Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2004-01 > 1073970167

From: "Todd A. Farmerie" <>
Subject: Re: Is anything absolutely worthless?
Date: Mon, 12 Jan 2004 22:02:47 -0700
References: <>

To answer this question, in a word, yes.

paul bulkley wrote:
> I was interested to read subscriber comments
> addressing the value of information provided by past
> historians. Clearly it seems to make sense that the
> further back in time the historian addresses, the
> possibility of accuracy has to be questioned.
> AND YET both subscribers err if they desire to "write
> off" or consider "worthless" without thought this very
> information.

Here is the first problem with your argument. You are suggesting
that such a rejection is done without thought, which is unlikely
to be the case.

> Logically one has to only consider the
> wealth of information handed down by races (and
> families) to realise that one must not close one's
> eyes and mind to the past even if handed down by word
> only.

And equally logically, one has only to consider all of the myth
and legend that has been passed down to know that the important
question is how one distinguishes authentic information from
complete fantasy. One does that by evaluating the internal
consistency of the story, whether the person telling it has any
basis to know what he is reporting, and whether it is supported
by other records, preferably contemporary. In fact, when most
such tales are held up to this evaluation they are not found to
be supportable, and in many cases, they are found to be erronous,
to a greater or lesser extent.

> One has to recognise that major catastrophes result in
> a lack of contemporary narratives -

Yes - it is tragic that this happens, but that is no excuse to
accept later inventions, just because no contemporary records
exist from the time. Why are some individuals so averse to
saying "there are no records so we don't know", such that they
will accept anything to fill that void in knowledge, even if it
can't possibly reflect historical reality.

> The great tendency to reject should be avoided by

No, just the opposite - everyone should be ready to reject, and
only accept when sufficient basis has been provided to satisfy a
healthy skepticism.

> Sadly so
> often the so called expert is wrong, or the records
> are so stark - so limited to the eldest and property
> owner only, that one cannot speak with any authority
> at all about that family.

Why would one wish to speak without authority?

> By all means be cautious and apply wisdom but avoid
> writing off any data, however quaint or hostile to
> your own ideas.

For exactly the reasons you stated - that people make mistakes,
that forgeries are made, one must be willing to write off data
when it is shown not to be accurate.

> It is this data, these weird ideas and
> the like that create new ideas. Quite often the olde
> fairy story proves to be based on fact. And if it does
> not, the information is of interest.

It may be interesting, but if it is not accurate, it is not
genealogy, just mythology.

> GEN-MEDIEVAL would do far better in encouraging
> outlandish ideas.

GEN-MEDIEVAL, while always ready to revise opinions as new
informations surfaces, should encourage only making genealogical
claims that can be supported by historical data, and should
reject ALL outlandish ideas, until sufficient evidence is
presented such that they are no longer outlandish.

> I am really tired of reading
> discussions about how many illegitimate children some
> wretched monarch had.

To each their own. If others were not interested, there would be
no discussion.

> How boring can one be? We should
> be sharing information and encouraging information.

Umm, discussing how many illegitimate children a certain monarch
had IS sharing information. This borders on the old complaint,
"Why won't everyone talk about MY family, rather than their own?"

> It
> is the history of communities and people that is of
> interest - not the number of rabbits produced.

Like it or not, genealogy is not the history of communities.
That would be prosopography, sociology, or anthropology.
Genealogy is about specific individual people (even monarchs)
being parents, children and siblings of other specific
individuals, not communities.


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