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, October 18, 2014

An Estate Administration's Story - My Assignment

It's fortunate that our meeting was postponed, because I wouldn't have finished my assignment in time. Here it is: "Clues in the 1725 Estate File of Nathaniel Ball of Concord, Massachusetts." I learned a great deal from my study of this estate file! With the exception of the abbreviated genealogical summary, this was written without TMG's help - except the formulation of the footnotes; my sources had all been entered in TMG before I began work on the article. This is not one of Mark's beautiful narratives, but readers may still learn quite a bit from it.

Here are my answers to this month's questions:
  • Did you choose a will recorded in the county will book? No.
  • Did you choose one of the loose papers from an estate file? Yes.
    • What source type template would you use to cite this record?
    • It is something called "Local Record (digital image unindexed)." It's probably a cross between "TVTMG Town/County Files-Basic" and "TVTMG Town/County Registers-Basic (Online FS)."
    • Is this an original record or a derivative record? Original records.
  • Did you transcribe the information found in the record?
    • Yes, but I didn't enter those transcriptions in TMG. I linked the Word file to the subject person as an exhibit.
  • Did you choose to abstract the information?
    • Some of it was abstracted and entered in TMG to appear in my "Notes Summary" report.
  • Did you create a custom tag for this record?
    • The information was put in my Estate-ADM tag, my Estate-SETT tag, and my Document tag.
  • List all the people named in the estate. AARRGGHH!
    • Can you identify them all? Yes.
    • Did you add all of them to your TMG database? Why, or why not? Yes. They're all connected - as family, neighbor, or associate - to the subject.
  • What law, or laws, governed the creation of your chosen record?
    • Commonwealth of Massachusetts, The Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, 21 vols. (Boston: Wright & Potter, 1874), 1: 43-45, Chap. 14, “An act for the setling and distribution of the estates of intestates” [passed 1 November 1692]; digital images, Internet Archive ( : accessed 1 October 2014).

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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