Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday's Tip: Research Reports and Other Types of Published Conclusions

It doesn't have to be complicated.

Our goal in genealogy is to share the results of our research with others. Hoarding our discoveries does no one any good. And, since our ancestors are also the ancestors of many other individuals, we can't "own" them or their lives for ourselves. We must share their stories with others.

The final step of the genealogy research process states that we will "arrive at a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion." If we are professional genealogists, our conclusion will be written up as a research report and given to our client (here's the template I use). If we wish to share our discoveries in a formal way, we may write a family narrative to be published in a periodical such as the National Genealogical Society's Quarterly or the New England Historic Genealogical Society's Register. If we simply want to share our stories with family members, we have a variety of media at our disposal to do so, whether it is a family history book, a blog, a newsletter, a website, or even a video we've produced.

The key is that in publishing our findings, we will, in some way:

  • explain the problem (the question or theory or hypothesis behind our research plan);
  • identify the known resources (which we've faithfully recorded in our research log);
  • present the evidence with source citations and analysis;
  • discuss any conflicting evidence; and
  • summarize the main points and write (or publish in other media formats) our conclusions.
We also must realize that there is no such thing as a final conclusion, because new information can support, question, or disprove our current conclusion.

These above steps are all elements of the Genealogy Research Process and the Genealogy Proof Standard as established by the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

But again, publishing your conclusion doesn't have to be a big, scary thing. I'm doing this exact thing, publishing my conclusion about where my ancestor Lura may be buried in a series this month here on my blog. It's not formal. It's not scary. But it does follow the elements listed above.

Just get the word out: make a plan, track your research steps, and publish the story.

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