Opening the Ozarks

Opening the Ozarks: first families in southwest Missouri, 1835-1839, by Marsha Hoffman Rising is a genealogical tour de force – each of the first 1000 settlers in southwest Missouri seen through a careful examination of their primary sources, especially land and court records. Their families are explained and reconstructed through censuses and wills. Their origins traced, where possible, to the states and counties whence they came. Those of us with ancestors covered in these four volumes owe a great debt to the author. We can start to repay it by learning how to do genealogy according to the standards that make it reliable. In addition, we can review the entries most pertinent to ourselves, and offer corrections and additional information where necessary. In my case, it was a surprise to read that my 3rd-great-grandparents, S. M. and Mary (Goodin) Gilmore, “had no issue.” I suspect the sentence was misplaced, and might have been intended for a sibling. There is a web site with corrections to Opening the Ozarks that is readily findable, but it looks like there’s a lot of work still to do.

This is why publishing a vast set of genealogical proofs in four print volumes, in the 21st century, should be called into question. In a work this vast, and no matter how carefully prepared and edited, there are bound to be a considerable number of errors and gaps. And one suspects that the editorial process needed to catch most of the errors would have set publication back two decades. A web site of errata is helpful, but also not ideal, even if most libraries have wifi, and assuming you find the web site while using Opening the Ozarks. There is a digital image edition of Opening the Ozarks, but its use is limited to those users in certain libraries (LDS Family History Centers, for example). A wiki edition would permit expansion of the scope of the work to include families who didn’t own property, or who were themselves enslaved as property under the law. This would also give due recognition to the sociological aspect of the work that guided its inception.

A wiki edition of the entire text, even if editable only by the American Genealogical Society, could provide a solution. It would also allow for the work to be continued, with just as much care, into the next 1000 settlers and beyond. This work already deals with a large number of the persons listed in the 1876 Atlas of Greene County, a work that is begging to move from merely being digitized, to being made into a digital resource (linking from each parcel on the maps to the equivalent 1870 census pages, for example).

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