Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tuesday's Tip - Why I bother going after original records

About 10 years ago, I somehow came across a printout from the Norwegian digital archives website, that showed information extracted from the 1865 Norwegian census. It listed the names of all Hammers living in Bergen county, Norway, among whom was my 3rd-great-grandfather, Philip Wilhelm Hammer. I took the information from the extract, noted it in my files, and moved on.

Fast forward to yesterday. I was revisiting the info I'd collected on Philip, as well as going through some new documents provided by my awesome cousin Jackie. She's done a lot of digging on the Hammers, and had uncovered about 100 pages of data on Philip and the runaround his poor wife was given while applying for a Civil War pension (that is a whole nother story, to be discussed in a future post). But while going through my files on Philip, I saw that same printout from the 1865 census and realized I've never seen the original article. Really good genealogists will always tell you to go after the original document because there is often information that didn't make it to the transcription for whatever reason - it was in the sidenotes, or hard to read, or the transcriber didn't think it important enough to extract, or any number of reasons. So I figured I'd go after the original census and see what I could find.

After finding the census (which was super easy, thanks to the awesome website the Norwegian digital archives has) I didn't see anything new right away. The names were there, the information was all there, same as in the extract. So I flipped a few pages back and forth, and it turns out every farm had its own kind of title page, with instructions on how the document was to be filled out, and when it was due by (no later than 8 January 1866). It also gave the address of the farm, the name of the principal owner, and the name of the area the farm was in. Then down at the bottom of the page, it gives a place for the person completing the farm census to sign his or her name. I knew from the census data that Philip was living on Nils Bassesen's farm in Bergen county in 1865, who was probably connected to the trade he was learning (watchmaking and jewelry making). Imagine my surprise, then, to see this signature for Nils' farm census:

So far in my research, this is the only time I have ever seen his actual signature. And had I not gone after the original document and poked around, I never would have found it. This is a great example of exactly why it's so important to go after the original documents. You really never know what you will find there.