Research is key for displays at museum

Published 3:48 pm Thursday, April 23, 2015

When preparing a new display for the Edwardsburg Museum, research is an integral part of the design no matter what topic is chosen.

In doing research for the new Civil War display, the internet played a large part in securing items, information and biographies of Edwardsburg Civil War Veterans. The internet provides a wealth of information but it doesn’t just pop up. It takes patience, time, determination and commitment to find what you are looking for.

First of all let’s address patience. Nothing is easy because the internet is not an accurate and fool proof source of information. In looking up our family ancestors, I found misspellings of names, wrong names used, and dates that were incorrect. The more sites it examined, the more differences I found. Even dates and names in records such as birth certificates are not always accurate. Bibles are a good source but only as good as the person filling them out. Some of those were incorrect.

Here is another example. My great-grandmother’s name was Alvida, Elvida, or Elmira Oliver Kerr. I found it listed all of these different spellings. What was her name? I don’t know. My grandmothers’ name was Orline or Arlene Batson Kerr. These names were found in family documents, bibles and even a death certificate. The handwritings on some of the documents are difficult to read and have been interpreted several times over the years and probably handwriting was not a priority in their day.

Now my great grandfather was either John Reed or John Reid Kerr and my grandfather was William Franklin Kerr. I found William Kerr, Franklin Kerr, and Frank Kerr. The only way to confirm names is by comparing the information on birth certificates, places of birth and dates of death. I am not sure even those are always accurate. So what are their names? I have no one I can ask so I don’t know.

The use of only one reference cannot be used as the truth. Patience is needed to question what you have found and to continue looking.

All of this takes time. For me it seems to stretch into the wee hours of the night. As I get sleepy the patience begins to wane. This is where the amount of time causes a problem. If you are going to do a search it is necessary to be able to commit a large amount of time. Always one fact leads to another and sometimes even another avenue to follow. This is very time consuming. If you leave it expecting to pick it up at a later time, sometimes it is necessary to review all the info you have before going on because you might have a tendency to repeat what you have already finished.

This is where you need determination and commitment. It is very easy to get frustrated and give it up. Don’t. Keep at it.

When you have found all of this information, don’t be surprised if you find some things that you wish you had not found. This happened to me when I found an ancestor who was dishonorably discharged from the army during the Civil War. There may be many unpleasant facts that you wish you hadn’t found about your relatives. But the search is worth it.

Remember, you don’t need a computer to do this search. Look in records, old papers, plat books, wills and deeds, and birth certificates that you might have at home, or check the local the History Library in Cassopolis or any public offices in other towns where your relatives might have lived.

To discover the results of all of the research that was needed to identify “Edwardsburg in the Civil War,” come to the Edwardsburg Museum. The Civil War display will be available until May 26.

Happy hunting.


Jo-Ann Boepple works at the Edwardsburg Area History Museum