Saturday, June 2, 2012

Be Careful with Family Histories!

Every Saturday morning, I receive by email the latest newsletter from Alabama Pioneers. Many of these newsletters contain great advice for anyone researching their family. Today was another of those days so I am sharing that advice here since there are numerous Reeves' family histories, some of which include theories and family connections which have been proven to be incorrect along with other questionable information.

Alabama Pioneers Newsletter of Saturday, 2 June 2012

Have you discovered a family history has already been written about your family? Don't assume your job is done. While the history book is a good source of information, many family genealogies contain errors, especially if it was written before computers. Research up until 20 years ago was different from today. Family historians pursued their hobby by writing to other family members and requesting information. Most of the data came from memory or a few documents. Censuses, indexes, and vital records were usually unavailable. Memories were helpful with families that remained in one area for many generations but difficult if they moved and searching documents locally was much easier than traveling.

You still need to be careful if a professional genealogist researched and published the book, even with citations. In the 19th and 20th century, many family genealogies were produced to prove descent from founding fathers. Since genealogy was a source of income, sometimes, if a black sheep was discovered, a genealogy history might have been improved and information dropped on the errant ancestor. Many fraudulent pedigrees were done during this time. Beware of any work completed by Gustave Anjou (1863-1942). He forged many bogus genealogies according to the Genealogical Journal of the Utah Genealogical Association (vol. 19, nos. 1&2, 1991).

But don't abandon that family genealogy book. The information will usually provide a good starting point with leads to be checked and verified by finding primary records. Many original sources are now available online or on microfilm. Look for citations and use them to obtain copies of the original document and your family genealogy will be much more accurate.

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