Genealogy Wise

The Genealogy & Family History Social Network

Genealogy is not an exact science. What we know about the historical
past and particularly our family is based on our experience. Some of the
information is likely very accurate, while it is entirely possible that
some of the things we know, or think we know, about our family are
entirely false. Whether our beliefs about our family are based in fact
or not, depends to a great extent on our system of justified beliefs,
that is, those things we "know" to be true from our experience even
though we have no objective evidence or proof that they are true. In
many cases, we may or may not be able to differentiate between fact and
fiction, since it is experience which creates our system of justified
beliefs and our experience may be limited or faulty.

Evidence of the past is based on our perceptions, coupled with memories
and introspection (i.e. thinking about our memories). In addition, we
may have as yet unsubstantiated beliefs we can call intuition. All of
these combine to form what we think we know about our ancestry.

That area of philosophy that deals with the study of knowledge and justified belief is called epistemology.
It is not my intention to delve into the realm of philosophy, but it is
important for those practicing in a fact-based discipline like
genealogy, to take the time to analyze the basis for our beliefs about
our family to the end of rejecting those portions of our justified
beliefs that do not comport with reality. "Justification is the reason
why someone properly holds a belief, the explanation as to why the belief is a true one, or an account of how one knows what one knows." Wikipedia.
The real question is how do we determine a historical reality in light
of our human tendency to justify our beliefs and can we overcome that
tendency?

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