Using Circumstantial Evidence as a Springboard for Further Research

I recently watched an archived webinar by Marian Pierre-Louis entitled Cracking the Case of Nathan Brown's Parents, hosted by Legacy Family Tree. In this webinar, which was fabulous, by the way, Marian uses indirect evidence to support her supposition of who Nathan Brown's parents were. One thing she discussed was using naming patterns as evidence to include or exclude possible family groups from your research.

Today I was happily throwing away bricks from my recently demolished wall when I came across a stumble in the road; who were the parents of Hersey Gilbert? Doing the usual Ancesty  and Google search brought me limited information about his birth. Everything seemed to point only to his marriage and subsequent children. I did come across someone who posted their family tree with parents assigned to my Hersey Gilbert, but as usual, I noted this in the back of my mind since there was no source citation.

I headed over to as I often do, and I plugged in "Hersey Gilbert." I pored over pages of listings for the name and found the births of 13 of his children in Littleborough, Maine, whom I plugged in to my tree. Then my heart stopped! I saw a listing by a Nathaniel Gilbert using the same name as my Hersey had given to his first child. The births were two years apart and in two different states, but I just felt that these two people were related and that the name had family significance. Otherwise, what a huge coincidence!

The name I found for both Gilberts was Judith Hersey Gilbert, meaning that the name Judith Hersey held the significance. I had read somewhere prior that Hersey Gilbert was named after a maternal grandmother's last name, but again, their was no source citation, so I filed the information for later examination. But here it was in front of me! When I read the name I got goose bumps. Now I was getting somewhere.

My preliminary search led me to a Judith Hersey who married first Isreal Vickers/Vickery, then subsequently Nathaniel Gilbert, supposed grandfather of my Heresy Gilbert and his supposed brother Nathaniel. Unfortunately, the information came from one of those lovely ancestral files compiled by individuals who didn't cite their sources, so I have no idea how they came to their conclusions. The upside is that although this does not serve as proof, or even strong evidence, it does provide me with a definite course of action where once I had none.

Don't bank on only circumstantial or indirect evidence, but don't throw it away either. You never know what treasure it might lead you to!
 And don't forget: CITE YOUR SOURCES!

Happy tree climbing!