Keeping Track of Your Research: Program Ideas

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As a genealogy librarian for over 20+ years, I faced almost daily the chaos of unprepared genealogists who neither knew what the wanted nor what they had! Many had no idea where they learned what they had! Out of this experience came a number of library sponsored programs on a variety of interconnected topcs. Let me tell you about some of these.

  1. Twenty years ago I offered a class on filling out a family group sheet, and a pedigree chart. In its last manifestion, this program showed people how to do this on a free genealogy software package like Personal Ancesral Family
  2. A lecture on taking research notes and using research logs was developed next. Some of the ideas on research logs came from my new neighbor, Graham Edis. Others came from Norman Wright, William Dollarhide, and my own imagination solving problems. This lecture has endured over 20 years.
  3. A program on organizing file folders was developed, but abandoned. I refer people to Sharon Carmack’s Organizing you family history search,(Betterway Books, 1999)
  4. The last of the library programs was on creating practical, standard genealogy source citations. This is a wonderful topic for a practical hands-on workshop too. I used Elizabeth S. mill’s book, Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian as my reference and created relevant local, region and national examples following her models.

I found that I could offer these programst least once a year, year after year and fill the classes with between 12 and 24 students each time. I believe these foundation classes should be essentials in any library lecture/workshop program series. They are not hard to teach and most important, they equip the genealogist to get a handle on what they have, and what they need.

What do you think. What other essentials would you cover before teaching about record sources?

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3 responses to “Keeping Track of Your Research: Program Ideas

  1. Early on researchers need to learn about types of sources, i.e. orginals, copies of originals, and derrivative sources and of course about primary and secondary information (first hand knowledge and second hand knowledge etc.). This will help them judge the reliability of the information in the resource.

    Give them examples of some basic documents to look at and then discuss the above with each. This makes it easier to understand the concepts.

    In both a lecture and in library staff training, I showed them different documents about my great-grandmother. Some of them had contradicting information. We talked about what information was learned and considered who might have given the information. Feed-back I received was very favourable.

    I took this suggestion from a Helen Leary workshop I attended.

  2. I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to do, but here are some brief topics
    differentiate family traditions from ‘the truth’
    vagaries of spelling…have each user construct a list of variations on his/her surname interested
    Great 8 I have students construct a table of 4 generations of surnames
    Discuss FOCUS in genealogy…select a focus ancestor and a long term research goal and then short term goals are steps to long term research goal
    My students makes up a ‘business card’ that reflects reasearch interests and great 8 surnames….to hand out to family members and other researchers
    how to set up a free email account for exclusive use for genealogy research
    Introduce the research cycle (I use 5 steps) and discuss it using examples

  3. Thanks Janet and Desta. Your comments are valid and practical.

    The four topics i mentioned all focus on keeping track of research. They are not offered in isolation of other presentations in the series. Janet’s program on evaluating vital records, and Desta’s 5-step research cycle., as well as ssons on recod souces are always icluded inmy core series too.

    The remarkable thing is these four lessons endued 20 yrs as fulfilling a need almost every year.

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