Looking to produce a high quality, well documented family history? After a while, its more about the place than a name. Online quick click genealogists look for a possible name match without studying the culture and history of an ancestral locality.
This causes genealogical flat-lining where it's just names and dates with no contextual understanding. They completely bypass unusual extant record sets that add dimension to an ancestral family's profile.
Elizabeth Shown Mills of EvidenceExplained.com responded to my Facebook comment with "And, Pat Richley-Erickson, worse than flat-lining, it causes genealogical misidentifications because they don't have enough context about the place and time to properly identify the person.(1)
In my early days as a fledgling genealogist, Ol' Myrt innocently committed genealogical flat-lining. Enthralled by others who put flesh on the bones using record sets I'd never considered, it slowly dawned on me that
genealogy is more than names and dates.
Studying history and the law, I began to see why my early Palatines left their beloved homeland in the small village of Affstätt in Herrenberg, in the Duchy of Württemberg in 1709 after decades of wars, crop failures and a winter so cold "birds froze on the wing."(2)
Expanding research beyond birth, marriage and death records, Ol' Myrt here learned about variations in William Henry A. Phillips name from his wife's affidavit in their US Civil War Pension file. Thank the Lord for this tidbit of information: "In regard to the correct name of my husband William Phillips, deceased, I have to say that his full name was William Henry Phillips, but he only used William Phillips when he enlisted so by mistake just W. H. has been used. After the war, he used for business purposes just his initials W. H. Phillips." (3)
Sadly, I had to chop off a limb of my initial family tree because my genealogical flat-lining led to a false assumption of a lineage match. It was a matter of guessing an older man in the vicinity with the same given and surnames had to be my 2nd great-grandfather.
Thorough research, covering 93 years of everyone by the surname in the vicinity, turned up surprising results. Using wills, probate packets and land records proved the man I misidentified as the father was in fact an uncle. Apparently, both had been named for my 3rd great-grandfather.
Why not breathe new life into your family history? Review previous conclusions to see if you've committed genealogical flat-lining. The best remedy is throrough research. See: The Genealogical Proof Standard briefly defined at the Board for Certification of Genealogists website here http://www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standard.html
Happy family tree climbing!
Your friend in genealogy.
(1) From an 8 Aug 2017 Facebook posting by Blaine T. Bettinger to friends only located here: https://www.facebook.com/bbettinger/posts/527332806706 Mills quote used with permission.
(2) Capt. H. M. M. Richards, Litt.D. writes " [the] Thirty Years' War making of Germany almost a wilderness; when, following upon its heels, came the cruel French Invasion of 1693, with its utter devastation of the Palatinate, bringing pestilence and famine; when, as if that were not sufficient, occurred the terrible winter of 1709 when birds perished on the wing, beasts in their lairs, and mortals fell dead in the way…" p9, The Weiser Family by Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg Richards, Litt. D. (Lancaster: The Pennsylvania-German Society, 1924.) Digitally imaged at the Internet Archive, (https://archive.org/details/weiserfamily32rich : viewed 8 Aug 2017.)
(3) 2 Sept 1921 Louisa Phillips affidavit, United States, Civil War Widows Pension Files, filed with Louisa Phillips' pension application no. 907389 co-filed with husband William Henry A. Phillips pension no. 243,464 (Private, Co K 19th Indiana Volunteer Infantry); Record Group 15, National Archives, Washington, D.C., photocopy in possession of the author.