Archive for May, 2011

Recent Family History survey results, part two

I started reviewing the recent family history survey conducted by Myles Proudfoot in an earlier post. This post continues the comparison of results among respondents identifying themselves as amateur genealogists vs. those identifying themselves as professional genealogists.

Question 9 in the survey asked, “How often do you do family history research?” The difference in results is not surprising for this question. Amateur genealogists most frequently responded daily (27.1%), but only by a slim margin over two of the other responses: 4-6 times a week (22.1%), and 2-3 times a week (21.2%). Even for amateur genealogists, genealogy research is apprently extremely addictive, with 70% of all respondents conducting research more than once a week!

Professional genealogists conduct research even more often than amateurs, which should be expected of professionals in any field. An overwhelming 73.5% of all professional genealogists reported that they research daily, followed by 15.9% that responded 4-6 times a week. This amounts to just under 90% of all professional respondents.

Questions 10 and 11 are related, and show the responses show similarities between the amateur respondents and professional genealogists. However, the results are enlightening for anyone interested in genealogy research:

Question 10 asked, “Where do you PRIMARILY keep your family tree information?” This question allowed multiple answers, so it will not total exactly 100%. The choices were:

  • In an online tree: 16.1% of Amateurs, 6.2% of Professionals
  • On my computer: 73.5% of Amateurs, 84.1% of Professionals
  • On paper: 10.1% of Amateurs, 9.7% of Professionals
  • In my head: 0.2% of Amateurs, 0.0% of Professionals
  • Nowhere/I don’t have a tree: 0.2% of Amateurs. 0.0% of Professionals

It cannot be determined, given the disparity between the size of the samples, whether the roughly 10% differences in the first two options are significant. However, these responses indicate that a larger proportion of amateur genealogists keep their data in an online family tree, while a larger proportion of professional genealogists keep their data primarily on their computer.

Question 11 continues along the same theme: “Thinking further about record keeping, how do you keep notes to track your research and findings?” Again, this question allowed more than one response from each respondent:

  • “I enter them into my smart phone/tablet”: 3.6% of Amateurs, 8.0% of Professionals
  • “I use a digital camera to capture the images”: 19.8% of Amateurs, 34.5% of Professionals
  • “I keep them online”: 24.4% of Amateurs, 25.7% of Professionals
  • “I type them into my computer”: 68.4% of Amateurs, 82.3% of Professionals
  • “I type them onto paper”: 4.8% of Amateurs, 6.2% of Professionals
  • “I use pre-formatted paper templates”: 10.7% of Amateurs, 15.0% of Professionals
  • “I write them freehand in a notebook”: 36.0% of Amateurs, 37.2% of Professionals
  • “I don’t keep a record of findings or clues”: 2.6% of Amateurs, 0.0% of Professionals

There are no significant differences in the responses for most of these options. The highest difference is among those respondents who selected “I use a digital camera to capture the images.” While slightly less than 20% of amateur genealogists use a digital camera to photograph records of interest, over 35% of professional genealogists practice this method. This probably comes as a result of the strong emphasis that professional genealogists place on reviewing original records (as opposed to derivative sources).

The smaller difference between the amateurs and the professionals who reported that they “type them into [their] computer[s],” probably reflects the larger percentage of professionals who reported in Question 10 that they primarily keep their genealogy information in their computers.

More of the results from Mr. Proudfoot’s survey will be analyzed in future posts.

How do potential clients find your website?

Since I started conducting research for clients over five years ago, I can trace most of my clients back to my website. This has, without a doubt, been my number one marketing tool.

But how do potential clients find my website? One way to check is by using the website’s analytics to identify incoming links. I will explore the analytics in another post.

First I would like to discuss another way to assess your website marketing. This is so simple that many people might not think to do it: use Google (or your favorite search engine) to search for your web address.

When I do a Google search for “” (including the quotes), Google returns “about 940 results.” This does unfortunately include some spam and other undesirable sites that contain links out of any meaningful context. However, the search results also contain the following links to various areas of my website (in order of the results):

This is just a small sample of the pages that contain the words “” There were also several results that led to individual articles written in my “National African American Genealogy” and “Baltimore Genealogy & History” columns for, posts on this blog, additional reviews of various books that I have written, and, because I include my web address in my email signature, several hundred archived posts on various genealogy-related mailing lists and message boards.

Please note that this search will not return all of the sites that link to my site. This search only reports those sites that actually contain the words “” There is another way to search for sites that link directly to a particular website using Google. I will discuss this in a future column.

APG activities at the National Genealogical Society conference

The following press release was sent out by the Association of Professional Genealogists, highlighting some of their activities at the National Genealogical Society in Charleston, South Carolina:

Association of Professional Genealogists Kicks Off 2011 National Genealogical Society Family History Conference

APG Members to Educate Conference Goers on How to Hire a Professional Genealogist and How to Become a Professional Genealogist

CHARLESTON, S.C. and WESTMINSTER, Colo., May 11, 2011—The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) ( kicked off what promises to be a very active week at the 2011 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference in Charleston, South Carolina. Attendees can visit the APG booth (#117 and # 216) to learn more about hiring a professional genealogist, as well as how to become one. APG is sponsoring several meetings and events at the conference.

The theme for this year’s NGS conference is “Where the Past is Still Present.” APG President Laura Prescott said, “APG’s widespread presence at NGS allows our members to educate a broad audience of how a professional can help when it comes to discovering the past and tying it to the present. Conference attendees are encouraged to meet our members at the APG booth and learn more about hiring a professional genealogist.” Booth visitors also will see a world map on display that shows the locations and geographic specialties of APG members.

In addition to exhibiting at the conference, APG will host several events, including:

  • Members-only APG Roundtable, Tuesday, May 10, 7–9 p.m., Ballroom C2, Charleston Area Convention Center. The panel discussion topic will be “Looking for Clients in all the Right Places.” Panelists: Marie Melchiori, CG, CGL, Maureen Taylor, Kenyatta Berry, and J. Mark Lowe, CG, with Beverly Rice, CG, serving as moderator.
  • APG-sponsored lecture by Maureen Taylor, “Hunting History: Searching for the Revolutionary War Generation,” Wednesday, May 11, 2:30 p.m., Ballroom C2, Charleston Area Convention Center.
  • Gathering of the Chapters, Thursday, May 12, 4:00 p.m., Cooper Room, ground floor of Embassy Suites Hotel. Open to members of chapters and anyone interested in starting a chapter. Informal gathering for Q&A and presentation of the Golden Chapter Award.
  • APG Board Meeting, Friday, May 13, 8:15 a.m.–noon, Cooper Room, ground floor of Embassy Suites Hotel. Members are welcome to attend.
  • APG Luncheon, Friday, May 13, Ballroom C4, Charleston Area Convention Center. Eileen O’Duill, CG, will present, “Mrs. Fancy Tart is Coming to Tea: Making Sense of Family Stories.” Ticket required.

About APG

The Association of Professional Genealogists (, established in 1979, represents more than 2,400 genealogists, librarians, writers, editors, historians, instructors, booksellers, publishers and others involved in genealogy-related businesses. APG encourages genealogical excellence, ethical practice, mentoring and education. The organization also supports the preservation and accessibility of records useful to the fields of genealogy and history. Its members represent all fifty states, Canada and thirty other countries. APG is active on LinkedIn, on Twitter ( and on FaceBook (

Media Contacts:

Kathleen W. Hinckley, CG
Executive Director
Association of Professional Genealogists
P.O. Box 350998, Westminster, CO 80035-0998
Phone: +1 303-465-6980, fax: +1 303-456-8825, e-mail:

Corey Oiesen
Communications Officer
Association of Professional Genealogists

SpeakerWiki: What it is, and how you can use it

Recently I was alerted to a site devoted specifically to public speakers: SpeakerWiki.

SpeakerWiki is a free website providing an online directory to professional speakers, in many different subject areas, including motivational, business, technology, new media, politics, journalism, health and wellness, education, sports, religion, and now genealogy.

The site is based on the Wiki platform, meaning that content is created by the users. This includes, according to the website’s FAQ, “hundreds of event planners, speakers, and agencies around the world.” The site continues,

This is a collaborative effort. Thousands of people have contributed information to different parts of this project, and anyone can do so, including you. All you need is to know how to edit a page, and have some speaker knowledge you want to share.

To add yourself or another genealogy speaker you know, you simply have to sign up for a free account. Each speaker receives “SpeakerCred” (that is, credibility) by adding links to their official homepage, published books, WikiPedia pages, videos of their presentations, and by receiving reviews.

SpeakerWiki also offers a free online article for speakers, entitled, “The Speaker Wiki Guide: Top 6 Ways to Get More Leads.” For those who are interested in obtaining more speaking jobs, this short guide might help.

For genealogical society event planners who are interested in finding new and fresh speakers, take a look at this site to see if there is someone in your area. You can read reviews of genealogy speakers on this site, and contact the speakers directly to learn more information.

To learn about my speaking experience, visit my SpeakerWiki profile.

What blogs does a professional genealogist read?

To be quite honest, I don’t always have a lot of blog-reading time. My Google Reader list contains many blogs that I enjoy, and yet there are regularly “1000+” unread posts. But here are some of my favorites, in no particular order, and why:

  • Adventures in Genealogy Education: Written by Angela McGhie, President of the National Capital Area chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and Administrator of the ProGen Study Groups, this blog provides up-to-the-minute information about genealogy educational opportunities and other information helpful to transitional genealogists.
  • APA Style Blog: Though genealogists tend to follow the Evidence Explained models, based on The Chicago Manual of Style, the folks in charge of the American Psychological Association citation style guide have a blog. In this blog, they often discuss citation issues that can provide insight into any style.
  • Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing: This blog is actually meant to be heard as opposed to read, but the audio is pretty short. Grammar Girl discusses English grammar, including what words, punctuation, and capitalization are grammatically correct. But she does it in a fun and interesting way!
  • Quips and Tips for Successful Writers: Freelance writer Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen quotes some of the greatest writers in history before launching into each blog post, which then discuss other issues surrounding freelance writing, both fiction and nonfiction, especially topics like “how to get published.”
  • GeneaBlogie: Craig Manson is an attorney by trade, but his blog is centered on genealogy. Many of my favorite articles are those in which he discusses legal issues relevant to genealogists. Craig is currently remodeling his blog, and his new ideas will include an e-book library, videos, and topical pages.
  • Reclaiming Kin: This blog focuses on African-American genealogy, and is written by one of my good friends, Robyn Smith. Robyn discusses both her own personal genealogy research as well as tips on methodology and research sources. Very well-written, too!
  • David Paterson’s Journal: David Paterson is the coordinator of the Slave Research Forum on the site But more importantly, he is a trained historian rather than a genealogist. His blog, though sporadic, is extremely useful by informing readers about the resources that historians are using for their research.
  • Geneabloggers: Need I even mention this blog? Unless this is the very first genealogy-related blog that you have ever read in your life, you are already familiar with Thomas MacEntee’s blog that serves as a way to unite the wide world of genealogy blogs. Thomas has several recurring posts including those that describe various blogging “memes,” introduce new blogs (including this one this week). Thomas also runs the weekly Geneabloggers Radio (on BlogTalkRadio) which presents wonderful guests discussing various topics in genealogy. Recent shows have concerned British Genealogy, Finding Your Female Ancestors, and Irish Genealogy (for St. Patrick’s Day). Past episodes can be listened to “on-demand” as well.
  • The Historical Society: “The Historical Society promotes scholarly history that enriches public understanding.” History and genealogy should go hand-in-hand, in my opinion, so I love to read historical blogs as well as genealogy blogs.
  • Speaking Practically: A blog about public speaking, written by Kelly Vandever. Great tips on speaking and giving presentations.
  • Speaking about Presenting: A great blog about presentations, from international presentations coach Olivia Mitchell.
  • Duarte Blog: A very informative blog about slide design, by Nancy Duarte, author of the fantastic book slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations.
  • Civil War Emancipation: Another absolutely fantastic historical blog, centering on the Civil War and Reconstruction periods, and especially the abolition of slavery.
  • DearMYRTLE’s Genealogy Blog: One of the longest-running genealogy blogs, O’ Myrt provides research ideas and discusses news and issues confronting genealogists.
  • Carolyn L. Barkley discusses new genealogy books from Genealogical Publishing Company, and general research tips and resources.
  • a3Genealogy: Accurate Accessible Answers: Great, knowledgable blog from professional genealogist Kathleen Brandt, who was featured on the Tim McGraw episode of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?
  • Blog of a Genealogist in Training: Nicole LaRue is a transitional genealogist who talks about her journey to become a professional genealogist in her blog.
  • ProGenealogists Blog: This is the official blog of ProGenealogists, the professional genealogy firm now owned by
  • NARAtions: The official blog of the U. S. National Archives and Records Administration. A great way to keep abreast of records availability and accessibility.
  • Marian’s Roots and Rambles: The blog of New England professional genealogist and house historian Marian Pierre-Louis.
  • Genwriting Blog: Phyllis Matthews Ziller, an active professional genealogists and writer, writes this blog in connection with her GenWriters website. The blog discusses genealogical research and writing, but you will also find many extremely helpful tips on the main website.

These are not the only blogs I read. I have literally hundreds of blog subscriptions, and I read many other blogs from time to time based on links on Twitter, Facebook, other blogs, and other social media.

What are your favorite blogs?

Website review:

Occasionally I will use the site StumbleUpon to become aware of new websites. I will review these sites periodically on this blog.

Today’s site is defines its mission:

I have endeavoured to add sites that either have online genealogy records through which you can search for your ancestors or sites that provide helpful information to aid in your research.

The site claims to contain

4,500 pages of more than 50,000 Free Genealogy Links; for US, UK, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Europe, Canada, Australia & New Zealand.

The site is organized under various geographic categories. Under “US Genealogy Links,” there are further categories for “African American,” “Cemeteries,” “Censuses,” “Military,” “Ship Lists,” “Marriages,” and “Societies.” There are also additional categories under this main category, for each state. The links for the general US category follow the state links.

The general US links include links to commonly known sites such as the USGenWeb Archives,,  Cyndi’s List – USA, and the National Archives and Records Administration. Also included are some lesser known genealogy sites such as American Local History Network, the United States Digital Map Library (a USGenWeb Archives Project), and Southern New England Irish. However, several links appear more than once in this list, including the USGenWeb Archives. The list also includes numerous links to other pages on the GenealogyLinks site, and I counted at least one dead link (to NARA’s old AAD record site) and several affiliate links (to GenealogyBank and Ancestry).

The state link pages do not far much better. Included on the site for Maryland, explored as a sample, are specific categories for each county. The general statewide links are as troublesome as those for the general US category. In addition to the numerous links to other pages on the site, there are quite a few duplicate links, such as several to various USGenWeb pages. The links for Maryland under the American History and Genealogy Project and under the American Local History Project actually point to the same destination, as the statewide Maryland site is affiliated with both projects.

On the other hand, the site does include a few useful links to Maryland genealogy sites, including the Archives of Maryland Online and the Society of the Ark and the Dove. Other lesser-known Maryland genealogy sites also appear in the list of links: Handley’s Eastern Shore Maryland Genealogy Project, the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and Mid-Maryland Roots. The site also contains links to multiple record transcriptions on various USGenWeb pages, as well as New River Roots, and Genealogy Trails.

 My overall assessment is that this site is largely unnecessary. This site does not appear to offer anywhere near the number of resources contained within the much earlier Cyndi’s List website.’s mission statement claims to focus on sites that feature records that can be searched. However, these are, at least in the case of Maryland, to the most common sites, such as those provided by the Maryland State Archives, or to similar page “systems” of record transcriptions, like USGenWeb.

However, I have only reviewed the site links for Maryland research, specifically due to my own personal experience with researching in that state. I would be extremely interested in hearing the assessment of those with experience in other states, as to how thorough the other lists of links are, by country, state, county, or category. Please feel free to reply with your assessment either here in the comments, or in your own blog post, and provide a link here.


‘Making money with genealogy’ – recent blog posts

On 15 April 2011, Joan Miller wrote a post entitled, “Genea-Bodies: The New Somebodies,” in her Luxegen Genealogy and Family History blog. A comment by fellow professional genealogist and blogger Marian Pierre-Louise (who writes the Roots and Rambles blog) inspired one response in this blog (see “Genea-Bodies: A response to the comments” posted on 18 April 2011). The beginnings of the discussion were discussed more fully in that post.

More importantly, it got the world of geneabloggers talking! Here is a list of blog posts circling around the theme of making money through genealogy, that followed the initial discussion:

15 April 2011

18 April 2011

19 April 2011

20 April 2011

21 April 2011

22 April 2011

23 April 2011

24 April 2011

And luckily, the conversation has not ended, as the following posts have appeared in the meantime:

Quite a few bloggers commented in this discussion. Some were professionals, some were amateurs/hobbyists. Some of the posts comment directly on issues relevant to professional and transitional genealogists.

I would recommend that anyone interested in these issues read this series of posts. And if you know of any other posts that were missed in this survey, please let me know of them in the comments below!


Recent Family History survey results

On 12 March 2011, Myles Proudfoot invited genealogists to participate in a survey, through his blog “Family History 21ster.”  The survey was open until 5 April 2011, and on 12 April, Myles posted the results. Following his initial posting, he also offered the results cross-referenced by various factors. One of the most interesting was the “Amateur vs. Professional” breakdown. To view these results, read this entry.

The results may bear a slight margin of error due to the sampling size. Among survey respondents, 668 identified themselves as “Amateur genealogists,” while 54 identified themselves as “Academic genealogists” (no definition was offered), 113 identified themselves as “Professional genealogists,” and 60 identified themselves as “Not a professional genealogist but I do genealogy as a part of my job.” These three categories combine for a total of just 217, less than 1/3 of the number of amateurs. For the purposes of this overview, however, only the two categories “Amateur genealogist” and “Professional genealogist” will be compared, unless otherwise noted.

The first marked difference between amateurs and professional are revealed by two questions regarding experience. When asked, “For how many years have you been actively engaged in genealogy in total?” amateur genealogists responded with an average of 16.9 years, while professional genealogists responded with an average of 23.1 years. This by itself does not show a particularly significant difference, especially considering that the large sample of amateur genealogists certainly included a number of beginners. However, the subsequent question asked, “At what age did you start doing your genealogical research?” For amateur genealogists, the average age was 37.8 years. For professional genealogists, however, the average age was over ten years lower, at 26.1 years.

There are a number of ways one might interpret this data. My own reading is that those who begin at a younger age therefore become proficient at a younger age. Not necessarily already dedicated to a life-long career at this younger age, these younger starters would have a greater tendency to pursue genealogy as a viable career. This was certainly the case in my own personal experience.

The next insightful difference in responses comes as a result of the question, “Choose the description that best describes your approach to genealogical sources.” Five choices were provided:

  • I typically rely on already compiled genealogies.
  • I mostly rely on already compiled genealogies and online sources.
  • I use a limited number of record types and repositories. I mostly rely on online and microfilmed sources.
  • I use a wide variety of record types. I often contact record custodians to obtain copies of high-quality sources.
  • I insightfully pursue research at multiple, targeted repositories, making use of a very wide variety of records and record types.

Those who had identified themselves as amateur genealogists answered most often “I use a limited number of record types and repositories. I mostly rely on online and microfilmed sources,” with a 38.6% share responding in this way. Second most often, amateurs responded “I use a wide variety of record types. I often contact record custodians to obtain copies of high-quality sources,” with 35.0% selecting this option. This was followed by “I insightfully pursue research at multiple, targeted repositories, making use of a very wide variety of records and record types,” with 19.5% of amateur genealogists providing this response.

Professional genealogists provided significantly different responses to this question. The first two options were not selected by a single respondent identifying themselves in this way. The most-selected option by amateur genealogists, a mere 4.5% of professional genealogists selected “I use a limited number of record types and repositories. I mostly rely on online and microfilmed sources.”  The second most-selected option of amateur genealogists, only 18.8% of professional genealogists responded, “I use a wide variety of record types. I often contact record custodians to obtain copies of high-quality sources.” However, an overwhelming majority of professionals selected, “I insightfully pursue research at multiple, targeted repositories, making use of a very wide variety of records and record types,” an answer selected by 76.8% of the professional respondents!

The difference in these two responses is both surprising and incredibly meaningful. The response to this question may, in fact, be one of the qualifying factors between that which makes one an amateur genealogist and that which makes one a professional genealogist. One will recall that there was no significant difference in the years of experience between these two groups. However, those who become professional genealogists appear to research to a much greater depth than do amateurs.

The first factor in determining whether any genealogical conclusion meets the Genealogical Proof Standard is that the researcher must have completed “a reasonably exhaustive search” for all relevant records relating to their research problem. According to the results of this survey, over 3/4ths of the professional genealogists who responded abide by this requirement or a similar burden of proof. In contrast, less than 1/5th of the amateur genealogists who responded abide by this or a similar burden of proof.

The exploration of the results of this survey will continue in future posts…


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