Monday, February 22, 2016

Studying Evidence Analysis, Part 2

This is part of my ongoing series on studying the Genealogical Proof Standard. There are links to the other posts in the series at the bottom of this article. 

If you missed Studying Evidence Analysis, Part 1 you may want to review it, as it covers informal study options including books, articles, forums and websites. This article covers formal study options including courses, webinars and study groups. These vary in cost and format, such as online or in-person. Programs you can complete from home and free resources are included. 

Formal Study Options:

1 - My very favorite options for learning about analyzing evidence are the advanced methodology courses at genealogical institutes. These courses go in-depth giving examples and case studies for analyzing and correlating evidence from various types of records. They are excellent for opening your mind to analysis alternatives you may not have thought of, or even read about in other cases studies. They features excellent instructors who teach by example. Here are three course options:

            Advanced Genealogical Methods
Coordinator:  Thomas W Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS
            Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy held January 22-27, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah
Course description: “Students in Advanced Genealogical Methods will learn how to use and assemble evidence to rediscover ancestral origins, identities, and relationships that have been forgotten in the passage of time. The course will address advanced use of evidence from a variety of genealogical records and research in populations for which the usual records are in short supply (including female, enslaved, and impoverished ancestors). Students also will learn how to develop written proof summaries to show their conclusions’ accuracy and create a credible record of their findings for present and future generations of family historians.”
Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis
Coordinator: Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL
Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research held June 12-17, 2016 in Birmingham, Alabama
Course description: “Building on the basics taught in Genealogy Techniques and Technology and  Intermediate Genealogy and Historical Studies, the course Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis is designed to develop and foster advanced skills by concentrating on problem-solving techniques. Its focus is on the proper application of the Genealogical Proof Standard to a wide variety of record types to solve complex research problems. Where beginning genealogy students need to learn what records exist to accurately identify their families, and intermediate genealogy students need to learn where records may be found, particularly those not readily available online, advanced genealogy students need to learn how to use records in ways that may be neither intuitive nor obvious to bridge the gaps left by time and record loss.”
Advanced Research Methods
Coordinator:  Thomas W Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS
Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh held July 17-22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, PA
Course description: “Participants will develop advanced genealogical research, analysis, correlation and compilation skills. Hands-on activities, using original records, will enhance this learning. Examples are drawn from American states and colonies and European countries. Before the course begins participants will complete two pre-course reading assignments. Four homework assignments, providing opportunities for advanced skill development, are optional.”

2 - If you prefer not to travel you may be interested in a course you can complete in the comfort of your home. The “Genealogical Evidence and Proof” course by F. Warren Bittner, CG is available for download from the Virtual Institute for Genealogical Research. Warren is an excellent presenter. This course includes the following four presentations:
            “Complex Evidence: What it is, How it works, Why it matters” 
            “Proof Arguments: How and Why”
            “Exhaustive Research, Evidence Analysis, and Genealogical Proof”
            “The Web of Evidence: Proof and Disproof”

3 - Another course you can take from home is the Boston University’s Online Genealogical Research Certificate Program. This course is expensive, lasts for 15 weeks, and is taught by excellent instructors. The module on “Evidence Evaluation and Documentation” was written by Thomas W. Jones. The course includes the following modules:
  •          Foundations of Genealogical Research
  •          Problem-Solving Techniques and Technology
  •          Evidence Evaluation and Documentation
  •          Forensic Genealogical Research
  •          Professional Genealogy

4 - An inexpensive option is to watch the live or recorded webinars sponsored by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. These webinars are free when presented live, and past webinars can be rented and viewed for the low price of $2.99. Here are some you may be interested in:

            “The Importance of Context in Record Analysis”
            Presented by Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FVGS
            LIVE: Tuesday, February 16, 2016 / Recording will be posted online at the link above

Description: Source citations provide context for the information we gather. Was the death date from a tombstone, a newspaper obituary, a county history, a Bible record, or a death certificate? The best citations tell us that the tombstone was contemporary with the death, the Bible record was entered in the same hand and the same ink, the county history was written a hundred and fifty years later, and the death certificate was signed by an attending physician. The details provide background context that helps us evaluate the validity of the information and suggests other avenues for research. But this information only scratches the surface. A full evaluation of any record’s context requires that we explore the complete content of the document. We want to know the reason for the document’s existence; the social, legal, and geographical context behind its creation; and what ancillary documents were produced both before and after its creation.

            “Complex Evidence What it is, How it Works, Why it Matters” 
            presented by F. Warren Bittner, CG
            Description: The genealogist’s goal is to establish identity and prove relationships.    
            Complex evidence is often the ONLY way to do this. Follow a case study of clues from      
            multiple sources to solve a problem.

5 - A free option that provides an opportunity to study and discuss the concepts and practice of evidence evaluation with other genealogists, are online study groups. There are two different groups that are relevant to this topic.

            GenProof Study Group– Small groups that study the concepts in Mastering             Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones.  Individuals in these groups study the book chapter by chapter, complete the exercises in the book, and meet online to discuss the concepts with each other and a mentor.

            NGSQ Study Group -- The NGSQ Study Group is an online study group that meets monthly to study scholarly articles from the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. The purpose is to examine the evidence and methodology used in the case study and discuss it with other genealogists. There are several different groups that meet at various times to accommodate participants’ schedules.

6 – The Learning Center at has a presentation by Thomas W. Jones entitled “Using Correlation to Reveal Facts that No Record States.” You can download the course materials and view the 45-minute presentation here.

7 -  The absolute best teacher may be experience. Once you have studied evidence analysis techniques start practicing them! Pull out a piece of your research and analyze all of the evidence you have collected using the Evidence Analysis Map inside the front cover of Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015). Analyze each piece of evidence, and then correlate it with the evidence you have from different sources. If this is difficult, go back and reread the resources in Studying Evidence Analysis, Part 1.

Comments welcome:
If you have suggestions for other methods for studying evidence analysis, please share them in the comments.

These are just ideas for you to add to your individual education plan as you choose. They are NOT meant to be a checklist where you have to read/study/participate in every option. 

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