Where are you in terms of your genealogy and family history? What's your next step in better understanding the documents you've collected? Do you have a specific goal?
|Searching for clues in other resources. Lisa Gorrell at the SF Maritime Museum Library. Photo: Ellen Fernandez-Sacco|
While documents are central to genealogical practice, understanding the context for how those documents were created and used is also important. I asked CGS member, lecturer and instructor Susan Goss Johnston, what should people keep in mind about how this context relates to their own family history?
Susan agreed that while documents are central to genealogical research, she stressed that
"understanding the historic, legal and inherent context of those documents is not just important, it's essential. If a researcher doesn't understand the history behind a document's creation, he or she might not understand important events in an ancestor's life. If a researcher doesn't understand a document's legal context, they might misinterpret the true meaning of that document. If a researcher doesn't study that document in the context of other similar documents, they will miss important patterns and inferences not explicitly stated anywhere."
So, it's simply not enough to just have the documentation, but to also learn about these different facets, which can add so much more to your family history. Look at history written at different scales, the larger picture of events in the past, down to legal and social histories, or even material culture studies that can tell you more about life at that time.
Copyright © 2014 by Ellen Fernandez-Sacco, California Genealogical Society and Library.