Archive for June, 2013

June 30, 2013

When 2 + 2 = 22: A Multi-Path Approach to Getting It Right

Not long ago, I submitted a case study to the editor of the Georgia Genealogical Society Quarterly for publication. In this paper, I discussed how I “proved” the identities of a young woman’s parents, both of whom had died when she was very young. My research began with this woman’s death certificate, which listed her parents’ names incorrectly (if you’re wondering, the names weren’t even a close match), and worked outwards from there. In the end, the breakthrough records were ones researchers don’t often consult, which was the main point of the article: If the “normal” records don’t help, then look to the “unusual” ones.

The thing is, I wouldn’t have been able to successfully resolve this problem even a decade ago, maybe not even five years ago. I know that when I first started researching, back in the dinosaur days of microfilm and dusty court records, I would have accepted the information on that death certificate unquestioningly, and been stuck with a brick wall until I figured out that such information cannot be taken at face value.

For me, it was a long and steep climb between those two points. In other words, it took me a long time to realize that 2 + 2 = 4, not 22.

Knowing how to solve genealogical problems takes a complex variety of skill sets learned through multiple paths over a long period of time. There are some people who believe that this educational path or that one are the only ways in which one should become a genealogist, but this isn’t true. That’s not to say that education, including instruction at college and professional levels, is not necessary, but it is only one facet of a whole that should encompass many other paths, including reading, studying, mentoring, teaching, and publication, and perhaps even certification or accreditation.

Taking only one of those paths will not lead one to become a good genealogist, because genealogical problem solving requires a multiple-path approach. Most of all, it takes time and practice. This is one field where experience truly is the best teacher.

June 30, 2013

A Sunday Walk Around the Blogs

Harold Henderson of Midwestern Microhistory ruminates on “Good enough” citations? We can do better.

The Concord Review’s blog featured an interview with Emma Scoble, whose paper on the Broderick-Terry Duel was published in the 2013 issue of The Concord Review. TCR is the only academic humanities journal dedicated to publishing exemplary work by high school students.

Colonial America’s oldest unsolved murder has now been solved. Forensic archaeologists at Jamestown, Virginia, have discovered the identity of skeletal remains unearthed in 1996. The remains are believed to be of George Harrison, who died in 1624 after a duel with Richard Stephens.

June 22, 2013

Saturday Skills: Source List Entries or Reference Notes?

As a new editor, I’m dealing with some surprising issues, things I had no idea would come up during the editorial process. One of these issues is the proper formatting of source citations. The order of elements in citations is of concern, certainly. Just as frequently, I’ve found that authors confuse the format for source list entries with that for reference notes. Each has a place in historical writing, but when should authors use what format?

The source citation Bible for genealogy is Elizabeth Shown Mills’ excellent resource, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009), commonly referred to as EE. The companion web site, which is also incredibly useful in learning how to create citations, is Evidence Explained. I’ll be using EE in the following discussion, for those who would like to follow along.

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June 16, 2013

A Sunday Walk Around the Blogs

Missing records aren’t always lost, and sometimes they’re returned, as Madison County, Alabama, court officials discovered recently.

Harold Henderson discusses a recent article on the demise of genealogy in Does genealogy have a future? Don’t ask a journalist.

Judy G. Russell brings us some really peachy news: the Georgia Archives is opening to the public two additional days beginning 31 July, and somewhere along the line will be adding additional staff. Woot!

Robyn at Reclaiming Kin writes about The Definition of Black according to instructions for federal census takers. This post is an excellent example of why Robyn’s blog is one of my favorites.

A new web site seeks to document the Historic Rural Churches of Georgia.

June 12, 2013

Digging the Foundations of Research into the Past, 2 July 2013, Clayton, GA

Please join me 2 July 2013 at 1 p.m. at the Rabun County Public Library in Clayton, Georgia, as I present “Digging the Foundations of Research into the Past: Essential Skills for Genealogists.” This one hour lecture provides an overview of necessary skills, from planning research to citing sources, and includes a brief discussion of sources, information, evidence, and proof.

This lecture is part of the library’s Summer Reading Program, and is open to those aged 16 and up. Admission is free and no registration is required.

I hope to see you there!