GEN-MEDIEVAL-L ArchivesArchiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2007-02 > 1171055377
From: "taf" <>
Subject: Re: Bulkley Ancestors in Normandy 1050-1150
Date: 9 Feb 2007 13:09:37 -0800
On Feb 9, 12:38 pm, Nathaniel Taylor <>
> In article <>,
> "taf" <> wrote:
> > > Research demands creativity, not negative thinking.
> > Not exactly. Research requires a ballance between creativity and
> > critical thinking, such that time is not wasted on whimsical pursuits
> > of fantastical solutions to simple problems with obvious ones.
> You can flog me later, but I wouldn't say that research 'requires' this.
You are absolutely right. I just used his term as I understood him to
mean it, but it was an inaccurate usage. In fact, research simply
requires time and access to 'sources' in the broadest possible
definition of what represents a source.
> Genealogy is full of people willing to spend infinite man-hours on pet
> theories, even if critical thinking would steer them away from a
> likely-barren theory (e.g. if it flies in the face of methodological
> consensus on some fundamental point). There's no rule that CW-defying
> goose chases will never succeed: serendipity may be waiting for people
> looking for the wrong things, or looking at things for the wrong reason.
> A globe full of amateurs with wishful-thinking research agendas will
> certainly yield *some* hits.
I would suggest that productive research does require critical
analytical skills. You may stumble upon what turns out to be the
right theory, but you won't know that you have it, and as soon as you
find a 'better' solution you are just as likely to throw out the right
If fact, my grandmother did just this. She spent 30 years looking for
the identity of an ancestor, and at the time of her death, she was
still looking. Independently, I had found the answer, but she found
the story I told unbefitting of the myth she had constructed around
the man and ignored my suggestion (as it turns out, the guy was a
military shirker and non-Mormon polygamist). After she died, I looked
at her papers and learned that she had found the right solution
decades before but had failed to pursue it because the solution did
not fit her preconceptions. That cost her a line through a civil War
soldier and two Revolutionary War soldiers, tracing back to 1530s
Switzerland, all of which she threw out because the person in
question, correctly identified, was not related to some Governor or
other who she had concluded must have been a kinsman.