Monday, April 22, 2013

The Chasm

In genealogy there is a chasmIn genealogy there is a chasm. On one side of the chasm, genealogy is easy. On the other side, genealogy is hard.

On one side of the chasm are the ancestors and relatives we know personally. We know them as people. We grew up with them or with our parents talking about them. On the other side are ancestors and relatives that we know only through records.

On one side of the chasm we utilized living memory—our own and our loved ones.’ On the other side we utilized records.

On one side of the chasm are the modern census and vital records that uniquely identify individuals and relationships. On the other side records are incomplete, spotty, illegible, unindexed, hard-to-locate, or offline. Records are indispensably helpful, though seldomly so.

On one side of the chasm we blithely used direct evidence. On the other side, we painstakingly categorize, compare, contrast, correlate, and cite direct, indirect, contradictory, and negative evidence.

In genealogy there is a chasm. Before the chasm we thought genealogy was easy. After the chasm, do we forget it once was so?


  1. You've put into words what I've recently been thinking. I'm not a post-chasm genealogist, but I'm at the chasm. I'm about as far as I can get with my direct descendants using the easily available records (Ancestry, FamilySearch, GenealogyBank, etc.) and am moving on to old fashioned letter writing and courthouse visits. As someone new to the post-chasm world, it's a bit daunting but I'm taking webinars to learn new ideas and just sticking myself out there to see what I can find.

    1. I am not quite sure what I have stumbled onto on ‘Ancestry Insider’ so please bear with me. If there is some kind person out there willing to help/advise me I would be most grateful.
      Recently I have had the very unpleasant experience of attempting to deal with copyright infringement and research theft. Without my knowledge or consent, a contributor to the “Public Member Tree” forum on (Australia) has published wholesale details of genealogical family research from my book published in 1999.
      The person culpable has admitted doing it and is, I am told, attempting to remove it. However, email correspondence over the past fortnight seeking assistance and addressed to David P Farnsworth, Copyright Agent for Notice, at (supplied by Ancestry Help) has received neither an acknowledgment or response.
      My concern is that other PMT contributors are being directed to the copyright infringed material through the data collection indicator system - and are republishing copyright material.
      Could someone please tell me how I might get to respond and address the problem?


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