Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Record Sources and Keeping an Open Mind

Recently while helping out another researcher I pointed out that a microfilm available through the Family History Centers might have the very answers the person was looking for. The reaction to the suggestion of requesting that film was surprising to say the least. Once I explained that the Family History Center were under the auspices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I ran into a very interesting prejudice. I won't repeat what the researcher said but it was clear the researcher considered The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not to be a religion and wouldn't have anything to do with them.

Instead of arguing with the researcher and as this work I was doing was pro-bono I decided not to continue the relationship with this person. However, it did leave me thinking about the impact of our own prejudices and our research.

In my research into my own relatives and also when doing work for others I've used resources from all kinds of places. The most obvious are those that have been gathered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and made available either through or at the Ottawa Stake Family History Center. As they state at

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the primary benefactor for FamilySearch services. Our commitment to helping people connect with their ancestors is rooted in our beliefs—that families are meant to be central to our lives and that family relationships are intended to continue beyond this life."

Now I'm not a follower of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but I can certainly understand where they are coming from both as a religious organization and also as a collector of documents to support their missions.

I've also used records generated by the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei when they were the government of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. If you don't recognize that name they are also known as Nazis. For me I've used both the military service records of an officer and also the records concerning those that survived the Holocaust. As much as I personally abhor what was done in Germany at the time I do appreciate the comprehensive record keeping by the government. Those records have shed a light into the personal histories of the people I've been researching.

I've always tried to keep my personal viewpoints out of my research and have tried to keep an open mind as to the attitudes and social beliefs of my ancestors. I am not here to judge their actions through the eyes of my own ethics and morals. I am only here to record their lives. As The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual published in 2000 states on page 3:

7. Information is collected dispassionately by
  • setting aside any bias, preference, or preconception that might color what is collected from the record; and
  • suspending judgment about the information's effect on the research question until after it has been collected from the record, analyzed, and correlated with other findings.

So I pose the question to you ... does it really matter to you, as a researcher, where the records you need come from?

1 comment:

  1. Not in the least. My concern is locating them and determining how I can get a copy or whom I need to contact to do so.