Archive for February, 2013

Addressing questions about the professional genealogy survey

From now through next Tuesday, 26 February 2013, I am conducting a survey of anyone identifying themselves as a professional genealogist. For more details and the link to the survey, please read the announcement here.

First, I would like to thank all of those professionals who have taken the time to respond to my survey. The more people respond, the more accurate this portrait of our community will be, and the better we might understand ourselves.

I would like to also respond to some of the questions I have received in various forums.

1. This survey is completely anonymous. At no point do I ask for your name or any contact information. I do ask for the ZIP code for US residents. I am gathering this information as a way to map out where US professional genealogists live. Do certain areas have a higher concentration of professionals than others? If so, do these areas correspond to high population centers, active genealogical societies or APG chapters, or major genealogical repositories? (Or is there some other factor that might affect the concentration of professional genealogists?)

Several people have pointed out that I might be able to identify respondents using their ZIP code. I can only assure respondents that I will not do that. I am not interested in individual data—only the collective statistics. I will not share the ZIP codes with anyone else. When I discuss the results, I will only discuss in terms of states or regions.

2. The survey is lacking in international representation. I definitely want input from international professional genealogists. I simply don’t know a lot of the intricacies of international genealogy communities. This ignorance is most glaring when it comes to the membership organizations and educational opportunities available. Please complete the survey anyway. There are a few free-form boxes for membership organizations and educational opportunities where you can input your responses.

3. The survey is not just for those who conduct research for clients. The sole qualifying question is whether you consider yourself a professional genealogist. You do not have to conduct client research, you do not have to be credentialed, and you do not have to be a member of any particular organization. In fact, part of the goal of the survey is to capture data from those who consider themselves professional genealogists but may not fit into older models of what a professional genealogist is and does.

4. The survey does not require any answers about income. It does ask a few questions about income, but these questions offer “Decline to answer” as an option. Money is always something that people get rightfully anxious about discussing.

There were other questions concerning income that I considered asking. For example, what percentage of your income stems from research, writing, lecturing, etc.? However, I decided that two or three questions about income were more than enough. Perhaps in a future survey, these other questions can be asked (whether by myself or by someone else).

For the sake of uniformity, and recognizing that my reach is somewhat geographically-limited, all questions concerning income are in U. S. dollars. For international members who use other currencies, please try to estimate a conversion into U. S. dollars if you choose to respond to those questions.

———

I hope these additional explanations help to alleviate some of your concerns. To take the survey, use the link in this post.

Creating a portrait of professional genealogy

The March 2007 issue of the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly published the results of a member survey.[1] It is the most recent portrait (of which I am aware) of the community of professional genealogists. In 2012, the APG conducted another membership survey, but its goal was not to paint a portrait of the community, but to determine the direction of the future of the organization. Its results have not yet been published.

I believe it is time for a new portrait of the professional genealogy community. A lot has changed in the past five years:

  • Ancestry.com instituted (and then discontinued) the ExpertConnect program, introducing many genealogists to the profession and strengthening the client market.
  • Social media and the Internet–including blogs, Facebook, and Twitter–decimated the “wall” between professional genealogists and our avocational counterparts.
  • The membership of the Association of Professional Genealogists has grown from just over 1800 members to over 2500 members.
  • APG has grown into a truly international organization, with chapters in Ontario, Canada, and Western Canada, as well as the Internet-based Virtual Chapter.[2] New chapters are currently being organized in the British Isles and Australia/New Zealand.[3]

The most glaring omission in APG’s previous surveys is that the surveys targeted only those professionals who were, at the time, members of APG. There are many professional genealogists who are not members of APG, for various reasons.

As this blog’s stated purpose is to support and educate professionals and aspiring professionals, I have designed a survey to try to meet these goals. I would like to produce a portrait of the professional genealogist community. This survey is not, in any way, sponsored or endorsed by the Association of Professional Genealogists or any other organization.

I would like to invite any who consider themselves professional genealogists–whether your business focus is research, education, publishing, or something entirely different–to complete this survey. Please share this post freely, so that the survey might reach those professionals who may not otherwise find it.

The survey is anonymous–it does not inquire the names of any respondents. The questions are relatively straightforward, and should not take more than 5 or 10 minutes to complete.

[Click here for answers to some common questions/concerns regarding the survey. Added 21 Feb 2013.]

The survey will be open for one week, beginning today, 19 February 2013, and closing on 26 February 2013. Sometime in the future I will discuss the results in this blog.

Click here to take the survey

Note: I do recognize that there is one shortcoming inherent in the survey. As it is being produced and shared online, only those professional genealogists with an online presence will be able to respond. In today’s world, with the Internet as prevalent as it is, am hoping that this will create only a small, reasonable, and acceptable margin of error.

SOURCES:

[1] Sharon Tate Moody, CG, “Who Are We?: A By-the-Numbers Look at the Average APG Member,” Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly, March 2007, 5–7.

[2] “Chapters,” Association of Professional Genealogists (http://www.apgen.org/chapters/index.html : accessed 19 February 2013).

[3] Minutes, Association of Professional Genealogists Board Meeting, FGS Conference – Birmingham, Alabama, 31 August 2012, “Board Meeting Minutes,” Association of Professional Genealogists: Members Only (http://www.apgen.org : accessed 19 February 2013); content available to members only.

Writing the Ridgelys

On 11 August 2010 National Park Service archaeologists at Monocacy National Battlefield announced that, using clues from the historical record, they had discovered the remains of several slave cabins dating from ca. 1794–1827.[1] I remember reading the Washington Post report on the discovery, and thinking I would love to research the families that lived there.

Within two months, I received an interesting telephone call from the owner of African American genealogy website Afrigeneas. They had been contacted by Essence Magazine for a feature piece, and needed someone with experience researching slaves in Maryland. With the deadline looming I was able to identify one of the slaves owned by the Vincendiere family and trace his descendants down to a journalist in Pittsburgh. His obituary named his ex-wife and a daughter, both still living. The piece, “A Legacy of Love and Pride,” by Robin D. Stone, appeared in the February 2011 issue of Essence.[2]

I decided to follow this with an article discussing some of the research I had done—the methodology, not just the results. On 21 February 2011 I published “Researching the descendants of the Vincendiere slaves, part one” in the African American Genealogy column I wrote on Examiner.com.[3] I originally intended this short piece as part of a series describing the research I had conducted on the family. The first part garnered some attention from the right people. Within another few weeks I received an email—and then a phone call—from the Cultural Resources Program Manager of Monocacy Battlefield, Joy Beasley. We met for lunch and discussed a potential project.

To make a long story short, the National Park Service hired me to research the lives and descendants of all of the slaves living in the slave village—all of the slaves owned by the Vincendiere family. When all was said and done, several months later, I delivered a report over 900 pages in total length, including document images. I had discovered the identities of slaves and their descendants not only in Maryland, but also in Louisiana. One of these families was the Ridgely family.

The Ridgely family—including mother Caroline Ridgely, her children, and their descendants—fascinated me. Their stories were remarkable. All of them had been freed by 1860. Caroline’s son Cornelius Ridgely served in the U. S. Navy during the Civil War. A number of the descendants graduated from various universities. Several became doctors or dentists in Baltimore and Washington, D. C. One descendant worked for the National Park Service during the 1930s before serving in World War II, and later became principal of a Washington, D. C., high school not far from where I worked in Washington. The family story seemed perfect for a three- or four-generation family history narrative. The story wrote itself.

Writing a family history narrative uses different skills than does writing a proof argument or a case study. The one piece of advice I would give anyone attempting to write such a piece is to identify a common theme that holds the story together. This technique produces a compelling narrative.

After I had finished it, I spent about a month editing it. Reading it and re-reading it. Making sure the sentences were concise and the paragraphs were topical. Finally, just a few days before the deadline, I mailed copies to the National Genealogical Society, for its annual Family History Writing Contest.

Several months passed. Finally I received a response. I had won First Place. The prize was an all-expenses-paid trip to the NGS Conference and possible publication in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. As I was already speaking at the 2012 Conference just a month or so later, I was given the option of attending the 2013 Conference in Las Vegas.

For publication in the Quarterly, more work still needed to be done. The Contest judges had provided me with comments for improving the article. Taking these into consideration, I went into another round of editing and rewriting. Finally I submitted the product to Thomas W. Jones and Melinde Lutz Byrne, the editors of the Quarterly.

A short while later, the editors came back to me with more edits and a few items that needed follow-up. Another round and I resubmitted the article.

After all was said and done, the editors sent me a final draft. This draft was in the familiar format of the Quarterly—the fonts, the spacing, the header and footer. It was a very exciting day for me. Having an article published in the preeminent genealogical journal in the United States had been a long-term goal of mine. I was finally at the last step.

Of course, the rest of the issue had to be laid out. It had to go to the printer. I had to wait for the issue to be completed.

About two weeks ago, my two-and-a-half-year journey had reached a new milestone. I received my copies of the December 2012 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. My article, “In the Shadow of Rebellions: Maryland Ridgelys in Slavery and Freedom,” was the first in the issue.[4]

This research has not yet reached its final conclusion. Who knows where it may take me next?

SOURCES:

[1] “Slave Village Discovered in Maryland,” press release, 11 August 2010, National Park Service, Monocacy National Battlefield, Maryland (http://www.nps.gov/mono/slavevillage2010.htm : accessed 16 February 2013).

[2] Robin D. Stone, “A Legacy of Love and Pride,” Essence Magazine, February 2011, 122–127.

[3] Michael Hait, “Researching the descendants of the Vincendiere slaves, part one,” posted 21 February 2011, in “National African American Genealogy” column, Examiner.com (http://www.examiner.com/article/researching-the-descendants-of-the-vincendiere-slaves-part-one : accessed 16 February 2013).

[4] Michael Hait, CG, “In the Shadow of Rebellions: Maryland Ridgelys in Slavery and Freedom,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Volume 100 (Dec 2012): 245–266.

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