I’m easily distracted. While I’m at it, I might as well confess that I’m terribly curious, too. It’s a time-consuming combination.
I’m the person who goes to the library to pick up a book for her daughter and comes home an hour later with three books for herself. Unfortunately, I do the same thing on the Internet. I set out to research my family tree and wander onto sites that have nothing to do with me and my family. Or do they?
Recently I was sidetracked by a link to genealogies for famous people and three hours later, I switched off the computer. I thought it was all a waste of time, but then I began thinking about what I had found. The first to come to mind was Elizabeth Montgomery’s data. The Bewitched star was one of my favourites while growing up, so much so that I named my daughter Samantha.
The author of the Montgomery article (http://www.genealogymagazine.com/elmo.html) sorted out the conflicting information available to the public from that gathered through genuine genealogy research. We may not have famous family members with publicity blurbs plastered across the tabloids, but sorting fact from fiction is what we do. We hunt for evidence to prove the information we glean through general knowledge and family stories are true. Along the way, we may discover dates we thought were correct are off by a few years, locations are true in once sense, but not in others and surnames changed because of spelling mistakes.
Although we may be tempted to present only the facts to create an uncluttered biography, if we don’t include the “misfacts” then others who read our data may have doubts. They may have read one of the sources with the incorrect information and had taken it at face value. For example, Montgomery was listed in one obituary as single, but in another as survived by a husband. Both obituaries should be included in this woman’s profile to give a clear picture of the information available for her. Notes can be added to point out incorrect information. The age at death given in Montgomery’s obituary was 57, but the Social Security Death Index listed Elizabeth Asher’s (ex-husband’s surname) birth year as 1933, giving her an age of 62.
If we note the incorrect information, readers will know we’re aware of it and it has been proven wrong. Anyone interested in checking the facts for this actor can do so with the detailed footnotes at the bottom of the page. We can do the same with every individual in our tree.
Another interesting website I discovered during my famous people search is s9.com Biographical Dictionary (http://www.s9.com). It is the largest biographical site on the web for famous and not-so-famous people. The search engine searches for key words in the name and the content of the biography, so if an individual is mentioned in someone else’s biography, you’ll find them. You can also browse biographies by nationality. There are 249 for Canadians.
But don’t spend too much time playing with this. You’re wasting your time ... well, unless you find a genealogical connection to one of those individuals.
Diana Lynn Tibert can make a full time job out of dilly-dallying. Submit a query. It’s free!: RR 1, Milford, Hants County, NS, B0N 1Y0; email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website (http://www.thefamilyattic.info/Roots.html) for more on Roots to the Past.