Friday, May 31, 2013
Genealogical lessons from archery
I am not much of a hunter, but I used to practice archery. I learned several lessons from shooting arrows at a target, some of which apply directly to my genealogical research efforts.
The first lesson concerned lost arrows. I would practice in the backyard of our home and even though we had the customary Southwestern wall around the yard, I would frequently shoot arrows off into the vacant lot next door. I soon learned that the arrow did not always follow an exactly straight path and frequently went a lot further than I anticipated. So, in searching for my lost arrows, I usually had to look in different directions and look a lot further than expected.
The same thing applies to genealogical research. Records may not be in the expected location and you may have to search a lot further than originally anticipated. Records can move around. County boundaries may change. Records may end up in private or institutional repositories. County records may be collected in the state archives. All sorts of things can happen to put records into unexpected locations. One thing about searching for arrows. I always knew that the arrow existed. Unfortunately, searching for records is not as reassuring. There is always the possibility that the record was destroyed or worse, never made. But the idea that finding the record, like the arrow, might not be where expected and take a lot more searching than anticipated is applicable.
I also learned that you didn't have to hit the center of the target every time to score. In fact, I never go good enough to hit the center very often. But you got points for every hit inside of the rings, usually 1 point for the outer ring, up to 10 points for a bullseye. In essence, the same is true for genealogy. You may not hit the exact record you are looking for every time, but no work is wasted because you get to count near misses. In fact, if you get enough near misses, you just might prove your ancestor without ever hitting the exact record that you are looking for.
To carry the target analogy a little further, I would suggest that hits outside the bullseye not only add up points, but may be enough to prove relationship. As the rings get further from the bullseye, they are analogous to records that are less probative of the facts, but still valuable for establishing the history. Also, if you keep shooting, you are bound to hit the center of the target someday.