Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Homework for Mastering Genealogical Proof Chapter One

I’m glad that I am not a panelist for the DearMYRTLE’s Hangouts on Air that are examining Dr. Jones’ Mastering Genealogical Proof. The panelists are to post their completed homework for Chapter One by midnight tonight (Tuesday 18 Jun 2013).

I have not yet finished MY homework for this chapter — and it may not be finished by the time we finish studying the entire book. The problem lies not with the book, but with my pattern of learning.

I read Chapter One with interest but also with a sense of familiarity. After all, I have read Christine Rose’s Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case  on more than one occasion.; I have also studied the first two chapters of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained more than once; and I participated in the Second Life study of Dr. Jones’ Family Search.org study on “Inferential  Genealogy.” So I felt at home with the concepts of Chapter One. On 30 May, I finished the chapter and confidently wrote out my answers to the Chapter One questions. I then checked out those answers with the answer key and gave myself a grade of D+.

{My 30 May answers and my analysis of each of my answers appear at the end of this blog.}

Am I glad I chose to answer these questions in a notebook and not in Dr. Jones’ workbook. I can continued using the workbook as I work to improve my grasp of the chapter.

Yes, the concepts were familiar to me; I recognized them as I read them, but I had not made them into my concepts; I had not internalized them. I need to work on each one until I can consistently remember and state in my own words the finer points of Dr Jones’ statements (in the Chapter and in the Answer Key). Or (should I find myself disagreeing with him) I need to state his points and then state my differences. Only then will I have made Chapter One my own.

Surface learning (which is my natural style) will not help me become a high-quality genealogist. I must use the harder-for-me process of rethinking and restating until I “own” these concepts. As I stated earlier, this may take me months. But now that I realize that this learning pattern is what I need, I will dig in and do it — for Chapter One and for every other chapter in Mastering Genealogical Proof.  After all, it isn’t necessary for me to learn it all the first time through; there is no time limit on getting it right. But if I am to be the thorough genealogist I wish to be, I must stick to this until I HAVE mastered this and it has become a part of my all genealogical studies, a part of my style.

Here are my initial answers with my remarks as to why I believe I need more understanding of each answer.

1. {definition of genealogy}
Researching family connections. Primarily a genealogist moves backward in time, but modern connections are also a part of genealogy. “Real” genealogy is based on scholarly standards.  [I rated this C; correct but incomplete.]

2. {GPS elements}
Reasonably exhaustive research [√]
Full, comprehensive citations [√]
Analysis [incomplete]
Proof arguments [wrong]
Exposition [incomplete] [I rated this D for the above reasons.]

3. {defense of fully documented GPS in a family history}
That isn’t genealogy, that is fantasy or myth (these are borrowed words). [I rated this D because it is incomplete.]

4. {partial proof}
Until the conclusion is fully proven (remembering that new information can change this) the five elements of GPS have not bee fully covered. [I rated this C; it is correct but it is a weak statement.]

5. {first research step}
Reasonably exhaustive research; finding supportive evidence in more than one place.
[I rated this D because it is too vague a statement.]

Three Ds and two Cs; that adds up to D+ to me.

So here you see why I have told myself I need to continue working. I haven’t failed, but also, I haven’t made these familiar concepts into MY concepts.

I’m not so much “Frustrated Sue” about this as you might suppose. After all, learning isn’t a race. I will do the best I can on the first pass, and then return to the weak points and strengthen them, until I have indeed mastered genealogical proof.

Note:  In view of copyright discussions, I have removed the quoted questions, replacing them with  a general description of the topic in curly brackets. The answers have always been in my own words. The edit was done 19 Jun 2013.


  1. Oh, I can soooo relate! I thought Chap 1 was fairly easy which meant I was not at all prepared for Chap 2 which really thru me under the bus. Now that I read your comments, I realize I had to "look" for the answers in Chap 1 because I did not "own" them. That was more apparent in Chap 2 and why I felt I failed.
    Having read your explanations, I now see that I, too, need to "own" these concepts.
    Thanks for the wake-up call!

  2. I really appreciated your honest approach to your homework. Keep grasping at the details and enjoy the foundation of knowledge we will be retaining. I challenge you to create your own Proof Pledge to the five steps of the GPS Standard from question two.
    I will enjoy these next chapters with you.
    MGP Panelist

  3. Cary

    A "Proof Pledge" sounds interesting, but I am not sure that I understand your term. Please expand on this idea.

    Sue McCormick

  4. I graded my homework too. I have one more chapter to go, but I plan to reread the whole book. I printed a copy of the homework pages and wrote on that.