The third chapter of "Mastering Genealogical Proof" discusses Thorough Research, the first element of the Genealogical Proof Standard. Dr. Jones seems to be writing as if dealing with a strange batch of researchers who have asked "How much is enough?", a question that can stem only from those who are either
- Confused about conclusions that can be drawn reasonably from a body of evidence with those that must be absolute, indisputable and unchangeable TRUTH, or
To our mind, thorough research means identifying, locating and examining all possible resources, being perfectly aware that many will be missed, making it an ongoing process, followed by a phase of analysis during which it is discovered that most of what was found cannot be used. Dr. Jones gives six criteria for this process, putting the reduction at the beginning.
The discussion of Chapter Three on Dear Myrtle's MPS Study Group went over the above points and spent much time on Dr. Jones's terms and definitions, as well as on the value of different types of sources. None of these concepts would be very different in relation to French genealogical records. One obvious difference in Chapter Three, however, is the Table of "Suggestions for Identifying Sources to Answer Genealogical Questions" (page 25) for it covers sources of use mostly to those researching ancestors in the United States, such as the National Genealogical Society's "Research in the States" series.
After about the first hour of the online discussion, there was some talk of the directive by Dr. Jones that "authored, derivative works must be replaced by originals and primary information." We cannot stress this enough when it comes to those early twentieth century, American authored works about French records. They were usually written with glory in mind and with qualifying for membership in a lineage society as the motive. In nine cases out of ten, it is our experience that, while their research in American records may be exemplary, as to French records they simply cannot be trusted.
The most extreme case came to us not long ago when Madame B. asked us to help verify claims made in a lineage file which she had purchased from an American lineage society (some of them, to their shame, sell photocopies of their members' application forms and supporting documentation without those members' consent). Written by one Leonardo Andrea, a well-known genealogist in his day, it made utterly false claims as to the French ancestry of a man named Peter LeBoon, who probably was French, and who died in South Carolina. We looked at the original parish registrations online and found that no date of birth, marriage or death, nor evidence of the family in the supposed town of origin (Rochefort) appeared. Not a single one of Andrea's claims -- and there were many -- about the man, his wife, his children or his parents could be verified in the parish registrations online on the website of the relevant Departmental Archives.
Andrea's sources for his French "facts" were almost all untrustworthy for they either had "disappeared" or were books to which he had written the relevant contribution, as in the case of "Old Southern Bible Records". Some sources seem to have been fabricated and certainly were not substantiated, such as a "war record" from France and a tombstone in Rochefort. In fact, the entirety of the French ancestry seems to have been fabricated, though this has not prevented its being spread all over the Internet, of course. Clearly, Andrea and others of his club never imagined that their work concerning French documentation could or would be checked. We find the cynicism of such boldly told untruths perhaps no more than the lineage society deserved, but chilling nevertheless.
We cannot urge you enough, Dear Readers, never to trust lineage society files, insofar as they concern French genealogy, and to check -- as Dr. Jones suggests -- every fact gleaned from every authored, derivative work.
©2013 Anne Morddel