Topics for Lectures 3

Ken Aitken profile

Sitting at my desk ruminating on a talk I had heard by Elizabeth Shown Mills entitled “Maximizing Our Use of Indexes”, I found myself staring at the handout when I was struck by an interesting fact, her headings gave a rather interesting formula to construct a lecture on a large number of topics. Looking for patterns and using patterns in new ways is an interesting way to expand your repertoire of teaching and organizational strategies. Here are four headings Elizabeth had on her handout:

  1. Basic Principles
  2. Basic Problems
  3. Specific Strategies
  4. Helpful Study (followup reading)

So here’s how it might work. You have decided to do a lecture on death records. You give it a title, “The End Game: Maximizing our Use of Death Records” ( ok, its a bit lame, but its an example). and you include among the various sections of the presentation, the above four sections: basic principles for research death particulars; basic problems with records of death; specific research strategies; and helpful study ,followup readings on researchig death particulars. Of course that’s not enough to build a lecture outline. What else would you include besides these four sections?

I am not promising you’ll be as polished and entertaining speaker as Elizabeth, but after you put in 50+ hours researching, writing, illustrating and rehersing it, you’ll begin to appreciate how much work is involved. Have fun!


4 responses to “Topics for Lectures 3

  1. Elizabeth is good!

    These four sections can be used to organize and flesh out the talk.

    For instance, the “basic principles” could cover death certificates (if there was one), vital records, cemetery records, mortuary records, newspaper obituaries, family records, probate records, military pension records, etc.

    The “basic problems” would include how to evaluate the records using the Genealogical Proof Standard, how each type of record could get one or more “facts” wrong, resolving conflicting evidence, some case studies, etc.

    The “specific strategies” could include how and where to search for the records in local, state or regional repositories, county or state archives, the internet, etc.

    The “helpful studies” might include a list of state death record web sites, articles in NGSQ or other journal to illustrate problems with death records, etc.

    I’m sure others can think of more, but just the above can easily fill 45 to 60 minutes with appropriate graphics of examples of each type of record and a case study or two.

    Cheers — Randy

  2. I think you could dig deeper and come up with other options.

  3. Barbara Schenck

    I would use those headings to go at it in a more specific manner. For example:
    1) Basic principles: looking at a particular death certificate, what do you hope to find and which parts of it are “primary information” and which are “secondary” and why?

    2) Basic problems: are what happens if the information you get on the certificate conflicts with other information you’ve got. How do you weigh the evidence you glean from this certificate as compared to other evidence you have? And what about those blank spots where there is no information? What other records can you consult which might fill in those blanks?

    3) Specific strategies: would include how to use death certificates in building a genealogical proof, how to go about looking for material that will support or disprove information provided therein, what collateral records should be studied, what time frame should be looked at, whether or not probate records would help resolve conflicts that develop. (And doubtless other strategies, too, but these are off the top of my head).

    4) Helpful studies would be NGSQ articles or other articles that show how other genealogists have used death certificates to develop genealogical proofs or to illuminate pieces of family history. Local history studies or newspaper articles dealing with the time period of the death and the social landscape at the time might also shed light on some of the information provided. For example, a death certificate which lists “small pox” or “miner’s phthisis” as a cause of death might lead a researcher to try to discover if this was a common cause of death in this area or at this time, if in the case of small pox, did many others in the area die of the disease then. If the miner died of phthisis, did he mine in this area? For how long? Did he work abroad? Were other miners also afflicted? Seeing the death in a cultural context could help a researcher understand more about the community and the family as well as the person whose death certificate he is studying.

  4. Now you’ve thought about the parts, create the detailed outline of the lecture/lesson and put flesh on the bones. You too can be a genealogy lecturer!

    Your comments are always welcome

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