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?