This morning we met at 7:00 AM for SLIG’s Welcome Breakfast. (As I write this now in the evening at it seems so long ago!) I sat at a table with Paula Stuart-Warren, Craig Scott, Thomas Jones, Joshua Taylor, Linda Woodward Geiger, and a few others. They are faculty this week! I felt I was in privileged company and wondered what I could possibly contribute to the conversation. Josh made me feel right at home when he ordered the vegetarian breakfast (yogurt and fresh fruit) and we started talking about green smoothies. He was probably relieved that I didn’t try to pick his brain about New England records.
After today we’re on our own for breakfast, so I brought from home some oranges and instant oatmeal that I’ll “cook” in hot water in my room each morning.
The Advanced Methods class began at 9:15 AM with Thomas W. Jones at the podium. After introductions, he taught us about “Developing an Evidence Orientation.” He counseled us that most genealogy researchers focus on the record and what it says, but it may not be the right answer. They have source knowledge but have not used methodological knowledge. He cautioned: “Look at everything and trust nothing.”
He described the difference between methodological knowledge and source knowledge. Methodological knowledge is the “how” and can be applied across the board to any place and time, whereas source knowledge is the “what,” and is only specific to a time and place. Jones discussed original vs. derivative sources, primary vs. secondary information, and direct vs. indirect evidence. Direct evidence directly answers the research question. However, just because it directly answers the research question does not make it right. It may be wrong. Evidence may also be in agreement or disagreement with other evidence. You may have direct evidence that disagrees with other direct evidence.
Jones likened a source to a carton of milk. It’s only the container and does not identify or reveal the contents. Whereas the information within a source is like the milk. When a source is a derivative, one can say what the original was. To solidify the terms in our heads, Jones split us into groups and gave us an assignment to determine which sources in a document were original or derivative, and which were independent and which were not.
This class was a great way to start our week!
I attended the Vendor Lunch with Family Atlas presentation. With this product sponsored by RootsMagic, you may map events in your ancestors’ lives and even draw lines on the map to show how they moved from one location to another. It’s a nice tool to coordinate your research across generations and places. It’s also useful if you want to print the map in your family history.
After lunch, Claire Bettag taught “Archival Research.” Bettag is one little fireball. She had a mountain of material to present but her handout was so detailed I was able to keep up with all the information, plus it’s a great reminder of the things she covered. Bettag said that the key to getting to the records is to understand how they are arranged. She described the difference between archives and libraries and how to access the materials in each: Libraries collect materials, archives receive (accept) materials from the agencies they serve. Bettag is well versed in researching at the National Archives and said that NARA maintains the original arrangement of the records. This is important to know so you can find them.
Next, Rick Sayre taught “Military and Pension Records Strategies: Analysis, Interpretation, and Correlation.” In preparation for this class, Sayre had emailed us a 45 page case study to review in advance. In his lecture, Sayre emphasized the need to know how the military records are organized. He said that in order for a search to be reasonably exhaustive, we must trace back to the original source. Most researchers are familiar with pension records, compiled service records, etc., but Sayre added to the list by discussing hospital records, soldier’s homes, fraternal organizations, cemeteries, etc. His course syllabus material included a comprehensive bibliography of sources to help those searching military records.
When our classes were finished, I phoned Bruce. He was parked outside with the things I’d left at home: my business cards, BCG pin, a power strip, and the real necessity: eye shadow. He’s a real trouper. It was snowing so he headed home.
I thought I’d get in an hour of research at the Family History Library, so I grabbed my laptop, bundled up, and walked to the library. I arrived at 4:35 PM and instantly remembered the library closes at 5:00 on Mondays (at 4:45 they begin to shepherd us out). I dashed up to the third floor, fired up my laptop Dropbox notes, walked down the stacks WITH my laptop and found one book I could look at before they made me leave.
Back out to the snow, I wandered over to the Blue Lemon and had a raspberry chicken salad. Then back at the hotel I attended the evening Plenary Session with Thomas W. Jones, “The Genealogical Proof Standard: What It Is and What It Is Not.” THEN, I attended D. Joshua Taylor’s class, “Beyond Keyword Searching: Finding Materials in Online Library Catalogs.”
All in all, it was a fantastic day. Monday, Monday has been very good to me.