Intermediate Genealogy: Tools for Digging Deeper
(Offered in both Pittsburgh and Orchard Lake, Michigan)
Coordinator: Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA
Debbie Mieszala, CG and D. Joshua Taylor, MA, MLS
Are you beyond the beginning stages of researching your family history? You probably have checked the basic records and done online searches but still have blanks to fill in. Maybe you need to gain more leads and judge the records but need some analytical skills for that. We will delve deeper into a variety of records, some that you may have never heard about, and where they may be accessed. During the week there will be some hands-on projects, small group discussions, and full class interaction as we develop research plans, delve into the records, and learn what may get those blanks filled in. The camaraderie of solving problems as a group leads us to great insight and also some fun.
The class covers 19th through 21st century U.S. records and includes online resources. Prior to the course students will be able to send the coordinator a brief research issue of their own along with a listing of the U.S. places where their ancestors resided and what has already been researched. The course includes some “homework” that is optional but highly suggested. Students often find they like those learning exercises. An extensive syllabus including online resources is provided.
While not required, it is suggested that you bring along a netbook, laptop, or electronic tablet for taking notes and for the week’s projects. Make sure you bring a copy of your research (either as a database or in paper form).
(NOTE: The times below are for the course in Pittsburgh. The same course will be offered in Orchard Lake, Michigan, but the times will be 15 minutes later with each day beginning at 8:30 a.m.)
8:15 a.m.: Analyzing Documents Workshop: Self-Judging Your Expertise Part I (Paula Stuart-Warren)
Are there times you question your analysis of a document? It’s likely you can do a better job than you give yourself credit for. In this session we will analyze a document, prepare a research plan, and discuss it. Then we will break into groups and do analysis and research preparation of a different document that will evolve into a class project for the week. The result: a solid research plan, recognition of the value of discussion with others genealogists, and the sharing of knowledge to help attain the sought-after research goals. The morning sessions will also include a start of the discussion of the research problems submitted by the students.
10:00 a.m.: Analyzing Documents Workshop: Self-Judging Your Expertise Part II
12:45 p.m.: Original Manuscripts: Finding Aids Online and Off (Paula Stuart-Warren)
Manuscripts often hold details not found anywhere else. Usually, these one-of-a-kind documents might turn up in a repository almost anywhere. Today we have a myriad of finding aids in print and electronically to help us locate family letters, scrapbooks, church records, and more that may have migrated from Pennsylvania to California, from Indiana to Texas, or anywhere else.
2:30 p.m.: Vital Records and Substitutes: More than Names and Dates (Paula Stuart-Warren)
Laws, statutes, doctors, midwives, ministers, justices of the peace, clerks, and other people all affect what we find for the births, deaths, and marriages related to ancestral families. In this session we’ll discuss those, analyze birth, death, and marriage records, learn about some of the hundreds of alternate sources, and those that enable us to build a case for the sound estimation of the date, place, and other details.
3:45 p.m.: Optional end of Monday class day roundtable discussion on class project and student submitted problems.
8:15 a.m.: The WPA Era: A Boon for Research (Paula Stuart Warren)
The WPA’s Historical Records Survey arm gave people unprecedented access to knowledge of record descriptions, contents, locations, indexes, abstracts, and more. During the tough economic times in the 1930s and 1940s, this was one of the government programs that put many people to work. This Works Progress/Projects Administration arm created a goldmine of records that are useful for today’s genealogists. Record transcriptions, courthouse and manuscript inventories, indexes, city/county histories, and histories of businesses and families may exist for your ancestral locale. Learn more about the program and the results. You may already be using some of the creations but didn’t realize how or by whom they were created. We will also discuss some modern surveys and the online explosion of WPA materials.
10:00 a.m.: Building Context and Making Connections: Using JSTOR for Family History (D. Joshua Taylor)
Thousands of potential resources await you at JSTOR, an online collection of scholarly publications from across the world. Discover how JSTOR can help your research during this guided, step-by-step view of the database and its search functions.
12:45 p.m.: Citing Your Sources (Debbie Mieszala )
Without a source-citation for a fact, how can its source be consulted or evaluated? All sources require credit. Source-citations reveal the sources of facts posted online or written in a family history. They allow a genealogist to evaluate sources and the facts they contain, help them to weigh conflicting evidence, and analyze a problem and possible solutions. Learn the elements of citations, how to prepare a style sheet, and to use citations to demonstrate the depth of your research and knowledge.
2:30 p.m.: Discovering Places of Origin: First Stop is in U.S. Records (Paula Stuart-Warren)
Finding places of origin for your ancestors can often be challenging. Many genealogists fail to search all available records for each ancestor. Don’t isolate your ancestor; your ancestor’s place of origin may be in the records of another family member or in those of a neighbor. It doesn’t matter whether your mystery place of origin is in the U. S. or another country, the material covered in this session will open your eyes to a plethora of possibilities.
3:45 p.m. Optional end of Tuesday class day roundtable discussion on class project and student submitted problems.
8:15 a.m.: Probate Records: More Details than Expected (Paula Stuart-Warren)
Probate. Simple word, but the records of a probate (or similar court) usually hold more than dealing with the estate of a deceased person. Estate records themselves often hold family relationships, ages, birth and death details, current and former residences, finances, occupational details, land ownership, marriage situations, and other helpful data. Add adult and minor guardianships, institutional commitments, apprenticeships, and you have a set of court records that must not be overlooked.
10:00 a.m.: Civil & Criminal Court Records (Paula Stuart-Warren)
Litigious society today? It’s nothing new. A few scallywags in the (distant, of course) family? Also nothing new. The files, volumes, calendars, minutes, and indexes we find in such court records contain vital family history details. Divorces, adoptions, land and tax disputes, inheritance issues, minor/major illegal activities, and business dealings are just some of what might be found.
12:45 p.m.: Transcription: Simple Rules, Powerful Results (Debbie Mieszala)
There is more to a document than extracted facts. Transcription allows a document’s less obvious patterns and details to emerge. Follow basic transcription rules to avoid common errors. This valuable data collection and analysis tool can reveal hidden evidence, help establish identities, and further your research.
2:30 p.m.: U.S. Military Service: Often Overlooked 19th & 20th Century Records (Paula Stuart-Warren)
Bonus payments, organizations of comrades, discharge records, state level records, adjutant general records, correspondence, relief records, Congressional records and other important items may add significant details and understanding to the basic military information for our ancestors.
3:45 p.m.: Optional end of Wednesday class day roundtable discussion on class project and student submitted problems.
8:15 a.m.: Step Away from the Computer: Exploring State Archives (Paula Stuart-Warren)
State archives are treasure troves of genealogical details. Learn about the town, city, county and state records as well as those of some businesses, individuals, and organizations that may be found and about some of the finding aids.
10:00 a.m.: Going Digital (D. Joshua Taylor)
Thinking of going digital? Organizing your research files electronically can speed up processing time, save space, and help anyone become a better genealogist. Learn how to take your paper research notes, logs, and documents and convert them into your own personal “digital archives.”
12:45 p.m.: Federal Government Records: More than Census (Paula Stuart-Warren)
Ask a group of genealogists what the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration has for genealogical research and the most likely answers are pension and census records. A listing of additional federal agency records of value for our research would easily fill up many pages. We’ll cover some of these amazing records, finding aids to assist in the search, and how to access these aids and the records.
2:30 p.m.: Printed Legends and Missing Footnotes: Dissecting 19th and 20th Century Compiled Genealogies (D. Joshua Taylor)
Discover the methods used in the 19th and early 20th century to create a compiled genealogy, and how to ensure its information does not lead you down the wrong trail.
3:45 p.m.: Optional end of Tuesday class day roundtable discussion on class project and student submitted problems.
8:15 a.m.: Newspaper Research: Beyond the Birdcage (Debbie Mieszala)
Learn in-depth newspaper research techniques and the types of information newspapers contain. Explore regular and specialty publications, such as ethnic, trade, and religious newspapers. Find and access indexes and digitized, microfilmed, and archival holdings. Major repositories will be discussed.
10:00 a.m.: Don’t Ignore Institutional Records (Includes Prisons, Orphanages, Asylums, and Poorhouses.) (Paula Stuart-Warren)
What affected members of your ancestral families that led to their time in these institutions? What laws, community discrimination, and other factors were involved? Learn about these and the significant details often found in records related to these institutions. We will also discuss locating the records and gaining access.
11:15 a.m. Course Wrap-up and Completion Certificates followed by lunch