October 17, 2012

New Evidence that I had the wrong parents for James W Clark of Delhi, NY

In my earliest efforts to piece together the family of Dr Adam Clark and his wife Harriet Watson of Albany County, NY, I made quite a few assumptions. They had married about 1820 and their numerous children were born between 1821 and 1843 prior to the establishment of government birth records. Several of their sons had Watson as a middle name and some had moved to Delhi in Delaware County. When I found a James W Clark, born 1829, living in Delhi, I initially wondered if he was another of their sons. James was a farmer in Delhi married to Elizabeth Bailey, the father of quite a few children, and a veteran of the Civil War. 

As time goes on more and more resources become available, providing the opportunity to check early life events more carefully. Especially helpful are smaller local newspapers, many of which are being digitized. For the era prior to government vital records, a newspaper report can be important. I have been spending time and effort searching those newly-available newspaper records for verification and documentation of many family members.  However, that is not how I discovered my error.
Over the past year or so, additional Civil War records for NY State have been digitized and published on ancestry.com and that is where my error was proven.  Specifically, I referenced the Town Clerk records for volunteers from Delaware County. Not all counties or towns in New York completed these registries with the details requested, but James W. Clark’s 1861 record in Delhi named his parents. It clearly listed them as Benjamin Clark and Sallie Johnston. Benjamin is not part of my documented Clark line and so James is likely not related to Adam at all nor to his Delhi resident son, George W Clark.

I am much more aware and focused on finding proof of relationships now than I was when I initiated my Clark research.  But proof of an error is as valid and important to solid family history as is confirmation of lineage.  I will continue to re-check my early assumptions as more and more definitive reference materials become available.

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