Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Genealogists and Politicians

You Can't Change the Records

Politicians have historically known that their past and their ancestral histories are "our" business.  There are public records: ship manifest, census, land,  birth, marriage and death records, and county histories awaiting to illuminate ancestral pasts - especially if you have political aspirations, or ever served.  Public officials don't get to "sensationalize" their Pioneer Family stories. 

Genealogists and historians are waiting to check the facts.  This is not due to our political views, family research is merely our passion. Plus we know when towns were settled, we study migratory maps and probabilities of immigrant migration patterns - and we have specialists in Norwegian, Swedish, German, you name it.  We use a set formula to estimate generational timeframes (24 years), we know when the government proffered land grants, and we can outline when Iowa was settled by counties and using formation maps verify when new counties were created. Using social histories we offer reasons to not only why your ancestor might have chosen Iowa,  but we can analyze counties and settlements to support their choices. Sure, we don't know what they were thinking but we can pull weather and news from early newspapers, diaries and books to determine what they persevered.

So when Michelle Bachmann presented a "made for Hollywood" version of her genealogy, believe me, the genealogy social media boards lit up.  And, the overall consensus was "We don't think so!!!" and  "That's not possible!" The interest was not in Bachmann, but in the telling of her genealogy.  (So hold your political comments). 

Challenge to Family Historians/Genealogists
As a challenge to genealogists and family historians, I would ask that you 1) listen to Bachmann's speech for genealogical clues.  2) write down her account of family history facts; and 3) make a checklist of what you could verify. No need to do the research Chris Rodda did it for us. But how keen were you to picking out the genealogical facts given by Bachmann?  Did any raise a red flag? The last step is to read Chris Rodda's research results: Michelle Bachmann Lies About Her Own Family History To Sound More Iowan.

We Support Our Statements via Documents
Genealogists are not necessarily in the business of "fact finding," but it is the end result of our research.  Our statements, and analysis must be supported by documents and valid sources.  And, we don't get the option of eliminating or rewriting history.  Just tell it as it was.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see that genealogy websites are taking an interest in my article.

    I want to add something to the challenge presented here. Something should jump out as a discrepancy between the 1860 federal census page that I linked to in my footnotes and something in one of my other footnotes. Can anybody spot what it is?

    Because of other records that I found, I didn't need to investigate this discrepancy for the purposes of my article. I just wonder if anyone else will spot what's wrong on the 1860 census page.