How many sessions at conferences or webinars have you attended where they talk ABOUT the Genealogical Proof Standards (GPS)  and its five elements, but then did not show us how to apply each element to a real world problem much less apply it to our own readings and writings? I have been taking the Mastering Genealogical Proof class based on the book of the same name by Thomas W. Jones . I am finding it very informative (however, I will be the first to admit there are some moments that, for me, were incredibly dry.)
I will address each of the five elements of the GPS in separate blogs and apply each to what i specifically have learned in that chapter. I hope you will share your findings as well. Application is the component which is missing in most presentations. Even if we “know we should know it”–do we really understand how to apply the GPS to our genealogical work? I will also confess upfront that this has been an evolving awakening on my part. Once again, I am struck by how much I do not know about qualitative analysis.
Some of you may have been followers of this blog when I wrote my first two blogs on qualitative analysis over two years ago:
Are there tools which can improve our analytical skills? published on 22 December 2011
Does the concept of thematic networks have a place in the “analytical tool box?” published 24 December 2011
Dr. Jones does not address the issue of thematic networks in his book, but I still think they have a place. In the blogs noted above I showed how the creation of a visual “thematic network” can assist in organizing data we obtain from an oral interview which often seems disconnected and haphazard even when using structured questions. If we ever watch NCIS, or CIS or Rosselli & Isles, visual thematic networks are often pictured…..they are the big walls that have all pertinent crime data collected to date posted on a wall so the crime solvers can see all the myriads of clues in a single visual scan. The crime solvers start grouping and eliminating suspects and irrelevant information as they assess other information that is more pertinent to solving the crime. All is posted on the wall–they are correlating the evidence! Are we so different? Perhaps if you have a particularly tough “brick wall” you might consider such a wall.
I would like to come up with a new name for this wall; how about, BRICK Wall for “Better Research In Correlation of Kin” Wall!! 🙂
If thematic networks are already in our “analytical toolbox, what other tools does Dr. Jones put into the box?
ANALYSIS: Analysis according to Dr. Jones is the in-depth look at the source. He analyzes the source, the information it provides and applies the Process Map . What is the quality of that source? biased? manipulated? an index (derivative) or and original? If an authored work, what standards did the author use in the compilation and conclusion making? We, too, can analyze the source and the information it contains for its validity.
CORRELATION: Dr. Jones adds narrative discussion, lists, timelines, tables and maps to our toolbox, and then illustrates ways to analyze the information we have to determine if it rises to the level of evidence, either direct or indirect. These, too, can go into our own analytical tool box.
I had not analyzed my sources with any discipline before engaging in the exercises in the book, except at the most superficial way, as in “Yeah! They have the microfilms of that parish’s records.”
I didn’t even think about the differenty types of tools to use for correlations: narrative or lists, which I have not consiously done. I also had not specifically thought of how maps, tables and timelines contribute to my analytical tool box but I use them frequently. As a visual person, I gravitate towards these tools. I will normally put information into a table, sometimes even when a narrative would do.
So I would like to propose that before we do a Research Plan, perhaps a “BRICK Wall” would be a good place to start. This would allow us to move information around and put it in the most logical order. It should be dynamic–as we gain information, it should be posted on the wall. the earlier we start with such a wall, probably the better; however, we might find ourselves in an intractable position with a problem well into the analysis and this tool might “rescue” us from what seems to be an intractable problem. The BRICK Wall would also have the advantage of assisting us in the writing of the report as well (We’ll talk about that when we get to GPS Element 5: The Written Conclusion”.) So if we are having problems with organizing complex data for a proof; such a wall might help. There are programs out there which create a virtual wall such as Scrivener.
I will be assessing my sources. I will be think first about which is the best of many tools to use that assist in the correlation of my collected information and evidence. And, I will determine if a BRICK Wall is a good tool to use for my problem before I get too far in the process of conceptualizing the problem.
What I have done since the last posting: I am working on the next SGS Bulletin, submitted by assignments for both ProGen and MGP, attended an PS-APG meeting on Family Search (check out their Terms and Conditions before you post your information, photos, videos etc. there). I have not been working on my portfolio, other than indirectly through these classes. Did some client work that I need to wrap up. My aunt has yet to do the house plan exercise which I hope she will do soon. Made very cute Halloween cookies! I have sent to USCIS requests for naturalization papers on my paternal grandfather and Pat’s paternal grandfather. I got the C number from them ($20) and armed with his file number, made my request (another $20) for the portfolio on my grandfather before the government shut down. Haven’t heard anything about Pat’s grandfather yet. Haven’t received the portfolio yet. Let’s hope this silliness is over soon.
 Board for Certification for Genealogists, “The Genealogical Proof Standard,” (http://www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standard.html : accessed 13 October 2013).
 Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof, (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013) 53.
 Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Model,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (http://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-17-the-evidence-analysis-process-model: accessed 13 October 2013).