My name is Jenny, and I'm a hot mess when it comes to public speaking. (Hi, Jenny!) So it makes perfect sense that I would volunteer to do a presentation to a group of people, right?
As I've mentioned before, I am a member of Genealogists in Second Life. We started a book club in which we are reading The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood (2000). At our meeting in August, the call was made for volunteers to present the next two chapters. Sometimes I think my mouth (actually, in this case it was my hands because I was typing) reacts before my brain has a chance to catch up ... but I volunteered. In my mind, it was justified because I only offered to do one of the chapters. Follow me so far?
I presented Chapter 4 - Evaluation of Evidence. Given my background as a paralegal, I thought talking about evidence would be right up my alley. It was a very interesting chapter, to say the least. It truly gave me a new perspective on how to evaluate genealogical evidence. I even had nice little PowerPoint slides!
We talked about how we need to be neutral and objective in our evaluation of evidence. Elizabeth Shown Mills, in Evidence Explained! (2007) says "our role is not to defend or to prosecute. Our objective should not be to promote any certain image or any particular point - only to discover and explain."
We discussed Greenwood's descriptions of the different types of evidence (direct, indirect, collateral, and hearsay) as well as different types of information (primary and secondary). Primary information is not always direct evidence, and does not necessarily warrant more weight in your analysis than secondary information that is direct evidence. James Tanner at Genealogy's Star has several terrific posts discussing evidence and proof in detail.
One of the big points I wanted to make during my presentation was this:
Truly, this cannot be stressed enough.
We ended with a discussion about the standards of proof and the Genealogical Proof Standard set out by the Board for Certification of Genealogists.
It seemed to go pretty well. I was glad that we were only in voice chat during the presentation, so no one could tell what a nervous wreck I was. I have a whole new level of respect for you folks who get up in front of hundreds of people time after time. I would be a drunken mess. But all is well ... I survived (thanks to my fellow genealogists in Second Life, who are wonderfully patient). Now I have to get ready to do my first in-person presentation to my genealogical society in November (yes, another volunteer request). Seriously, is there a 12-step program for people like me?