By Karen Garrett
The Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists (FOBG) gathers each year at Annual Conference for business and education. Following a short business meeting, FOBG editor Anitra Kraus introduced Denise Kettering-Lane as guest speaker.
Kettering-Lane’s topic was the biographical research process and its application to genealogical research. Sources for research vary from public records, family records and letters, newspaper articles, and oral stories passed down from generation to generation.
She used most of these sources when she was researching the life and writings of Anna Mow to answer the questions: In what ways did pietism influenced Mow’s ministry? And, how did Anna Mow reinvigorate pietism for Brethren? Mow was a missionary, a seminary teacher, author of multiple books and a speaker at youth and young adult activities, such as Brethren Volunteer Service. She did these activities at various stages throughout her long life, which left a rich legacy of print material to peruse to discern Mow’s spiritual understandings. The vast array of sources led Kettering-Lane to conclude that Mow continues to “live” in our collective memory which challenges us to live an authentic spiritual pietism.
Most researchers are not seeking information on an individual so prolific and often the sources are from a period in history when records are scant. Prior to the twentieth century, authors of articles and especially poetry, used their initials rather than their full name when published on the pages of the Gospel Messenger, for example. This was probably in a desire to live humbly without drawing attention to oneself, but the practice creates a puzzle for researchers. There is also the challenge that for any one person, there might be a variety of spellings for their given name, including simply “wife of.” Persistence will pay off if one remains patient. Think creatively when researching individuals or families and remember these are people with personalities not simply names and dates.