Friday, January 30, 2009

Five Fallacies in Genealogy

Most of us come into genealogy with some preconceived notions about research. Those who are interested in improving their skills and being a responsible researcher soon learn there are fallacies we must discard. Below are five of those fallacies I have encountered.

1. Having high cheek bones indicates you are probably Native American. Wrong! Having Native American ancestry may be fashionable, but this belief is about as accurate as stating that having ten fingers means we can type.

2. Sharing a surname means we are related. Wrong! Some people really do believe this and gather names the same way we gather leaves in the fall. It doesn’t seem to matter that names may have been changed through the years. Sound research is the only way to know if we are or are not related.

3. Our southern ancestors all favored the Confederacy. Yep. Just like everyone who lived in the south lived on plantations and owned slaves. What about all those men who traveled north to enlist in a Union regiment? That’s what my coal miner/preacher Joyce ancestor from Tennessee did.

4. Our northern ancestors all favored the Union. You betcha! See No. 3. Many men living in southern Indiana and southern Illinois crossed the Ohio River to enlist in a CSA regiment in Kentucky. Living north of the Ohio River didn’t mean your heart wasn’t on the other side of the river.

5. Citing your sources really isn’t necessary. Wrong! Go on believing that and you will guarantee yourself a seat at the bottom of the genealogical researcher’s totem pole. Not citing your sources ranks up there with taking credit for material not your own. If the material did not originate with you, you can not take credit for it. Be a responsible researcher and give credit where it belongs.

Can you think of others?


LSW said...

Hear, hear! My personal favorite I keep running into is the "four brothers came to America" family tradition. Never three, never five, always four. As soon as I hear that, I start doubting the foundation of their research.


Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG said...

In my Bostick family, it is said there were three brothers: one went North, one went South and one went to parts unknown. Gotta love it!

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

6. Because it appears in a local or county history, it must be true. Wrong! Many local or county histories were done by subscription, with the individuals listed in them preparing their own entries. Many of these entries were inflated or contained apocryphal information. For example, my granduncle Don Francis Reed had an entry in A History of Kansas and Kansans, in which much of what he said about his father and grandfather was not exactly accurate. I have been able to obtain the accurate information through gathering documents which reflect the situation more accurately.