Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Family History for Fun and Profit?

I was searching in a used book store here in Provo, Utah the other day and found and purchased a copy of a book written in part by my friend, Arlene Eakle. Here is the book:

Jones, Vincent L, Arlene H Eakle, Mildred H Christensen, and Genealogical Institute. Family History for Fun and Profit. Provo, Utah: Printed by Community Press for the Genealogical Institute, 1972.

The original name of the book was Genealogical Research: A Jurisdictional Approach. Even back over forty years ago, the title to a serious book on genealogy had to be popularized to get attention and sales. Here is a quote from the book on page 122 which makes a point that I have been emphasizing for years.
Research must be jurisdictionally oriented. If you approach research properly, you must do it through the jurisdictions which produce the records upon which research is dependent. A thorough study should be made before the records are searched.
I will likely come back to this book again and again. Without any contact with what Arlene and other have been teaching for years, I came to exactly the same conclusions. The idea here is basic and rather simple. Records are created at or near the places where events occur. In addition, they are created by different "jurisdictions" or entities that have some reason to record the events. For example, military records are likely kept and maintained by national governments, whereas church records are probably recorded on a local level. It is this idea of jurisdictional research that differentiates the competent and experienced researcher from those with less understanding and experience. I did a search on my previous blog posts and found that I have written about this subject at least 153 times in the past.

Why does this subject keep coming up again and again? Because too many researchers abandon their efforts at finding their family members simply because they do not understand the principle.

One unfortunate effect of using online research is that the concept of jurisdictions is blurred and obscured by indexes. If you go to any one of the large, online database programs, you will find a way to "search all the records." What happens when you make such a search is that you are relying on the information you already know about the person (or family) and trying to find a match with records that may or may not have been indexed completely or accurately. Two possible outcomes can be the result of such a search. In one case, you may have so many responses to your search that you could not practically review them all. At the other end of the spectrum, you may have no results at all. But what have you really determined? Not much.

When you search a record using an index, your search says more about the index than it does about the content of the record. Indexes are finding aids, not records. What is more, most index searches will return records from a variety of locations giving the impression that the named ancestor might have lived in a variety of places. But where did the ancestor really live? That is the question that should be addressed first before searching blindly for names in an index. The results of such unstructured searches is seen when people add children in online family trees who were born in locations that are impossible, given a particular family. For example, I wrote recently about a child added to my Arizona family who was born in England. This happens when people focus on indexes at the expense of ignoring jurisdictional limitations.

One thing I can say for certain, both Arlene Eakle and I are still teaching about the need to identify the jurisdictions where the family lived. Arlene started a little earlier than I did, but we both teach the same thing every chance we get.

No comments:

Post a Comment