Mastering Genealogical Proof–Chapter 1 Homework

February 24, 2014

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.


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

[Book available from the publisher at ]

2014 Legacy Family Tree Webinar Schedule announced

December 23, 2013

Received this announcement this morning:

2014 Legacy Family Tree Webinar Schedule announced

This is exciting for me, a bit scary as well, but I am on the list in August 2014. The topic will be on how I use the Find-A-Grave website for my research. For those  who might have heard me speak about the topic before, it has been almost re-written with a few examples of how I use the site, what you may find, what you may hope to find, and a number of tips on what to look for.

Research is one way to use the website, but another is how to contribute to the Find-A-Grave website.,I’ll share a couple of examples of what I was able to provide another researcher and what another Find-A-Grave contributor did for me.

The announcement has two important items, for me at least, that are worth noting: 1) the ability to link or copy the Webinar Google Calendar to my own Google Calendar, and 2) the ability to sign up for multiple Webinars at one time.

There is a direct link on the right side of this page to get you to the Legacy Family Tree Webinar website.


This is a great Educational Opportunity for those who research their family history and a great list of presenters. Not sure how I got on that list, but I’ll do my best.

How I file my digital images

October 27, 2013

I was listening to the Genealogy Guys podcast this afternoon, and Drew Smith and George G Morgan were responding to a listener’s email.

The Genealogy Guys Podcast #256 – 2013 October 8

I was going to just send them an email, but thought that I might share this in this blog, because the way I file my digital information (Digital Overload as some one say) has an impact on my three Blogs.

Some folks store their digital information by Surname, some by Location, some by Record Group, or some combination of all of the above.

I have chosen to create Surname Folders. I should be more specific Birth Surname folders and Record Type folders.

The key to remember is How am I going to find what I am looking for, OR where I am going to save that digital image. I will most likely use Windows Explorer to do this. I always have the Show File Extension option so that I can SEE the file type that I am creating or looking for. So SORTING now becomes very important.

For the Filename of Pictures or other images, NOT including images of Records I use:

Surname_FirstnameMiddleameSuffix (without any spaces). The Underscore helps visually see the Surname. I do not use All Caps for surname. That hasn’t worked for me, but others do.

Each person is grouped together. In my case, my grandfather does not have a suffix, he wasn’t born with one, my Dad was a Jr, and I am a III. That keeps us separated.

What follows now becomes important for each person. I add a dash followed by YYYY (full year) format, so that puts them in Date Order. That is IF I know the year of the digital image. I follow that with a Dash and Event.

The Dashes are to help separate or break up the text. If I had a more accurate date, I would use YYYY-MM-DD format, IF that becomes an issue.

No Date, then just the Event. Let’s say that I had 10 pictures from an 80th birthday for an individual and the birthday party was in 1998. The filename would have 1998-Birthday-01, 1998-Birthday-02, 1998-Birthday following the Birth Surname_Firstname_Middlename-

For file name sorting this works great.

But, what about a family photo? (not getting into the meta data here). I precede the filename with Family_Surname etc. so I know that there are more than one person in that photo. In this case, I may end up with multiple Surnames in that photo, so I would have multiple Copies of that image in a couple of Surname Folders. Luckily (or unluckily) I don’t have too many of them.

I also have some pictures of houses where people lived. I precede them with House_Surname etc. This continues to help with the sorting in windows Explorer as People photos would be sorted by person; all of the Family photos would be sorted together in a group, as well as houses.

Images of Records work much the same way, in the Surname Folder. For example Census Records

YYYY_Fed_PA_County_Location-Surname_FirstnameMiddlenameSuffix – For US Census Records

YYYY_PA_County_Location-Surname_FirstnameMiddleNameSuffix – For State Census Records

RecordType_YYYY_Surname_FirstnameMiddlenameSuffix – For Birth, Marriage, Death certificates.

Census, filed by Head of Household. Marriage Records would have two copies of the same image.

But, what if I don’t know the Female’s Birth Surname. For a death record, I would file that in the married surname folder UNTIL I found her birth surname. When I do that, I rename the file and move it to the Surname folder.

Since I have a Tombstone Tuesday Blog where I post headstones AND because I contribute to Find-A-Grave, I file in a Cemetery Folder with Cemetery subfolders.


with filenames of


Why do all of this?

When I want to include one of those images in my genealogy database, I know where to look and which file to choose from to be attached to a Person or a Citation (for those records). My database will make a Copy of the file in the folders above, and put them into ONE folder for that database. So, outside of my program, windows explorer will show me the files sorted in such a way that I know what I have.

Those filenames aren’t very helpful within my database, but I can put a Caption on that image, and the Filename helps me put that Caption in a more reader friendly format. Like Firstname Middlename Surname Suffix – 1998 Birthday Party – 1.

or 1940 US Federal Census PA Chester County West Chester – (name) Household

This format has worked for me, but I have also tweaked it a couple of times as more and more digital records have become available. I don’t what to have to Think about Where to file these records or scan or picture, nor what to call it. My driving force is the Sorting feature when trying to locate a file.

It has worked for my blogs, Find-A-Grave, and my genealogy database management program.

Thanks Genealogy Guys for a great topic.

Slide Scanning Project

September 4, 2013

I am working on a Slide Scanning Project. I have 50 years of 35MM Slides. That doesn’t include the same number of years of slides from my Dad. I had started to record my slides, but over the years, my catalog got lost in software updates at some point in time. I had my slides labeled. So, I have started to record my slides.

Here is my Spreadsheet format:


I have all of my slides with a Roll Number, the Slide Number from the slide, I have descriptions, with will include names if I have them. The Category helps me group them by subject and the Date that is marked on the Slide. The Box, Column, and Slot are the Box of slide information so I know where they are. This one is Box 2, Column 2 and 3 (of 6), and 2 slides per slot. 25 Slots per roll. So, 300 slides per box.

As I have been going through them. I have scanned a couple of them, and am labeling the Scanned Slide as the Roll and Slide number. For sorting purposes, I have for the slide filename, I am using three numbers, like 022. At this point, I am NOT scanning all of them. I have been scanning some slides to include in my genealogy database management program. I have a number of photos that need to be there.

Now, I have had a number of Slide Scanners in the past. none really worked well / easy for me. I did a search for slide scanners and found this:

DBTech 35mm Film Slide and Negative Scanner – 10 Mega Pixel Film to Digital Image Converter – with 2.4-Inch LCD and TV-Out

Here is what it looks like:


It’s a USB Connection to my PC. It will also handle a SD Card. Very compact, nice tilting viewing screen. Without a card, this will hold about 10 scans. I want to rename the “generic” filenames to the filenames listed above. It also helps break up the task at hand. So, I’ll transfer the scans to my PC and rename them right there.

Using the sorting and filtering features of my spreadsheet program, I know what slides have been scanned. I can then use my photo editing program to do what I want to, but at a later time.

Here is an example of a photo that was taken in 1963. Looks pretty good for me.


One of the main reason for the above picture, is so that I can scan my pictures of one of my cousin’s who passed away due to cancer. Actually these are my cousins, 2 have passed away, a couple of brothers, a brother and sister are also seen. I posted this one on Facebook, and while I was posting it, and replying to a comment, one of these cousin’s “liked” the picture.

Not bad, huh? The real slide isn’t too much better. Printing also looks pretty good.

Negative Evidence or Negative Findings

August 10, 2013

Lesson Learned: There is a difference.

I have been struggling with my search results for this Mastering Genealogical Proof study. My genealogical question is, Did James A Wake serve in the Civil War?

How can you prove that he did not serve, when you can’t find a positive piece of information that states that.

During the peer review of the Source Analysis I had done, I said that my search on was Negative, as I didn’t find anything. The review by the Evidence Explained team challenged me on this. In fact, the recommendation was that it is INDIRECT evidence. Looking at what that meant, was simply “keep looking”. That indirect term is a warning that you haven’t answered the question yet. All that to say that what I really had was “Negative FINDINGS“.


I have adjusted my search results for to Indirect. Haven’t found the answer.

From the information collected so far, I will only be able to infer that he did not serve and will not be able to prove it. The inference will come from the understanding of the Classification in the Congressional Registration and not being able to find any reference to his serving in any other source that is available.


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