Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

November is National Blog Posting Month

November is upon us once again! Do you know what that means? Its “National Blog Posting Month.”

I first learned of National Blog Posting Month (“NaBloPoMo”) in 2009. At that time, I was only writing my “National African American Genealogy” column on Examiner. I asked other genealogy bloggers to join me in the celebration. That month, though I was unsuccessful at posting every day, I managed to post quite a few articles:

How did I do that first year? There are 30 days in November, and I posted 19 articles. Not bad, but not perfect.

Between November 2009 and November 2010, I started writing a second column for Examiner: the “Baltimore Genealogy & History” column. When NaBloPoMo came around, I decided to try to write an article every day for both columns! Once again, I did not achieve my lofty goal, but I did make (in my opinion) a noble effort:

Two columns, 30 days. Should be 60 articles, right? Well, I managed to write 31. Only about half of them.

So this year I still have both Examiner columns, and now I have this blog as well. Thirty days, three blogs–that’s 90 articles! It’s going to be difficult, but I will try. We’ll see how well I do at the end of the month.

Anyone else want to give it a shot?

I feel sorry for my descendants…

Sometimes when I research a family line, I am struck by just how often families stayed in the same county for generations, without straying far. Of course, the generations of the 21st century, with the ease of travel and with the Internet making the world so much smaller, do not seem to follow the same patterns.

I wonder sometimes what advice will be given to beginning genealogists in the 22nd century. How will the genealogists of the future find us?

My life, to use an example, might be unnecessarily difficult for my descendants to research, by today’s standards.

1. I was born in Washington, D. C., in 1976, as were both of my parents. I never actually lived in Washington.

2. In the 1980 census, I would probably show up in College Park, Prince George’s County, Maryland. This census, under the current laws, will be available to researchers in 2052.

3. In the 1990 census, I would show up in Laurel, Prince George’s County, Maryland. This census will be opened in 2062.

4. I may not show up at all in the 2000 census. I don’t remember filling out the form, and I moved in with family members around this time. At the time of the census, I was living in College Park. Guess I will know for sure in 2072.

5. I was married in 2005, in Howard County, Maryland. I never lived there either.

6. My daughter was born in Montgomery County, Maryland. Never lived there either.

7. In 2010, I lived in Laurel, Prince George’s County, at the time of the census, but moved to Harrington, Kent County, Delaware, in August of that year. Presumably, I will still be living in Delaware in 2020.

My parents won’t be much easier. As mentioned above, both were born in Washington, D. C., but never actually lived in the city. Both lived in Prince George’s County. My parents were legally separated (and later divorced) a year or two after the 1990 census.

In 2001, my mother moved to Euless, Tarrant County, Texas. In 2006, she moved to Littleton, Colorado, a Home Rule Municipality in Arapahoe, Douglas, and Jefferson counties. I am not sure which county her house falls in. But her entire life in Texas falls in between the 2000 and 2010 censuses. She had no family in Texas–she just fell in love with the area while on a 6-month work rotation there in 1999.

I know all of this history, but a researcher 100 or 200 years from now, will not have the knowledge that I do. Hopefully, the census databases that they use in the future will be much better indexed than the ones we use now.

The thought of this emphasizes the importance that genealogists write about their own personal histories, and record the lives of their living family as diligently as those who have already passed.

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “I feel sorry for my descendants…,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 27 Jun 2011 ( : accessed [access date]).

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

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

Two new genealogy writing opportunities

Two announcements have gone out about some writing opportunities for genealogists.

First, the genealogy website is looking for new writers. Their announcement reads,

The Expert Series is a collection of articles from top genealogists around the country. Every week we feature a new article aimed to help beginning and advanced genealogists alike solve common research problems, break-through brick walls, and learn how to improve their research techniques. It’s a phenomenal, free resource for all and we’d like you to be a part of it!

We compensate our writers for the hours they spend writing on researching and give them a complimentary membership to our website,

What we look for in a writer:

  • Author must be a professional or extremely experienced in their field
  • Author must have excellent writing skills
  • Sign a standard contract and W9 form

Please contact Ayme Alvarez at if interested in writing for the Expert Series.

The second announcement comes from Michael John Neill, author of the very popular Casefile Clues newsletter:

Based upon reader surveys, we’re going to start a “beginner” version of Casefile Clues on a trial basis–seeing if there really is enough interest and demand. I am looking for other writers who would be interested in contributing pieces to this version.

Anyone who is interested in writing for a beginning genealogist audience can email me at and I’ll send specifics and additional information when I return from Utah later in the week. I can’t promise high wages at this point, but a tagline and website for each author will be included.

If you are interested in writing genealogical articles, these two new opportunities may be just what you are looking for.

Writing a genealogical case study–Sell the research!

It’s funny how, if you try hard enough, you can apply almost anything to genealogical research.

For example, I recently read an old post on the Final Draft Communications’ Put Your Best Word Forward blog, entitled, “Write a Case Study to Show How You Shine.” Final Draft Communications “is a copywriting and grant writing agency that has provided writing, editing, and messaging services to a wide range of clients in Northern Colorado and beyond since 2001.” In discussing case studies, FDC is speaking to using case studies for marketing. In this blog post, a case study is intended as an extended testimonial from a client.

Karen Marcus, the Head Copywriter for FDC and the author of this blog post, writes,

A case study, also known as a success story, is a great way to show that people are saying nice things about you in a more concrete and relatable way. A case study tells the detailed story of one customer’s experience with your products or services. With a story format, readers become more invested and can imagine themselves in the place of your featured customer. In other words, they can begin to imagine doing business with you.

In genealogy, we read case studies quite often. The premier genealogical journals, The National Genealogical Society Quarterly, The American Genealogist, and The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, all feature genealogical case studies in every issue. Indeed, case studies constitute the core of these journals’ publishing efforts. Many other journals from state and county genealogical societies also feature case studies, as occasionally do the mass market genealogy magazines.

Genealogical case studies explore a research problem and how it has been solved. This may seem quite different from a sales case study. But can we apply Ms. Marcus’s tips on sales case studies to our own genealogical case studies?

The tips Ms. Marcus outlines are, of course, applied directly to sales copywriting. Let’s take a look at these, however, and see if they apply to a genealogical case study:

1. Present the Problem. “Open your case study with an introduction to the customer: who they are, what they do, and why they needed your products or services. Remember, you are trying to create a picture that readers can make themselves a part of, so be specific in terms of industry, size, customers, and competition. Then, present the problem that they were trying to solve when they found you.” Well, of course, we would not open a genealogical case study with an introduction to a former customer, but we would definitely “present the problem that [we] were trying to solve.”

2. Outline the Choices. “Chances are, when your case study customer was looking for your products or services, they found others who could provide them as well. Mention who those ‘others’ were, what they had (and didn’t have) to offer and why your customer chose you.” Again, we are not concerned with a customer, but in Ms. Marcus’s description, she describes previous research. To apply this to a genealogical case study, we should describe our own previous research (the starting point) as well as our beginning research plan.

3. Show the Solution. “Describe how your products or services solved your customer’s problem. Here’s your chance to really show how you shine: mention product names, service packages, or special implementations….” As genealogists, our “products or services” would be the research we conducted and the records we located. Ms. Marcus even advises us to add full source citations (“product names”)!

4. Quote the Customer. “A good case study will have plenty of direct quotes from the customer. … Let them tell the story of how you helped them in their own words, then use those words to help you relate that story to your prospects. (By the way, it’s always a good idea to let your customer review a case study before you publish it.)” A good genealogical case study will have plenty of direct quotes from the records. And of course the best genealogical journals will have a good editorial board that will review your case study before they publish it.

5. Reveal the Results. “Here’s a great place to use facts and figures to help you tell the story. Did your product help the customer increase profits by 50%? Mention it! Did your service allow the customer to generate 100 additional leads per month? State it! You might want to use charts or graphs here to illustrate your points.” Did you solve your genealogical research problem? State it! You might want to reiterate your proof argument by detailing each piece of supporting evidence.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: I Write Like

It has been over seven months since I last wrote for this blog.  Shame on me!

Tonight, I have decided to post an article in response to Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.  This week’s assignment entails the use of the website “I Write Like” to analyze your writing:

1) Find something that you have written that you are really proud of – the best of your work. Do an Edit > Copy of it.
2) Go to the website and Paste your text into the waiting box.
3) Tell us which famous author you write like. Write it up in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog, or post it on Facebook. Insert the “badge of honor” in your blog if you can.

I chose a few of my most popular articles for this assignment, starting with “Adam Adams, Free Black, Revolutionary War Soldier” (African-American Genealogy Examiner) which won second place in the ISFHWE Excellence in Writing Competition, Category I – Newspaper Columns.

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

A ‘reasonably exhaustive search’” (African-American Genealogy Examiner)

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Introduction to “Tricks of the Tree” genealogy blog!

Welcome to the first edition of the "Tricks of the Tree" genealogy research blog!
The goal of this blog is to share my experience – and future experiences – in family history research.  I hope to bring you tips and techniques, new resources, and case studies from my own research, and occasionally other topics.
I have been conducting research on my own family since I was 9 years old, and have been conducting research for others for the last several years.  I have written several articles for Family Chronicle magazine, and am the creator of the Family History Research Toolkit CD-ROM, published by Genealogical Publishing Co.
To view this blog as an RSS feed, enter the following url: 
Please feel free to leave comments or questions, even if they are not directly relevant to the case at hand.

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,800 other followers

%d bloggers like this: