Monday, 26 September 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 21 and Writing Historical Biography

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 21: Citing DNA Evidence: Five Ground Rules    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 21: Citing DNA Evidence: Five Ground Rules,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 24 Sept 2016).     
Writing Historical Biography
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Writing Historical Biography," Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 24 Sept 2016).

Welcome to my final blogpost for this study group.

I looked at these topics and thought how can I relate these to my own research. I have not done any genetic testing of either myself or any close relatives and I have not as yet attempted to write a historical biography.

So I cannot write from experience but I can say what I understand and how I would approach this.

ESM mentions "five basic ground rules"

Evidence versus citation

All we do when we write a citation is identify our source. In relation to DNA results these will have been analysed and presented in a particular format we cite how they have been presented to us (what we see). 

DNA is evidence

We take information we find in our source and use what it is telling us in building the evidence supporting or refuting our assertion. The same as any other source.

Citation to support an assertion

The information may need further analysis, to provide us with the evidence to support or refute an assertion that X is related to Y, but this is what we can add to our dicussion rather than a citation. Whatever the outcome of the discussion citing the source will not change.

What are you citing?

How has the result of the test been communicated to you. Have you been presented with a comparison to others held in a database?

You may need to explain what you are citing

Some citations are in need of explanation it may not simply be a case of including a name and date. We include sufficient information to clarify any specific item of interest.

The only thing I will add here as I have no specific example is that when we are dealing with genetics we are using information from living or sometimes recently deceased individuals. Given that even if an individual is now deceased they may still have close living relations we need to ensure we follow the guidelines. Elizabeth Shown Mills has a number of publications available including one on genetic sources and there is information available on the website for International Society of Genetic Genealogy.

Historical Biography

Whilst I have not as yet written any biography be it my own or anyone in my family I have used some of the records suggested.
If we wish to present an interesting picture of our family to others, be they family or friends, then we need to include more than a list of dry facts and possibly a few photographs. Technology may allow us to present things in a more interactive manner but first we need to find the information.
Census information, certificates, church registers tell us who was related to whom and when births, marriages and deaths may have occurred but they tell us little about how our family lived and interacted with others in their community. It is likely that our own lives have changed considerably over our lifetime and the same is likely true for our ancestors.
Whilst we may not have met someone we may still be able to build up some kind of picture of the life he may have lead.

I will show you an example from the half brother of my great grandfather Rowland Curtis.
We find his memorial at Find A Grave in Warminster.
This is incomplete and tells little about who he was and the family he had and any struggles he may have faced. He is recorded in the Family Search Family Tree with the currently available documents.

I have not included what I have found in the newspapers and books about Warminster.
It appears that this family were mentioned in the newspapers on several occasions.
The local newspaper is The Warminster and Westbury Journal and a search at Find My Past in the British Newspaper Archive returns several results.
They even made a national paper known as Lloyds News. The local paper included a copy of the original but unfortunately without the photograph.

"London Interviewer's Visit to Warminster," The Warminster and Westbury Journal, 28 March 1908, p. 6 col 3;digital images, Find My ( : accessed 26 Sept 2016), British Newspaper Archive Collection.

So what do I need to do with this information? 
What else do I need to look for and how can I get this in to a format that the family will find interesting? 
I have found a photograph of the family in a copyrighted book page 112. There are also photographs of another family member on pages 58 and 59 in the same book. Danny Howell. Yesterday's Warminster (Buckingham, England: Barracuda Books Limited, 1987)

I am using Twile to collaborate with the family and I am going to add these to the website to help the family know more about who these people were and how they lived. I am always looking for more information and because it is a private website copyright issues may be less of an issue.  
I can share more in a private invitation only area than on public trees and I hope that it will be able to connect to my blogs and other sites to avoid duplication. The timelines and maps along with historical information can really bring our own history in to context.
There are plans for Twile to connect with Family Search but I will tackle any issues, I might have, if they become a problem. 

Like many I have gathered the information to write more about my ancestors but have rarely pulled it together to create something more this is something I hope to do on my family blog, maybe I should start with Rowland Curtis, but hey I have already started.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 20

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 20: Research Reports for Research Success
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 20: Research Reports for Research Success," Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (  :  accessed 17 Sept 2016).

This week we will be discussing the research process.

How do we do our research?

How should we do our research?

Can we improve how we research?

With the growth of the internet how many of us can find ourselves joining in with the quick click genealogy we frequently criticise.

Why do we criticise this way of doing things?

  1. Insufficient preparation
  2. Poorly recorded
  3. Insufficient analysis
So what should we be doing?
Ask yourself these questions.
  1. What do I want to find?
  2. Where should I be doing my research?
  3. How am I going to do the research?
  4. How am I going to record what I find?
  5. How am I going to review what I find?
We can use pen and paper or our computers to assist in these tasks.

We know how to interrogate the databases online and how to enter our results in our software program. There is plenty of information to tell us how to do this either digital or paper.

Do any programs tell us what we need to look for?

Do any programs tell us whether what we find is relevant?

Poor preparation and lack of analysis can lead to hours of wasted research.

How can we know what we need to find if we have not analysed what we already know.

Creating a research plan will be the best thing you do. It will keep you on track. 

If we wish to move on from being just "information gatherers and processors" as ESM states in this lesson we must consider how we approach our work.

This weekend I came across an individual who had been recorded by another researcher in the Wiki Tree website with the maiden name of ROSLING. However this was not the surname for the parents. The link to the 1911 census revealed that she was recorded as their adopted daughter. There was also a link to an army record showing her date of birth in keeping with the census record.
I am researching the surname ROSLING and was interested in knowing where she fitted in the lineage I am constructing.
If I just entered her name in a search would I find anything and how would I know if what I found was relevant.

Experienced researchers will often know exactly where to research and which records may help them find what is available. This does not preclude them from the planning stages but it may reduce the time needed to formulate the plan. Even the experts find themselves stumped occasionally and have to consider alternative strategies. Researching in a new area be it geographical or an unfamiliar set of records may require a different skill set and a whole new learning experience. If we are to complete a thorough research we have to be aware of the resources available. 

Even the best plans may need to be altered in the light of new information. Being prepared and analysing what has been found may alter our focus or the manner in which we carry out our research.
The ability to plan and analyse helps us make better use of the research time.

Complex questions may only be answered if we look at all the information we have and understand what it's telling us. 
Some researchers have found that a program such as Evidentia can help them formulate a plan for these complex problems. By entering each piece of information deciding what it is saying and importantly how reliable that information may be we have a clearer understanding of what we already know. 
The source of any information may be flawed. Awareness of the reliability and being able to resolve conflicting information are analysis skills that may only come threw experience and education. 
Learning from others and sharing personal experience helps each of us become better researchers by improving the knowledge base.

Do we read any accompanying information about a record group that we find online before we enter a name in the search box. If not, why not, surely we need to know if the record will be likely to provide us with the information we need before we search. Would you travel miles to an archive or cemetery without checking that they have what you are looking for first. The same should be true for online records. Finding information and blindly entering it into a database is as boring and pointless as writing lines was as a school punishment. If you want the reward of finding that elusive connection you need to spend time preparing and analysing, formulate a plan, familiarise yourself with what may be available, pinpoint the best way to approach the task and adapt the plan as and when more information is discovered. Not forgetting that negative results do not mean negative evidence, it may be that any record has just not survived.

As we near the end of this study group, we need to pull together all that we have discussed.

I am writing about my research mentioned above on my One Name Study blog. I have not included specific examples this week as I believe that this lesson is more about understanding the process and the importance of doing this well. 
Only we as individuals know whether we have been disciplined in the past.
Hopefully our discussions may have helped at least one of those watching to become researchers rather than gatherer/processors.

Researching when few records or indexes were available online and internet access was expensive.  
I was not aware of research plans so I would go armed with notes that I had made to guide my research. 
Whilst looking for ancestors in the BMD indexes on microfiche I would have a name, range of years, and geographical area. When I found a possible candidate I would record and order a certificate. 
The only way I could access the census was using indexes and then when I could get to the local archive I would have to scroll through the microfilm to find what I wanted. 
The internet has made finding many records easier but has it also created a group of individuals who may believe the adverts that show families building trees using only the online website. 
No website will ever contain all the records and whilst the records support our research they are not the researcher. 
Who pieces together which record is relevant to each individual, who is related to who and how are all these individuals related, it is us as researchers who analyse the information and decide its relevance.

The reporting suggested by Elizabeth Shown Mills may sound quite prescriptive and academic and unless you have an academic background you may switch off at the thought of report writing. However what she is saying is this. 

  1. Compile your findings complete with the information needed to find them again. 
  2. Collect them together in a manner that you are comfortable working with or that fits with your findings.
  3. Summarize what you have found.
  4. Decide whether you have answered your research question.
  5. Decide whether you need to do more research and create a new research plan.
  6. Make a conclusion and write a reasoned report to support this.
Personally I would say that Evidentia will help you do all of these in a guided way.

Finally here is a link to a Google Sheet I created called The Family History Research Process. It contains links to documents that others may find useful. Please add your comments if you think I may have missed something useful that could be added.

Monday, 12 September 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group citing digital images on a website

Hilary Gadsby

Citing digital census images on LAC - not Ancestry    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Citing digital census images on LAC - not Ancestry," Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 27 August 2016).

If you are a regular reader of this series of blogs, dealing with the topics being discussed by the study group, you will have seen my previous post. (If you have not read it, may I suggest you do so, as this post relates to what was discussed previously.)

Some of you may have gathered that I do not read ahead but rather tackle each lesson as it comes. 
If I had looked at the topic for this week I may well have written my previous post to cover the discussion this week.

To illustrate the points I mentioned previously, here I will take an image from each of the websites so that the citations can be compared. 

I have chosen a baptism record from 1794. Here is the page at Lincs to the Past and Find My Past.

You will need a subscription to Find My Past covering the UK records to access the page.

This is the image as I downloaded it on 18 May 2015 from the Find My Past website. I have kept the original file name GBPRS-LINCS-SWINSTEAD_PAR_1_2-0236 and have filed it with other downloads from that parish. (The significance of this name will become apparent as I build my citation)

From looking at the images on both websites it is obvious that they are essentially both images of the same page of the register. If I had viewed the original register at the Lincolnshire Archives where it is now being stored my citation would be without layers.

The layers are being added to explain how I accessed the record I viewed. The Lincolnshire Archives have their website organised so that you can see the hierachy of their cataloguing.

Repository: Lincolnshire Archives
Swinstead Parish Records: SWINSTEAD PAR
Registers: /1
Baptisms and Burials 1794 - 1812: /2
Image 2 of 8 (1794 - 1795)

Reference: SWINSTEAD PAR/1/2 

The register is unpaginated and not numbered so any record from this page needs to include the full date.
The parish church for Swinstead is St Mary but there is no reference to this on either website. Being a small parish there is only one church so it is not important but in cities or towns with several churches it is important to quote the name of the church.

The title given to the downloaded image from Find My Past contains important information about how this record has been catalogued by the archive but there is no mention of this on the website. 
I find records of interest on this site but find it very difficult to build useful citations for what I have found due to the lack of information on the site. If the records they are hosting disappear will I be able to find them easily at the archive where the originals are kept. Since the purpose of citations is to allow anyone to find that same record again it is frustrating that websites may not make my job straightforward.
I had intended to compare citations for this record on the 2 sites, but whilst understanding what I have in the image, I find actually building the citation from the information provided is not possible without making assumptions.

Sorry if this is a bit short if you want to know more please watch the video