Am I drifting or doing Inferential Genealogy?


I am following the Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group presented my Dear Myrtles’ Genealogy Blog. The Mastering Genealogy Proof book is written by Dr. Thomas Jones who also has presented lessons on Inferential Genealogy that I have listened to in the past.  The term drifting has come up on each of our class discussions and on Mondays with Myrt.  Do I drift? The answer is yes. Is it productive? The answer is no, but like drifting in a Hot Air Balloon you see a Board angle. The angle is so board you can’t make out the individuals below until you come closer to land.  I sometime spend hours trying to find those drifting moments that gave me a clue I didn’t know I needed until later on in my search.  Do I do Inferential Genealogy? The answer is I make every effort to do so, but I am human.

I have written about the importance of following a lead in my own blog postings. I do not accept a single source as the truth until I have verified it with other sources. So how do I know that I am not drifting when I follow those other leads?

I will approach the answer by giving my definition of drifting.  Drifting is following a lead without purpose. I know I do drift and have drifted, especially when I first started doing my family history. I would find an interesting name or article while researching a certain surname and follow up on that intriguing item. I have no valued reasons to follow that lead other than it interested me. I sometimes would note the source but more often I would just read the article and return to my original search.  So drifting to me means following an interesting aside without purpose or record keeping.

Inferential Genealogy,  as I approach it,  means:

  1. I have a set goal establishing to identify a person or a relationship to that person.
  2. Like the board view you have with drifting, my research may bring me to asides like, location, neighbors, business acquaintances, family or friends or even to a different generation in time, but all are related to the original goal of identifying my person or relationship.
  3. I make every effort to record my sources. I note what the source provides me towards answering my research goal. Does it confirm or deny the information and why.
  4. I may have to research several types of document to reach that goal. I will be checking birth/death certificates, multiple years of census records, business records, land records, court records, letters, journals and maybe interviews with someone who knew the person or family. All the sources would provide clues, some more accurate than others, but all related to my main purpose.
  5. I will contrast and compare those sources to confirm or disprove my goal. If I see a conflict I will try to resolve it or discard with a notation as to why I did so.
  6. I remember my Nursing School instructor telling me the importance of not making assumptions without confirmation; Assume = Ass/u/me. That has stuck with me in whatever research or goal I set for myself. Who wants to be known as donkey rear-end? No me that is for sure.
  7. Finally I record my results to help others who follow me not to stumble into a roadblock, but easily follow a logical trail of events of the person in question.

The bottom line is, yes I still drift sometimes, but not as often. I mainly look for a specific goal; follow the leads to where they take me in regards to reaching that goal; confirm or discard information as needed; record the comparisons and conflicts; record the resolutions; record the final analyzed results. After an exhaustive search of the available information I can provide a well informed family member to add to my tree.

Another thought came to mind:  I follow the Genealogical Proof Standard in my Inferential Genealogy search.  A good practice to follow even if you don’t realize you are doing it because it is core to your process.



Tombstone Tuesday: Hannah Nelson, No not that one the other one

Hannah Nelson Wife of Philip
Hannah Nelson
Wife of Philip



Wife of

Philip Nelson

Died April 16, 1831

In her 73, year

Virtue lies beyond the grave.


This grave marker does not tell Hannah’s full story. She was born 18 Oct 1758 in Sutton, New Hampshire to Moses Quimby and Judith Bean. Hannah married Philip Nelson 24 Oct 1776in Danville (Haverhill) Massachusetts. They settled in Sutton, New Hampshire. She was the mother of six children. She died 16 April 1831 in Sutton, New Hampshire.


I will post her husband, Philip Nelson and more information of their life in my next post.


Winsome Wednesday: Welcome to the Bay. Go home now. Don’t disembark.

Ann Vassal 1637
Ann Vassal 1637


“Go back to England. You would be better off with the King and his wife than here.” “Go to another Colony; Plymouth, New Hampshire or Connecticut. Do not stay here.” “I know that is not the welcome you expected.” “My name is Ann Vassal, I arrived in the colony on the Arbella in 1630 as part of the Winthrop Fleet. My husband and our family left on the Lyon almost immediately after arriving in the Massachusetts Bay Colony returning to England. The Lyon then brought us to the Plymouth Colony in 1634. We live in Scituate the year of our Lord 1637. If you came here for religious freedom, you will not find it here. A man had his ears cut off because he did not worship as the magistrate and minister of the Bay wanted. Others have been banished to Connecticut for their beliefs. I could go on listed many other examples, but I will stop now.”


This paraphrasing was how “Dissent Among the Puritans” began. This program was sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities; held at Merrimack Public Library. It was described as:



Dissent Among the Puritans

The year is 1637. Ann Vassall, wife of William Vassall of Essex, England, one of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Company, welcomes you to your new home in the Bay. Her words of advice and narration of events going on in town might make you wish you had stayed in England or looked toward New Hampshire or Connecticut as a place of settlement. Living historian Linda Palmer follows up her portrayal of Ann Vassall with a colorful slide presentation which shatters some of our commonly-held stereotypes about the Puritans and chronicles the dissent of her husband, who was despised by minister and magistrate alike for his liberal ideas about civil liberty and religion. This program is suitable for adults and teens. Registration is strongly advised. This event is presented with a grant from the NH Humanities Council.


Linda Palmer portrayed Ann Vassal with grace and intelligence. She provided us with a look at our founding fathers that was not sugar coated like our history books. I have read John Winthrop diaries, Ann Hutchinson’s writings and several other journals from the 17th Century. Like anything there are different points of view. Winthrop wanted to keep strong hold on the dissidents that come to the Bay to do the Lords work. He did not want to separate from the Church of England but to create changes from within. Others felt that Winthrop way was more restrictive than England’s. You could not vote if you were not a member of the church. John did not want the Quakers, Congregational or Unitarians in the Bay because they would cause confusion and unrest. Roger Williams, John Cotton and others felt that all should have the right to practice the freedom of religion.


The photograph of Ann Vassal/ Linda Palmer displayed her summer attire of linen and lace. We could appreciate that the clothes were cumbersome and uncomfortable in the summer heat. The night provided us with ninety degree weather and no air conditioning. We sat in the audience in our sleeveless summer outfits perspiring while she remained fully coverage as Ann Vassal. She did remove her hat at one point.


A night to remember of an entertaining and accurate account of history that shall remain in my thoughts to ponder and decide who in my family could survive if we travel to 1630’s America. What will I find when I continue researching those who came before us? Where did they go? Did they stay in the Bay? Go to New Hampshire? Maine? Connecticut?


Linda provides walking tours of 17th Century Boston as Ann Vassal.  “Where Did the Puritans Go?” I plan on taking that tour to hear more about the colony through Ann’s eyes.


My ancestors, Isaac Stearns and his family, are reported as having arrived on the Arbella in 1630. The same ship that Ann and William Vassal family most likely arrived on in the same year. They didn’t stay in Nameskeag (Salem, Massachusetts.) Instead they travel four miles up the Charles River establishing Watertowne. They followed Reverend Phillips, who stood alone in his beliefs of the Congregational way of practicing their faith until the Cotton Brothers arrived. This distancing them selves from John Winthrop, who settled in Boston, provided them with a semblance of freedom while maintaining the laws of the colony. Watertowne and the BostonChurch were the first two churches established July 1630 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.


Check out other presentations by Linda Palmer

Winsome Wednesday: I have a Baby Catcher in my family, Maybe, Maybe Not

 I have a Baby Catcher in my family, maybe, maybe not

Irene and Pauline Place
Irene and Pauline Place       Flora-Tyna’s family

I recently watched the live webinar “Is there a baby catcher in your Bloodline? By Jane Neff Rollins. It was sponsored by the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree Extension.

Thank you Dear Myrtle’s Genealogy Community for posting it on you GeneaWebinar Calendar

The tag line “Is there a Baby catcher in you Bloodline?” caught my eye. I know that my maternal great-grandmother was a nurse and a midwife from oral history passed down from my mother. I have yet to make that ancestral journey on my mother’s side, so I thought I would view the webinar for information of where to begin my search. I was not disappointed. Not only did I find out where to search but also the pitfalls that might be in my way.

I learned that there were different types of Baby Catchers; Granny midwives, licensed, certified and even that doctors were midwives. I always thought doctors could deliver babies as part of there training. You learn something new everyday; today I found the mother lode of learning.

How do you begin your search? Two Key components will give you a solid ground to begin your search. I’m not saying it will be a cake walk, as you can see from my own gathered information on my great grandmother. My possible Baby Catcher.

  1. Oral history: I obtained “Tina’s” oral history from my mother before her death, Shirley B. Pease Stearns, her grand daughter.  Floratina M. Hutchins was her maiden name. I know she was married four times. She lived in at least six different locations in Maine, New Hampshire and probably Massachusetts. She went by several nicknames in her life time; Floratina, Flora-Tyna, Flora-Tina, Flora, Flora Marie, Tina, Tyna, along with her married names; Towle, Spooner, Place, and Hutchins. The name changes will be my first hurdle in finding any proof of her on paper.
  1. Location: She lived in: Cornish, Maine ~ 1893(married first husband Towle 1893 same time she started midwifery); Dexter, Maine ~ 1895(married second husband Spooner 1895); Freeport; Maine near the Casco Bay area ~ 1895 – 1899/1900 (first child was born 1898); Elliot, Maine ~ 1900 – 1923(married third husband Place early 1900’s maybe 1906/7) (ran a boarding house)(second child born 1908); York, Maine 1923(boarding house and farm burned); Sutton, New Hampshire 1923 ~ until her death in 1953(married third husband Hutchins 1923)(didn’t practice midwifery after 1927).

I have the basic info about Tyna. I have a starting date of when she began a midwife and an ending date. Yes, it is an oral history and needs to be proven before I can confirm she was a midwife. Now what do I do? Where do I go? From a genealogy point of view I have a lot of work cut out for me. Today I am going to concentrate on what source I would need to confirm her as a midwife. I found out from the webinar that Maine has Midwife logs, books and magazine to search in. New Hampshire doesn’t as far as we know at this time. Tyna dairies were lost in a fire in the 1960’s along with her other papers and photos my mother had. Other document to look for includes registers, birth certificates, and court documents.

So, until I can confirm with documents I can not conclusively say I have a Baby Catcher in my Bloodline.  My heart tells me that the oral history is a strong base to say my great grandmother was a Baby Catcher. I can state from a primary source, June Stearns Butka,  that June did in fact work in Labor and Delivery at Parkland Medical Center from 1980 to 1985 as a Maternity nurse. She also assisted in her brothers’ birth in the elevator of Concord Hospital during the 1970’s (actual date held to protect the living.) June Stearns Butka is the author of this blog can not claim to be a midwife but can claim to be a “Baby Catcher” of her brother.

Jane Neff Rollins goes on to say there are key words we need to use when doing an online search. Include the state, various forms of the word midwife, midwifery, licenses, applications, registries of midwife licenses and source document titles. She mentions the usual sources we use for our genealogy searches, several links including the state achieve and a list of books and articles about midwifery.

I post the article information below with Jane’s kind permission. Please go to her website and thank her for her generosity. Her website offers what it says a kitchen sink (a lot) of information I thank you Jane Neff Rollins for your support.



 Ballard, Martha. Diary. Text available online at:


Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. A Midwife’s Tale: Discovering the Life of Martha Ballard,

Based on Her Diary 1785-1812. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1990


Borst, Charlotte. Catching Babies: The Professionalization of Childbirth, 1870-1920

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.


Rooks, Judith Pence. Midwifery and Childbirth in America. Philadelphia: Temple

University Press, 1997


Robinson, Sharon A. A Historical development of Midwifery in the Black Community: 1600-1940. Journal of Nurse-Midwifery 29 (1984): 247-50.

Eakins, Pamela S., ed. The American Way of Birth. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986


State of Illinois. Annual Report of the Illinois State Board of Health, Volumes 19-20

Available online:


Newspaper Collections (microfilmed or digitized)


Library of Congress: Chronicling America Project:


Online digital newspapers: