Mining the Historian Archives 02

I don’t have a good handle on the exact project description. Instead let me describe what I am visualizing. From this, I trust, we can define what the project actually is. This post is about classification; then we’ll move on to details.

The Dwight Number

Benjamin Dwight, in 1871, published a two-volume History of the Strong Family. Each person in the books was individually numbered, with a total of about 29,000 numbered persons. Elder John Strong (1610-1699), the Progenitor of the family, is person #1. Sergeant Joseph Barnard (1641-1695), my ancestor, is person #27454.

We therefore classify Elder John Strong with Dwight #1, and we classify that Joseph Barnard with Dwight #27454.

Our classification system is based on all descendants of Elder John Strong known to the good Reverend Dwight in 1871. This was anywhere from 3-8 generations of descendants. His list obviously does not include anyone born more recently than 1871.

We therefore classify ALL descendants with the same Dwight number. I personally have Dwight #27454. Here is how it works:

  1. Elder John Strong (1610-1699) has Dwight #1.
  2. His daughter Sarah Strong (1656-1733) has Dwight #27. She married Joseph Barnard (1641-1695). This marriage is listed in Dwight’s History, and Dwight gives husband Joseph Barnard Dwight #28.
  3. Their son Joseph Barnard, Jr. (1681-1736), my direct ancestor is in Dwight’s History with Dwight #27454.
  4. Dwight does not list any spouse or children for Joseph Barnard Jr. Therefore we assign ALL of his descendants that same Dwight #27454.

I need to give a second example, because this is fundamental to our project design.

  1. Elder John Strong (1610-1699) has Dwight #1.
  2. His son Return Strong (1640/41-1726) has Dwight #11. He married Sarah Warham (1642-1678), Dwight #12.
  3. Their daughter Sarah Strong (1665-1739) had Dwight #19972.
  4. I descend from her second marriage, which Dwight does not list. Therefore the deepest descent is Sarah Strong #19972. We therefore assign ALL descendants to her second marriage (to Capt. John Higley, 1649-1714) the Dwight #19972.

In short, we assign the actual Dwight number to anyone who is listed in Dwight’s History of the Strong Family. We also assign the same Dwight number to all descendants of each person in the book.

We use the Dwight number of the “deepest” person in the book. In the first example, Joseph Barnard Jr. is as far as that line is listed in the book, so all descendants of Joseph Barnard Jr. are Dwight #27454. In the second example, we also are limited to the third generation. All descendants of Sarah Strong (1665-1739) and her second marriage get Dwight #19972.

These examples also show that one person can have multiple Dwight numbers. I personally have three Dwight numbers because I descend from three of Elder John Strong’s children. (My third number is #24436.) My own children, therefore, have the same three Dwight numbers.

The SFAA Classification System

Why is this important?

It’s important because we have those 24 shelf feet of file folders. Each file folder is labeled with the Dwight number of its contents. In other words, all information received through about 2004 was filed away into the appropriate file folder according to its Dwight number.

The Dwight number tells us where that information fits in terms of the overall family tree. Any particular person, naturally, is most interested in information concerning their own direct ancestors. If they can trace their family back far enough, they can (potentially) find their connection to our Strong family history collections.

We ask people to classify themselves by writing down their lineage back to Elder John Strong, or as far as is known. From that information (if sufficiently complete) we can assign them a Dwight number, which tells us where they fit into the family tree.