In short, for the family history researcher, genealogy research is learning – all kinds of learning – and making sense of the learning and the people involved.
Words and phrases.
Words communicate information. Making sense of the words and information has been a major part of the life of this RecordClick genealogist. One of the interesting aspects, of genealogy, to me, is the information. It is history, law, science, religion, military, sociology, psychology, drama, humor, logic and the list goes on.
Phrases, including “forensic genealogy” and “genealogy proof standard”, have evolved in an attempt to describe different aspects of genealogy… for whatever reason.
To me, mention “forensics” and I think of the high school debate team. It is more than that, but forensics is the skilled use of language to explain, discuss, analyze and, yes, debate any of a variety of topics in order to arrive at a logical conclusion.
Say “proof standard” and I think first of math and science. Proofs in geometry drove me a little crazy in school. But there are also proofs in a court of law: organizing facts of a case in order to, again, reach a logical conclusion.
So what does this mean to the family researcher?
When I was in college, those many years ago, I ran into this thing called Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom was educator Benjamin Bloom who, in the 1950s, helped create a listing of educational goals. Since then, his listing has taken on a number of different forms. Essentially, in simple terms, Bloom’s Taxonomy describes different types of learning:
- Knowledge – learning basic facts
- Comprehension – the understanding of those basic facts
- Application – putting those basic facts to use
- Analysis – separating those basic facts into parts for further study
- Synthesis – combining those different parts
- Evaluation – assessing the worth of those facts
Most family history researchers are knowledgeable about their family tree search and their ancestral history. Genealogists understand who the different family members are. They create family trees or pedigree charts. This is the easy part of learning about our forebears.
It is the analysis, synthesis and evaluation that transforms a casual chronicler of family lore into a true genealogist.
Analysis requires taking a closer look at the facts.
Remember the debate team? A good debate team takes a topic and analyzes it every way they can. At one meet, they may argue one side of a topic. At the next competition, they are proponents for the other side. Family history researchers need to look at the facts they have gathered and study them for accuracy, insight and new information which may previously have been missed. There is value in a good discussion between family members about gathered data.
After analyzing the information, with synthesis, the family history could very well change and take on new dimensions. The genealogist will find that the information becomes more than names, dates and begats. The information can turn into something unexpected. And that aspect for the genealogy researcher is productive.
Finally, there is evaluation. What is the value of the genealogical information? Is it accurate? Does it make sense? Does it have enough worth to be the springboard for further research?
Recently, I was looking for information on an ancestor, Sophia Jenkins who was married to James, and who lived in southern New York between 1800 and 1860. I have found her in a couple of censuses and obituaries (not her own), but haven’t seen much else. Out of curiosity, I checked some online family trees. A bit of the information in the online tree fit with what I have.
My Sophia Jenkins’ life was neatly tied into a genealogy research package with a bow. Or was it? There was a picture of a tombstone with her name and some dates on it. That would be good news because I didn’t have a date of birth or death or place of burial for her.
And then the unexpected happened for this professional genealogist. The genealogy research ribbon began to unravel. Her husband’s name, Robert, was also on the tombstone. A check of an earlier census showed that she was married to a minister with a couple of kids. My Sophia Jenkins was married to James and had close to a dozen children. So, there were two Sophia Jenkins and a family tree that didn’t quite make sense.
At first, this family history researcher hadn’t taken the time or didn’t realize the need to go past knowledge, comprehension and application. This unexpected turn changed the genealogy route and made the family history research more accurate and complete.
The family history researchers and professional genealogists for hire at RecordClick are experts at exploring information and getting your family history just right. We find,verify and organize the facts to make sure your family history research has uncovered the unexpected. If you come to a brick wall, we access records that get through it and provide that springboard for further research.