Research tips

So you’ve discovered your ancestor was a Scottish Prisoner of War, now what?

Firstly, do your own research.  Don’t rely upon “shaking leaves” from commercial genealogical providers, an ancestral tree you’ve stumbled across, or even family lore.

The most important advice I can give is to follow the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).  The five GPS elements are:  reasonably exhaustive search, complete and accurate citation of sources, analysis and correlation of the collected information, resolution of conflicting evidence, and a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.  (For additional GPS info see here, listen here, or here.)  By using GPS you will be authoring a high-quality biography/genealogy which you will be proud to share and possibly even publish.

Search everywhere and anywhere you can think of.  For example, a 1673 pre-marital contract for my Unity ancestor was located on a microfiche labeled Land Records.  You never know where information may be lurking.

Your initial research stop should be the four Scottish Prisoners of War resources (Blog, Yahoo! group, Facebook, and DNA project) to review the files, messages, etc.  Books, search engines, and paid subscription services are obvious information sources but try the links below to create your own original, high-quality research:

National Records of Scotland
National Records of Archives for Scotland
Scottish Archive Network
Battle of Dunbar
ScotlandsPeople ($)

American Antiquarian Society
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Boston Public Library
Connecticut Historical Society
Connecticut Society of Genealogists
Connecticut State Library
Essex Society of Genealogists
Godfrey Memorial Library
HathiTrust Digital Library
Library of Congress
List of Archives and Libraries
Massachusetts Historical Society
Massachusetts State Archives
Massachusetts State Library
Maine Historical Society
Maine State Library
National Archives
New England Historic Genealogical Society ($)
Newberry Library
New Hampshire State Library
New Hampshire Historical Society
Princeton Library
University of Connecticut Historical Map Collection

National Archives

Here is an example of my POW’s biography (which is always work in progress):

Alexander Bow was born on an unknown date in an unknown location to unknown parents.  Between November 11, 1650 and the spring of 1651 he was transported as a prisoner of war following the Battle of Dunbar (which took place on September 03, 1650) from Scotland via England to Charlestown, Massachusetts Bay Colony aboard the ship Unity.1  On March 01, 1657/8 Alexander was granted 4 acres of woods and 1 acre of commons in Charlestown.2  Other Unity men were also granted land in Charlestown on this date:  Hercules Corser, James Grant, John Hamblton, and Edward Wyer.3  According to land ownership laws of the time a man must be free in order to own land and as such Alexander must have completed his penal sentence by this time.4  Along with a Mr. Martin, Alexander was admitted as inhabitant of Middletown (now in Middlesex County, CT) on October 24, 1660.5  On February 18 of the following year “the towne gave to Alaxander bow two acors of swamp before the indian fort hill next to thomas hopewells land for on acer of medow [sic].”6  Alexander is recorded as an inhabitant of Middletown in 1670 and 1673.7, 8  On October 30, 1673 a pre-martial agreement was drafted between Alexander and his second wife, Rebeckah Hughes, due to his “age and her youth” upon which Alexander made his mark (the letter A).9  Alexander died in Middletown on November 06, 1678.10  Probate actions began November 12, 1678 and concluded February 23, 1693.11

1George Sawin Stewart to Joseph Gardner Bartlett, January 31, 1913. Letter. From New England Historic Genealogical Society, The Bartlett Collection.
2Henry H. Edes, ed., A Report of the Record Commissioners Containing Charlestown Land Records, 1638 – 1802, (Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1883), 81.
4TO DO:  Locate solid source of land ownership laws for the Massachusetts Bay Colony
5Henry Whittemore, History of Middlesex County, Connecticut, with Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men, (New York: J. B. Beers & Co., 1884), 67.
7John W. Barber, Connecticut historical collections containing a general collection of interesting facts, traditions, biographical sketches, anecdotes, &c. relating to the history and antiquities of every town in Connecticut, with geographical descriptions, (New Haven: Durrie & Peck and J. W. Barber, 1836), 507.
8Whittemore, Middlesex, 68.
9Middletown Town Clerk Land Records, 1654-1742, (Salt Lake City: Family History Library, 1948), Microfilm. Number 4792.
10Lorraine C. White, ed., The Barbour Collection of Connecticut Town Vital Records. Vol 26, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000), 70.
11Charles W. Manwaring, A Digest of Early Connecticut Probate Records: Hartford District, (Hartford: R. S. Peck & Co., 1904), 277.

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2 Responses to Research tips

  1. Excellent post Elizabeth! 🙂

  2. Melinda Meador says:

    Is there a list of the officers captured at Preston? If so, could someone direct me to it?

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