Open Thread: Questioning Others Research

A few weeks ago I was excited to share some of  my travels with my local genealogy community. My trip was a lifetime goal and I was excited to share with others that shared my genealogy obsession. I now debate if I should have discussed it at all because some (okay, only one person) were questioning my research.

As I shared some of my photo’s of Ireland, I included some that were attached to the history of my family. I was told there was NO WAY I would ever know if this was true because the only way to know that would be through DNA, and I would have to literally dig up my ancestors to prove the connection. The reason this person was so adamant about this is because the Irish were literal people and when they got to America and were asked where they came from, they gave the most literal answer, the port they left from. Not where they actually lived.

question marksWHAT????

Now let me say that I am a huge supporter of DNA testing, but this truly has nothing to do with how I felt attacked about my research skills.

I explained to this person that I do have records to back up my research and I am 100% certain of where my Irish ancestors came from. County Cork. Garravesoig, County Cork to be exact. I know the church they attended for almost 20 years, St. John’s Roman Catholic church in Dromagh, County Cork. I visited the church, the townland of Garravesoig and even the famine cemetery. We drove the roads, viewed the scenery and enjoyed every moment we spent in the area. We even went to see the old church that was burned down in the 1600s, with 400 people inside. We truly took advantage of our time in the old country.

Explaining was not enough. This person then wanted to know how I knew the records were for my family members. The Irish families are hard to research because of the naming traditions. Yeah, that is something I did not know, NOT!

So, I basically had to explain my process to prove I knew my O’Connell family came from County Cork. For those of you that are not a regular reader of my blog, I will share the information with you.

  1. First, a reader sent me an index to a baptism of John Connell (see actual baptismal register below). His date of birth was in line to my John O’Connell. But, because of the common names I did nothing with the information. I waited three months…while I tried to figure out how I would confirm the information. My decision was to create a new tree on Ancestry with just the information on the baptism index.
  2. Once the tree was created the first hint I received was a death certificate for a John O’Connell from 1931 in FairHaven, Vermont. As far as I knew, my family did not live in Vermont, but it was close to where they lived in the records I had. It also had a different mother listed than the baptism index. So, I was not 100% certain it was correct. But, I decided I needed to follow the death certificate up with an obituary to see what it would tell me.
  3. I requested an obituary look up on multiple websites and it was replied to the same day by a gentleman that lived in the area. It took him two attempts at the library before he was able to find the one I was looking for. The obituary listed all the information that we genealogists love, family members. Most importantly it listed John’s children. I already had a list of his children from various census records and they were all the same.
  4. But, the obituary also told me that this John had a step-mother and among those that survived him was a step sister as well. This was new information for me. The gentleman that looked up the obituary actually lived on the same block as family members of the step family and he pointed me to their online tree, which also put me in touch with new to me family members.
John O'Connell_Baptismal Register_closeup
National Library of Ireland, Roman Catholic Parish Registers, Dromtarriffe

You can see that each record confirmed the one before, tying all the records together to create a family. A family that came from County Cork. I was then able to look at other records from St. John’s – Dromagh to find many siblings for John and his parents marriage. I was also able to create a family for his parents based on the sponsors. Now I know that I cannot be certain that the sponsors are all his parents siblings, but I know they will all be related.

Sorry my story is long-winded, but I just wanted to send a letter to the community that helps everyone as they are out mingling with our extended community. We need to embrace each other and their research. Yes, I think its ok to question each others research because that is how we will learn from each other. However, I don’t feel that being outright rude to others and telling them that their research is completely wrong before they can tell you how they came to their results is right. Question nicely, create a dialog, not an argument.



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  1. We agree with your point in the end. Questioning research is one thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be professional and courteous in your feedback at the same time. Great article!

  2. And when you send the proof to the questioner and they have no proof of their own, then what? Walk away. Don’t answer any more of their emails. Don’t change your tree. Yet.

    1. Toni, this was an in person conversation. There is no need to change my tree because I have the records to confirm all the information.

      As for your question, “And when you send the proof to the questioner and they have no proof of their own, then what?” I would say walk away, if this is something you find yourself dealing with.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it.

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