Saturday, January 4, 2020
Genealogy Case Studies Learning by Example
As you sift through the records of your own ancestors to build your family tree, you may find yourself with questions: What other records can/should I search?What else can I learn from this record?How do I pull all of these little clues together? The answers to these types of questions generally come through knowledge and experience. What is so eye-opening about the research of others, especially if the individualsÃ or placesÃ in questionÃ have nothing to do with your own family? There is no better way to learn (aside from your own hands-on practice) than through the successes, mistakes, and techniques of other genealogists. A genealogical case study can be as simple as an explanation of the discovery and analysis of a particular record, to the research steps taken toÃ trace a particular family back through several generations. Each one, however,Ã gives us a glimpse into research problems that we ourselves may face in our own genealogy searches, approached through the eyes and experience of leaders in the genealogical field. Genealogical Case Studies Elizabeth Shown Mills, a wonderful lady and genealogist, is the author ofÃ Historic Pathways, a website packed with decades of her caseÃ studies. Many of the case studies are organized by type of problem -- illegitimacy, record losses, cluster research, name changes, separating identities, etc. -- transcending the place and time of the research, and of value to all genealogists. Read her work and read it often. It will make you a better genealogist. Some of our favorites include: Applying the Preponderance-of-the-Evidence Principle to a Southern Frontier Problem- While preponderance of the evidence is no longer used to describe how genealogists analyze and weigh evidence, this is an excellent example of how to document family relationships in situations where no document directly gives the answer.The Search for Margaret BallÃ - Three burned counties, repeated name changes, two generations of illegitimacy, and a pattern of migration through several states stumped genealogists researching Margaret Ball for years until Elizabeth Shown Mills came along to widen the net.Unraveling Balls of Yarn: Lessons in the Use of a Skeptical EyeÃ - We can each learn from the dangers of assuming that previous researchers have carefully avoided renaming individuals, merging identities, or marrying people to partners they have never met in real life. Michael John Neill hasÃ presentedÃ numerous case study examples online over the years. Many of them can be found through his website Casefile Clues, found atÃ www.casefileclues.com. The latest columns are available only through a paid quarterly or annual subscription, but to give you an idea of his work, here are three of his favorite case studies from past years: Fishing for Clues in John Lakes EstateMichael exploresÃ what an estate record can tell us even when none of the deceased individuals children are listed.Where O Where is Abraham?How a missing 1840 census enumeration was right underÃ Michaels nose.Turn the PageLearn howÃ three consecutive deeds were analyzed to reveal a potential relationship among the sellers and the buyer. Juliana Smith is one of our favorite online authors because she brings humor and passion to everything she writes. You can find many of her examples and case studies in her archived Family History Compass column and 24/7 Family History CircleÃ blogÃ atÃ Ancestry.com, as well as on the Ancestry.com blog. Tips from the Trail of Tobin HattersÃ - JulianaÃ uses passenger arrival records, obituaries, and some more unusual records, and stumbles across some startling surprises.Straw Goods, Artificial Flowers, and Feathers: Seeking Common Threads in City DirectoriesÃ - JulianaÃ tackles the daunting task of tracking her Kelly ancestors (now thats a common name!) in New York City directories. Certified Genealogist Michael Hait has published an ongoing series of genealogical case studies related to his work on the African American Jefferson Clark family of Leon County, Florida. The articles originally appeared in hisÃ Examiner.comÃ column and are linked to from hisÃ professional website. Researching the Family History of Potential Slave Owners, Part OneÃ - part of a continuing case study into the roots of former slave Jefferson Clark of Leon County, Florida More Case Studies While online case studies provide a wealth of knowledge, manyÃ tend to be short and extremely focused. If youre ready to dig in even further, mostÃ of the in-depth, complicatedÃ genealogical case studies are found published in genealogical society journals and, occasionally, in mainstream genealogy magazines (similar to the examples shared above from Elizabeth Shown MillsÃ Historic Pathways). Good places to start are theÃ National Genealogical Society QuarterlyÃ (NGSQ), theÃ New England Historical and GenealogicalÃ RegisterÃ (NEHGR) and The American Genealogist. Years of back issues of NGSQ and NEHGR are available online for members of those organizations. A few excellent online examples by authors such as Elizabeth Shown Mills, Kay Haviland Freilich, Thomas W. Jones and Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, can also be found in theÃ Sample Work ProductsÃ provided online by the Board for Certification of Genealogists.