Robert Charles Anderson is perhaps the most well-known New England genealogist of his generation. As head of the Great Migration Study Project of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) for more than twenty years, he has contributed greatly to our knowledge of these earliest colonial immigrants.
As you can imagine, this was a massive project. If it was to be successful, it would need an organized approach. This would insure the best possible results. Over the years he has refined his system, but the substance has changed little from the beginning. Now you can learn his method and apply it to your own research. NEHGS recently released a new book from Bob: Elements of Genealogical Analysis: How to Maximize Your Research Using the Great Migration Study Project Method.
The book is compact at 168 pages plus 15 pages of introductory matter in a 6×9” format. The book has two main sections: Analytic Tools and Problem-Solving Sequence. The brief, three-page overview that precedes these sections provides a great summary of the process.
Bob starts by sharing his two fundamental rules of genealogy, and I couldn’t agree with him more:
- All statements must be based only on accurately reported, carefully documented, and exhaustively analyzed records.
- You must have a sound, explicit reason for saying that any two individual records refer to the same person.
Unfortunately, it is in this second rule that many genealogists fall short. A record that has the right name in the right place at the right time is not automatic justification to presume that it is the same individual as you are seeking. It take more than that.
There are three analytic tools that he uses:
- Source Analysis (the detailed examination of a source[defined as a coherent group of records created by a single jurisdiction or a single author for a defined purpose])
- Record Analysis (the detailed examination of a record [defined as the portion of a source that pertains to a single event])
- Linkage Analysis (examining two or more analyzed records to determine whether they refer to a single individual or multiple persons)
His Problem-Solving Sequence is a series of five steps:
- Problem Selection
- Problem Analysis
- Data Collection
- Problem Resolution
The best part about Bob’s method is that it does not matter whether you are dealing with paper, digital, or other types of records. The process works no matter what. Following his steps will insure that you have the best possible results, and that the individuals in your family tree are actually are related to you.
The price of $24.95 is a bit higher than I would expect for a book of this size. That said, the information contained within it is very valuable. It deserves a place on the shelf of every genealogist. It is available from NEHGS at the AmericanAncestors.org website.