Oct 122011

 The Ancestry Insider has posted a series of rating scales to help assess one’s “genealogical maturity” based upon his earlier description of “Genealogical Maturity Model Definitions.”  At about the same time, Michael John Neill’s tip of the day is “Becoming a better genealogist is a daily process of growth.”  In March 2010 I used Ancestry Insider’s scale to rate myself.  Now, as part of the October assignment for our US-REC study group, I get to rate myself once again using those same scales.   I have added a new column (2011) to the tables I reported in 2010.  (A lower case “x” indicates that I am working on this area.)

# Level Sources 2010 2011
1 Entry Typically relies on compiled genealogies. X X
2 Emerging Mostly relies on compiled genealogies and online sources. X X
3 Practicing Uses a limited number of record types and repositories. Mostly relies on online and microfilmed sources. X X
4 Proficient Uses a wide variety of record types. Often contacts record custodians to obtain copies of high-quality sources.   X
5 Stellar Insightfully pursues research at multiple, targeted repositories, making use of a plethora of records and record types. “Burned counties” are not roadblocks.   x

I am rather comfortable with a wide variety of online sources — FamilySearch and Ancestry.com are my first go-to sources.  Over the past year and a half, I have been digitizing and integrating original records, documents, and pictures held by relatives (and new cousins found via internet searches).  I have been revising my primary database so that it reflects the sources used to extract information.  My next steps are to 1) visit the Midwest Genealogical Center to become acquainted with their resources, 2) a research trip to Youngstown, Ohio, and 3) I am registered for RootsTech 2012 and will spend three extra days in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library.

# Level Citations 2010 2011
1 Entry Captures URLs for online sources and citations for published sources. X X
2 Emerging Increasingly captures necessary information for manuscript sources. X X
3 Practicing Typically produces complete source citations. X X
4 Proficient Gives complete and accurate source citations including provenance and quality assessment. x x
5 Stellar Overcomes limitations of genealogical software to create well organized, industry standard reference notes and source lists. x X

This has been my major effort for the past year and a half.  I have developed in my Research Wiki my own citation templates, mostly based on ESM’s Evidence Explained.  All information entered into my Research Wiki contains complete source citations.  When I enter data into my RootsMagic 4 database, I use RM4’s templates to write source citations.  When templates are not available, I use the free form template to enter citations as present in my Research Wiki.  My short-coming in this area is that I have only periodically used RM4’s capacity to rate the quality of the source / information / evidence.  It will be necessary for me to review my citations in order to complete the task of quality assessment.

# Level Information 2010 2011
1 Entry Typically does not realize the need to judge information quality and has no basis for doing so. X X
2 Emerging Emerging realization that information quality differs. Muddles evaluation by thinking of primary/secondary sources instead of primary/secondary information, leading to muddled evaluation when sources contain both. X X
3 Practicing Judges information by source type, informant knowledge, and record timing. Applies “primary/secondary” to information instead of sources. X X
4 Proficient Additionally, learns history necessary to recognize and evaluate all explicit information in a source. x x
5 Stellar Additionally, utilizes implicit information in a source. Finds information in cases like illegitimacy that stump most researchers. x x

I finally understand the distinctions between original and derivative sources; primary and secondary information; and direct, indirect, and negative evidence.  I need to expand my exploration of relevant history so as to help understand better the context of my ancestor’s lives and to evaluate the information about them.

# Level Evidence 2010 2011
1 Entry Limited understanding of evidence and the role it plays. Typically ignores conflicting evidence. X X
2 Emerging Captures direct, supporting evidence and increasingly depends upon it. X X
3 Practicing Additionally, captures directly conflicting evidence.
4 Proficient Additionally, recognizes and captures indirect, supporting evidence. x x
5 Stellar Additionally, recognizes and captures indirect, conflicting evidence. x x

Most of my work with conflicting information has been the result of others with names the same as those of my ancestors.  I have also dealt with conflicting information about birth dates, death dates, etc.  I haven’t become proficient in this area, but am moving in that direction.

# Level Conclusions 2010 2011
1 Entry In the absence of analysis, reaches conclusions by instinct. X X
2 Emerging Learning to evaluate the quality of sources, information, and evidence. Emerging ability to resolve minor discrepancies. X X
3 Practicing Additionally, resolves conflicting evidence or uses it to disprove prevalent opinion. Usually applies correct identity to persons mentioned in sources.
4 Proficient Additionally, when necessary creates soundly reasoned, coherently documented conclusions utilizing direct and indirect evidence. x X
5 Stellar Additionally: Publishes clear and convincing conclusions. Teaches and inspires others. x x

I took a major step n this area a couple of months ago after an online feeding frenzy around data for my great-grandfather Aaron B. Knepper.  I developed a post  that sorted through the data using the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).  While I was dealing with information that was generally in agreement, the use of the GPS helped me develop “soundly reasoned” conclusions which were “coherently documented.”  As I said in a subsequent post, “ Having a copy of Mark Tucker’s visualization of the process involved in the Genealogical Proof Standard on my computer table, helped keep me on focus.  It was a reminder that Having the data was not enough.”

# Level Conclusion Trees 2010 2011
1 Entry Merges or combines individuals in trees without evidence. X X
2 Emerging Growing hesitancy to merge or combine individuals without evidence. X X
3 Practicing Never merges entire compiled genealogies into own tree. Contributes or changes community trees only with evidence.
4 Proficient Manages evidence separately from conclusion tree. Not interested in trusting high quality conclusions to a low maturity community tree. x X
5 Stellar Publishes highly respected conclusion trees. x x

I have recorded a lot of information from compiled genealogies.  I am currently revising my primary database to provide more soundly reasoned data with conclusive documentation.  This is a work in progress.

Category 2010 2011
Sources 3 4.5
Citations 4 4.5
Information 3.5 4
Evidence 4 4
Conclusions 3.5 4.5
Conclusion Trees 3 4.5
TOTAL 21 28

Range Maturity Level
6 – 11 1 – Entry
12 – 17 2 – Emerging
18 – 23 3 – Practicing
24 – 29 4 – Proficient
30 5 – Stellar

I suspect that my final score — toward the upper end of the “Proficient” range is slightly over-rated.  I do know that I have made a lot of improvements in my research techniques and my ability to process the information I find.  When I did the assessment in March 2010, I concluded with the following paragraph (which is still valid):

I would suggest two additional areas for assessment, both have to do with publishing data:  1) Collaboration  (What level of collaborative proficiency do I exhibit?  This could include:  random acts of genealogical kindness, sharing with & receiving data and sources from others, blogging…)     and    2) Story-telling  (Can I convert data into coherent and accurate stories about the people and families in my genealogy?  To what degree, do I integrate general historical data into the stories?)  As a genealogist who falls into the primary sub-category of “family historian” (rather than “professional genealogist”), my primary focus is the discovery and publishing of the stories that reside in the data (rather than just collecting, documenting, and publishing the data).  I do not mean to suggest that a family historian is not concerned about the accuracy of data and its sources, nor that a professional genealogist only cares about the data and its sources.    I believe, however, that there is a subtle difference of focus.

  One Response to “US-REC – October "Rating My Genealogical Maturity"”

  1. Bart, Wow! Color me impressed! I've got some serious work to do to even come close to what you have achieved.

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