track and document research tasks from planning to completion, ensuring you never forget a search you planned to carry out, or duplicate one that you've already made
keep a list of sources and where they can be accessed
generate a printed "ToDo list" for a visit to a repository, to help you make the most of your time there
construct consistent citations for your sources based upon templates that you determine, and copy those citations to your family history program
document the reasoning for your conclusions about people and events in your family tree
relate tasks and sources to research subjects (people, surnames, places and other topics) so that you can see at a glance what research you've already done about that subject and what you have planned
A Source is a document, a register, a publication, a website, an artifact, a person... anything, in fact, that might (or does) hold information about a subject of your research.
Sources are classified according to whether they are Original or Derivative, which is important when deciding how to interpret them. An Original source is material in its first recorded form — for example, a Parish Register filled in by the Vicar who was (presumably) present at the events he records, or an original will, or a gravestone, or the tape recording of an interview with Aunt Mabel. A Derivative source is a copy, transcription, extraction, translation, compilation, publication or summarisation of information from a previously existing source (which might in itself be a Derivative or an Original Source) — for example the Bishops Transcripts made by a Vicar to send to his Bishop (derived from the original Parish Registers), or the GRO Indices of Births Marriages and Deaths (derived from the Registers of Birth Marriages and Deaths kept by Local Register Offices), or the digital copies of Census Returns that are widely available. Although original sources can contain errors (the absent-minded vicar who forgot the name of the baby he had just baptised), derivative sources are particularly prone to human error in their making — for example, missing pages in a digital copy, mis-transcriptions in an index, or the misinterpretation of abbreviations for places.
A Repository is a place (physical or on-line) where you can gain access to one or more Sources. A repository and a sources can be linked using an Access record, specifying the reference ("Call") by which the repository identifies the source and the format in which the source is held. This is most useful when generating a ToDo list for a given repository (described under Tasks below).
Tasks are the means within GenQuiry to plan and track your research. A Task is a distinct research activity, using a single Source for a specific objective. You can specify the objective broadly or narrowly, and (depending on how you choose to use sources) use a specific or generic source.
Examples of Tasks include:
- Locate the birth of Mary Maybury in the England and Wales GRO Indices between January 1860 and December 1865, possibly in the Black Country somewhere. (Narrow objective, specific source)
- Extract all occurrences of the Bradbury surname in the Parish Registers of Long Eaton, Derbyshire. (Broad objective, specific source)
- Discover what sources are available covering deaths in New South Wales, Australia in the late 1900's. (Specific objective, unknown source)
You can assign a Priority to a Task, and track progress from Planned through In Progress to Completed and possibly Recorded (used to show that the results of that task have been added to your genealogy database). You can record the interim and final results in as much detail as you like, linking to external files or adding supplementary notes. If you have information about the Task in physical format (for example, hand written notes) you can record a reference to that as well.
If you link Sources to Repositories, you automatically make a link between each Repository and the Tasks that can be carried out there (based on the Sources used by those Tasks). This allows a ToDo List to be printed for a Repository, listing tasks that are not yet complete in priority order, grouped by their associated sources (for which the format and Repository's Call information, if known, are displayed). If you choose not to link sources to repositories, you can still generate a ToDo list of all incomplete tasks.
People and Groups
A Person is somebody who is (or was or may be) of interest in your research, for any reason. For example:
- a potential or proven member of your family tree;
- somebody living at a Place that you are researching;
- somebody mentioned in a Source that you have consulted.
A Place may be:
- a primary subject of your research, if you are interested in local history or doing a one-place study;
- associated with members of your family tree, because events in their life happened (or may have happened) there;
- associated with a Source, either because that source has specific geographic coverage, or because the source mentions it.
When researching family history, Places are particularly useful when associated with Sources — you can then review all the Sources associated with a Place to perhaps suggest further searches you can make when looking for traces of an individual.
A Topic is any research subject that is not a Person or Place, for example "Coal Mining in the 19th Century", or "The Welsh Language", or "Genealogy Best Practices". A Topic may be:
- a primary subject of your research, if you are interested in general history or investigating an aspect of your ancestors' day-to-day lives;
- used to categorise reference material that may be of use in your research, by creating Source records for the reference material and linking them to the Topic.
Assertions and Evidence
A Note is a piece of formatted text (up to 65,000 characters) that can be used (for example) for working notes about a research activity. You can link notes to sources, tasks, assertions or research subjects, or create standalone Notes (which can be Tagged) if you wish - useful for jotting down thoughts that have not (yet) turned into fully defined tasks. Because a Note can be linked to more than one record, they also provide another option for organising your work.
A Media record is a pointer to a file or website outside GenQuiry, (for example) an electronic copy of a source, or a spreadsheet document holding the nitty-gritty detail of a search, or the hand-polished version of a Proof Statement. You can link as many Media records as you like to a Source, Task or Assertion, and open the associated file or website without leaving GenQuiry. Media records offer you the ability to access information you've already accumulated without re-entering it, and the option of using your existing methods of recording research results alongside GenQuiry.
- We conduct a reasonably exhaustive search for all information that is or may be pertinent to the identity, relationship, event or situation in question;
- We collect and include in our compilation a complete, accurate citation to the source or sources of each item of information we use;
- We analyze and correlate the collected information to assess its quality as evidence;
- We resolve any conflicts caused by items of evidence that contradict each other or are contrary to a proposed (hypothetical) solution to the question;
- We arrive at a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.
- to maintain a list of relevant or potentially relevant Sources
- to plan, manage and record a search across those sources using Tasks
- to produce complete and accurate Citations
- to document and analyze the relevant Information in Sources
- to relate those Tasks and items of Information to an Assertion
- to record and assess the Evidence for an Assertion, relating each item of Evidence to the corresponding piece of Information
- to produce a Proof Statement which can be attached to a "Fact" in a family history program as a record of how you arrived at your conclusion
— Elizabeth Shown Mills
Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills is a comprehensive manual for understanding and citing historical records. It clearly explains the fundamentals of evidence analysis and citation, and provides citation templates for the wide range of sources that a family historian will encounter, as well as guidance on how to develop a citation template for any source types that are not covered. The book's website has some excellent lessons about using sources as well as sample contents from the book.
— Christine Rose
Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case by Christine Rose is a concise overview of how to use the Genealogical Proof Standard to demonstrate the fundamental soundness of research, and to solve knotty problems where there is contradictory evidence, or even no direct evidence at all.
Mark Tucker (of www.ThinkGenealogy.com) has developed a Genealogy Research Process Map that combines the concepts found in The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and the many works of Elizabeth Shown Mills into a single visualisation. If you click on the link for the map, you can download a PDF version or view a slideshow presentation that Mark produced on how to apply the concepts.