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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice by Louise St Denis, Brenda Dougall Merriman and Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Steps To Success
Step 6: Presenting and Preserving for Your Research
Accuracy and Ethical Considerations in Publishing Data
Anything that you write and circulate can be considered as ‘publishing’ your information. You will of course wish to be as accurate as you can be with the information you have gathered to date. If you are unsure of a name, date or place, indicate this by putting ‘about’, ‘possibly’ or a ‘?’. You would not want to mislead a reader, or be thought of as dishonest by future genealogists.
Too many pedigrees and family trees have been published, often in expensive printed volumes, which include implausible descents. In the 19th century it was rather fashionable for the nouveaux riches to hire an unethical ‘genealogist’ to find them some suitable ancestors!
There is an unfortunate modern variation seen since the home computer arrived. Some newcomers to genealogy, (and some who should know better), believe everything that they find on the Internet and claim they have ‘researched’ back to the 15th century in one afternoon!
Any printed work, or item from the Internet, has therefore to be treated with caution, particularly when sources for each event are not quoted. In your own work, please don’t add to the mass of inaccurate data, but simply state your sources and when unsure, say so. A piece of information may be repeated several times, even in print, and still not be correct. Such is often the case with hearsay, or with copying a source without verifying the facts. Don’t fall into these dangerous traps.
Likewise the Victorians would completely omit illegal liaisons or socially inferior relatives from their trees. Nowadays this is considered ridiculous but even so, there are times when one should not tell ‘the whole truth’ about a certain individual. Although your notes should include all the facts, it would be unkind and tactless to publish all that you know if this would cause pain to anyone still alive. Illegitimacy, divorce, suicide, insanity, churlish behaviour or sojourns in gaol (jail) or the workhouse have occurred in every family and there are those who are hurt by these memories. At the very least your source of information could quickly run dry if you publish the less attractive facts about Aunt Agatha’s nearest and dearest!
All family historians should be particularly vigilant about not sharing information about living persons without their consent. Another, less ethical, researcher may place them on the Internet and may even scramble them whilst doing so. Not only is it the wrong thing to do, but there is a growing problem of identity theft which you may be unconsciously abetting. There are legal consequences, so be warned. For a more detailed discussion of ethical considerations in genealogical research refer to the National Institute for Genealogical Studies course Methodology-Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.
- This page was last modified on 13 March 2014, at 19:47.
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