Sunday, June 05, 2011

Inferential Genealogy Study Group feedback

At Tuesday night's initial session of the Inferential Genealogy Study Group, participants who have blogs were encouraged to post their thoughts about Dr. Thomas Jones' course thus far. Suggestions included writing about:
  • An understanding of the term "inferential genealogy" at this point in our studies.
  • Where a "broad search", as recommended by Dr. Jones, has solved a kinship determination challenge.
Here are the results of those efforts:

In her post Inferential Genealogy or Chasing the Cosmic Bunny Trail Diana Biddle writes "My concept of IG is the idea of  "chasing the proverbial bunny down the cosmic rabbit trail of genealogy research", leaving no document unturned.  I regularly make use of federal land grants and probates to discover early family connections here in rural south-central Indiana.  Sometimes, these documents run you around in circles, through various branches of families and out the other side."

In her post Inferential Genealogy - connecting Elmina to her parents Kimberly Nagy reminds us that "According to Dr. Tom Jones, 'Inferential Genealogy' is the process of piecing together documents to make conclusions about relationships and identities that no record tells you all by itself." She then enumerates the variety of documents that led to her answer the question "Who were Elmina's parents?"

Jackie McDonald Baker in her post Inferential Genealogy Study Group in Second Life reminds us of Dr. Jones' five steps of Inferential Genealogy, and then explains how step #4 'Correlate the evidence' challenges her at this point. "I have a lot of this correlated in my head, but I need to get it on paper. I'm hoping after I see how Dr. Jones does this, I'll be better able to organize and correlate my own evidence. (A timeline/spreadsheet comes to mind.)"

Jennifer Lanctot Rodriguez accepted the suggestion to blog and states "Inferential Genealogy is the process of taking a lot of different documents from a lot of different places and using them to draw conclusions about relationships and identities when no single record is able to do it." See her blog post FamilySearch, Second Life and Inferential Genealogy walk into a bar...  

Ginger Smith, whom I met at NGS 2011 in Savannah, posted Inferential Genealogy Course in Second Life where she explains "This is also really helping me to focus on my sources, learn how to sort through them, look at them one by one, analyze them and think about their meaning instead of just collecting them and filing them away somewhere. I think this is just what I needed!"

Cheri Daniels describes her research process in Inferential Genealogy Homework #1 "As genealogists we utilize all kinds of factual records - most are accurate, but many are flawed, or even wrong. Since no one document can give us the solid, complete facts about an individual, we must turn to many outside sources to confirm any conclusion we might draw. Dr. Jones describes it as putting together a puzzle."

Annette Kapple explained how she was able to use a broad search strategy to solve a research problem. AK'S Genealogy Research: Broad Search described the documents she used to find information about her ancestor. Since the 1820 census didn't list every member of the household by name and relationship, she was stumped. Find out who she solved the research problem. "I did not have the name of this daughter because she left the Clermont area. I would never think to check a county history in Indiana :). So I now have a fairly good circumstantial case, and feel pretty confident Nancy Melvin was the daughter of John Melvin and Mary Redden of Snowhill, Worcester, Maryland. I am continuing to research this family for further confirmation."

Anne Zylstra Mamiya described the Inferential Genealogy Study Group in Second Life "This was much like watching a webinar, but it felt more personal with the avatars.  I actually felt as though I was sitting at that fire pit and Clarise was talking to us.  Clarise used voice [chat] that we were able to hear with our headsets. You can also communicate via a text chat, which most of the participants used." 

The Inferential Genealogy Course by Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS is available for free at FamilySearch. Here's the direct link to the video file: This is the link to the 3-page handout for this course. 

The five steps of Inferential Genealogy defined by Dr. Jones are:
  1. Start with a Focused Goal
  2. Search Broadly
  3. Understand the Records
  4. Correlate the Evidence
  5. Write Down the Results
Anne Zylstra Mamiya explained "I think my biggest issues so far with my research efforts are numbers 1 and 5.  I am not focused in what I want to prove, and I don't write down the results and how I got there. There will be 3 case studies we work through in the course. Our first case study is our homework for this week and we will meet to discuss it in Second Life on Sunday.  I can't wait!"

Indeed, we do meet tonight at 5:15pm Second Life time (same as Pacific US time). I'll be on hand (as the svelte blonde Clarise Beaumont) about 30 minutes early to get everyone seated in the Tabernacle kitty-corner from our usual Sunday night Family History Centre meeting place. This is the SLurl (Second Life URL) for the location of the meeting:

If you are already a member of Second Life, and have it loaded on your computer, you can just click on the link above and follow the screen prompts to get to the meeting place. 

If you are new to Second Life, when you click on that SLurl, you will be prompted to join. It's free. Ol' Myrt would suggest logging in about an hour early and going through the training screens if you have never been in Second Life before.

This Inferential Genealogy Study Group has proved to be worthwhile, and I look forward to many other such events in Second Life.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


1 comment:

  1. My reflections on our first session may be found at

    See you all tonight!