Pulled From the Stacks: A Siler Family History

Written by: Kiera E. Nolan, DAR Library Reference Librarian
December 23, 2015

A few months ago, I had a visit with my aunt, the wife of my father’s younger brother, whom I hadn’t seen in many years. After pulling out a level and measuring tape to check just how tall I had gotten, she asked me about my job as the Reference Librarian for the DAR Library in Washington, D.C. As I have found out in my career, people become very interested in learning about librarianship when I mention that the library I have the privilege of working for is focused solely on genealogy and history. “What exactly is in a genealogy and history library?” is often the first follow up question. “Do you have books?” is another good one. “So, like Ancestry.com.” is the comment I often passionately dispel.

While answering my aunt’s questions about the vast and diverse collection here at the DAR Library, she popped up excitedly and ran out of the room.  When she came back she had a book in her hand. The Siler Family, by A.O. Siler. It was a family history. One of those super informative, yet slightly dangerous books we have a ton of at the DAR Library. I was about to launch into my standard speech about being wary of older books like the one in my hand, mainly due to the unreliability of dates and names in older family histories that are based on family interviews, and not records. As I opened my mouth to speak though, I quickly nixed that speech, not wanting to completely crush her total exuberance.

Instead I asked my aunt about her book. I learned she had found it after one of her parents died. She didn’t know how long it had been in the family, though it must have been a while from the look of it, and the publication date of 1922. It had completely blown her mind when she looked through it, because her father had always insisted the family was Dutch, not German as the book laid out. “It’s all right there,” she said, “my complete family history.” This is when I decided to ruin her joy, just a little.

As I mentioned, due to the restricted access folks had to records until very recently, family histories are great places to get erroneous information. It is always possible that the information in them is correct, but be sure to always check your sources. Taking the information from the family history and then going to find and go through actual records to verify the information is the best possible policy when dealing with family histories. Taking the family history as a veritable source is not recommended. It may lead you astray in your research.  

After my disclaimer my aunt was still pleased with her find, and a few weeks later while shelving books in the DAR Library, I was pleased to find another Siler family history. The Siler Family Roots and Shoots, by Theodore Siler, published in 1982, is a continuance and updated version of The Siler Family (a copy of which the DAR Library currently does not have)In this family history Mr. Siler makes it clear that he visited a number of Siler relations to get the information from them. I took it down to look through it. My aunt wasn’t mentioned, and I didn’t know the names of anyone else in her family. I decided to put her in Ancestry.com, using the Seimes Technology Center Resources. The second hit was for an obituary that listed the names of her sibling and parents. It took that information and ran. Her father appears in the 1982 family history.

Then following each generation back through the family history, I was able to get a unverified lineage for my aunt. Seeing as her ancestor that the family history began with was here before the Revolutionary War, I searched the DAR’s Genealogical Research System (GRS) to see if her ancestor was a Patriot. Sure enough, he was! Excitedly, I informed my cousin that she and my aunt could (once the family history was verified with other sound sources, and an application was written and approved) be a member of DAR!

Later, while putting the Siler book back on the shelf, I noticed another name, that was now familiar to me after the research that was done earlier in the day. It was on the endcap of the shelf two shelves down, put there to let everyone passing by know that the surname “Teague” started the books for that shelf. Realizing that the daughter-in-law of my aunt and cousin’s Patriot was a Teague, I went back to the GRS and used the “Descendants” tab to search for any other patriots that had Mr. Siler’s daughter-in-law mentioned. I was very pleased to finish my day by informing my cousin that (once the family history was verified with other sound sources, and an application was written and approved) she and my aunt could have a supplemental Patriot!

Books Pulled:
The Siler Family Roots and Shoots by Theodore Siler

Call Words:

Resources Used:
The DAR’s Genealogical Research System

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