Analyzing Ten NGSQ articles: Part 2

In the Part 1 of this series I looked at the overall structure of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ or Q) articles.  In this posting we will concentrate on Section 3.  See below for complete list of the articles, subsequent listings use an abbreviated title.

Fine print:  Any of the observations noted below should be placed in the context of the author (me) as a student.  I am asking questions, not criticizing.

From the previous post, all of the articles followed this general outline:

  • Title
    Three items are often included in the title: type of conflict, what is being solved and the name of the individual or family of focus
  • The “Hook”
    The “Hook” outlines the issue addressed in the article which could apply universally to many genealogists.
  • Section 1:
    This section contains a full discussion of the universal issues noted in the “Hook”.
  • Section 2:
    This section contains research questions and the known facts.
  • Section 3:
    This section is the analysis/correlation of discovered facts.  This is the section covered in this posting.
  • Section 4: Conclusion
    The conclusion is  a summary of the methodology used and and how it supports the research question raised in Section 2.

All of the sections above comprise the proof argument.  The proof argument is composed usually of a combination of proof statements (simple, non-conflicting proofs), and proof summaries (more complex but less than the proof argument.) But now, lets look at Section 3 more closely.

According to Mastering Genealogical Proof [1], there are four different “approaches” for constructing this section: single hypothesis, alternative hypotheses, building blocks, and syllogisms (“if-then” statements).   Some articles will contain more that one of these.

Here is a table showing my interpretation of the frequency of use of each of these four in the ten reviewed articles:

Article

Single Hypothesis

Alternative hypotheses

Building Blocks

Syllogisms

a.

“Calvin Snell”

X

X

b.

“Philip Pritchett”

X

X

c.

“Geddes of Tyrone”

X

X

X

d.

“Charles D. McLain”

X

X

e.

“Eleanor Overton”

X

X

X

f.

” Mary Kittrell”

X

g.

“John Bradberry”

X

h.

“Samuel Hanson”

X

i.

“Priscilla Wilford”

X

j.

“Yellow Fever Epidemic”

X

My observations:  The more complex proof arguments rely on a combination of buildings blocks, which are often individual proof summaries, and one or more of the other types of analysis to reach their conclusions.  The two articles, “Mary Kittrell”  and the “Yellow Fever Epidemic” are unique as the former is a rather simple illustration of conflicting direct evidence and the latter is more of a story than a proof argument.  I struggle with identifying the differences between the single hypothesis and the building block approach.  It seems to me the author should be able to have a single hypothesis (possible answer to a research question?) and use building block methodology to solve the argument.  Thus, I do not see these as different approaches to the writing of proof argument (i.e. the article) but rather tools one could use in a variety of ways to build the convincing resolution to the research question. So, it appears to me that there are really only two overall structures–a single building block or multiple building blocks.  Within each of the “blocks” the author may use alternative hypotheses, e.g. there are three Fred Smiths which one is “mine?” and syllogisms, e.g. if Fred Smith wasn’t on tax rolls in Washington County, then he didn’t own taxable property there.  This seems a bit confusing to me.

I also looked at the tools used in each of the articles as the author correlated the evidence:

Article

List

Table

Map

Pedigree chart

Image

Genealogical Summary

a.

“Calvin Snell”

X

X

X

b.

“Philip Pritchett”

X

X

X

c.

“Geddes of Tyrone”

X

X

X

d.

“Charles D. McLain”

X

X

X

X

e.

“Eleanor Overton”

X

X

f.

” Mary Kittrell”

X

X

g.

“John Bradberry”

X

X

X

h.

“Samuel Hanson”

X

X

i.

“Priscilla Wilford”

X

X

X

j.

“The New Orleans Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1853”

X

X

My observations: The four articles with the genealogical summaries were written between the years of 2001 and 2007.   The others were written between 1995 and 2009.  Thus, it is unclear whether the inclusion of the summaries are just an issue of space or author’s discretion. It does not seem to be editorial policy. Tables, maps and the pedigree charts supported the argument directly and therefore, are specific to the article and no pattern was identified.  The use of the pedigree chart in the Samuel Hansen article and the use of the maps in Philip Prichett were particularly effective.

Things I would like to discuss with the Editors, if I ever have the chance:

  1. How has the Q changed in structure over the years? (note: article a. has all the footnotes in the back and it is the oldest article reviewed–1995.  Thanks to the Editors for moving them to the page of reference!)
  2. Though implied by the title, why isn’t the research question posed closer to the beginning of the article? The research question is often at the very end of the Section 2, which can be quite long.
  3. Scientific writing starts with an abstract of the article including the research question and a summary of the findings rather than the “hook”.  Should the Q have a similar layout?
  4. Could the conclusions be stronger?  Sometimes the conclusion states the universal issues but does not restate the research question or summarize the answer. (c., f., h., i., j.)  The topics of the articles f. & i. do not lend themselves to a specific answer to a specific research question.  I thought one article had a particularly strong conclusion ( g.).
  5. Could the general reference materials used in Section 1 and 2 be listed at the end of the article?  This would be helpful to the intermediate reader who is still trying to develop his/her library.
  6. What changes are the Editors anticipate in the future?

Hope this was interesting/helpful.

Happy Hunting!

Jill

1. I have listed the Q articles I used in this analysis below.  The selection of these articles cannot be described as random as there are five of the nine articles by Tom Jones.  They were also selected because in my classes I am taking, these articles were “required” reading.  Two were readings from my Mastering Genealogical Proof class; four were a special assignment of my MGP class; one was the article read for this month’s NGSQ Study Group and three were selected because of my personal interest.

a. Jones,  Thomas. “The Children of Calvin Snell: Primary versus Secondary Evidence,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 83 (March 1995): 17-31.
b. —–.  “Logic Reveals the Parents of Philip Pritchett of Virginia and Kentucky.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 97 (March 2009): 20-38.
c. —–.  “Organizing Meager Evidence to Reveal Lineages: An Irish Example–Geddes of Tyrone.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 89 (June 2001): 98-112.
d. ——. “The Three Identities of Charles D. McLain of Muskegon, Michigan.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 96 (June 2008): 101-120.
e. ——. “Uncovering Ancestors by Deduction: The Husbands and Parents of Eleanor (nee Medley) (Tureman) (Crow) Overton.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 94 (December 2006): 287-304.
f. Leary, Helen F.M.  “Resolving Conflicts in Direct Evidence: Identity and Vital Dates of Mary Kittrell.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 87 (September 1999): 199-205.
g. Litchman, William M. “Using Cluster Methodology to Backtrack an Ancestor: The Case of John Bradberry.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 95 (June 2007): 103-116.
h. Mills, Elizabeth Shown. “Roundabout Research: Pursuing Collateral Lines to Prove Parentage of a Direct Ancestor–Samuel Hanson of Frontier Georgia,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 91 (March 2003): 19-30.
i. Tolman, Richard Lee. “The Life and Times of English Immigrant Priscilla (nee Clark) (Pickett) (Pickett) Wilford.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 94 (December 2006): 267-286.
j. Woodward, Hobson. ” ‘Through the Furnace of Affliction’: A Connecticut Family and the New Orleans Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1853,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 89 (June 2001): 113-132.

[1] Jones, Thomas W. Mastering Genealogical Proof. Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society: 2013.

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What is in your library? And, what is missing?

I am making an assessment of my genealogical holdings.  I am surprised as how many publications, in this day of google books etc, i have on my shelves.  And, I admit, I am glad I do!

I have:

  • 38 reference books: these are books of background for my various ethnic groups, e.g. Ostfriesen, Swedish, or are church anniversary books, The Handybook, How to books.
  • 12 books related to specific families: the two books I wrote, “Dear Ones” (Heikens), Siemens, Groenveld, Wientjes
  • 8 narrative books: narrative non-fiction, e.g. The Children’s Blizzard, We Will Go to a New Land
  • 2 census books (German): Kopfschatzung 1757 and Kopf-Schatzung 1719.
  • 14 Ortsippenbüchen (OSB) or Familienbücken (compilation of BMDB in parish by family): e.g. Loquard, Uphusen, Wybelsum etc.
  • 3 others: 3 books that just do not fit in the groups above.

I also subscribe to Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America (OGSA) newsletter (4 times a year) since 2003, NGS Quarterly (2x per year) since 2011, NGS Magazine (4x per year) since 2011. APG Quarterly since 2012 and Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS) Quarterly since 2012.

The assessment was pretty easy to do as I have for years had an app on my phone called Booklist.  I first bought it to keep track of the fiction books I was reading, but in the end the app wasn’t what I wanted and was better for a static list, like a library.  So I stopped using is as a book “journal” and instead made it be my library list.  This has worked great because I don’t buy books, especially OSBs that I already own! Aand they are very price-y!  I do not think that it is a great app and I am sure there are better ones out there. (Now I have to figure out how to download the list of the books off the app for ProGen!)

But, what am I missing or what did I wish I had more of?

I have very few context books/materials on Sweden and Denmark.  These would be of the type that provide the window into the life of my ancestors when they lived in Sweden and Denmark.  I also would like to expand my holdings for those ethnic groups other than my own, e.g. Ireland, England, Canada etc.

So, have you done an assessment of your holdings?  What are you missing?  Perhaps you have a birthday coming up and can drop some hints!  Can you give me some recommendations?  How do you keep track of your library?

Happy hunting!

Jill

What I have done since the last post:  read a couple more chapters of Evidence Explained!, revisited the SGS Writing Guidelines and resubmitted for review, wrote the Publication Guidelines and distributed the document; wrote to all the potential authors for the next SGS Bulletin to remind them of the deadline for draft submission; commented on the submissions of the mission statement and the citations and I am preparing for our second cohort  discussion next Tuesday for the ProGen class. started reading the latest NGS Magazine (somehow I missed it when it first came out.)

Woo hoo! Celebration time!

No, I didn’t solve the problem of Friedrich Eilers and my great great grandmother but rather…..

This is my 1 year anniversary for doing my blog and my 101st posting.  Wow!

I am amazed.

Of course with every milestone, I try to look over what I have accomplished (or not) and see if there is room for improvement.

Accomplishments:

  • I am still working towards certification
  • I have been fairly consistent in the frequency of my postings with July and August an understandable exception.
  • I anticipate continuing blogging
  • I have a nice mix of clients but am always looking for more (suggestions welcomed)

Challenges

  • There was a problem in the past with the name of my blog name.  After consultation with BCG’s lawyer I changed the name to a mutually agreed upon name.
  • It seems sometimes I “bite off more than I can chew.”  I actually do not think this will improve, but rather is genetic.
  •  I am not yet “on the clock”

I look forward to the journey for the next year.

Major goals for the next year:

  • get “on the clock”
  • development of a sustaining client base
  • continued education (haven’t heard back from ProGen yet)
  • greater knowledge base of US sources (related to bullet #3)

I think that’s good for now!

Happy Hunting!

Jill

What I have done since the last posting:  finished a major client project!  This was big.  I can now get started on the two that have been waiting patiently for me to get started!  I have also been rereading the BCG Application Standard book; organized my downloads of the NGS Quarterly and the Magazine so I can tell if I have read them or not.  I am also getting ready for the genealogy cruise.  (Note: Like the NGS conference I will suspend my usual approach to this blog and instead post about what I learn etc.  With the cruise line charging for internet time, this postings will probably be when we land.)  I also have two weeks to pull together my information about Freiderick Eilers and Ida Berg to discuss with regional expert on cruise to see if they have ideas about how to find this guy.

The workshop assignment…

The assignment was interesting.  Have you ever read the articles in the NGS Quarterly and just gotten lost in the minutiae?  I have.  I sometimes cannot even see the structure of the article because of the density.

This exercise had us do the following:

  1. Read just the footnotes
  2. Read just the article
  3. Write each sentence on each paragraph summarizing its contents (there were over 90 paragraphs!)
  4. Write a sentence summarizing the entire article.

This approach forced me to comprehensively read every paragraph and discover the structure. Which was good. The article itself was an interesting use of indirect evidence to provide genealogical proof of a relationship. It certainly was comprehensive. Not too many “rocks were left unturned.”

You might consider using that technique on an article you are having trouble with.  I suspect that you will either find that the document required that methodology because of its density or you will find that it’s structure is fundamentally flawed.

Happy hunting!

Jill

How do you compare and contrast?

Compare and contrast is an analytical writing tool needed in genealogical writing.  On 18 December 2011 I investigated the different writing types that I had been taught (and forgotten) and then using a writing example from the NGS Quarterly, I analyzed what types of writing the author was using.  One of the styles used by the author was Compare and Contrast.

There appear to me to be two forms of Compare & Contrast writing which are used in genealogical writing:

1.  Table form:  When the information is fairly simple it lends itself to a matrix, a “row/column” approach.  On the left hand  column you might have names of individuals in the family in question and in the row across the top, how they appear in various censuses.  In the latest Quarterly you can see a compare and contrast table in the article “Polin Ries of New Orleans” where the names of the family members are in the left column, the second column is their birth date per the Bas-Rhin records, the 3rd column is the variation of the name, the 4th column is the birth date, the latter two per the passenger manifest.  The more complex the table is, i.e. more record types, trying to compare more data points (names, dates, ages etc.) the more complex is the table, the more difficult to analyze the data and the more difficult for the reader to understand.  To me, being a graphic thinker, this is a very quick way to understand the areas where it is the same and where the information differs. I naturally gravitate to this mode of presenting data.

2. Narrative approach.  This approach seems to work very well if it is the desire of the author to reduce the number of options. For example, you might list the variety of sources of your immigrant ancestor that supplies relevant information that gives you clues as to your ancestor’s village of birth.  From those variety of sources which do not all agree, you make certain conclusions based on the veracity of the sources and the commonality of the data.  The information gathered in the US is then compared with information of a possible ancestor candidate in the birth country.  You may not be able to reach a specific conclusion but you may be able to narrow the choices of where you need to look.  It explains your process of looking in village X and village Y, but not village C and then reporting your findings.  I think this methodology is harder for the reader but is sometimes unavoidable.

The first example, leads to rather direct conclusions; the narrative approach appears better suited if the information is varied and you are trying to reduce the number of options rather than coming to a specific conclusion.  So I recommend looking at lots of examples (NGS Quarterly is great for this) and then practice setting up the table or working your way through a complex narrative.

They both have their uses but are handling information differently.

Happy Hunting!

Jill

What I have done since the last post:  I have worked very hard on the client report.  I am getting very close to being done.  I am quite pleased.  I did some work for the OGSA conference in IL I am chairing.  I went to the Seattle Public Library to browse the reference stacks.  Sure enough, I found something of interest!  I got asked to speak at the SAR meeting on medicine and prisons of the Civil War (I know it’s not the American Revolution).  I am excited.

  • Teri D. Tillman, “Using Indirect Evidence and Linguistic Analysis to Trace Polin Ries of New Orleans,” National Genealogical Quarterly, 99 (December 2011):247.
  • Patrick Quigley, “The Quigley Family Searches for the American Dream,” The National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 98 (December 2010):4.

Are there tools which can improve our analytical skills?

I have been on this topic for a couple of posts because 1.) the topic is interesting to me and 2.) I have the time to look into the topic a little deeper.  I am not an academic, but the “how” of analysis is interesting to me.  How many times have we been told to “analyze X” but not given any specific training, methodology or tools with which to do it?  I usually just try to explain what I see or understand, dispassionately figure out whether those observations make any sense, and answer the question “why” and write it down. Pretty intuitive.  But, are there tools we could put into our “analytical toolbox” that might aid us in becoming better at this critical aspect of what we as genealogists do every time we make a decision whether Person X is really our Uncle Harry.

Let me explain how I got here and maybe you might find this interesting also….or not!  🙂

As a requirement for my MA in Public Policy, I would write papers analyzing policy using tools that created a framework for the paper.  You may have heard of some of them, e.g. SWOT, PERT, VRIO etc. (check Wikipedia for explanations; I had to).  While these gave me a template for the paper, the item they did not cover is how to do the analysis, a critical part of each template.  For example, SBAR analysis, which is short for Statement, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation, gives you a good outline of how to organize a genealogical proof.  First, you define the problem (statement), develop the background for the reader, assess or analyze the issue and finally, give a recommendation or conclusion.  But, see what happened here?…..the template tells you to “assess” but doesn’t give you any directions about how to conduct the assessment/analysis.

So i went looking to see what I could find.

What I found was that even social scientists struggle with what constitutes analysis with qualitative research.  Attride-Stirling states in her article cited below, “If qualitative research is to yield meaningful and useful results, it is imperative that the material under scrutiny is analysed (sic) in a methodical manner, but unfortunately there is a regrettable lack of tools available to facilitate this task.”

She goes on to describe a methodology she developed of Thematic Networks that could be used for improving analysis above the level of intuition, of which it appears to me is the basic methodology I used in my Public Policy papers.

In thinking of the many articles I have read from the NGS Quarterly, the complexity of analysis ranges from the simplistic to the extreme.  I find that most of mine are at the simplistic end of the scale.  This is not a bad thing, it just means that the Statement can be clearly stated; the Background material is readily available and clarifies the issue; the Assessment has limited options and materials are available to narrow the options before needing to assess the possibility, or probability of the Recommendation/Conclusion.

In the next post, I will look closer at the Thematic Network methodology proposed by Attride-Stirling and see if it has genealogical applications or if I need to look further.

Notes:

  1. reasonable definitions of SWOT, PERT, VRIO and SBAR can be found in Wikipedia.
  2. Jennifer Attride-Stirling, “Thematic networks: an analytic tool for qualitative research,” Qualitative Research, vol I (3):385-405. December  2001.

Happy Holidays!

Jill

What I have done since the last post:  reread the Thematic Networks article for applicability

How do I use the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS)?

As genealogists we may understand the point of the GPS but not “get” how to use it.  I thought it might be helpful to put down in writing how I use it in the writing of lineages and even data entry.

Think for a minute about some of the dilemma’s you have had in deciding whether you have the “right” John Smith to be able to say it is “your” John Smith.  Contrary to science, to prove some relationship in genealogy relies on a sliding scale of confidence; in genealogy, there is rarely absolute “proof”.  If you have done the DNA testing (y-DNA, mtDNA and/or autosomal), you may be 99% confident or “reasonably certain” that the parents who raised you were also your biological parents.  Without testing, you can only have that level of confidence that the parents who raised you are your biological mother and father.  For example, your confidence level on your father is based on 1.) your mother’s word 2.) consistent circumstances that surround the birth, 3.) an evidence of marriage, etc.  Added together the evidence may add up to “certainty” but not to the level of a scientific-based test.

The words “possible,” “probable” and “certain” are the words advanced by ESM in the NGS Quarterly article ” Working with Historical Evidence,” of September 1999 as the rating scale for genealogy purposes.

An example: a relationship between a child is mentioned in a probate record as the son of the deceased.  What is the level of surety of the relationship in this case?  Not high.  Mothers and fathers called adopted/foster children “son” and “daughter” all the time.  Your surety in this case should be that it is “possible”.  To raise the confidence rating to “probable” or “certain,” you need to obtain more information where you can extract a greater amount of evidence.  If you find consistent information, your confidence level of this relationship grows to “probable” and maybe even “certain”.

Another example: Jens Torkelson Dahle.  I have only one source, a rootsweb entry, that says he was from Leikanger parish in Norway.  Nothing else points to that parish but importantly, nothing points against it either.  The good news:  a Jens Torkelson was born in Leikanger parish at the right time.  So let’s look to guidance from the GPS for what I should do:

  1. Conduct a reasonably exhaustive search:  There are many documents (US based) that state Jens Torkelson Dahle is from Norway but none point to his parish.  County histories (2), military records, naturalization papers, death certificate, census info are mute.  I even wrote an e-mail to the “Jim Larson” who posted the information in 2005 to see if he would respond and I asked my client if she knew Jim.  I came up negative on both.  While there may be other documents out there, I do believe I have done a “reasonably exhaustive search”.
  2. Collect and include a complete citation of each item we use:  (somehow this seems out of place)  I am prepared to do this as soon as I find something I can use, besides Jim Larson’s rootsweb posting!
  3. Analyze and correlate information:  In my experience this analysis is often done using a table.  For example, a comparison of what I know about Jens T. Dahle in the USA can be compared to the information about Jens Torkelson in Norway (birth, immigration etc) and see what the level of correlation is.  It is important to specifically look for items that are in conflict.
  4. Resolve any conflicts:  This may take the form of birth years that differ, etc.
  5. Reach a sound, coherent conclusion that is written cogently.:  While this will remain to be seen, the result of this item is to make sure you do not let the audience draw the conclusion but rather you write the concluding remarks so there is no ambiguity of your intent.  The audience then may disagree with your conclusion or new information could be found that obviate the conclusion later but those events are both tolerated within this approach to “proof”.

None of this should be interpreted to imply that there are no conflicts.  In my reading of the NGS Quarterly, conflicts occur, are researched, analyzed and commented upon.  You might check some of these out for examples.  In that same September Quarterly noted above, there are four articles that are illustrative of different types of genealogical issues.

So, my recommendation is that you analyze each relationship carefully.  We all know that “feeling” we get when we just “know” that the guy we are seeing in the record is “our” guy, but the GPS forces us to put into narrative all the clues we have gathered and to analyze their veracity.   I will, probably in the next post or shortly after, share the table comparing the Jens Torkelson in Leikanger parish to “my” USA Jens Dahle.  Beware!  I may not be able to paste in a table into this reader, so it may not look like much of a table when I am done.  I’ll keep you posted.

Happy Hunting! Your thoughts and comments are always welcomed.  And remember, I will be changing the URL of this blog.  You will probably have to sign up again.

Jill

What I have done since the last post:  finished all this quarter’s assignments, talked with a friend of mine to see if I could do an oral history on her father (88) who is visiting this Christmas.  (This is an assignment for the class next quarter.)  Participated in a tour of the genealogical collections at the Seattle Public Library conducted by the head genealogy librarian.