As I’ve been progressing with my genealogy work, I’ve been trying to improve my skills.
The Board for Certification of Genealogists pushes the Genealogical Proof Standard. As a hobbyist, I’m not beholden to this standard, thank god. I don’t particularly care if the distant parts of my tree are rigorously proved or not. At least not at this time. However, I would like to have pretty solid evidence, particularly for the activities of my direct ancestors.
One of the things a genealogist is supposed to do is write a research plan for investigating each claim. I’m experimenting with writing them for the less easy to document claims. I don’t think I’ll bother when researching items like my dad’s death. I have his obituary and his death certificate. But for something like my grandfather’s birth, I decided to write one. He was born on 5 February 1904 in Merrill, Wisconsin. But all the evidence I have for that is secondary and non-contemporaneous. What I do have is all consistent, so I would be highly surprised if original, primary, direct evidence contradicts the indirect and secondary evidence. I am unlikely to find original sources at this point, but there may be suitable derivative.
You can read my plan for investigating George Archibald Weiss’s birth.
The basic idea is to list the relevant known information, decide on a hypothesis, list possible sources of additional information, and create a strategy for investigating those sources. I don’t think there are birth certificates for 1904 from Lincoln County, but there are for sure better pieces of evidence than I’ve already collected. For instance, the counties returned lists of births to the state. That list is what’s indexed in the Wisconsin Genealogy Index mentioned in the plan. Print-outs of the microfilm from that return can be purchased. And I can look to see if the local papers mentioned a new Weiss kid in February or March of 1904. Read the plan to see.
I don’t know how well the plans I have written fit with what professionals do. The stuff I have seen on blogs here and there is pretty rudimentary. The one professional plan I’ve seen is an example by Elizabeth Shown Mills, who is the pedantic genealogist’s goddess. It’s involved, but was created for publication as well. She may not be quite as detailed and verbose for simpler research. Anyway, if I have really tricky items, or I want to publish, then perhaps I will make these more involved.
For now, the few claims I’ve tried for this (I’ve got a total of 6) have resulted in me at least thinking of additional places to research, and in building a better task list than I previously had.
Oh yeah, I’m experimenting with a new way of managing tasks too. I couldn’t find any decent tools for managing my genealogy tasks, so I’m doing a bit to roll my own. If anyone has an old copy of Microsoft Project or similar project management tool they’d be willing to sell me, I may use that for this tool. I tried OpenProj and ProjectLibre, which are clones of MS Project, and they are not up to the task. A future post will detail what I’m doing with regard to this.