Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tech Day Spotlight: Mind Maps with Ron Arons

The first ever SLIG Tech Day will feature a special Mini-Lab on Mid Maps by Ron Arons. Why is this so important for your genealogy toolbox? Let me have Ron tell you:

Why mind maps and other data visualization tools?

There is an old saying that ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’ This statement is so true. The brain actually processes pictures much faster than it does reading words. It is also much easier for you to recall items if you recall them from a setting (read: picture) than from a list of words. More than 60% of the general population are considered to be ‘visual learners’. That is to say, that they learn better and more efficiently by using pictures than by words or other means. About another third of the population learns aurally, i.e. through words. A very small percentage of the general population learns kinesthetically, i.e. through touch or movement. Suffice it to say, it behooves the vast majority of us to consider tools that help us learn and think visually. The tools that help with visual thinking are not necessarily replacements for spreadsheets and narratives but, rather, should be seriously considered as complementary tools for providing new insights and perspectives for organizing information, correlating data, and presenting research results to others.

Mind maps are radial outlining tools. They start with a central theme or concept and they radiate outwards, like a sun and its rays or a hub and spoke of an old chariot wheel. They can continue expanding with sub-branches, sub-sub-branches, etc., with increasing levels of details. Mind maps have been around for centuries and have been used for decades in Corporate America for brainstorming new ideas, for writers to lay out their stories, and by teachers with their students. Mind maps were certainly not designed with genealogy in mind, but they offer a compelling way to work with family history research data. Here’s why…Different types of genealogical documents have different types of data. For example, a census record might have a person’s name, their spouse and children’s names, age or year of birth, state or country of birth, occupation, residential address, etc. A vital record will usually have person’s parents’ names listed, whereas a census record would not (unless of course the parents are still living in the same household). A newspaper article would probably not list a person’s parents names, but might list a person’s residential address. In short, various types of genealogical documents together provide ‘unstructured’ data. To put all of the information from three such documents into a spreadsheet, a tool for working with ‘structured’ data, would be wasteful of space; there would be many cells completely empty. The beauty of mind maps is that they excel (no pun intended) with unstructured data. Furthermore, many mind map tools allow you to draw connector line from data in one location of a mind map to data in another location. This is particularly helpful in data correlation (step 3 of the Genealogical Proof Standard), arguably the most important aspect of genealogical research. Not being able to find such connections, similarly, can help with explaining away discrepancies (step 4 of the GPS).

The Mind Map / Data Visualization mini-lab at SLIG Tech Day will review the above theory in more detail as well as provide a hands-on introduction to two data visualization software packages – a mind mapping tool and another tool which is similar to, yet different from a mind map, but also useful in laying out genealogical data. Come to the mini-lab and expand your brain capabilities!

Mind Maps will be held Saturday, 20 January 2018 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM at the Hilton Hotel. Price $30.00. Please visit to register. I hope to see you there! 

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