Analysis of Historical Information and Genealogy Evidence

The way evidence fits together to prove relationship and genealogical connections is often taken for granted. You do the job automatically, without formal consideration of steps or description of just what you are doing. One click and the father is in place; another click and the mother is in the slot.

What if…? What if it is not that easy?

Traditional genealogical how-to-books spend more time describing what records are available and how to locate them rather than evaluating the evidence these records contain, what evidence is omitted, and how the evidence from other records actually fits together.

In turn, this lack of a firm methodological base is responsible to some degree for the lack of confidence expressed by researchers from other disciplines in genealogies–even those compiled with meticulous care. You know, there are and have always been, genealogies that are fully documented.

What we lack is a yardstick by which genealogies can be measured. What we lack is an access tool that identifies the good from the bad. We live in a time of political correctness and to call another person’s work unacceptable seems to be impolite or nit-picky. You and I may know why we don’t trust the work; you and I don’t share our conviction that the answers may be incorrect. Bibliographies cite the entries and remain quiet on the value of the contents.

What I want in a genealogy are the genealogical trappings–complete and chatty indexes, individual footnotes that specifically identify where the facts come from, and a study bibliography–hopefully annotated so that I know which items are worth finding and reading. Often, if given a choice, the genealogy with these items is my choice over all others available whether online or printed book I can hold in my hands.

I also want an introduction where the author or compiler shares his own impressions and conclusions. The process of documenting each and every connection is complicated. Takes time to gather and study the data; takes time to fit the data together. So even though circumstances of searching and intuition when fitting the parts together take time and effort–I feel it is worth it.

The excuse that these scholarly trappings are omitted for reasons of space (money) or cost of printing (money), or lack of interest on the part of the reader (too little research by the writer), or in favor of increased readability (money and lack of research)–these excuses are not acceptable to me.

A recent descriptive term, “end of the line” ancestor is just another excuse for lack of in-depth research. Here’s my response: Is there any other person there by the same surname as your missing ancestor? Who is there? Remember: if all you seek and all you capture from the records is what you already know–that’s what you will know.

You have to find the next generation to identify a father or mother. That usually means plunging into the unknown “who could be the ancestor.” If the mother is present at the birth of the child and the father is in proximity to the mother–LOOK. The wealth of records available in print or online is now  extensive–there is always still records to be examined. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS I should have been a preacher! Stay tuned and please watch for the launch of my new personal blog Be of Good Cheer.

PPS Happy Twelfth Night to you all. 6 January has always been a favorite day of mine. Used to take down my Christmas tree. Now I leave my Christmas trees up all year round. Some I redecorate for each holiday or season; some I leave as they are. Sort of like hanging on to the cheer that Christmas brings.


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