Methods and Sources
Here we perform that which cannot be described.
-- Goethe, Faust
Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.
-- Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II, scene 2
The sources for a study of a large number of ordinary nineteenth-century people are almost as varied as the people themselves. The principal sources are well known to genealogists but probably less so to many historians. 1 Since it is likely that most readers will be interested in some particular point, rather than in performing a similar study, they will find considerable detail because various of the techniques applied to sources will be unfamiliar to some readers. Recent and impending advances in computer capacity and portability may soon permit many readily to do studies similar to this (the underlying data have been deposited at the University of Michigan Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research). 2 The principal technique undergirding this study was records linkage.
In records linkage the researcher connects scattered or separated records, each referring (one hopes) to a particular individual, with each other and that individual. It occurs all the time. Say that you wish to call John Smith, but that 47 of them are listed in your telephone directory. Fortunately, you know your John Smith resides on Semple Street: looking for that street in the