Do Genealogy Facts Speak for Themselves?

For some weeks, I have been thinking about the comments section at the end of each Genealogy News Sheet–a few bonafide comments have been posted. Most of the time, I eliminate 100 to 200 questionable drug ads disguised as comments and attached to every single issue, regardless of subject. And pornographic comments that are sometimes blatant and sometimes subtle. Takes about an hour a week to delete them all. These crafty guys attach the same stuff to all the issues posted and they do it every week.

What I would like to ask for, is some dialogue with our readers about the subject of the News Sheet, or posing a genealogy question we might all benefit from.

Hard genealogy news, descriptions of new and important genealogy sources, references to specific genealogy problems and how to solve them–do you know I use back issues as handouts in the conferences where I speak and as answers in my correspondence? What fun it would be to include something you, the reader, realizes is important.

Kari Bruun Nakling died in Corpus Christi TX, 27 Jan 2007. She was a staff member at the Family History Library–Swedish and Norwegian reference consultant–for many years. She was the kind of genealogist who, when presented with the a challenge, kept working on it until finally she solved it.

She is the one who helped me find the reference to Ekel/Ekil, Norway–a medieval farm name. What if… I thought. Since our Eakle ancestor spelled his name Ekell when he arrived in Pennsylvania in 1741. Later, I was told that Ekel/Ekil was a Norwegian patronymic. Even though Johann Herman Ekell was German when he came–spoke German, came from Germany–I believe that his Eakle origins are Norwegian. Curious, her husband’s given name was Egil.

In my genealogy research experience, facts rarely speak for themselves. So I thought it might be useful to present my spin on the relationship of facts to information. Although we often use these words interchangebly, they are different.

  1. Facts–individual pieces of data. Genealogical facts are usually birth date, birth place, marriage date, marriage place, death date, death place, and a whole list of additional, important items: occupation, name, religious membership, military rank, and so on.  Facts are true; there is no false fact.  Consider this about the English language as you review the facts on your pedigree chart.
  2. Information–pieces of data arranged into meaningful context. We extract the genealogical facts, we combine and compare these facts. We may add our own interpretation of these facts and how they relate to each other.
  3. Analysis–identifying the specific patterns in these individual pieces of data.  We separate the patterns and relationships from the whole.  When we match the data for fit with what we already know, we synthesize the facts.
  4. Wisdom–applying our genealogy experience with these patterns and relationships to decision making–who fits where on the pedigree chart.  As we gain experience and mature in research, we do it automatically.
  5. Knowledge–formal discovery of pieces of data and the benefits of clearly  understanding the patterns they create.

Understanding the words more clearly, leads to the correct application of the process.  Just think, for a piece of data to become a fact, it must be true.  There are no false facts.

On Monday, I’ll share the new document–the last document in the book–on my Holbrook/Collier puzzle and what it means to my 200-hour genealogy marathan.  Be sure to tune in.  Is the document a summary of data or a summary of fact?

Your genealogy expert of choice, Arlene Eakle

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