Document Analysis Exercise: Parish Register
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Yesterday’s QuickTest presented, for analysis, one page of a record—a military roster providing data on “Corporal Young Lemmas of Company B, 1st Arkansas Regiment, C.S.A." Suzanne Matson earns the prize for the first person to spot the targeted problem. No, a military company would not have 52 corporals. And “Corporal Lemmas” was not a corporal at all.
For some years, academics have used genealogy sites for source materials. That is good. It is not good, however, when they accept material at face value, without a critical examination of what they are using.
Today’s “test” is a case in point.
Proof is not a document. It’s a body of evidence. As biographers or historians of whatever ilk, we do not ‘prove’ a point by discovering a record that asserts something. That assertion could be wrong. If so, any further work we do on the basis of that misinformation will likely be wrong or irrelevant.