Professional genealogist Donna Moughty presented “What is the Genealogical Proof Standard and Why Should I Care,” at yesterday’s Manatee Genealogical Society meeting. As usual for Donna, her presentation was clear, concise, and right on target. Although I try hard to follow the GPS, it is always good to have a reminder of the process:
A reasonably exhaustive search – Donna showed different examples of one of her ancestor’s date and place of birth. An ancestor she knew, but in two “primary” documents the information proved wrong.
A complete and accurate citation to the sources – We wish this was drilled into our heads when we were baby genealogists. It was reassuring that as expert as Donna is, she still finds facts and information in her earlier research lacking citation. (Is this an example of misery loves company?)
Analysis and correlation of the collected information – She showed examples in research she has done for herself and others, and implored the audience to write as you go. Writing makes sense of things. She admitted she loves to research and early on she’d spend all her time researching, and then when she started to write, found all sorts of information she was missing. (She admitted she wasn't making much money this way.)
Resolution of conflicting evidence – Donna showed four conflicting birth dates for one of her Irish Catholic ancestors. All stated the person was born in the month of October, but the day and year varied. Which one would you chose? The answer: the baptismal certificate. The reason is it is a church record and a Catholic baby at that time had to be baptized within a certain number of days after birth.
Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion – She made the case for writing your research as you go. This will catch any errors before you find yourself with “former cousins.” Those are the ones whose family you have followed in error. Up the wrong tree!
I’m glad Donna reminded me to create a research plan. Identify the problem and this should always be in the form of a question. She told the audience there is a difference between “surfing” and “researching.” She uses every online tool available, but when she showed a problem solved by using land records, a hand was raised, “where do you find those?” Donna smiled and explained only a small portion of information is online; for land and probate records, the local courthouse is where you need to go. Though FamilySearch.org is making some of these records available.
Re-read your earlier research. You might find items you’ve missed. Analyze. Repeat.
We were comforted by Donna's confirmation of our belief - she repeated that she wasn't saying that Ancestry.com is going out of business, BUT she reminded people of all those early companies that have. Keep control of your information. Have a genealogy software program on your computer. Back up, and in her opinion, if you want your information online, the safer place to put it is on FamilySearch.org. She urged everyone to write their family history and share it with local repositories, the FamilySearch library, and the Allen County Public Library. Donna gave the audience a lot to think about.
Her website www.Irishfamilyroots.com has forms you can download and use. Also blog posts and if you sign up, they will be delivered to our inbox.
So the “surprise?” The Manatee Genealogical Society has started a Brag for Bucks time at the end of the meeting. For a dollar, a person can get up and share something they’ve discovered. My hubby gave up a dollar so he could share how he has uploaded his aunt’s and mother’s oral history onto their Person Page of FamilySearch.org. Now anyone can go to Kathryn Cutter Maki or Vilma Maki Hill and hear their voices. These are in five minute clips.
Then everyone with a FamilySearch.org family tree online was asked to access their FamilySearch.org app and see if there were any cousins in the room. Surprise! An immediate “ding” and two women realized their were related – 12th cousins!
Wish I had known. On the way home I downloaded the app so I’ll be ready the next time. What a fun thing to do at genealogical society meetings.