SpringBoard is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 2 May 2018.
W151, Vic Dunn, CG®, “Analyze This! Scrutinizing Evidence for Problem Solving”
Reviewed by Jean Andrews, CG®
One of the rites of passage from inexperienced to astute genealogist is when one begins looking at records not for what they say, but for what they only imply or don’t say at all.
In “Analyze This! Scrutinizing Evidence for Problem Solving,” Vic Dunn, CG, discusses ways to evaluate and analyze information to see “below the surface” of the record. A former certified public accountant (CPA) with many years of professional research experience in Virginia, Vic is well qualified to speak to the creation and use of these tools.
It almost seems too simple to start off with a reminder to do basic math on a problem, but the number of three-year-old parents and eighty-year-old mothers in online family trees suggests otherwise. Ask questions and calculate dates to determine reasonableness. Make sure the foundation of ages and life events matches up before proceeding with deeper analysis.
The session continues with strategies for reviewing various types of records. Estate and probate records, pension final payments, account sales, and property transfers are touched on. Deed books can be sources of documents other than deeds; bills of sale and powers of attorney, for example. Many short examples illustrate the concepts.
Analyzing how and when land parcels were acquired, when they were disposed of, and by whom can provide indirect evidence for events such as arrival in a location, inheritance, and migration out of an area. An in/out land matrix spreadsheet makes it possible to follow and mine these transactions for clues even when large numbers of deeds are involved.
Negative evidence also serves a valuable purpose – it can eliminate candidates, suggest migration (does he disappear from records when he supposedly moved?), and establish whether life event locations are consistent. Even mistakes in records can provide clues if carefully analyzed.
The lecture concludes with a helpful recap of the analytical tools every researcher should know and use often including transcriptions and abstracts, life event timelines, spreadsheets, and historical event timelines. Templates can be created for tax lists and censuses. Maps and boundary changes are critical tools.
Problems of identity, kinship, and location are frequently solved by applying these tools and principles.
A recording of this lecture may be ordered from Playback Now www.playbackngs.com.
The words Certified Genealogist and letters CG are registered certification marks, and the designations CGL and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.