Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How sound are the foundations of your research?

Copy of a recent email I sent in reply to a query which failed to include any source, etc., information - and which covers matters relevant to many questions I get.


   Thank you for your query about  XXXXX.
   You don't state your sources in your email, or indicate whether you have properly checked out the information or whether you are just relying on something you have found on the Web.  A quick check of the "facts you have supplied suggests that the references to XXXXX come from a source which is well known to be unreliable and there is no point in me trying to answer a question unless I am convinced its foundations are sound. Let me explain:
   The references to XXXXX at "XXXXX" appears to come from the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which was available online on the familysearch web site until recently. The information you quote is "no longer there" although it can be seen by selecting the button for the earlier site. The problem is that the IGI is the records of retrospective baptisms of ancestors by the Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) and consists of two different sources. The most important, for genealogists, is that they computerised a very large number of parish registers in order to save the souls of people who had never had the opportunity to join the Mormon church - and this information is usually pretty accurate. However the IGI also includes family trees created by Mormons of their own ancestors - and many of them seemed to have been more interested in saving the souls of as many "ancestors" as possible than in getting things right. If a name looked as if it might be the one they were searching for they would link it in, and they would also create entries based on what they thought might have happened. For instance if someone was married in a parish they would create an extra entry, with a guessed birth date, suggesting they were born in the parish.
   Many beginners, who have not yet learnt the importance of verifying the sources, have assumed that "If it is on a computer it must be true" and duplicated the errors.  Submitted family tree entries on the IGI should never be assumed to be correct unless the information is verified from reliable independent sources (NOT from a family tree which has itself taken the information from the IGI). It may be possible to see the original documents from which the IGI was based on a microfilm at your nearest LDS Family History Centre - and from this you may be in a better place to assess the accuracy of the data. It is obvious to me that, for example, the reference to  XXXXX being born at XXXXX is one of these invented entries, where the person concerned did not know which of two parishes was involved, assuming that either were correct.
   May I suggest that you revisit the main web site and from the menu in the left hand column select  "Genealogy Topics" and then select and read the following advice pages:
   I am sorry to disappoint you over the possibility of errors in your research, but I feel it is better to let you know so you have the chance to correct them.
   All the best in your future family history research.

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