Friday, February 6, 2015

So How Did Week Five Go?

It’s Friday at the end of Genealogy Do-Over Week 5 — Time for my weekly report on my Do-Over journey. Although I did a lot of work and I made a lot of progress, this is one of those weeks when I feel that I failed to accomplish anything. I must remind myself "BEWARE of this feeling," it does not agree with the facts. This is a feeling from the "before Do-Over days” when “my tree didn’t expand” was equal to standing still. This do-over job is similar to remodeling a house. We need to spend lots of time tearing things down and rebuilding habits before the progress is visible, but each step we take is a step along the path.

Assignment One
We had two assignments for the fifth week. The first one – Build a Research Toolbox – will be one of my long-term projects. I have started it by transferring each of Thomas’ entries into a 22-page word processor document, verifying each link during the transfer. This word processor document is a “work from” file; it is NOT my toolbox.

To build my toolbox, I will review the discussions at the Facebook group and decide upon what format the Toolbox should use. At this time I’m leaning toward a bookmarks folder for my Safari browser, but I’m still undecided. I will also need to search the Facebook group for the mention of a “dead links” cleaner before I begin actual work on my personal toolbox.

In my personal toolbox, I will be discarding some of the links that Thomas has suggested because those particular links aren’t relevant to my own research. I shall use others of those links as templates for constructing a list of sites relevant to my searches in specific states. And some sites that I find very useful haven’t been mentioned by Thomas. So I will gradually add and subtract sites from Thomas' list until my list come close to matching my personal needs. I expect that this refining process will continue as long as I remain active doing genealogical research.

Assignment Two
The second assignment was “Citing Sources.” Discussion in the Facebook group mentioned Ben Sayers’ Practical Citations; Thomas MacEntee posted a link to Ben’s site. The Practical Citations citation format has served me well. By using it I have been able to create citations that allow me to retrace my findings; I have enough detail to allow me to extract citation details at need. I am also able to turn these citation details into a more formal detail style when the need arises.

So, I didn’t need to work on Assignment Two? WRONG. Thomas suggested that we become familiar with Chapters 1 and 2 of Evidence Explained. I have owned this book since the electronic copy of the first edition appeared and I have frequently examined these chapters. The assignment caused me to realize that I haven’t mastered any of the points the chapters contain. Now I have another ongoing task: Look at and and really study each of the numbered chapter segments until I can write the point of the segment in one to three sentences. These are not points to memorize, merely condensation of the author’s viewpoint restated in my own wording. In this way I can be sure that I understand that point.

If I find that a point has raised a question, I will explore other sources until I find an answer to the question. For example, Section 1.2 talks about thorough research and I instantly asked myself “How do I know I have done enough looking?” I stared at my books, noticed Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas Jones. It has two pages that refer to this point, so I have noted that down in my outline as a sentence following my short summary.

As part of my learning process, I write the first “own words” interpretation on my waste-paper scratch pad. When I am happy with my interpretation I transfer the note to a small notebook  When the notebook outline of Chapter 1 is complete, I will copy the result to a word processing program and store it my computer. Why all this writing? Because I am one of the learners in this world for whom writing it out does help me to retain my knowledge.

Assignment Two is another on-going task. Right now I’m “stuck" on 1.4. As I read this I say “of course” and am ready to move on. I’m afraid that attitude means that I’m not paying attention, that the concept isn’t truly mine yet. Perhaps that idea is truly already a part of me. If I can’t state it, I may be overlooking the need to act on it. In either case, I need to find my words before I move on.

Other Activities (Connected with or inspired by the Do-Over)
In earlier blogs I have mentioned organizational tasks that the do-over has caused me to notice.

Photos: There are just twenty-three more photos to process before Bob and I can work together on the first three years of our stored digital photos. This will be 123 of the 2,505 photos now stored in iPhoto on my computer. We don’t yet know if Bob has the same photos that I do; whether or not our computers have the exact same photos isn’t exactly important but knowing what we have and where it’s stored IS important.

The “Junk-Drawer” Genealogy Folder: I mentioned that this started out as 3.38 GB of 2,361 items of stored information. I have reduced this 3.1 GB for 2,354 items. A bigger change in the storage space than in the number of items. But I am only looking at one item at a time, and only visiting the problem once or twice a day. I’m just chipping away at this, because other projects are more important. But chipping away does get results.

Narrative-Style Research Log: I am sad to report that this isn’t working as well as I hoped. I need to go back for additional design. What I have developed works very well if I visit it to learn what I have accomplished for a person, but it is too complicated a tool to use as a guide to my research. I need a “working log,” something that I can follow more clearly before I put all the finished pieces into the "finished log" form that I am now using.

Also, this past week Stacy Weaver shared her Ancestor Profile with the Facebook group. There are so many good ideas in her form. I am especially interested in the places to look portion of that form. I think I need to see how I can add such a search guide to my Research Log. Thank you again for your input, Stacy. (And did my reader’s notice how those research guides tie into my question about section 1.2 of Chapter 1 of Evidence Explained?)

So the Research log needs more work. But this is an improvement. The current log, including its drawbacks comes closer to a research log than any of the many attempts I’ve made since I started true research eight years ago.

Not a glamorous week, but a productive one.

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