Intermediate Genealogy: Tools for Digging Deeper
Coordinator: Paula Stuart-Warren, CG®, FMGS, FUGA
Debbie Mieszala, CG, Melissa A. Johnson, CG, and Karen Mauer Jones, CG, FGBS
Held July 22-27, 2018, at La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA. Registration Information.
NOTE: This Intermediate Genealogy course and the one taught in Amherst, New York, are slightly different with slightly different instructors.
Ask yourself these questions and if you answer yes to any of them, this is the course for you. Have you moved beyond the beginning stages of researching your family history? Maybe you have done much online but know must be more to be done elsewhere? Do you need a firmer foundation before taking advanced or specialized courses? Are you not yet comfortable with in-depth evaluation of documents and setting up research plans? When we have checked the basic records and done online searches but still have blanks to fill in, we need to gain more leads and do a better job of analyzing the records. We will dig 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 help to solve problems and fill in those blanks in your own family history.
The class covers 19th through 21st century U.S. records and online resources. In the late spring, course registrants will receive details about sending the coordinator a brief research issue of their own that will be shared in the syllabus for this course. At the end of Monday-Thursday, we will work together to help solve these mysteries and “brick walls.” The course includes some “homework” that is optional but strongly suggested. Students often find they gain much through 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 research on the week’s projects. Consider bringing bring some of your own family history research (either as a database or in paper form) to use in putting your new learning to work.
Analyzing Documents Workshop: Self-Judging Your Expertise (Paula Stuart-Warren)
Many documents end up meaning only what they say on the surface. Surprises lurk and a keen evaluation of them shows that you are an experienced family historian. Are there times you question your analysis of a document? It’s likely you can do this better than you give yourself credit for. In these sessions we will analyze some documents together, discuss the contents, and prepare research plans. 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.
Analyzing Documents Workshop: Group Projects (Paula Stuart-Warren)
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 may turn up in a repository almost anywhere. With today’s various free finding aids in print and electronically we can locate family letters, scrapbooks, church records, bibles, and more that may have migrated from Pennsylvania to California, from Indiana to Texas, or anywhere else.
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.
Optional end of Monday class day roundtable discussion on student submitted problems.
The Article Isn’t About Your Family? You Should Read It Anyway! (Karen Mauer Jones)
Scholarly genealogical articles demonstrate the records, the strategies, and the thought processes necessary to perform successful research in any locality. Reading articles in scholarly journals will hone your research skills, even if not one of those articles touches on your ancestral lines. Find out why studying such articles is an important part of a genealogist’s continuing education. This session includes some hands-on work in articles.
Digital Tools for Organization (Melissa Johnson)
In this session, students will learn how to use technology to save time and become more effective genealogists. Various software programs, including Evernote, Microsoft Excel, and Scrivener, will be used to demonstrate how to record research findings, organize records, analyze information, and present final products.
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.
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.
Optional end of Tuesday class day roundtable discussion on student submitted problems.
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.
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.
Vital Records Data 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.
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.
Optional end of Wednesday class day roundtable discussion on student submitted problems.
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.
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.
Family History Research in Historical, Genealogical, and Sociological Journals (Paula Stuart-Warren)
Social history, local/state history, military, and other important serials aid in studying culture, ethnicity, military, churches, cemeteries, and other aspects of family history. Back issues of such journals provide discussion, detail, footnotes, and other sources that many genealogists overlook. Specialized finding aids will be covered including many accessible from home computers. A journal might not mention a specific ancestor but may tell the story of a battle, town disturbance, or dispute in which an ancestor took part or observed. It might detail the history of a business or of a cemetery and list early burials. The session includes places to gain easy access to hundreds of journals all the way back to the 19th century.
Student Group Project Reporting and Analysis (Paula Stuart-Warren)
During this session, the small groups do a last minute discussion of their project. Then we will go into full-class session to report, discuss, and do final analysis and future planning on the homework project. As noted for the Monday morning sessions, the result: a solid research plan, learning from each group’s reported outcome, recognition of the value of discussion with other genealogists, and the sharing of knowledge to help attain the sought-after research goals.
Optional end of Thursday class day roundtable discussion on student submitted problems.
Military Service: Often Overlooked 19th & 20th Century Records (Paula Stuart-Warren)
Bonus payments, organizations of comrades, discharge records, state level records, adjutant general records, correspondences, relief records, Congressional records and other important items may add significant details and understanding to the basic military information for our ancestors.
Institutional Records: Emotions and Extensive Family Details (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.
Course Wrap-up, Questions, Completion Certificates before lunch