I would agree that illiteracy lingered in Appalachia later than than in other areas of the country, well into the 20th century, but in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, illiteracy was the rule everywhere.Records were kept by the very small percentage of the population (e.g., county clerks) who could read and write.So, up until beginning in the 1880s, when literacy became widespread, I'm not sure I see any great difference between doing genealogy in West Virginia than in any other region.The biggest contrast I find is between doing genealogy in the South and elsewhere (my mother was northern; my father southern) because so much of the southern county records were destroyed during the Civil War.I'm told half the county court houses in the south were destroyed during the Civil War, and that has certainly been the case in every county where my family lived.That was our family history going up in smoke!
I agree, family bibles and church records are wonderful primary sources.So are interviews and letters, with this caveat:any record of a person relating their immediate family (viz., parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, spouses, children, and first cousins, i.e., people they knew in life) has to be considered a primary source of great validity.But the trustworthiness of first-hand accounts begins to diminish rapidly with records that go beyond family members known in life to the individual.And if the connection is to a famous person, you can take it with, not a grain, but a great lump of salt.Just my opinion, of course, but when it comes to distant relations, I will trust civil records over someone's memory because I have found people's memories wrong far more often than the civil records are wrong.
As for the census records of James SIAS, yes, I have these on his web page
though I've often wondered about the Marshall Co. record.Any clue why he moved from Monroe Co. (in 1830) to Marshall Co. (in 1840) then to Mercer Co. (in 1850)?This is quite a zig-zag.I have often wondered if the James in Marshall Co. was really our subject and not some other James "passing through" the northern part of the state, as many did on the way from PA to OH.I'd certainly like to see the tax rolls of Monroe and Mercer Co. from 1830 to 1850.I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't show James to have been in continuous residence -- it's not all that unusual for people to get missed in the census.
I do not appear to be related to the West Virginia SIASes, as it turns out.I only got involved working on them because Sophia CORBIN, said to be the mother of your James, was said to be the daughter of Benjamin & Sarah (SIAS) CORBIN, from whom I *am* descended.Given the rarity of the surname SIAS, I had little reason to doubt there was a connection.But, for reasons I give on their web page:
I have found that Sophia cannot be the daughter of Benjamin & Sarah (SIAS) CORBIN, so I guess you could say all my work on the VA/WV SIASes/etc. has been wasted.Ditto my work on the New England SIASes.Still, it's been interesting, and I would like to continue to sort them out -- or even to find out if James & Sophia (CORBIN) SIAS really are the parents of your James.
May I ask what is your source for the middle name of James being William?"Family records" are great, but if no one posts or publishes them, they aren't much help to other researchers.I'm well aware of how names are passed down, I don't think this is peculiar to West Virginians.It happens in every family I've ever researched.Do you know if there's a connection from the WV SIASes to the James William SIAS who married Mary HUGABOOM and lived in Michigan?