Friday, July 15, 2011

Inferential Genealogy - Conclusion

After a pretty long hiatus of conferences, birthday trips, a sick cat, brief personal illness and just plain needed vacations, I am trying to get back into the swing of things. All of the above prevented my full investment into the final portions of the Inferential Genealogy Study Group in Second Life, but I did go through the final cases, and attended the wrap up discussion (previous post). Before moving on to other genealogy subjects, I thought I would post a final word on how the project went overall, and some of my observations about how Second Life enhanced this typically internet-only course.

As mentioned in my earlier posts, Dr. Jones' series on Inferential Genealogy is a free instructional tool available on the Family Search website. You may take this course at anytime, as long as you have a live internet connection. Second Life was only the method we used to take the course as a group, in order to discuss our experiences, and bounce ideas/suggestions off of each other. As we met to discuss our experience for each case study, it became quickly apparent that there were some technical difficulties with this particular course. As Dr. Jones took the researcher through the case documents to show them the pertinent pieces of information in order to move to the next step, the tech visuals were not in agreement. In several cases, the "reconstructed" document portions were missing the particular information that Dr. Jones was referring to.....and in some instances, the surnames listed were completely wrong.

Our gracious host, Clarise Beaumont (aka Dear Myrtle), had attended Dr. Jones' Inferential Genealogy seminar in person a few years ago, and she said these discrepancies we were seeing were not typical of the real course. This inspired the group to take notes detailing the errors we discovered, in order to pass on to Dr. Jones as a feedback measure. We were hoping the feedback would allow Family Search to change the visual document examples to better match the verbal/instructional portions of the course. An additional goal of this group arose as we discovered how helpful this course would have been if the technical difficulties were remedied. Therefore, the group produced a report to submit to Dr. Jones, giving both positive and critical feedback.

Overall, everyone had a great time - even if it was very frustrating when weeding through the discrepancies. But it reminded us all how tenacious we are when conducting research. The discrepancies sometimes made us only try harder - which was sometimes quite comical. When meeting back as a group, we had to reassure each other that we were not half blind, nor going crazy when things didn't add up to the verbal conclusions Dr. Jones was making. We also came away with many positives and lessons learned. For myself, my big positive with this course was learning to slow down my research methods to document the inferential conclusions I was making. My habit of mentally evaluating a clue and moving on to a next document or step is sometimes so second nature that it can happen in a few seconds. However, when passing on my research to the next generation, I need to document the inferential conclusions or assumptions I made during the course of my research. That way, each step is made, understood, and more legitimately argued. We grow much closer to the proof standard by documenting each step - especially when dealing with inferential steps since we know inferential knowledge is based on connecting the dots between known information to draw conclusions about the information that is missing. Another great lesson learned was the use of spreadsheets to map out your results my surname, individual and timeframe. It was interesting to see families change spellings, etc as they moved around.

For those you interested in following this inferential journey online, I'm not sure I would recommend this course to beginners - at least not until they fix the technical discrepancies. As for Second Life, events are happening each week in the genealogy areas - Chats, instruction, etc. Feel free to join in and bring some of your problem research to the group. They are all very helpful and love to chew on genealogical challenges. If you are interested in series study such as the one we just finished, Clarise Beaumont is planning a new one that will begin sometime in October, so keep an eye on the group calendar!  

See you in-world!



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