Book Review: Elements of Genealogical Analysis

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

Elements of Genealogical Analysis
By Robert Charles Anderson
New England Historic Genealogical Society. 2014. 168 pages.

Robert Charles Anderson secured his place in the pantheon of genealogical greats when he became Director of the Great Migration Study Project. Supported by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the published volumes titled the Great Migration Series represent a set of colonial biographies that anchors New England research. His Santa-Claus beard belies a suffers-no-fools independence and an intellect that his admirers immediately pronounce as “genius.” The American Society of Genealogists, limited to a lifetime membership of fifty Fellows, received Mr. Anderson as one of its own in 1978.

Mr. Anderson discovered his own New England roots some forty years ago. His investigations broadened beyond his own family to encompass the biographies of the New England colonists. The Migration Project subsequently issued:

The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633; biographies, genealogies and histories of over nine hundred New England families who settled in New England prior to the end of 1633.

The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England 1634-1635; seven volumes of immigrant histories, each volume profiling more than two hundred immigrants and families.

The Pilgrim Migration: Immigrants to Plymouth Colony, 1620-1633; sketches of families and individuals who settled in Plymouth Colony.

The Winthrop Fleet Massachusetts Bay Company Immigrants to New England 1629-1630; profiles of nearly seven hundred voyagers, led by John Winthrop, then Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company.

Anyone can write a biography. But Mr. Anderson’s rigor and methodology serve as template for us in resolving our research problems. Each genealogy has its own set of snags, obstacles, quandaries, and dilemmas, where suppositions will be wrong, maybe wrong, maybe right, likely right, or nearly-definitely right. The evidence provides the facts, but the veracity rests with us. Best to pick a mentor, imprint the philosophies and strategies, then go ahead and toil through the work, and cross your fingers that, in the end, your final interpretations will be nearly-definitely right.

Mr. Anderson prefaces the book with his two fundamental rules of genealogy: 1) All statements must be based only on accurately reported, carefully documented, and exhaustively analyzed records; and 2) You must have a sound, explicit reason for saying that any two individual records refer to the same person.

The remainder of the book guides us through these fundamentals. The first section, Analytic Tools, examines source analysis, record analysis, and linkage analysis. The second section, Problem-Solving Sequence, studies problem selection, problem analysis, data collection synthesis, and problem resolution.

Explanations are direct and clear, with numerous examples of genealogical problems, conclusions, and rationale supporting the conclusions. The appendixes include a Glossary, the Three Paradigms promoted as useful to genealogists, the GENTECH Genealogical Data Model, and Forgeries. His source notes and indexes complete the book.

Mr. Anderson and Genealogical Analysis would serve a genealogist well, as mentor and guidebook.

Genealogical Analysis by Robert Charles Anderson is available from the New England Historic Genealogical Society at http://shop.americanancestors.org/products/elements-of-genealogical-analysis.

2 Comments

I fully agree with Bobbie’s review of Bob Anderson’s new book. I’ve read it and am using it as the basis for my current (and most likely all future) analysis. I’ve had the privilege of working with Bob on boards and projects and know Bobbie’s comments on his discipline and intellect to be spot on. If you’re serious about doing quality biographical research of your ancestors, read and use this book.

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Conferences should be held in the same place. Why would anyone want to go any other place than Salt Lake City. In these days of rather cheap transportation & so much now available for others on the Internet, SLC is the place. The Library whose holdings expand all most daily is really a no brainer.

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