Thursday, June 27, 2013

4 Tips For Proving Your Family Tree

BCG Kinship Determination Project
Last week I revealed the start of a new phase in my genealogical endeavors...BCG Certification. This is a one year project whereby I assemble seven parts of a portfolio, and submit it to be judged for professional credentials. My deadline for submission is 
May 30, 2014.

I suppose some or even most people might prepare each section of the portfolio consecutively: 
  1. Genealogist's Code
  2. Background Resume
  3. BCG Supplied Document Work
  4. Applicant Supplied Document Work
  5. Research Report Prepared for a Client
  6. Case Study: Conflicting or Indirect Evidence
  7. Kinship-Determination Project.
However, the combination of management multi-tasking skills and ADHD make for the perfect solution of thinking and planning for all seven categories at once, while making strides on the one part of the process I believe to be most demanding and time consuming...the kinship-determination project.

Tip #1: Organize, organize, organize
Since I've been compiling sources for my husband's family tree since 2005 and have relocated several times during that period, I have tried to (at least I thought I did) file my documents carefully in binders by family groups. But when I began checking each fact in my family tree database, I discovered that not every document was in its proper place. So, the first tip is to organize all paper documents according to family groups as soon as you print them. This saves you from the hassle of hunting them up and wasting precious time on your project.

Tip #2: Scan, upload & attach you've organized all those photocopies and printed documents into your paper file system. Now what?! The next thing you should do is scan existing paper documents, or download digital documents; and then, upload & attach them to the individuals in your family tree database. This makes life so much easier when working on your proofs.

Tip #3: Make research notes
Alright. Everything is now in its proper place. Now what? What do you do with all those vital records, census sheets, land deeds, wills and probate documents now that they're attached? Is that it? Not quite. The next step is to abstract & analyze the facts. Do your documents really prove your conclusions? I discovered that I had written down a date of death for one ancestor, but because I didn't make any notes at the time I entered the data, I couldn't remember how I came to that conclusion. And after looking at all the records I had in front of me, there were still some missing pieces to the proof puzzle. A good place to put these notes is in the research notes section for that individual in your database. 

Tip #4: Enter complete source info
There's not much worse than trying to remember where you got that fact seven or ten years ago! While my usual practice is to put printed documents in a sleeve protector affixed with a label, including: 
  • Author(s)
  • Title
  • Publisher, place & date
  • Volume & page number
  • Repository
  • Date found
...there have been instances where I was in a hurry, as when printing obituaries from microfilm at a library when on vacation.... In some of those cases I may have put all the pages into an envelope marked with some crude penciled-in notes, i.e. the reel #, newspaper & date...or maybe not...and later on, the more those documents got handled the more likely I was to lay them aside and forget about performing the steps above. Days, months or even years later I now find myself questioning:
Now why did I get this document? Where does it belong?
So, the best way to avoid trouble is to carefully write the bibliographic info onto the back of each document as soon as you print it, and then follow the above steps at your earliest convenience.

You may think you have a pretty well proven family tree, but if your relationships and events are not fully documented, abstracted, analyzed and sourced, you may run into problems down the branch!

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