My first session on Thursday, May 10, was "Gateway to the West: Researching in Ohio" presented by Diane VanSkiver Gagel. Some highlights I learned were: (1) indentures can be from counties other than where they were working; (2) Ohio cannot deny records because they have an open record policy; (3) you can take your own digital equipment to the Recorder's Office to copy records; (4) inactive voter registrations are good for locating naturalization records; (5) tax records will give you a yearly census of land owners; (6) soldiers did not have to file discharge papers--it was voluntary; (7) probate court was established in 1850; and (8) the State Auditor's website has a free e-book "The Official Ohio Lands Book" available on their website.
Next was "Indexes! Indexes! Indexes! How to Find the People Who Don't Seem to be There" presented by Elizabeth Shown Mills. First, I have to say that Ms. Mills is a wonderful speaker and if you haven't seen her in person, you're missing out! She discussed some basic principals, such as, an index is not a record and for every problem there is a solution--if you understand the problem. She also stressed to slow down! When looking at indexes, you must be diligent in reading and interpreting what has been misread or mistyped. There are nine basic problems when using indexes which include erratic spelling, dialects, record destruction, clerical laziness and human error. Ms. Mills also listed specific strategies when using indexes such as: slow down (can't say it too many times), study indexes for composition and arrangement, and if a surname if unknown look for clusters of given names. She ended the session discussing some common errors and substitutions.
"Navigating the NARA Branches" by Julie Miller was next. NARA's website is www.archives.gov. NARA administers the regional archives which houses collections that are historically significant and permanent and are free and open to the public. The types of records available are: microfilm, files, electronic, maps, photographs, and drawings. When you are preparing for your visit, you need to make a plan which includes: (1) what you looking for; (2) what type of record is it; (3) where was it recorded; (4) when was it created (generally); and (5) where are the records located. The website has a a guide to assist you in research at the National Archives. The guide is available in a three volume set or you can visit the website which gets updated more often and is searchable. Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States.
The fourth session of the day was "Red Herrings and a Stroke of the Dead Palsy: Analyzing and Correlating Evidence" presented by Stefani Evans. This was a BCG Skillbuilding Session about analysis and evidence. Start with: (1) what I know; (2) what I want to know; and (3) develop a research plan to form your hypotheses. Its easiest to make a table of the various information gleaned, isolate the units of information, analyze each item, and identify sources. Always weigh the integrity of the source and identify the source type (original or derivative); information type (primary or secondary); and the type of evidence (direct or indirect). Refer to BCG Standard 20 for more information.
The last session of the day was "Assumptions: A Genealogical Slippery Slope" by Claire Bettag. The BCG Standard 28 presents three basic types of assumptions: fundamental, valid and unsound. Do not presume information is accurate, regardless of appearances or, as Ms. Bettag put it, "assumptions allow the best in life to pass us by." Some highlights I gleaned from this session were: sworn statements can be fraud; no one source is good - get as many sources as you can; look at all possibilities; negative evidence is no evidence at all; and evidence must directly answer the question asked.
Keep watching for the remaining two days.
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