Finding the Parents of Bertha Kantner: An Interactive Case Study

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Date Time Title
8 April 2021 9:00am Introduction
8 April 2021 9:15am Gather
8 April 2021 9:45am Choose
8 April 2021 10:15am BREAK
8 April 2021 10:30am Plan
8 April 2021 11:00am BREAK
8 April 2021 12:00pm Find
8 April 2021 12:30pm Evaluate
8 April 2021 1:15pm Find
8 April 2021 1:45pm Evaluate
8 April 2021 2:15pm BREAK
8 April 2021 2:30pm Find
8 April 2021 2:50pm Evaluate
8 April 2021 3:10pm Find
8 April 2021 3:30pm Evaluate
8 April 2021 3:45pm Share
8 April 2021 3:50pm Conclusion


Introduction[edit | edit source]

Come help us solve the case of Bertha Kantner’s parents. Together, we will walk through the steps of the research process and learn how to set a good research goal, plan your research, find records, evaluate conflicting information, and reach a sound conclusion. This day-long event will include breaks.

For our class it may be helpful for you to use your own research log, research plan, and/or pedigree chart to follow along. Use Appropriate Forms has links to different forms for you to use if you don't have one already.

As we teach, you may come up with more questions for your own research. If you have a specific research problem, sign up for a free virtual consultation at Virtual Research Strategy Sessions.

Gather[edit | edit source]

The first step in any research project is to gather all the information and facts you already know. This is a step that is often overlooked yet sets you up to be successful with your family history. The benefit from knowing as much as possible about your family from the beginning is the ability to better recognize your family when you work in the records. Begin with yourself and write down the information from your memory. Gather home records. Home records are documents such as death certificates, obituaries, funeral programs, marriage records, birth certificates and church baptismal records, family bibles, newspaper articles, diaries and journals, letters, scrapbooks and also include family traditions and stories. Ask close relatives what they know and what home records they might have. Reaching out to distant cousins can help you gather information your close family may not know. Try connecting with distant relatives through social media, and public family trees. And remember, it is never too late to gather family information.

You may want to have a formal interview with an elderly relative. Oral interviews have never been easier than they are today. You can reach out in person, on the phone or even in a virtual setting. When conducting interviews:

  • Set an appointment
  • Prepare questions beforehand. You may want to share the questions beforehand too.
  • Ask open-ended questions that encourage narrative answers. Stay away from one word answer questions.
  • Record the interview with audio or video. The ability to record your relative is right at your fingertips with a smart phone.
  • Keep good notes.
  • Bring a photo scanner. Your relative might be hesitant to let you borrow photos so come prepared with a portable photo scanner.

Once you have gathered as effectively as possible you will want to organize the material. Label the documents and photos, including from whom you obtained the record. Evaluate what has been gathered and ask the following questions of each record:

  • To whom dies this apply?
  • What does it mean?
  • Does this evidence fit with what I know?
  • Is there conflicting information?
  • What clues does this give me for continuing research?

Record the facts on a pedigree chart, genealogy software or in a public tree database. Remember to add the source information and any helpful notes.

Additional Resources:

Choose[edit | edit source]

Before getting into new records, you need to choose a research goal. This goal should pertain to a specific question about an ancestor. This could be a relationship, an event, or a location that you would like to learn. Focus on one action such as find, verify, identify, extend, and locate. Remember that a record is never a goal.

The next step in choosing your research goal is to plan your research. Keep in mind what records would give you the information to solve your research goal. Make and keep a research log and a research plan to help you stay focused and organized. Your research logs can be in any format that helps you the best. Adapt your plan as your research; let your new records help to inform you on your next steps. Additional Resources:

Find[edit | edit source]

When possible always try to find the original record for the information you are seeking. An original record is one which is created at or near the time of the event being recorded. A census is considered an original record because it is the taking of the census which is the event. Do not limit yourself to online information and realize the information you are seeking may not be online but resting in some far off courthouse which you will have to visit to discover the document.

One major online source to find original records is the FamilySearch Library Catalog. This catalog lists all records available at the Family History Library located in Salt Lake City, Utah. The good news is many of the records have been digitized and are viewable for free. When searching the catalog search all jurisdictions where the record may be located. This includes city, county and state.

The FamilySearch Research Wiki, while it does not contain records, can help you locate records and learn of their availability. The Wiki also lists societies in the area you are researching and how to contact them. The Wiki is a wealth of information and worth your time to learn.

Additional Resources:

Evaluate[edit | edit source]

Evaluating is the process of determining the genealogical value of a record. Keep in mind that you want to evaluate the physical record and the information on the record. Before evaluating a record, you need to read it in its entirety. Don't just skim the record and move on! There is a lot of valuable information found in each record that can be missed if you just skim it. Use the following steps and questions as you go through this process: read through the entire document, pull out key information and people, evaluate the record and the information, compare the information with previously known information and the research goal, read and evaluate again, and look for clues to other records.

When evaluating, decide if your record is original or derivative and decide if the information is primary or secondary. Original records are records created at or near the time of event. Derivative records are records created from information from other records. Primary information is information given by the original event. Secondary information is information given by anything other than the original event. For example: This means that a marriage record is an original record; it has primary information about the marriage date; it has secondary information about the birth dates and places for the bride and groom.

Additional Resources:

Share[edit | edit source]

After finding and evaluating records for your ancestors, it is important to share what you have found! What good is it to learn about your ancestors and not let anyone know? Here are a couple of ideas on how to share: update and add to online trees, create a blog, share on social media, write articles for genealogical publications, publish a family history, and tell stories to your family.

Additional Resources:

In-Class Links[edit | edit source]

Links will appear under this section as we discuss them during the class.