Mar 132010

T.K. at Before My Time has an interesting post on A Few Thoughts On Standards.  While I left a comment on her blog, I thought it worthwhile to share a few of her comments and my responses.  She got me thinking about my standards for what I include in my database.  The primary qyestion being:  what do I do with unsourced data.

First, however, her reflections:

  • She acknowledged that she is not seeking or expecting perfection.  “If it were [my goal], the doing would cease to be a pleasure; it would become an obligation, a test, a source of anxiety”
  • She then reminds us that “this is my avocation, not my vocation.” You have to have different standards if you are providing services to paying customers.
  • Her most telling point is: “My database is where I choose to do my thinking, my comparing, my filing. It’s mine, and if I wish to store 4993 as yet undocumented, unsourced, probable ancestors and cousins in there with the dozen that are almost (but not quite) perfect, that’s okay with me. That’s where I’ll look for them later when I find the opportunity to do the research.”

Here is my response (somewhat elaborated):

Thank you for your thought provoking post.  It has helped me clarify some of my own priorities and standards:   
(1) It is my desire to provide accuracte source documentation for as much of my data as possible.  This means a lot of catching up, but I want my dat5a to have integrity.  Without being anally obsessive, I will do my best to provide accurate citations when I can.
(2) As the unofficial “family historian” for both my family and my wife’s, I have chosen to include the research of other family members even though the only documentation is “provided by Cousin Dave.” I have been entrusted with some data that has been carefully and thoughtfully gathered — my cousin’s maternal lineage that goes back to Amsterdam in 1700; the family tree of another cousin’s husband that goes back 10 and 11 generations.  I consider those data to be almost a sacred trust.  Because they are not direct line descendants, I will not be doing any research on them, but I have included them citing for every individual “information provided ny cousin …” (using the “personal knowledge” source template in RootsMagic 4.
(3) I have chosen NOT to contribute my database to online collections such as or RootsWeb’s OneWorldTree because so much of what I have is a hodge-podge of documented and undocumented, but I do have it online on my own website.

I am in the process revising 8 separate databases by providing source citations where possible.  Those 8 will be merged together and eventually will replace my current online database.  I strive to learn from the professional genealogists and even to emulate their adherence to standards, but I do not choose to restrict myself to presenting only “proven” data.

For me, genealogy is a dance in which “proven and “undocumented” whirl around the dance floor together — occasionally stepping on each others toes, sometimes “wow-ing” the on-lookers with the grace of their steps, and mostly just keeping time with the music. 

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