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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice  by Louise St Denis, Brenda Dougall Merriman and Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


Summary: Research Skills

Effective initial analysis of your research problems or roadblocks gives you the right attitude and skills to accomplish your objectives, even if one small step at a time. Identifying and setting goals are the beginning of your genealogical success.

  • You will remember to identify each small goal along your way—to ask the question that needs answering, or to form a hypothesis that needs verification or rejection.
  • You learn to educate yourself about any and every source which might hold some of the information you require; this is your research planning.
  • You search out all those sources, even if they are difficult to locate or time-consuming.
  • As you progress with sources, you carefully note a detailed citation to each one.
  • You evaluate each source for its original or derivative reliability and its historical context.
  • You study each piece of information in a source, sometimes by transcribing or abstracting, whether or not each piece of data seems relevant at the time to your quest.
  • Your collection of information or data is then correlated and analyzed for its credibility as evidence, i.e. direct or indirect evidence for the question or hypothesis at issue.
  • Finally, you can make a conclusion based on your examination of all the material. If there has been confusing information or conflicting evidence, your best effort is a written summary or argument about your conclusion.

Becoming a real-life historical detective can be extremely satisfying, and is a big attraction of genealogy for not only family historians, but for anyone who plans to exercise his or her brain in a lifelong adventure!

Bibliography

Board for Certification of Genealogists. The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. Ancestry Publishing 2000.

Christensen, Penelope. How Do I Prove It? 2nd edition. Heritage Productions, 2008.

Curran, Joan and Madilyn Coen Crane and John H. Wray. Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families and International Kin. National Genealogical Society, Special Publication No. 64, 1999.

Evidence, A Special Issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ), Vol. 87, No. 3, September 1999.

Merriman, Brenda Dougall. About Genealogical Standards of Evidence. The Ontario Genealogical Society, 3rd edition, 2008.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian. 1997. Reprint, Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 2006.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown, Ed. Professional Genealogy, a manual for researchers, writers, editors, lecturers and librarians. Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 2001.

Rose, Christine. Genealogical Proof Standard, Building a Solid Case. Rose Family Association, 2005.


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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Methodology - Part 1: Getting Started, Methodology - Part 2: Organizing and Skillbuilding, Methodology - Part 3: More Strategies, Methodology - Part 4: Effective Searching and Recording, Methodology - Part 5: How To Prove It, and Methodology - Part 6: Professional Preparation and Practice offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

  • This page was last modified on 7 May 2014, at 19:00.
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