Saturday, July 7, 2007

Some Comments on Conniff

Just some brief comments of Richard Conniff's article in the July issue of Smithsonian magazine: "The Family Tree, Pruned" has stirred some passionate comments. I think we all need to step back and take a deep breath. Although his attempt at humor has generally insulted genealogists throughout the contry, Conniff brings up some intesting thoughts concerning the basic discussion of "nature vs. nurture". The true offense, though, is that he has suggested that genealogy is an inexact science that has no real purpose beyond entertainment value. Here is where he offends.

Genealogy, like any other craft, has the potential for shoddy work. But, with attention to detail a family history can provide the most insightful, and accurate, tidbits into the lives of our ancestors. He sites the uses of DNA to suggest that all of Genealogy is flawed. But he fails to acknowledge the built in limitations of DNA studies that are commonly recognized.

DNA is a new tool for genealogists. We are using it to provide new evidence, new leads, to direct our research. Most genealogists would recognize that the paper trail, the records we have used in the past, are still the best sources for documentation.

In short, Richard Conniff's article, although entertaining, is very flawed in his research and understanding of genealogy and family history. He needs to revisit his sources to better understand the topic.

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