What Do I Really Have Here? Analyzing Sources Effectively

March 5th, 2018 by National Genealogical Society Blog Editor

SPEAKER: Ruth Ann (Abels) Hager, CG®, CGLsm

SESSION: W141

DATE & TIME: Wednesday, 02 May 2018, 2:30 p.m.

SPONSOR: Board for Certification of Genealogists

Would you like to be more productive in your research? Learn how to evaluate the source where you found data, identifying both its strengths and weaknesses, to glean maximum information. Data can provide information or possibly a clue, but knowledge about the source itself may also tell, suggest, or imply additional information that can further your research.

For example, when viewing a book index or online database for a county’s marriage records, does the source state which years are included? Would it help you to find a notation about records lost in a courthouse fire or a flood? If an ancestor might be in a record book missing for many years, is there any chance that someone abstracted or indexed that book when it was still available? Such additional source information can help you make carefully thought-out research choices about how to proceed—and those choices might be different than you initially thought.

Whatever the source or its format—printed material, microfilm, or online sources—taking time to understand the source can further your research.

ABOUT: Ruth Ann (Abels) Hager, CG®, CGLSM, is an author, researcher, volunteer, and speaker at the local, state, and national levels and is the author of Dred & Harriet Scott: Their Family Story. She worked sixteen years as a reference specialist in the St. Louis County Library’s History and Genealogy Department and has taught classes at IGHR (Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research). Land records have been her special interest for thirty years.

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