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George's Personal Index of Questionable Sources

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This project page aims to identify, comment and track genealogical sources that are commonly referenced on Geni but that are partially or totally flawed. The purpose is to encourage other Geni users not to use the data if those sources cannot give any reasonable justification for that data. This is essentially about websites that deliver genealogies derived from again other sources which may not rely on historical research or solid primary sources.

The rationale for this index folows at the bottom. From the start, this is a personal page. Please read the rationale first. If you adhere to the thoughts and wish to collaborate, please discuss. We must treat the indexed sources in all fairness and justify our choices. Thus, over time, the page should become a truly collaborative effort that helps to lift the quality of our collective work.

Index of questionable genealogical sources...

  • Fabpedigree
    • This website should never be used as a source. Regardless of the tremendous efforts put in the website, its author Jamie Allen states himself: "For hobbyists who want to trace their descent from ancient genealogies. PLEASE do not treat the information in this genealogy as authoritative. Just use it for hints, and research using some of the more reputable genealogical websites which I consulted." Rightly so. The site includes data from ancient legends and mythologies. It combines facts with tales. In other words, what looks like facts on the site's charts, may be clearly established fiction or fabrication. It is not Jamie Allen's intent to declare every piece of data as factual.

Caution about other sources

  • ThePeerage
    • Check its citations. The Peerage is often referred to as a source. The site is the (tremendous) work of Darryl Lundy, who aims to create a genealogical repository for all European nobility. Please take note of the fact that the author himself states that he only consults sources in the English language (which suggests that most sources are secondary - even if highly trustworthy). Secondly, he instructs to "... treat any and all entries in this database without any sources with great caution." Thus, when quoting ThePeerage as a source, it is advisable to do so only if it does quote reliable sources for the information. When it doesn't give sources, it can be used for guidance, but hardly as a source.

Rationale

Probably a majority of fellow Geni users rely exclusively on online accessible sources to investigate their personal ancestry. Personal records of close relatives and data from civil registries are the obvious places to look for data for your ancestors for, roughly, up to the early 1800s. Parish records will offer further clues that may take you to the late 1500s.

If you get that far, your genealogical quest has been extremely successful. And, if the record trail is followed with a reasonable sense of discipline, you can call your family tree pretty reliable. The great achievement on Geni is that we can all connect these family trees with one another and draw an amazing genealogical map of the past 500 years.

Beyond that, we get into very serious trouble. For anything before the late 1500s, there is no such thing as a parish record. For the 'hard facts', we then rely on records that enact commercial transactions, nuptial agreements, wills, charters... By and large, we talk about formal documents that were often kept by some public official like a notary. Thousands of historians and amateurs have spent (and keep spending) time on analyzing such records to extract genealogical data. Needless to say, the data mainly concerns people that owned property, including nobility. The good news for everyone is that, if you go back 500 years, there's a strong chance that at least one of your 1,048,576 ancestors (the theoretical number of people in the 20th generation above you) was an owner of property or a "notable person". Thus, with some luck, your documented ancestry stretches beyond 500 years and, who knows, even very far beyond.

However, at some point one must apply extreme caution with regards to the sources used to "ascertain" ancestry. Before, say, the 1100s AD, there are simply no notary records. We then enter the realm of academic historical research, where the sources may stem from archeological work and from the thorough analysis of ancient documents. Much data can be collected from the works by contemporary chroniclers and historians. However, such works may be flawed because those contemporaries didn't possess the powerful means we have today for data collection, document preservation and analysis. And, alas, many works were also partial or complete forgeries, made by corrupt pseudo-historians to serve the interests of politics and religions in order stake particular claims on power and possession.

An additional challenge, especially beyond the 7th century AD, is the uneasy boundary between historical fact and myth. Legends and stories usually carry grains of truth, but are typically embellished and utterly unreliable to establish the truth about genealogical facts. Heroes are invented, and fake family connections are made in order to glorify the notables of that day. Another grey area is where history meets a belief system. Belief systems are based on so-called divine revelation, where the matter of fact depends on belief of that fact instead of on a concrete verifiable proof.

The question may be... what is genealogy about? Is it about establishing a string of strictly verifiable facts? Or, may it also include varying degrees of supposition, deductions, conjectures, legends, beliefs...?

If you consider that genealogy is concerned by bloodlines, one should strictly adhere to verifiable facts. Agreed, even a formal record is not a proof of bloodline (except if DNA is used). A child may have been born and the formal father may never have known about his wife's lovers. But, those formal records are the best we can get.

Though we're all free to fantasize about a "glorious ancestry" and add conjectures, myths and belief systems to our personal ancestry search, we have to keep in mind that, on Geni, we're not alone. Increasingly, we all interconnect - which is exactly the purpose of this platform. In other words, our own conjectures affect all others who may not subscribe to such a vision - and might even find it offensive. By and large, the credibility of our collective work stands or falls with what we collectively project as our common, shared, interconnected ancestry.

The purpose of this personal project is to identify, comment and track sources that are commonly used or referenced on Geni - but which should be avoided because they notoriously contain flawed information, plain fabrications, or myth. Users may be using such information unwittingly, simply because there is no red sign when they find it on the Internet - and by using it unwittingly, they contribute to the maintenance and strenghtening of historical error.

In seeking "the truth", it is our personal responsibility to adopt solid research principles. Rest assured, even the most respected historians make mistakes. That's how we learn and progress.