Tuesday, February 20, 2007

William B. Lapham, Petulant Historian

The foremost genealogist and historian in Oxford County, Maine, in the 19th century was William B. Lapham—born in my hometown of Greenwood (through no fault of his own) in 1828. This temperance advocate wrote histories of five Oxford County towns, but not of his native community, whose residents he believed were too fond of their rum.

Certain families were omitted in his histories, and one has the nagging suspicion they were omitted out of spite. In his Centennial History of Norway (1886) he managed to blame any errors and omissions in the genealogical register on those who had contributed data and those who had not.

It is frequently the case that those who have neglected to send in their records are the ones who find most fault with the compiler of the book, and it will probably be so in this case. Circulars were sent by the committee to every family in town and to many out of town, in which the kind of information desired was clearly set forth; not more than half these circulars were filled and returned. The compiler has also written hundreds of letters bearing upon the same subject, many of which still remain unanswered. Where an early family has no representative left in town, the compiler has made every effort to obtain the desired information from other sources, and generally with success, but families resident in the town, who had been furnished with the circular, knew what was going on and what was required, and who neglected to respond have not been further appealed to, and if they are left out, it is certainly their own fault. There is no doubt that errors in dates will be found. No genealogical work was ever published without more or less of them, and such errors are quite as often the fault of the person furnishing the material, as of the compiler. [pp. 453f]

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