Genealogy Case Studies: Examples of How to Play the Game

Some of you may be familiar with genealogy football. Some of you may not. Some of you may not care. That’s okay, but just as film study is important to a football team’s success, case studies are important to the genealogist.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) began to codified standards back in 2000. Since that time Genealogy Standards has become rule book in the field. As we have learned, the rules are subject to change and expanded. The latest edition was released back in March. Although there are standards, every genealogist has their own playbook. BCG has not prescribed one way to research, although there are best practices. Reviewing case studies is like studying another team’s playbook. There is so much to glean and apply to your own research.   

Case studies are also like watching film from another team and there’s an excellent example that was presented at the 2019 Joy Reisinger Memorial Lecture Series held at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City last Friday. 

Enough Football: What is Reasonably Exhaustive Research?

Elizabeth Shown Mills presented her lecture, “Reasonably Exhaustive Research: The First Criteria for Genealogical Proof.” This particular case took her 1002 hours—no small feat—but the outcome had many in virtual attendance cheering her success as they experienced their own ah-ha moments.

I highly recommend that you download the syllabus, which provides a diagram and an explanation of her “Bull’s Eye” as well as a list of self-evaluation questions. It also provides leads to further study including background for the case study presented, a list of resources to pursue self-instruction, and examples of reasonably exhaustive research (RER).

At the end of the day, another 1000-hour case study was presented by Rick Sayre titled, “Reconstructing an Entrepreneurial Woman’s Life: From Family Intrigue to Water Rents.” Although it has received fewer views thus far, the lecture and syllabus are very informative, including information on city directories and other sources. I was actually in attendance at this lecture. There were some technical difficulties, but the lecture resumed and LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson, the newly elected BCG President, and I both commented that we learned about a new tax. It might be new to you, too!

Where Do I Find Case Studies?

Legacy Family Tree Webinars is a great place to find case studies for viewing. The weekly webinars are available for one week without a subscription. For a nominal fee of $49.95 these webinars can be accessed anytime, along with the accompanying syllabi, and other benefits, including bonus webinars.

If you prefer reading actual text, there are 5 genealogical journals that provide excellent case studies for your enlightenment:

The American Genealogist (TAG)

The Genealogist

The National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ)

The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (The Register)

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record  (The Record)

Digital access to TAG is available through the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS). Membership to NEHGS also provides access to its own publication, The Register. The Genealogist requires an annual subscription and it is published twice a year in the spring and in the fall. The NGSQ is published by the National Genealogical Society and included with membership. The Record is associated with the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B).

This summer I found an article written by Thomas W. Jones titled, “Getting the Most from Case Studies in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.”  This complimentary article is available on the NGS website.

If the cost of subscription to any of these journals is prohibitive, take heart. There may be a library near you that houses past and present issues in its periodicals section. 

By the way, not all case studies require 1000+ hours of research. Sometimes it may just feel like it. But, if you’re wondering what it takes to prove your case, Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones will provide answers. This book is on the recommended reading list for just about every course in genealogical studies. 

Published case studies are a lifelong learning opportunity. No one knows everything, but we can all learn from each other and expand our knowledge and skill through case studies. This is what community, the genealogy community, is all about!  

Here’s to an exciting season of genealogical research!

Cheering you on from the bleachers!

Note: Although every blogger can use funds to cover expenses and publish more often, this post does not contain any affiliate links. 

© 2019 Lynn Broderick, a.k.a., the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

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