"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Thursday, 27 September 2012

I have a confession to make

Sometimes I worry that I am a bad genealogist
I worry that my research isn’t rigorous enough. That sometimes I hypothesise and don’t immediately have the evidence to back it up. That don’t obsess over county boundary changes when recording some ancestors’ place of birth and, shock horror, I might occasionally forget to record the full details of every source I use.
All this makes me feel guilty. I did a degree in history, and I should understand the importance of small details, and citing my sources. Indeed, I do understand the importance.
The thing is, I’m not a natural organiser, and I don’t particularly revel in the ‘recording data’ side of my family history adventures. Even my index, which I was so enthusiastic about when I started, is unfinished and hopelessly out of date, and I tend to rely on the quick record features offered in ancestry to keep track of my data. Even then I’m sloppy about the details.
What I love about my research isn’t the need to meticulously record everything, it’s the stories that the evidence reveals.
Who wants to stop and worry about whether this village was in West or South Yorkshire on a particular date when they’re busy trying to piece together what was the relationship between these two people, who was the father of that child, what happened to this ancestor...? The information I’m worrying about at that point is the vital clue that’s telling me what’s going on, and it’s unlikely to be what county a village happens to be in at that time – well, I suppose it could be! But my point is I only worry myself about such details when they become vital to my research.
I reason with myself that one day I will fix it all. That I’m so young that I’ve got years ahead of me to tighten up my records! I still worry about it though.
Once upon a time, before the internet, no one else would have known my guilty secret, but now everyone can see my badly-kept tree.  They probably think that it’s poorly researched and that I have no grasp of the Genealogical Proof Standard or how it should be done. It’s not that, it’s just that I’m bad at it.
And then I get cross because this is my family, my hobby, and I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about how I treat my genealogy. I’m only doing this for me. Everyone else should just be glad I make my tree public really!
Please, fellow genealogists, don’t judge me for the gaps in source citations and muddled up name spellings! I’m aware of my shortcomings, but I promise I’m not a bad genealogist. I’m just a poor record-keeper!
L x

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