Friday, June 10, 2011

Inferential Genealogy - Case 2

This is my third post in the Inferential Genealogy series.  My previous posts can be found below:

Post 1
Post 2

The IG study group met on Tuesday, June 7 to discuss Case 2.  All I can say about Case 2 is ... it kicked my butt.  I don't profess to be a genealogy genius or anything, but I've certainly done my fair share of research on- and off-line.  If this course was meant for beginners, they must grow 'em pretty hearty over there at FamilySearch.

At the beginning of the case, we were told of a published family history that gave a grand story about Obediah Overton and something about how he was linked to George Washington, blah blah blah ... which turned out to be complete and utter fiction.  Then we learned that Obediah Overton actually "ended up" in Orange County, Virginia.  That's pretty much it.  No date of birth, no place of birth, nothing.  Our focused goal was to identify the parents of Obediah Overton from Orange Co., VA.  Piece o' cake, right?  Yeah ... 

Anyway, we were given a series of 8 documents ranging from deeds to tax lists to wills and marriage records.  I took copious notes on each document (mainly due to the technical difficulties we were experiencing with the journal portion of the course, but also because I was so stinkin' confused that I had to draw myself a picture).  Of the 8 documents we were given, one ... yes, one ... had the name of Obediah Overton.

Long story short, there were several problems with Case 2 that would not allow my brain to draw a conclusion - even a far-reaching one - about the identity of Obediah's parents.

  1. The documents were "recreations."  I'm still trying to figure out the reasoning behind not using the actual documents.  It can't possibly be a copyright issue.  Whatever the reason, the recreated documents were horrible.  For example, names were either misspelled or a different name altogether (Howerton was written "Harrison," Moore was written "Morris," etc.) or the document clearly said "Overton" but the instructor was saying "Howerton."
  2. We never got to see the entire document.  Granted, we were told what the document was and what it contained, but references were made to information on the document that we were not able to see.  Is that any way to analyze a document?
  3. The instructor had a LOT more information that we did (obviously), and made what appeared to be "giant leaps for genealogy kind."  They may or may not have been assumptions on his part, but we had no evidence to back them up.  It made it very difficult to follow the facts.
  4. Because we weren't given the date of Obediah's birth, it was very hard to place him within a timeline of the documents we were given or relative to the other people named in the documents.
Now, all of that being said ... let me tell you the positive things I got out of Case 2:
  1. I am SO going to search out tax records for everyone in my tree!  Apparently, the tax assessor knew everything.  And everyone.  Fair warning all you people in the tax offices in Indiana, Missouri, and South Dakota ... I'll be calling on you.
  2. You never realize how much information is contained in one document until you can't see the whole thing.  I have gotten so used to skimming a document for a date, a name, and a place that I forget to look at all the other stuff.  Won't be doing that anymore.
  3. Timelines.  I'm pretty sure I mentioned it before ... and I usually keep one for the person I'm researching.  It never occurred to me to do a timeline for the documents too.
So, it wasn't a complete waste of time.  There is definitely room for improvement as far as the information we are given, but it's still a good course.  We'll be reviewing Case 3 at Just Genealogy in SecondLife on Sunday, July 19 at 5:15 p.m. Pacific time.  Our IG study group has outgrown the Family History Centre (I think we had over 45 people at the last meeting), so we are now meeting at the Tabernacle that is caddy-corner to the Centre.

If Case 3 is anything like Case 2, I'm glad we have a little over a week to get it done!  (Especially now that my final algebra class is underway ... I'm really wishing I had a fast-forward button on that).


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