Friday, March 27, 2009

Gems in the Rough: A Success Story

The following was taken from the 26 Mar 2009 Eastman's EOGN:

Michael Pollock is publishing the Methodist Episcopal Church records for Gloucester County, Virginia (a severely burned and very old county). He contacted me recently to describe a recent success and suggested that his experience be published in this newsletter as an example to others. I agreed and asked him to write the article as only he could. He kindly agreed.

The following was written by Michael Pollock:

I have always been of the mind that one should NEVER publish something one knows to be false – not just because once it is published it can never be fully retracted, but more significantly, the longer it remains around and the wider its circulation, the greater the chances of a false statement coming to be regarded as truth, no matter the evidence to the contrary.

However, I am also of the mind that so long as it is presented as speculation rather than fact, one should not withhold something from publication simply because it cannot be proven, for it often results in someone coming forward with information that either refutes or proves the speculation.

Over my publishing career, beginning with a collection of marriage records for Henrico County, Virginia, issued by Genealogical Publishing Company in 1982 and most recently with Gloucester County, Virginia, Methodist Church Records issued by New Papyrus Publishing Company in 2007, I have had the correctness of my position reaffirmed numerous times, though never coming close to the near epiphany I felt when approached by a rare book and manuscript dealer who discovered I had published the book on Gloucester while doing some "leg work" on the internet as a prelude to selling a manuscript on Gloucester he had acquired. Where he had described it to me as a collection of Disciples of Christ records, I knew immediately on seeing the manuscript that it was not just Methodist Episcopal records, but an EARLIER companion volume to the collection on which my book was based. Though it covers such a brief period of time, 1835-37, the manuscript contains nearly 1000 names, both white and black, many with notations of a nature that probably would not be found in the civil records for the same period even had they existed, AND THEY DO NOT – deaths (generally only the year, but sometimes an exact date), marriages (generally only the surname of newly married woman, but when her husband also was a member of the church, his identity can be established by the fact both had their marital status altered from "s" to "m"), removals (sometimes giving the specific place to which the person moved), and expulsions for reasons ranging from failing to attend to services on a regular basis to being an habitual drunk, adultery and gambling.

There is virtually no way to place a dollar value on this book. Further, it is far from clear that, had the previous owner not contacted me and as a result sold it to someone else, it would have been bought by a person or institution who not just recognized its value, but also would make an effort to share the same with the genealogical and historical communities with interest in Gloucester County.

I would like to think there will be a further benefit in this particular instance of this article encouraging people across the country to keep their eyes and ears open for other "gems in the rough" waiting to be found, whether it be a trunk in an attic or basement or a "store," and to act upon them in much the same manner I have when they are found. "

****Well done Michael! - cbh

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