Stop Multitasking

Ok, so it’s not just a genealogy tip.

Our laptop is on the fritz and my daughter wanted to use the desktop. I was forced to read some homestead case files without the internet and email as a distraction.

And guess what?

I noticed three things I had not noticed the first time I read through the papers. The first time I had read them while I was “waiting” on webpages or search results to load.

Is multitasking your problem? Would you notice more details in a record or a file if it had your complete attention?

Could you be wrong?

I realize it would never happen to any “Tip of the Day” readers, but could you possibly have made a mistake at some point in your research? Sometimes the misake isn’t consequential, but in some cases it could be.

While citing my sources for an issue of “Casefile Clues,” I reviewed an illustration for an article I wrote years ago and which I have used in countless lectures. When footnoting one of the items used to compile the chart, I realized that I had a marriage year listed two years off. It was clearly just a typo and did not impact my conclusion, but it was still wrong.

Could you have made a mistake or typed something incorrectly? Is it possible that the mistake has an impact on a conclusion?

Just a thought. It could happen to anyone. After all, we are human (grin!).

Who was the Informant?

Think about that marriage record for your great-grandparents that gives the names of their parents. Think about that 1900 census form that provides the place of birth for the parents.

Do you really know who provided that information? Did the bride give some of the groom’s information? Did the groom provide some of the groom’s information? Did the wife in a 1900 census enumeration simply guess at where her in-laws were born? Very possible.

And since most of us were not there when our great-grandparents’ wedding or when the 1900 census was taken, the only thing we can do is conjecture about who answered those questions.

Is the informant the problem?

How Secondary is it?

This post includes thoughts…without necessarily answers.

If my daughter tells someone her date of birth, she is a secondary source of that date. She has no first hand knowledge of her date of birth.

If I tell someone that today is my daughter’s 21st birthday (which it isn’t, but pretend that it is), is that secondary? I was present at the birth, but if I say it or write it down 21 years later is that record primary or secondary? If I write it down with a month of her birth, that probably would be considered primary. But what about 21 years after the fact, even if I had first hand knowledge of the event?

The Importance of Citing as You Go

As I continue to integrate complete citation of sources into Casefile Clues, the importance of citing sources as research is done and compiled becomes increasingly important to me.

It takes less time to create the citation and documentation as the research is done instead of months or years later. And saving time allows for more research time.

It is not all in Salt Lake

I know I have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating. The Family History Library in Salt Lake has a wonderful collection of material.

But they do not have everything.

There are millions of documents and records that have never been microfilmed or digitized. These documents are in many locations, but most of these are in local county courthouses. You might be surpised what court records are there in addition to other local records that have not been microfilmed.

This is true even for counties that have been heavily “filmed.”