Friday, September 11, 2009

Make Your Genealogy Research Methodical

Jeanette K. B. Daniels - “Attacking Research Problems Through Setting Goals and Creating Objectives” – Fri., 28 August 2009, 11:30AM.

Jeanette K. B. Daniels Have done pro research for clients who were adopted and didn't know it. Examine known information.
- How do you know it?

Make small, solvable goals about what you would like to learn about an ancestor. Example of A. J. Biggers, an orphan. Moved with…
...unnamed uncle across state. Source record handwriting is hard to read. Made goal to find parents of A. J. Biggers.
Make specific objectives/tasks for accomplishing goal. For example,
1. check census,
2. check Handy Book for Genealogists ...
to find applicable jurisdictions.
3. [didn’t catch this one]
Using the knowledge from first 3 tasks, she was able to establish 4 more objectives.
Doing these tasks, she was able to establish names of parents.
A new goal could be to find the mother's maiden name.
[@rzamor1, how did we end up in the same session? You must be on the front row. I'm on the back row.]
Goals are statements of a problem. Objectives/tasks are solvable and produce information contributing to accomplishing goal.
Example: Read the entire probate packet to find out the names of anyone involved in the guardianship of A. J. Biggers.
Probate packet contains statements of debts, inventory taken by appraisers.
(She prefers The Handybook for Genealogists over the Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County & Town Sources. She feels like the edition of the Red Book that she looked at was a rush job to compete with the Handybook.)
Remember that a negative search result is important.
Are you in wrong place?
Do you have an invalid assumption?
Use flowchart as method to structure logical thinking.
A simple sequence consists of a single entry point and single exit.
Selection Structure or a Loop Structure are good ways to form Objectives. Next lecture will show this iterative approach.
Don't use spaghetti code approach. Keep it simple.
[She reached the end of her slides and still has 30 minutes to go. She's backed up to
re-discuss a previous slide.]
[Padding her lecture with presentation of more info about the A. J. Biggers example. Asking audience 4 objectives to apply to goals.]
[Now asking attendees if they have a research problem we could create goals about.]
[I'd like to dedicate my lunch today to my ol' buddies on the BIT team @Ancestrydotcom . Yes, it was the breakfast fist of death!!! Who knew that Betos had a location across the street from the South Town Expo?]

In speaking with attendees of Daniels’s other sessions, I learned that she consistently followed this same format: Present for the first 30 minutes using a dozen or fewer slides, double back through the slides and ask attendees questions that allowed them to apply what they had just learned, and finishing up by applying the principles to attendees’ research problems. This format apparently worked for many attendees as Daniels had plenty of audience participation, and many eager to get help with research problems. For my money I would have preferred more material and less application. At the time I thought that she hadn’t prepared enough material. Others I spoke with came away with the same feeling.

One aspect of Daniel’s presentation that worked for me, but not for all attendees, was the application of software development methodology to genealogy research. Daniels referenced spaghetti code and basic flowchart symbols, which she called simple sequence structures, select structures, and loop structures.

This article is one in a series of session reports from the recent 2009 Salt Lake City Family History Expo taken from my live tweets of the event. Please see my Tweeting Presentations Policy for further information, including the formatting guidelines I attempt to follow and instructions for correcting errors. Additions are in italics.

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