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Proformat News
No: 106
December 2014
December Seminars
There are no seminars planned for December.

January Seminars
There are no seminars planned for January.

The WEA of SA has planned a large number of family history seminars and historical walks for 2015. They can be viewed at the Adelaide Proformat website.

See the seminar program for more details and bookings.

Devon Parish Registers
FindMyPast has added a huge number of registers to their website. They now have available baptism, burial and marriage records from over 500 parishes in this county.

Essex Ancestors
This is the website for the Essex Record Office. Find out more about their collection and how to access, including by subscription, from their YourTube video. The cost of an annual subscription is quite steep, however, the images available are of a very high quality. Unfortunately the parish registers are not indexed but Wills are and if digitised are indicated.

In this issue:
December Seminars
January Seminars

Devon Parish Registers
Essex Ancestors

Feature article
Revisiting some basic principles


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Revisiting some basic principles 3

In the last issues, we started working through what Graham Jaunay considers to be the basic principles in family history research and the first three were outlined.

Three were detailed in the first newsletter in this series…

Always work from the known to the unknown
Never assume anything
Be objective

The following mentioned in the last newsletter addressed organisation…

Be organised and systematic
Develop a planned research strategy
Maintain a set of research log books to manage your research program
Plan visits to repositories thoroughly

This issue will complete these basic points that can only help a research program and promote success, if success is possible!

Seek out and accept good advice
Starting out on a research program one needs to locate information that will lead to locating the appropriate records. It will soon become apparent that this is a very complex exercise and even the most experienced researcher will sooner or later come across something that is new. One of the better ways of gaining greater understanding of the potential of material available and how to access it is by joining the local family history society. These organisations are overflowing with helpful people from the long term volunteers who know what there is to know about the collection though to the researcher sitting at the next table! We cannot underestimate the collective knowledge held by people in local family history societies. Maybe the society has a segment in their journal you can use to gain assistance? Some societies operate a mail list.

Widely advertise your research interests
There are two strings to the researcher's bow and locating distant relatives is the one that is often overlooked. Ironically it is the one with the greater potential for success. Locating distant relatives means working back up your family tree and down the lines evolving from your ancestors' siblings. The principle behind this approach is that it is very likely that a family branch may hold or know the information your seek. In fact the more remote the relationship is the greater the chance of discovering new information! Once you have approached your immediate family and your extended family you need to seek out your remote, that is your 2nd cousins and beyond to see what they know. While this can be done by developing the twigs and branches of your tree a more effective way is to advertise your interests in appropriate genealogy sites. After all if your remote relative is trawling the same sites you can be sure they share your interest in research too!

Consider some of these strategies…
      • create a family history web page
      • include your research interests in family history magazines
      • write a brief article for your local society journal
      • create a Facebook account purely for your family history
      • use social media like Twitter: tag to spread your message (eg #genealogy)

Be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of primary and secondary resources
The second line of enquiry involves locating records. As you record the gathered data into your instruments, you will inevitably come across gaps in the record. Compiled records or secondary records are records that have already been researched by others, such as biographies, family histories, or genealogies that may be on microfilm, microfiche, in books or in a computer. Original records or primary records are records that were created at or near the time of an event, such as birth, marriage, death registrations or census records or court transcripts and so on.

Finding compiled records doesn't mean that there will be mistakes or wrong information but you do need to check! Look for compiled records first as they are often more readily available (especially online), and then search for original records. This strategy could save you lots of time, money and effort.

Use indexes appropriately
It can be inappropriate to use an index alone without accessing the documentation it is indexing. Apart from the fact an index is only an access guide to material, it will not hold all of the available information. Being on your computer makes searching a little easier than if it was in a book or a card catalogue but that is all the advantage you have. As with all indexes the system is only as good as the indexers’ skills. For example in the case of the data at the web site of FamilySearch, most of the material was input by data entry operators in Salt Lake City and is therefore very American and some basic family history principles observed by genealogists worldwide have been ignored.

Understand the need to collaborate facts with independent sources wherever possible
The further one goes back in time the more difficult this objective becomes. We are often very thankful for just one isolated piece of information. However, we need to at least attempt to corroborate every fact to ensure the likelihood of its accuracy.

Record your sources clearly and concisely
Make sure you record where and when you found the record. A source is the record, obscure or informal, from which we get our information. Include the repository’s reference too. Your sourcing should be such that anyone else can easily find the same record! Sourcing your work ensures that anyone who picks up where you left off doesn't have to retrace your steps and can have confidence that your facts come from reliable sources.

Consider the following elements:
      • Author
      • Title
      • Publisher's details and publication date
      • Name of the repository holding the record and its call number
      • Specific information for the piece of data you found (such as page number, etc)
Not every one of these is used in every circumstance. If the source is someone's recall is such an example.

Evaluate your findings in the light of the reliability of the source
The first stage of evaluating your sources takes place before you do any researching. Take a minute to ask yourself what exactly you are looking for. Then ask yourself what source or what kind of source would be the most credible for providing information in this particular case? This links back to a previous principle—plan visits to repositories thoroughly.

Once you have the record you need to ensure it is the right one and to evaluate its accuracy. Does it contain information at variance from what you already know? If it does, how are you going to address this? You evaluation and the consequential comment against the record strengthens the reliability of your work. Thus when recording your material or writing your history you can qualify the facts accordingly.
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