Much, too much, is made of documentation. I am tempted to encapsulate documentation with “ “
I just received an email from another family researcher, I deign to use the word genealogist, for a genealogist is a well trained, and paid for, professional. I and others who create profiles and research their families are naught more than family historians.
To call themselves Genealogists is overly generous and stretching the truth. Especially when Genealogists are strenuous about documentation.
And therein lies the problem - DOCUMENTATION
There were no such things, except in isolated instances, as birth certificates and death certificates until the 30th Century, and marriage licenses, with central registries did not exist until the the 19th Century, and then only in some counties, or states.
The problems associated with inheritance and distribution of estates, should one die intestate, required some form of proof of kinship.
In England and Europe, marriages were performed by a church and duly recorded in church or parish registries. Same with Baptisms, and the dates of Baptisms are all too often taken as dates of birth, when in fact the birth occurred earlier, even a year earlier.
In the colonies, especially in Virginia. A license to marry could be bought, but it was very expensive, so most resorted to the issuance of banns, the record of which may or may not have survived the ravages of war, flood, fire, time and disestablishment.
And in the decade leading up to the revolution, in Virginia and the Carolina’s and Georgia, there was a proselytizing by Baptists and Methodists, and slowly the Church of England, the Anglican church fell into disfavor. Especially after the Treaty of Paris in 1783, when all things English became anathema and the Anglican church changed it’s name to Episcopal.
Many marriages were conducted by these new churches that sprang up here and there, to last for a decade or less, then fall into disuse as the members packed up their wagons, hitched their oxen and migrated to newly opened territories.
Look as you will, those church’s have disappeared and along with them any records of Baptism, marriage or death, and their graveyards as well.
Fortunate indeed are those who have ancestors who were buried in a graveyard that hasn’t been plowed under,or turned into a highway or runway or a housing development or mall., and whose family was sufficiently well to do, to leave a permanent gravestone, instead of the usual wooden plaque or cross, which soon distintegrated.
What passes for documentation is nothing but a sub rosa conspiracy, a willingness to accept bits and pieces of info gleaned from any extant document, such as a will.
Made more perplexing because in some regions, given names were ubiquitous within a family, 1st, 2nd, 3rd cousins.
In the days of primogeniture, which was replaced in Virginia in 1789, but died a slow death. The property of a man who died intestate, went to his eldest son.
To ensure that everyone knew who the eldest son was, a man would name his eldest son after himself. No question of seniority then, as there were no birth certificates to wave around.
This followed the English Custom
After the revolution, the southern states adopted”The Old Jones” tradition. Googlehttps://www.genealogy.com/articles/research/35_donna.html
Again this wreaks havoc, in some regions where many relatives of the same family resided. Too many John’s, Williams, even Peters, to figure out which is which.
My great grandfather and his brother both named a son John Wesley after the outlaw John Wesley Harding, and they were born about the same time. Try to fathom which John Wesley Farrar was mentioned in a deed or even a census.