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!

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