Genneocal and New Caledonian Genealogy
The Centennial of the Great War

Filtering Out the Dross, Separating Out the Drones



When we were very young and wasted too much energy complaining about school work, our grandmother told us repeatedly that school work served two purposes, neither of which had much to do with education: the first was to train from an early age a future work force that would know how to complete a specific task according to instructions and by a specific time; the second was to "separate out the drones" as she put it, e.g. identify the mediocre and sub-standard so that they could be pushed to the side. As I grew older, I would howl at the horrific injustice and coldness of her generation's views. She would let me finish my piece, and then would say, dryly: "Spoken like a true drone."

It has oft been noted that there are innumerable folks, suspected drones, who are making a hash of genealogy research on the Internet by putting up the most flamboyantly faulty, if not fallacious (that was fun) of family trees. Were they to keep to their own, private world of inaccuracy, no one would mind but of course the Internet does not work that way. Their mistakes are copied and spread by others, wittingly or un, until a vast, interconnected and intercontinental forest of family trees of people who never were and never will be obscures all hope of success for the lone researcher seeking documented, sourced genealogical truth. It is happening here, in France, too. As,, and others encourage people to create online family trees, the silly fantasies abound. How to filter out the dross?

French blogger, Sophie Boudarel, has asked other bloggers to share their research methods and one, François Frémeau, has explained exactly how he wades right into the dross, hauls off anything that might be of use and starts filtering. Essentially, using only, he:

  • Makes a list of all surnames he is researching
  • Searches and finds all trees with that surname
  • Searches those trees for possible matches with his ancestors, noting all of them
  • Using the names and dates he found, starts verifying them or disproving them by seeking the civil or parish registration on the website of the appropriate Departmental Archive
  • Those that can be proved to fit into his family tree are added AND he uploads a copy of every piece of supporting documentation

Some have maintained that this is utterly cracked, for the amount of work is enormous, but Frémeau responds as only a Frenchman could with the appetising: "To be sure, this method takes time, but I do not research like a bulimic. I savour each discovery." He also gives away his game when he confesses that, for him, "the goal is to search, not to find." Most genealogists know the thrill of research but we find his shift of emphasis a bit extreme. Monsieur Frémeau writes engagingly about the discoveries he makes and he is one of the few who ensures that every detail is fully documented.

©2013 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy