Choosing Ancestors

Genealogy research is the process of choosing ancestors! Researching a genealogy and the lives of individuals that make up your family tree is not a scientific endeavor. A genealogy is a work of art in choosing ancestors from records and databases. You will spend time gathering the records and examining what they say. Do they match and agree on facts and dates? Do they challenge each other with conflicting evidence? Can you link generations together? Can you arrive at some truth from the things these records say? How many sources do you need to examine? All of these questions and many more considerations are addressed in the following bibliography of genealogy works.

Anderson, Robert Charles, Elements of Genealogical Analysis: How to Maximize Your Research using the Great Migration Study Project Method. Boston MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society and, 2014. Methods used to trace the Great Migration settlers and determine who they were related to and where they came from. Fundamental conclusions are based on records that are accurately extracted, fully and carefully documented, and thoroughly evaluated and compared. Your document trail enables anyone to study the evidence used and gauge the accuracy of your work. And the correct results are most often discovered over time. Fast and furious does not allow for feedback and historical perspective.

Eakle, Arlene H., and Linda E. Brinkerhoff, Family History for Fun and Profit: The Genealogy Research Process, 30th Anniversary Edition. Tremonton UT: Genealogical Institute, Inc., 2003. Step-by-step guidance for building a correct family tree including where to find the records and how to use them to answer genealogy research questions. How to evaluate the evidence in historical and genealogical sources and build a family tree that is linked correctly. See also Genealogy Evidence Blog, My blog discusses evidence and how to determine what is truth.

Fischer, David Hackett. Historian’s Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought. New York: Harper Row, 1970. A thought-provoking set of considerations that affect historical truth. This read would benefit beginners; advanced and experienced researchers need this guidance, in my opinion. An older study, still valuable perspectives on how we arrive at truth.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2007. This 885-page volume describes the techniques that professional genealogists have subscribed to over time. A guide to citation for documentation of sources of all kinds which the author refers to as the “fundamentals of citation.”

Rising, Marsha Hoffman, Opening the Ozarks, 1835-1839: First Families of Southwest Missouri. 4 vols. Boston MA: New England Historic Genealogical society, 2010. Includes a lengthy Introduction describing the new research and analysis techniques Rising used to document the origins of more than 85% of the early settlers, their family relationships, and their origins.

Shepperd, Walter Lee, Jr. “What Proves a Lineage?: Acceptable Standards in Evidence,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 75 (June 1987). “…direct evidence is lacking, but there is contemporary, primary evidence of a number of related matters all pointing in the same direction and the evidence so accumulated leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that one reasonable conclusion can be drawn from it.” The genealogist is required to put these evidences and thinking into writing to share with others interested in the same family and its genealogy.

Weller, Nelson. “When is Enough, Enough? Or How Much Evidence do you Need?” Journal of the Surry County Genealogical Association 33 (2013): 29-34. Weller estimates that 80% of the family trees posted online are “just plain wrong.” He bases his conclusions on the methods of Elizabeth Shone Mills and Helen Leary and her book on North Carolina genealogy.

Wright, Raymond S., III. The Genealogist’s Handbook: Modern Methods for Researching Family History. Chicago IL: American Library Association, 1995. Some important considerations: verifying the evidence you collect, identifying biases in the record entries, and interpreting the dates in ancestors’ records. Too many genealogies do not include the math!

Tanner, James L. “The Elements of Research,” written daily 25 May 2015 through 17 June 2015 about the nature of genealogy evidence and how evidence accommodates asking and answering specific questions about each ancestor of interest to you. Building a pedigree combines these answers. His ideas are thought-provoking and provide a different perspective. Reprinted in the Southern States Research Guide. Morgan UT: Family History Expos, 2015.

Many examples of evidence used in genealogy cases that will change your perspective forever, if you accept my invitation to re-examine the research process. My perspective is different after being exposed to these thoughtful works. Remember, first the bibliography then the research. Why not join me? Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle.

PS Stay tuned so you can share the various aspects of evidence and how to prove your pedigree.

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