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Breaking through a wall and learning the language

Four weeks ago, I outlined a genealogical "brick wall" involving Sen. Tom Watson. I challenged the readership to solve the dilemma of a missing link between Sen. Tom Watson and Thomas Watson, original Wrightsborough settler. Thomas Watson from Wrightsborough was supposedly the great, great, grandfather of Tom Watson. Many people had done this particular lineage, but I could find no one that had documented their sources properly. I am happy to report that the missing link has been found.

Betty Bullock was able to provide the piece of evidence needed to finish putting together the connection.

Twenty years ago, Betty Bullock was able to read the Columbia County deed books at the state archives. Apparently the books were there being microfilmed. They have since been returned to Columbia County. In Deed Book A, page 108 are records dated 15 August 1795. The heirs of Thomas Watson signed a deed to Richard Harrison. Joseph McCormack and Margaret (Watson) McCormack were administrators. Margaret was the widow of Thomas Watson. Nine of Thomas' children signed the deed including the one I was most interested in, Peter Watson, great grandfather of Senator Tom Watson. All I need to do now is find that elusive deed book at the courthouse and make a copy of the deed. Even though Betty was able to give a full citation of her source, it is always good practice to find the piece of evidence yourself.

Sometimes when you are at a standstill in your research it helps to get others involved. If you have a genealogical brick wall involving local history, send it to me, and we will post it in the column to see if we can get the answer for you.

Someone e-mailed me this week wanting to know how he could learn to read old English handwriting as found on colonial documents. If you are doing research in Georgia, it is very important to have this skill. Georgia was one of the original 13 colonies, and there are many records written in Old English script. Not only is the handwriting difficult to read, but you will also find some other little surprises. You will see many archaic words not found in any modern dictionary. You will find that they spelled words very differently than we do today. You will also come across strange abbreviations and contractions.

One of the best resources I have found on this subject is Genealogical Research in England and Wales, Vol. III by David E. Gardner and Frank Smith. You can also find other helpful books at any major university library. English majors use Old English reference books in their study of English literature. Although they won't be geared to genealogy and the vocabulary found in genealogical documents, you will still glean useful information. You will also come across many Latin terms in Colonial documents. It helps to have a good Latin dictionary. Latin is a dead language, and the dictionaries available today will be perfectly adequate to use with the old documents.

Web posted on Thursday, February 24, 2005


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