20 August 2014

Understanding Meanings in the Standards

Meaning and context matter and I was reminded of this while reading the Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition. Reading the Standards will enhance anyone's research, even if your personal goals are not certification or publication of material in any peer-reviewed journal. Just thinking about what is in the Standards will hopefully cause the reader to think more about their research and process and that is always beneficial.

 Page 17 in the Standards for Researching section of the Standards states:

"Understanding meanings. Genealogists correctly understand the meaning of all legible words, phrases, and statements in the sources they consult. Their understanding includes the meaning for the source's time and place."

It may be implied by the phrase "time and place," but I think I would add the something regarding the correct contemporary legal definition of any words used in any document created in a legal setting (court, probate, land records, etc.). There are words that specific meanings in a legal context that may have a slightly different meaning in another context (family letters, autobiographies, obituaries, etc.).

Readers of the Standards should think about what it is saying and analyze it---just like they would any document. If you've not taken a look at the Standards, consider doing so (it's not that expensive to order).Your research will be better for it. Even if you don't necessarily agree with every word on every page.