Monday, January 18, 2016

Continuing Education: From the Known Into the Unknown

Often in our search for new information, and new names to add to our research, we forget the known: those sources we already have. If you are a member of more than one genealogical society you have valuable sources that should be revisited periodically. Those sources are your society journals.

Do you recognize yourself in the following: The journal arrives and you scan it quickly for surnames or geographical sites which pertain to your own research; then you either begin searching your own known files for a connection OR flag the article for later scrutiny. Genealogy may be your passion, but often real life interferes, so you set the latest journal aside to read later. Soon stacks of journals sit in your to be read stack. When you finally get around to reading even one issue, months (or sometimes years) have gone by. But whether you discover something or nothing, eventually the issue is stacked on a shelf.

What is missing from that process? You should periodically revisit those stacks. And you should locate back issues that are not in your collection. Sometimes you do not have to buy the back issues, you can simply find the issues at a library and make copies of the pages you need. Or, you can buy an index to the journals so that you can periodically search the index to update your research. Back issues of the New Mexico Genealogist, Herencia, and Nuestras Raices, often reveal new information that did not connect with your research when you originally read the journal, but now it does. So whether the journals are gathering dust on a shelf or the information is in a library or index, now is the time to return to the known and find the unknown.

Check with each society to see if they published an index. Without an index you must either peruse the Table of Contents or review each journal page by page. Sometimes you discover more than just a name or date to add to your charts, you discover collateral information that can open up a new approach to your research. Or you may learn about a library or reference facility that is new to you. I recommend reviewing these publications with the following in mind:

• Make sure you cite your sources. If you are entering the information directly onto a chart or into your computer’s genealogical program, be sure to note where it came from: the title of the article, the author, page numbers, the name of the journal, volume & issue, date of publication. If you are making a copy of the page(s), be sure you have this information with the pages: the name of the journal, volume & issue, date of publication. (Most journals list this information in the header at the top of the page or the footer at the bottom of the page, but not all of them do, so please check to see if you have the full source information.)

• Consider contacting the author of the article, they may have additional information that did not get published.

Copyright 2010 by Donie Nelson 

• Remember that none of these publications are the final authority. They are not primary sources, they are secondary sources. As such, they must be viewed as a directional signal, not as the final destination. The final authority is the original document, the primary source.