Should Genealogy Research be Conducted Scientifcally?


Should Genealogy Research be Conducted Scientifcally?

Inside these brick walls

How do we observe our family history?  

Genealogy comes from two roots; Logy to speak, or to pick out words when speaking for a treatise, discourse, science or doctrine.  The second root of Genealogy has root in the  Latin genealogia meaning "tracing of a family and the Greek genealogia; "the making of a pedigree."  Genealogy; therefore is speaking out about the family history.

Science, on the other hand, is a word which comes from the Latin root scientia from scire "to know." It is important to examine how we, as genealogists, "know."

Genealogists seek by careful and deliberate reasoning determine quantitative data, and come to know an ancestor's time of birth, marriage and death, place they were born, worked, moved to, lived and died, whom they married, how many children they raised, and how large a family they descended from.  Names, places and times are all quantitative data which can be found scientifically in primary source documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates, wills, obituaries, etc.

Genealogists must know how to separate scientific facts from historical observations, attributes and social phenomena.  Is qualitative data  also a vital component of social research?  Qualitative data forms the basis for social and ethical research and procedure.

Recording names, dates, and places brings together a family unit rather as a census enumerator fills in the census questionnaire.  However, the family genealogist must be aware of deductive theories which may arise from oral history and provide an amazing discovery of an event or about a person verifiable in archival documentation.  

And yet on the other hand, an inductive theory is using a specific observation and forming a general pattern or deduction.  Observing the birth dates in a family and comparing these to marriage dates is a specific observation.  Would deductions and conclusions inferred from these date comparisons be based on societal norms in the contemporary era, or would these deductions and conclusions be the same from the context of history in the explanation of events.  Would inductive theories lead the genealogist astray, or help the researcher to further sources of knowledge?  Ethical situations arise - historical ancestor hand in hand with the genealogist-when it comes to skeletons found in the family tree.  Perhaps the brick wall went up in the face of the genealogist's research because of facts the ancestral family tried to leave hidden or at best "not spoken about."

As times and eras change, those events not spoken about in previous generations are not embarrassing social attributes in this day of age as society has evolved and accepted those events in contemporary discourse.  However, each family reacts differently to the presentations made by the family genealogist.

Genealogy has two main purposes therefore, describing and explaining the family tree.  It is wise to discern facts from variables, generalized accounts and theories.  Genealogists need to step back and examine their motivation to delve into family research, is it to make sense of the past, and the family legacy, or is it to gain knowledge and grow the family tree descendant chart as far back in lineage as is possible?  The genealogist who speaks out for the family ancestry at the next reunion may wish to bring the knowledge they have acquired and make a positive difference and impact on the current and future generations.


Saskatchewan  Gen Web, the resource and database projects and Saskatchewan Regions are an online centre for free online genealogy assistance, resources, listings, and databases and information.  The Gen Webs receive transcripts, photographs, and digitized genealogical information from interested citizens, historians and genealogists and the Gen Web volunteers place it online for free access.

Saskatchewan Gen Web was taken offline by the Rootsweb/Ancestry.com IT department to work on issues in their system. Saskatchewan  Gen Web, the resource and database projects and all the Saskatchewan Regions are restoring data at http://sk.canadagenweb.org to serve you better until Rootsweb/Ancestry.com is successful in restoring the original Rootsweb pages.


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