thats a couple of miles lost.

How would they travel?  There were three types of buggy.

1.  The open carriage - completely vulnerable to inclement weather and only good for short trips on a good day.

 2.   Horse and buggy - requires a driver, no luggage space, only two people and minimal coverage for sun, not rain or snow.
 3.  Horse and carriage - luggage space on the back, requires a driver, full coverage from rain and sun, not heated for travel in the snow.  This was for the uber wealthy.  This did have carriage lights but visibility on dirt roads at night was not a real possibility, because fear of going off a cliff, fear of highway robbers at night, etc.,
The first carriage lights were candles with little visibility.

Most people had to get up early, go do their visiting and have "supper", then immediately return to their abode before nightfall.
You could do no more than 30 miles per day - if the road and weather conditions were optimal.

Supper was the main meal to allow for the mid day break in farming chores (milking occurs early morning and at sundown), and to allow family to get back to their home before nightfall.

So before you click, ponder it out.  Do your RESEARCH.  Don't take the easy way out.  See my next article on how to conduct valid searches.

Keep up the good work!  

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