Monday, 14 March 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 1

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 1: Analysis & Citation
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 1: Analysis and Citation,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage( :  accessed 14 March 2016).    

Do you look at what you already know each time before you carry out a piece of research? 
Or are you, like many of us today, seeing a new database available at your favourite website anxious to try it out.

If you have not made a plan before you start to research you can easily fall in to the trap that many researchers discover that you take the first thing you find.

Only yesterday, I decided to look for an aunt of my mother in the 1939 register at Find My Past.

I entered her first and last names and year of birth and the town where I thought she was living. One result appeared which looked reasonable so I linked the record to my tree.

However I did not leave it at that as there was another person in the household who appeared to be her son.

As I continued my analysis of this record I knew it was not the person I was looking for, the year of birth for the son was 1923, my mother's uncle had died in 1918 whilst his wife was expecting their third child.

So I went back and did another search and this time I found her using her first name and middle initial. To further confirm that I had the correct person she was still living at the same address I had written on a letter years earlier.

How can any of us be sure we have found the correct source for our information if we do not analyse the information we find in the source.

We cannot return to that source later if we do not create a citation. 
By understanding each source we use and its importance in the inferences that we make we do not put undue preference onto one particular source.

My analyse of the information I found in the 1939 register alongside information I had gathered from other sources helped me to determine which was the most credible information within the 1939 register as a source.

My citation for what I have found will be to the second page, not the first one, the analysis of the information supporting its use as evidence of exact date of birth, residence in 1939, name in 1939 and occupation. I can also state who she was living with if they are not redacted. 
Were I only to cite this as being found in the 1939 register without including full details of the page then anyone wishing to follow my research may erroneously find the other person. 
So even if you do not get all the punctuation correct make sure you collect all the information so that anyone can find that record within the source again and decide whether they agree with your conclusion or "current thinking".

So each time you go to research remember this picture.


Elizabeth Lapointe said...

Yes, it's not simply enough to cite the source, you must provide the reason WHY the source was cited. For example, the census was cited because it holds information about James's age which is the research question, or the census did not. I thought it was a very good, concise lesson

Hilary Gadsby said...

Elizabeth I totally agree.
This is what is needed on shared online trees. Not just the attachment of records but why they support the current conclusion.