This Week’s Readings

Genealogy-related reads over the past week.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Good Genealogical Writing,” originally published in OnBoard 4 (May 1986): 16; available online through the Skillbuilding section of the Board for Certification of Genealogists web site. I love the BCG web site, because it has some really useful educational tools, including reproductions of articles that appeared in past issues of OnBoard. I read all of those articles when I first discovered the web site (and continue to read “new” articles as they are added), but I also periodically review the articles I’ve found to be most useful, including this one.

Of particular interest is this statement under the heading “Accuracy,” with the further proviso, “Don’t manufacture”:

The point should be obvious, but publishers offer several attractive manuals that lead us into grave sins against truth and reality. One “teaches” us how to invent drama and characters that bear our ancestral names, dates and places – how to “recreate” thoughts and conversations those people surely had, even though they left no record saying so. Another encourages us to read social history and revise our ancestors’ documentary record to make those forebears fit aberrations that are currently faddish in controversial “scholarly circles.”

Fictionalizing one’s family is fine…as long as everyone knows you’re writing fiction. The new trend toward “faction” disturbs me somewhat precisely because it blurs the boundary between the “documentary record” and fictionalized additions.

And that isn’t even why I re-read the article in the first place! I’m working on a lengthy article right now, and sorely needed the common sense guidance of one of this country’s leading genealogists.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Map. I recently discovered that Evidence Explained has a facebook page. My immediate reaction was, Does this woman ever sleep? It wasn’t an exasperated comment, but one uttered in admiration of efficiency and productivity; all to the lay (and professional) genealogist’s benefit.

As is usual, Mrs. Mills went the extra mile and added a case study on analysis to accompany the newly revised process map. I only had time for a brief read this go-round, but did catch enough to know that the case study alone is worth the time spent studying this QuickLesson.

Georgia Genealogical Society, Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 2, Summer 2013. This quarter’s offerings include articles by Kenneth H. Thomas, Jr. (on research in Primitive Baptist church records) and A. Stephen Johnson (transcribing the minute books of Mt. Zion Methodist Church in Harris County), as well as a continuation of Elizabeth C. Snow’s Governor’s Letters series and an article by Paul K. Graham on Georgia’s courthouse disasters. If you haven’t heard by now, Paul’s latest book covers that subject.

One of the best features of the GGSQ is “Questions & Answers” by Robert S. Davis, Jr., which are not limited to Georgia research questions, although those are the most prominent. I always learn something from this column. This issue, for instance, covers questions on the Colonial Records Project of Louisiana, a forthcoming book on Habersham County’s marriage records (good to know!), and the Oconee War, to name a very few.

National Genealogical Society, NGS Magazine, Vol. 39, No. 3, July-September 2013. This issue included a plethora of articles, my favorite being “Five tips for starting research in a new locale” by J. H. Fonkert. I always enjoy Jay’s articles. Also featured were articles on online newspapers, creating memoirs, facts and family tradition, census rolls related to Indian removals, and two articles on German research. There are so many things packed into every issue of this magazine that it usually takes several readings to absorb all the information, so this one goes on my shelves to re-read at a later date.

Recent additions to my home library.

Paul K. Graham, Georgia Courthouse Disasters (The Genealogy Company, 2013). If you perform research in Georgia, this book is absolutely a necessity.

Sadly, the only other book I’ve added to my shelves recently is my personal copy of Rabun County, Georgia, Writs, 1836 – 1859. I’m so happy to finally have this published!

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