In his GenealogyBank Blog, Tomas Jay Kemp responded to today's Chicago Tribune article by Steve Mills titled "Hunt is on for Phony POWs". “Mary and Chuck Schantag of the P.O.W. Network say they have exposed close to 1,900 people who have falsely claimed to be prisoners of war and another 2,000 men who falsely claimed they served in elite units.” Tom points us to over a million GenealogyBank.com old newspaper articles discussing POWs.
If there are such phonies now, what about long ago – at the times when our ancestors walked the earth?
Experienced researchers will tell us that biographical info published in county histories MUST be taken with a grain of salt, in that the subjects PAID for their entries, and the facts were not verified by the publishers. In many cases, the stories were - er, um - shall we say "embellished" a bit?
All “secondary” sources of info should be checked and verified with “primary” documents from originating sources.
For instance, if a man’s bio states he served during the Revolutionary War, then muster rolls, service records, pension files and such should be thoroughly investigated. Though the lack of a pension file doesn’t mean a fellow didn’t serve, it just might mean he didn’t live long enough to receive a pension.
It is common to have family stories handed down about military service, but often there is confusion and misinterpretation. Revolutionary War service might actually have been Civil War service.
THE GENEALOGICAL PROOF STANDARD
In each case, we’re to compare all related record groups with the ancestral story to determine the likelihood of the story having a basis in fact.
Thank heavens Mary and Chuck Schantag are sorting through the 20th and 21st century mess of alleged POWs and elite service unit membership to cull out some of the phony baloneys.
We need to be just as careful in our genealogical research.
FOR FURTHER READING
Board for Certification of Genealogists’ Genealogical Proof Standard (online listing).
Elizabeth Shown Mills’ BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (a valuable resource book.)
Happy family tree climbing!
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© 2008 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.
This and previous blog entries are fully searchable by going to http://blog.DearMYRTLE.com. Myrt welcomes queries and research challenges, but regrets she is unable to answer each personally.