Tongue in Cheek Genealogy – They Cite Sources, Don’t They?


In our last episode, we discussed The 6 Best Ways to Not Find Your Ancestors and that was fun. So I thought I would change things up a bit and share a true story.

Charlie was an aging man who had lost his wife many years ago and who owned a small piece of land near the woods. It was about 5 acres, and he had chickens, a goat and a few horses.

As Charlie was getting on in years, he often got bored,  was way past the age of having a job and was retired. Like many older retired folks, he began to think of his legacy and how he fit into the world. He had run successful businesses, was financially independent, and had 4 children who had spread out across the country. Only his daughter Amelia was fairly close.

Amelia was a computer whiz and taught Charlie how to use the Internet, which helped Charlie keep in touch with the world. Since Charlie had some hearing problems, she convinced him that using email would be a good way to keep in touch with his children and grandchildren, rather than trying to hear them on the telephone. She also convinced him that since he had come from a very interesting family with a storied past, that maybe he should take up genealogy as a hobby.

That kind of intrigued Charlie, since he had always wondered about his grandparents and older ancestors – where they came from and whether all the stories were true that he had been told when he was a kid. So he did. He started searching online, but was soon confused as to what to do with the information and what to do next.

Charlie went into town once a week to shop for groceries and run other errands. He often stopped at the library to check out books since he liked to read. In his most recent trip to the library, he saw a flyer on the bulletin board about a class in Beginning Genealogy that the retired school principal and Charlies’ old friend Samuel was teaching. Since the class was on Tuesday afternoons – and Tuesday was Charlie’s trip to town day, he enrolled in the class.

He really liked the classes – he learned about pedigree charts and family group sheets and all the other basic stuff about writing down one’s family history. He was really getting into it – in fact it became an obsession with him in just a couple of weeks. He was searching online 10 to 12 hours a day, looking through databases and searching old newspapers.

Then one day, in the fourth or fifth class, Samuel said something that totally caught Charlie off guard. Samuel started talking about source citations and how important it was to write down where you had found stuff. He was telling the students to “cite your sources” and how absolutely critical that was to recording one’s genealogy. When Charlie heard that he went off the deep end. He stood up in the class and screamed at Samuel, “I am not gonna do that.” He was shaking, he was so upset.

Fortunately the class time was over and Charlie bolted from the class, got in his old beat up pickup truck and drove home. Samuel was very upset at the behavior of his old friend. He thought long and hard about what to do – he knew that this genealogy thing had given Charlie a new lease on life and he had become enthusiastic about life once again – for the first time since his wife had died 6 years prior.

Surprisingly, on Friday of that same week, Samuel received an email from Charlie. Paraphrasing – Charlie told Samuel that he was sorry about his outburst in class, but that he was startled with what Samuel had told the class to do, and he would do it if Samuel helped him. Samuel emailed him back and wrote “Sure I will help you. When do you want to do it?” Charlie wrote back and said “How about Saturday? And remember to bring your gun.” Samuel thought it strange about the gun comment, but since he and Charlie used to go shooting when they were younger, he guessed that after they finished the genealogy stuff that they would go target shooting.

Samuel arrived on Saturday. Charlie invited him in and again apologized for his outburst and told Samuel how important that doing genealogy had become to him, that it had given him a new purpose in life and that he would do what Samuel had told him to do.

As they sat there, Charlie let out a huge sigh and asked Samuel – “Are you ready?” Samuel said – “Sure” as he reached for his briefcaseCharlie asked him – “What are you doing? Let’s go outside”, as he reached for his rifle. 

Samuel, with a puzzled look on his face said ,”Oh are we going to go shooting first?” 

And Charlie responded, “We have to go outside; that’s where the horses are.” Samuel, even more puzzled, asked “What do the horses have to do with it?’

And Charlie responded – “Well dammit Samuel – you said I had to shoot my horses as part of this genealogy stuff.”

And Samuel started laughing like crazy. So much so that Charlie started getting mad. “What the hell are you laughing at? I gotta kill my darn horses and that ain’t funny.”

At which Samuel spat back – “I said “cite your sources” not “shoot your horses” you darn fool.”

The moral of the story is to cite your sources so you don’t have to shoot your horses. By the way, I lied – this isn’t a true story.

For excellent information regarding citing sources, try Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained.


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