When Tom Jones’s book Mastering Genealogical Proof came out earlier this year I snagged a copy early. I even took it to FGS in August to get it signed by him and the one time I ran into him I had left it in the hotel room. C’est la vie. However, it has been one mighty tough book to get through. Yes, I have found myself at times reading and re-reading the same passage multiple times trying to get what in the world he was trying to teach me.
I stopped trying, and started writing it in my words. That was the only way I was going to be able to digest the information and have it make sense to me in the end. Read, interrupt, diagram, write, and repeat it all again. Then I thought, you know, if I am having a bit of trouble others may be too. So, here are some tricks for you to try on your own if you are having trouble getting through the book. Oh and there will be another post on this. I am only through chapter 5. Chapters 6, 7, and 8 are in the works.
If you are a visual person like I am then I highly recommend creating a visual cheat sheet. I broke out my colored pens and began making a flow chart of relationships with definitions for each section and term. The new vocabulary was what I was tripped up on. While I intuitively knew answers to the questions in the books (they just “felt” right in my gut) I had a hard time using the correct terms to explain and justify my answers. Making those intuitive leaps that connect the dots so to speak just seemed to come naturally to me. Trying to explain I knew it because of independent sources with primary information from a derivative work made my head hurt.
The first cheat I made was the bullet points for the GPS, or genealogical proof standard. On the back of that card I placed the research and reasoning cycles. My next card consisted of a summary on how to create a well worded research question. Having these on one index card front and back was fine, until I needed to add to it. Soon I found myself with an 11x14 piece of paper, folded in half, with many different colors and arrows on it. Keeping it to this size will be a challenge, but you don’t want too much on a cheat sheet.
Below is the flow chart I created when my chicken scratch became too hard to read. It has helped me use the correct terms when evaluating sources and information. I hope you find it useful, or you can modify it to your needs.