Over the years DearMYRTLE here has hosted several groups studying Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013). The book is available from the publisher at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/mastering_genealogical_proof , also available in Kindle format through Amazon.com. Below find the embedded video of MGP Study Group 3 in playlist format, from DearMYRTLE’s YouTube Channel. Below the viewer is the list of chapters with links to the previous two study group series.
Dr. Jones’ book also includes the following:
Appendix A – Pritchett Article
Appendix B – McLain Article
Reading and Source List
Answers to exercises (Yup! The answers are at the end of the book.)
The following brave souls have volunteered to be panel participants for the upcoming GenDoc Study Group. Each will take Dr. Thomas W. Jones’ newest book, Mastering Genealogical Documentation, chapter by chapter and post examples from their own research to illustrate points that speak to them. Sessions will begin 13 Sept 2017 at Noon Eastern. Registration will be available shortly before at http://hangouts.DearMYRTLE.com
Marceline Beem“I have been researching my own family for 20 years, and have researched pro bono for several friends in the last 5 years. Most of my family is in the southeastern U.S., but I do have one line that goes to the Midwest and New England.”
Blaine Bettinger“I need to work on documentation! – I have been a genealogist for 25+ years, and a genealogical professional for 8+ years.”
Claudia Breland“… To get more out of the book, and practice with specific examples. I have the book and have been reading and studying – it’s enormously helpful in my work as a professional genealogist. – I first became interested in family history in 1974, when I was 20. I became a professional genealogist 8 years ago, and have been constantly learning and growing since then. I work with clients, I do genealogy presentations in Western Washington, and I have written books.”
Cary Bright“Started in 1997, as keeper of the last of the family ephemera for my father. Married into a Norman family and I am the only family historian. Love the research and learning to be a much better record keeper. GPS panel member 2015.”
Melinda Culpon“Continue learning. – Have been researching and trying to find more and correctly document information.”
Sheri Fenley“I am almost ready to go “on the clock” again with BCG and feel this will help me quite a bit. I consider myself a professional genealogist but want to become certified and then go for accreditation with ICAPGEN. Need just a bit more education mostly for self-confidence.”
Hilary Gadsby“Want to reflect the subject from the point of view of someone who is using largely sources in the UK. To illustrate that this book is relevant wherever you are carrying out your research. – I have been researching for about 17 years. When I started very little was on the internet. Research consisted of speaking to relatives and following up leads with ordering documents and visiting archives and libraries. I am an amateur who has learnt from others by reading and sharing research strategies. I also recently started a one name study.”
Lisa Gorrell “Creating citations is fun! Being on the panel is rewarding and an honor. Been researching own family over 20 years. Taking clients the past two years. Working towards certification.”
Valerie Eichler Lair“I need to read and study the book. There’s no better way than to “finally” be on a panel. Plus, DearMYRTLE twisted both my arms behind my back! – I am a professional genealogist and have conducted research since 1989.”
Dave Robison“It’s a matter of continuous improvement and self-education. This interactive format is productive and one that I enjoy being a part of. – Beginning in the late 90s, I searched for answers to my family background never offered to me growing up. After making a surprising number of discoveries on my own, I began to assist a few friends and other family members in their own research.”
Mary Jane Saylor “Board member of the Utah Genealogical Association. Served on the SLIG committee as assistant registrar and marketing coordinator. Attend most institutes and conferences, been researching for 30+ years.”
We have more than 10 panelists to allow for absences. Viewers may complete homework assignments, though priority will be given to discussion of panel participant’s submissions.
Please reference the syllabus and include your name at the top of each homework assignment. Post homework in a blog or public Google Doc and post the link in the hangout for the appropriate chapter’s study group session. Also take care to observe the book’s copyright restrictions.
This week we’re taking either your Proof Summary or the Proof Argument and sprucing it up in a segment called Clear Writing. This is something we tend to overlook. Since we don’t have a built-in ‘editor-butler’ to do the sprucing up, we’ll have to do it ourselves.
Dr. Jones lists 12 bulleted items starting on page 90 of his book. The hardest one for me is “Letting the evidence speak for itself, we keep ourselves in the background.” Oh, there are other good pointers about consistent verb tenses and transitioning between paragraphs. Here’s what our filmstrip panelists had to say about their clear writing exercise.
Luckily Dr. Jones states his ideas for improving our writing quite a bit more kindly that our 8th grade grammar teachers. And since we’re reading, there are no rulers tapping on desks of nearby students. Again, I digress, something I’m sure Dr. Jones would prefer I chose not to do.
My clear writing should not include details about the trip to the courthouse and the great restaurant around the corner on Main Street. There should be no ‘Next I looked’ or ‘Then I thought’ statements. My father would insist on no hyperbole exagerations or embelishments.
This is a professional report about hard won information, so naturally I want to compose my work in a professional manner.
Our final type of a written conclusion is the most complicated – the dreaded Proof Argument. Why ‘dreaded’ ? Well as Ol’ Myrt said – it’s complicated. A researcher arrives at a conclusion when analysis of multiple documents appear to provide information about a fact in an ancestor’s life. But it isn’t as cut and dry as a Proof Statement or a Proof Summary.
You’ll begin your study on page 87 in Dr. Jones’ book where he says “Proof arguments are documented narratives in which genealogists explain why the answer to a complex genealogical problem should be considered proved.” Find out there why the author also recommend three major sections to your proof argument. Here is our study group session to assist you with composing a proof argument.
I’ve had to write this sort of complicated narrative with pen and paper on occasion, instead of just typing things up. The dining room table was cleared, and I was able to work through every relevant document I collected. There is conflicting evidence to be resolved about of the birth year of my grandmother. Ol Myrt here must consider an old family story provided by my mother. It is her mother, Frances Irene (Goering) Froman McDonnell that we are once again studying.
To begin with, I’ll need to explain the family tradition that our grandmother lied about her birth year because when she met her second husband, she never wanted him to know she was three years older than he. Grandma Frances made mother promise if she died before her husband, mom was to keep the secret going. That’s why the funeral card isn’t a reliable source for the birthdate.
I’d spend much time writing about each document, indicating how I weighed the evidence. I’d insert a table to keep track of things. I’d have to present documents to explain her change of name due to two marriages. I’d include census records, her 1st marriage license, and her delayed birth certificate. The latter is the most significant, since it was signed by the physician attending her birth. Of course, I would appropriately cite each item, as this gives me the opportunity to consider the motivation of each informant.
I particularly like the delayed birth certificate since the attending physician signed it, most likely having looked at her files to verify her findings. I remember my father had two rooms of patient files where he kept copious, though sometimes cryptic, notes during each examination – but I digress.
Then having lead my reader ‘down theeach garden path’ I’d restate my premise that Frances Irene (Goering) Froman McDonnell was born 22 Aug 1905.
That’s the thing about written conclusions. While we do our very best to ‘get it right’ there is always the possibility that our hopefully very educated guess is incorrect. I was glad when new-to-me, more convincing evidence came to light.
How is your “complicated’ Proof Argument coming along?
Aside from learning it’s all about explaining your thought process in narrative format, participants may compose written conclusions based on each session’s topic.
Follow along with the four weekly hangout sessions.
Incorporate the principles Dr. Jones presents in Chapter 7 as mentioned above.
Compose a written conclusion based on your own research.
Make sure to include your name on the top of the page.
Include reference material as follows:
Jones, Thomas W., “The Written Conclusion” Mastering Genealogical Proof, (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013).
Richley-Erickson, Pat. Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group, DearMYRTLE’s YouTube Channel (http://ow.ly/dmhX30dhvOS : viewed July 2017).
Publish your conclusion in blog or public Google Doc format.
Submit only 1 conclusion per week as follows:
Week 1: Proof Statement
Week 2: Proof Summary
Week 3: Proof Proof Argument
Week 4: Clear Writing (take one of your previous proofs and rewrite following Dr. Jones’ advice.)