Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Digging into sources in the FamilySearch Family Tree - Part Four: What is not a source?
In my last post, I started the discussion of what is a source. In this present post, I am going to explore the subject of what is not a source. Here is my first example.
The real issue here is not the validity of the sources. Of course, the Bible is a "source" for certain information. But is it a source for the information contained in the entry supported by the above list? Here is the family that this list of sources is supposed to support.
One question that comes to my mind is whether or not Adam spoke Hebrew? The idea here is not to discuss the validity of the conclusions or the beliefs concerning the named individual but to determine whether or not the sources cited address the validity of the information contained in the entry. Let's look at the first child listed.
This entry contains an exact name and a date and place of birth. Again, the question is, do the sources address the validity of the information shown as a conclusion for the individual entries? Here are the three sources listed for this particular entry:
The first item listed here is the compiled genealogy Geni.com. Strictly speaking, this is likely one of the places where this information was obtained but it does not contribute any validation to the information. Some opinions about sources encourage an entry even if the cited "source" does nothing more than indicate that the entry is unreliable. In the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, the idea of having sources involves providing information that validates and substantiates the entries concerning the individuals entered.
The second entry is not a source at all because it does not identify either where the information was obtained or provide any validation or substantiation. Here is all that is recorded.
A quick look in WorldCat.org for "Biblical encyclopedia" discloses that there are over 10,000 such entries.
The last entry is even more cryptic. Going back to the WorldCat.org website, I find that a search for "Skaggs Documentation" produces results from topics on the Soviet nuclear strategy to rain in Minnesota with a total of about 223 responses. In short, these entries lead me to believe that the person who entered them had no particular support for the entry and that I can safely conclude that absent some extensive research, I am probably safe in concluding that the information is unreliable.
Another excuse for sloppy source entries that is often expressed is that they may lead the researcher to some valid conclusions, i.e. suggest valid information. In this case particularly and in all such cases, the time spent on researching out here in the "fire swamp" of misinformation is almost never worth the effort. In fact, the only valid strategy here would be to start back with the first person in the Family Tree (latest entry in time) and work back systematically. It is inevitable that this tactic will find that this imaginary type of entry occurs far more recently in these individuals' family trees and that we are spared the effort of trying to validate this imaginary entry.
I do not apologize for using this "back to Adam" entry from the Family Tree. As long as this type of entry exists in the Family Tree, we are far from having a book worthy of all acceptation. To summarize: a source entry goes beyond merely providing some imaginary or bogus place to look for similar information. To provide the drivel cited above is an affront to reason at any level whatever the motivation of the contributor.
Previous posts in this series.