Thursday, August 27, 2009

Another Kind of GPS To Guide Your Research

This article is one in a series of session reports from the recent BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. I tweeted the session live, but I hate to send you to Twitter to read them because they appear there in reverse chronological order. I’ve straightened them out for you here.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Mark Tucker, "Navigating Research with the Genealogical Proof Standard."

This synopsis is incredibly lacking compared to what you can access at Mark’s web site,
His slides are posted on his blog: Go ahead and follow along!
Mark going through some history. He's to slide 6 (if you're following along).
Where do I start my research? What record to start with? He teaches boy scouts that knowing where you are prevents getting lost.
Implied GPS Step: Define research goals (slides 10-14). Illustrate the process with a case study: Worth Tucker's birth info.
Two important forms: Research Plan, Research Log.
GPS: Genealogical Proof Standard
Covering through slides 22, research plan.
Slide 32, picture of his sweetheart (which we all assume is his wife!).
GPS Step 1: Reasonably exhaustive search of reliable sources for pertinent info.
Genealogical Proof Standard Step 1
Source Provenance: The issue is, what are the better sources? Original source is better than derivative.
A derivative is better than the sources derived from it. Several sources of independent origin strengthens confidence.
Slide 39 introduces another important form. Research Analysis.
GPS Step 2: Collect a complete and accurate citation to each source of information that is used.
Genealogical Proof Standard Step 2
Recommends Mills' _Evidence Explained_. All the latest genealogy software supports templates matching this book.
Aside: EE is necessary because genealogists use a wide range of sources well beyond those in Chicago or Turabian.
Should there be one set of common citation guidelines? (slide 49)
GPS Step 3: Analyze the info to assess quality as evidence.
Genealogy Proof Standard Step 3
Slide 54: Sources can be original, derivative (goes into types of derivatives).
Genealogical Proof Standard: Source types
I have a suggestion for Mark for this slide: Image copies should be adjacent to Original since they are usually more reliable than handwritten copies.
Slide 55: Information can be primary or secondary.
Slide 56: Evidence can be direct, indirect, negative.
Sometimes derivatives can be treated as an original, such as photographic copies such as microfilm or digitized.
Primary information comes from those with first-hand knowledge. Review your sources, information, and evidence for types they are.
GPS Step 4: Resolve any conflicts/contradictions in the information.
Genealogical Proof Standard Step 4
See the excellent example of slide 79 showing conflicts in our case study of Worth Tucker's birth info.
GPS Step 5: We arrive at a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion
Genealogical Proof Standard Step 5
No conclusion is ever completely final.
One more suggestion for Mark: Include all the items from slide 83 in the case study example, slide 85.

OK, I have another last suggestion. For the Worth Tucker case study, showing an example conclusion may be appropriate as a teaching vehicle, but it’s worth mentioning, as Janet Hovorka did in her presentation on Tuesday, that genealogists aren’t forced to a conclusion like a judge in a trial. If sufficient evidence does not yet exist to come to a conclusion, don’t.

This will really be the final one; honest. Another point Mills makes in EE is that the written conclusion can be extremely simple when the evidence is direct, non-conflicting, and compelling. I think when such evidence arises from near-original sources and primary information, that no formal written conclusion is necessary. Of course, you still need proper citations.

Remember that tweets are limited to 140 characters. Less the #byugen hashtag, each tweet could not exceed 132 characters. Hence, tweets often use abbreviations, bad grammar, and lack proper punctuation.

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