Satisfactory accounts

Alicia Crane WilliamsIn my blog post The Wings of a dilemma, I bemoaned the fact that although so much has been published about the Wing family over the years, I could not find a “satisfactory” account of the early Wing family. Raymond Wing of The Wing Family Association has kindly brought me up to speed on what is new with the Wings, including baptisms for the two oldest children of John and Deborah Wing discovered since the 2006 Wing genealogy was published. Thank you, Raymond. These baptisms are posted on the Wing website, but I evidently missed them because I found no link to those records from the other pages on the site to alert me that they were there. This will eventually bring us to discuss the dilemma: “If we have the information, how to we lead people to it?”

But first, what is, or is not, a “satisfactory” account?

  • It is not a 100-year old publication. No matter how good our predecessors were, they simply did not have access to all of the material we have today.
  • It contains full citations to as much primary material as possible. The methodology we use today is very different from what was used even thirty or fifty years ago. Original sources are key. It is not at all unusual for previous transcriptions of a will or deed to be found to be incomplete or misinterpreted when compared to the original. If we must rely on abstracts or transcriptions of material that we cannot now access, it must always be with caution.
  • It is as succinct and clear as possible. Verbiage used in nineteenth century accounts is not necessary when we are looking for facts and documentation.
  • It is as complete as possible, incorporating all available information as of its publication, showing that due diligence has been done to collect this information.
  • It “tests all the theories.” Inevitably, various published accounts will contain contradictions – some small, some large. It is not enough for authors to present only the version that they feel is correct, or more likely to be correct, without also presenting all other theories and discussing why they have been disproved or are questionable.
  • It must be as accessible as possible. Today, that involves the ability to locate the account, or discover where an account may be located, not only at a library but through the Internet. A great genealogical treatise that readers don’t know about or cannot access is wasted.

Any other suggestions?

Alicia Crane Williams

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.View all posts by Alicia Crane Williams