Wednesday, September 27, 2006

CVGS Research Group does Annie Moore

My local society, the Chula Vista Genealogical Society (south of San Diego, 80 members), has a monthly research group that discusses research techniques and helps attendees with their brick wall problems. It's been going about three years now, and has been instrumental in growing our society membership. We average 10 to 15 attendees each month.

We did something different today - I gave them a research problem - Annie Moore (which they had heard about, but knew no details) - providing only what we knew about her in the 1892 newspaper articles. I asked them what genealogy resources they would investigate if it was their problem.

We went around the room twice, and got some interesting responses - 16 in all. There was the obvious (federal census, city directories, birth, marriage and death records, church, newspapers, WWI draft registration for the brothers, probate, property, taxes, naturalization, cemetery) and a few others that were not as obvious (the Irish Moore family, NYC museums or historical societies, state census records, school records). The group figured out that they should research the parents and the brothers in addition to Annie herself. We did all that in about 30 minutes.

I then told them how the researchers solved the problem in about 6 weeks, and about Megan's press conference and presentation at NYGBS. I read one of the Irish Echo articles that described the research and the outcome. We passed the death, census and WWI draft documents around, in addition to Sharon Elliott's list of homes and lower Manhattan map. All in all, it was a great 30 minutes.

I gave them an A for their effort. They identified all of the important research avenues, but didn't know exactly what records were available. We discussed how many of the records were not available on the Internet.

This exercise points out the value of doing a "group-think" on thorny research problems. Somebody usually comes up with a great suggestion for the researcher to follow up on. The absolute best times in the group are when they report back on the results of their searches - and found data based on the group responses.

Does your society have this "bias-for-action" - the willingness to attack thorny research problems and to help each other? If not, you might want to consider a research group.

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