Family Tradition as a Source
Most genealogists probably encounter family traditions. They’re the stories—often with uncertain origins—that have been passed down from one generation to the next. The tales may involve subjects such as ethnicity, places of origin, military exploits, occupations, accomplishments, connections to famous people, and so on. Can we use family traditions as sources? Absolutely! As Thomas W. Jones points out in “Perils of Source Snobbery,” by omitting sources such as family tradition, valuable data could be overlooked. Genealogical standards teach researchers to evaluate and analyze sources as well as to compare evidence from multiple, independent sources. Incorporating family traditions into sound research, therefore, requires that stories be evaluated, analyzed, and compared to evidence obtained elsewhere.Only NGS members have access to full articles of NGS Monthly. Please log in or click here to learn more about joining the National Genealogical Society.
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Family stories are what got me into genealogy and history. On my dad’s side we were descended from a pirate, on mom’s from Ethan Allen – I wanted to find out the facts. The pirate turned out to be a privateer during the Revolution and not the original immigrant (who came in 1631). Mom’s ancestor marched with Allen on Ticonderoga. I ended up as an archivist with a BA and MA in American History.
Thank you, Karen. Who wouldn’t be interested in stories about pirates and Ethan Allen? I think your experience is probably similar to those of many of us who become interested in genealogy. I know that I always enjoyed listening to my immigrant grandmother’s stories about Ireland. Stories may get us started, but investigating them and discovering the actual facts is crucial to sound genealogical research. I’m glad the stories led you to your degrees and career.