walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

a small point from _Shaking the Family Tree_, Barbara Vines Little, complete genealogies

From about location 3377ish in the kindle version of Buzzy Jackson's _Shaking the Family Tree_: "On the genealogy cruise I'd heard one of the professional genealogists claim that she specialized in "complete genealogies," a term that struck me as an impossibility. I chalked up my reaction to my own inexperience, but over time I'd asked other, more experienced genealogists about it and they all scoffed. "What would that be?" one of my BGS [Boulder, CO Genealogical Society] friends asked. "A family tree going back to Adam and Eve?" There are no "complete genealogies.""

When I read this, I went, hmmm.

At the time I'm writing this post, the schedule for the cruise I believe Buzzy Jackson went on could be found here:


Barbara Vines Little was there. She did some hosted breakfasts and other meet-and-greet activities, in addition to some things about women and the law and land records. On various websites listing professional genealogists, she uses the term "complete genealogies" as a description of one of her specialities. I don't know Barbara Vines Little and I don't know the term "complete genealogies", but scoffing at Little is more appropriate to blogging than it is to a published work, and it isn't particularly appropriate in a blog, either.

If I were to speculate what Little is talking about when she uses what is clearly a term of art and based on Little's related specialties, here's what "complete genealogy means": all lines of ancestry (and possibly descendancy and probably some amount of siblings on the way up even if not their children down to the present), as far back as records exist in support of the activity. Specifically, however, _all lines of ancestry_.

Murchie, in the 1970s, really wasn't that far off when he said people trace a single male line of ancestry for hundreds of years and are unduly impressed with themselves. I was quite serious when I said "that's doing it wrong". By focusing on land records and other non-vital statistics records in doing genealogy, and offering to help people around brick walls in southern states like West Virginia, Little must certainly be offering to trace all the women ancestors as well as the men.

Buzzy Jackson, conspicuously, only traced her Jackson lineage, and honest to goddess, she had a chunk of it handed to her from the top; her major contribution was finding a cemetery to connect the line up from what she had to what had been offered her coming down. There's no indication that she had any interest in anyone whose surname wasn't "Jackson", or where they came from.

It's okay to do that, and even to get a book out of it. But making fun of people who are doing this the _right_ way, the way that actually helps you understand who was doing what when and where they came from before and why they moved somewhere else after -- that is just wrong. Jackson is a trained historian, and she mentions it more than once. She knows better.

ETA: Past president of the National Genealogical Society, no less.

ETAYA: Also, it is theoretically possible and sensible structurally to create a complete genealogy, if it is defined as all descendants of a particular person or persons to a particular level of generations or to the date at which compilation was closed. That's more or less the design of _Dear "Cousin"_, and of Aron C. Toews' Johann Toews Family Register. You don't suffer from the infinite past problem in that case.
Tags: genealogy

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