Archive for June, 2011

State genealogical society journals

State genealogical and historical societies have long been on the front lines of local genealogical research. As a service to our fellow genealogists, Harold Henderson and I have surveyed and compiled a list of currently active genealogical society journals. These journals publish everything from local record transcriptions and abstracts to multigenerational family histories.

Harold recently attended the “Writing and Publishing for Genealogists” course at the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) at Samford University, coordinated by Thomas Jones, CG, the editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. State genealogical society journals were discussed during this course. Harold mentioned this briefly in the post “IGHR Samford Day Four: states’ opportunity,” in his blog Midwestern Microhistory.

You can read the official announcement of this resource in Harold’s Midwestern Microhistory blog: “State and Regional Genealogy Journals: The List.”

To access this new resource, see the article “State & Regional Genealogical Society Journals” on my website at http://haitfamilyresearch.com/freeresources.aspx.

If you know of any additions or corrections, please leave a comment on this post, or email me directly.

Why I Never Rush a Research Job (and Neither Should You)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the Final Draft Communications blog in my post, “Writing a genealogical case study–Sell the research!” Last week, on 12 June 2011, the post “Why I Never Rush a Writing Job (and Neither Should You)” appeared on the FDC blog.

In this blog post, professional copywriter Karen Marcus writes, “if you do have a choice, avoid rushing a writing job. If you don’t, your quality of work and quality of life will both decline.” Ms. Marcus continues, to address several reasons why:

  • Spotty Research. “Sometimes it takes awhile to get in touch with subject matter experts, to find just the right statistic online, or to receive pertinent reference materials from coworkers. When bombarding people with voice mails and e-mails doesn’t work, you end up developing your piece with missing information…”
  • Lackluster Drafts. “When you don’t have all the information you need, you don’t have much to base your writing job on, and your piece becomes lackluster, unconvincing, and useless to the target audience.”
  • Insufficient Reviews. “If you don’t run the document by everyone who needs to see it, you can bet those people will contribute edits…after the document is published.”
  • Loss of Incubation Time. “Incubation time is something writers and those who work with them don’t always consider, yet it is so important. Being able to look at a document with fresh eyes is critical for catching errors and inconsistencies.”
  • More Work Later. “I say, do it right the first time.”

The rush jobs that Ms. Marcus is really discussing in this post are writing jobs “that [need] to be done YESTERDAY!!!!!” But all of the same issues arise when a professional genealogist rushes through a research job.

Spotty research: The relevance of this should be obvious to all. Research is what we do. If we are rushing through a job, then chances are that we are doing the following:

  • Checking published and indexed sources only.
  • Limiting our search to direct evidence.
  • Not fully collecting, analyzing, and correlating all evidence to form complete conclusions.

A rush research job limits our ability to research thoroughly. According to the Board for the Certification of Genealogists, the Genealogical Proof Standard consists of five “elements”:

  • a reasonably exhaustive search;
  • complete and accurate source citations;
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.[1]

Checking only published and indexed sources, and limiting our searches to only direct evidence do not meet the first element: that of a “reasonably exhaustive search.” By not fully collecting, analyzing, and correlating all evidence, we will not meet the third and fourth elements.

If our research does not meet the Genealogical Proof Standard, then any conclusions that we form should be considered less reliable.

Lackluster Drafts: This goes hand-in-hand with Spotty Research. The fifth and final element of the GPS is to form a logically reasoned written conclusion. This usually comes in the form of a written proof summary (for those rare instances where we have direct evidence and no contradictory evidence) or a written proof argument (when more explanation is needed, as in cases where contradictory evidence must be explained, or cases built on the sum of all indirect evidence).

Rushing through the research usually means forming a conclusion, and writing a proof summary or argument, based on incomplete evidence. Such a conclusion would not be representative of our work, nor would it be able to be considered reliable.

Furthermore, if we rush to publish this research, our conclusions may be rightfully challenged and disproved, which may even damage our professional reputations.

Insufficient Reviews and Loss of Incubation Time: Writers are often told, when self-editing, to put your writing aside and look at it with fresh eyes later. I would give the same advise to genealogists:

Put your research aside, turn it sideways, and look at it later. Sometimes looking at the same documents with fresh and new eyes will allow you to see the same information in new ways. This may prove exactly what you need to solve even the toughest research problems.

Failure to take our time and look at things fully, to squeeze every bit of information we can, out of every record we find, is exactly how brickwalls are built.

More Work Later: “I say, do it right the first time.” No more needs to be said.

[1] “The Genealogical Proof Standard,” Board for Certification of Genealogists (http://www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standard.html : accessed 19 Jun 2011).

Marketing outside of the box

How best to market your services is one of the most important factors that a professional genealogical researcher or lecturer must consider. After all, in order to conduct research professionally, someone must hire you to do so. In order for someone to hire you, they must know that you offer your services. This all comes down to how you market yourself.

Marketing has definitely changed in the past couple of years with the growth of the social Internet. How do you make yourself stand out from among other professionals? Obviously, research skill and experience are still essential. But they are no longer enough.

Here are two interesting and unique marketing ideas that I use:

The Visual Resume 

A picture speaks a thousand words. We have heard this a million times, and it is as true today as it was the first time we heard it.

Why not apply this principle to your resume?

I created the following “visual resume” using Microsoft PowerPoint, and have posted it on SlideShare, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

These slides provide all of the most important information about my services, including testimonials from past clients, in an interesting and unique way. The dry format of a resume has been replaced with much more palatable ilustrations.

Trading cards

I have to thank Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers for discovering this company.

Meet-Meme allows you to create your own trading cards. The trading cards contain a QR code (as well a short link for those of us that are i-challenged) that will take people to a profile page that you create at the same time that you create the card. This profile page can contain several links, with special attention to social networking sites. My profile page, for example, contains links to my Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook pages, as well as custom links to my Lulu bookstore, this blog, and the African American Genealogy Examiner column.

At the Institute of Genealogical & Historical Research (IGHR) last week, I ordered and gave out 20 of these fun trading cards to fellow genealogists. They were a hit! Everyone that had a smart phone immediately wanted to run the QR code and go to my profile page.

Your Ideas?

Have you tried either of these ideas? What did you think about them?

Have you tried any other interesting marketing ideas?

I’d love to hear about them!

IGHR 2011 Registration, Orientation, and ProGen Study Group meetup

Several hundred genealogists have once again descended upon Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, for the annual Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research.

Sunday, 12 June 2011, was registration and orientation day. It was also, for many of us, a day to meet up with friends that we only know online, or that we have not seen since last summer. This includes those of us who are either currently members or alumni of the 18-month ProGen Study Groups. I myself am a recent alumnus, completing the ProGen 5 course several months ago.

After the orientation, the ProGen members, alumni, coordinators, and mentors gathered in Beeson Hall, the building just next to the Cafeteria. There were about 46 of us here this year, spread over thirteen ProGen groups!

Class begin tomorrow.

ProGen Study Groups, IGHR 2011

photo courtesy of Angela McGhie

Events at IGHR – 12 through 17 June 2011

The Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR), held annually at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, will begin this Sunday, 12 June. While the courses available at this Institute are definitely top-notch, there are other events being held throughout the week. The other events include at least two “meetups” for genealogy groups and lectures Monday through Wednesday evenings after dinner.

Take a look at the following calendar to immerse yourself even deeper into the world of genealogical learning and networking that only a week-long Institute can provide!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

ProGen Study Group Meetup, immediately following orientation (approx. 7:00pm), Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall

Monday, 13 June 2011

GeneaBloggers Meetup, during dinner, 4:00-6:00 p.m., Cafeteria, University Center

“Google for Genealogists: Put the Power of Google Earth to Work for You,” presented by Pam Sayre and Rick Sayre, 6:00-7:45 p.m., Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

“Certification: Procedures, Questions, and Answers,” presented by Thomas Jones and Elissa Powell, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m., Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall

“Writing a Narrative Family History: Essential Considerations and Sample Works,” presented by John Colletta, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m., Auditorium, Brooks Hall

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

“What Do I Do With All this Stuff? Mission: Organization,” presented by Ann Staley, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m., Brock Forum, Dwight Beeson Hall

“Genealogical Wikis: A Personal and Customizable Research Tool,” presented by Paul Milner, 6:00 – 7:15 p.m., Auditorium, Brooks Hall

Thursday, 16 June 2011 — Banquet

“What? It’s Not in Salt Lake City?” presented by David E. Rencher, 6:30 p.m., Cafeteria, University Center

Throughout the week, Heritage Books will be selling many of the best genealogy books from both its own catalog and other publishers, in the University Center. Be sure to visit their bookstore and see what you can find!

Book Review: Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program

The Internet has changed since 2001:

  • In 2001, there were approximately 143 million Internet users in the United States. This accounted for about 50% of the total population at that time. Last year, this number was almost 240 million, about 77% of the nation’s population.[1]
  • In January 2001, America Online and Time Warner completed their corporate merger. By September 2001, AOL had surpassed 31 million members using its services, over 20% of all U. S. Internet users at that time.[2] As of 31 March 2011, AOL reported just 3.6 million U. S. subscribers, further reporting a 24% decline in subscription revenue for the three months ending on that date.[3]
  • On 4 September 2001, Lawrence Page was issued U. S. Patent 6,285,999 for a “Method for node ranking in a linked database”–the search technology behind Google.com.[4] Google debuted in 1998, but did not become a publicly-traded company until 2004. It has since become the most popular Internet search engine by far.
  • Back in 2001, social networking in the way that we now use it simply did not exist. Friendster, the first site of its kind, debuted in 2002. MySpace was launched in 2003. Facebook opened in 2004. And Twitter first appeared in 2006.

In other words, the Internet has changed dramatically between 2001 and 2011. The words do not even capture the magnitude of the Internet’s transformation.

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program, by Karen Clifford, AG, recently updated and republished by Genealogical Publishing Company, was first published in 2001. Even the author seems to realize the futility of merely updating a book about the Internet published ten years ago, for she writes in her Acknowledgments, “If this wasn’t a season of economic instability, I would start over from scratch, but too many people are waiting for this update.” The book’s back cover describes the new edition’s updates:

The new updated edition contains references to current URLs and databases, discusses new genealogy software options, describes the latest procedures at FamilySearch, and includes a revision of the census chapter to reflect the release of the 1930 census.

Unfortunately, because she did not start over from scratch on the Internet sections, what we are left with is a book that does not deliver what it promises. It simply does not provide any instruction on the current state of online genealogy research.

Ms. Clifford does deliver a very good overview of genealogical research techniques. As an Accredited Genealogist and well-respected professional genealogist in Salt Lake City, Ms. Clifford effectively discusses the “Research Cycle,” how to fill out pedigree charts and family group records, citing sources, filing systems, using maps, resolving conflicts in evidence, etc. Each of the book’s sixteen chapters have a practical “Assignment,” so that readers can apply what they have learned.

Though quite thorough in these areas, the books is sorely lacking in its technological chapters. Chapter 3, “Becoming Acquainted with Your Genealogy Program,” for example, barely discusses computer programs at all, but does include “How Computer and Typewriter Keyboards are Alike” and “How the Computer Keyboard is Different.” Is this needed in 2011?

The book first addresses the Internet in some detail in Chapter 10, “Resources of the Family History Library.” This chapter describes using the Family History Library Catalog and other features of FamilySearch.org, including features of New FamilySearch. Chapter 11 discusses”Major Databases of the Family History Library,”  such as the old IGI and Ancestral File databases. Sadly, the book does not describe any of the online resources other than FamilySearch in any detail, including such subscription sites as Ancestry.com, Footnote.com, or GenealogyBank.com, nor such free genealogy sites as Find-A-Grave and U. S. Genweb. It does contain lists of links at the end of each chapter, but this is the extent of it.

For beginning genealogists, this book offers solid instruction into research techniques, providing a firm foundation that can later develop and evolve into superior research skills. Unfortunately, its coverage of the Internet and computer programs is sadly lacking any helpful substance. In my opinion, the book’s title should have simply not mentioned the Internet or computers at all.

  • Clifford, Karen, A.G. The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program. Updated edition. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2011.

———————————————————-

[1] Miniwatts Marketing Group, “United States of America Internet Usage and Broadband Usage Report,” Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics (http://www.internetworldstats.com/am/us.htm : accessed 7 Jun 2011).

[2] America Online, “Historical Dates for America Online, Inc.,” AOL Time Warner (http://www.corp.aol.com/whoweare/who_timeline.html : 17 Dec 2001), archived website, via Internet Archive, Wayback Machine (http://web.archive.org/ : accessed 7 Jun 2011).

[3] U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Form 10-Q: Quarterly Report… for the quarterly period ended March 31, 2011; filed by AOL, Inc., on 4 May 2011, pg. 10; digital images, “The Next-Generation EDGAR System,” U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission (http://www.sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/webusers.htm : accessed 7 Jun 2011).

[4] Lawrence Page, “Method for node ranking in a linked database,” U. S. Patent 6,285,999 (2001); digital images, Google Patents (http://www.google.com/patents?hl=en : accessed 7 Jun 2011).

Call to Action: Pennsylvania Historical Record Access

Today, 5 June 2011, Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, a professional genealogist in the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania, posted the following message on several forums, including several genealogy mailing lists and social media sites:

I just received the following this morning:

“Vital Records Bill SB-361 is scheduled for an important vote in State Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee on Wednesday June 8th, 2011 at 10am in Room 461 of the State Capitol Building in Harrisburg (I only just found out about it). More can be found on this at the June 1, 2011 entry on our website under The Latest News: http://users.rcn.com/timarg/PaHR-Access.htm.

This bill just makes birth certificates over 100 years old and death certificates over 50 years old open records. It doesn’t force them to be online, but making them open records is required before anything at all can be done. It is basically the same bill that passed this committee unanimously last year in the previous session. However, we cannot assume it will do so again. Your help is needed to make sure it passes again. Please visit, call, or at the very least email any or all of the committee members and ask them to vote in favor of this bill. If your state senator is on the committee so much the better. Be sure to let him or her know you are a constituent.

Please let your membership know about this. Thank you for your help.

Tim Gruber

610-791-9294”

If anyone can lend their support, please feel free to do so. The website Tim mentions is of the organization whose sole purpose is to get the PA Vital records opened up for easier access. It has information on why we need to do this, and who to contact.

Pennsylvania is one of only a few (less than ten) states that have refused to open their vital records to researchers, regardless of the age of the record. The state began their current vital registration program, for births and deaths, in 1906. All of these records, including those for people who died in 1906, are not considered public records by the state. This means that (1) there is no publicly available index to births or deaths within the state, from 1906 to the present; (2) researchers have absolutely no access to search any birth or death records, from 1906 to the present; and (3) researchers must provide detailed information on the deceased, including a specific familial relationship, in order to obtain a death certificate. And of course there are other implications for genealogists, as well.

Compare this policy with some of Pennsylvania’s neighbors. In the state of Maryland, birth certificates become publicly available after 100 years, and death certificates become publicly available after 10 years. Birth indexes are available for viewing on microfilm at the Maryland State Archives even for the period during which the certificate is restricted (for births less than 100 years old). Death indexes are available online from 1875 through 1972 for Baltimore City, and from 1898 through 1968 for the rest of the state. In the District of Columbia, the seat of our federal government, birth certificates are restricted for 100 years, and death certificates are restricted for 50 years.

The open-access advocacy group quoted above only requests open access to death certificates older than 50 years as a start, the same as has been available in the District of Columbia (not to mention most other states) for many years.

For more information please visit the website for the People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access (PaHR-Access). This website discusses the issues in great depth, and includes a list of “Ways You Can Help,” sample letters, and other useful information.

If you live or have research interests in Pennsylvania, please get involved. As mentioned, there is a hearing scheduled for this Wednesday, 8 June 2011, in Harrisburg. Please contact the members of the State Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee immediately. We must make our voices heard, so that this bill will pass.

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