Sunday, 23 November 2014

Am I researching a family tree, a family history or am I doing genealogy?

The past several weeks I have been giving some serious thought o just what it is I am doing. Am I researching a family tree, a family history or am I starting to do some serious genealogy? Of course the three subjects are not mutually exclusive, but what is my real focus here?

Am I just collecting names and dates to put into a family tree? I don't think so - I am definitely doing too much work if that was my real aim. I have been digging into other sources to "flesh out" my family tree - newspapers, court records, books, family anecdotes and so on - which makes me think I am edging towards more of a family history than a simple family tree.

Looking closely at what I have been doing, I realise that I am leaning towards more rigorous genealogical research however. I have been digging through as many sources as possible to verify the facts I add to my tree and doing my best to satisfy myself that the information I gather is as accurate as possible. I am not happy simply accepting the names, dates and places that other people have placed in their family trees and have been seeking source material to confirm their conclusions. It appears that I may have stumbled on to something called "evidence based genealogy".

I like the stories I have been finding about the relatives in my tree. I recently had an article published in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine about one such story - that of Amos Bannister, a wheelwright in Stretford, who was crushed by a wagon. Several other Bannister family trees attributed this story to a direct-line ancestor, but I wasn't satisfied so I dug around until I found enough sources to be able to rule out this ancestor. It wasn't easy, but it was a very satisfying experience digging through old newspapers and other sources looking for clues. Showing some relatives the article and telling them the story was certainly rewarding and I have been encouraged to write more of these stories. This is something I would like to do, but there is part of me that insists that I get all the facts right before I share my stories with anyone.

Browsing some genealogy sites recently I have been learning about evidence based genealogy and the Genealogical Proof Standard. Do I want to go this far in my research? Is this something I might already be doing in my own ham-fisted way? I think this is something I need to spend some more time contemplating...

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