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!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February's Assignment: Start with an Obituary

This month, our "prompt" is an obituary (or other newspaper article). Creating an original narrative when your starting point is another narrative is not as easy as one might think. Don't let the article's wording force your own composition.

Lots of new ideas came up at our January meeting. Thank you all for your hard work and active participation! The presentations illustrated the many paths one simple death certificate can offer. A newspaper article provides even more possibilities. Will you write a narrative centering around your genealogical conclusions? Will you write a biographical narrative stemming from a statement in the article? Here is the first part of my example: an annotated transcription of the obituary I chose for this assignment. The annotations show my thoughts about the information in this record. The second part of my example, the narrative paragraph, will show the direction I took. Here are some action points for you.
  • 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.
  • Analyze the newspaper article.
    1. Are you looking at the original article, a digital image, a transcription, or an abstract?
    2. How valid is the information you found? Does it correlate with what you already know, or does it conflict?
    3. What did you learn from the article and what did you infer?
    4. Did it answer your question(s)?
  • Do you transcribe or abstract the article?
    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!
  • What new questions did this record create, and what do you do with these questions?
    1. Do you write them down?
    2. Do you enter them in TMG?
    3. Do you simply hope you'll remember them?
  • Write a narrative paragraph about your subject that derives from this article. You will probably need to do extra research to write this paragraph! Don't forget to cite all these additional sources.
The obituary I chose for this assignment was even more interesting than I thought. My paragraph turned into several pages, so I broke the second part of my example into two parts. The first includes TMG screenshots and data entry discussion points. The second is my narrative paragraph example, "Guy Beckley: Anti-Slavery Crusader." Enjoy!

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 February meeting. I'm looking forward to hearing a lot of new ideas!

Remember this year's goals.

  • 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.

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