In Part 1 of this article, we discussed research basics to help those who feel inexperienced doing family history research teach those who are just beginning. We reviewed the foundations of solid personal research and advice on having set things to share, instead of falling back on the “fire hydrant” approach of teaching. This article will discuss how to use slightly more advanced research strategies.
Data Entry and Review
Reviewing data before setting it in printed or mental stone can solve potential pedigree problems. Teach that we can all use basic logic in our research, that everyone can do it. Before those you are teaching finish their research, have them carefully review each family group by first, Stopping; then second, Looking at the data (whether dates or places); and third, Thinking by asking ourselves questions such as:
- Are there missing events for some individuals?
- Are there possible gaps in families where other children could be placed?
- Does one record say a couple married at the age of two?
- Is someone two places at once?
After evaluating what has already been collected, they should make sure that all that information has been compiled in some database, including sources.
Explore Other Records
When beginners are out on their own they will need to explore other pertinent records. Reflecting on your own family history research, meager or great, encourage them to become familiar with the records they will need to explore. The choice of those records will depend on the time period needed, the location, and the availability of the records. Encourage them to make a simple list of sources for a particular area of interest and keep it with their research materials, along with what they contain, so they can use it to make judgment calls. For example:
- 1841-1891, Census: Occupation, age, birthplace, family members
- 1835-on, Civil Registration: Parents, age, occupation
Find a Knowledge Base
It seems an overlooked fact that an expert is just a beginner who knows more. They’ve worked hard to learn what they know and where to go when they don’t know the answer. Likewise, beginners need somewhere to look when they reach the “what’s next?” part of their research. Encourage them to find a reference guide to consult that is simple, quality, and inexpensive (or better yet, free). For all three, introduce them to the ”Learn” section of FamilySearch.org, where they can explore the Wiki, online research courses, and other “getting started” instructions.
These simple steps can help you become comfortable teaching people how to be self-sufficient researchers, even if you don’t feel like you know a lot yourself.