Friday, November 11, 2016
Jumpstart Your Family History in Ten Steps: Step Three -- Correcting entries and adding sources
You will immediately note that I assume that as you begin to work on your family history, you will be entering your information into the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. This is not presumptuous on my part. I have already pointed out the reasons why I think that the Family Tree should be the ultimate repository for at least a copy of the family history information of all those who have lived and will live on the earth. At this point it is premature to be concerned about using a stand-alone or desktop genealogy program. But if you are persuaded to use another program, realize that an individual, isolated family tree will not provide the feedback necessary to explore the extent of your larger family's involvement in genealogy both in the past and at the present time.
If you begin your genealogical pursuits by following the "traditional pattern" of focusing on individuals and family group records, you will miss the essence of doing genealogical research, that is, focusing on what is missing instead of focusing on what you have. If you fail to focus on what is missing from your family tree, you will become satisfied with only a partial effort and become enamored with what you have entered and will ignore what is still missing. By working on a cooperative family tree, such as the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, you will be forced to confront the ideas and conclusions of your entire family. It is true that if you are the only member of you family working on your family lines, it may take you a while to realize that there are others who are also related to you but it is almost inevitable that as you go back in time, you will start to encounter lines that have already been entered into the Family Tree. If this does not happen to you because you are from some part of the world where the Internet has yet become ubiquitous or knowledge of the existence of the Family Tree has not yet penetrated, then you will be the pioneer and be the one laying the groundwork for your own descendants.
There are essentially two possibilities when you start with the FamilySearch.org Family Tree; either you have very extensive ancestral entries already available in the Family Tree or your family has not previously contributed information and your portion of the Family Tree is empty or almost empty. Either way, you begin by documenting and correcting the information already available. Although it is still possible to do so, no information should be added to the Family Tree without a record or document (a source) to support the information entered. Even when you know of your own personal knowledge that the information is correct (or you think it is correct) you need to provide documentation. The reason for this rule is simple: you will not be around forever and your descendants and other relatives will need to know that the information is source supported.
Because of its historical antecedents, the FamilySearch.org Family Tree is primarily a Western European product with a decided emphasis on the United States. But some of the fastest growing areas of the Family Tree include Latin America and even Eastern European countries. The Family Tree is now completely or partially translated into the following languages.
It is envitiable that additional languages will be added in the future. All of the present operating systems for computers have provisions for entering information using the alphabets and diacrital marks of a multitude of languages and all entries in the Family Tree should, as much as possible, be entered in the format and language of the place where the events occurred and accurately reflect the places and times that correspond to the actual events at the time the events occcurred.
If you are one of those people who find a substantial amount of information in the Family Tree, I suggest that at this stage, Step Three, you concentrate on making changes to the data to make it as correctly corresponding as possible to the time and place where the events occurred. For example, when I began my genealogical research years ago, my own Grandfather was consistently recorded as having been born in "Joseph City, Navajo, Arizona." According to the rule of recording the place as it was at the time of the event, the actual entry should have been "St. Joseph, Apache, Arizona Territory, United States." This is how the Family Tree entry is now recorded. However, here is a current example from an Ancestry.com family tree entry from one of my relatives.
Because this person is maintaining an isolated, personally owned family tree, there is no practical way to communicate with him or her and correct the entry. If it is not obvious to you, in 1895 the town was called St. Joseph, the county was Apache County and the state did not yet exist.
The reason why this rule exists is the simple fact that genealogical records are created at or near the time of an event, at or near the place where the event occurs and where they are ultimately recorded and stored depends on the what happens to records from that location.
If an entry is missing, then that is an invitation to begin research. and that is an invitation to do some research and moves us on to the next step. By the way, although these "steps" are being presented as discrete steps, in reality, they are recursive and at this point begin to overlap and become hard to distinguish one from another.
Here are the posts in this series.