Thursday, September 2, 2010

Research or Copy, That is the Question

It is absolutely unbelievable how many people will blindly follow the work of someone else and never question it. I think you know the people I am talking about -- those who copy their entire genealogy out of a book or from a website and they never do one ounce of research of their own. Now, don't get me wrong, there are some very good works to use as guides or for hints in Cherokee genealogy, but since every one of those works is produced by a human, there is always a chance a mistake was made.

Just yesterday, someone and I got into a very heated debate over just this thing. We were looking at the genealogy of a family and even though I was pulling up document after document, this person refused to acknowledge that we were discussing the same person because the middle name was different. This went on despite the fact that I gave sources including the Dawes applications for both him and his wife; the Miller applications for both him and his wife; the marriage record for when he married his wife; the 1900, 1920 and 1930 US censuses that listed him, his wife and children; and his WWI draft registration card. The only one that even listed a middle name was the draft registration card, but it also gave his birth date and the name of his wife, so it was very helpful in verifying this was the same man, at least in my opinion.

To the person I was debating, it was not nearly good enough to have all those documents because she had an online family tree that was done by an extremely well known and respected Cherokee genealogist that said the middle name was something different. It didn't matter that everything else matched. Because this middle name was different on that one family tree, I was wrong and she was right, no matter how much documentation I provided her. She insisted they were not the same person.

Finally, I said "enough" and emailed the person who posted the family tree online. I included the document I had found that listed the middle name as something other than what was listed on the tree and I simply asked if this was the same man in his tree. The answer was "yes".

So, research or copy, that is the question. I would like to say something about all this copying and depending on other researchers. First of all, if you do something like this, you miss out on the fun that is genealogy. You miss out on digging through old records and holding them and reading them. You miss out on that thrill of discovery when you find a tad bit of information that helps you break down a brick wall. You miss out on meeting distant cousins who are working on the same family tree. I could go on and on. Genealogy is so much more than simply copying down names and dates. Please, don't cheat yourself.

And, for those of you who copy the work of others, have you ever thought maybe the original researcher intentionally changed a middle name or added one to a birth year or something, just so they can identify their work from the work of others? I am not saying that is what happened in the situation mentioned above, but who knows. Maybe it did. A person will never know for certain if the data they copy is correct if they don't do their own research. For some, I guess that is good enough, but for me, it isn't. I owe my ancestors more than that.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thank you for reading.

The Granddaughter
copyright 2010, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

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