Monday, November 8, 2010

William Talifero Ingram and "Mug" or Heritage Books

Mary Jennie Eddy (standing), & WT Ingram
holding his great-granddaughter,
Marguerite Blanche Smith.
Personal Photo, owned by E.N.Snodgrass.
Digital Copy, A. B. Deller, July 2010.

William Talifero Ingram was born on November 8, 1830 in Greenville, Kentucky, and if we are to believe the biographical information presented in the "Portrait and biographical record of Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties", then he had an interesting life indeed.

The majority of what we [think we] know about William was found in this book.  I first learned about it from a letter that was written to Viola Taylor Ingram (his daughter-in-law) from Springfield, Illinois in 1902.  Five of those pages are devoted to transcribing the entry about "Col. W.T. Ingram" from the book. I remember searching for the book online, and finding it at  I read through the entry with excitement, but even so, thought it sounded just a little "too" good in places. 

I began to search for information about the book itself, to determine just how accurate I could consider it. Initially I found a source that discounted the majority of information in these books, which sounded a bit harsh. Since then I've found better written articles, one at the website Common-Place ["A bit friendlier than a scholarly journal, a bit more scholarly than a popular magazine, Common-place speaks--and listens--to scholars, museum curators, teachers, hobbyists, and just about anyone interested in American history before 1900." It's a great site.] .  The article by Rhonda Frevert, "Mug Books" says of them, 
"Late nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century mug books are collections of biographical sketches, a curiously rich source for genealogists and historians alike."
Title Page from "Portrait and Biographical Record,
Randolph, Jackson, Perry and Monroe Counties, IL
(Chicago, 1894).
In an old blog entry from the Genealogy Education website, they're also called "Heritage Books." And he references another article written by Connie Lenzen that submitted to the NGS Quarterly.  All of them emphasize the importance of evaluating the source for accuracy.  It's something I've [usually] done, and considered just plain common sense. Sources are important, and unfortunately, this book doesn't list any sources at all. There's no way of knowing if the information was obtained by personal interview, or even who wrote the entry [whether stranger, friend or even the man himself].  

This is another reminder to always consider the source.    I want to make sure that the information I use in our family history is accurate, or as accurate as possible, because, as Ms. Lenzen writes, 
"...when family members or researchers possess a record or a piece of knowledge, publishing it without documentation is a disservice to others interested in that family."
Other blog entries about William Talifero Ingram include Sunday Obituary, and  Tombstone Tuesday.  

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