QuickLessons

QuickLesson 24: Evaluating DNA as Evidence

Of course, DNA is evidence. Prosecutors and defense attorneys use it daily to build cases for guilt or innocence. Forensic genealogists and police use it to build cases for the identity of human remains. Some historians and millions of genealogists use it to build cases for historical identity and kinship.

However …

Quick Lesson 23: No. Records Do Not Speak for Themselves

No. Historical records do not speak for themselves. They cannot explain themselves. They are inert objects created by individuals of a different time, a different culture, and who-knows-what mindset. If taken at face value, they can deceive, mislead, or confuse. The only voice that documents have is the voice we give them—either through the context we provide or the passive acceptance with which we report them. ...

QuickLesson 22: What Citation Template Do I Use?

“What citation template do I use?” the student asked—just before launching into his complaint. “Research would be fun if it weren't for citations. They're too nitpicking. There are too many formats. History researchers need software that has no more than ten templates and will automagically decide which one best fits.”

Okay, Dear Student. You’ve vented. Can we now have a friendly little Attitude Adjustment Session?

Attitude Adjustment  1

QuickLesson 21: Citing DNA Evidence: Five Ground Rules

Oh, the confusion! It's tough enough for most history-minded people to wrap their neurons around all the scientific jargon and concepts involved in genetic research. But when we attempt to use it in a historical context, to prove the identity of a long-gone person, we seem to end up with more questions than chromosomes. ...

QuickLesson 20: Research Reports for Research Success

The research process has three basic steps: preparation, performance, and reporting. If we use database management software or spread sheets, we add a fourth: data entry. In the popular mindset, Steps 2 and 4 get all the hype. News flash, everyone! It is those neglected Steps 1 and 3 that determine our success long-term.

QuickLesson 19: Layered Citations Work Like Layered Clothing

Humans have adopted clothes for protection. They are adaptable to circumstances. We can layer them to fit the environment or weather. Society has created all sorts of ‘rules’ for when and where to wear certain items of clothing. We don't wear white after Labor Day. We don't wear jogging shorts to a formal wedding. Yet the layering process remains flexible. On a fall day, we may put on a sleeveless vest or short-sleeved tee atop a long-sleeved shirt; as the sun climbs, we’ll peel off the lighter item and keep on the long sleeves to ward off the chill.

QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World? Seriously?

Yes. Seriously. From Boston University to Brigham Young, and across the waters to the UK’s Strathclyde, Dundee, and Open University—as well as many lesser-known institutions in between. A century-old wall is crumbling between academia and family history. Should we be concerned? Or should we embrace the possibilities?

QuickLesson 16: Speculation, Hypothesis, Interpretation & Proof

Historians are expected to interpret what they find. That’s part of the job description. It’s also one of the most misunderstood aspects of the job. Where do we draw the line between “interpretation” and “speculation”?  What relation does either have to the popular buzzword “hypothesis”?  At what eventual point does interpretation qualify as “proof”?