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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Apache or Navajo? That is the question

User contributed family files are always a source of excess stomach acid. It doesn't really matter whether the files are contributed to Ancestry.com or New FamilySearch or some other online collection, the same problems appear over and over again. One of the most common issues is the question of changing county boundary lines. Is there a standard way of referring to geographical locations? As a matter of fact, there is. The National Genealogical Society has codified Genealogical Standards and Guidelines. The Standards and Guidelines are available in a series of PDF files. Here is the list:

For example, my Grandfather was born in the town of St. Joseph, Apache, Arizona (Actually Arizona Territory). However, today the town is Joseph City, Navajo, Arizona. If I were to refer to the Standards, which would be the "correct" designation for his birthplace? One of the Standards for Sound Genealogical Research states, "avoid misleading other researchers by either intentionally or carelessly distributing or publishing inaccurate information." Why is listing the birthplace with its modern equivalent misleading? If I have to ask you the question, then you are being careless.

Here is the reasoning. Genealogical records are most frequently stored in the area or jurisdiction where the event occurred. A common cause of inability to find records is looking in the wrong jurisdiction. If you were to assume that birth records for my Grandfather were located in Navajo county, you would possibly be wrong. I don't go very long without hearing a story about someone who spent a great deal of time looking in the wrong place. With today's online and program resources, there is really not much of an excuse for not knowing any county's historical boundaries. You might also try a program like Animap, now in version 3.0.2.

There are any number of other such issues, such as recording alternate spellings, dates and locations and of course, the number one Standard, "record the source for each item of information they collect."

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