So this past week I have been at SLIG 2013 taking the Advanced Practicum class. What a great experience it was!
The Advanced Practicum is not your usual week long course where you sit in class. Every afternoon, we were given a genealogy problem that our instructor had already solved and we then tried our hand at it. My instructors were Tom Jones, Stefani Evans, William Litchman, Mark Lowe and Jay Fonkert and the coordinators were Angela McGhie and Kimberly Powell
I’m not allowed to discuss the individual cases as they may publish their research or use the cases again. Fair enough, but I did learn some stuff that is worth remembering:
- Start with a written question. What problem are you trying to solve. Don’t randomly collect records. Think about what are you trying to do?
- Plan! What do you need to look at to answer the question? What are the resources that you need; what is available?
- Analyze, think, write and repeat as necessary.
You here this all the time, I know. You read it in blogs. In classes and conferences. But boy, when you work through some challenging projects in 24 hours it really makes a difference.
- People must be studied in context. Don’t just search for names, search in context based on who they are and where they are. If you don’t understand what they did, where and when they lived it is way to easy to pick the wrong person or miss something.
- Location, location, location. When you find a person in a location, you must explore that location for records and other people.
- Examine all resources. Sure Ancestry Member Trees and Find A Grave have errors. But you never know where the next clue will be found. Make a list of sources.
- Keep a research log. It doesn’t have to be brilliant or well written, but leave notes to yourself so you can pick up where you left off.
And finally, to paraphrase the ever wonderful Mark Lowe, genealogy is all about pondering and mulling. Back away and think.