Become a Family History Detective - August 2023

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Become a Family History Detective

Building your family tree is about so much more than doing a search for vital records; it’s about applying what you find to understand your ancestry. Learn the analysis tools and research methods you need to understand your family’s history. In this course, you’ll learn how to analyze research evidence to extract meaning and apply the data you have to understanding your ancestry and fill in what’s missing. You’ll get step-by-step practical applications and a chance to practice your new skills.

Genealogy research isn’t just about finding records of your ancestor’s existence or building a pretty family tree. What can we learn from the records we find and how can we use that information to understand our past? In this 4-week course, you’ll learn analysis skills to assess each record and build a better understanding of your family history. You'll find the steps you need to gather sufficient evidence, fill in missing information and discover additional techniques that will improve your research and increase your knowledge. Finally, you’ll get case studies and practical applications so you can put your new analytical skills to use.

In Become a Family History Detective, you'll get:

  • Tools for analyzing your genealogical records
  • New ways to view existing information
  • What information can be extracted from different types of sources
  • How to use organizational approaches to analyze evidence
  • Tips for finding missing information based on what you know
  • How to search for patterns in your family tree
  • Translation tools and handwriting tips to understand details
  • Practical applications for your new research skills

DATE: August 28, 2023 - September 24, 2023

Course Outline

Lesson 1: Understanding Individual Sources

  • What IS the source?
    • Video: Evaluating the Source- 30 minutes
    • Is it original, derivative or authored?
    • Why does it matter?
    • How can I tell?
    • How do I find original sources if I’m looking at derivatives?
    • Is an image copy as good as the original?
    • What if the original source no longer exists?
  • What’s IN the source?
    • What can the source itself tell me about its contents?
    • What information does the source contain? What additional information may it suggest?
    • Who supplied the information?
    • Is it primary or secondary information?
    • How close in time to the events reported was the record created?
    • Why was the record created?
  • What is missing or unsaid?
  • Exercise

Lesson 2: Each Kind of Record Has a Story

  • Each record type has a back story
  • Records of vital events in the US
    • Overview: government, church and other records of vital events
    • Government birth records: detailed overview
    • Government marriage records: detailed overview
    • Government death records: detailed overview 
  • How to learn more about various record types
  • Video: Fact or Fiction: Evaluating Case Studies
  • Exercise

Lesson 3: Start Analyzing Evidence

  • How do I know this is my ancestor?
  • Extracting evidence
  • Direct, indirect and negative evidence
  • Analyzing multiple pieces of evidence in a single record
  • Organize what you’ve learned
    • Timelines
    • Maps
    • Narratives
  • Video: Indirect Evidence - 30 minutes
  • When Do I Have Sufficient Evidence?
  • Exercise

Lesson 4: Resolve the Conflicts and Fill the Gaps

  • Conflicting Evidence
    • Distinguishing between similar-looking individuals in historical records
    • Compare conflicting evidence
  • Strategies for Filling Gaps in Your Knowledge
    • Cluster and collateral research
    • Genetic genealogy
    • Crowd-sourcing your answers
    • Historical context
  • More Tools to Further Your Research
    • Language translation tools
    • Legal terminology
    • Handwriting helps
  • Exercise

Meet the Instructor

Shamele Jordon is a professional genealogist, producer, writer, and lecturer. Her biographical highlights include: award winning TV producer of Genealogy Quick Start; 2018 Best Independent Producer, Instructional/Training, presented by Alliance for Community Media; 2017 Learning Award Cammy presented by PhillyCAM, Philadelphia's public access station; 2019 Lawnside Education Foundation honoree; researcher for the PBS series Oprah’s Roots: African American Lives I and II; NJ State Library grant recipient, researching Civil War Burials in Lawnside, NJ; board member and faculty at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research, University of Athens, Ga, former president of the African American Genealogy Group in Philadelphia, workshop volunteer at the Family History Center in Cherry Hill, NJ.


How do Family Tree University workshops work?

Take the course at your own pace! 

From the course start date, you’ll be able to log in to view and access your lessons and start interacting on the discussion boards. Your instructor will check in regularly to answer all of the questions and provide feedback. You will have access to your courses anytime, anywhere, with a computer, tablet or smartphone, and can study when it's most convenient for you.

After the course end date, the course will become read-only for one year. You will continue to have access through your dashboard to the materials, but the discussion boards will be closed. The materials are yours to keep. You can download them onto your desktop to access online or offline.

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