We're talking about
genealogy and some of the things you should tuck away in the recesses of
When folks come into my office at the library and say, "Wow! I found a
new record of my family today!" I wonder if they have really looked at
that document and really gotten all of the information from it that they
I sometimes ask the researcher if they plan to enter the new
information into their genealogical database (if they are using a computer
Are you going to file that document so you can find it again?
Will you adequately cite the document so someone else can find the
When researchers come by and complain that they have a document that
they just don't understand, I ask them some questions: Have you really
read that record and thoughtfully analyzed it?
Have you thought about what other records the document suggests you
might research? This means if you find a death record.you should look for
a will. If you find a will.look for the death record, etc.
Have you looked up the words you don't understand? This is really
important with legal documents.
Is the record you have an abstract or a complete document?
When folks come by and say they cannot find where their ancestor came
from, I ask them: Have you looked at the entire family and not just your
particular ancestor? Have you looked for unknown family members? Have
you thoroughly analyzed the neighbors of your family (and you do find them
on census records)?
Have you read local histories to see if a church or community arrived
in a group?
Have you researched regional histories?
Have you simply looked at a map and the geography?
Have you considered economics? (Such as: If your ancestor disappears
about 1850, did he go to the Gold Rush in California?)
Have you looked at the migration trails?
Have you considered the boundary changes - where the person stayed put
and the county or state lines moved?
Researchers will come into my office and happily say, "I found my
entire family on the Internet!"
This causes twitching in the extremities of genealogists! I want to ask
the happy genealogist if they have contacted the original compiler of the
records they found?
Has the genealogist located the original source of the information they
Has the genealogist located the records the online source suggests?
Have you ever thought about the fact that the online source might be
Have you considered using offline sources as well as Internet sources?
Are you taking the Internet information as "gospel" or using it as a
Years ago, when I had time for such things, I joined The Jamestowne
Society. This is a tough one.as you must have everything with absolute
documentation and proof. As a result of this membership, I know - beyond
doubt - that the information in my thirteen generations from me to Col.
Walter Chiles is correct.
Not long ago, I tried to duplicate this information from the Internet.
Of the thirteen generations, not one was completely correct.
So, for Internet information - beware.