Now if I were to ask you what is this photo of, you would say "it's a deviled egg on a plate." You would base that observation on the fact that it has the characteristics of a deviled egg (sliced egg with yolk filling and paprika sprinkled on the top) and it's resting on a deviled egg plate. You might even say although the plate it's resting on is an antique, this is a more recent photo since it's in color, it was taken with a digital camera, and I added the date 2015 in the caption.
|Photo by David Ortega Photography. 2015. Used with permission.|
But look closely. Yes, it's a deviled egg but not a real deviled egg.
It's a candy.
Researching reminds me of this deviled egg. We gather documents and we think we understand them but it's through thorough, careful analysis that we can gain a better understanding of the research we have gathered.
Consider this. A cousin of mine pre-planned her funeral. She went to the funeral home, purchased a cremation package and everything that goes with that. They allowed her to fill out some of the information on her future death certificate. This seems like a great idea, right? Afterall, except for the information about her death, she at that point in her life should be a pretty good informant for information about her life.
She happened to incorrectly (on purpose) state where she was born. This had to do with her positive feeling for the city she named. But she wasn't born there. Not even close. Like 3000 miles away.
Now, fast forward a hundred years. If she had been named on the final death certificate as the informant, a researcher may take for granted that the information was correct and not double check that.
Always double check. Don't take documents at face value. Conduct careful analysis.
Need help honing your analysis skills? Here's some links to start you off.
Evidence Explained Quick Lesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Map.
Think Genealogy - Genealogy Research Process Map
Cyndi's List - Evidence Analysis & Evaluation
The National Institute for Genealogical Studies has a series of three courses on Analysis.
What's the take away from the deviled egg? Make sure that you are researching your Mary Smith, Emma Jones, or Jemima Johnson not someone else's.