Thursday, January 29, 2015

How not to RE-Search Your Research

Wanted to let everyone know that I made a mistake. There are miscellaneous editions from 11 other daily or weekly papers for Southwest Louisiana on the American Press ePaper archives site dating back to 1889, NOT starting in 1912! I apologize for not digging deeper and checking my facts before I posted. Now go check it out!

Before we get into search techniques, let me share a great find I made this week.  If you are doing any Lake Charles genealogy or historical research or have research interests anywhere near Southwest Louisiana, then this website isn't just a distracting bright, shiny object.  It is truly a gem.

Fully scanned and word searchable from 1912 to today's paper

I was looking for a good way to practice the search tracking techniques Geneabloggers are discussing for week 4 of the genealogy do-over, so I headed over to the Lake Charles American Press ePaper archives.  At first glance it appeared that a monthly subscription ($10) was needed and that the ePaper began in 2002.  Upon looking further I discovered that I could purchase a "day pass" for $2.95.  Talk about a bargain!!!  That's half what you might spend on your morning Starbucks!

Well, needless to say that was worth it even if it was just for recent searches.  In genealogy, you're supposed to start with current information and work back right?  So my plan was to search for myself and see what came up.  Low and behold, in addition to recent articles about my marriage, the birth of my children, and performances of the band I was in (Soul Vacation), I found several older articles. If you're the kind of person that thinks it's interesting to "Google" your name, try searching for it in your local newspaper archives. Warning: It can be alternately fascinating, hilarious, emotional, and occasionally frightfully embarrassing (although clearly I only plan to post things that make me look good, lol)...

Teamed up with a friend to take home 1st in the Math Fair in our 6th grade year. Full paper here

Barbe High School Show Choir in spring 2002. Full paper here

District V Honor Jazz Band in spring 2003. Full paper here

Just FYI, I realize it seems a bit narcissistic to post all these articles about myself, but since I cannot ethically post information about living people in my family without their permission, this is the most prudent way to illustrate this blog post... or at least that's what I'm telling people. ; )

 As it turns out, the Lake Charles American Press has scanned all their paper back to 1912 using optical character recognition (OCR), so that they are fully searchable.  The possibilities are endless!  House or property history, the life of a local business or restaurant through advertisements, progression of crime in a certain area, study of a local artist or music group, local legislation or elections, news about an industry like fishing, timber, or oil.  The implications of having this information accessible at your fingertips goes way beyond family history research!  Anyway, can you tell I'm excited???

Click here to subscribe to the Lake Charles American Press ePaper and see what you can find!

And finally we arrive at the genealogy portion of today's program...

I found it interesting that week 4 of the genealogy do-over has been considered "optional" by some.  Not only has this week been my favorite so far, but logging my searches and tasks was one of the main goals for me in this genealogy do-over.

As I've moved forward through this do-over I have been tracking tasks or "proof points" or whatever you choose to call them in one central location. As I find a piece of information and I need to do something with it or it leads to new questions I add them to my spreadsheet, so I always know what I need to be working on. Here is a clip of my log (original by Thomas MacEntee can be found here) showing what that looks like:

Let's move on to tracking search attempts. By logging my searches I am accomplishing many things simultaneously.  On his blog Thomas MacEntee talks about being able to quickly repeat the same search across several similar databases, but let's look at a few other advantages.  

The first thing that comes to mind is spelling variations.  There are usually several spelling variations to be searched for each person in your tree, but there can be dozens.  Searching with and without middle names, using abbreviations or initial(s), and also nicknames can add up quickly. (This article from gives some great examples of this.) When you combine this with dates, Boolean search tricks, etc the possibilities increase exponentially.  Search tracking can keep a running record of what search criteria you have tried, so you don't repeat yourself or miss something.  

This leads us to the next helpful thing about keeping a search log, being able to PURPOSEFULLY repeat a search.  Thomas MacEntee's research log has a place for the URL, which I think is great.  However, if that link no longer works (and we all know how often that can happen), then we have the exact search criteria we used to find or results, and we can use it to find them again.  

Lastly, let's talk about negative evidence.  I must say that finding a record with the evidence I need is what I would like to happen every time.  Sometimes though, NOT finding a record is evidence of something too.  Using negative evidence in establishing genealogical proof is not something I'm good at, nor have I had much practice.  By tracking my searches, even if they come up empty, I am setting myself up to be able to properly use negative evidence in the future. Here is a great article by Elizabeth Shown Mills about evidence evaluation, including negative evidence.

So, in another tab of that same log, this shows how I tracked my search results:

Since I am using Evidentia for my evidence analysis and source citations, I am not including these items in my Excel spreadsheet.

So now to the good part... what I found!

I addition to 3 FRONT PAGE articles about his involvement in the border patrol, I discovered this incredible article about my great-grandfather Richard Lyon Martin Sr written at the time of his retirement. What a find!

Here is the link to the full paper from that day. Images of pages from the Lake Charles American Press were used only after I called and asked for permission.

Well, I suppose in actuality this should've been at least 2 separate blog posts. At least I got the information out there. Hopefully it helps you get out there and get to researching (without ever re-searching again).

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