In this third of our series using the fictitious grandma, I want to explore the concept of original research. By this I mean, what kind of sources was grandma using when she wrote her family history book?
The question “Where did she get that?” is standard. If grandma relied on previously compiled research, this means you have to trace that source. Perhaps she used a genealogy book written by someone else. Perhaps she found a genealogy collection or at least family file at a public library. What we do know is that when she wrote the family history in 1965, she wasn’t using the Internet and probably not a lot of microfilm either!
If grandma’s book begins with a sweeping history of the surname complete with coat of arms and crests, then she has drawn from someone else’s work. These published histories are dime a dozen with mostly irrelevant introductions. Even if you find the first part of her book somewhat irrelevant, then what did the rest of the book? Was it an accurate source when grandma was studying it?
As far as original sources, as the decades progressed, grandma may have had access to microfilm. You see microfilm dating back to the 1950s. However, consider microfilming efforts really becoming widespread by the 1960s and 1970s. In my research, I still use microfilm originally produced in the 1950s and 1960s, but the vast collections would come in the decades later as the technology was perfected.
So always question what grandma had access to in her research. You may find it was a combination of her efforts and a previously published book. Yet, you may find she plowed through the microfilm combining that with what she had available to her at the time.
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