Friday, February 3, 2012

Important Interruption from the Dellibac Debacle...

Ok, I wasn't planning on interrupting the Dellibac research series but I just can't hold this one in, especially after just leaving SLIG's Advanced Methodology class.

So let's say that you are doing a little online searching and come across an abstract of a record that appears to be for your ancestor. It is an abstract, so it contains the name of the subject and also his wife. The year is also given, along with the book and page number of the original record. What do you do now? Jot down the name of the wife, enter it into your database and call it done? How about adding the year and place where the record is found so that you can place your subject in that time and place? That's getting all the information out of that source, right?

Can we say, BIG WRONG? If you are lucky enough to find some online information like this, the first rule of the genealogy club is (don't talk about genealogy club, no that's not it) GET THE ORIGINAL! This is an abstraction. That doesn't mean they've pulled everything that may be important to you out of that document and served it up on a platter for you. Their requirements for information that was important enough to include are probably not the same as yours and the only way to truly know what is included is to see the document. Also, being able to actually have it (or an official record copy) in your hand so you know it exists without having to believe some nameless, faceless website is a big plus too. There is no way for you to reliably weigh your evidence unless you know exactly where that document and the information that it contains came from and you have no way of knowing that if you just stop the process at a website. And the biggest problem that can arise from this is that the guy with the same name in the online listing may not even be the right guy. The only way you'll know, is to check the original.

You're really are short-changing yourself by taking the quick and easy way here. You may be excited about seeing that name on an online database but don't let that cloud your brain. Get the document. Check your facts. And for goodness sakes, cite the source where it came from.

[venting off]

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