Rules of Genealogy

James Tanner often writes about the Rules of Genealogy. These aren’t rules in the sense that you must follow them. They’re common sense parameters for doing genealogy. Natural laws rather than rules of the game, if you will.

  • Rule One: When the baby was born, the mother was there.
  • Rule Two: Absence of an obituary or death record does not mean the person is still alive.
  • Rule Three: Every person who ever lived has a unique birth order and a unique set of biological parents.
  • Rule Four: There are always more records.
  • Rule Five: You cannot get blood out of a turnip. 
  • Rule Six: Records move. 
  • Rule Seven: Water and genealogical information flow downhill
  • Rule Eight: Everything in genealogy is connected (butterfly)
  • Rule Nine: There are patterns everywhere
  • Rule Ten: Read the fine print
  • Rule Eleven: Even a perfect fit can be wrong
  • Rule Twelve: The end is always there

The video version explains each point.

My favorite is the first one: when the baby was born the mother was there. The first time I read that, I got a rush. Such an easy way to phrase something so obvious, yet so widely overlooked by genealogy newbies.

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