How to “Use” that Old Genealogy?

We can’t really cover analyzing “old published genealogies” in one tip, but there are some suggested ways for using information printed in genealogies published in the early twentieth century and earlier.

  • Don’t copy every statement directly into your records because “it has to be correct because it is in print.” It doesn’t.
  • When specific dates or events are given, think about what records might have been created as the result of that event. Locate those records. The author may or may not have accessed those records. Access was significantly different when the book was compiled than it is today.
  • For events that are within fifty years of the book’s publication, consider the possibility that someone with primary knowledge of that event (or even contemporary secondary knowledge) communicated with the author. Note: just because this communication is possible does not mean that it happened.
  • Information on events outside the lifetime of the author are more likely to have been “handed down” or copied from other material.
  • Look and see if more recent scholarship on the family has been published.

There’s more to the analysis than this, but keeping these points in mind is an excellent start.


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