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Unofficial Record Keepers & Reasonably Exhaustive Research

History researchers are trained not to make conclusions about issues until their research has been reasonably exhaustive. They comb the published literature and archival catalogs in search of relevant materials. If their subject is local or biographical in nature, they know that public records need to be explored. But no biography or local study can ever be complete until we have identified and studied the works of that area's unofficial record keepers. ... Oh? Who's that? ...

A Marriage Record Is a Marriage Record Is a Marriage Record—Not!

As researchers, we use words so loosely. Too loosely. We speak of *the* marriage record as though just one existed. We cite a date of marriage from a courthouse index without questioning *which* marriage-related event actually occurred on that date. In fact, we even see dates of marriage cited for couples who never went through the ceremony after one of the preliminary records was created. (Should I confess here that ...

Hairsplitting Those Property & Probate Records

Originals? True originals? Duplicate originals? Record copies? Certified records? The ‘most original'? How do I tell the difference? Does it even matter? ...

Reconstructing the Lives of Yesteryear’s Women

Finding records for females in the past is a special problem. Prior to the twentieth century, as a rule, menfolk typically created the family records. A wife usually was not entitled to act in her own stead, and a respectable unmarried woman seldom dared. When a public record was required for her, a brother, father, or guardian was expected to handle such affairs for her. Today, we offer 6 tips for teasing yesteryear’s women out of the shadows in which they lived:

Tracking Elusive People through the Past

Research problems are rarely solved by simply learning what records exist and where to find—then looking for names in those records. Most tough problems are solved by spotting connections and patterns between seemingly unrelated things. Here are seven tips guaranteed to sharpen your skills at tracking elusive people through past times. ...

A Proof Argument? Why Bother?

18 March 2015
A recent discussion of proof arguments triggered a common question: Why can’t we just ‘let the documents do the talking’? Unfortunately, documents don’t talk. They may lie, but they do not talk and they cannot ...

What Does a Citation Prove?

15 March 2015
When we extract a “fact” from a source and we cite that source in our research notes, we feel so virtuous, don’t we? Our inner self reaches out and pats us on the back. “Atta girl! Way to go! Keep up this good stuff!” Truth it, citing sources doesn’t mean ...

When Do I Use Parentheses in a Citation? (Psst! Not This Way!)

9 March 2015
In citations to published works, parentheses are used to set off "publication data." When citing a magazine or journal article ...

Reasonably Exhaustive Research: Quantity or Quality?

12 March 2015
To reach a sound conclusion about any historical event of person, our first criteria is reasonably exhaustive research. However, this does not mean that quantity assures accuracy. Quantity and quality are entirely different critters and quantity can never trump quality. For the history researcher who has no living firsthand witnesses to interview ...

The Source of the Source, of Course, of Course

6 March 2015
EE user Simon (aka “Nomis”) poses a question that puzzles many researchers. When we cite a source that cites its own source, we introduce that second layer of our citation with the word "citing." But, Simon asks, what exactly should come after that? What details need to be included? ...

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