Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Review: Research Process QuickSheet

Elizabeth Shown Mills’s QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to the Research ProcessToday I’m reviewing Elizabeth Shown Mills’s QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to the Research Process. This QuickSheet consists of four models.

Page one contains “the Research Process Model.” Mills describes a research process consisting of four stages, beginning with preparation and ending with reporting. Page one also contains “Your Research Report.” In this part she advises that you “create a formal report of the same quality you would expect from the best professional.” She describes the four sections to include in your research report.

Page two contains “the Research Analysis Model.” This is an elucidation of the evidence analysis process map found on the flyleaf of her book, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. She gives elements to be considered when analyzing evidence. Evidence comes from information, which comes from sources. Each of these three, sources, information, and evidence, can be classified in ways that assist analysis.

Since release of this QuickSheet, Mills has added additional classifications. The QuickSheet lacks the additional classes of sources (authored), information (undetermined), and evidence (negative). To see the additional classes, see “QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Map” on Mills’s blog, Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage.

Page three contains “the Identity Triangulation Model.” The model suggests identity is more than just a name and “random data [extracted] from convenient records.” Identity requires triangulation of persona, relationships, and origin.

Page four contains “the Reliability Model” which has almost twenty questions divided into seven groups. The questions help determine if a conclusion is reliable. One such question, categorized as conflict resolution, is “Has the researcher adequately investigated any and all evidence that contradicts the proposed conclusion?”

QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to the Research Process
8.5" x 11", 4 pp., folded and laminated. 2012.
ISBN 978-0-8063-1892-9
Genealogical Publishing Company
$8.95 plus shipping.

Also available as a digital publication from the author.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

FamilySearch Place Research Tool

FamilySearch Place ResearchI noticed the other day on the FamilySearch Labs website that FamilySearch is no longer supporting its Place Standard Finder. They have replaced it with Place Research. This tool opens the kimono to expose the feature inside that allows you to search using a place name and having FamilySearch return proper results even when the name has changed. For example, a search on for a person living in Bristol, Vermont will return records for Pocock because Bristol used to be named Pocock.

Place Research can help identify place name changes. The quintessential example given by FamilySearch is St. Joseph, Arizona. I searched for [St. Joseph, Arizona] (without the brackets). Place Research displayed a list of all its historic names, as well as the applicable dates:


Allen's Camp, Yavapai, Arizona Territory, United States

Populated Place

1876 - 1878


St. Joseph, Yavapai, Arizona Territory, United States

Populated Place

1878 - 1879


St. Joseph, Apache, Arizona Territory, United States

Populated Place

1879 - 1895


St. Joseph, Navajo, Arizona Territory, United States

Populated Place

1895 - 1912


St. Joseph, Navajo, Arizona, United States

Populated Place

1912 - 1923


Joseph City, Navajo, Arizona, United States


1923 - PRESENT

Place Research attempts to make sense out of whatever you throw at it. I searched for [Notts, Eng] and it returned two places: the county of Nottinghamshire and the borough of Nottingham. It scores each result. Nottinghamshire scored 99 while the borough scored 84. I suppose the terminal s gave the nod to the shire.

FamilySearch Place Research lists name variants, even in different scriptsPlace Research supports non-Latin searches. I searched for [台北 ] and it returned three results: Taipei the city, Taipei the municipality, and Taipei the county. I clicked Taipei city and then clicked Variant Names. It showed the name in Chinese traditional and simplified characters. It also showed Pinyin and Wade-Giles Romanizations. It even showed Icelandic. (Icelandic?!)

Using Advanced Search presents additional possibilities. In the Jurisdiction field I typed in [Utah,]. Research Tool displayed a dropdown list of matching localities. I selected Utah County. I then set the Type to Cemetery. Research Tool answered with a list and a map showing all the cemeteries it knows about in Utah County.

FamilySearch Place Finder Advanced Search

Advanced Search also supports specification of a year or range. I set jurisdiction to Utah Territory, year to 1855, and type to county. Place Research presented a list and a map of the counties in the Utah Territory as of 1855, including Carson County in present day Nevada.

FamilySearch Place Research results showing Utah Territory counties in 1855

Advanced Search supports proximity searches, but you must first know latitude and longitude. After identifying where an ancestor’s house may have been, I used Google Maps and found the latitude and longitude to be 41.260568, -95.806873. I tried to find all the courthouses within a 10 mile radius. Unfortunately, Place Research’s database doesn’t include courthouses, at least around my ancestor’s house. Rats!

I put the coverage of the database to the test with a couple of esoteric names. When I went to school at Brigham Young University the locals would talk about Sharon and Edgemont as though they were real places. But they don’t appear on any maps. There are no signs indicating how to get there or indicating you’ve arrived. They don’t have defined boundaries—that I’m aware of. They are real places, but today are just neighborhoods in Orem and Provo. I searched for [Sharon, Utah] and Place Research nailed it. I tried [Edgemont, Utah] and Place Research returned three places. I limited the search to places within the jurisdiction of Utah County. This was sufficient to locate it.

The database behind Place Research isn’t perfect. If you find mistakes you can submit the problem using the Feedback link at the bottom of the page. And while it has millions of place names, covering the entire planet for all of history is pretty impossible. While I found neighborhood names in Utah, I’m guessing place names in Nepal may not be as specific. You will still find yourself going to old standbys like the USGS Geographic Names Information System.

Still, I’m glad I stumbled across this tool and think you will be also.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Today Last Day to Preregister (#NGS2015GEN)

The Ancestry Insider is an official blogger for #NGS2015GEN

Today is the last day to preregister for this year’s national conference of the National Genealogical Society (NGS). The conference is to be held in the St. Charles, Missouri convention center, just ten miles from the St. Louis International Airport. It will be 13-16 May 2015. (That’s three days after Mother’s Day. Maybe you should start dropping hints to your husband.)

Many conference hotels are completely sold out. Two no longer have rooms for the special conference rate: the Embassy Suites St. Charles and the Fairfield Inn. That leaves the Ameristar Casino St. Charles as the remaining official hotel. Not to worry. The conference center offers free parking. See the conference website for more information about accommodations.

As a volunteer of NGS, I’m not totally unbiased. But I am a strong advocate of ongoing education. I’m blessed to be able to attend several national, regional, and local conferences each year. I’m always learning something new. A glance at the lecture schedule shows four lectures by Thomas W. Jones, four by Elizabeth Shown Mills, three by David Rencher, and one by Josh Taylor. There are 17 lectures by fellows of NGS and fellows of the prestigious American Society of Genealogists. There are 28 by fellows of the Utah Genealogical Society. Of course, it goes without saying that one doesn’t need initials after one’s name to be a topic expert and an excellent teacher and lecturer. There are a total of 164 lectures organized into nine subject areas each day. Check out the lecture schedule online. Then sign up today.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: The FAN Principle QuickSheet

Elizabeth Shown Mills’s _QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle)_Has it been three years since Genealogical Publishing sent me a bunch of publications for review? I apologize; if I’m going to accept publications, I need to follow through. Today, I’m reviewing Elizabeth Shown Mills’s QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle).

Elizabeth Shown Mills uses the acronym FAN to help people remember the meaning of cluster research. “To prove identity, origin, and parentage, study individuals in the context of their FAN Club: Family, Associates, and Neighbors.”

I’d always considered cluster research to be something used solely to break through brick-walls. This QuickSheet has convinced me otherwise. Genealogy—family history, if you prefer—is more than vital facts. It is understanding a person’s story in context. Where did they live throughout their life? Who did they associate with? What was the legal environment? What was their character? Only when we have this depth of understanding can we be confident that the assembled sources all refer to the same person.

On page one, Mills gives six basic questions to apply as a starting point. She reviews seven major problems and work-arounds. On page two, she gives 16 record types with extremely helpful hints on how to apply them to cluster research. Page three consists of “the Problem-solving Spiral,” with guidance on how to structure a research project. Page four gives a simple bull’s eye illustration with some general guidance.

In each of my reviews I feel obligated to say something negative, so here it is. I wasn’t certain the flow of information was the most natural. I’m pretty familiar with Mills’s teaching skills—which are exceptional—so I doubt this is the fault of the author. Authors are constrained by editors, graphic designers, layout, and the size of the subject matter. But this nit pic hardly matters; with only four pages of information, the order does not affect the value.

QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle
8.5" x 11", 4 pp., folded and laminated. 2012.
ISBN 978-0-8063-1894-3
Genealogical Publishing Company
$8.95 plus shipping.

Also available as a digital publication from the author.

Monday, April 27, 2015

AncestryDNA $79 Sale Today

imageTo celebrate DNA day, AncestryDNA is offering its $99 DNA kit for $79 today. With AncestryDNA it’s always a good idea to wait for their $79 sale. Their other sale price is $89. I’ve never seen anything less than $79, although they apparently have done limited price testing for as low as $49 (according to the Genealogy Junkie). So if you’ve been waiting for the best price to come around, unless they drop their list price, $79 is probably the best you can hope for. The sale ends today, 27 April 2015.

In addition to your own autosomal test, it’s a good idea to have your oldest (generationally) )living progenitors tested as well. For more information, see “AncestryDNA is a Team Sport,” a recent article on the Ancestry Blog.

For more information about AncestryDNA and to see the whole sales pitch, visit

For a comparison of the genealogy DNA tests from the various companies, see “Autosomal DNA testing comparison chart” on the ISOGG wiki.