Ruminations on Genealogy: Part Two

English: National Archives and Records Adminis...

NARA record

This is a continuation of the post referenced in the title “Ruminations on Genealogy,” that I put up a few weeks ago. Parts of the “essay” that I mentioned follow.

Genealogy is non-denominational; it is not a cultish thing. Genealogy is a global pastime for all who are interested in their ancestry, family history, and the works of their forebears. Genealogy goes beyond the simple ancestry charts, pedigree lists, and data tables. It encompasses history: itself, legal, medical, and family, to place individuals in their context of time and space.

Genealogy’s sources are diverse. Some of them include the items above: ancestry charts, pedigree lists, and so on. However, some such as those on the major data providers’ websites can only be classified as derivative. These data providers may, and often do, present images of the originals, but they also present images that have been manipulated. The changes made can only make one wonder what else the provider has changed.

Like all original sources, there is only one copy, and at most a few copies of that. The images often found on a providers’ website technically belong to them; the original, however, doesn’t. This is why you need to examine and cite to, the original and not the derivative on some website.

The best way to get an accurate, complete, and as close to possible, original, is to go to the archive where the best provenanced copies are kept. In the case of census records, this means going to a National Archives and Records Administration site and looking at their microfilm copies. Using a NARA-provided image is getting as close to the original as most people can, so it is the best available source. Use it, and cite to it, rather than a manipulated copy from or, or wherever.

To be continued.


© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research