Thursday, May 9, 2013

Day 2 at the NGS 2013 Conference

Here is what I remember from Day 2 at the NGS 2013 Conference in Las Vegas:

1)  The day started early...after a quick breakfast with Linda, I went to the Thomas W. Jones session at 8 a.m. on "Maximizing Your Use of Evidence."  Tom started this talk by noting that we all have research puzzle pieces that are not linked, and we need to understand how evidence analysis can help us put the pieces together to solve problems.  There were four major parts to this presentation:

(photograph courtesy of Scott Stewart, NGS photographer)

*  Defining and Categorizing Evidence -- he noted that we have been trained to be "fill in the blank" genealogists, and do not do enough research or analysis to understand the evidence we have.  He recommended that we trust no source, and that we may find no direct evidence for some ancestors.
*  Finding Evidence -- we should start with a focused and specific genealogical question - what do you want to know about an ancestor?  A source is a "container" with information, and information provides evidence, which is an answer and not a conclusion.
*  Evaluating Evidence -- sources created soon after the events reported have the greatest credibility.  He said that court records (land, probate, legal, tax, etc.) have the greatest credibility.
*  Using Evidence -- base conclusions on all of the evidence with all conflicts resolved, and explain the conclusions in writing.

Tom used several research cases from his experience to illustrate his points, and provided a two page list of NGSQ and other publications with source material on the use of genealogical evidence, and case studies that demonstrate the skillful use of evidence.

2)  After this talk, I went to the Blogger/Press area and set up my laptop.  I skipped the 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. sessions in order to post my NGS blog compendium, chat with my blogging colleagues, and visit many of the exhibitors.  I had excellent conversations with Amy Crow at the exhibit, with Katie and Chris Chapman at the Geungle exhibit,  and the folks at the Boston University exhibit.  At 11 a.m., I joined the group at the Geungle exhibit (big comfy chairs!) to discuss how to get Generation Y interested in genealogy, led by Terri O'Connell and Jen Baldwin.

I left there to go to lunch at the SportsBook Deli - had an Italian hoagie this time.  I went back to the exhibit hall for a while and wandered a bit, then went off to my meeting at 12:30 p.m.  I returned at 1:45 p.m. to ponder going to the 2:30 p.m. session.  I did!

3)  At 2:30 p.m., I attended Elizabeth Shown Mills' presentation on "Information Overload? Effective Project Planning, Research, Data Management, and Analysis."  Elizabeth noted that "time management is a critical analysis tool."  And "we need to maintain the 'body of evidence' in a way that enables us to digest it, analyse it, and correlate it with everything we have found."  This presentation presented a framework for any project, built on sound practices that take us from problem analysis to problem resolution.

(photograph courtesy of Scott Stewart, NGS photographer)

Elizabeth advocates using two different report formats to use for every research problem - a Research Report and a Research Note report for each individual.  The Research Report would include the information obtained in the first three stages of gathering and processing research information - Problem Analysis, Creation of a Work Plan, and Doing the Research.  She recommended using a word processor for these tasks, and provided an outline for the report, and an example report for the Problem Analysis and Work Plan stages.

The Research Note Report is used to do the fourth stage - Data Sorting.  Basically, the researcher should create a chronological list of life events for an individual, including the information obtained (either transcribed or abstracted) for each event, along with any research and analysis comments about the information, and a complete source citation.  She recommended using a word processor for this also, and provided an outline for this report.  She stated that information should be entered into a genealogy software program only after these reports have been written.  Data from the word processor generated reports can be copy/pasted into the software program fields.  Elizabeth noted that, at present, RootsMagic is the only software program that produces a Research Note Report that includes the elements described above.  She finished with "we need to be analytical, it doesn't matter if it's high-tech or low-tech."

4)  After the 2:30 talk, I returned to the Blogger area, and then went off to talk to other exhibitors - Laurie Buzbee at the RootsMagic exhibit, Janet Hovorka at the Family Chart Masters exhibit, and Brian Speckart at the FindMyPast exhibit.

5)  At 4:40 p.m., I left the Exhibit Hall and went back to our room, and Linda and I went to dinner at the oh-so-ritzy, but smoke-free, SportsBook Deli (since the Paradise Cafe is open for dinner on only Friday and Saturday nights now.  I had a cheeseburger and some of Linda's salad and carrots. Then we went to the Elvis impersonator show - "The King," starring Trent Carlini in the Shimmer Cabaret.  He was pretty good, but it was only 75 minutes and he did a limited number of songs.  Afterwards, Linda bought the CD and had a picture taken with him.

6)  I note that I've attended seven sessions so far, and missed three.  That may be my best "batting average" for any conference!

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Copyright (c) 2013, Randall J. Seaver


Anonymous said...

>Elizabeth advocates using two different report formats to use for every research problem...

Must be nice to have that much time!

Elizabeth Lapointe said...


This is your best ever summary of the day's events.

There is so much to learn from Tom and Elizabeth - the No # 1 speakers at genealogy conferences!!!


Nancy said...

Thank you for sharing so much detail about the sessions you attended. I really appreciate it.

Ginger Smith said...


Thanks for the summary of these two really important presentations, especially Elizabeth Shown Mills'.

I had been struggling with trying to figure out exactly what she was telling us to do and I think you nailed it.

Also good to know she equated RootsMagic with such power and ability.

Also, nice tips on using a Word Processor first, then using your genie software.