Whole Number 168
[Editor's Note: The following policy statement has guided your editor for some time. We believe that it is appropriate to publish it for the information of our readers.]
Definition: by "Sparks Family" (as used in The Sparks Family Association), we mean the aggregation of all persons, past and present, bearing the surname Sparks (also Spark, Sparke, and Sparkes), including women whose maiden name was Sparks. The term is stretched to include descendants of persons named Sparks through female lines who have an interest in their Sparks heritage.
We recognize that there are many branches of the Sparks family, and that it will never be possible to relate all of these branches to one another. In fact, we are aware that when the surname Sparks first came into use in the British Isles during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it originated in different regions among persons in no way related to each other. In most, but not all, instances, the name derived from "Sparrowhawk," first shortened to "Sparhawk," then to "Spark" and "Sparks." Immigrants bearing the name Sparks have been arriving in America since early in the seventeenth century. The thousands of Americans named Sparks who have lived or are living today in the United States do not have a common American ancestor. There are even a few documented cases where the name Sparks has been adopted by an individual (and passed on to his children) whose original name was entirely different.
Purpose: When The Sparks Family Association was founded in 1953, its purpose was described in the first issue of the Quarterly as that of "assembling and preserving genealogical and historical materials pertaining to the Sparks Family in America." The Quarterly is the Association's chief means by which these mater- ials (or the information that they contain) are being preserved, not only in the hands of the Association's members, but in the many libraries on our compli- mentary mailing list.
Geographical limitations: In the selection of material to publish in the Quarterly, emphasis will be given to records of the Sparks family that have been found in the United States. While it is hoped that in many instances we can succeed in tracing a given branch back to the immigrant, we cannot promise to locate that immigrant's parentage in the "Old Country." "Crossing the ocean" in tracing the origins of a family is a daunting task for most American genealogists.
Time limitation: In selecting material for the Quarterly, emphasis will be given to records from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries found in the United States. Only under unusual circumstances will we give space to Sparkses who have flourished in the twentieth century, although in presenting the record of a given family where children were born both before and after 1900, the complete family record will be given.
Choice of subject matter: Only factual information pertaining to individuals of the past who belonged to the Sparks family in the United States will be included in the Quarterly. Because family traditions, while important, often contain fiction as well as truth, such sources will be clearly identified. Our sources will be cited, and corrections will be made when errors are discovered in previously published material. Readers are urged to call our attention to errors or misinterpretations. Literary productions (such as poetry) by persons named Sparks, along with other non-genealogical writings (e.g., statements on religion or politics), will be excluded from the Quarterly, except for historical purposes.
Categories of material: The material chosen for publication in the Quarterly will fall primarily into two categories: (1) "raw genealogical data" pertaining to persons named Sparks from such sources as census schedules, marriage bonds, death notices and probate records, ship passenger lists, deeds transferring land ownership, etc.; and (2) genealogical studies, based on research, in which lines of Sparks descent are documented. This includes biographical sketches of persons named Sparks who lived prior to the present century. Occasionally, biographical information may be given to recognize an Association member's un- usually significant contribution to, or support of, the Association.
Personal data pertaining to current members of the Association will not be included in the Quarterly beyond reporting the names and addresses of new members; we shall not use space to announce births, marriages, travel experiences, career promotions, business activities, etc., of our members. Brief obituaries will be published, however, when information regarding a deceased member or former member is received. In these brief obituaries, attention will be given primarily to genealogical rather than biographical information. Obituaries of non-members will not be published.
Collateral family data: Because readers of the Quarterly should expect its contents to relate primarily to persons named Sparks, we shall publish records pertaining to other names with the following restrictions: In the case of women who were married to men named Sparks, and men who were married to women named Sparks, we shall generally limit information about them to their own birth and death dates and the places where they lived, plus the names of their parents (if known). Brief biographical data may be included for these "Sparks in-laws," but their ancestry will not be included unless it is of special historical interest.
Whereas genealogical and biographical data for Sparks descendants bearing the name Sparks (and its variant spellings) will be included up to ca. 1900, descendants through the female lines (i.e., persons not having the name Sparks), will be treated with less fullness, as follows: the children of a woman whose maiden name was Sparks will be given in the same degree of detail (when known) as the children of a Sparks male, even though the surname of those children was not Sparks. Members of the next generation (i.e.. grandchildren of a Sparks female), however, will be identified only by name, with their dates of birth and death and the name(s) of their spouse(s), if known. If members of the following generation (i.e., the great-grandchildren of a Sparks female), are known, only their names will be given. The line will be followed no further, except occasionally to identify the relationship of a contributor of information regarding that branch of the Sparks family.
Queries: Members of the Association who are attempting to identify their Sparks ancestors, or trying to get in touch with fellow descendants of a Sparks ancestor, are encouraged to submit queries for publication in the Quarterly, although the editor will reserve the right to edit these. Unlike many genealogical publications in which queries are kept very brief, brevity will not be an important consideration in printing queries in The Sparks Quarterly. Believing that a query may constitute an important source of information for a future researcher, the editor will include as much useful information as is available. Queries regarding persons and families having names other than Sparks will not be accepted for publication, however, unless the subjects were closely identified with a branch of the Sparks family.
There is no charge for publishing queries in The Sparks Quarterly submitted by members of the Association.
Photographs and documents: A determined effort will be made to locate for reproduction and publication in the Quarterly old photographs of persons named Sparks, including their wives or husbands, taken in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Not only are Association members urged to loan old photographs to the editor for reproduction in Ann Arbor (or to have them reproduced locally at the Association's expense), but they are encouraged also to make available old family documents and letters as well. Interesting accounts written by men and women regarding their experiences as pioneers, as soldiers of the American Revolution and the Civil War, or simply as settlers in a new land in which they described their way of life, will be included in the Quarterly whenever possible. Modern technology makes the copying of these records very easy, and their publication in the Quarterly assures their preservation and their authors' identification.
Frequency and distribution: The Sparks Quarterly is published four times each year, with issues dated March, June, September, and December There are occasional delays in meeting these target dates, but no issue has been missed in our long history. It is mailed (bulk rate postage) to all members of the Association who have paid their dues (whether they are active, contributing, or sustaining members) for the year in question. (The number of pages in each issue of the Quarterly has increased over the years, from six in 1953 to over forty by the 1980s.) An annual financial report for the Association is mailed to members each December with a renewal form. Back issues are kept in print for later purchase. (See the blocked section at the beginning of the text of each issue for current cost of individual back issues as well as a complete file.) We are pleased to add to our mailing list, on a complimentary basis, any library with a genealogy department open to the public that agrees to preserve and make the Quarterly available to its patrons.
Table of contents and index: A table of contents providing a list of articles and groups of records, beginning with the first issue of the Quarterly in March 1953, is sent to each new member of the Association. An annual update covering the previous year is mailed with the March issue to all members. An index covering all names and places mentioned in the Quarterly is published every five years. (See the blocked section at the beginning of the text of each issue for the years included in each of the published indexes, with their current cost.)