This Week’s Readings

Elizabeth Shown Mills, Gary B. Mills, Jane Fletcher Fiske, David L. Greene, Robert C. Anderson, Henry B. Hoff, Harry Macy Jr., and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, “Guidelines for Responsible Editing in Genealogy,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 84 (March 1996): 48-49.

I’m sure y’all have realized by now that I’m a bit anxious in my role as the editor of SAGA’s quarterly newsletter, The Appalachiana. Naturally, my solution is to seek advice from other editors when my confidence ebbs low. This article, for instance, was written by some of the top editors in the field at that time, and because I’ve hit my first real snag, I really needed their advice.

My problem? Oh, yes. That. Hmm. Let’s just say that I believe (correctly, I hope) that no one’s work is above reproach, including my own. Also, I have a strong sense of duty. The two are related, but revealing the specifics might hurt feelings, which would be a terrible shame. So that probably makes two problems: the first, that I don’t know how to deal with this snag, and the second, that I can’t reveal the snag to get any real help in overcoming it. (You’re probably thinking that I should just ask for help, but the last time I did that it blew up in my face, someone’s feelings really did get hurt, I inadvertently burned a bridge that I never meant to burn, and I’m still feeling the repercussions today. Lesson learned.)

Anywho, the article, which was brief and pointed, but not in a bad way. Essentially, the authors outlined the responsibilities of genealogical editors, including verifying material used and aiming for consistency and clarity. I was actually quite relieved to read this. (Hey, I’m doing something right!) It didn’t solve my current editing problem, but it made me feel a little better about the goals I’ve set for The Appalachiana.

Virginia Easley DeMarce, “Review Essay: The Melungeons,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 84 (June 1996): 134-149.

While I had the PDF open containing the entire run of the NGSQ for 1996, I scanned for other articles of interest to read and came upon this, which I don’t recall reading before. SAGA has a list of resources (well, we’re trying; it’s not a very long list yet) for researchers on our web site, and one of the books that another SAGA member recommended was N. Brent and Robyn Vaughn Kennedy’s book, The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1994). I had never read it before, but trusted the recommendation based on the word of the other member.

What was that about lessons learned?

DeMarce completely eviscerates the entire work, pointing out not only the numerous flaws in the genealogical research, but also the flaws in the Kennedys’ interpretation of background material, including the laws of, by my count, three (or maybe four) states. What is presented as a serious work of non-fiction is, by DeMarce’s reckoning, a near-complete fiction based around historic figures who were not Melungeons but ancestrally Northern Europeans.

In other news… Some of you may miss my occasional Sunday walks around the blogs. Instead of gathering and posting those here, I’ve taken to posting interesting reads, etc., on SAGA’s Facebook page. When I’m no longer the party primarily responsible for keeping that page up, I’ll resume posting links here. In the meantime, happy hunting!

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