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