One Piece of Evidence is Incomplete: Methodology and the Genealogical Proof Standard Helps Tell a More Robust Family Narrative

The Genealogical Proof Standard states that we should do reasonably exhaustive research, as well as analyze and correlate our evidence (among other steps).[1] A common beginner’s mistake is to find a single document and believe research is complete for that person. Searching for more documents is the task of a diligent researcher. One document rarely tells the whole story, as it is incomplete.

Two narratives will be told, the first explaining the events described in a telegram, and the second narrative will provide more details regarding the telegram and surrounding events, correlating the facts.

telegram

Figure 1 — “Virginia Vessels (Cross) Scrapbook, Telegram” (telegram from Virginia Cross to Allen Cross, June 15, 1945), Mark Cross personal collection.

Narrative A

Virginia Cross kept a scrapbook, which contained a telegram. In reading the telegram, the facts literally on the page include:

  • Telegram was sent from Vine Grove, Kentucky
  • Telegram was sent to Corporal Allen P. Cross
  • Telegram was sent to an APO (Army Post Office) in San Francisco
  • The body of message reads “Dad Vessels passed away June 15 [1945]”
  • Telegram was sent from Virginia

From these facts, one could easily determine that Corporal Allen P. Cross was in the US Army, likely in the Pacific Theatre, in June of 1945. However, we do not know how these three people are related to each other, unless we obtain other documents.

The relatives of these people already know that Virginia Vessels married Allen Cross. “Dad” Vessels was her father. She sent the telegram to her husband in 1945 during WWII, informing him that her father died.[2] This date corroborates the date on the death certificate of William Roy Vessels.[3]

While the two documents of the telegram and the death certificate corroborate the death date of William Roy, this is still an incomplete narrative as it is a singular element. Additional research reveals more.

Narrative B

Now, let us connect the dots and explain more details of the family narrative, using additional sources.

Virginia Marie Vessels was born 9 March 1928 in Hardin County, Kentucky to William Roy Vessels and Sarah Catherine Ray.[4] In 1930, the family resided in Hardin County, Kentucky.[5] By 1935, the family had moved to Los Angeles County, California.[6] The family likely moved due to hard times during the Great Depression. William Roy found work on the oil rigs in Long Beach, California.[7]

William Roy’s mother, Celestia Greenwell Vessels, died on 1 June 1945 in Hardin County, Kentucky.[8] Several of the Vessels family members in California traveled to Kentucky for her funeral. While in Kentucky, William Roy became ill, and died of complications of a heart attack and a burst appendix on 15 June 1945.[9] Virginia buried both her grandmother and her father within two weeks in Kentucky.

The siblings of Virginia are identified in the census records.[10]

Virginia’s brother John Paul served in WWII. In 1945, Virginia could not know the fate of her brother. Today we know John Paul served in WWII,[11] Korea, and Viet Nam, and died in 1977.[12] During his military career, he was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart, among other citations.[13]

Virginia’s brother William Henry also served in WWII, but met with a different fate. He was killed overseas on January 16, 1945 at the age of nineteen.[14] This was only five months prior to the death of Virginia’s grandmother and father. He served in the 272nd Infantry, [15] which fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where family lore says he was killed in action.[16]

Virginia Marie Vessels and Allen Paul Cross had a son during the war.[17] When Virginia’s father died in June 1945, her son was an infant. As was common at the time, she likely wondered if her son would ever know his soldier father. As it turns out, Allen did return from the war, and he and Virginia had a total of seven children.[18]

Comparison of the Two Narratives

Narrative A tells us that Virginia’s father died, and she sent a telegram to her husband informing him of that fact. Her husband was overseas in the Army during WWII. This information is gleaned from primarily two sources, the telegram and the death certificate of Virginia’s father. Note that Virginia’s father and husband are not identified with only these documents. The dots are not yet connected.

Narrative B provides more detail, with many more sources. Virginia is identified as daughter of William Roy, sister to her brothers, and wife to Allen Cross by these additional documents.[19] Virginia was born in Kentucky but raised in California. Some family members traveled to Kentucky for her grandmother’s funeral, and her father became ill on the trip and died about two weeks later. Virginia had two brothers serving in WWII, one had been killed in action just five months prior to the Kentucky funerals. Virginia and her husband Allen had a young son born during the war. Virginia’s husband was also serving in WWII and both were well aware of the hazards of war. With several family members now deceased, Virginia sent a telegram to her husband, telling him her father died, whom her husband in all likelihood had met. Virginia’s husband was unable to comfort or console her as he was overseas fighting the war.

Narrative B also illustrates the FAN Club [Friends, Associates & Neighbors] research methodology advocated by Elizabeth Shown Mills.[20] Many of these additional facts are not directly about Virginia, but about her family members. These family events undoubtedly had an impact on Virginia.

Conclusion

Narrative A provides some important, but scant, details regarding the event of the death of Virginia’s father. Narrative B provides many more important and relevant details, including FAN Club research.

We do not know exactly what Virginia was thinking or feeling, as there are no surviving letters or journals that describe this time of her life in her own words. However, for any human with emotions and empathy, the facts speak for themselves. Virginia had a challenging time near the end of the war, with several family deaths occurring quite near each other, both overseas and away from her California home in Kentucky.

While the telegram provides important information, by itself it is only a singular element in a larger story. The Genealogical Proof Standard suggests additional steps in research. With reasonably exhaustive research, and analyzing and correlating the information, more details are uncovered, and a more compelling story can be told. At the heart of genealogy, we gather many solid facts, with source citations, so we can tell a compelling story.

footnotes

[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards: 50th Anniversary Edition (Ancestry.com, 2014).
[2] “Virginia Vessels (Cross) Scrapbook, Telegram” (telegram from Virginia Cross to Allen Cross, June 15, 1945), Mark Cross personal collection.
[3] Registrar of Vital Statistics Kentucky, “Death Certificate No 12428, William Roy Vessels” (June 15, 1945).
[4] Cabinet for Health and Family Services Kentucky, “Virginia Marie Vessels Birth Certificate, Cert #4102231” (1928).
[5] “1930 US Federal Census, Population Schedule, Hardin County, Kentucky, Page 1A (Penned). Dwelling 6, Family 6,” FamilySearch, accessed August 19, 2019, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XM6G-KYD.
[6] “1940 US Federal Census, Population Schedule, Los Angeles County, California, Downey Township, Sheet 23A (Penned), Household 560,” FamilySearch, accessed August 19, 2019, https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9MT-8X3J?i=45&cc=2000219&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AK97X-P6Q. The 1940 Census records that the Vessels family lived in the “same house” in 1935.
 [7] “World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, (4th Registration) for the State of California, William Roy Vessels” (April 25, 1942), Record Group Number: 147, The National Archives at St. Louis, https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=1002&h=12955879&ssrc=pt&tid=114630085&pid=130135264287&usePUB=true.
[8] Registrar of Vital Statistics Kentucky, “Death Certificate, File No. 12292, Selestie Vessels” (June 1, 1945).
[9] Death Certificate, William Roy Vessels.
[10] “1930 US Federal Census, Hardin County, Kentucky.” Also see “1940 US Federal Census, Los Angeles County, California.”
[11] “U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 – John Paul Vessels Ancestry.Com,” accessed August 19, 2019, https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=8939&h=2053041&tid=114630085&pid=130135264171&hid=1036530007741&usePUB=true&_phsrc=ivO1235&_phstart=default&usePUBJs=true&currentPageIsStart=.
[12] “John Paul Vessels (1916-1977) – Find A Grave” accessed August 19, 2019, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/24335202/john-paul-vessels.
[13] “Virginia Vessels (Cross) Scrapbook, John Paul Vessels Disposition Form” (US Army Disposition Form, after 1953), Mark Cross personal collection.
[14] “William Henry Vessels (1926-1945) – Find A Grave,” accessed August 19, 2019, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/74352587/william-henry-vessels.
[15] Ancestry.com, “U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963, William H. Vessels, Serial No. 39580850” (n.d.).
[16] Rod Vessels, “Rod Vessels Family Tree Maker Genealogy Database: Unsourced Genealogy” (July 12, 2011), Mark Cross personal collection.
[17] Name withheld for privacy, living person.
[18] Names withheld for privacy, living persons.
[19] Some documents not cited here for privacy of living persons.
[20] “Elizabeth Shown Mills Genealogy – FamilySearch Wiki,” accessed August 19, 2019, https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Elizabeth_Shown_Mills.

Books for Professional Genealogists

My article has been published in APGQ (Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly) in the September 2019 issue, pages 17-23. “Books for Professional Genealogists: The Recommendations of Bibliophiles” was a list and description if my favorite books for genealogy, with book lists from other APG members.

APGQ is a subscription quarterly for members of APG. It is also available at some libraries, including the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Other locations can be found on WorldCat.org.

This is my first published article as a genealogist! I look forward to many others.

Free Evernote Webinar

Evernote is doing a webinar so you can learn more about their app. August 14, 2019 at noon.  (note, this is 12:00 noon Central Time)

From their website;

Is your Evernote account a little bit out of control? Or maybe every time you open your Evernote account you feel overwhelmed?

If you feel like your Evernote is a “hot-mess” and you’re ready to start fresh, then this free webinar is for you.

Register for webinar at https://events.evernote.com/events/details/evernote-webinars-virtual-events-presents-webinar-starting-fresh-with-evernote/

I use Evernote. If you’re thinking about it, check out their free webinar!

Keep Looking!

Always keep looking, don’t give up. Records are coming online all the time.

A few years ago, I searched online records for Huntingdon County and other nearby counties in Pennsylvania, and what I was looking for was not available. Just last week, I did another search and found things that weren’t there before! sometime between last week and a few years ago they went online.

I didn’t need to wait a few years…you could just as easily keep very good research logs with records of what you searched for and when…and try again every year or six months. When new stuff pops up, search the index, or full records if you need to, and you just may find some new things!

I’m working on a bigger write-up of what I found, and how it fits in, but the long version of the full Research Report is about 20 pages in Word. I may post shorter versions or snippets here.

Just remember to keep looking!

The Nebraska‐Mayflower Connection

Here’s something I wrote a few years ago, and that website is now being closed down. Thought I’d post that info here…quite a long post.

 

The Nebraska‐Mayflower Connection

My Genealogical Field Trip to the Hopewell Presbyterian Church Cemetery

Mark Allen Cross

January 2014

It was a little over a year ago that I discovered I have ancestors that trace back to the Mayflower. I made this discovery by finding a photo of the gravestone for Ruth Ann Smith Reed in Nebraska, my 3rd great grandmother. Ruth Ann Smith Reed is the great grandmother of Thelma Reed Rosemarynoski, who we call Grandma Rose.

Her Find A Grave memorial is here

I was fortunate to be able to make a road trip to the gravesite in December 2013. Jena and I travelled to Omaha, Nebraska to visit her family for the holidays. The cemetery is about a one hour drive from Omaha. It was windy and cold at 12°F that day, so very chilly! A good coat and scarf with gloves was necessary, but the trip was well worth it!

Cemetery information, including directions and a map, are here

In the above link, you can do a search for the surname Reed or Smith and see everyone with that last name that is buried there.

I drove the rental car to Unadilla, Nebraska, which was all main highways to that point. I drove through the small town of Unadilla, thinking I would follow directions and drive 1 mile west then 5 miles south. I drove the 1 mile west, and once I turned to head south, there was a large sign that said the bridge was out ahead. So, I backtracked to the town, and decided to try 5 miles south, then 1 mile west. That route worked fine. I crossed a small one lane bridge that

went over a creek. Although the creek is small, over the years it has carved a deep enough ravine in the earth that a bridge is quite necessary.

The roads once I left town were all gravel farm roads, spaced one mile apart like a patchwork grid. Driving a mile is easy, it’s just the next road a mile away. I set the tripmeter to make sure I was following directions. The roads travel through farmland, surrounded by lots of cornfields and other crops in Nebraska. It’s rarely travelled; in the 12 mile roundtrip and the 1½ hours or so including time and photos at the cemetery, I only saw one other vehicle, a pickup truck driven by a farmer.

Just as the directions indicated, the church and cemetery are on the SE corner of the intersection. The photo of the Hopewell gate on the Find A Grave website is the entrance to the cemetery. The gate was closed but unlocked. You drive down a slight incline, over a ditch, to get there and just open the gate. I parked inside the cemetery on the grass to avoid parking on the side of the road and maybe blocking traffic. A needless concern, as it turned out. But I felt safer parking off the road.

The Hopewell sign over the gate indicates the cemetery was founded in 1880. Ruth Ann died in 1881 so is one of the first graves in the entire cemetery. Her grave and the group she is in is near the top of a small hill.

The photos on Find A Grave do not paint a clear picture of how the graves are arranged. Each photo is of an individual grave. There is actually a group of graves together, all near a tall granite memorial marked M. G. Reed, the husband of Ruth Ann. Other family members are buried together.

There are several other Reed and Smith graves that are not part of the group, and can be found using the surname search mentioned above. This PDF is mostly photos of the MG Reed group, including his wife Ruth Ann Smith.

The photos that follow paint the picture of those graves in a more clear manner, and also show photos of the church and surrounding countryside. I share these photos in this PDF document because I was fortunate to travel there, and not everyone will be able to see it in person.

This PDF is online as part of my website, but can also be downloaded or printed as you see fit. Enjoy!

Image_001

Figure 1 ‐ The 6 Graves together in a group; the tall memorial is not a marker for an individual grave.

Image_002.png

Figure 2 ‐ The 1st two graves on the left Dwight died as an infant. His Find A Grave memorial is here

Walter died as a young boy. His Find A Grave memorial is here

Image_003.png

Figure 3 ‐ The 3rd grave from the left, Ruth Ann (Smith) Reed

Ruth Ann Smith is our connection to the Mayflower. Her Find A Grave memorial is here

The Find A Grave memorial includes a close‐up of the Mayflower stone, which was added a few years ago by another distant relative.

Image_004.png

Figure 4 ‐ The 4th grave from the left, Matthew Gooding Reed, husband of Ruth Ann Matthew Gooding Reed is named “father” on his gravestone. His Find A Grave memorial is here

Image_005.png

Figure 5 ‐ The memorial stone for M. G. Reed

This large memorial stone does not mark an individual grave, but rather the Reed/Smith group that is buried together.

Image_006

Figure 6 ‐ The 1st stone to the right of the MG Reed memorial, Ellen Smith.

Ellen Smith is the sister of Ruth Ann, and sister‐in‐law of Matthew Gooding Reed. There is no record that she ever married or had children. Her Find A Grave memorial is here

Image_007

Figure 7 ‐ The last grave on the far right, John Smith

John Smith is the father of Ruth Ann and father‐in‐law of Matthew Gooding Reed. His Find A Grave memorial is here

John’s wife, and mother of Ruth Ann, is Rebecca Mendenhall. She is buried in Kansas. Her Find A Grave memorial is here

There is currently no photo of Rebecca’s actual gravestone and it is not yet confirmed she is actually buried there. A Photo Request for her gravestone has been submitted to Find A Grave, and volunteers in the area usually do a pretty good job of taking photos if they live close by. This Photo Request was submitted by me some time ago and has not yet been fulfilled.

Image_008

Figure 8 ‐ The Reed/Smith group from the side, with church in background

Image_009

Figure 9 ‐ another view of group, church is on the left in background, near the trees

Image_020

Figure 10 – inside, looking from the back of the church

Image_021

Figure 11 – inside, looking from the front of the church towards the entrance

Image_022

Figure 12 ‐ the NW corner of the church; the lower roof appears to be a living space “apartment” area that may or may not be inhabited

Image_023

Figure 13 ‐ from the NW corner, with garages, sheds, and other outbuildings nearby, and cemetery in the distance

Image_024

Figure 14 ‐ a view just to the right of previous Figure 13, rental car I drove is just inside cemetery gate near road

Image_025

Figure 15 ‐ another view of the living space “apartment” that was possibly a Pastor’s living quarters at one time. Note concrete mound with iron lid; close‐up in next photo.

Image_026

Figure 16 ‐ Have no idea what the Machinery Co. is or where it was located. Year of 1762 is quite fascinating! Probably this lid was brought to Nebraska from one of the original colonies back east.

Image_027

Figure 17 ‐ another view of the gate and my rental car

Image_028

Figure 18 ‐ SE corner of intersection, looking straight north

This was quite a fun little field trip! Other than the cold and the wind, it was very enjoyable!

If you ever get a chance to travel there yourself, the driving directions online are quite simple. Hope you had a nice little trip from the comfort of your own home!

Mark