- HATFIELD FAMILY HISTORY DISCUSSION -
AGREE TO DISAGREE
This is primarily a research site.
This web site is not intended to say that I endorse everything posted here as fact. I do attempt to apply a test of "reasonableness" to the material posted and indicate, through notes, the areas where significant doubt exists. In addition to showing the facts, the web site is also intended to pose the major theories in the hopes of stimulating discussion toward strengthening them or even disproving them. If I listed nothing but facts then there would be little to list except a lot of disjointed details.
Genealogy is fraught with leaps of faith. When we say that a family found on a census in location "A" is the same as a family found later on a census in location "B" we are making an educated leap of faith. Even if all the names and other details in the two locations agree, the evidence does not specifically say "they moved from point 'A' to point 'B'." Instead, we create the hypothesis that they are the same family and then attempt, in the course of later research, to find evidence that strengthens or conflicts with that hypothesis. Obviously, this is an over-simplification but it does demonstrate the point.
While I do have doubts about some of the hypotheses which have been posed during the course of Hatfield research, I have included them since they are the ones which are "out there" and it is now our burden to substantiate or disprove them. We can only hope that these hypotheses were formed carefully with due diligence to the facts available. Without information about the supporting documentation we can never be certain. Remember that, once posed, a hypothesis can not be disproved by simply failing to find proof for it. We must prove that it conflicts with demonstrable facts.
It would be wonderful if every hypothesis posed during the course of our research could be proved beyond a doubt with hard evidence but this is simply not the case in the real world. Genealogy research must be a dynamic process. A "work in progress," if you will. Publishing family history in books has somewhat obscured this dynamic quality due to the very static nature of books. Once published, books can not be easily changed. The Internet, on the other hand, is a much better tool since it lends itself to rapid change as new facts are found and new hypotheses are posed. However, we still need to resist the instinct of seeing this new medium and genealogy itself with a "bookish" mentality.
Some people have used this web site as the "proof" of their research. Although this honors me, it is not what is intended. The "trees" on this site are intended to help show the current status of research on the Hatfield name and to give ways for those with common interests to connect and share their research. By all means, feel free to make "offline" copies of the text contained on this web site. Be aware however, that in doing so you have taken a frozen moment in time or a single frame from a motion picture. The web site information may change, perhaps even dramatically, from what you have.
With the assumptions that have been made about who I HAVE included in the trees it is a further concern to me that some have made assumptions about who I have NOT included. Many names are not included in my trees because no one has provided me information about them or expressed interest in them OR I have simply not gotten around to entering the data. Further, I do make a serious effort to not post much detail about individuals who are still alive. The world is a treacherous place and we must always keep this in mind. Since this is primarily a Hatfield site and space is at somewhat of a premium I do not normally post information about descendants more than a single generation below the point where their surname changes to something other than Hatfield.
As I have time, changing the content of this web site is never a problem when information appears which disproves a hypothesis or creates a new, more plausible one (<g> assuming I can decipher the evidence <g>). I AM somewhat reluctant to "break" connections unless I can account for all the affected descendants in some reasonable fashion.
Also, please remember that I do not receive payment for this and my time must be balanced against what is needed to keep the "wolf from the door." Expect delays.
All this having been said, I hope you enjoy the information presented and find it useful. I can not say it enough: My sincere thanks go to all the contributors.
PRIMARY VERSUS SECONDARY
Ideally, primary documentation should always be used to substantiate our theories. This is documentation recorded at the time of the events in question hopefully, by someone who actually observed them. Further, the best situation is if the recorder did not have a vested interest in the outcome of the events, which could bias their perception.
Be aware that many other factors also affect the accuracy of this documentation. For example, census records are frequently in error due to the inability of the census taker to record events accurately. In the early days, literacy was not of particular importance to the higher priorities of survival. Gathering of information involved long hours of tedious work with no compensation. Their subjects frequently viewed them with mistrust as agents of government intrusion. To say the least, these recorders were not well motivated to "get it right."
As a result, census takers were frequently bored, tired, and of low literacy levels and their subjects were frequently reluctant or unable to give accurate information. Even in the best of circumstances, differing national origins between recorder and subject often made accurate communications difficult or impossible.
Even with primary documentation one must keep a skeptical perspective.
Given the unavailability of primary documentation, secondary documentation may be of assistance in bridging the gaps. Remember that this material is an interpretation of the original records and may or may not be well based on the facts. Check the references used in this material carefully. If it is also heavily based on secondary evidence then it runs the risk of propagating the errors of that earlier material along with the introduction of errors of its own. A chain is only as good as its weakest link.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS
Some people have asked how I maintain the information presented on this web site. Thank you for asking.
THE "TREE" DATA
I maintain a research database of people and their relationships on Family Tree Maker for Windows.
Once the data are entered and checked for duplication I create an "outline" report from this data to a disk file using a Windows 95 "generic" printer driver.
This disk file is then passed through a series of programs that I have written which:
These HTML files are then uploaded to the Internet by-way-of an FTP program and "voila" there they are. Even though entering the data may take considerable time, once the data are entered and the report file produced the remainder of the process takes less than 30 minutes.
THE "LOCATION" DATA
I maintain a Family Tree Maker database of marriage data and a second of location data.
These databases are written to disk using a customized report format and the "generic" printer driver as mentioned above.
Census extract data are maintained in another disk file.
Computer programs which I have written:
These resulting HTML files are uploaded to the Internet and the process is complete. I am looking into adding wills, court, property, and expanded marriage information to the current census extract file.
THE "REFERENCE" DATA
Unfortunately some things are not well suited to "automated" processing. This maintenance is still done manually.
WHAT THE FUTURE MAY BRING
In addition to what already exists:
Let me know your thoughts on these and other things which you would like to see.
Except as noted, images and backgrounds are original photos from Minnesota by the webmaster.