Saturday, January 27, 2018

How to Write a Bad Family History

Just another day to rant on annoyances. This is how not to write a family history, not how to write a history of a bad family. That's a different subject for another day.

It's just that I came across this opening of an ancestral biography from Wales and it just drove me crazy.
 Just 8 days before the Royal Astronomical Society was formed in England (1),
OK, not a bad start. It actually ties to an historical event (footnoted!) even if somewhat disconnected except by what follows, maybe:

 heaven sent a choice spirit to earth to experience mortality under the tutelage of ____________, his parents.
I don't have a problem with a little religious sentiment in a family history, particularly if as genuine as possible to the subject of the history, but this is just crass sentimentalism directed towards a modern Mormon audience. To continue:
______ was born in humble circumstances and remained poor throughout his life, yet he was rich in spirit. 
What does "rich in spirit" even mean? I guess I missed that day in LDS Seminary during High School.
 As ________ grew into adulthood he was raised in the farming community of _____ until he met ________ from the neighboring town of _________. The two fell in love and were married. 
OK, maybe there are some good, geographical facts built here, but unless you have their love letters handed down through the generations, all you know is that they got married. You don't know why. Maybe it was arranged. Maybe they "had" to. Maybe it was forced by holding a mortgage over someone's head and tying them to the railroad tracks. A marriage that is built and endures on love is a pretty rare thing indeed. Stick to the facts, please!
   ____________ didn’t believe in the teachings of the church that was forced upon them by England when they conquered Wales, but he had a strong belief in God.
Aargh! Nice try, but the religious history of Wales is much richer than that misleading summary. And it's not that hard to learn. Just "Google" a few things!
________ sailed to the states on the steamship Colorado. If his sister traveled on the same ship with him, it was _________ because she is the only one to closely match name and age (5). The ship carried 600 saints bound for Utah, and was the last of the year. It departed Liverpool on 14 July, 1868 (6), and arrived at the Castle Garden Immigration center of New York on 7 August, 1868 (7) They traveled by train to Florence, Nebraska (another account says the train took him to Wyoming), then walked the last 800 miles from there to Utah because the rail hadn’t been completed to Ogden yet. Records record him arriving in Utah in 1869, so he must have been delayed en-route. _______ would have been one of the last of the pioneers to walk to Utah before the Golden Spike was driven in Ogden
Points for Castle Garden, but there are so many things wrong with this. If you depart Liverpool in the middle of July 1868, you can't expect to get to Utah Territory that year before the transcontinental railroad was finished. The "delay en-route" was obviously the winter of 1868-69. Did he walk the last part of the trail from the end of the rail-line? It appears so, but is unclear. The progress of the rail construction can be checked. Even the date for the Golden Spike (May 20, 1869) pops up with any Googling. You cold even check details with the National Park Service.

The part about the sister is just bad writing. I think I know what the writer meant to say, but still.

Bad picture of pioneers (not bad pioneers)
Not actually from that blog post but I needed some kind of illustration.

Now I will go and repent for my judgmental critiques.

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