Become a Better Researcher

Our research problems are unique and our genealogy software, to be useful, must be flexible enough to match our respective problems and our respective methods. The Master Genealogist is that software, but power and flexibility has a down side. The more options a program has, the more decisions the user must make. This year, the Tri-Valley TMG User Group will explore those options and make some of those personal decisions. Would you like to play along with us? Do each month's assignment, and if you like, e-mail it to us at: We'll post some of the completed assignments on this blog each month. Let's hear it for choices!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

January's Assignment: Working with a Death Record

This month, our "prompt" is a death record. Here's the assignment and some of the thinking points. Include any screen shots that you think might help illustrate your thoughts and decisions.
  • What problem(s) do you expect this record to help you solve?
  • Create a Master Source List entry for this record, if you don't already have one, and include a screen shot of the Output form.
    1. Is this record original or derivative?
    2. What information is primary and what information is secondary?
  • Do you transcribe or abstract the document, or do you abstract or extract the information only?
    1. What information did you enter in your database?
    2. How do you expect to use that information?
    3. Don't forget to cite each entry!
  • Did this record solve your problem? Write a brief statement explaining your answer. Don't forget to differentiate between direct evidence and indirect evidence.
  • Did this record create any new questions? If not, go back and look at the record again. All records should give rise to new ideas.
  • Write a narrative paragraph about your subject that derives from this death record. You will probably need to do extra research to write this paragraph! For example, you may want to find a state law, search for the historical treatment of a disease, or examine how prevalent your subject's cause of death might have been. Don't forget to cite all these additional sources.
What are the goals of this year's exercises?
  • We want to develop the habit of analyzing each record we use, and not just enter each information bit without thinking about its meaning.
  • We want to make conscious decisions on what data we want to enter into TMG, how we enter that data, and how we will use that data in our research.
  • We want to develop the habit of writing research reports and real family histories, not just printing out pedigree charts and family group sheets.
  • We want to make TMG fit our research needs and goals. We don't want to make our research practices fit TMG.
Here is a brief example to help you get started. Any questions?

While you're working on this assignment, feel free to post questions and problems to this blog, or send them to Kay and me at: Bring the finished product with you to the January meeting. I'm looking forward to hearing a lot of new ideas!