Genealogy Sources Thoroughly Understood

Genealogy sources understood thoroughly will enable you (and me) to trace your hard-to-find ancestors better than any discussion on how to trace a family tree.  Think about it…

When I was working on my PhD at the University of Utah I was fortunate to get a supervising professor who accepted my request:   to spend a full quarter examining and reviewing and studying the books at the Family History Library on the British Floor.  (My degree was in English History for a genealogy purpose–which he knew and encouraged.)

“What an interesting idea,” he replied.

So I secured permission from the Library Director to set a chair in the aisle and  look at each and every book in the section for England.  I took each book off the shelf, examined it.  Made notes on its contents.  Took page-shots of significant pages.  Copied articles that discussed in detail specific record categories.  Or articles that included illustrations of historical documents with genealogy details.

And I still have file cabinets full of those notes and documents. 

If I have a question about a specific record–examples and descriptions and references to ancestors are only a few steps away from my study desk at home.

Library personnel and genealogy researchers (and especially the young people hired specifically to count the books used and to reshelf the books) thought I was nuts.  My professor required a written report at the end of each week that quarter–how many books did I review?  What contents were especially relevant to my purpose?  How did the documents I learned about contribute to the proof of a family tree?

In short, my concentrated study that summer quarter long ago, provided me with genealogy sources understood thoroughly. And an understanding of the specific historical evidence required to prove an English family tree.

[By the time I graduated some 8 years later, scholars had created finding aids for serial publications and periodicals for the whole British Isles listing the titles of articles and indexing the families  included.  Took a while for me to complete my education–I had small children to care for and  a genealogy business which I had launched. But, the knowledge of the records and their evidence was in my head and my heart.]

How to study any genealogy record category and the documents produced:

  1. Read the introduction to the extracts and transcripts.  Any thorough collection of record extracts will be introduced by the author with observations and conclusions drawn from the records themselves.  Each specific category will be described with examples–sometimes a full transcription of each type of document.  You can use these as a guide to reading the original records.
  2. Make a your own checklist of each category or each specific document type.  Then as you research, you can tick off those documents you find that apply to you ancestor. If don’t find the proof you seek–you can search for those documents in other jurisdictions.

How to produce a proven family tree from the genealogy documents and their evidences:

  1. Locate the library nearest your residence where the needed records are on file.
  2. Or, locate a library which has the documents you need and will loan them to you to study and use.
  3. Use your checklist as a guide to ensure you check all of the record categories that apply to your family tree.
  4. Hire a genealogist who understands the sources and their evidence thoroughly to gather the information you need and to copy the documents with the proof of your family tree for you.

Once you understand the sources and record categories thoroughly, you can trace your hard-to-find ancestors. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  What attracts genealogists to the chase is often just as much the chase as it is the desire to know the ancestors.

PPS  And some of you stay on the hunt just to share your frustrations at not finding what you seek with other genealogists who are as avid about it all as you, yourself are.

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