In genealogical research facts often have a way of becoming factoids once new evidence weighs against the old hypothesis. As a genealogist, we should stay away from declaring a research subject absolute and finished – instead we should quantify our analysis of the evidence by prefacing our statements with qualifiers.
This is part 2 of the Series: Vermont Vital Records Research. It is an in-depth look at the Vermont, Births and Christenings, 1765-1908 collection found at FamilySearch.org, with examples and tips for better searching, analyzing and recording this collection.
When you are finished with this article I hope that you will be able to do the following:
1. Understand the provenance of the Vermont, Births and Christenings, 1765-1908 collection.
2. Search the collection thoroughly and accurately.
3. Analyze what is contained in the collection, and be able to use the results to further your research.
4. Accurately and precisely cite the source and any record you may find of an event.
5. Understand the QUAY value for this source and determine the genealogical proof standard for a citation.
Even if your research doesn’t involve Vermont ancestors I believe you can learn from this article.
The first thing a researcher should do when encountering a database is to find out the provenance of the original source. Establishing provenance is a needed step in the Data Collection Standard as published by the BCG. For genealogists, we would want to identify the record of ownership of the documents referenced in the online collection, as well as ownership and creation of the database itself. While each individual database has it’s own provenance, the records they depict, also have their own history. To get a better overall understanding of the creation of vital records in Vermont throughout history, I have created the following abbreviated timeline.
Source analysis is an important step in the genealogical research process. While it’s often the first thing discussed by professional genealogists, it’s almost always the last thing amateur genealogists perform. It’s usually left for the time when a researcher, suffering from the effects of the “shaking leaf syndrome,” realize that they’ve attached all these people to their family tree, and all these events to those people, yet some of the facts and events of their ancestors lives simply don’t add up. And then they begin to doubt whether a person in their tree really is an ancestor. Don’t wait for that time… begin now, at the start of 2016, to first analyze a source before you use it.
Researchers of Vermont ancestors are fortunate to be able to access comprehensive vital records online for people who were born, married or died in the State of Vermont. I find these records invaluable in research of my own Vermont branches, and feel this would be a good data collection for me to provide examples and tips for better searching, analyzing and recording these types of sources. Even if your research doesn’t involve Vermont ancestors I believe you can learn from this series of posts on how to better organize, collect, record, analyze, and craft your genealogical research.