Elements of Genealogical Analysis
by Robert Charles Anderson, FASG
New England Historical Genealogical Society
Elements of Genealogical Analysis is a wonderful text that explores a methodology for solving genealogical issues. Robert Charles Anderson’s strategies outlined in Elements are the result of over 40 years experience as a genealogist, director of the New England Historical Genealogical Society’s Great Migration Study Project, and as an author and editor for several publications. The book and methodology focus on fundamental rules:
First Fundamental Rule: All statements must be based only on accurately reported, carefully documented, and exhaustively analyzed records.
Second Fundamental Rule: You must have a sound, explicit reason for saying that any two individual records refer to the same person.
The First Fundamental Rule is, in context, a genealogical standard found in many texts. It’s reiterated at conferences, in webinars, and just about anywhere. To me, the Second Fundamental Rule is not so frequently mentioned by other genealogists but is just as important. Anderson does an excellent job of demonstrating the importance of both rules with myriad of examples from the Great Migration Study Project.
Anderson is also atypical in the vocabulary he uses, but that does not make the text difficult to understand. For example, he uses the term linkage analysis for “examin[ing] two or more exhaustively analyzed records that potentially refer to the same person and attempts to determine whether the records should be ascribed to a single individual.” If you type the terms “linkage analysis” and “genealogy” into Google, most results refer to Anderson’s text. As said before, the language is easy to understand as it applies to his strategy and if you forget what he means by any term, Anderson emboldens the font and includes the definition in the text as well as in Appendix A.
I don’t think this book is for beginners in that I think it’s easier to understand the process when you apply it to your own research and experience; yet, it would be much easier to do genealogy “right” from the beginning. And Anderson does genealogy right.