Printed Abstracts Can Be Indexes for Difficult-to-Read Documents…

…Just Don’t Stop There!  Genealogy Libraries, both public and private, are filled with abstracts of records. And they are easy to read, make copies from, build lineages on. Just beware–that the Pirates of the Pedigree don’t get your genealogy.

Abstracters determine which data are genealogical and should be included in the abstract–recall that an abstract is a shortened version, a summary of the original wording.

Read Gale Williams Bamman, “The Origins of Robert and Elizabeth (Cochran) Black of Smith County, Tennessee:  Using Names of Slaves to Trace White Ancestry,” The American Genealogist 69 (October 1994): 219-23. The omissions of slaves from printed abstracts left out legal proof of relationships. Bamman stresses–demonstrates from the records themselves, the loss of evidence.

Abstracters are usually well-meaning–they sincerely want to make the records available and readable. The Pirates of the Pedigree grin and dance merrily when they conclude that some record details may embarrass descendants: born a slave, an illegitimate birth, being convicted of a crime, deserting a military post, and on and on. Read prefaces, footnotes, and introductions carefully

Check the originals–take the  reference to record, location, volume, and page from the abstract, then read the original documents. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Read the genealogy periodicals and serials too–corrections, changes in interpretation, corroborative data, questions of accuracy and completeness. Valuable examples will alert you to problems and remind you to check the originals! Your own ancestors will be grateful and thank you…

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