13 April 2013

It Is Not Enough To Say "No"

I have always believed that it was not enough in any type of summary about an ancestor to simply make a statement like, they were "not located in the 1870 census" or they were not located "in Civil War pension records." I realize that there are professional genealogists who think that the research process does not need to be included in the research report. I think it does matter. Readers of the report need to know on what basis the "couldn't find him" statement was made and it is impossible to do that unless the report includes what records were accessed and how those records were searched. Knowing that is more than just about evaluating the research--it also helps to evaluate the researcher.

Do I need to tell readers of the report that I accessed the index at 3:00 a.m. while in my sleep attire? No But I do need to tell readers that I believe George Trautvetter did not receive a Civil War pension because I looked in the following places in the following ways:

  • Pension Payment Card Index--searched the digital version of the cards at www.familysearch.org for name variants as listed in name variant list.
  • Unit Index to Pensions--searched the digital version of the cards at www.fold3.com for name variants as indicated in name variant list.
  • Name variant list--here I would list all the variants of Trautvetter that I search for in indexes of this type.
If these were part of an actual research report, I would include the actual titles of the finding aids and would flesh out the website information more than I have here. The name variant list would include spelling variants of the name that I use when searching any finding aid, whether in print or digital format.

It is not long and it is not difficult to write. But it sure beats simply saying "didn't find it" in a research report on George Trautvetter. It is imperative that we include complete accurate citations when material is located--that's done to assist the reader of the report in analyzing the search process. 

But is also imperative, in my opinion, that we include details of our search process when there is "no" result. 
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