Day two of Advanced Research Methodology got off to an early start with the 8:00am homework review, at least for those of us who are taking the “homework track” which, no surprise, is all of us. Last night’s assignment had to do with using American State Papers, the Congressional Serial Set, and the House and Senate journals. Despite Rick Sayre’s excellent talks on this subject, I confess I find them to be one of the more difficult to maneuver through. Still, the wealth of information found in them is well worth the effort. I plan on adding the Library of Congress Century of Lawmaking site to my arsenal of repositories that are the foundation of my standard research plan. Not every situation will call for this, but I’d rather look and find nothing than miss a gold nugget!
Pam Sayre was our morning guest lecturer. She gave a fabulous talk on using archival records: original manuscripts and other unpublished sources. She detailed a whole host of online catalog sources, some of which I’ve never heard of and others I don’t use nearly as often as I should. For example, I had no idea of the richness of the Library of Congress’s online finding aids to their manuscript collections. She gave us some excellent tips on getting the most about of the various search engines, such as some little known ways of accessing the NUCMC printed volumes from 1959 to 1985 online. She also shared with us her own, took-weeks-to-create, step-by-step guide for using the NARA finding aids. Thank you, Pam!
We get about ninety minutes for lunch. I cut mine short to stop by Maia’s Book Shop, and let me just say, if you don’t know about Maia, you are missing out! Seriously. Although she has a website,here, she conducts a good deal of business at the various genealogy institutes and conferences around the country. She carries the usual genealogy reference books, but the real treat is getting to look through the specialty books she brings. For example, because we’re in Pittsburgh, there are boxes and boxes of books about Pennsylvania records: compilations, local collections, and topics pertinent to the western part of the state. She opened this morning. It’s always a bit of a mad rush to see what new treasures Maia might have brought. She lets us set aside the books we want in piles at the back of the room, and we have till Friday morning to buy them.
Rick Sayre spoke about military records in the afternoon. I regularly use the compiled military service records and pensions applications at NARA, Fold3, and Ancestry, but Rick’s presentation went well beyond that, to the other kinds of records generated by military service: things like medical records, quartermaster records, and court martials. He also covered records the military kept on civilians, an especially underused record set.
The day wrapped up with Tom’s presentation on transcriptions and abstracts. It was very hands-on, which was exactly what I needed after such an intense day of learning! Our homework for tonight was to transcribe and abstract a document of his choosing, in this case an early New England quit claim deed, and then, similar to the requirements for the document portion of the BCG certification portfolio, we had to decide on a specific research question, for which the document provides some kind of evidence, and create a preliminary research plan based on that question. I worked with a team, and I highly recommend this approach. It took us a little over two hours to complete the assignment and I learned a great deal, not only from doing the work, but also from the interaction with my fellow genealogists. One other advantage to a group effort…it’s a comfort to see I’m not the only one with lots to learn! As Tom pointed out in class today, the fact that we (all thirty of us) took about a half hour to group transcribe just three lines from a two hundred year old document reaffirms that we are none of us too advanced to be taking this class!