Back on July 1, 2014, I published the first six Rules of Genealogy. See "Six of Basic Rules of Genealogy." This short list included the most famous and basic rule of genealogy: "When the baby was born, the mother was there." Here is a list of those original six rules:
- Rule One: When the baby was born, the mother was there.
- Rule Two: Absence of an obituary or death record does not mean the person is still alive.
- Rule Three: Every person who ever lived has a unique birth order and a unique set of biological parents.
- Rule Four: There are always more records.
- Rule Five: You cannot get blood out of a turnip.
- Rule Six: Records move.
I finally think it is time to reveal the next four rules, rounding out the number to an easily remembered ten.
Water and genealogical information flow downhill
This is one of the most obvious of this small collection of rules but also the most difficult to understand. However, this rule was not codified until it was introduced by Claude E. Shannon in his paper written in 1948 called, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication." The concept is that of "Information Entropy." Here is a definition from the Wikipedia article, "Entropy (information theory)."
Generally, entropy refers to disorder or uncertainty. Shannon entropy was introduced by Claude E. Shannon in his 1948 paper "A Mathematical Theory of Communication". Shannon entropy provides an absolute limit on the best possible average length of lossless encoding or compression of an information source.Entropy is a lack of order or predictability and includes a gradual decline into disorder. How does this apply to genealogy? The answer is relatively simple. As all of the events in our lives occur, only certain events are recorded and become "history." Genealogical research is basically the process of discovering, evaluating and re-recording those recorded historical events. However, over time, historical records tend to be lost, i.e. the historical record gradually declines into a state of disorder. At some point, all of the information about a person or event disappears from discoverable historical records. Occasionally, re-recording of the historical information preserves portions well beyond the average, but for most individuals records of their lives cease to exist after a certain period of time. Hence, like water, genealogical information disappears into disorder over time.
This means that proving that you are related to a certain king or other prominent figure is highly suspect.
Everything in Genealogy is connected (butterfly)
The Butterfly Effect is well publicized. It is generally stated as the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. Most genealogists have the unfortunate propensity of viewing their ancestors as isolated individuals rather than in a cultural, social, religious and political complex. In my years of helping people with their research, I find that most genealogists stop searching at the "Big Three" records sets: censuses, vital records, and cemetery records. They fail to see the advantage gained by extending their research to all of their family members, their friends, and associates. Sometimes it is necessary to research an entire community to find one person.
There are patterns everywhere
A family unit forms a pattern. It so happens that computer search programs are very good at detecting these patterns. If we use the programs to find patterns rather than focusing on the mundane names, dates, and places, we will begin to use the full power of the huge online genealogical database programs.
Read the fine print
The idea of reading the fine print is to study and use all the information in the records and documents you discover. All too often, I find entries in family trees with a list of sources and upon examining the sources, I discover that the information in the sources has not been used to correct or modify the conclusions shown in the main entries. Read the fine print. Look at what you have and use the information you have already discovered.
There you go. All ten Rules. There might be more rules but these will work for a while.