Where Did I Get That Information?

Sound genealogy methodology suggests that two independent sources are used  to reach a conclusion about an event or relationship. The difficulty is in determining whether sources are truly independent or not–after all, knowing who was the “original” informant was can sometimes be difficult. I was the informant on my great-aunt’s death certificate and I provided the names of her parents and her date and place of birth. Where did I get that information? I was not alive when she was born.

But I got to thinking about what I really knew–without looking in a book and without remembering something I had been told–things I knew first hand based upon my own experience.

I was alive when my aunt’s mother was and I saw them interact as mother and daughter for the first twenty years of my life. I knew she was my grandfather’s youngest sister (there were three other brothers in between them) and that she was about ten years older than my mother.

The name of her father I knew because I was told it. The date of her birth came from the family genealogy book and email reminders from my late mother “not to forget” to send Aunt Ruth a birthday card. The place of her birth came from having been told the children were all born at home and being told they’d lived on the same farm their whole married life.

Just because I didn’t know if first hand does not mean it is wrong. It just means that I wasn’t there–and would we believe any genealogist born in 1968 that he has first hand knowledge of things born in 1931? I hope not.

Think about how you “know what you know.” It may help you analyze some of those earlier documents.