Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Don’t be gullible - check your data

I had some interesting discussions last week during National Family History Week. One theme that was frequently repeated was ‘don’t trust everything you find on the net’. I had several people bemoaning the errors in family trees on line. This is usually because the person posting the information has not checked or verified their information. It is surprising how often I have heard this caution, and yet people still fall into the trap of trusting someone else’s research or lack thereof.

Olive Tree Genealogy Blog  as recently as 3rd August asked ‘Is family lore good enough in genealogy?’ It is worth reading the whole article, but in a nutshell the answer is you cannot rely on family memories, but they can be used as clues for further research, and hopefully you will find a source that will verify the family memory. It can be surprising how stories get twisted over the years. I knew of one family that was positive they were related to the Duke of Northumberland. There certainly was a connection, but it turned out that some family predecessors had emigrated to Australia on the ship Duke of Northumberland.
Olive Tree Genealogy also cautions the researcher about the shaky leaf on, saying that the conscientious researcher should, as with any source, analyse and evaluate it before accepting it as correct.

Dick Eastman from Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter  says don’t believe everything you read, and that even original documents contain errors. I couldn’t agree more. Always verify your information from at least two sources. My mother’s birth certificate is one example – at least they got her name and date of birth right, but information from her parents, marriage certificate, father’s death certificate and war records contradict the information in the birth certificate, so it is worthwhile reconciling all sources you have available.

Bob Brooke in Everyday Genealogy says quite emphatically that the burden of proof lies with you, the researcher, and to make sure you should prove your assertions ‘by corroborating the evidence’.

It seems everyone is agreed – you must check all your information before declaring it a fact.


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