Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Principles of Pinball Approach to Genealogical Research" Defined and Discussed

My friend and colleague DearMYRTLE coined the Pinball Approach to Genealogical Research the other day, and I jumped on it with two blog posts describing how I do genealogy search (not sure it's research!) tasks in a "Pinball Genealogy" fashion:

*  Pinball Genealogy - My Hints Practices

*  Pinball Genealogy - Enriching My Genealogy Database

DearMYRTLE wrote Principles of "The Pinball Approach to Genealogical Research" today and further defined her description of the principles in eight elements - please see her post for them.  

My opinion is that these principles describe one version of "Pinball Genealogy" - the one where undocumented information is used without consulting other online or repository resources.  I admit that I've done this over the years - as have most researchers, I suspect.  

Frankly, the elements Myrt describes in her post apply to more than just online searching in family trees or indexes.  There's no difference between entering names, dates, places and relationships into a genealogy program out of a surname book, locality book or periodical, and doing the same from an online family tree or website.  Most researchers start out this way.  I have, and continue to do it with what I consider authoritative resources, depending on my judgment and experience.

As Myrt points out, doing a "Reasonably Exhaustive Search" and applying the "Genealogical Proof Standard" using FAN Club principles (Family, Associates, Neighbors) to determine kinship of a person to a parent, or a spouse, needs to consider more resources than the quick online grab of an index entry, a mention in a county history book, or just using census records.  The "more resources" that should be used in a RES/GPS/FAN project include, but are not limited to, historical record types such as probate, land, tax, town, church, vital, court, military, passenger lists, naturalization papers, etc.  I try to do that for my ancestral families, but I don't usually do it with the collateral lines.

Just as a pinball wizard learns how to work the machine in the arcade to his benefit (using the flippers, a jolt here, a nudge there, avoid tilt!), searchers like me have learned how to mine online databases, how to utilize record provider features like Ancestry Hints, and how to find additional resources to add to the document record for a person.  

I really think that what I described in my posts is "Pinball Genealogy," since I am not doing a RES/GPS/FAN project for most of the persons in my database.  I don't have the time or interest to do that.  However, my practices do include making a conscious evaluation of the limited information obtained and, if used, sourcing the information in my database.

What do my readers think?  How far should I go to try to prove the relationships of my collateral lines?  Should I ignore the blank fields in my database and just concentrate on my ancestral families?  

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


The Lurking Genealogist said...

I have always wondered when "enough is enough" regarding my research. I also considered the fact that I want to leave behind quality research, or at least the research to the best of my ability. It is with that in mind that for the most part, I am working on my direct lines and the siblings down one generation. If I can do that well, then I will be leaving research that others can build on. I also think that others bear the responsibility of doing their research to the best of their ability. In fact, no one person can do it all and do it well. Just my thought.

JL Beeken said...

I'm interested in all my lines but more interested in the closer generations and the generations closer to my direct lines. After 6 or 8 generations even the direct lines seem somewhat 'collateral'. Since there are several co-researchers involved in these lines, who knows where the 'endpoint' is.

My collateral lines are someone else's direct lines and as far as accuracy goes, I do my best but when it comes down to it, I leave the collaterals to those someone elses. I've seen so much inaccuracy online (and in official records) for my direct lines, I figure that door swings both ways.

mbm1311 said...

My family is from Ireland and I'm so proud to be connecting these people together again. So I'm researching my collateral lines and FAN people (baptismal sponsors). Because it's such a big job I'm sticking to vital recs, obits and census. My goal is to create an accurate data base because I know from my husbands family that over time, some one(s) will pick up on that and do more research. With today's technology and repositories we have the chance to lay a great foundation for ongoing research.

Barbara Renick said...

I teach a class on evaluating what you have found (just did so at the Family History Expo in Mesa, AZ last weekend) where I explain ten points to use to evaluate what you have found (or compiled into a family group record) and if any three of those points is present you are out of luck and need to do more support research (FAN etc.) to strengthen your compilation. Thus the "3 Strikes and You're Out" name for that part of the lecture.