Skillbuilding, NGS 2017: Dunn’s “Estimating Ancestral Birth Dates”

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2017 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 13 May 2017.

S401, Vic Dunn, CG, “How Old Was Grandpa? Estimating Ancestral Birth Dates”

 Reviewed by Nicki Peak Birch, CG.

Those who were willing to attend Victor Dunn’s 8 a.m. lecture on the last day of the NGS Conference were treated to an interesting and informative talk. Dunn discussed how to estimate ages during the era before vital records were readily available. He focused on record types and life cycles with frequent examples to emphasize his points.

Vic Dunn, CG

Vic Dunn, CG

Dunn’s discussion of record types ranged from the pre-1850 censuses to tax lists, court records, deeds, wills, and more. He showed how to use a series of the pre-1850 censuses to determine a birth range. He reconstructed a family with ten children, of whom only one son was named in the father’s will, just by using census records.

Dunn noted that he was most familiar with Virginia law and recommended becoming familiar with the law of the state being researched. In Virginia, someone as young as fourteen could be a witness, become an executor at seventeen, and write a will or sell land at twenty-one.

Dunn explained that life cycles also help to estimate ages. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, published in 1989 by David Hackett Fischer, gives the average age at marriage for men and women in the four groups of people studied. This allows the researcher to estimate an age for an ancestor if the year of his/her marriage is known. Women’s fertility is also fairly standard, ranging from age fifteen to forty-five, with two or three years between births.

Recommended!

A recording of this lecture may be ordered from Playback Now www.playbackngs.com.

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: Dunn on Convincing Proof Arguments

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 7 May 2016.

S421, Victor S. Dunn, CG, “I Rest My Case: Constructing a Convincing Proof Argument”

Reviewed by Melissa Johnson, CG

It shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that Vic Dunn’s lecture on proof arguments began with an overview of the five elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard. Understandably, he placed particular emphasis on the fifth element, a “soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.” He stated firmly, “it must be in writing.”

Victor S. Dunn, CG
Courtesy of Scott Stewart Photography

Dunn walked the audience through the various types of proof discussions—proof statements, proof summaries, and proof arguments—and showed us examples of each from his own writing. He emphasized that proof discussions can be written for various reasons—as part of a larger work, for our own research files, as a client report, or for publication.

Dunn tackled a difficult task, instructing the audience how to construct and write proof arguments, the most complex of proof discussions. He emphasized to writers that proof arguments aren’t necessarily going to be constructed in the order that the research was done. He also pointed out one of the benefits of writing proof arguments: we often find holes in our logic and learn that we have more research to do.

Proof arguments are separated into several sections—the introduction, the body of the argument, and the conclusion—and Dunn offered a framework for how to approach each one. The beginning introduces the research subject, provides basic information about the person, and states any challenges or complexities involved in the research. The main body of the work lays out the argument, analyzes and correlates evidence, and resolves any conflicts. This section can include text, charts, timelines, maps and tables to communicate key information to the reader. The summary provides an overview of the main points, and sometimes explains the methodology used to solve the problem.

This informative lecture ended with several tips for effective genealogical writing: use the active voice, eliminate excess wording, use topic sentences, organize with headings and subheadings, discuss documents in the present tense, and proofread your work. For genealogists learning to write proof arguments, he recommends reading articles from the top five scholarly genealogical journals: National Genealogical Society Quarterly, The American Genealogist, The Genealogist, the New England Historic Genealogical Register, and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record.

Anyone looking to increase their understanding of genealogical proof and sharpen their writing skills would benefit from hearing Dunn’s lecture.

 

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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: Dunn on Indirect Evidence

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this Skillbuilding lecture, presented Saturday, 16 May 2015:

S442: Victor S. “Vic” Dunn, CG, “Beating the Odds: Using Indirect Evidence in Problem Solving,” reviewed by Teresa Steinkamp McMillin, CG

Vic Dunn, CG

Vic Dunn’s informative lecture focuses on using indirect evidence to solve genealogical problems. Evidence, “a tentative answer to a research question,” may be accurate or incorrect and it may be direct or indirect. Direct evidence is information that states the answer to a research question, while indirect evidence must be combined with at least one other piece of information to answer the question at hand. Vic reminds us that negative evidence—the absence of what we expect to see under a given set of circumstances—may be important in solving a genealogical problem. For example, if a man is not listed in a certain tax list, it might indicate that he moved away from the area.

Vic walks through five examples of problems that were solved using indirect evidence. The examples include cases where relationship linkages were used and cases where relationship linkages were not available. In the latter, research focuses on the subject’s associates. Vic also presents an example where direct evidence is available, but was obtained from questionable derivative sources.

The talk concludes with a reminder that to correctly solve a problem, all relevant evidence must be correlated; source citations must be complete and accurate; conflicting evidence must be resolved; and a sound conclusion must be written. These are the last four criteria of the Genealogical Proof Standard. The first is to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search, and it appears that Vic has done just that in his examples. Thank you, Vic, for this instructive presentation.

A recording of this lecture may be purchased through Jamb Tapes, Inc.

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.