Armchair Genealogy: I Admit Things

How many times have we read about the absurdities  of cut ‘n’ paste genealogy? Yet this weekend I found myself in a situation where I was avidly reading online trees and making copious notes.

I know! But here’s why.

My research has concentrated on my own lines, which have not inspired big repositories of documents at FHL or the county genealogy society. Virgin territory, you might say. But, courtesy of Mr. Archaeologist, I have married into a sprawling Lynch line, descended from William Lynch (1752-1837) of Brunswick County, Virginia, who married four (but maybe three) times and had 34 (they think) children.

I loved talking to my late father-in-law about genealogy, but I feared getting too enthralled with that Lynch line. There were so many Lynch descendants already researching. Plus, I am on a Strict Genealogy Budget (TM) and there is no travel overlap  between those Lynch ancestors and mine — they’re all about Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky; I’m all about Brooklyn and Albany, N.Y.  Why torment myself? So, when Mr. Archaeologist transcribed data into my computer program from a classic book on this Lynch lineage, I sort of winced. And I left it alone.

Still, my daughters are undeniably part Lynch, and recently I decided that I had to face the music and clean up the citations on the Lynch stuff in the database.  At least I could make sure the Lynch lineage book had call numbers instead of “your grandpa’s Lynch book.”  There were also some anecdotes I’d noted, some old letters, an audio interview to transcribe, things like that.

But as an armchair observer of this Lynch line over the years, I fretted. A lot of theorizing has happened since the lineage book was published in 1975.  I have corresponded over the years with Lynch researchers who kindly shared feedback about eternal questions such as whether the first Lynch immigrant in this line has been conclusively identified, and whether it’s possible to definitively sort out which of William’s children were born to which wives (good luck).

And as part of all this I also did a totally unscientific survey of the online family trees on this topic. There were a lot. Many disagreed on basic points. Even trickier, a lot didn’t contain sources for the data.

My problem, as I saw it: I don’t want my Lynch data frozen c. 1975. Yet I do not see myself having the time or resources in the near future to take on the Lynches.

For now, I have compromised. I have left the transcribed data as it is, attributed to the lineage book. I have used the Notes field in my Reunion program to record observations of where the later findings have expanded upon the book’s conclusions, including URLs to sites that seem to be the most detailed and carefully reasoned. I’m also including notes and citations on any later research compilations available in the Family History Library.

The goal is to leave things in such a way that if one of my kids or their cousins ever gets curious about investigating further and they glance at my database, they at least have a decent starting point.

Or so I hope. How would you handle a situation like this?

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3 Comments on “Armchair Genealogy: I Admit Things”

  1. @Susan, @Greta, Thanks for the feedback. It is nice to know that others have these prioritizing challenges in their databases!

  2. Greta Koehl says:

    I have some well-documented and researched Quaker families back there somewhere in my tree and will probably do the same with them – make a note in Reunion about where the information was found and direct whatever researcher who picks up where I leave off to that information. Online there is even a set of the correspondence among the early researchers; there is not absolute agreement about everything, but you can tell they scoured through various sources and discussed and evaluated their findings in some considerable depth. It’s very interesting, but I will save my efforts for my (for now) less researched lines.

  3. Susan says:

    Pretty much as you’ve done. I have a similar situation with a New England branch of my in-laws family. I had a couple days in Boston to kill and parked at the NEHGS and grabbed the best data I could. That was in the 1990s. Haven’t touched it since. I do add notes I get from other researchers and respond to them as I receive inquiries. But it’s not, nor likely will ever will be, an area of active research for me – at least not until I “finish” everything else!


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