Are You Researching Through a Peephole?

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We’ve probably all used peepholes to peek out and see who is knocking at the door. The tiny opening gives a glimpse, but it isn’t large enough to provide the full picture. If the visitor is too close, off to the side, or looking down, there’s a good chance we won’t be able to see much. It’s very easy to be fooled when we don’t have a full, clear view. Peepholes can be helpful, but we must be aware of the related pitfalls.

Using a “peephole approach” in genealogy—drawing conclusions based on one or two sources of information—could easily set a researcher on the wrong track. Genealogists may encounter sources that seem to be relevant at first glance, only to find later that hasty acceptance was a mistake. Or they may latch on to information as fact and move forward using that data but eventually discover they’ve wasted time on a false lead.

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