Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Inferential Genealogy Wind-Up — Almost!

At the first meeting of the people who gathered at Second Life for a group study of this course, DearMYRTLE asked those of us who blog to blog about our experiences. So far I have managed about 1-1/2 blogs on the subject.

I'm not sure that I have ever studied so hard and been so overwhelmed by the lessons — it was GREAT! Not just the material in the course itself, but all the things I have learned from my fellows in the study group — the attitudes, the research techniques, the various approaches to the problems differed from person to person (as you would expect). All these differences illuminated for me some shadowy portions of my learning process.

If one desires to do more with genealogy than to collect a whole lot of names, the beginner has a stiff learning curve ahead. In the 3-1/2 years since my Christmas pesent was my genealogy software program, I have spent more time learning than I have spent doing. And even then much of my "doing" has been "re-doing."

Since 30 years of my professional life involved keeping track of the photographs, drawings, manuscripts, and various typeset pages which produce a textbook, I knew from the beginning that I would need a storage sstem. For the entire 3-1/2 years I have been refining the computer portion of my storage system. This year a webinar from Elyse of Elyse's Genealogy Blog began to solve my paper storage. (Sorry, Elyse — I couldn't locate how to spell your last name.) Another webinar from Thomas MacEntee and some blogs from Dick Eastman improved my backup systems for my Genealogy data.

The webinar from DearMYRTLE not only inspired me to start this blog; it also inspired me to pay attention to other blogs. During most of these 3-1/2 years I have been following the Monday evening GENTREK presentations at the chat room of GenealogyWise. Dae Powell and Jayne McCormick's presentations have directed me to source books, to research areas, and to research techniques. The chats before and after the presentations often add more information. The discussion board sponsored by my software company has been another source of information. Somewhere along the way I learned of John Michael Neill's CaseFile Clues and have been following the weekly newsletters as well as his three daily tip offerings. Lessons (lectures) from the genealogical societies of my home towns of St. Louis and Columbia Missouri have given me another avenue to learning.

I think that all this has allowed me to reach a level of knowledge equivalent to upper elementary school. I'm beginning to believe that if I ever get a firm grasp of the lessons learned this month, I will jump right over middle school into junior high.

In each of the 3 cases presented in this course, Dr. Jones directed us to extend our research in time, in documents, and in people (associates of the subject of the research). I had begun to think this way about research; his examples expanded my understanding of this extension of research areas and helped clarify the process.

But the best learning came from watching the work of my fellow students. One of them went to Find-a-Grave to see if she could locate the grave of our case-study's subject. I know about Find-a-Grave (and had used it during this time period to locate the graves of my husband's great grandparents) but I haven't truly grasped it as a valuable tool. Her creative use of this site helped strengthen that idea. Two of my fellow students had tried to resolve some evidence through the use of a spread sheet. This led to a final assignment for all of us to try resolving case 3 by using this technique. The various approaches to organizing information in this way was another eye opener.

I don't know ho long it will be before these tools become part of my "standard equipment;" tax records, Find-a-Grave, spread-sheets, probate court, occupations, deaths and marriages … too much information, too rich a broth right now!

Thank you DearMYRTLE for organizing and leading this group. And thank you fellow students for giving me such a big boost in my education.

Here's to facing our frustrations!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

This Is the Face of Genealogy

In answer to the call: My paternal grandparents, Jacob Paulus and Emma Catherine Strickler.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Inferential Genealogy Process — Step 1

As I mentioned in my post of June 2, I have started taking this course along with other genealogists at Second Life.  While I studied the handout and Dr. Jones' presentation of Case 1, I kept thinking about my unknown great grandfather, William T(ully?) Dorrance. Can I apply this process to the task of finding out about William T.?

I am going to try to do this. Case 1 is described as being "moderately difficult" while Case 3 is "fairly difficult." I suspect that resolving the problems presented by William T. may be "very difficult." I also suspect that this process may eventually help me connect with this ancestor.

In his handout and in the video, Dr. Jones refers to 5 steps in the Inferential Genealogy Process. Step 1 is "Start with a Focused Goal." This blog is about what I think I understand about Step 1 and how I believe it applies to my problems with William T.

Case 1 starts with some interesting "non-facts" about his specific individual, Maxfield Whiting; (Dr. Jones politely calls this "fiction").

Dr. Jones then tells us we need to
a) Identify a specific individual using known information.
b) Pose a research question specific to that individual.
He states that in genealogy, there are two main categories of questions: Identity and Relationship.

Before Dr. Jones goes on to discuss Steps 2 and 3, he enters the Focused Goal Statement into the Journal.

The above defines the procedures for Step One, "Start with a Focused Goal." The remainder of this blog attempts to relate this process to the problems of William T.

a) I am having problems with an individual named William T(ully?) Dorrance who was the father of James Henry Dorrance.
That identifies the individual; it also uses up almost all my "known information."

James Henry Dorrance was born 11 Jan 1856. This is before mandatory birth records were kept and birth certificates were issued in Jefferson County, Missouri. James Henry was orphaned in the early 1860s. The family always referred to the fostering family as being his "godparents." Our first attempt to locate baptismal records failed; we have new leads. (I'm jumping ahead — what I want to say here is —) we don't have much evidence for William T. or of the birth of his sons. What we do have is hearsay (and in at least one case the "fact" is false).

b) Pose a research question: I believe that this question must be Establish the identity of the William T. Dorrance who is the father of James Henry Dorrance.

c) Enter the Focused Goal Statement into the Journal. "Enter the Focused Goal Statement" is now clear enough. The statement has been formulated in b) above. My problem lies in "into the Journal." I'm pretty sure that Dr. Jones is referring to what I think of as a "Research Log."* I don't truly have a Research Log. I understand the purpose of such a log and I am absolutely sure that I need one. But I do not have a firm enough idea of this process to create a log or journal that is clear to me when I go back to it.
* When I went back to the video to study the next steps, I noticed that the video included a Journal. This is "after the blog" information. I'll continue to report my first thinking here.

In the meantime, what I DO have is a FileMakerPro database which is tied to my primary genealogy program by a strict correspondence of person ids as issued by the program and file record position in the unsorted database. I have created a new layout in this database and will populate it with the fields Dr. Jones demonstrates in the video. The first field is "Focused Goal;" in it I have written "Establish the identity of the William T. Dorrance who is the father of James Henry Dorrance" in the record that relates directly to William T.

I am aware that negative answers are valuable. It is useful to know that a William T. Dorrance you have located is the wrong William T. I'm not afraid of finding negative results. I AM afraid of following paths which are useless. (As a silly example, I have no reason to believe that William T. was in the navy, so searching Naval records would be following a useless path.)

I know I'm learning something here, What I fear is that I'm heading off into ineffective approaches, or that my goal is wrongly focused (too narrow? too broad?). If anyone who reads this blog is willing to critique my methods, I would welcome that input.

Here's to facing our frustrations,
Frustrated Sue

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Generous Community

To begin: the problem at WikiTree mentioned in my post of April 14 has been fixed because I followed the advice of Heather Kuhn Roelker and Cheryl Cayemberg. Chris Whitten of WikiTree was very helpful; I now have a smaller , reasonably accurate family tree. AND the placement of the tree on a public site has led to correspondence between me and a cousin-in-law. She has sent me information that has added about 80 people to my father's family; she has also sent me a picture of my great grandmother and has shown me an interesting site which includes a set of writings of my aunt's (my father's sister) about our "founding" ancestor. This is a rich reward. Thank you, Heather, Cheryl, Chris, and Becky (the cousin).

I have a bunch of sensitivities to airborne substances that is usually not a problem. But at times I get an overdose and have an allergy attack. These attacks can sap my energy to the point that making the bed or loading the washing machine is almost too much work. Most days, I manage to make myself do the usual household tasks and also to accomplish something in genealogy (or in cross-stitch, another of my 3 obsessions). But when your energy is that low you make mistakes so I usually do only easy project.

For me learning has always been fun and fairly easy. So during this unusually long and difficult allergy season, I've been learning. I've been following several new-to-me blogs (and adding blogs to that list), I've been attending webinars (I think I'm a webinar junkie), and I've bought webinar CDs for restudy, or to compensate for missing a webinar when an allergy attack caused me to sleep through the session instead of attending it.

So now I have a better organization plan for storing my paper files (better because I find it easier to keep working at it) and I'm using Dropbox, and I've been to ScanFest, and … (you understand). And then came this invitation to take a course on SecondLife! So I got an avatar, and I went to the Fire Pit on Monday and learned from Genie Weezles how to navigate, I studied the handout and the Introduction part of the video, and I went back to the Fire Pit on Tuesday for the discussion. I think I'm such a newbie at Genealogy that others will learn more than I will, but I already know that I will extend my basic understanding. So thank you, DearMYRTLE for pointing me here.

I cannot describe in detail what I learned on Tuesday night, and this gives me confidence. I expressed a thought about the Inferential Genealogy Process and how it fits into meeting Genealogical Proof Standards and someone agreed with me. I queried the relative importance of two types of information and Clarise Beaumont emphasized that I needed both. And so on. In my case, what I learned Tuesday night slid seamless into what I have been trying to format about "doing" Genealogy, giving me confidence that I am on the correct path.

Then Clarise gave us an assignment! Besides studying Case1 before the Sunday meeting, those of us who Blog are to write a blog about our experience. Now, I'm not quite sure if my Blog will be what Clarise meant (no this one isn't it, this is merely my intro), but the blog is already half outlined and that process has helped me learn something.

So thanks again to all the experienced Genealogists out there who offer such generous help to the rest of us. I don't know where you find the time, but I'm very glad that you do. I'll be back soon with an account of my first experiences with the Inferential Genealogy Process.

[And by the way: someone at the Fire Pit mentioned Ben Sayer's Lineascope. I didn't respond at the time because it wasn't appropriate. But if that person reads this and has the time, could we talk about Lineascope? You can tell me when and where.]

Here's to facing our frustrations,
Frustrated Sue