How to Evaluate a Compiled Genealogy
When starting to research a family line we usually check first to find out whether anyone has ever compiled and published a genealogy of that line. Why reinvent the wheel if the work has already been done?
Several steps enumerated below will help in evaluating the worth of a compiled genealogy. As with any work, its value is based on the degree of accuracy on which the information inside is based.
1. Start by reading the title page. Who was the compiler—a family member, a professional hired by the family, or another interested party? What are his credentials? Is he certified or accredited? Has he published other works? What is his educational background, his reputation in the genealogical world?
2. Is the work published by an established genealogical publisher or has it been privately published by the author. Today anyone can easily and cheaply self publish on paper or on the web whether a work is valid or not.
3. Has the book been reviewed by a competent professional? Most of the professional journals regularly feature reviews of recent publications that will help you in evaluating a compilation.
4. Is the work validated with footnotes or endnotes for each fact presented? Is every fact based on primary information, or are many facts derived from secondary information? Compare the sources for consistency in relation to each other, not just as independent facts.
5. Does the work meet current genealogical standards? Genealogies published in the 1800s are seldom up to today’s standards. Even many produced in the 1900s are lacking documentation. A book published in the past 15 years should conform to the Genealogical Proof Standard formulated in 1997 and adopted by the Board for Certification of Genealogists in 2000, http://bcgcertification.org/.
6. What is the author’s intention? Be sure to read the introduction or forward to determine why the book was written, what it is meant to accomplish. If written to prove a particular relationship or event is enough evidence provided to support assumptions made?
7. Is the work credible? Does it appear to be historically accurate? Any writer can make an error, but obvious errors are red flags. With the ease of finding information on the internet today, it is not difficult to verify historic facts, dates and incidents.
8. Are living persons treated respectfully? Is their privacy considered in discussing touchy family issues, such as genetic disease or illegitimacy?
9. Was information derived from public records or were individuals invited to submit information and pay for inclusion in the book. If the book relied on subscriptions, it may not be as objective as it should be. A family might not submit data they would prefer not be made public.
These are just a few of the points to consider in evaluating a compiled genealogy. You may be able to think of a few more, especially as you begin to consider a particular work about your family.
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9 June 2013