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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Questioning Methods Questioned

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
Ellis Hanscom, president of the American Genealogical Association, insists that members of his organization "do not torture."

A memo leaked to The Washington Post last week revealed that AGA guidelines permit "enhanced interrogation techniques" when questioning relatives. Allegations of inappropriate interviewing methods have since come to light. An elderly man in Miami was placed in a "stress position" by an AGA member and deprived of sleep for two days because the name of his father's first wife had slipped his mind. A Connecticut woman who refused to give her date of birth was forced to listen to Britney Spears' latest single for seventeen hours straight.

"We do not torture," repeats Hanscom. When asked for his definition of "torture," he replies, "Whatever it is that we don't do."

Critic Harold Lord says that AGA's guidelines violate standards accepted by every reputable genealogical organization, and that information gained through such methods is unreliable.

"People will say anything to end a family history interview, we all know that. Why make it more unpleasant than it already is?"

Hanscom counters by saying that he has used the "enhanced" techniques on his own grandmother with great success.

"She told me things I'd never heard before. Who'd have guessed that Grandpa Ted invented Velcro and frozen yogurt while climbing Everest on horseback?"
[Photo credit: Inside the Torture Chamber by Ricardo Shuck]

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