A Self-directed Learning Technique

Ken profile.jpg When I was younger I was proud of the fact that I never let school interfere with my education. Libraries would entice me from classrooms for hours of self directed learning and I immersed myself in arcane studies like solar energy, ancient Roman Britain, World War 2 history, railroad history and expansion, history of photography, etc. No time really for calculus or physics, the libraries called. I was once locked in a research library in Saudi Arabia after closing, totally absorbed in research. But its was in the Social Sciences Library at the University of British Columbia where I learned to follow citations- the backtrail of ideas. Let me explain
Ideas move from scholar to scholar through publications. A thinker in Delaware reads an article by a scholar in London, and expands on it in another article. Another scholar, in California reads and interprets that article. Aha, says another in Toronto, and expands on the idea. We can learn by the citations each includes in their scholarly papers. Here is an example:

Following source citations:
The “Genealogical Proof Standard” project.

From Donn Devine’s chapter on Evidence Analysis” in Professional Genealogy [1]you consulted the chapter endnotes and created a list of books and articles on the topic, arranged them in chronological order, and set out a reading plan to understand the background and relevant issues on the topic. The list would likely include the following articles, arranged chronologically



Christine Rose, Genealogical use of ‘preponderance of evidence (San Jose CA: Rose Family Association, 1995 (out of print)



Donn Devine, “Evidence and sources- and how they differ”, Ancestry 15 (May June 1997) 26-29



Val D. Greenwood, “Evaluating Evidence” Genealogical Journal 25 (1997) 51-62



Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997)



Helen F.M. Leary, “Evidence revisited – DNA, POE and GPS” OnBoard [newsletter of the Board for Certification of Genealogists] 4, (January 1998) 1-2,5



Thomas W. Jones, “A conceptual model of genealogical evidence : linkage between present-day sources and past facts” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 86 (March 1998) 5-18



Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Building a case when no record ‘proves’ a point” Ancestry 16 (April-May 1998) 29


When you finish this series you should come away with an understanding of why we abandoned the preponderance of evidence model and embraced the Genealogical Proof Standard. You will have explored the history of an idea from diverse perspectives.


Are you ready to take charge of your education




[1] Donn Devine, “Evidence Analysis” in Elizabeth Shown Mills, Professional Genealogy a Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2001) 327-342


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