Friday, September 25, 2009

What is her name?

The Family Bible says she is Della Denney Smith. Her marriage license says she is Celie Dennie. Her name is Ella in the 1860 Federal Census in Indiana. In the 1870 Federal Census, she is Aella Smith. In the 1880 Federal Census, she is Oella Smith. So who is she and what really is her name?

It would take me several years to sort out who Oella really was. I first contacted the Huntington Library for assistance because Grandpa Everett said he was from Roanoke, Indiana and the Huntington Library is near Roanoke. I worked with a wonderful lady named Marilyn in the Indiana Room of the Library. She was able to provide me with a copy of the marriage license for James W Smith and Celie Dennie. She gave me a marriage license for Alvin Smith and Cora Crites. She would provide information which would pin point the location that these families lived in. It was not Roanoke; it was closer to Zaneville, Indiana. I did not know it yet but I was picking away at the “Needles in my Haystack.”
Soon after I received the information from Marilyn, I discovered Through and message boards I would discover a group of Denney (Denny, Dennie) researchers. I posted a couple of question on the Denney message boards. They did not know who Della Denney was. Nor did they know who Celie Dennie was either. I would be able to find the information that Marilyn had provided me. It was listed on also.

I would learn early on in my research that electronic records are only as accurate as the original recorder and the provider of the information are. Many things would play a role in the accuracy of this data. Lack of formal schooling, the inability to read or write, and spelling were all major factors in the accuracy of the information being collected and the information being recorded. Errors came from the people giving the information and the people recording it.

Many years later we(society) would decide that this data should be translated and placed in databases so that people like me can use this data. At this time, the translation of the data becomes a major factor. If the translator can not read the writing of the census gatherer, then the data maybe translated incorrectly. I would learn that hand writing played a major role in the translation of this information. I would also learn that recorders may have been able to write but they may not have been able to spell. It is very hard to read the handwriting of many of the original records.  At this point I need to make a statement, there have been millions of hours of time donated by wonderful people to who have tried very hard to translate these old records accurately.  They have done a wonderful job!  To these people as a family historian, I am eternally grateful!  You have done a great job!  Thanks!

I would learn that it is likely these situations which lead to the “Oella, Della, Ella and Celie Denney” problem. It would be through the Denney researchers that I corresponded with which enabled me to sort through and untangle all the errors associated with Oella Denney and her name.

She is the daughter of Walter and Mary (Young) Denney. She was born on May 12, 1845 in Brooke , Virginia. By the time that Oella was 16, her parents had settled in Wells County, Indiana near Zanesville. She married to James W Smith on March 18, 1869 by an Allen County Justice of the Peace, A.P. Crighton. They would begin their family with the birth of William F Smith later that year.

James W. Smith Born: 1844 in Ohio; Died: 1915 in Indiana; Buried: Uniontown Cemetery

Oella Denney Born: May 12, 1844; Died : Nov 21, 1925; Buried, Uniontown Cemetery

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