Apocryphal Family History

I have been getting ready to teach my “Beginning Family History” course this weekend at Dillington House.  I have been reviewing my mindmap of useful sites and updating my slide shows to reflect the latest sites and data sets available.

It’s amazing just how much is available online these days, but I am reminded of the quote from Douglas Adams from Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy.

In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words DON’T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.

Douglas Adams – “The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy

There are so many trees on Ancestry and other sharing sites which are “apocryphal” I think it’s more important than ever for everyone to check carefully before hitting that “shaking leaf” or accepting a hint, but perhaps like the Hitch-Hikers guide, it’s slightly cheaper and easier to accept at face value the information provided by another researcher.

Of course it’s not just Ancestry and the like. Just recently I received a set of gedcoms from a distant branch, which appears to have been carefully researched, but has no sources recorded, other than the odd note. I have just started cross checking the data against sources and already found one family, whose first 3 children appear, from the GRO index, to be from a previous marriage are happily included as children of the paternal line couple. I suspect it’s an inconvenient truth, as there are notes stating the first children were registered in the Mother’s name at marriage.

These days I really like to “prove” as far as possible any links before I add them to my tree. Of course once you hit the 18th century, it becomes pretty hard to prove anything, but where I do make assumptions at least all my sources are detailed so someone can decide to agree or disagree.

Remember without sources, your family history is a myth

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