The featured keynote address was presented by Anne Gillespie Mitchell who is a Senior Product Manager at Ancestry.com. Anne was very easy to listen to. She was realistic about researching and was able to make the information she presented easy to follow and practical. I would definitely like to attend another presentation given by Anne.
Anne gave an informative talk entitled “How do I Know When I am Right?” This is a question we frequently ask ourselves as we are researching. There are no easy answers but Anne presented some good basic steps for helping us determine the answer to this question.
Anne talked about:
- gathering the information you have on the person you would like to research
- determining what question you’d like to ask
- developing a statement/hypothesis you would like to prove or disprove
- gathering records from a variety of sources about your question
- determining how reliable the source of the information you have gathered is
- exhausting all the resources you can
- making a judgment call to determine whether you believe your information proves or disproves your hypothesis at this moment in time (Remember-There may be more information available at a later date that changes what you think.)
Some general research ideas she shared are:
- find someone who is doing the type of research you may be doing (e.g. Swedish ancestry, etc.) and read about the techniques they use
- look for recorded webinars such as Ancestry Academy to find other ideas for searching
- look at witnesses/informants to aid in your research
Anne also presented a valuable workshop entitled “ Finding & Researching Women”. Those of us doing research on women know all too well the frustration of finding very little information related to our female ancestors. We can find information but we need to do some digging.
Anne had some good tips and tricks to guide our work:
- research everyone in the family (Cluster Research). Other family members such as children, parents, siblings may make reference to the woman you are researching. People generally lived in clusters.
- define who the woman is
- differentiate the woman from other people in the family
- build a timeline of all the information you have on the woman (dates children were born, marriages, birth, death, etc.)
- develop a question you have about this woman
- determine what you want to prove or disprove
- while researching determine the reliability of the information you find
- write a summary of the woman based on your research to tell her story
A very valuable thought Anne had for us is….when we learn new techniques for researching that we start using today, remember to go back over old research and try the new techniques with that as well.
I had time to attend one other workshop today. There were several other presentations offered but I choose one entitled “Using Newspapers as a Research Tool” presented by Del Ritchard. While I have a subscription to Newspapers.com and Ancestry.com and I’ve used a few other free sites I was VERY surprised and pleased to hear about a lot of other free sites that I hadn’t thought of or known about, such as;
- Chronicling America
- Google News Archive
- Stanford Newspaper Data Visualization
- ProQuest Historical Newspapers
- …..to name a few
And all of this was before noon. Great way to start the day! Now it’s just finding the time to put these new ideas in to practice.