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Archiver > APG > 2007-12 > 1197493788

From: "Elizabeth Shown Mills" <>
Subject: Re: [APG] WIKIPEDIA vs "The Good Old Days" and Useofencyclopediasasa source
Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2007 15:10:25 -0600
In-Reply-To: <200712122024.lBCKNs6b029949@mail.rootsweb.com>

Melinde wrote:
>While not containing information critical to a genealogical conclusion, the
Wikipedia entry for Henry Black, of Black's Law Dictionary, was quite
helpful in suggesting sources (by commission and omission) for the sketch on
the inside front cover of the Law and Genealogy issue of the NGSQ. It was,
at the time, the best "collection" of facts about Black that an extended
search could uncover online. It was written by a historian who did not
reference, or include without reference, facts in ready evidence in usual
sources, such as city directories and censuses. It was convenient, but
needed to be deconstructed and rebuilt on the "quality" of every statement.

You raise more than one good point here, Melinde. In almost every case, we
approach a new genealogical "need" by making a "literature search"; and,
today, the place that literature search begins is likely to be online. If we
need an overview of a general subject or an historical figure, than a
well-constructed Wikipedia article can provide that overview.

But, as you say, even the best articles are a convenience rather than a
source on which we can base our conclusions.

My own case at point would be similar to your Henry Black situation. Some
time ago, I rewrote the brief Wikipedia entry for the legendary Louisiana
freedwoman, Marie Thérèse _ditte_ Coincoin. The original Wikipedia article
for her, very brief though it was, was obviously done by someone who had
done no original research and had taken at face value some of the wild stuff
put forth by others who don't use original sources. My own revision could
not be supported by citations to the thousands of *original* documents I had
personally used. Instead, I supported all my statements with citations to
other published works where readers can identify each and every relevant
original record. I would hope that my effort there has helped everyone
interested in Coincoin; but I would never suggest that someone accept my
Wikipedia article at face value, and I would never say that my article was
*essential* to achieving the Genealogical Proof Standard. Those same
published sources could be identified by a basic Google search.

>A well known publisher issued yet another printing of Virkus a few years
back. It sells, yet it is a dreadful piece of flawed genealogy. Exhaustive
doesn't mean common, does it?

Nope. In BCG lingo (and IGHR Course 4 lingo), "exhaustive" doesn't mean
common. It means
- do a wise and thorough literature search;
- ensure that you have identified every potentially relevant source, by
whatever means necessary;
- actually *use* every potentially relevant source;
- take every essential "fact" or assertion back to the most-original source
- recognize that any potentially relevant source that goes UNconsulted can
be a time bomb waiting to explode a premature conclusion.

>I have corrected Wikipedia entries only in instances when I was a witness
events being discussed. I've never gone back to see if the changes were
"corrected" again, though.

It *is* wise to keep checking.


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