“A Mixed Blessing”

A genealogy site

When I began researching my family’s history I relied on print sources and microfilm. This was time consuming, but it ensured that the information I found was as accurate as possible. I was able to note the source for each discovery as I went. I also wrote back and forth to historians in small towns and they xeroxed things for me and I for them. In the case of Lucy, one correspondent let me know that there was a compiled family history of the Durhams written in the late 1940’s and available in reprint.

In “The Name and Family of Durham.” assembled by William Clark Durham, I came across my second mention of Lucy Durham. Here he chronicled a good deal more of her story. However, at the time I was still trying to reconstruct a broader picture of the family and I set the resource aside for several years.

In the meantime internet based genealogy took off, led by the Family Search site of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints(commonly called Mormons) and a paid resource, Ancestry. I began to use both extensively and was able to get a more fully fleshed out sense of several of my family lines.

Here, however, I discovered a major difference between my early paper based research and on-line information. I soon learned that to a great extent people were simply copying other peoples’ findings without bothering to site sources. Not surprisingly, bad information was interspersed with good information. For instance my great-grandfather was mistaken for his father based on a faulty assumption that “he couldn’t have started a hotel in his 20’s.” (He did in fact do this.)

Now that I have settled on a thorough exploration of Lucy Durham and her work with both American Chinese and those in China, I am back to original source material. It is slow going but much more satisfying. As I come across such findings, I will share both the source and the findings with you. For those hoping to compile accurate family histories, I hope my current practice will prove a useful example.

22 thoughts on ““A Mixed Blessing”

  1. I remember doing microfilm research at the library, but it was so long ago that I forget what I was researching! In any case, I applaud your past and current research (and your stick-to-it-iveness) and,like the previous commenter, look forward to more findings.


  2. Yes I have found that there is a lot of misinformation online when doing family history Elizabeth.
    But there’s also gems amongst it. It is slow going when sorting the truth from the misinformation.


  3. One of my relatives is compiling my maternal family tree using two paid online sites. She has it back to just before 1900 now, and said she will send me a copy when it is complete.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  4. You have targeted the biggest flaw with on-line resources. Assumption is an easy thing to do, and finding hard facts is the hard road. Hats off to you for sticking to your research on Lucy. She was a brave woman to go to China at the turn of the century.


      1. I bet it was political! Did I ask you if you saw the movie “Inn of the Sixth Happiness” with Ingrid Bergman? My memory tells me it is similar to Lucy’s story.


  5. This is interesting, Elizabeth. I am also careful when I do on-line research for the same reasons. I also used paper based sources. I check information to as many sources as possible.


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