Mastering Genealogical Proof–Chapter 1 Homework

MGP-2 – My Chapter One Homework Assignment

We have started the second round of study of the Mastering Genealogical Proof in the DearMYRTLE Genealogy Community on Google+.

I am again reminded, in the Preface of this book, about how many of us started in the study of family history. One thing I learned at the beginning was “Cite Your Sources”. I have done that, thankfully. I knew why, at the time, mostly so that I could answer the question “Where did you get that information from”?

The first go time through this book, I learned lots. Mostly from the Conversation that took place with the Panel, and the Community as we worked through the book.

So why am I doing it again. To learn more.

Dr. Jones mentioned, in the preface, about being self educated. I got that one. But he continued about attending conferences to learn more. I can say “Been there, Done that”. I learn something every time attend one. Either a local meeting, of which I try to attend 2 different ones a month, and up to Roots Tech 2014. Each time, I pick up a GEM at each one.

But my learning experience is now taking form by ‘teaching’ at two local senior centers locally. I am not sure that it’s as much teaching as it is sharing my experience.

Without the tools, like this book, I would not have taken that next step. I learn from each class that I share. But the foundation is working through these home work assignment in my own way, based on the principals in this book.

One of the questions that was raised in the book is about the word Genealogy. I have seen a number of discussions about a genealogist and a family historian. Is there a difference? Should there be a difference?

If wasn’t until I was asked to give a presentation at a local Historical Society did I start to understand the difference. My thought was the methods that a Genealogist does in their research. I wasn’t there, that was for the professionals. I just wanted to get those names, dates, and places. I did that, BUT, what I realized was that I was capturing their Stories. The local Historical Society was capturing the story of the community, and I the stories of my families. For me it was a transition or the desire to find out who these people were and to try to tell their story for those that might follow.

The genealogists do have their principals of how they “work” and this workbook spells out the Genealogy Proof Standard. The five steps! Only five steps????

Looking for all of the records that you can find. I have talked about that in the blog from time to time. It’s exhausting at times. But the trick that I learned between the MGP-1 and MGP-2 Study Group, is to go back and look at what you already have. After all, we / I have learned new “stuff” from the first time I looked at that record.

I did cite all of my sources the first time, but were then detailed enough. Easy answer, NO. I am not a student, so I didn’t know how to cite correctly but my genealogy database program provided a feature to more accurately cite my sources.

That lead to the next step, which I “sort-a” did. I knew when something didn’t look right, or appear right. But didn’t know why. Somewhere along the way, I learned that I needed to evaluate what I was looking at. Does THAT make sense? I don’t though the bad out, but know that the information I was looking at isn’t mine person, or something is wrong with that piece of information. The puzzle pieces don’t fit together.

The next step is to identify and resolve conflicting information. One of my students taught me this one. We had conflicting information on what a persons name was. The son of the person with the conflicting information was in the room. We were looking at a census record when we saw the conflict, and the student asked me to scroll up the page and down the page. OK, I did. He pointed out that the Census Taker wrote everyone’s name the same way. Surname, Middle Initial, First Name. Easy resolution to that conflict. That resolution was put into the research notes for that fact, so that we knew that there was a conflict and how we resolved it.

The last step, isn’t so easy for me, and that is to write up a proof statement. It’s that writing down of the conclusion of your research that is very important. Of course, that conclusion may change with the next piece of information that you find. I have that in my own research, where the “paper trial” says one thing, but DNA test results shows another.

The most important lesson that I learned several times now, is the first step in this process. That is to have a Clear, Specific, stated Goal or Question to be answered.

For me, to get there, I have found that I need to cycle through these steps several times. Testing our findings, comparing and contrasting this new piece of information against what I had before.

One important thing that I learned / relearned this 2nd time through was the reminder that the jobs that I have had over the years, each had their own way of doing “things”. Standards of how we worked. Before I retired, I worked with a group that did this all of the time. We knew how things were to be done, we put measures in place so that we could tell if we were doing a good job, created plans to improve what we were trying to do.

The real life learning experience has helped me with my family research. We could do lots of things really well, but other things, not so much. In our case it was the customer experience. The customer was seeing our overall performance, and would be the judge of how well we did.

Our research is the same. Each step is related to the others. Researching very well, without evaluating that research, my not lead to the correct conclusion.

I look forward to our continuing discussion on this book.

 

Reference:
Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof  (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013),

[Book available from the publisher at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/mastering_genealogical_proof ]

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