Archive for the ‘Professional Genealogy’ Category

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!

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.]

The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new “experts”?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I started this blog post back in November, but put it on the shelf. Thomas MacEntee’s recent post (see below) has inspired me to post it, with some small changes.

This past spring the world discovered that, at some point in the past two or three years, there had been a significant change in the way news is delivered and spread. Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan, and the United States learned of his death–not through television news or CNN or a Presidential press conference–but through Twitter. The microblogging “social” website had scooped all of the traditional news outlets.

This is not the only evidence that Web 2.0 (as it has traditionally been called), the “social web,” has caused an incredible paradigm shift in many areas of life. Even my grandmother is on Facebook!

A similar paradigm shift seems to have occurred within the past two years in the world of genealogy.

Signs of the New Paradigm

The first mention of this change was in a post by Joan Miller written this past spring, shortly after the first RootsTech conference. On 15 April 2011 Joan posted “Genea-Bodies: The New Somebodies” in her LuxeGen blog. In this post, Joan wrote:

We are the New Somebodies.  Yes, in our industry we Genea-Bodies are the New Somebodies. Why?  Because a Nobody could become Some Project’s biggest cheerleader. Just look at the royal treatment the Official Bloggers received at Rootstech. (I was one).  Jay Verkler, Anne Roach, Paul Nuata et al knew what they were doing when they engaged the Genea-Bodies. We Genea-Bodies have a voice.  A collective voice.  A passionate voice.  And we talk about our passion. We blogged and tweeted and Facebooked our little hearts out about Rootstech.  Because we wanted to; because we felt the cause was warranted. And in part, because we had been noticed.  We had a job to do.  We were reporting on Rootstech! And not just the official bloggers, but all of us Genea-Bodies. We became Rootstech’s biggest cheerleaders because we cared and we were engaged.[1]

At the time, this blog post, and a comment on it by professional genealogist Marian Pierre-Louis, inspired a long discussion about professional genealogy and its place within the larger genealogy community, among other topics. This discussion also directly inspired me to resurrect my long-neglected blog (formerly called “Tricks of the Tree”) as this current blog.

Yet it took several months for me to realize the full impact of what Joan was saying.

On 15 October 2011 the genealogy website 1000memories.com announced that it had commissioned a duplication of a seminal 2007 survey conducted by Ancestry.com. The site then invited five genealogists to comment on the survey results: David E. Rencher, of FamilySearch; Randy Whited, a member of the Board of Directors of the Federation of Genealogical Societies; Amy Johnson Crow, CG, a professional genealogist and genealogy blogger (formerly Amy’s Genealogy, etc.); Thomas MacEntee, of Geneabloggers; and Caroline Pointer, author of the For Your Family Story blog. In all of their announcements about the survey and the accompanying “Genealogy Roundtable” of blog posts, 1000memories.com described these five as “five of the genealogy community’s top thinkers.”[2]

I doubt it is coincidental that three of the five genealogists chosen write popular genealogy blogs. This is a perfect example of the paradigm shift in genealogy.

The Old Paradigm

If you are not familiar with the American Society of Genealogists, here is a little background:

The American Society of Genealogists (ASG) was founded in 1940 by three distinguished academicians—Arthur Adams, John Insley Coddington, and Meredith Colket …. An honorary society, ASG is limited to fifty life-time members designated as Fellows (identified by the initials fasg). At the time of its founding, nothing existed to certify competent genealogists nor was there a method to honor significant achievement in the genealogical field.

Election to the ASG is based on a candidate’s published genealogical scholarship. Emphasis is upon compiled genealogies and published works that demonstrate an ability to use primary source material; to evaluate and analyze data; to properly document evidence; and to reach sound, logical conclusions presented in a clear and proper manner.[3]

Among other accomplishments, the American Society of Genealogists founded the National Institute for Genealogical Research (NIGR) held annually at the National Archives in Washington, D. C., in 1950, and the Board for the Certification of Genealogists (BCG) in 1964. They also publish two prestigious genealogical journals, The American Genealogist and The Genealogist. Past Fellows of the Society include such legends of genealogy as Donald Lines Jacobus, Milton Rubincam, Harry Wright Newman, Dr. Gaius M. Brumbaugh, Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr., Noel C. Stevenson, Richard Stephen Lackey, and Marsha Hoffman Rising.

As noted above, there are always fifty Fellows of the American Society of Genealogists. Some of these names are instantly recognizable by most genealogists: Elizabeth Shown Mills, Christine Rose, Helen F. M. Leary, Melinde Lutz Sanborn, Thomas W. Jones. These and the other Fellows, both past and present, are the most influential genealogists in United States genealogy history.

The rise of a genealogist’s career to become a Fellow often involved writing and publishing extensively, a long career in client research, frequent lecturing, and, in more than a few cases, revolutionizing some aspect of research methodology. Since 1964, this also usually entailed achieving the status of Certified Genealogist. Unlike most societies, ASG is not an organization that anyone can join. To become a Fellow, one must be nominated by a current member and then accepted by at least 80% of the voting members at the annual meeting. In other words, these are the genealogists that “the genealogy community’s top thinkers” consider “the genealogy community’s top thinkers.”

Do you cite the sources that you use? Thank members of the ASG.

Do you research the neighbors and associates of your ancestors, using cluster genealogy? Thank members of the ASG.

Aside from the five highly-visible Fellows named above, though, how many of the fifty current Fellows can you name? Do you recognize the work and accomplishments of John Frederick Dorman, Peter Wilson Coldham, George Ely Russell, or Henry Z. Jones, Jr.? [HINT: They are all currently-living FASGs.]

How about the names DearMYRTLE, Thomas MacEntee, Dick Eastman, or Randy Seaver? [HINT: They are not FASG, CG, or AG.]

The paradigm shift has occurred based on the exponential growth of the online genealogy community. Many new genealogists are learning to research by reading blogs.

Geneabloggers have become viewed as “experts,” without following the traditional path followed by earlier generations of genealogists: submitting a case study to a peer-reviewed journal like the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, or The American Genealogist, or getting certified through BCG or accredited through ICAPGen. (In other words, prove your expertise by allowing your research to be judged by other experts.)

The new paradigm is that the most influential genealogists are those that are most skilled with social media, not necessarily those that are most skilled at research. This is not to say that any specific GeneaBloggers or Bloggers-in-general are not good researchers. From what I have read on their blogs, the skill level of bloggers runs the gamut. Among the geneablogging community are the greenest of newbies and the most experienced of professionals. Quite a few professional genealogists (myself included) and Certified Genealogists (myself included) also blog.

I am proud to call myself a “GeneaBlogger.” The geneablogging community is a perfect representation of the genealogy community as a whole.

But is this really what we as a community need?

Do we need experts that represent us, or experts that are more skilled than us? Experts that we can learn from?

Is the Genealogy Paradigm Shift a good thing or a bad thing?

On 14 December 2011 Thomas MacEntee of the Geneabloggers blog and online radio show wrote, “Open Thread Thursday: Do We Eat Our Own In The Genealogy Industry?” In this post Thomas writes,

When I first got started in the online genealogy community, I was too concerned with how bloggers and others appeared to vendors as well as other entities.  I’m sure they thought we were rambunctious, sometimes out of control, and sought to destroy rather than build alliances. I sometimes focused too much on how we looked to outsiders.[4]

Almost single-handedly Thomas has led the charge in gaining respectability for genealogy bloggers. To be sure, there were blogs and bloggers around before he got started in his quest–folks like DearMYRTLE, Dick Eastman, and others. But Thomas has been a true geneablogging evangelist, and not only raised the visibility of smaller bloggers but also brought bloggers together as a community.

From where I stand, the Genealogy Paradigm Shift has both positive and negative aspects.

As noted by Joan and Thomas, the online genealogy community–Geneabloggers, and the denizens of Facebook, Twitter, and Second Life, as well as other sites–have a voice that is being heard.

The community has been mobilized to promote genealogy conferences and websites and software programs. The community also works to inform each other about issues like records access, especially the recent changes to the Social Security Death Index.

Genealogy blogs can also be used to educate about research techniques, experiences, etc. This is the main goal of the blog you are currently reading, as well as many others.

Thomas Macentee and many of the other bloggers are also active in the offline genealogy community, in organizations like the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the Association of Professional Genealogists, as well as hundreds of smaller historical and genealogical societies worldwide. Many of us started as genealogists, before we were “online genealogists” or, as Thomas phrases it “hi-def genealogists.”

A new generation of genealogists has already started to be born. They are not genealogists first and online genealogists second. They will be raised under the new paradigm, and may start by thinking that “everything is online.” Even once we dispel this notion, we will have to deal with another issue that is far more frightening.

The “online genealogy community” that everyone is so fond of is replacing the traditional local genealogy community. While the GeneaBloggers website lists a few thousand genealogy blogs, with about a dozen or so new ones every few weeks, genealogical societies across the country are literally dying from a lack of new members.

You might ask, so what if those old local societies disappear? We have the GeneaBlogger community or that Facebook group to support us.

Moral support, yes–definitely. Research support, far less:

  • GeneaBloggers do not generally scour every cemetery in a specific county and publish full listings of the gravestones. Genealogical societies do.
  • GeneaBloggers do not abstract all of the obituaries of some small county newspaper from the mid-19th century and publish them. Genealogical societies do.
  • GeneaBloggers do not maintain genealogical libraries containing decades of work on local families. Genealogical societies do.
  • GeneaBloggers cannot go back to 1965 and reproduce the resources that were transcribed by the local genealogical society before that big hurricane or tornado hit and destroyed everything.

These resources can only remain available as long as we continue to support the societies that provide them.

Every single one of us, as genealogists, lives somewhere. Are you a member of your local genealogical society and/or your ancestral genealogical society?

I would like to ask–even plead–with other geneabloggers to devote at least one post to a local genealogical society. Not the big ones like the National Genealogical Society or the New England Historic Genealogical Society, but a county genealogical society. Describe the society–its meetings, its accomplishments, its publications. If you are a member of more than one local society, write a separate post about each one.

And if you are not a member of a local genealogical or historical society, please join one. It can be the one where you live, or one on the other side of the country, where your ancestors lived 200 years ago. But pay your dues, write for the newsletter, and help these societies stay alive.

The future?

Many bloggers might think to themselves, “I’m no expert. I never claimed to be one.” But to a new genealogist who stumbles onto your blog because it came up in their Google search, you may be viewed as one. Though writing a blog feels like writing in a private journal, this is not the case. Blogs are public. Geneabloggers are quickly becoming the public face of genealogy.

The online genealogy community needs to recognize this. We need to join the genealogy community as a whole. This must necessarily move beyond simply joining your local society. 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.

SOURCES:

[1] Joan Miller, “Genea-Bodies: The New Somebodies,” Luxegen Genealogy and Family History blog, posted 15 April 2011 (http://www.luxegen.ca/ : accessed 1 November 2011).

[2] Michael Katchen, “Survey shows family history knowledge declining despite growing interest,” 1000memories.com blog, posted 15 October 2011 (http://1000memories.com/blog : accessed 1 November 2011).

[3] “The Society,” American Society of Genealogists (http://www.fasg.org/ : accessed 1 November 2011).

[4] Thomas Macentee, “Open Thread Thursday: Do We Eat Our Own In The Genealogy Industry?,” Geneabloggers blog, posted 15 December 2011 (http://www.geneabloggers.com/eat-our-own-genealogy-industry/ : accessed 16 December 2011).

If you would like to cite this post:

Michael Hait, CG, “The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new ‘experts’?,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 16 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.]

Genealogy Crisis Averted!

This morning I left my house at about 9am for an hour’s drive to speak at the Sussex County Genealogical Society in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. As I pulled up in front of the Rehoboth Beach Public Library, where the meetings are held, I reached down to grab my laptop.

Except it wasn’t there. I had somehow, in the course of packing my projector and a box of books for sale into the car, left my laptop sitting in the living room by the front door.

I walked toward the Library, thinking about how I could present a lecture about conducting a “reasonably exhaustive search” without my presentation (and the document images involved with my case study).

Luckily for me, the Library had wifi Internet access, and a member of the Society had a laptop that I could use.

And even more importantly, I regularly save all of my presentations to my DropBox account. I was able to pull up DropBox and download my presentation onto the laptop.

The experience taught me two important lessons that all genealogists, both amateur and professional, can learn from.

1. Always back up everything. This is a lesson I really learned a few years ago when my external hard drive failed, taking several years of client reports and all of my personal research (including hundreds of scanned family photos). I also lost three years of photos of my daughter, who turns six next week. They will be the most sorely missed.

Drives fail. Files get corrupted. Papers are lost, torn, burnt, or soiled. Unless you want to completely redo your work every few years, when it is ultimately all lost to some disaster–physical or digital–back it up. Preferably in multiple formats in multiple locations.

2. Success comes as a result of good preparation. I have often mentioned the importance of focused research. Create a research plan to address your specific problem. Identify records of interest before you go to a repository. The most successful research is conducted when you know what you want to find and where you are going to look for it. Stumbling around aimlessly will never result in successful research.

And if you aren’t prepared, you will never be able to deliver a successful presentation an hour from home…

Writing an effective report of your research, to a client or yourself

When you research your family (or a client’s family, if you are a professional) how do you write up your research? Or do you write it up at all?

There are a many different formats that one can use in this process. But, regardless of format, your report should have the same parts to be most effective.

The first part is to define the scope of the report. Why are you researching? What are you looking for? If you have not defined a specific goal or a specific research question, how can you expect to find the answer–or know it when you do?

The next part is to identify and detail the relevant information you have already located. This is your starting point. You will want to note every piece of information or potential clue that you will follow in the course of this research.

The third part of your report should be the actual results of your research. This should be fully documented with full source citations of every record consulted. Including all negative searches. If you looked in Book A, Record Group B, and Microfilm X, then you need to note all of these sources with the information, if any, they contained. Be careful to also document exactly what you searched for. If you looked for specific names in an index, for example, record these names. You may have to go back to the same sources in the future to look for other names.

In this section you should also fully analyze and evaluate each source, correlating the information with the information found in other sources, noting and reconciling any conflicting evidence, etc. If you are able to reach any conclusions, you should write out a source-cited proof summary or proof argument.

It is also useful, at the end of your report, to create a list of Sources Used. I will admit, I do not always include a separate source list in every report, because all sources are cited independently in footnotes within the body of the research results. But it can be helpful to include a separate list that collects all of these sources into a single list that can be more quickly consulted.

The final part of a research report should be to make Suggestions for Further Research. If you have constructed a conclusion that meets the Genealogical Proof Standard, you may skip this part. However, if there are sources still left unsearched, or clues left unfollowed, or conflicts left unreconciled, this would be the section where you will note the research that still needs to be done to conclusively prove your case.

By following this practice, even genealogists by hobby rather than by trade can research more efficiently and more effectively. You will no longer search the same sources for the same names time after time (with the same results). You will no longer bounce around with no true purpose and no true conclusions. And best of all, in many cases, simple organization in this manner may be enough to allow you to identify the information you already have, and break through brick walls that didn’t really exist after all!

APG announces Board of Directors election results

The following announcement appeared on GeneaPress on 9 November 2011:

Association of Professional Genealogists Announces Election Results for Executive Committee, Regional Directors and Nominating Committee

Kenyatta D. Berry Elected APG President

WESTMINSTER, Colo., November 9, 2011−The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG®) today announced election results for its 2012–2014 executive committee, as well as for nine regional directors and two new nominating committee members. Kenyatta D. Berry of Santa Monica, Calif. was elected president. Berry, a genealogist, entrepreneur and lawyer with more than 15 years of experience in genealogy research and writing, served as APG vice president during the last term. She will succeed Laura G. Prescott of Brookline, New Hampshire.

“I am honored to be elected and excited at the depth and breadth of experience represented by our incoming officers, board and committee members,” said Berry. “APG made great strides during the last administration, growing to more than 2,400 members, adding new Chapters and expanding internationally. I look forward to continuing the important work of this organization.”

Kimberly D. Powell of Pennsylvania was elected APG vice president. Powell has been writing and blogging on genealogy for About.com since 2000. She is the author of several genealogy books and currently serves as a member on the APG board.

Janice S. Prater of Denver, Colo. will serve as secretary. Prater is the editor of the International Society of British Genealogy and Family History’s quarterly publication and is treasurer for the Colorado Chapter of APG. APG treasurer will be Joan Peake of West Virginia, a certified public accountant and the president of the Great Lakes Chapter of APG and the Fayette Ohio Genealogical Society.

APG members elected the following regional directors:

West region: Jean Wilcox Hibben, CG, is president of the Southern California Chapter of APG and the Corona (Calif.) Genealogical Society, secretary of the Genealogical Speakers Guild. Joan A. Hunter, MLS, CG, serves as Librarian General for the National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, and is a past president of the Oregon Chapter of APG.

Midwest region: Billie Stone Fogarty, M.Ed., fulltime genealogist and lecturer and president of the Genealogical Speakers Guild. Jay H. Fonkert, CG, is a fulltime genealogist, lecturer and writer and a founder of the Northland APG Chapter.

Southeast region: Alvie L. Davidson, CG, is a Florida-based private investigator and circuit court qualified expert, specializing in missing persons and genealogical applications of investigations. Michael Hait, CG, is a professional genealogy researcher, writer and lecturer who currently serves as vice president of the National Capital Area Chapter of APG.

Northeast region: Debra Braverman is a professional genealogist in New York City, specializing in due diligence for trust and estates matters, and 19th–21st century New York research. Michael Leclerc of Massachusetts is a genealogist who most recently served as director of special projects at the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

International regions: Michael Goldstein of Israel, traces roots worldwide, specializing in family reunification, heir searches and Holocaust research.

Elected to one-year terms on the nominations committee are: Jana Sloan Broglin, CG, a director for the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and Debby Horton, professional genealogist and web designer.

About APG

The Association of Professional Genealogists (www.apgen.org), 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, Twitter (www.twitter.com/apggenealogy) and FaceBook (www.facebook.com/AssociationofProfessionalGenealogists).

What is a professional genealogist?

I recently read two blog posts that inspired this post.

The first was “Why I Want to Remain an Amateur” at Greta’s Genealogy Blog. This is an absolutely wonderful post. Greta loves genealogy research, and desires to develop her research skills and abilities as much as possible, but has no desire to be paid for her genealogical activities. This post explains why not.

The second post was not new, but came through yesterday on Twitter. “APG at a Crossroads,” written by Mary E. Petty at the Heirlines blog. Ms. Petty, with her husband James W. Petty, AG, CG, run the “HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy” professional genealogical research firm, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. This post was originally written in 2006, but continues to be promoted, as its appearance on Twitter yesterday attests.

This post begins,

I think the Association of Professional Genealogisis (APG) is at a crossroads – they have to decide what master they serve. Either the hobbyist: the self designated part -timer, and / or full timer; or the career practitioner: the professionally designated genealogist, qualified by the “professional’s only” track (professional genealogy education, training, experience, credentials, membership, continuing education, standardized business best practices with licensing and ethics) to serve the public as a professional genealogist?

Right now all of these groups are trying to have a piece of the consumer pie and this does not meet the number one objective of a professional business membership organization – to support the qualified practitioners and set standardized best practices, ethics, methodology, business standards etc, and behaviors to protect the qualified practitioner and the consumer.[1]

I strongly object to two points Ms. Petty raises:

(1) She asserts that only those genealogists who follow what she deems a “‘professional’s only’ track,” including “professional genealogy education, training, experience, credentials, membership, continuing education, standardized business best practices with licensing and ethics” are qualified to be considered professional genealogists. She specifically notes throughout the post that she defines a professional genealogist quite narrowly as one who conducts genealogy research for clients as their full-time career. Implicitly this excludes those whose main source of income is writing, lecturing, or some other aspect of genealogy, or those who conduct research for clients on a much more limited basis. It also explicitly excludes “the self designated part-timer, and/or full-timer.”

(2) She asserts that the Association of Professional Genealogists exists only to serve these “qualified” (by her definition) practitioners.

Currently, only a single accredited university in the United States offers a Bachelor’s degree program in Family History: Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah. Perhaps not coincidentally the Family History Library is in Salt Lake City, Utah. With access to the microfilmed records at the Family History Library and the degree program at Brigham Young, it seems quite natural for genealogists in Utah to qualify as “professional genealogists” under Ms. Petty’s definition. On the other hand, for genealogists elsewhere in the country, is is not quite that easy. If a researcher has limited access to records, he or she has limited potential for earning income solely on client research.

I am a full-time professional genealogist. I conduct research for clients about half of my working time. The rest of the time I write, publish, lecture, teach, etc. One hundred percent of my household income stems from my genealogical activities. If I only conducted client research, I might not be able to feed my family. But my income is supplemented by other sources.

Many professional genealogists are not full-time. They may have a full-time career outside of the field of genealogy. They may be retired from another career, but choose to conduct client research on a limited basis simply because they enjoy it. They may choose to research their own families only, and not conduct client research at all. But they are skilled researchers who write and lecture prolifically in order to teach others.

All of these are professional genealogists.

According to Ms. Petty, the APG should only serve “qualified” full-time career researchers. She asks in this post, “Why are they [the APG] unwilling to set maintain and regulate the criteria for membership in their organization and set the standards for designation as a ‘Professional Genealogist’?” She compares professional genealogists to “beauticians, teachers, CPA, Lawyers, and other similarly licensed (government-regulated) or professions that are self regulated.”

Professional genealogists, as a career field, do not resemble any of these licensed or regulated career fields that Ms. Petty names. The field most like professional genealogy, in my opinion, is freelance writing.

One does not have to have a degree in English or journalism to be a freelance writer. One does not have to be credentialed to be a freelance writer. One does not have to write 40 hours a week, and nothing else, to be a freelance writer. One’s sole qualification to be a freelance writer is that one can do the job that they are hired or paid to do. You must be able to write at a high level. Some people may be able to do this with no training whatsoever. Others may need formal education. But your value as a professional is judged by the quality of the product of your work, not by any other factors.

Likewise, one does not have to have a degree in family history or even history to be a professional genealogist. Formal or informal genealogical education (be it BYU’s program, one of the Institutes, attendance at a national conference, or participation in a Continuing Education program) definitely helps one learn the best advanced research techniques, but there are other ways that one can do the same independently. A professional genealogist does not have to conduct client research full-time. A professional genealogist does not have to be credentialed.

Like a freelance writer, the sole qualification to be a professional genealogist should be that one is able to perform the job that one is hired or paid to do. One must be able to perform the research. A professional genealogist’s value as a professional should be judged by the quality of the product of your work.

The Association of Professional Genealogists may be at a crossroads. But not because it should be limiting who can join. The APG should continue its policies of inclusivity rather than exclusivity.

However, the field of professional genealogy is changing. APG must be able to balance its focus. Its membership does not only consist of full-time career professional genealogists conducting research for clients. The organization now contains authors, lecturers, librarians, and many others whose income either in whole or in part comes from a field relating to genealogy. It cannot allow any one faction to control its policies, but instead recognize the diversity of its membership, and serve all of our needs.

I believe that the APG has done a fairly good job at accomplishing this goal. There is room for improvement, but I think it is moving in the right direction. It must continue to do so, and not allow narrow minds to limit its influence in the field of genealogy.

Follow Friday: Professional genealogists websites

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.

Today I will not recommend one site, but many.

If you are a professional genealogist or an aspiring/transitional professional genealogist, you need to have a website. Above and beyond anything else, your website will be your #1 marketing tool. I can honestly say that no less than 90% of the research clients that I have had in my career have spent at least some time on my website. How do I know this? Because their initial email to me comes through the “Contact Me” form on my website.

When you are developing a website, look at the websites of other professional genealogists, especially those with long standing careers. What do you like and what don’t you like? How much information do you want to include on your website?

One of the best ways to see other researchers’ websites is to go look to the membership directory of the Association of Professional Genealogists. The APG website allows you to search for a researcher by name, location, research specialty, or geographic specialty, and many of the entries include links to the members’ professional websites.

Take a look at researchers similar to yourself, that is, those researching in a similar location, research specialty, or geographic specialty. After all, these researchers are your direct competition–though in the genealogical community, there is rarely animosity (and often cooperation) among competitors. All the same, a potential client looking for a researcher is as likely to find their website as yours. How can you make yourself stand out? It all starts with your website.

Below are a few examples of websites belonging to professional genealogists. There are both positive and negative aspects of all of them. Some are better than others. Some have great content, but lack in design. Some have great design, but little content. I am not espousing any of these researchers over any others, and cannot vouch for any of their research skills. Not all of these professionals accept research projects. Not all of them are members of the APG.

Still, take a look:

I had to slip that last one in. ;)

If you are a professional genealogist, please feel free to add your site in the comments (but please no advertising). What do you like most about these or other websites?

Tips for a short genealogy road trip

This Saturday, 5 November 2011, I will be speaking at the “Pennsylvania Family History Day” event sponsored by the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania and Ancestry.com. This is a very exciting program, including the following lectures:

  • “Getting Started with Ancestry.com” with Juliana Smith
  • “Immigrant Cluster Communities” with Lisa Alzo
  • “Researching Pennsylvania Ancestors” with John Humphrey
  • “Dead Men Do Tell Tales” with Lou Szucs
  • “What Is a ‘Reasonably Exhaustive Search’?” with Michael Hait, CG
  • “Formation of the Pennsylvania Counties” with Susan Koelble
  • “Finding Your US Military Heroes on Ancestry.com” with Juliana Smith
  • “Visualizing the Past: Maps and Genealogy” with Shamele Jordon
  • “Pennsylvania’s Land Records” with John Humphrey
  • “Hidden Treasures at Ancestry.com” with Lou Szucs
  • “Mining the Motherlode: Using Periodical Literature for Genealogical Research” with Curt Witcher
  • “Using the Pennsylvania State Archives and Library” with Kathleen Hale and Aaron McWilliams

This will be a great program, and I am proud to be a part of it. For more information, visit the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania’s Events Calendar.

The conference will be held in Exton, Pennsylvania. According to Google Maps, this will be 91.6 miles–a 1 hour, 48 minute drive–from my house. So I have to prepare for my trip.

Here are a few tips for others making a short trip like this:

Print your directions. I used to have a GPS device in my car, but it died. Rather than buying a new one, I just use the “old” (as in pre-2005 or so) way of not getting lost. I print out the directions from Google Maps, especially if I am going to an area where I have never been before. I learned my lesson on a few earlier trips, when I printed only one-way directions then got lost trying to get home. Now I print directions for both ways, not just how to get there.

Leave early. If you have to be somewhere at a certain time, leave early. You never know when you might hit traffic. Even if you are not on a fixed schedule, you should still consider making the most of your trip. If the courthouse or archives opens at 9am, do you want to get there as soon as it opens, so that you have a full day? Or do you want to time your trip to avoid the rush hour gridlock near a major metropolitan area? You will want to find out about traffic patterns if you can. Living just outside Washington, D. C., for most of my life, I would time my research trips into the city to avoid rush hour. Rush hour traffic in the area could turn a twenty-minute trip into an ninety-minute trip very easily. And it could be far worse if there was an accident.

Keep cash on hand. I know, for example, that I will hit at least one toll while driving from Harrington, Delaware, to Exton, Pennsylvania. Three weeks ago, driving to Cherry Hill, New Jersey, I had to pay at three tolls each way. You may also need cash for parking fees, public transportation (if you can’t or don’t want to drive all the way to the building), entry fees for some repositories, or pay lockers. Many repositories now allow you to pay with a credit card, but there are still many that use coin-operated photocopiers. You might need cash for these as well.

Turn driving time into learning time. I will be driving for nearly two hours each way. This is four hours of my day not doing anything. Why not take advantage of that time? I can’t read or research while driving, because of course I need to keep my eyes on the road. But I can still use the time to learn. Most of the lectures presented at the national conferences, and some local conferences, have been recorded over the last few years. You can purchase these lectures on CD from JAMB, Inc. Pop a CD into your car’s CD player, and learn from expert genealogists like Elizabeth Shown Mills, Helen F. M. Leary, Thomas Jones, Craig Scott, Barbara Vines Little, J. Mark Lowe, or any number of the other nationally-recognized speakers.

Go before you leave. You don’t want to have to stop halfway through a two-hour drive. ‘Nuff said.

21st Century business card designs

In an earlier post, I discussed “marketing outside of the box.” This previous post demonstrated two unique ways of marketing yourself, taking advantage of modern technology trends, like Internet social media and QR codes.

Now what about that good-old-fashioned standby of marketing: the business card?

How can the standard paper business card be improved to take advantage of modern technology? I have recently seen two ideas that utilize these concepts.

The first is to include a QR code on the business card. The QR code can contain a direct link to your website, scannable by most smartphones. Beyond the presence of the code, however, most of the business card would remain the same as what we are accustomed to. You would still generally include at least your name, and most also contain other personal information. On the other hand, since much of this information can be embedded into the QR code itself, none of it must necessarily appear on the card.

There are quite a few services that allow you to create a custom QR code, and incorporate the codes into your business card design. The example here was created by a free site called TEC-IT.

A second interesting idea that I have recently come across is the “Google Me” business card. This is a very simple idea, but it plays on a very important aspect of 21st century marketing. Let’s face facts: no matter what you try to impress upon potential clients about yourself, many of them will make their decisions based on the results of a Google search.

In an earlier post I discussed the results of a Google search for the title of my website. Try Googling yourself.

Searching for yourself emphasizes the level of control you can have over your web presence. You will see among the results profiles on any of the social networks that you frequent, and some that you may have even forgotten.

Searching for yourself will also emphasize the lack of control you might have over your web presence. You will be surprised the level to which you may appear online in ways that you may not have intended. And of course, these are the hits that your potential clients are sure to see.

Once you have a firm grasp of your online presence, however, the “Google Me” business card is fantastic. It tells your potential clients that you are confident in your abilities. It tells them that you are not afraid of them searching for you online. Most importantly, it tells them that you are an expert in your field, who needs no further introduction. You don’t have to toot your own horn. The Internet will do it for you.

Beyond this, the design of the business card itself is striking for it simplicity. It contains only your name with no further identifying information about yourself. It also piggy-backs on the notably simplistic but instantly recognizable Google home page design.

These business card designs demonstrate just two of the many ways that you can leverage 21st century technology into traditional business marketing techniques.

Have you seen any other business card designs that effectively do the same? Or any other business card designs that are unique or remarkable in other ways?

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, CG, “21st Century business card designs,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 22 Sep 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.]

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