Modern Software Experience

2010-08-20

genealogyrecord types
family historyall records
legal
genealogy
non-vital records
official
genealogy
vital records
biological
genealogy
phenotype

genealogy theory

Classical Genealogy Framework

A Framework for Classical Genealogy introduced the Classical Genealogy Framework. The Classical Genealogy Framework distinguishes between biological genealogy, official genealogy and legal genealogy and was immediately extended to include family history.
Every major record type fits in this framework by association with a particular type of genealogy, with family history including all non-genealogical records.

The key understanding reflected in the framework is that your biological genealogy, your official genealogy and your legal genealogy are three different concepts. That, although these three genealogies are obviously related and unlikely to be wildly different from each other, these three genealogies are not the same thing. It are three related but different things, with different evidence for each.

It may be helpful to explicitly contrast this framework for classical genealogy with the many unspoken assumptions implicit in traditional genealogy, genealogy without this conceptual framework.

traditional genealogy

If you decided to diagram the conceptual framework - or rather, the lack thereof - of traditional genealogy, this is what it would look like; there is just one genealogy, and that genealogy can be proven through vital records (the ill-defined notion of vital records in traditional genealogy is discussed in “Vital Records” in Traditional Genealogy).

genealogyrecord types
genealogyvital records

Traditional genealogy reflects the simplistic world view it is based on. It is in denial of the difference between biological parents and official parents, and it is not clear how something like adoption fits into it, if at all - hence the continual discussions about that.

everyday life

In everyday life we generally pretend that legal genealogy is biological genealogy, even when we know better. That is not just the socially acceptable thing to do, but in many real-life situations, mentioning that an official parent-child relationships need not be the biological parent-child relationships is still taboo.

That taboo is so strong that traditional genealogy simply does not acknowledge the difference at all, but simply pretends that it doesn't exist. Even today, many sources still defines genealogy as the study of blood relationships, as if all parent-child relationships are biological relationships.

adoption event

The conceptual understanding of genealogy that many genealogists recognises the existence of adoption, yet does not distinguish between official and legal genealogy. Adoption is treated as little more than just another event that may occur in your presumably biological family tree.

The unspoken assumption central to the simplistic world view inherent in traditional genealogy is that there is just one genealogy, that official records document biological facts, that all family relationships are biological.

unspoken assumption

The unspoken assumption central to the simplistic world view inherent in traditional genealogy is that there is just one genealogy, that official records document biological facts, that all family relationships are biological.
The traditional model deliberately glosses over the difference between official ancestors and biological ancestors as if there is no difference. Hence the mistaken idea of many genealogists that genealogy is exclusively about biological relationships, that all genealogy is biology, that adoptions do not belong in a family tree.

proof

The traditional model of genealogy does acknowledge the idea that a relationship can be challenged or disproved, but that does not imply that it supports a distinction between biological and official genealogy. Apart from phenotype observations, the ability to disprove a alleged biological relationship is a fairly recent thing. The traditional idea is merely that an alleged relationships can be challenged or disproved by studying the records. That is not about acknowledging biological facts, but about correcting mistakes in earlier, possibly sloppy or incomplete, research of records.

Traditional genealogy fits everyday behaviour, taboos and silent assumptions, but it does not fit reality.
genealogists

Traditional genealogy is wrong. Traditional genealogy fits everyday behaviour, taboos and silent assumptions, but it does not fit reality. Yet even today, genealogists that have been researching for years will show you an extensive chart and talk about their ancestors as if they know these to be their biological ancestors. Such genealogists may not be ready to accept the fact that their painstakingly researched genealogy isn't a biological genealogy, but a legal genealogy. They may cling to the simplistic world view of  traditional genealogy, even when they understand it is wrong, simply because they like that simplistic world view better than the messy real world. The simple truth is that they were taught outdated genealogy.

Traditional genealogy derives directly from a simplistic model of society.
language

Traditional genealogy treats official relationships as biological ones, because that has been the social convention for ages. Traditional genealogy derives directly from a simplistic model of society.
Traditional genealogy is too simplistic because that model of society is is too simplistic. Although the facts are all around us, it is still not easy to recognise that the model is wrong; that simplistic model of society is so old, that is implicit in our language.

Everyday words like father, mother and child fit that simplistic world view perfectly. These words do not distinguish between biological and official relationships at all. On the contrary, they carry the silent assumption that the biological, official and legal relationships are one and the same, by carrying all those meanings at once. At the same time, our language lacks individual words to separately indicate each of these relationships. To do so, we need to combine words into expressions such as biological father, official mother and legal parent. Thus, we try to think clearly, we must express our ideas in a less than cooperative language.

Marriage isn't a vital event, it is a social and legal event.
marriage

Traditional genealogy is not just based on a simplistic model of society, it even codifies traditional social conventions by elevating marriage to the status of vital event. That is wrong. Marriage isn't a vital event, it is a social and legal event. Marriage is a formal way of forming couples, and married couples are traditionally expected to have children. The idea that only married couples have children is another simplification, or rather an idealisation to traditional social standards, which was adopted without question by traditional genealogy.

The simplistic world view of traditional genealogy is very alive today. It is still how many people understand genealogy, and some organisations are still peddling ostensible genealogy software that doesn't even support any other partnerships than marriage.

Traditional genealogy is dishonest. It is as deliberately superficial and deceitful as the polite society it sprung form.

conclusion

Traditional genealogy derives directly from a deliberately simplistic model of society. That model of society is no more than a veneer of orderliness hiding the messy reality. It is a polite pretence, that everyone was encouraged to participate in. Traditional genealogy springs from a society that could not bear the honesty of scientifically sound genealogy, but insisted on keeping up appearances. Traditional genealogy is dishonest. It is as deliberately superficial and deceitful as the polite society it sprung form. Although traditional genealogists may have aimed to deceive themselves and other, the genealogies they made still fit within this framework. Well-documented traditional genealogies are legal genealogies. If an author deliberately left some legal relationships out of an traditional genealogy, it is an incomplete legal genealogy, but a legal genealogy nonetheless.

The Classical Genealogy Framework provides a solution to the problems of traditional genealogy, and does so without having to throw our genealogical legacies away. Honest genealogy requires a scientific approach, a careful separation of fact from fantasy and fiction. The Classical Genealogy Framework not only provides the concepts to do so, but even accommodates traditional genealogies; well-documented traditional genealogies are legal genealogies.

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