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

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