Friday, June 15, 2007

Answering Questions

I have barely lifted my head from all the course work and home work and great info that I've been learning this week at the Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

I'm giving it a big plug here because if you happen to be one of the millions of people who are interested in tracing family and local history, Samford's June institute should be on your Christmas list -- or whatever other list you make that has those things on it that you really want to do.

A few years back when I had pretty much "exhausted" the easy stuff in my research and was focusing on thornier problems, I started reading the journals in the field and discovered the real reason people write journal articles about "The Hassenhoffers of Holmberg: Who were Ambrose's Parents?"

As I don't have any Hassenhoffers, I didn't much care who Ambrose's parents were. And I discovered a lot of other people didn't, either. But they read the article to learn how the researcher solved the problem. And reading it for that reason -- and re-reading it again and again, studying HOW other more knowledgeable researchers have resolved some of their trickier problems -- has been an eye opener.

It also led me to Samford and IGHR. This is where the Big Dogs -- many of the most knowledgeable and practiced genealogical researchers -- ccome to teach the rest of us what they've learned.

And it is where we who are curious enough to want to go beyond the basics and try to learn more about who these people really were in our own families or the areas in which we are interested can go to get some new ideas and more effective methods of doing that research. It's where we can go to learn about different less shopworn sources and, even more, about how to really squeeze what we already know for more clues and, perhaps (heaven forbid) even answers!

This year I took Elizabeth Shown Mills's course in Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis. My head is simply spinning with ideas of ways to tackle my elusive Mr Hazel
and to learn more about the neighborhoods of the areas in which I am interested.

Last year I had a heady experience going beyond the basics back in Cornwall when I was doing research. I got into the old manorial records. It was great stuff. And I got some great clues -- and even some answers. But after this week, I can see now new ways of approaching my southern research as well as several of the others that I have.

I also see how this relates to writing (Everything relates to writing!) and to understanding motivation. Faced with five guys who could be Anny Hazel's husband, which one really is? The one who acts like he is -- the one who has dealings with her family, who turns up in the same places they do, who does not show indications of being married to someone else or a footloose bachelor or a man on his last legs.

I'm trying to narrow down who I want to write the next book about. I'm also doing laundry and preparing to fly out on Thursday to visit my son and his wife and the somewhat more than 7/9ths baby. Can hardly wait!


Blogger Madeline said...

Hi Anne, Wow! It sounds like you learned quite a bit from that course. My youngest sister traced my fathers Polish family and found out that our real family name had almost every letter in the alphabet in it. Some family members have broken it down into at least 4 different names. We have cousins that we never knew were related to us because of the different last names. What a difficult task my sister had. I'm glad she chose to do it instead of me.

Have fun visiting your son, his wife and their more than 7/9ths baby. Will this be their first or do they have any other children?

All the best, Mads:)

18 June, 2007  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Hi Mads

I have friends who are doing Polish genealogy and they, too, have found lots of spelling variations. It's a challenge, all right. Great that your sister tackled it. I'm sure she enjoyed the challenge, just as I do.

I'm looking forward to the visit to my son's. This is their first child, so they are excited. The shower is this weekend, which is one reason I'm going.


19 June, 2007  

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