Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Grave Dowsing ~ More Stories

In a recent post, I briefly covered an article about dowsing for graves that I’d stumbled upon.  The article was the first that I'd every heard of anyone using dowsing for that purpose.

dowser The response to my post was surprising.  Apparently, there are a lot of folks who engage in this activity to locate lost graves. 

The University of Iowa has a good treatise on the subject found here.  The document will download as a .pdf file.

In 2005, Dick Eastman posted about a grave dowsing experience by Tom Corey on the Oregon Trail.  As usual, his readers have posted some interesting comments in response to his post.

Linda Bell wrote about dowsing methods used to find county graves for the North Forty News.  Dowsing plays a key role in finding graves on the Roberts Ranch in Livermore, California.

The Archer Cousins Genealogy website has an article that covers their experience in dowsing to find the graves of family members that includes photos of their efforts.

The Hughes and Related Families site has a detailed article that covers the theory, tools and methods used to dowse for graves.

Jay McAfee posted an article written by Thomas A. Markham about dowsing to find old graves in a GenForum post in 2004.

Glenn Adams wrote an article on his blog about his use of dowsing rods in the search for the bodies of a murdered couple.

Wendell Culberson of the Mississippi GenWeb site wrote a great article on his experiences in finding lost graves in Shelby County, Illinois.

Chris Dunham of The Genealogue blog quoted an article about grave dowsing that was published in the Wichita, Kansas Eagle newspaper.

Brenda Marble wrote a detailed article for the cemeteries.missouri.org site about grave dowsing and the tools and methods used in this activity.

The list of articles about Grave Dowsing is surprising long.  A Google search for “dowsing for graves” produced over 1,200 hits.   Needless to say, I was surprised by the number of results given the fact that I’d never heard of the subject before finding the “Old Ways Help Women Find Old Graves” article two weeks ago.

Are you familiar with these efforts to find lost graves?  Personally, I don’t have interest in the occult or entities that use dowsing to tell fortunes, the sex of unborn children, etc.  As I noted in my first post on the subject, I’ve used dowsing rods to find water and power lines as simple convenience.  I’d witnessed dowsing to find water lines as a youth and as a young man working for a electric utility.  Simple tools.  Simple needs.  Quick and accurate results were produced followed by putting the hastily constructed wire wire rods in the trash or bent back to their normal shape for use in construction.

Reflecting on it, I suppose I always thought the metal dowsing rods simply reacted to gravitational disturbances created by buried metal pipes full of water or energized power lines.  Tenuous reasoning I know, but who cared.  The job they were used for got done faster with them than without.  I gave the dowsing rods no more thought than I would a tooth pick at a restaurant.

headstone 2But dowsing for buried bodies?  What is that all about?  How does it work?  Is the power of the human mind greater than we’ve been able to measure thus far?  

Apparently so, or at least it is so for some folks. 

You’ll note that the people writing or quoting the articles above have had success using dowsing to find graves.   It’s just an example of folks having a small need that can be difficult to impossible to resolve via normal means, yet by exhibiting a little faith in oneself followed by the use of simple tools focused on a specific subject seems to bring results. 

Whether you decide to dowse for graves or not, research of the subject provides interesting reading.  I probably won’t use my bent up old galvanized tie wire rods for this activity, but who knows, maybe the need will arise for some unforeseeable reason in a future day.  If so, I wonder if it will work for me?  I guess I’d shouldn’t think about it too much and cobble up the works.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Problem With Primary Source Documents

We know that primary source documents always are desired to assist in proving our lineage. Can we count on their accuracy?

Drew Helen Marr Farrar death certificate_72dpi The answer is NO. They frequently contain errors. Dates are wrong. Locations are frequently wrong. Names are wrong or misspelled. Why does this happen?

Looking at my great grandmother’s death certificate, I immediately noticed that her name was different than the one written in various publications and family records.

Great Grandma’s birth name was “Helen Marr Farrar”, yet the name listed on the certificate is “Helen Mary Drew”. Did the recorder hear the information wrong or accidentally write a name frequently used in his family?

That is one possibility. I make the same error at times. However, her certificate offers a greater clue to the problem. The informant listed on the certificate is "Lula H. Johnson”. For some reason, great grandma’s death information was given to authorities by her niece rather than by any of her six children that lived in the area.

Can you provide the full birth name, birth date and parents names for your aunts and uncles from memory? Not many of us can. Lula, was probably helping the family take care of ‘foot work’ while the children arranged the funeral, burial and mourned the loss of their mother.

We know that the birth information listed on a death certificate is suspect. It came from someone’s memory. The only facts that should be correct on the certificate are the name, death date and place and burial date and place and yet, even they are ‘suspect’.

The birth information and even the parents names on death certificates are secondary sources at best.

One of the key indicators that grandma’s name was Helen Marr was a letter from her “family historian” granddaughter that states that great grandma was named after her mothers sister, Helen Marr Tirrill.

Wondering if “Marr” was a rare name in that day, I searched for others that may have had the name and was surprised how frequently it was used. A misspelling was undoubtedly less of a factor than I initially suspected.

Errors abound in the birth and death certificates that I’ve found for my family. In fact, they are more common than not.

My aunt died as a young child in the now non-existent town of Knightsville, Utah. My grandparents lived in the area when grandpa had a wagon and horse team hauling supplies and anything else needed between Salt Lake City and the remote mining towns in Juab county.

Drew Gladys death certificate_sm The informant listed on Gladys’ certificate was my grandfather but unfortunately, the registrar, Mr. E. J. Howell incorrectly recorded her burial location. It states that aunt Gladys was buried in the American Fork, Utah cemetery, yet she and her baby sister are actually buried side-by-side in the family plot in the Alpine cemetery.

Was she initially buried in American Fork and later moved to Alpine? No. Her uncle Charles and aunt Ada were buried on the plot in 1901 and 1904 respectively. Two other aunts and an uncle died as babies and were buried on the family farm in the late 1880’s – early 1890’s, so the family didn’t own the cemetery plot then, but by the time their eldest son was buried in 1901, they owned or had purchased the lot.

Gladys was buried in Alpine not in American Fork. The “primary source” information on her death certificate is wrong.

I wonder how many errors exist in the thousands of certificate that that I’ve collected over the years yet don’t have enough other information to cause me to suspect errors in them. There are probably quite a few, but since I know that even “Primary” source documents frequently contain errors, I still list them in my databases with the highest level of confidence. What else can be considered a “Primary Source Document”?

You have the same problem in your own source documents. Don’t let it throw you. Don’t obstinately argue over minor factual differences with other researchers. Establish a rule in your negotiations with others declaring that the primary source documents are the base used for accuracy but that codicil statements can be added to that knowledge to argue or exhibit additional information to consider in the decision of the ‘true facts’ associated with the record of your family member.