Friday, September 26, 2014

Guest Blog: Genealogical Verification

Whenever you attempt to write about your family history in narrative form, there are always potential problems. These usually come in the form of the difficulty of verifying family histories in times when community records were never kept or (at best) are incomplete. Such circumstances make it difficult to substantiate important ancestral events and their significance to the overall story you are trying to tell. The only way to address these issues is to take the following steps.

The first is to only use those tales that you can demonstrate to the reader has some form of truth or logical reasoning for its inclusion. In my novel, The Legacy of Two Gemini Knights, I would estimate that I only used around 40% of the tales in my family archive. The remaining 60% had to be disregarded because of questionable sources. Adding them, whether I liked it or not, may have lessened the power of the text in one way or another.

The second step is to try to cross-reference any type of material you are using. Books, magazines and especially the World Wide Web do provide excellent means of providing added credibility to your written arguments. For example, much of the information on the Battle of Teba, Spain in 1330 as employed in the book, did help me formulate the Logan brothers’ and the other Templar knights’ roles in this conflict and the impact it eventually had on the rest of the story.

Another way to look at family genealogy is to visit those places that your ancestors came from. Often, small details are not included in the notes of official texts. On a number of occasions I have picked up vital clues to a story line, by talking to people at the scene or looking at the physical evidence myself. Such things can often give a particular insight to events that would otherwise be lost and in doing so leave the material written rather shallow and without conviction. For example, my visit to Leith, Scotland, did help me understand how my ancestors coped with such harsh living conditions at the time. As a result one could understand how the social culture of that period shaped the characters thinking on a daily basis and so in turn helped me to enrich the content of the text.

Finally, one can verify genealogical situations by establishing a linear series of events that fit together in some fashion. This maybe over a time frame or within a cultural setting that has already been established in other recorded contexts. Again, when talking about the Gemini Knights and their association with the town of Lanark, the land estates in west Scotland and St. Andrews in Leith, they were all established as important to the next part of the story by the interlinking efforts of further research. Such facts enabled family stories and genealogy to fit into the context of the broader textual message of the existing story with some degree of reality and understanding. Thus, hopefully improving the thrust of the book in some way.

However, no matter how one tries, there will always be gaps in any story from such a long way back in time. And we as authors must always accept that someone else will come along in the future and say your analysis on certain situations today are incorrect. And unfortunately, this is the price we pay for taking the conversation one step further in the here and now. Nevertheless, all we can do is our best at the time of writing one`s book and just hope the reader appreciates the genealogical contributions and connections made to date.

Geoff Logan, a veteran university lecturer, has a master’s degree in education from Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. He now serves as an independent education consultant. “The Legacy of Two Gemini Knights” is his first book.