Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Telling the Truth or Lying and the Gray Area In Between

As genealogist's we explore the worlds of people sometimes known to us and others who are complete strangers. In the process we are given bits of information about people's lives and must discern the accuracy of the clues found within. Unfortunately there are people in this world who will lie to us in an attempt to thwart our investigative process.

It is hard to imagine why individuals would purposely try to mislead or provide false information. Sure, there is always the possibility of an honest mistake or forgetfulness, but there are times when others willfully want to throw us off course in our search. Then there are those who just put down information in a family tree to creatively create a lineage that they are in a hurry to complete without doing a reasonably exhaustive search, the first step in the Genealogical Proof Standard as noted on the BCG website.

So, how do we determine when someone is being truthful or being dishonest? First of all one must examine the content of the information that is being provided. Is the information consistent from a variety of sources or does it change over time? Can we locate documents that will corroborate the statements being made? Does the person seem knowledgeable about the person, place or event?

Some reasons for a person to be misleading or hiding the truth are that they fear the information may be hurtful or unknown to others. Then again they may just want to throw you off in the research. In my own family this has occurred and when the truth was discovered one surely questions why. Following the trails of our ancestors requires detailed investigation and constant evaluation about the work in progress.

Using the work of others may provide important clues, but should never be taken at face value. Even working on immediate family members we may discover unknown information that must be judiciously weighed in how much we include in the history of our family. Just because someone makes mention of something about someone we know does not make it the truth.

The gray area between telling the truth or lying is where some of us get hung up. Half-truths or innuendos sometimes are meant to distract us from finding the truth. Some people play misleading games to throw us off course. When this happens it is probably best to limit contact with the person and be more skeptical of the information that they provide.

In today's world where we have instant access in communicating with others there are always mine fields that we walk through. How much do we disclose about our research must be guarded with the possibility of someone misusing our work. We think that we really know the people we have intimately spent our lives with, but there is always the possibility that we do not know them as well as we think we do. There literally can be surprises around any corner as we work to more fully appreciate the lives of our ancestors.

Please take the time to more fully assess the information found in your research, evaluate the possibility for the truthfulness or dishonesty of the sources being used. If you find questionable material or actions on the part of someone you are communicating with try to understand the reasons behind the representation being made. The main goal is to substantiate any such conflicts in our research and to provide the most accurate details in our work. My hope is that as you research your family that you will find wonderful material that helps you come to truly know them, warts and all, used with discretion so as not to mislead others unknowingly.

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