Monday, February 8, 2016

From Confusion to Conclusion: How to Write Proof Arguments! at GRIP

This summer -- July 22-27 at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh -- Kimberly Powell and I will again be coordinating a week-long course that focuses on tools we can use to meet the last three prongs of the Genealogical Proof Standard:

* analysis and correlation,

* resolving conflicts, and

* writing a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion (without which no genealogical conclusion can be considered proven).

We don't mean to neglect the first two prongs -- thorough research and good citations -- but we think many genealogists are ready to zero in more closely on these three. (If you need citations consider this June offering.)

Much of the course involves taking apart published articles and considering how they work and (in some cases) how they came to be. There will also be daily interactive analysis and writing exercises and discussions.

There's a reason for this case-by-case and hands-on approach: every genealogical problem requires different tools and approaches; very few general rules work. Every confusion is different, and it reaches conclusion in a different way. So we will try to fill your toolboxes, and not say that you should solve all problems by using (say) a screwdriver.

Thomas W. Jones PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, and Melissa Johnson CG will each be teaching two sessions.

Quick info here.

A bunch of additional details, day by day, here.

We're in the process of updating the linked information to reflect the fact that William Litchman cannot be with us this year and Melissa Johnson will be bringing knowledge gained from her publications in NGSQ and NYGBR.

Signup for this second session of GRIP begins [CORRECTION!] Wednesday, March 2, at noon Eastern, 11 am Central, 10 am Mountain, and 9 am Pacific. For many inhabitants of the first two time zones, Pittsburgh is within reasonable driving distance. 

When last offered, the course filled very quickly. This year we do ask students to be familiar with the concepts presented in the relevant chapters of Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013). We hope to see you there!

[slightly amplified about an hour after first post]

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Try to remember . . .

The science-fiction writer who coined the term "cyberspace" reflects on how difficult it is to recapture a world without television or recorded sound. I've always thought of this in the future tense, in that I have no idea how to write a memoir addressed to the future, because I don't know what will have become unfamiliar, but I think he's struck a deeper chord. What exactly was it that I did when there was no ever-present screen to interact with? (Emphases added.)

"It’s harder to imagine the past that went away than it is to imagine the future. What we were prior to our latest batch of technology is, in a way, unknowable. It would be harder to accurately imagine what New York City was like the day before the advent of broadcast television than to imagine what it will be like after life-size broadcast holography comes online. But actually the New York without the television is more mysterious, because we’ve already been there and nobody paid any attention. That world is gone.

"My great-grandfather was born into a world where there was no recorded music. It’s very, very difficult to conceive of a world in which there is no possibility of audio recording at all. Some people were extremely upset by the first Edison recordings. It nauseated them, terrified them. It sounded like the devil, they said, this evil unnatural technology that offered the potential of hearing the dead speak. We don’t think about that when we’re driving somewhere and turn on the radio. We take it for granted."

William Gibson, interviewed by David Wallace-Wells, The Paris Review, Summer 2011

Friday, January 22, 2016

The genealogy of fairy tales

From 3 Quarks Daily, one of the great aggregator sites, I learned that numerous stories have been traced back thousands of years -- "not quite tales as old as time, but perhaps as old as wheels and writing," writes Ed Yong in The Atlantic. The oldest one the Durham University investigators have found is about 6,000 years old. Did your ancestor hear it told? Check it out.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Looking back on 2015 writing and prospects for 2016

Last year, with the help of kind editors and colleagues, I published a dozen genealogy articles (four in peer-reviewed journals) and six book reviews. The full list is at Midwest Roots.

I experimented with "double-decker" publishing, following a problem-solving article about an eastern Indiana Smith family in NGS Quarterly with the full genealogical summary of the family in later issues of Indiana Genealogist. (BTW, one needs a long running start to do this. I have been puzzling over this family for six years!) And I experimented with a "review essay" which appeared in the December NGSQ.

And I've had fun with a series of short methodology articles on indirect evidence, negative evidence, and historical context in the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly.

Early 2015 saw the long-awaited publication of La Porte County, Indiana, Early Probate Records, 1833-1850 with Genealogical Publishing Co., a joint production with Dorothy Germain Palmer and Mary Leahy Wenzel -- one of the few such books containing a nearly-every-name index of the probate materials, so that early La Porte researchers can track non-decedents in these records. Proceeds go to our genealogical society, of which Dorothy is president.

I also changed professional focus from client research to client editing. The plan is to spend more time on writing (and more on specific problems and families), and less time on committee work, speaking, and (sigh) blogging. I hope 2016 -- or the 11 1/2 months of it that remain -- will be good for y'all, with publications and credentials galore.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reading Two Top Genealogy Books Together

The best two books for serious genealogists are Thomas W. Jones's Mastering Genealogical Proof  and Robert Charles Anderson's Elements of Genealogical Analysis.

But they are different enough in their emphases and terminology that reading both may induce vertigo. My review essay in the December 2015 National Genealogical Society Quarterly may help. (Jones co-edits the Quarterly but was not involved in the editing of this piece.) It is free on line to NGS members and available at good genealogy libraries.

And if the review essay doesn't float your boat, enjoy the substantial articles by Laurel T. Baty (AL, GA, NC), Ronald A. Hill (Cornwall), and annual writing contest winner William A. Cox (VA, PA).

And if these don't float your boat either, well . . . back in the 1700s Samuel Johnson said, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." I would venture an update: "If you're tired of NGSQ, you're tired of genealogy."

“Review Essay: How to Solve Genealogy Problems, and How to Know When They Have Been Solved: A Guide to Elements of Genealogical Analysis and Mastering Genealogical Proof,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 103 (December 2015): 304-308

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thorough research in city directories, one quick example

I recently had occasion to compare physical and virtual city directory holdings. The results for this one location -- Decatur, Macon County, Illinois -- are as follows.

Assume that you're researching families that might be in Decatur over a 50-year period. Which source has the best collection of city directories 1870-1924?


Exclusive holdings for each are in bold underline.

Ancestry has 1889, 1893, 1896, 1899, 1903, 1907, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1921, 1922, 1923

Decatur Public Library has 1871-72, 1881, 1884, 1889, 1896, 1899, 1901, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1915, 1919, 1920

Don't assume that local repositories have a full collection for their own city! Indeed, since these books were ephemeral, more years may yet be out there.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tomorrow night's BCG webinar on some genealogy reflexes

I'll be talking about genealogy reflexes and how they relate to doing good genealogy and becoming certified, at the BCG free webinar Tuesday night the 17th at 5 pm PST, 6 MST, 7 CST, and 8 EST. Hope to "see" some of you there. It's open to the public but seating is limited, so register early and sign in early.