Rubincam, Milton. Pitfalls in Genealogical Research.

Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1987. 74p., softcover. Illus. $7.95. ISBN 0-916489-28-0.

Rubincam was one of the most popular genealogical speakers of the older generation of researchers, an expert in evidence analysis and methodology, and the chapters of this slender volume originated in talks he gave to national and regional groups, mostly in the 1950s. He takes the position that it’s possible for new family historians (or even experienced ones) to avoid most — though not all — research traps by learning from the experience of those who have gone before.

His topics include why you shouldn’t believe everything you see in print, the danger of assuming that two people with the same name are actually the same person (even if they’re living in the same place at the same time), dealing with family traditions, paying attention to the dating of events, the origin of surnames, why you can’t simply adopt the coat of arms of a distant relative (Halbert’s Inc. of Bath, Ohio, notwithstanding), identifying fraudulent pedigrees, being aware of the changing meanings of terminology (he gives the example of the researcher who assumed her ancestor must have been a naval petty officer because her sources described him as a “yeoman” . . .), and why a genealogist must also pay close attention to history. He uses brief case studies to makes his points and does it all in a highly engaging style, even though he tends to repeatedly hammer home the lessons he hopes to impart. This one won’t take you more than an hour or two to read, and you should do that periodically.

Published in: on 10 May 2011 at 6:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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