Herewith is perhaps the last Top 10 list of the year. It’s a good way to remind ourselves that NGS Monthly has amassed a library of more than 120 articles on research methodology, resources, and genealogical writing since we began publication in February 2015. Take a browse through the NGS Monthly website. Your current research challenges just might be addressed by one of our past articles.
#10 “When to Start Writing” by Aaron Goodwin (September 2018)
Some of my colleagues suggest a defined list of items that you should have accomplished and put in order before you begin writing. But my view on this purely subjective matter is markedly different: no matter where you are in your research process, no matter how much or how little you know, no matter when you read this, the best time to begin writing is today.
#9 “Using Indirect Evidence to Solve Genealogical Problems” by Melissa Johnson, CG (March 2016)
Indirect evidence is information that we analyze in the context of our research question and interpret as being relevant, even though it doesn’t directly provide us with an answer. A lack of direct evidence does not mean that a question of identity, circumstance, or relationship cannot be resolved. We can combine indirect evidence with other clues, and present the totality to help prove our conclusion.
#8 “Calculating Dates and Date Ranges” by Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, FGBS (June 2017)
Precision—genealogists know all about the importance of precision when it comes to citing sources, recording details, and interpreting records. But many genealogists are less particular when it comes to calculating and expressing estimated dates. Avoiding fuzzy computations could mean the difference between solving a research problem and facing a roadblock.
#7 “A Lesson in Reasonably Exhaustive Research” by Melissa Johnson, CG (November 2015)
The research that a genealogist undertakes to solve a problem does not have to be exhaustive—it has to be reasonably exhaustive. It isn’t possible to examine every source that might include information relevant to the research problem. However, as more sources are examined, the likelihood that a conclusion will be overturned is reduced. New evidence can always surface, but if the initial research was comprehensive, any newly discovered evidence is likely to support, and not contradict, the existing conclusion.
#6 “How to Start Writing: the Overall Plan” by Aaron Goodwin (October 2018)
In this article, I’ll briefly discuss how I’m organizing my overall approach to everything I intend to write about my ancestors. It’s something I only undertook recently after it finally occurred to me that my personal research and writing hasn’t been nearly as focused and directed as my client research and writing. And in next month’s issue, I’ll write a follow-up piece on a different aspect of how to start writing: how I organize my Microsoft Word file when I start writing about a particular family line.
#5 “The Importance of Genealogical Analysis and Correlation” by Melissa Johnson, CG (April 2015)
Genealogical analysis is when we examine our sources and information piece by piece to understand their context and nature, and to evaluate credibility. Correlation is when we try to discover how these pieces of the puzzle fit or don’t fit together. It is our thought process—the analysis and correlation—that turns information from our sources into evidence we can use to solve genealogical problems.
#4 “Writing Family Narratives” by Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, FGBS (March 2017)
Exceptionally well-written family narratives inspire others to try to bring their own ancestors to life in the same way. It sometimes seems, however, that talented writers are born with a gift—that either a person has or doesn’t have talent. Having talent certainly helps, but everyone can improve their writing ability. Just as genealogists spend time developing knowledge of sources and analytical skills, they can grow as storytellers.
#3 “Using Spreadsheets as Research Tools” by Aaron Goodwin (April 2018)
Some researchers use genealogy software to record and track their research. Others use word processing software, writing as they go. I’m probably like many in using a combination of both. But in certain instances, neither of these options are as useful as we might like. Difficult research problems that require the collection and analysis of a large amount of data might well be solved by using spreadsheets.
#2 “Inconvenient Facts” by Aaron Goodwin (June 2020)
As genealogists, we strive to gather any and all information we can that might have a bearing on the research question at hand. Sometimes that information includes conflicting data that must then be resolved. And sometimes that information includes evidence that, frankly, we’d rather not see or be aware of. While it may be tempting to overlook and omit that evidence, genealogists (at our best) do not do that. We analyze it as objectively as we can and incorporate it into the larger picture that is developing in front of us.
#1 “Your Ancestors’ Unmarried, Childless Siblings Could Be the Key” by Aaron Goodwin (July 2018)
[R]esearchers today can find a great deal of information about both their extended families and their direct ancestors by paying close attention to their ancestors’ unmarried, childless siblings. These are the very people in many compiled genealogies that have nothing more after their names than “s. p.” (sine prole; without issue). . . . The wills of such siblings often include the names and relationships of various heirs. More importantly, depending on the timeframe and jurisdiction, the law often required the identification of all legal heirs for those who died intestate. In the absence of a spouse or children, that can be a lot of heirs.