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

Monday, July 15, 2019

Annual Review of The Rules of Genealogy: A New Rule is Added

I published the first six Rules of Genealogy back on July 1, 2014. See "Six of the 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." I added four rules in a post back on August 11, 2017, entitled, "New Rules Added to the old: The Rules of Genealogy Revisited." You can go back to these two original posts to read about the details of each rule. Almost a year ago on August 2, 2018, I published a new rule in a blog post entitled, "A New Rule Added: The Rules of Genealogy Revisited Again." So here is the present list of 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. 
  • Rule Seven: Water and genealogical information flow downhill
  • Rule Eight: Everything in Genealogy is connected (butterfly)
  • Rule Nine: There are patterns everywhere
  • Rule Ten: Read the fine print
  • Rule ElevenEven a perfect fit can be wrong
Now we finally have twelve rules. The new rule, Number Twelve, was always so obvious that even I could not recognize it. Rule Twelve is "The end is always there."

As I wrote in my previous post a year ago, "I suggest that if you don't know the basic rules of genealogy, you are probably floating around in a lake of information without a paddle."

What prompted this new rule was yet another experience working with a patron at the Brigham Young University Family History Library where we examined her pedigree and soon found that the entries realistically ended long before the names stopped being added to one family line. I have done this, likely thousands of times, and inevitably, there is always an end to every family line and invariably, the pedigree shows more ancestors along the family line. 

What is an end? Simple it is when the next person in a pedigree line is unsupported by the available sources. This would seem to be obvious, but unfortunately, it is extremely common. It takes some courage to admit that there is no substantiation for a continuation of the pedigree line and it takes more courage to cut off the dead wood, so to speak.

You can discover these disguised ends by carefully examining each generation of ancestors to verify that the sources cited support the extension of the line one more generation.

As usual, each new rule seems so obvious as to be tautological but when you think about it and realize how many of these seemingly obvious rules are violated sometimes frequently in the same family tree, you will begin to understand the need for simple, straightforward rules in the area of genealogy. Another year, another rule. How many more do you think there are?


  1. How many people ask what the picture is showing. I have three; one similar to what you show, one 12" metal and one 12" plastic.

    1. i keep mine available on my shelf, but haven't used it much for years. I don't get many responses to any of my pictures.