Family Lore from Heritage Books, Mug Books and Local Histories


Genealogy teachers and lecturers often tell people about the marvellous discoveries awaiting in heritage books, mug books and local /county history books. They less often teach how to use those effectively. In an excellant article by Connie Lenzen, “Heriage Books and Family Lore: The Jackson Test in Missouri and Idaho” she teaches some key points I’d like to emphasize.

When considering info from heritage books and works of that type, consider the ‘facts’ presented in light of these questions:

  • Consider the source of the information. Who provided these facts? Were they eye witnesses or participants in the event? What about the recorder? Was he/ she selective in recording the events reported? You need an original source with primary information. What you have in these works is usually something else. You need to evaluate the info in the heritage book for consistancy, and then seek corroboration from original sources. But before you do that
  • Determine the probability of the events reported actually occuring. Are the places where and when reported? Are the details consistant with the times? Chart it out on a timeline. Are ages of participants appropriate to events? consistant with other sources? legally and biologically appropriate with actions. Minors do not serve as executors. Three year olds do not give birth. So you need to situate people in the time and place. Creek Indian battles do not happen in Alberta. See my earlier post on The Probability Test .
  • At this point, once convinced the heriage book account carries a scrap of truth, the genealogist is ready to begin that reasonably exhaustive search of the relevant extant records, remembering of course that an exhaustive search does not mean searcing until one is exhausted, but searching until the records are all examined. do not confuse these concepts.

So,are you teaching this? How is your message received? And how do you evaluate their learning?


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