Today, Diana and I are talking about analyzing your sources – the next thing to do in your research project after creating an objective. In order to establish what you know and determine how reliable it is, you must analyze the source, information, and evidence on a record.
Start by gathering up all the sources that you’ve already found. Talk to close relatives who have knowledge or information about the project. Check online family trees including Ancestry, RootsWeb, FamilySearch Family Tree Genealogies, etc.
Diana tells about how it’s easy to make a timeline in google sheets or excel with the events of your relative’s life. As you add dates and places, you may notice things that don’t add up. This will help you analyze the information you have, find inconsistencies, and ask questions to guide your research plan.
As you record all the events in the timeline, you might have questions and ideas. It might be tempting to go search for an answer online right away. We discuss how to stay focused and not get distracted with searching the web as soon as you have a thought about something else. Start a bulleted list of questions in your Research Project Document (found in our book, Research Like a Pro), or Nicole’s blog post, “Doing a Genealogy Research Project from Start to Finish.” Another place to record thoughts and comments while creating your timeline is to add column for comments.
Diana tells about how sometimes she makes a timeline, and sometimes a chronology. When she dives deeper into the analysis of the evidence of each source, she uses a chronology in a document instead of a spreadsheet.
We go over the three aspects of analysis – source, information, and evidence. Source analysis includes determining whether it is original, derivative, or authored. Information can be primary, secondary, or undetermined. Evidence can be direct, indirect, or negative. We discuss examples of these and why it’s important to analyze what you already know within this framework of evidence analysis.
Purchase our book Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide on Amazon
Research Like a Pro Part 2, Analyze Your Sources blog post by Diana
RootsWeb World Connect Family Trees
Genealogies at FamilySearch Family Tree
Elements of Genealogical Analysis by Robert Charles Anderson (This is an affiliate link – if you purchase through this link, we receive a commission. Thanks!)
The FamilySearch Catalog: A Researcher’s Best Friend – Diana’s blog post about the FamilySearch Catalog
Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills (This is an affiliate link – if you purchase through this link, we receive a commission.) On page 37, ESM discusses a record’s timeliness – even though a source may be original, it may have been created months or years after the event it records.
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I learned a lot from the pod cast. I didn’t make the connection that different parts of the census could be direct evidence. For instance I thought the birth year on a census was indirect because the full date isn’t given. I think that is a carryover in my mind of how Family Tree is set up; when attaching a source to the Birth Fact you are sourcing full date and place all at once. But I can see that it is direct evidence to the year. Also I never made the connection that the residence on a census is also primary and direct. Thanks for giving good examples of these nuances. I also thought the bad birth certificate was a good example. Again another nuance, the wrong date of birth is still direct evidence. I think I’ve been tripping over Direct and Indirect as somewhat meaning False and True. Thank you.
Also went out to a link in one of the articles to Nicole’s research of Lucinda and looked at all the documents she prepared. That was very helpful; I realized my timeline could use some improvement on some things I wasn’t getting quite right. Can’t wait to do the localities lesson. This is a fabulous class !
Stacy, I’m so glad the class and podcast are helping you! Yes, there are many things to consider when analyzing our sources and the more we pay attention to the details, the better researchers we become. Have fun with the rest of the course!
Do you add national/world events in a timeline? Thanks!
Great question! I don’t typically add those events – however if there is something significant that would help in research planning or understanding the time and place, by all means, add it.