Quick tip – Beware of chapter 1

If you’re lucky, your literature research may reveal a book published about your family done by genealogists in the past. Writing such books was popular in the nineteenth century, especially for prominent families, or descendants of early settlers of a colony, for example. Several such books exist for New Netherland settlers.

In many of these early books, chapter 1 is where the author tries to sketch the early history of the family. This is where you find claims of royal descent, of disinherited heiresses, or lost titles. Some books start with references to people living centuries earlier who shared the same last name, often in completely different places than where the earliest proven ancestor lived. Chapter 2 is where the proven line starts, sometimes with unproven claims about the link to the earlier history.

While we should verify all information we find, the chapter 1 information is especially suspicious, and usually the least documented. The grander the claims, the more suspicious we should be.

Since these early books are in the public domain, they are usually more easily accessible to current genealogists than more recent work that is up to modern standards. That has led to a proliferation of the unproven claims in online trees.

people reading a book, looking surprised

Credits: J.D. Noske, collection Nationaal Archief (CC-0)

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG® is a board-certified genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for almost 30 years. Her expertise is helping people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.

Comments

  1. Great tip! All authors have a bias and we have to ask why they are writing. I haven’t found many books like the ones you mention for my family lines and the one I found recently was more of a booklet. Even so, I noted the information and am working to verify it rather than taking it at face value.

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