Sunday, May 17, 2009

Benjamin's place of birth



Family records for Benjamin Kingman Curtis listed his place of birth as Prairie Round, New York. When I started earnestly searching for his parents, the first task was to verify the place of birth and identify the county. If I knew the name of the county then I could search the birth and church records. I checked a gazetteer for New York during the right time period to get the answer to my question, "where is Prairie Round in New York?" The answer, no where, no such place in New York.  Now what? All the records handed down in the family never mentioned a source of information, so I was stuck.

Other states have a Prairie Round, so was Benjamin born in a state other than New York? Don't know, but all the census records from 1850 to 1900 list his place of birth as New York. Benjamin's Civil War military service record had his birth place listed as Genesee County, New York. His pension record stated he was born in Ontario County, New York.  Where did the family get Prairie Round, New York as his place of birth? So I went searching for the earliest compiled record that included our Curtis family to see if they documented where they got the information.

Interestingly, our Benjamin Curtis is never mentioned in the Curtis family histories. It seems that no one knows about him, except his descendants. Benjamin was married to Sarah Lavantia Card and a ton of people have researched the Card family during the past 100 years or so. Maybe that's where his birth place was documented. So I went looking for the Card family histories and family organizations. Here's what I found:

Maxine Phelps Lines was the author of a typescript collection of Card family records. Her work was so big that it covers two full microfilm reels at the Family History Library. The collection is titled, Descendants of Richard Card of Rhode Island, and his wife, Rebecca, 1596-1918. The Genealogical Society of Utah microfilmed her work in 1981 and 1984. Other notes on her work stated that the principle author of volume two was Mary Card Yarnell and that "much of these volumes compiled from the records of (1) Lester Card of Ansonia, Connecticut, (2) Thomas A. Card of Riverside, California, (3) Frank Schruis, and (4) Elmer Wilcox of Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada.

Although many of the pages in her collection listed sources, the page for "Sarah Lovantia," daughter of William Fuller Card and wife of Benjamin Kingman Curtis did not have a single source listed (see image on this page). Due to the lack of documentation, I assume that the information for this family record originated from the work of the other authors who were listed in the notes for this collection. So I went looking for their work.

At the Family History Library are seven different microfilms in three separate catalog entries that contain the work of Lester Lawson Card (1872-1951).  They are:
  1. "Papers" filmed in 1976 by the Genealogical Society of Utah. There were seven looseleaf volumes, totaling about 2,000 pieces of paper in this first set of records. Maybe, just maybe, he listed his sources for Benjamin's place of birth. (See FHL films 0982056, v. 1-3; 0982064, v. 4-6; and 0982065, v. 7.)
  2. "Card family miscellaneous records," is about "Richard Card who immigrated from England to Newport, Rhode Island in 1650,and was recognized as a freeman in 1655. The collection includes newspaper clippings, photographs, correspondence, etc." FHL film 982292, item 1-4 has four manuscript volumes; film 982264, item 6 has one manuscript volume; film 1033597 item 1 has nine manuscript volumes. [Searching these manuscript collections is going to take a long time :( 
  3. "Genealogical records, 1697-1909" contains genealogical data for the Card family of Rhode Island and elsewhere. There are 73 leaves in this collection on FHL film 1035838 item 11.
The three Lester Card manuscript collections still need to be searched, and it may take a few days to go through it all. The manuscripts may or may not answer the question, "where did the family get the information that Benjamin Kingman Curtis was born in Prairie Round, New York?" If anything, this research experience taught me how important it is to document where I get the information that I record in our family history records, even if it's something that someone told me. I've often wondered if someone said that Benjamin was born on a "prairie" 'round New York and that's how he got his place of birth recorded as Prairie Round, New York. Who knows????

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