Archive for the ‘Genealogy blogging’ Category

Publishing: Why Typography Matters

I will admit that I am only a recent convert to typographic concerns. Until the middle of last year, I was content with everything being Times New Roman, size 12, single-spaced in Microsoft Word. It took constant prodding from a good friend of mine, a fellow professional genealogist, who also has a background in design, to make me see the light.

Readers don’t notice design. They don’t notice typography. But if it is bad, they won’t read. And what is the point of spending the time to write a book or an article or a blog or a webpage, if no one wants to read it?

As I have noted before when discussing presentations, design can have a direct effect on learning. People are less likely to learn from a poorly-designed medium. This is no less true for a family history book, society newsletter, or blog than it is for a PowerPoint presentation. It just seems to be discussed less by those of us self-publishing, whether it be a society publication, a family history for a private audience, or a book of abstracts.

The image on this blog post coins an adage: “Good typography is invisible. Bad typography is everywhere.”

Of course, there is also an opposing viewpoint. In a 2010 study Princeton University researchers conclude that learning in a print medium may actually benefit from horrible typography. The theory is that print material set in ugly typefaces force readers to concentrate harder to read the material, and therefore they retain more of the information. Read “Hideous fonts may boost reading comprehension,” for more information.

Regardless of your opinion on the subject, one thing is certain: typography matters. Pay attention the next time you read a book, journal, or newsletter. What do you think of the font, line spacing, character spacing, etc.? Does the typography add to or detract from the readability of the material? Does it add to or detract from your ability to understand the material you are reading?

SOURCES:

Adam Christopher, “9th February, 2011: Typography matters,” Adamchristopher.co.uk blog, posted 9 February 2011 (http://www.adamchristopher.co.uk : accessed 14 January 2012).

C. Diemand-Yauman, et al., “Fortune favors the Bold (and the Italicized): Effects of disfluency on educational outcomes,” Cognition (2010); (http://web.princeton.edu/sites/opplab/papers/Diemand-Yauman_Oppenheimer_2010.pdf : accessed 14 January 2012).

Laura Miller, “Hideous fonts may boost reading comprehension,” Salon web magazine, posted 18 January 2011, under topic “Readers and Reading” (http://www.salon.com/topic/readers_and_reading : accessed 14 January 2012).

My last word on GeneaBlogging and the Paradigm Shift

I knew when I posted “The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new ‘experts’?” that it might push some buttons. The piece was heavily edited, and it sat on the shelf for almost two months before I decided to post it.

What I did not realize is that the most controversial part of my post would be the last paragraph:

The online genealogy community needs to recognize [that blogs are public]. We need to join the genealogy community as a whole. … Treat your blog the way you would treat anything else done publicly. Put your best face forward. You don’t have to change your voice to sound professional, or anything like that. But at least cite the sources that you discuss in your blog post. Try to learn new techniques and apply them to your research, then write about what you learned. Not only will your ancestors thank you for that, but so will those new genealogists who look to your blog for guidance.[1]

Surprisingly, other bloggers felt that some of this crossed a line. The primary objection was raised by Marian Pierre-Louis in her post “Genre and Genealogy“: that blogs are aimed at a different audience than a scholarly journal, so citations are not necessary.[2]

I would like to respond to these sentiments.

First, I do recognize that there are many different reasons that people blog. For some, a blog is a way to tell stories that their grandmother told them. How do you cite that? You don’t, because you are the source. For others, a blog is a way to communicate back and forth with your genea-buddies. No citation needed for your own opinion.

However, if you are using your blog to report on your research, in my opinion, you should be citing your sources.

I am not the first person to suggest that genealogy bloggers cite the sources that they use. In fact, this subject seems to come up every year. Unfortunately, the geneablogging community decides almost every year that citing sources in a blog post is unnecessary.

I am definitely not one of the genealogy bloggers who believes this. You will see my sources in every post I write.

Thomas Macentee of Geneabloggers has led at least two separate initiatives on the subject of citing your sources.

In the first initiative, in March and April 2009, I believe that Thomas was trying very hard to convince other bloggers of the importance of citations. He even went to the trouble of writing a “Genealogy Source Citations Quick Reference” card, and a post about how to use HTML code to superscript numbers and add hyperlinks to source citations within blog posts. See below for the posts that I could find during this spring 2009 push:

You can find the “Genealogy Source Citation Quick Reference” card at http://hidefgen.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Citations_Quick_Reference.pdf.

In the last of the posts listed above, Thomas expressed the following sentiments:

Always looking to convert a difficult situation into a win for the geneablogger community, I started Cite Rite a source citation initiative since the lack of citations in genealogy blog posts seemed to be at the heart of the issue with Mr. Duxbury’s distate for genealogy blogs.  In addition, I created the Genealogy Source Citation Quick Reference card to educate new genealogists and geneabloggers on the importance of source citation.[3]

The comments to these posts show that several bloggers already cited their sources, and others were beginning to do the same.

In the fall of 2010, a discussion on citing sources in blog posts again occurred, inspired by a post entitled “Bloggers Should Set An Example” by Martin Hollick in his former blog, The Slovak Yankee. Unfortunately, this post no longer appears to be available online. Martin notes on his website: “[this blog] once had over 1,000 posts, but I removed all posts that I thought were opinionated and left those that were pure genealogy, some 600 posts.”[4]

Thomas posted twice on the subject of source citations during this fall 2010 initiative:

Both the tone of the comments and the outcome from this discussion was vastly different than in the earlier one. It was apparent that the “geneablogging community” had spoken, and citations were a no-go for most bloggers. Whereas in 2009 Thomas provided new resources for helping bloggers cite their sources, in August 2010 he provided the graphic seen here.

To me, this is not progress.

I want to be clear that I am using Thomas as an example in this post because he is a leader in the geneablogging community. I am not picking on him at all. I know that he does use source citations in his own research. Most of his blog posts in Geneabloggers do not contain any facts that would need citations.

More experienced genealogists always talk about “if I only I knew … when I first started doing genealogy.” One of the most common phrases is “if I only I knew to cite my sources back then.” With more and more new genealogists coming into contact with and learning from blogs, wouldn’t we be doing them a favor by telling them, “Hey! Cite your sources!” and showing them how (or at least practicing what we preach)? Ten or twenty years from now, they won’t have to look back and say, “if only I knew.” Because they would  know.

How many genealogy bloggers believe that we should cite sources in our research? How many of us painstakingly add citations to our Rootsmagic, Family Tree Maker, or Legacy Family Tree databases using their citation templates? Shouldn’t we practice what we preach? Why is there a double standard?

What’s the difference between saying “my blog doesn’t need citations–it’s just for fun, it’s not a scholarly journal” and saying “my research doesn’t need citations–it’s just for fun, I’m not a professional”? The slope may be slippier than you think.

It’s true, bloggers. You are in control of your blogs, and it is your decision whether or not you want to cite your sources. I hope that even one of you will read one of these posts and decide to start.

SOURCES:

[1] Michael Hait, CG, “The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new ‘experts’?,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 16 December 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed 5 Jan 2012).

[2] Marian Pierre-Louis, “Genre and Genealogy,” Marian’s Roots & Rambles blog, posted 27 December 2011 (http://rootsandrambles.blogspot.com : accessed 5 Jan 2012).

[3] Thomas Macentee, “In Defense of Genealogy Blogs,” Geneabloggers blog, posted 4 Apr 2009 (http://www.geneabloggers.com : accessed 5 Jan 2012).

[4] Martin Hollick, “April Fool’s,” The Slovak Yankee blog, posted 1 April 2011 (http://mhollick.typepad.com/slovakyankee : accessed 5 Jan 2012).

If you would like to cite this post:

Michael Hait, CG, “My last word on GeneaBlogging and the Paradigm Shift,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 6 January 2012 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

Looking Back on ’11, Forward to ’12

New Year’s Day is a time for reflection on the past, and a time for assessing one’s goals and future plans.

Since I started this blog, I have used it as a way to gauge my professional progress. You can read about my goals from previous years in these earlier posts:

Last year I did not set public goals for myself. I think I meant to do so, but somehow neglected to write the post. Due to this neglect, I will instead note some of my accomplishments in 2011, and set some goals for myself in 2012. (Much more like what I did in the first post above, for 2009/2010.)

I am a bit taken back when I look at what I have accomplished this past year. I managed so much more than I imagined possible a year ago. In no particular order, these are some of the accomplishments of which I am personally most proud:

1. At the end of January 2011, I published the ebook Online State Resources for Genealogists. Within less than a week I had sold about 200 copies, which is far more than I expected. I originally planned to have an update prepared by mid-summer, but this has not yet been completed. I will be working hard this month to have the update finished by the end of January.

2. Also in January, I was reelected to another 2-year stint as Vice-President of the National Capital Area Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

3. In March I completed the 18-month ProGen Study Group educational program. This was very helpful in networking with other “transitional” genealogists over the course of the program. We all certainly learned a lot from each other, and from our mentor J. Mark Lowe, CG.

4. Though I was unable to attend the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference in Charleston, South Carolina, in May, it was still a momentous occasion for me. It marked the debut of my publication Genealogy at a Glance: African American Genealogy Research (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2011), and the announcement of the winners of the 2010 International Society of Family History Writers & Editors Excellence in Writing Competition. My article, “Learning from Genealogical Failure,” won 1st Prize in the “Newspaper Columns” category.

5. In May, amid a very active blogging discussion concerning professional genealogy, I renamed, revamped, and relaunched this blog. It was originally called “Tricks of the Tree” when I started blogging in 2008, but my blogging was sporadic at best: 7 posts in 2008, 19 posts in 2009, and just 4 posts in 2010. Since the relaunch as “Planting the Seeds” in May, I have written 123 posts!

6. In June I again attended the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University (Birmingham, Alabama), completing Elizabeth Shown Mills’s “Advanced Methodology & Evidence Analysis” course.

7. In July 2011 I achieved my primary professional goal by becoming a Certified Genealogist(sm) through the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

8. From May through October I worked with the National Park Service researching a community of slaves that once lived on Monocacy National Battlefield. The results of my research are currently being developed into an exhibit that will debut in January 2012, and research is expected to continue in 2012 and 2013.

9. In November the Association of Professional Genealogists announced that I had been elected to the APG Board of Directors, for the Southeast Region for 2012-2013.

10. At the end of November I published my first instructional book, aimed at genealogical lecturers: Show ‘N’ Tell: Creating Effective and Attractive Genealogy Presentations. Unlike my previous self-published books, this book does not contain transcriptions or indexes of record sources. Completing the writing was a major accomplishment for me.

And now my goals for 2012:

1. Continue to design new presentations. I already have quite a few presentations scheduled for 2012, including two lectures at the 2012 National Genealogical Society annual conference, and four lectures at the 2012 Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University. I have all-day workshops of four lectures each scheduled in Oklahoma and Tennessee, and single lectures scheduled in Maryland and Pennsylvania. I also have two webinars for Legacy Family Tree scheduled, and an appearance on the “Research at the National Archives and Beyond” Internet radio show with host Bernice Bennett on BlogTalkRadio.com. However, I would like to create more new presentations, so that I am not merely giving the same presentations over and over again. (You can see all of my currently scheduled future engagements using the Calendar in the right sidebar.)

2. Complete some books that have been sitting on my shelf. I have made significant progress on several books, but have not yet finished them. One of them contains transcriptions of Civil War draft exemptions in Baltimore city, Maryland. Other subjects include St. Mary’s County, Maryland, tax papers, and Prince George’s County, Maryland, estate inventories. All of these books have been sitting on my shelf.

3. Finish my updated edition of Online State Resources for Genealogy. I have made significant progress to this end, but I really want to take a few days and get this update finished. This involves not only adding new resources, but also a redesign. I also want to make an edition to be used in e-readers. While I am at it, I would also like to make the updates semiannual rather than annual (so hopefully another update in June or July).

4. Get started on some new books. I have a series of books in mind that I have barely started working on, but I really need to hanker down and hammer them out. I won’t reveal the subject of this series yet, but I believe that it will be greatly appreciated when complete.

5. Have an article accepted for publication in an academic journal. I have two case studies that I am writing up for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, and another that I intend for The Genealogist. I also have an article in mind for a historical journal, probably the Maryland Historical Magazine. In 2012 I would really like to dedicate myself to completing and submitting these articles.

6. Get better at time management. A few months ago, I created a simplified weekly schedule that would provide time for research and writing. So far I have not kept it for even a single week. I really need to get better at this–I am just not very organized when it comes to spending my time productively.

7. Write some magazine articles. I would really like to publish more magazine articles this year than I did in 2011. The popular magazines have room for less advanced descriptions of records and research methodology. I have also been considering writing an article on genealogy (in general) for a non-genealogy magazine. I have not yet decided which magazine would be best.

8. Submit to genealogy writing competitions. There are several writing competitions happening this year. If I can actually write enough entries, I would love to enter them all!

9. Attend the new Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. Registration for GRIP opens in February 2012. The Institute will be held from Sunday, 22 July 2012 through Friday, 27 July 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am particularly interested in the course “Advanced Research Methods” taught by Thomas W. Jones, Claire Bettag, and Rick Sayre.

10. Find some time to research my family for a change! After all, this is why I got into this mess in the first place. :)

Happy New Year!

2011 in Review: “Planting the Seeds” blog

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Follow Friday: More on the Genealogy Paradigm Shift

It is Follow Friday! This is a blogging meme in which authors recommend other blogs, websites, repositories, or anything else. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I will spotlight different resources for professional and aspiring professional genealogists each week: not only genealogy-related, but also others of interest.

Two weeks ago, I posted “The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new ‘experts’?” A valuable discussion has occurred both in the comments on that post–which I would recommend that everyone read–and in posts on other blogs. To say the least, not everyone agreed with my observations, and in fact some people read more into the post than I intended, even somehow coming away with an impression that I disapproved of or somehow blamed the online community that I have spent literally hundreds of unpaid hours working to support and help develop.

This Follow Friday, I would like to point folks to some of these other posts. Almost all of them do provide a constructive discussion of the subjects that I broached:

And last but not least, a post that I feel deserves special mention:

In this post, she promises a few blog posts specifically addressing different topics I had discussed. The first of these posts is “What have you done for me lately?” and discusses genealogical societies. She captures a major concern from the point of view of societies. I recommend that all members of the online community read this post and those that will surely follow.

Happy New Year!

Societies, Communities, and Gatekeepers, oh my!

Researching Maryland land records online at no cost

Locating digitized records available online is one of my greatest interests. The compilation and publication of my ebook Online State Resources for Genealogy earlier this year was the product of this interest, containing over 300 pages of links to over 1500 record images and indexes held on non-genealogy websites. The updated edition of this ebook should be completed early next year, and all registered purchasers of the first edition will receive a free download of the second, updated edition. The new edition will contain several hundred new sites that did not appear in the first edition, as well as many resources newly available from the sites that did appear.

Dee, author of the Free Genealogy Resources and Ancestrally Challenged blogs, shares my passion for online genealogy resources.

She recently solicited her readers for guest post authors, and I volunteered. My guest post, entitled, “Guest Post by Michael Hait: Researching Maryland land records online at no cost,” appeared in the 19 December edition of Free Genealogy Resources.

Enjoy!

No “genealogical community”?

My recent article “The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new ‘experts’?” was apparently not the only response to Thomas Macentee’s Geneabloggers post entitled, “Open Thread Thursday: Do We Eat Our Own In The Genealogy Industry?

James Tanner posted the article, “Well Said Tom, Here’s My Response,” on his Genealogy’s Star blog. In this article, James writes,

I don’t think that historically there has been a “genealogical community.” I believe that the bloggers are in the process of creating such a community. Before there was the “professional, journal writing” genealogical group but I don’t think you could view them as a “community.”[1]

I hope that James will further explain this statement. No genealogical community?

How about the National Genealogical Society? It has been around since 1903! Or any of these societies:

  • The New England Historic Genealogical Society (est. 1845)
  • The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (est. 1869)
  • The American Society of Genealogists (est. 1940)
  • The Board for the Certification of Genealogists (est. 1964)
  • The Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (est. 1977)
  • The Association of Professional Genealogists (est. 1979)

Or any of the hundreds of local, county, state, or regional historical and genealogical societies throughout the world?

When I was corresponding with distant historical societies and genealogical societies or other researchers working on the same families, on paper with envelopes and stamps, I felt like part of a community.

Certainly, this was a small community, especially if compared with the thousands of GeneaBloggers and members of the “online genealogy community.”

But it was a community.

To me, a community is a group of people with common interests and common goals, working together, offering each other support. How can anyone look at the accomplishments of genealogists of the past, including the organizations that they formed and progress that they made together and claim that “historically there has [not] been a ‘genealogy community'”?

Without the genealogy community of the past, we would not have the online genealogy community.

SOURCES:

[1] James Tanner, “Well Said Tom, Here’s My Response,” Genealogy’s Star blog, posted 14 Dec 2011 (http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com : accessed 18 Dec 2011).

If you would like to cite this post:

Michael Hait, CG, “No ‘genealogical community’?,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 18 Dec 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,812 other followers

%d bloggers like this: