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

Sunday, July 1, 2018

What if the records are wrong? Another genealogical nightmare

For the past six months, I have been looking at historical documents for about eight hours a day. That is a lot of documents. One thing that I see is that those people who created all these records didn't get all the information right all the time. I see lots of inconsistencies, misspellings, and writing that defies being deciphered. I also see two records from the same source with different information about the same event.

The answer to the question in the title is that you should never rely entirely on one record. Just because you find one record about an ancestor does not mean that you are through looking. Granted, as you go back in time or do research in some countries, one record may be all you can possibly find, but for research in the 21st, 20th and most of the 19th Centuries, the number of records kept mandates that you have a high probability of finding more than one and usually a larger number of records about any one family.

When I talk to people who despair about finding any records or any more records, I almost always find that they have no idea how many different records could be available. For example, in the United States, I just noticed that Val D. Greenwood has published a fourth edition of his book, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy.

You can buy a copy on or maybe find one in a library as soon as the libraries purchase new copies. I have mentioned this before, but reading the earlier edition of his book is what got me started in understanding genealogy and how to do research. One thing I can say about the book, even though as a missionary in Annapolis, Maryland, I will have to wait to buy a copy, if you read this book and understand what it is saying, you will be a much better genealogist.

In every country of the world, there are some records that help genealogical research even if those records are oral traditions passed on from generation to generation. The real work of a genealogist is finding those records and preserving the information. If you can't think of any more categories of records to search, then start reading a good handbook of genealogy such as the one highlighted above.

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