Is Euroaristo using MEDLANDS appropriately

+12 votes

Eventually this community needs to work out its way of working with MEDLANDS better, which everyone seems to refer to as FMG. Currently the Euroaristo project names this source above all others as a reference point, and to me this seems wrong. Normally, if MEDLANDS differs from good quality publications, we should be careful about MEDLANDS in my opinion.

FMG hosts MEDLANDS as a project, but MEDLANDS is basically the work of one person doing a lot of work, Charles Cawley. 

Wikitree cites MEDLANDS a lot, I suppose because it is a handy website with many things in one place, but those genealogies are changing constantly, so our links are useless or worse. It is not a reference work, and very often Charles is not even looking at secondary works which have already solved the problems he has not yet solved. MEDLANDS can be handy if you use it as a work in progress which tries to collect lots of notes about primary sources. (That seems to be the main aim, collecting primary sources. For this it is very useful.) 

I know that many well-known medieval genealogists are very critical of the website, and/or critical of FMG for hosting it without more warnings about its nature. But I would say good on Charles for his hard work. I have corresponded with him over the years and seen how he is constantly improving. Still, I think we are using it wrongly?

in Policy and Style by Andrew Lancaster G2G6 Pilot (144k points)
retagged by John Atkinson
What is FMG, please?

see links - MedLands and FMG

3 Answers

+14 votes
Best answer
Thanks -Andrew, I agree that Medieval Lands by Charles Cawley is a good starting point for research but should not necessarily be the final word on medieval European royal and noble families. This is particularly true where some relationships are based on theories and possibilities rather than any concrete primary evidence.

I know you would agree that a site like The Henry Project contains more complete research and is to be preferred over Medieval Lands, but it is very limited in scope when compared to Medieval Lands.

Relying on particular sources for a project isn't always a good idea, even Douglas Richardson's books can contain errors.  Part of the problem is that although it is easier to rely on one particular source such as Medlands or Richardson, often we stop there rather than actually looking further and seeking out the primary sources they cite.
by John Atkinson G2G6 Pilot (628k points)
selected by Liz Shifflett
Yes, I can see it is tempting for the Euroaristo project to name this as the ONLY recommended source, because it covers so many countries and periods. However the current implication is that this ONE source trumps all others. I think in itself, just giving one reference source sends the wrong message. (Even the best ones contain errors.)

You mention Richardson, but I think his works are different. They are very perfectionist and much more suitable as a reference work.

It might be messier but I would suggest a more detailed list of suggested sources. Could in fact be very helpful to editors?

You mentioned the Henry project. For the genealogy it covers, it is very good.

I would add Richardson, specifically the latest one Royal Ancestry which covers all the older ones, and I would add a link to the Medieval Genealogy board where he frequently gives updates. Again, for the families he covers, he is very good.

I would mention CP. There is also a "Corrections" site on Chris Phillips' website.

Not sure what people think of VCH and the Parliamentary History website?

Perhaps others can chip in with continental sources.

Mostly useful due to extensive sources.


Danke Helmut. I see this has links to more countries that just Germany (and also Germany was not just Germany, so to speak). Useful link.

Andrew - if by "Parliamentary History website" you meant the History of Parliament Online, I find it very useful. You need to look closely at the footnotes for its articles though.

Hi Liz, yes. I also find it useful. Similar to VCH it is hard to generalize, some articles in both are actually better than anything else I think. Others contain mistakes. (I guess ALL sources contain mistakes.)
+7 votes
I think John's answer points the way to an appropriate use for Medieval Lands: as a repository for sources and, when theories and hypotheses are involved, as a source for a pro or con argument.

More and more of the available sources for medieval history are available online, thanks to institutions like Monumenta Germaniae Historica and others, and Charles Cawley makes it easier to find relevant documents. But whenever those documents are available they should be checked and cited.

As an example where I would cite Cawley is the supposed second marriage of Judith von Schweinfurt to Peter Orseolo of Hungary where he points out that Peter was already dead for 8 or 9 years before Judith's first husband died.
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (609k points)
If Richardson & MedLands don't agree on a fact, I try to find other sources (or find the source they cite). Since Richardson tends to go for the modern(ish) spelling for consistency rather than spelling based on contemporary sources, I think it's good that we (MC project) defer to MedLands for that. Often, Richardson cites a source with the spelling used by MedLands in the fine print of the person's entry, so the spelling isn't acutally in dispute, it's just that Richardson may have standardized it before its time.

Great discussion by the way.

Cheers, Liz
Richardson has strong opinions on spelling, which he has explained passionately and in detail. Cawley just tries to reproduce original spellings, but often ends up with strange mixtures of references. He has no strict policy or quality control on that I think.

I have no strong position on spellings, but for anything else I would pretty much always pick Richardson. Cawley is not INTENDING to be used like Richardson is as a genealogy fixed point. He is collecting primary sources, like Keats-Rohan. For most families I work on, he is wrong on really basic things which standard references are not wrong on, and that is not an insult but something I discuss with him.

The term they use is "prosopography" father than "genealogy" I think we can cite MEDLANDS as a useful source, but we need to give it quite special instructions on how to use it. (Keats-Rohan also very useful but needs care. I still think we need an advice page to link to, not one sacred source, and on that advice page maybe there should be a special note about how to use this TYPE of source.)

The Medlands as primary source template was created back before I joined Wikitree and became a leader of the EuroAristo project.  I never add the template to profiles (don't see the need), although I have found others doing so.  Perhaps we should eliminate that template?

As far as sources and where to put a list, I think we should put it as a page within the EuroAristo project (like we have the separate page for the naming standards here: ).  To keep it updated, we could just have someone, after a G2G discussion of a possible addition, add it.  Since you brought it up, Andrew, would you be interested in overseeing this?

Hi Darlene! I'm not a member of EuroAristo, but I have used {{FMG}} ... more than a little, and as the citation for fact. So please don't delete the template.

Reword it maybe? See where it might be used & how it fits? Want me to take a look and propose something or should it be something done by EuroAristo members?

Cheers, Liz

P.S. Between 1,000 and 1,500 profiles use it. It does not currently have a category, but one could be added to it. Maybe we could borrow an unused cat for a while to work on editing the profiles that use it to not use it? Let me know if that's something you'd like me to explore.
hmmm. Plus another 500-1,000 using {{EuroAristo_Source}}, which used to be different (bigger) than {{FMG}} but now looks the same.
Removing it is one option. Turning the template into a link to a more detailed discussion of good sources is another. Just treating as the one and only source is not correct in my opinion.
Not sure what the answer may be for that template. I created it. We may have grown past the {{FMG}} template. Don't forget that when WikiTree started, we had NO guideposts for Medieval sources and no one terribly interested in cleaning up the "fantasy" medieval lineages. Roger Travis, the EuroAristo leader then, tried to clean up.  We had to start somewhere. We were trying to unravel all those Medieval profiles uploads with only "Ancestry Trees" as sources and introduce MedLands, FMG as better sources. Now, WikiTree has so many knowledgeable genealogists with great resources and talents, I am sure a good solution will come up to either change or eliminate the {{FMG}} template.
Liz, you're not a member of EuroAristo?  Wow!  I thought everyone that was part of Magna Carta would be a member of EuroAristo (since it was around before MC).  Anyway, we can continue discussing it here and see what everyone thinks.  I think perhaps we could/should turn that template into a 'source' template, rewording it so that people don't think it's the 'bible' for EuroAristo.

Maggie, you were responding at the same time as me, so am editing my response to address yours.  I totally understand what you've said about why the template was created.  And thank you for creating it (and all your hard work on cleaning up the profiles!).  Let's see what others say, but I'd vote on rewording it...

And it seems maybe we should create a new template that would link to the list we're discussing of the recommended sources for EuroAristo...  Thoughts?
I came late to party, since I had only rumors for "across the pond" ancestors. First I knew my early Virginia ancestor might be someone other than an indentured servant was when Magna Carta project put a "Questionable Gateway Ancestor" category on him. I was upset, cuz he was one of my least questionable ancestors LOL.  Once I figured out what they meant, I joined the project. I get distracted easily, so the more narrow MC project suits me better than EuroAristo :D

As for the FMG & EuroAristo_Source templates, I still think it would be a good idea to put a category on them for a bit so that folks can check their watchlists for use of them. Then revise/remove/whatever.

@ Maggie - I know what you mean! It's cool to see the New Netherland Settlers project becoming so refined when I started the project because everything was such a huge unmanageable mess. I think that's one of the (many) really cool things about WikiTree!
Again this is no reflection on Maggie or anyone else who was involved in creating the template, but I'd be happy to see it go.  I think it may have been created as an easy way to cite Medlands, but recommended sourcing has moved on from there and Wikitree policy now is to not use templates.

Darlene, I'm not exactly sure what you had in mind in rewording the template, but for Euroaristo, I like the idea of something added to signify that a profile has been updated according to the latest research.  Even to go along the lines of the Magna Carta project and that template could only been added after it had been checked?
+6 votes
I would be very wary of opening the floodgates.  There's a lot of junk out there and a lot of people (badgeholders even) who will cheerfully import it all.
by Living Horace G2G6 Pilot (640k points)
RJ, without context I would always agree to such a sentence, but in context I am not sure I follow. Richardson and CP are generally more reliable than MEDLANDS, which seems to have been chosen not for quality reasons, but just because it has masses of stuff, so I am proposing closing the floodgates?

I would for example propose changing the Euroaristo template so that it does not say "We use MEDLANDS" but rather says "We use good sources" with a link perhaps to a listing somewhere of the BEST sources for each category.

Maybe you are specifically saying that VCH and HOP are not in that category though, and that sounds reasonable. If we had a listing of best sources, they might be on the "also see" list?
Everything needs to be examined in detail, but it's a long slow job.  It's for people who want to spend a long time on one family.

This isn't compatible with conprehensive coverage.  On WikiTree there aren't enough people doing that sort of genealogy to fill the space.

The yawning chasms between their bits are full of junk.  If it can't be deleted, it can only feasibly be made respectable by choosing who to follow and hoping they've got it right.

But Americans have a very strong preference for American writers.  This is mostly because American writers make positive assertions and don't confuse things with uncertainties and contradictions.  There's no danger of Medlands being overused - relatively few people look at it.  Mostly people are happy to stick with Royal Descents of LDS Families and Carl Boyer and cite Weis for descents from Cerdic.
RJ, OK that is one of those "it does not matter anyway" explanations. :)

But if it mattered, what then? And anyway even if it does not matter, let's pick a policy which is better than worst options?

Personally I think this template is going to start to matter as we continue to improve the medieval part of Wikitree. I have to admit I have not yet had anyone correct a good edit because it disagreed with MEDLANDS, (and I certainly make edits which disagree with MEDLANDS on things, but then again I am also writing to Cawley and asking him to adjust at the same time).

I think the first time it happens we will be thinking it might have been better to have called this earlier.

Such problems can hit in waves.
I still wonder whether there is any reason that these MEDLANDS templates can not be rewritten to be more balanced in what they say. It seems crazy to have it pasted all around Wikitree that it is the main source to use.

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