10 August 2008

Roots For the record

On Thursday, at the end of the ethnic and cultural genealogy conference at Library and Archives Canada, I stayed for a reception in celebration of 10 Photos that Changed Canada, a feature in the August / September issue of The Beaver, Canada's History Magazine.

I purchased a copy and was mostly pleasantly surprised by the content. I'd already learnt that the issue contained a column with debatable advice for the early stage genealogist by Fraser Dunford, Executive Director of the Ontario Genealogical Society.

The subhead on the article "Smart genealogists put it all on paper" brought to mind my experience some years ago. I'd been carefully keeping a notebook with my genealogical findings. Then I lost it, managed to recover it at considerable expense, then lost it again never to be found. What saved the day is that I'd transcribed the really important stuff onto my computer where it resides, and is securely backed up online. There's material I considered less important that I hadn't transcribed, and I wonder if some of my more recent findings would have made more sense in the context of that data.

Smart genealogists don't rely on a single copy, whether on paper or online. Secure backups remote from home are far easier to achieve electronically. You don't even need genealogy software. Google documents is free, has remote backup built in, and will store everything you can write on paper.

I was also surprised to see the article advocating the use of preponderance of evidence, a term which was abandoned over a decade ago by the (US) Board for Certification of Genealogists. It was considered "inadequate" and "more confusing than helpful." The reasons are discussed here.

The kind of diligent search that is required by the now (US) accepted Genealogical Proof Standard is well illustrated by an article in the same issue of The Beaver that uncovered the existence of parish records for the birthplace of larger than life Mountie Sam Steele long believed to be lost.

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