Thursday, August 5, 2010

How best to help ...

We've been getting lots of helpful comments and private emails. This is great. Keep it up.

Some things what would help us include:

1. If you have a reference, please be as specific as possible. For instance: "Bible Examiner, March 1875" is superior to "Bible Examiner sometime in the 1870's."

2. If you're telling us something you remember reading, tell us if you're not certain as to source. Memories can be faulty.

3. Guesses don't help very much. This doesn't mean we're not open to your speculation. Our guesses lead us down some fruitful research trails, and yours do too. But tell us the reasoning behind your "guess." This will help.

4. The more detail the better. "Russell wrote to Storrs" is much less helpful than "Russell wrote to Stores three times that I know of in 1874. You can find the letters in Bible Examiner of this date, that date and the other date."

6. No observation is too insignificant. Yes, we may already know what you're posting, but we may not know it. Every researcher has his blind spots. Your thoughts are important. Even wrong conclusions are sometimes helpful because they make us think, "Well, that's not right, and here is why."

7. Be willing to stretch beyond what you think you know. Most of Russell's early history has taken on the character of myth. Some long-held beliefs about early Watch Tower history have roots in reality but are not good history. Think beyond what you know. Look more widely. That's what we do, and, if you want to help, you should do that too.

8. We try to avoid pointing to motives unless one of the persons we research tells us either directly or indirectly through things they wrote what their motive was. Unless you can provide us with a quotation that indicates a motive for something, we can't use a comment that assumes motivations. We're trying to be even handed, even if we may personally disagree with the conclusions of some of the people we are profiling. Frankly, some of these guys were as disreputable as can be. A. D. Jones comes to mind, but there were others too. If it matters to the story, we'll give the details. If it does not matter and the character is incidental to the history, we probably won't. And we won't report mere speculation, even if we agree with it, if it bears on anyone's character. For instance, we believe there is enough evidence to suspect two of Russell's early associates of having an affair. We cannot offer proof that meets any sort of evidentiary standard. So we won't include our suspicions. Both these individuals are important enough to the story that IF we stumble on proof, we will say so.

Negative evidence will not meet the standard of proof. We asked for a copy of some private papers we know exist. The person who owns them refused, suggesting that they would show her ancestor in a "bad light." Fine. We have no idea what she meant by "bad light." This is negative evidence. We wont use it.

Continue to help and post. We appreciate all of the comments and suggestions, even the vague ones. They all make us think, and they all contribute to our daily exchange of ideas.

A thank you is due to everyone who's posted a comment lately. Consider it given.

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