Friday, 28 June 2013

Should I Change the Way I do my Genealogy Research?

If you read my previous post on the discussion surrounding a new book called Mastering Genealogical Proof and followed the links you will already have some idea why I have chosen this title.

From the Contents page
Chapter 1 Genealogy’s Standard of Proof
What is genealogy?
Why a genealogical proof standard?
The Genealogical Proof Standard
Modern technologies and genealogical proof
Research and reasoning cycles
Using the GPS

So What have I got from the study group discussion of Mastering Genealogical Proof Chapter 1?

Why do we need to have a set of rules for our research?
We are looking at kinship, relationships of  others to ourselves. We will only have known 2 or 3 generations of our family personally at the most and some of what we know will be hearsay. We look for records to support what we know or have been told but without some guideline how do we know when we have sufficient evidence to support any conclusion we might draw.

Why do we need to set goals?
We need to set goals in order to stay focused.
If we get a negative result this can be as important as a positive one but it is easy to overlook these, leading to repeated fruitless searching.
With historical records there are going to be plenty that are no longer extant.
Those records which may prove to be a "linch pin" in the argument may be the last record we find but if we do not set the right goals we may think we have the evidence we need when it is not conclusive.

Why should we adhere to standards for both our own work and the work of others?
If we want our work to be credible, we need to be sure of our conclusions.
If we fall short in any of the areas covered by the genealogical proof standard then our research can appear worthless.
We should be able to reproduce the work so that we can reassess it if further evidence comes to light.
Conclusions are only as good as the evidence supporting them.

To conclude this post and answer the overriding question of changing the way I do my research I must consider what I have been doing and how I might improve what I am doing.

Like many who live a distance from where their family came from I find limited time for archive research.
We all use the ever expanding online records and these can help us make the most of our research time. However a once a year trip can mean we are keen to gather as many records as possible without truly evaluating their worth.

I aim to organize and evaluate my current records so that when I next visit an archive I will have a much clearer idea of what I want to find and by properly evaluating what I need I may find that I can order records without having to visit in person.

I think Evidentia will allow me to better evaluate what I have and recognize where I have gaps in my research.

Even without the book the discussion is helping me look at what I do and how I do it.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

How to avoid "Genealogical Drifting" - a discussion of Mastering Genealogical Proof with DearMYRTLE

Just a few thoughts on the Mastering Genealogical Proof study group at DearMYRTLE's community on Google+.
I have watched the discussion of both Chapter 1 and 2 and wanted to get down some thoughts.
First a comment on the title of this post.
Drifting to me is going along with the flow.
It is a word mentioned in both of the 2 study group sessions I have watched and I think it requires an explanation for its use in this setting.
How many of us have started out researching with one goal.
We find  a record, but then get carried away on a different tangent (and with so many online records now this can particularly apply to online research).
It is so easy to become a “genealogical drifter”.
If we learn anything from these hangouts it should be how to avoid being a drifter or how to get the best out of our research time by looking at our goals and assessing the information we have found in a more consistent way.
 I have not seen a copy of the book Mastering Genealogical Proof as I live in the UK and felt that shipping costs would be prohibitive. If an ebook becomes available or it becomes available to purchase in the UK I hope to obtain a copy. It is currently available to order but is not expected to ship until July.
So given the background and that I have not seen the book what can I as a genealogist get out of these discussions.
By understanding the principles discussed in the book we set ourselves a guideline by which we can assess the value of the information we find.
If we use the collect and review approach correctly we can avoid looking for the wrong information in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I think that this book may make many of us think about how we do our research and it may turn the whole research process on its head for many.
We all like to feel we are doing things the right way but without discussion and good advice or training from others more experienced or knowledgeable we may not be doing things in a way that gives the best results.
We can all point out errors we have made in our research, we have our failings.
The popularity of a group on facebook called The Organized Genealogist and the postings within the group show what a battle many of us have to be organized.
If you have to travel far and maybe even need to stay overnight in order to carry out research or if you have to pay someone to produce a copy of a record for you it is important that you do the preliminaries with the utmost care so that you can make the most of research time and order the correct piece of information. By understanding the importance and relevance of our information sources we improve the whole research process.
Looking at the contents pages for the book the first 2 chapters lay down the foundations for the details discussed in the later chapters. Without good foundations your work will crumble so I will conclude my initial comments and review the 2 videos once more for further comment.

Please read the book and the homework answers submitted by the study group.

If you have not been following any of the discussion you can catch up with it at and the comments can be viewed at where you will need to join the community to read the posts.

For more information about the book and how to obtain a copy go to

Monday, 27 May 2013

 How can Evidentia work for me?                   

Genealogists come in all shapes and sizes but there is one thing that most of us strife to do but very few of us really do well.

What is it that we are so bad at but is really so important and should be the one thing that we would hope to do right?

We are endlessly told how important it is to cite our sources.
Why is this so important?

Well as any experienced researcher will tell you, I wish I had documented my sources so much better when I first started (remembering to date and document what you can remember of a conversation with an older family member, or noting all those negative searches which you repeat a year later even though there is no change in the information).
Most of us have been there and it is so difficult years down the line to be sure what you have or have not done in the past.

Secondly how many of us have entered a source thought we had got as much from it as we could find only to go back years later and realise it held clues which now fit into the bigger picture.
I have 2 marriage certificates with witnesses whose names I did not recognise who later turned out to be members of the family by marriage or illegitimacy.

When I first saw Evidentia being used by other genealogists on a Google+ Hangout I was not sure whether I was ready to embrace using it to enhance my research process.

To see how Evidentia works have a look at the videos on the developers YouTube Channel
You can also get a 30 day trial to see whether you think the program will work for you. 
Like most programs the first version will not be perfect but the developer is working with users to improve the program so that it can be a great resource for the genealogy community.

The timing in relation to the release of a new book by Thomas Jones could not be better.
Evidentia will make you think about how you record your source and about what that source is telling you. It will also help you to decide whether what you have is sufficient to support the facts you have documented.
Analysing the evidence is not new and is something we should all be doing but how many of us are doing it well.

When I document a source I need enough information so that anyone including me can go back and find that information at a future date. Quoting just a url and a date accessed is not enough as tomorrow that url could change the internet is an ever changing source of information and even archives can move so don’t forget to record as much as you can about your source.
In Evidentia you can use templates provided or create your own which can be a great way to remind you what you need to record from those commonly used sources. 

Could these templates help when we are recording our research? 
I know I have got back from a research trip only to find I have forgotten to record something.

Could Evidentia help by producing a template for further research when we have analysed what we already know?

I have not got a copy of Mastering Genealogical Proof as shipping to the UK is likely to be expensive, but if this book deals with the topic of extensive research then it may be that Evidentia will be able to guide users as to how extensive their research needs to be in the future.

I have on my computer a program called Gensmarts which I had hoped would help in this respect but like most programs if what you have recorded is poorly inputted then you do not get meaningful results.

I have high hopes for Evidentia and would 
encourage all serious genealogists to give the program a try. In the absence of anything to replace or update Gedcom this program could be a significant tool.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Are we as Creative as Our Ancestors were ?

This post was inspired by a post made by Thomas Macentee .

So how many of us make our own clothes. Very few is the first answer to come to mind. 
I read somewhere that John Lewis is cutting the area it has for fabrics and other handicraft items but that there may be an increased demand for these items in times of austerity. 

When I grew up (being a child of the 60s) girls would have been taught skills such as needlework at school. We were also taught how to cook. Both skills our parents and grandparents would have been expected to learn at home.

My grandmother brought up in an orphanage at a time when many young girls went in to service would have been taught these skills to ensure her employability. Skills she would later use when she had her own family. I well remember the school jumpers or cardigans that she would knit for us when we were children.

Even after the industrial revolution when fabrics were cheaper to produce the everyday working class of this country would make their own clothes as a necessity rather than a matter of choice.
Alongside this change from homemade to shop bought have we also lost other traditions in our culture?
 In the days when most people attended church on a Sunday the working class would have a set of best clothes often referred to as “Sunday Best”. Does anyone have a set of best clothes today?

“Home made” items also bring to mind organizations such as the Women’s Institute (WI) with the label “Jam and Jerusalem” which many turned their back on but may see a resurgence with all the food scares we have seen.

We will never turn the clock back and society has changed and all of us should ensure we record what we remember of our own past as this will be the stories our families want to read, but have we lost something more fundamental when the basic skills of cooking and clothing ourselves have been lost by the majority.

Should making anything from the basic ingredients be a hobby or should we return to the days when we taught children how to cook and sew at home and backed this up with school tuition.

How many of us have children who cannot even cook?
Has the era of ready meals really done our children any favours?
Do we create less than our ancestors?

Friday, 22 March 2013

Family Stories Getting Our Family to Engage

I have been watching the livestreaming from Rootstech at and in this post I will discuss the main points I have gleaned from the first day Thursday 21st March 2013.

ThursdayPresented by
8:30 AMKeynote – Dennis Brimhall, Syd Lieberman, Josh Taylor
11:00 AMThe Future of Genealogy - Thomas MacEntee and pane
l1:45 PMTell it Again (Story@Home) - Kim Weitkamp
3:00 PMThe Genealogists Gadget Bag - Jill Ball and pane
l4:15 PMFinding the Obscure and Elusive: Geographic Information on the Web - James Tanner

The message from the morning sessions can be summed up for me with the following phrases.
How do we get the younger generations involved more.
What are we leaving for our descendants of our lives.
Storytelling brings others into your world and helps engage those who may think family history/genealogy is boring.
We need to use technology to get our messages across.
Do we need technology designed for genealogy? 
Surely social media should be treated as modern day letters and we should be saving our tweets and facebook posts?
We need to think what our descendants want to know about us.
There are plenty of official records but are these enough.
Will our descendants have access to official records and what will these records say about us.
The future of genealogy is in our hands.
We need to make the right choices.
Do you want someone to be interested in what you have done, if so how are you going to get them to pick up that book, look at that photograph or document, listen to that story and visualise that moment in time and how that person may have felt, where they were and what living conditions were like.
With the information we have in our records and on the internet we need to paint a picture to Tell Our Story to engage Our Family.

If you have not managed to see the presentation by Lisa Louise Cooke  on using Google Earth I would recommend you try and catch up with her DVDs as I believe this is a great way to visualise your heritage and it can be updated.

Also have a look at the article in the April 2013 edition of the Who Do You Think You Are magazine discussing a world tree.

Above all we need to SHARE if we want to GROW.

Thursday, 31 January 2013


Who inspires you?

I went to Who Do You Think You Are Live last year and went to the talk by Lisa Louise Cooke of the Genealogy Gems podcast.
I have listen to all her free podcasts and have been a premium member since it started.
Lisa has done a lot on using Google for Genealogy and her talk focused on using Google Earth. I found it very thought provoking and really wanted to get down and use the ideas.
Whilst I have not yet found time to put what I learnt to the test by sharing with the family I hope to do this soon so that everyone of the family with access to a computer can see that Genealogy is not just a load of charts and it can be truly interactive and relevant to the 21st century generation.
Lisa's website can be found at