Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tamura Jones Guest Post: Scientific and Traditional Genealogy

I received this article by Tamura Jones, via email, in response to my post Thoughts on Classical and Scientific Genealogy (and comments to that post).  I have published it in its entirety here (with minor editorial changes):


First of all, I thank Randy for allowing me a brief guest post on his blog. I am not going to try and explain and what scientific genealogy is, I've done about a dozen articles on my own blog already - and still haven't quite succeeded. I'll merely try to address some concerns and misconceptions.

Scientific genealogy does not require that you sneak into cemeteries to dig up "your ancestors;" it merely requires a scientific approach to genealogy. That includes accepting the fact that you do not know who your ancestors are until you've proven who they are. That isn't branding anyone a liar, that is accepting that there is a difference between facts and proven facts; and proving your biological ancestry normally starts with proving the first generation.

Traditional genealogists treat official records as "proof" of "their genealogy". That is wrong; official records do not prove biological relationships at all. That is a simple truth, and there is nothing wrong about acknowledging that truth. You still know who your official ancestors are. You still know who your legal ancestors are. Most importantly, you still know which family you are from, which family your legal parents are from, etcetera; you still know who your ancestral families are. You still know who you call mum or dad, and you are not going to stop doing that just because you became a scientific genealogist and do not have proof yet.

Scientific genealogy does not ask you to throw away the records you've collected. On the contrary, these records remain very useful; you need them for your official and legal genealogies. Scientific genealogy does ask you to accept that you have more than one genealogy, that your biological, official and legal genealogies are not the same. Three genealogies instead of one; that is triple the genealogy fun!

Family historians benefit immensely from this improvement; the known family history is practically sure to make more sense once you know where the differences between the genealogies are.

It is an exciting time to be a genealogist. We have a scientific basis for genealogy that enables us to leave traditional genealogy behind. It is possible to research your biological ancestry, and the prices for DNA tests continue to drop. We can not only work towards creating a real genealogy proof standard, we can also make sure that our descendants do not just suspect and believe, but know that we are their ancestors.

With sufficient data on tested generations, we may even be able to infer biological relationships for earlier generations, but if we do not manage to do so, then we may very well become the first generations of known ancestors. We have the chance to be the generations of Most Recent Known Ancestors for our descendants - for mankind. We have the chance to be the solidly documented primogenitors of the world's biological ancestry. That is an exciting genealogical thought.

"Copyright © Tamura Jones. All Rights reserved."

The text above is the original work of Tamura Jones of Leiden, Holland and is published with his encouragement and permission. 

I encourage interested readers to read Tamura's website - www.tamurajones.net (Internet Explorer 8 and earlier IE versions don't work, IE9 does, Firefox or Chrome work).  Some of his articles are:

* (18 August 2010)
* (29 August 2010)
* (14 June 2011)

Your thoughts and comments are welcome here or in email (rjseaver@cox.net).  Please be respectful of all persons involved.


Louis Kessler said...

... and now we just need a program to allow you to record your 3 genealogies and display them either together, or separately.

MNFamilyHistorian said...

Very thought provoking, although I disagree on many points. Much more on my blog.

Harold Henderson said...

Michael Hait and MNFamilyHistorian have said what needs to be said. I would add one slightly larger point: it's just a mistake to set off on your own to improve any intellectual discipline without learning what it has accomplished to date. That's not how knowledge grows. Tamura Jones's picture of traditional genealogy is a caricature of the best work in the field, as published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, for instance. I look forward to reading his arguments once he learns about the actual current state of the discipline.


Kathy Reed said...

When I read Tamura's post, part of it rang true for me personally. I had been told that my g-grandfather was one person, but after 10 years I was able to PROVE it was another. The reality is that there was a bit of a coverup (for what ended up being obvious reasons). I even had my g-grandfather's name listed in official documents, including my grandmother's death certificate, cemetery record, and newspaper death notice. The reality is that this man was DEAD two years before my grandmother was born. He committed suicide, well-documented in newspapers of the time. So why the secrecy? If interested, go to my blog: http://jonesfamilymatters.blogspot.com and click on the story in the right-hand menu called "When the Pieces Fall Into Place." It took me ten years to get all of the pieces together.