A is for …. accurate authentic ancestors.

A is for ancestors…. As family historians, we research our ancestors to know more about the past and, more importantly, something about who we ourselves are.

A is for accurate…. As family historians, we should strive to be accurate…. to collect correct information about the correct ancestors (avoid the similar name problem, eh?) and to interpret that information correctly.

A is for authentic…. Accurate information that is properly interpreted leads to an authentic telling of that ancestor’s story. Sure, we will never know our ancestors the way they knew themselves, or as their neighbors knew them, but we can strive to do justice to their memories by striving for authenticity.

If these thoughts seem rather basic, well, yes, they are.

Many things can get in the way of accuracy and authenticity:

  • Cherished family legends that are actually mostly legend.
  • Assumptions about the past that are mistaken.
  • A preferred version of history, even if not grounded on facts.
  • A desire to avoid acknowledging historical facts that are ugly and unseemly in the 21st century. (They were probably were ugly and unseemly at the time of the historical events in question, too.)
  • Poor research skills.
  • Incomplete or unavailable records.
  • Any number of other factors.

Some time ago I was part of a conversation about a researcher’s cherished family documents that weren’t quite what they purported to be. I will never know the full story behind the documents. It was a little sad and troubling.  It involved accuracy and authenticity being deliberately thrown under the bus. Was the truth “too dull”? Was the family legend (if there was one) too cherished? How many family history researchers prefer fiction to reality?

If you want legends, read mythologies. If you want to know your ancestors, read and study real records pertinent to them and their time and place. You may be pleasantly surprised that “truth” may be just as interesting as fiction.

 

Josephine Cobb’s Discovery of a Lifetime — Pieces of History

Finding a great archival record whose significance has not been recognized is one of the things that makes working with archival records a joy. Although the 1863 Gettysburg Address audience photo in this story had never been forgotten, it was clearly under-appreciated until Josephine Cobb made the effort in 1952 to examine it closely and with thoughtfulness. Great archivists have curiosity and a deep understanding of history and their subject specialties. Hurrah, Josephine Cobb, and may there continue to be more like you.

Follow the link below to read the full story!

March is Women’s History Month! Visit National Archives News to see how we’re celebrating. Today’s post comes from Michael Hancock in the National Archives History Office. According to the old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. But in the case of Josephine Cobb and her 1952 discovery in a Civil War–era photograph, it’s worth…

via Josephine Cobb’s Discovery of a Lifetime — Pieces of History