Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2000-01 > 0949195932

From: Stewart Baldwin< >
Subject: Re: Fw: books evaluaton on line
Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 01:32:12 GMT

On Sat, 29 Jan 2000 09:31:49 -0800, "Chris Bennett"
<> wrote:

>Then maybe, in the spirit of what Leo is trying to do, you should forward
>him your ratings, notwithstanding your doubts about the value of such
>systems??? ;-) Chris

I have never expressed doubts about the usefulness of offering
opinions on the value of commonly used sources. In fact, if you check
Dejanews, you will find that I have actively offered such ratings in
the past. In late December 1996, I posted my own grades (on an ABCDF
scale) of a number of the commonly used sources. Others also offered
similar grades during the same period. On 19 July 1997, I posted an
item with the subject line "Sources" which gave a synopsis of some of
the ratings that had been offered the previous December, and other
discussions along the same line took place at other times. Since I
gave Leo the dates that I posted these items, I was assuming that
these earlier s.g.m postings were part of what was used to create the
current web page, although it is obvious that many of the opinions
come from elsewhere, as there are a very large number of sources on
the web page which were never discussed in the s.g.m threads (often
with very high grades, which is why I am concerned about the possible
grade inflation).

If a page like this is being offered to the public, it is important to
keep in mind how it is going to be used. A novice who uses one of the
ratings on this page wants to know how reliable the genealogical
information in a source is. It was suggested in discussions a few
years back that every source, no matter how unreliable, has possible
leads, and therefore no source is useless (although I think there are
some books that are so bad that they are useless even as finding
aids). I pointed out at the time that it was important to distinguish
between a source's value as a finding aid (i.e., as a clue toward
further research), and its value as a source for genealogical
relationships (i.e., if a relationship is taken from that source
without following up the actual evidence - which is how they are used
99% of the time - what are the chances that the information is
correct?). If a book is very bad as a source for genealogical
relationships (for example Burke's Peerage) but makes a good finding
aid (which it does, used carefully), some are tempted to bump up the
grade to reflect its value as a finding aid, something which is a
terrible mistake, in my opinion. I feel that the main grade given
should reflect ONLY the reliability of the genealogical information
contained therein (because that is how the book actually get used by
the rank and file genealogists), and that the value as a finding aid
(or its value in other areas, such as historical), if any, should be
given as a different grade. Note that this may sometimes mean that
the low grade is not the fault of the author of the work, if the work
is being used in a way different from what the author intended. As an
example, Bartrum's Welsh Genealogies was written as a finding aid to
the major Welsh genealogical collections, and deserves an "A" if used
as a finding aid as it was intended to be. Used by a novice as a
source for relationships (which is not the way it should be used), it
is no better than a C- or D+, because Bartrum was only reporting what
was in the major manuscripts, not trying to difinitively decide which
versions were correct. Thus, this source should be rated a C- or D+,
with a note explaining that is was intended as a finding aid. Sources
which are purely finding aids (like the various genealogical guides)
should be given no grade at all as a source for relationships (because
they don't give any), and a separate "finding source" grade for their
value in that area. The difference between using a book as a finding
aid and using it as an actual source for relationships is something
that too many novices don't understand, and any such rating system, if
it is to do a service rather than a disservice, needs to make these
differences clear. After all, it seems to me that the purpose of such
a list is to try and steer people away from sources that are likely to
fill their databases with junk, and toward the more reliable works.

I think one problem is that this web page is trying to do too much too
quickly. There seem to be a lot of sources here which were never
discussed on s.g.m, and though I am unfamiliar with many of them, the
large number of "A's" and "B's" makes me suspect that some of them are
being graded too quickly and too leniently. Perhaps a better way
would be to start with a dozen or so the most commonly used items and
post the grades that have been adopted, asking for comments.

Stewart Baldwin

This thread: