It has become increasingly apparent recently that there are two distinct schools of thought regarding quality and depth in genealogy research. There are the genealogists who believe in working only with well-sourced, proven information – and then there are those of us who started our genealogical quests simply for the pleasure of doing so. Before either camp can begin searching for answers, they much first know the genealogy questions.
My own research (see my Blythe Database) started with a curiosity about our history because I grew up in a military family that moved a great deal, and therefore I had very little opportunity to meet with near and distant family members to learn family stories and lore.
I do agree with the article “Take time to produce well-sourced, quality work,” on the Genealogy Today site, in which they respond to another article by Sharon Tate Moody in the Tampa Tribune, entitled “Drive-by genealogists should learn a few rules.” I am one who looks at unsourced information as possible clues to breaking down brick walls and answering questions. Although the information itself may be unsourced and seen as questionable, it can be regarded as a clue. When I receive gedcoms from others, or access information online, I do not discard what could be valuable information simply because there are no sources cited. I note the information, making it part of my own database, intending to return to it, find and cite concrete sources as I can. Yes, I’ve found mistakes, but I have also found wonderful information allowing me to enlarge upon my family’s own stories.
I believe in the researchers’ responsibility for assessing the quality of the data they receive from others. I never take sources cited by others at face value, always working to find the sources cited and attach concrete proof in the form of images, etc.
Although a great deal of the Blythe Database attached to this site is not sourced, the majority of it is – the result of tireless work and ever increasing expense over 15 years. I have a clearly stated ‘Data Quality’ disclaimer linked in the upper horizontal menu of every page and post, and it states:
“The Blythe Database is my genealogy research in its entirety and is an ongoing process. I spend a minimum of four hours a day researching sources to verify data.
I have been researching genealogy for over fifteen years and you will note that I classify all sources by quality. If it is a poor quality source it is clearly indicated as such…
…It is common for there to be gaps in data and sources and in these cases I will use the individual anyway and either leave sources blank (indicating no sources found) or will clearly indicate source quality. It is up to the person using the data to use the information as classified.
I continually search out sources and documents to verify data and improve on substantiation. I have made some of my best discoveries using unsourced data as a starting point and I would hate for those clues to not be available.
This site is an effort to provide open, free sharing of genealogical information. However, all information is only as good as the sources cited.
I will gladly make corrections to data providing the information provided can be substantiated by the submitter with a source…”
Let’s face it: it’s quickly getting to the point where information gleaned from others will rarely include sources, images, etc. as more and more researchers become protective of their data. I understand as I struggle with my decision to openly share ALL of my information, but ultimately feel I’ve made the right decision, hopefully promoting more open and cooperative sharing of data by others as well.
Genealogy is a passion for me – and others. I enjoy the hunt as much as finding those elusive facts and sources. Maybe it’s my inner detective struggling to get out. Whatever the reason, my database will always have a substantial amount of unsourced data as I continually stumble upon new and hopefully ‘breakthrough’ information. I do, however, spend as much time as I can finding evidence and sources, but find (and I’m sure others do as well) that each new discovery raises numerous new questions, and finding those answers takes a great deal of time and effort.
There will never be an end to my quest…