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 (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-20-research-reports-research-success  :  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.

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