Skillbuilding, NGS 2016: Bloom on Writing Conclusions

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2016 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 6 May 2016.

F311, Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG, “Sharing with Others: How to Convey Evidence”

Reviewed by Darcie Hind Posz, CG

I always like a Jeanne Larzalere Bloom presentation because whether in person or by audio, I can tell how enthusiastic and passionate she is about genealogy and writing. Jeanne’s instruction technique also works for me. When I was working on my portfolio, defending my conclusions in my case study and kinship determination project was intimidating. Jeanne’s lecture from the NGS 2012 Family History Conference titled, “The Family Tapestry: Integrating Proof Arguments into Genealogical Narrative,” talked me into taking the plunge to write out those conclusions.[1]

Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG

This new lecture, “Sharing with Others: How to Convey Evidence,” definitely lives up to its title and description and provides listeners with new tools to apply towards our genealogical skill set and education.

Jeanne draws us in with the fact that our work must be written because it is our legacy. Part five of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is to write out our conclusions. It’s the final step after the other components of the GPS, the mental processes of assembling and analyzing. Many of us hesitate with the phase of writing out our research and analysis; research is addictive and rewarding, but explaining it to make a solid case is another thing.

We need a lecture like this in our playlist. Writing an analysis of evidence and a conclusion can be overwhelming. When we can break the project down into smaller steps, writing it out and presenting it in pieces makes the process easier to understand and apply.

Listening to this lecture (several times, of course) reveals Jeanne’s methodological plan so that we can become less timid about writing out our research. We learn to use tools like research plans to lead us toward construction. Jeanne Bloom provides a road map that makes writing less intimidating and more approachable.

 


[1] Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, “The Family Tapestry: Integrating Proof Arguments Into the Genealogical Narrative,” lecture F-303, National Genealogical Society 2012 Family History Conference, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2012. The lecture is also available as a free BCG webinar.

 

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A recording of this lecture may be previewed and ordered from PlaybackNow.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Coming from OnBoard, May 2016

OnBoard: Newsletter of the Board for Certification of Genealogists is scheduled to publish in May 2016. We’re pleased to offer a preview of some of its content.

“When Does Newfound Evidence Overturn a Proved Conclusion?”

Most serious genealogists are aware of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) and its five elements that guide us to reliable conclusions in matters of kinship and identity. Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, explains a paradox inherent in the GPS—a conclusion can meet the GPS and yet allow “documents left unexamined.” What happens if we later find new evidence relevant to our research?

“Reporting Research in Progress”

Whether working on simple or complex genealogical problems, research reports are fundamental tools that help us to keep track of and organize our findings. Michael Grant Hait Jr., CG, shows us how following genealogy standards for reporting is critical to overall research continuity and success.

OnBoard publishes three issues per year. A subscription is included in annual associate fees and is provided to applicants “on the clock.” Subscriptions are also available to the general public for $15.00 per year (currently) through the BCG website, here. Issues back to 1995 can also be ordered online, here.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Associates in Action

Welcome to Associates in Action! This monthly feature highlights BCG associates’ news, activities, and accomplishments. Contact  Alice Hoyt Veen to include your special news in an upcoming post.

Activities & Projects

Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, MFA, CG, will teach two courses: Genealogy & Family History Writing and Tracing Immigrant Origins for the summer semester of Salt Lake Community College’s online Certificate in Genealogy Research and Writing program. Classes begin 16 May 2016. A lower tuition fee is offered to out-of-state students who do not need college credit. To enroll or for more information, go to http://www.slcccontinuinged.com/program/genealogy.

Awards & Achievements

Kathy Gunter Sullivan, CG, received the Elaine Spires Smith Family History Writing Award at the annual meeting of the Indiana Genealogical Society on Saturday, 16 April 2016. The $500 award, sponsored by the Society, honors an outstanding article published in the Indiana Genealogist. Kathy’s article, “Eliza Jane Henry of Putnam County, Indiana: Documenting Her Heritage,” has been published in the Indiana Genealogist 26 (December 2015): 5–32.

Publications

Paul Friday, CG, Vital Record Manuscripts at the State Historical Societies in New England (N.p: the author, 2016). This new book serves as a finding aid for New England vital records and includes a partial inventory of vital record manuscripts (church records, minister records, town vital records, tax lists, employment records, petitions, subscriptions, passenger lists, etc.) for all time periods at the six state historical societies in New England. Each record in the book includes the call number, manuscript collection name, box number, and (usually) the folder number (everything required to locate the record). Roughly forty-five percent of the items in the book do not appear in any of the societies’ catalogs; they are present in the manuscript finding aids only. Paul’s book is available at Amazon.com.

Skillbuilding, NGS 2016: Little on Weighing Evidence

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2016 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 6 May 2016.

F301, Barbara Vines Little, “On a Scale of One to Ten:  Weighing the Evidence”

Reviewed by Darrell Jackson, CG

Barbara Vines Little structured her lecture around the “fundamental concepts” of sources as original or derivative, information as primary or secondary, and evidence as direct or indirect. The title emphasizes evidence, but since evidence is information viewed in the context of a research question, weighing evidence consists in assessment of information and the source of that information. The most emphasis on a general principle for this assessment was given to knowledge of the law and custom of the time and place. Other principles include the closeness of the source to the event, the involvement and credibility of the person who provided the information about the event, consistency, both internal and with other information, and the number of iterations the source has gone through.

Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FVGS
Courtesy Scott Stewart Photography

Barbara examined several kinds of sources. Information about land transactions is found in deeds, which may be viewed as the original, the recorded copy, an image of either the original or the recorded copy, or an abstract. Deeds state a date for the transaction. This information cannot be taken as evidence of when the grantee occupied the property. There may be, for example, a land bond that predates the deed, with the deed being executed only when the land was paid for. Or a person may have rented the property for a time before purchasing it.

Death records include many items of information. Some are likely to be more credible than others. Date and place of death may be relied on more than names of parents.

Marriage records include marriage bonds, banns, consents, minister returns, marriage certificates, and marriage registers.  Barbara discussed marriage returns filed by one minister who listed a large number of marriages, with the only date given being the date that he had made the list. That single date is highly unlikely to be the date of all of the marriages, which almost certainly occurred before that date.

Information in tax records is determined both by the law at the time and by the understanding and application of the law by the record maker. In Virginia the age at which white males were taxed varied by law from time to time. Tax commissioners did not, however, always understand or follow the law. Failure to determine the law and practice can create errors in assigning ages to persons listed in the records.

 

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A recording of this lecture may be previewed and ordered from PlaybackNow.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Skillbuilding, NGS 2016: Mills on Research Problems

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2016 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 5 May 2016.

T251, Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, “Dissection & Analysis of Research Problems”

Reviewed by Sara Scribner, CG

Elizabeth Shown Mills began her lecture referring to the title of Thomas MacEntee’s blog Genealogy Do-Over. Re-doing work when we are stymied requires changing our thinking and seeing information in a new light. With her low-key, humorous delivery, clear analysis, elegant slides, and helpful forms, Mills laid out a ten-step process to solve a problem by re-thinking it.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA

Each step requires an activity, and Mills provided eight worksheets to help carry out that activity. Step 1 suggests we fully understand every aspect of our ancestor’s lives leaving nothing out. “Context is Key.”[1]

Most steps involve reformatting our thinking or beginning a new practice. Step 2, “Review the Known Facts,” requires finding a way to interrupt what Mills called our “auto-pilot.”[2] Interrupting automatic thinking displays our research in a new way and leads to new insights. Other steps mandate analyzing prior conclusions and arguing with ourselves to be sure we haven’t missed something.

After working nine of the ten steps, researchers should have in hand a series of targeted worksheets full of new insights, research areas, and premises to investigate. Step Ten suggests preparing a Master Plan to conduct that research.

Mills closed with a call to action: “Seek out new ground no one else has plowed. Are you a researcher or a recycler?”[3] The ten steps and eight worksheets provide the format, skills and guidance for anyone who is serious about being a serious researcher.


[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Dissection and Analysis of Research Problems: (Ten Steps to a Solution)©,” National Genealogical Society Conference, 2016, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

 

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A recording of this lecture may be previewed and ordered from PlaybackNow.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Skillbuilding, NGS 2016: Eagleson on Finding Robert Walker, a Case Study

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2016 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented Thursday, 5 May 2016.

T241, Pam Stone Eagleson, CG, “An Ancestry for Robert Walker of Rockingham County, NC, and Orange County, IN”

Blogger: Michael S. Ramage, JD, CG

How can a genealogist not be hooked from the beginning of Pam’s syllabus: “Robert Walker vanished without a trace . . . ”? Then she gives a source list for fourteen children of the subject’s father, and it just gets better!

Pam Stone Eagleson, CG
Courtesy of Michael Ramage

It took Pam two years and a great array of evidence to prove the connection between Robert Walker and his ancestors in 1829 Rockingham County, North Carolina, and beyond. It took research in thirteen counties in five states.  And, of course, she had to contend with a very common surname.

Pam aptly took us through a proof argument using such records as 1700s and 1800s marriage bonds, an unsigned deed, land grants, a reference in an early 1700s court order to the family, recorded deeds, obituaries, guardianship papers, early census schedules, and derivative records.  Ample screen shots of these old records as well as tables analyzing the various information points help us visualize the proofs involved.  She masterfully distinguishes ancestors falling within the “same name, different persons” category.

Five male Walkers had to be painstakingly researched as potential fathers of Robert Walker.  It gets better.  A Walker Y-DNA Surname Project with hundreds of members provides genetic evidence leading from Virginia (part of today’s Kentucky) to North Carolina.  Kentucky land records become important, and the Kentucky Secretary of State provides a ready source for these records.  The Virginia Land Law of May 1779 resulted in Certificates of Settlement and Preemption Warrants that add to the mix of evidence supporting Pam’s proof argument.  Rockingham County estate proceedings in the late 1790s supply numerous family affidavits found on the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website.  A “Kentucky Doomsday Book” adds an unusual record to the numerous proofs.

It takes several intestate heir proceedings and deeds stretching to Missouri to provide the evidence needed to tie Robert to his father and thirteen siblings.  Anyone interested in proof arguments, deeds, estates, and solved puzzles will love this presentation.  The evidence seamlessly ties this family together through a number of sound methods including the FAN Club (family, associates, and neighbors), migrations traced by land deeds, naming patterns, and genetic genealogy.  Well done, and thank you, Pam, for a great story well presented.

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A recording of this lecture may be previewed and ordered from PlaybackNow.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Skillbuilding, NGS 2016: Miller on Research Plans

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2016 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 4 May 2016.

W151, Gail Jackson Miller, CG, “Developing a Successful and Efficient Research Plan”

Reviewed by J. Mark Lowe, CG, CGL, FUGA

Gail began her approach to research planning by comparing all research to a brick wall. The solution to every project, like a brick wall, varies, as the potential answer may not be apparent. Because the bricks along a wall may contain some answers, researchers collect groups of family trees rather than attempting a research project. Gail suggested that we look at the wall as constructed from puzzle pieces instead of bricks. This requires a closer focus, thorough analysis, and planning.

Gail Jackson Miller, CG
Courtesy Scott Stewart Photography

Gail described how we often repeat bad behaviors that are rewarded. The excitement we feel as new researchers when we find any information promotes the bad habits of collecting family trees and avoiding background study and general planning. We may be found randomly wandering in libraries or online looking for related material.
The process for family research is identical to client research, Gail explained. Both have time constraints. They both begin with a question and focus on a hypothesis that can be researched. She stated that successful problem solving is the same in all research fields. She reminded us of the steps included in a plan and stated that skipping this process will result in failure.

Our plans should be focused, while identifying the names, location, and time period of the research. Preliminary knowledge is required before beginning the research. This includes knowing the physical location of needed records, available record groups, area traditions, and more. This points us toward what we want to know, where we should look first, and determining what we already know.

Using a fictional family, Gail presented basic information about a potential ancestor. She provided a general question, and a list of known facts. She added the need to formulate the question as a testable hypothesis. Potential questions addressed the possible inheritance of the farm, the fact that the family owned a farm, and a question about the crops and livestock raised. She organized the family records chronologically and examined them for missing information. She also stressed that those records should contain complete citations on properly labeled documents that are organized in a systematic method.

Gail reminded us that too often the similarity between professional researchers and family researchers is poor planning. Most poor planning is caused by inadequate knowledge about what records were created in a particular place and time, why they were created, and where they are now.

A more complex family question including two marriage records illustrated the same ideas. Gail also shared a sloppy plan and approach to research. She then showed us why this style would cause problems and prevent answers. Great examples and authentic details defined the problems created when our organizational skills fade, and showed how clear directional efforts lead to success.

As she led us through this study, Gail reminded us that we must be persistent in our efforts and repeat the good skills we develop in research planning and execution.
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A recording of this lecture may be previewed and ordered from PlaybackNow.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Skillbuilding, NGS 2016: Lowe on Research Planning

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2016 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 4 May 2016.

W141: J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA, “A New Document! Now What?”
Reviewed by Jean Atkinson Andrews, CG

Mark’s legion of fans filled the large lecture room to learn how to deal with new information, slow down, think about what we are trying to find, and in some cases stay out of our own way! Emphasizing the need for a precise statement of the research goal, Mark cautioned us to consider factors including location, time frame, resources, and of course the neighbors in developing our objective.

J. Mark Lowe, CG, CGL, FUGA
Photo courtesy of Scott Stewart Photography

Good, clear, directional questions form the core of Mark’s planning process. Seven possible ways of looking at information help us understand and improve our process. Using these steps provides a roadmap to creating a careful and effective plan. Working from the general to the specific, the initial steps describe the problem and known information. Later steps address research limitations, records, repositories, and findings. The last step develops a plan for continuing the research.

Understanding the appropriate records, terms, and legal requirements is essential to selecting sources likely to answer our questions. This knowledge takes time to develop, catalog, and use effectively. Besides sources, a network of research contacts may include librarians, archivists, and historians. They can be valuable allies and sources for record suggestions. Collaboration with another researcher can point out holes and bring a different viewpoint to the problem. Mark’s examples of poor and better research plans illustrate the pitfalls of not investing adequate time and effort in the process.

Mark cautioned that many research plans fail due to a lack of knowledge about the research subject. He stressed his system of writing about each document and recording the details as he finds them. This allows him to capture his thoughts and use the documents to push him along the way. His advice to ”back up and slow down” will build knowledge and lead to new and better answers.

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A recording of this lecture may be ordered from PlaybackNow.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Skillbuilding, NGS 2016: Russell on Conflicting Evidence

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2016 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 4 May 2016.

W121, Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, “When Worlds Collide: Resolving Conflicts in Genealogical Records

Reviewed by Harold Henderson, CG

Judy G. Russell led off the BCG Skillbuilding Track at NGS 2016 in Ft. Lauderdale with a close look at the fourth element of the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
Courtesy Scott Stewart

How should researchers respond to conflict when they find it? First, make sure the conflict matters, and then spend a lot of time with Standard 48, Resolving evidence consistencies.[1] A close reading will answer many questions. The standard outlines the classic three techniques of seeking corroboration, analyzing quality, and explaining how a conflict might have arisen, or any combination of the three.

Russell drew on two other authors’ slightly different takes on conflict resolution, emphasizing the importance of publication and peer review in making sure you’ve made the right call.[2] Three meaty examples involving a variety of records highlighted the value of seeking additional evidence. The visuals enhanced the talk, but an audio recording would also have value both in instructing beginners and reminding the rest of us that we cannot wish away conflicting evidence. It must be dealt with properly or we have no conclusion.


[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville: Ancestry.com, imprint of Turner Publishing, 2014), 27–28.

[2] Harold Henderson, “How to Handle Conflicting Evidence: A Six-Step Program,” Archives: Family History Made Simple and Affordable, “Learn from Experts,” 8 October 2013 (http://www.archives.com/experts/henderson-harold/how-to-handle-conflicting-evidence.html : accessed 5 May 2016). Also, Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 16: Speculation, Hypothesis, Interpretation & Proof,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-16-speculation-hypothesis-interpretation-proof : accessed 5 May 2016).

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A recording of this lecture may be ordered from PlaybackNow.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

Congratulations, Karen Stanbary, CG!

“My passion for genealogy began as a high-school senior watching the Roots mini-series on TV,” says Karen Stanbary. In the early 1980s, the show inspired her to “take a local community-college class, explore the collections at Chicago’s Newberry Library, and (best of all) interview my grandparents, their siblings and my great-grandmother.” Karen borrowed a mimeograph machine to create family group sheets and pedigree charts.

Decades later, faced with an empty nest, she returned to her passion and stumbled upon two articles that questioned the validity and reliability of Alex Haley’s work.[1] Feeling a bit betrayed, she resolved to learn valid genealogical methods. That combination of inspiration and critique bore fruit, and in April she qualified to become Certified Genealogist #1071.

Karen Stanbary, CG

Karen was born in Burlington, Iowa, where many of her deceased ancestors remain. She grew up in a western suburb of Chicago. She and her husband currently practice specialized clinical social work in Chicago. She is fluent and literate in Spanish and completed graduate anthropological work in Mexico, one of her genealogical areas of expertise. She teaches three twelve-hour seminars for the Newberry Library’s Adult Education program:  Genetic Genealogy, Genetic Genealogy–Advanced Practical Applications, and Proving Your Pedigree. She will teach in the Practical Genetic Genealogy course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) this summer.

Karen credits her successful portfolio in large part to the teachings and guidance of Tom Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, Sandra Hewlett, CG, Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL, Blaine Bettinger, PhD, JD, CeCe Moore, Angie Bush, MA, and Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, CG. Her experience in the ProGen Study Group, Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group, and NGSQ (National Genealogical Society Quarterly) Study Group—as well as classes at GRIP, Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR)—also improved her genealogical critical analysis skills.

Karen especially wants to thank Harold Henderson, CG. “He is a fantastic mentor who helped keep me accountable to my timeline. He provided just the right balance between understanding and accountability.”

She committed to the certification process and created a routine. “Early each morning, when my brain works best, I would spend focused quality time with my portfolio. I prepared a ‘portfolio space’ with all the essential materials at hand—the BCG Application Guide, Chicago Manual of Style, Evidence Explained, Genealogy Standards, Numbering Your Genealogy, and the IGHR writing course syllabus.  I bought a second monitor so I could see the docs on one screen and write on my laptop.

“And I took the time to dig deep into the records. Doing that helped me to keep the Kinship Determination Project (KDP) interesting. I spent three years with the KDP family. I think I would have become bored with them without those unusual records and social histories. And a bored writer does not write.

“It was a significant breakthrough to realize that one size does not fit all—that there is no universal template or formula. Within the standards, I had to learn to trust my own decision-making, to feel the freedom to tell the story.”

Karen’s case study identifies the Mexican father of a Michigan adoptee using documentary research, interviews with potential relatives, and analysis of nine people’s autosomal DNA test results, including triangulated matches. This work is contracted for publication in the NGSQ.

How much overlap is there between clinical social work and professional genealogy? “More than I expected, especially in genealogy cases with real present-day emotional impact, such as unknown paternity, misattributed paternity, the appearance of previously unknown half-siblings, and adoption cases.” And the skill sets are similar: “Both require the careful creation of timelines, critical consideration of the source(s) of information, and empathy—the ability to step out of one’s cultural comfort zones in order to view events through the participants’ eyes.”

What’s next for Karen?  She plans to teach and to increase her client work, especially helping people solve family mysteries and break through brick walls using a combination of documentary research and targeted DNA testing. “It’s an exciting time to be a member of the genealogy community.”

Karen can be reached at karenstanbary@gmail.com.



[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills and Gary B. Mills, “Roots and the new ‘Faction’: A Legitimate Tool for Clio?” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 1 (January 1981): 5–26.  Also, Elizabeth Shown Mills and Gary B. Mills, “The Genealogist’s Assessment of Alex Haley’s Roots,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 72 (March 1984): 35–49.  Both articles can be viewed at Historic Pathways.