Archive for the ‘Professional Genealogy’ Category

Genealogy blogging for fun and profit

This post has been inspired by Thomas Macentee’s 2012 update to the 2011 “Genea-Opportunities” series of blog posts.[1] Longtime readers may recognize that it was this discussion that originally led to the birth of this blog in its current incarnation. The first topic Thomas has proposed for this week is “Genealogy Blogging – For Fun or Profit?”

I previously discussed the reasons for my own blogging in a post entitled, aptly enough, “Why do I blog? Why do you blog?” The reasons I expressed in that post remain relevant for me, but now I would also like to discuss the general nature of blogging as a professional genealogist.

There are a number of professional genealogists who have been blogging for many years. These blogs have different focuses and their own unique strengths and weaknesses–as do most blogs of any kind. But these blogs are also among some of the most read and recognizable blogs in genealogy.

In the past year or so, I have seen quite a few professional genealogists begin blogging. Part of this, I believe, is due to the “social media” mantra that is prevalent throughout every part of our lives in the 21st century. Businesses–especially small businesses–are expected to have a social media presence.

Unfortunately quite a few of these blogs are not born out of passion. And so they do not develop a voice. The writing is sporadic and doesn’t really say anything special. In other words, it is content marketing–without the content.

This blog has developed to have two main purposes: (1) to discuss important subjects in professional genealogy; and (2) to help educate genealogists toward performing professional-level research, even if genealogy for them is “just a hobby.”

Notice that I did not include a purpose (3) to help “drum up business.” Simply stated, I do not expect to bring in research clients through this blog. It has occasionally happened, but that is not among my reasons for writing. I write because I am passionate about it–I am passionate about genealogy and passionate about writing.

For my fellow professional genealogists, I would offer this advice: If you would not otherwise have any interest in blogging, do not do so just because someone says you should. You do need a website to compete in the online world, but that website does not need to have a lackluster blog. Your blog should be how you communicate your thoughts to the world. It should mean something to you, first and foremost. Write because you feel you have to do so, not because someone else says you have to do so.

Blogs can certainly be a source of income–through affiliate marketing (i.e. advertising) or through promoting your lectures or publications. I have been known to do both of these on occasion. But the revenue generated through these means is not much.

What do my fellow professional genealogists think?


[1] Thomas MacEntee, “GENEA-OPPORTUNITIES – 2012 UPDATE,” Geneabloggers blog, posted 9 July 2012 ( : accessed 9 July 2012). Thomas MacEntee, “GENEA-OPPORTUNITIES (LET’S MAKE LOTS OF MONEY),”  Geneabloggers blog, posted 18 April 2011.

If you would like to cite this post:

Michael Hait, CG, “Genealogy blogging for fun and profit,”Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 9 July 2012 ( : 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.]

What is forensic genealogy?

In an effort to explore some of the different career opportunities for genealogists, the following interview was conducted via email with Leslie Lawson, President of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy.

Note from Leslie: Some of the answers to these questions I have pulled straight from the website for the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy at: We worked long and hard to define ourselves and our goals for all the world to see!

1. What is “forensic genealogy”?

Forensic genealogy is research, analysis, and reporting in cases with legal implications.

Using methodology and ethics consistent with the highest standards of the profession, Forensic Genealogy is conducted by unbiased, disinterested, third party practitioners with no personal or professional stake in the outcome.

2. What is the difference in methodology between forensic genealogy and traditional “ancestral” genealogy?

Whether going back in time or coming forward in time it takes an educated research skill and knowledge about the available databases that can help you with this search. Each state decides what records will be available. Some states are extremely difficult to research in and others try to make it fairly easy. Going back in time is easier to a point, usually about 1850, and then it takes a different skill set, or mind set, to figure out how to go back further. To come forward from 1930 to today you must have knowledge about the place you are researching in and what information is available for that place. Are there newspapers, city directories, voter’s registers? Can you access the SSDI to help bridge the years? Is there an online tree somewhere to help you locate living family members?

3. What are some of the issues that forensic genealogists confront?

Broken families where siblings don’t talk to each other; they also don’t talk to other living family members. Fifty years ago there was almost always a family member who was the one person that kept up with every person in their extended family. Today people are so busy that they often don’t know what is going on within their immediate family.

There is the constant threat of closing record sets. Some records that are closed to researchers might include funeral homes or cemeteries that refuse to give answers citing privacy issues or HIPPA [dead people don’t have HIPPA coverage]. Some businesses want to charge a large sum of money to open a book or access a computer. With all the scams in the news the next difficulty comes when we try to contact living people. Many are very wary, as they should be, but it does make it difficult at times to convince them to speak with us. I usually start the conversation talking about their grandparents, information that scammers wouldn’t necessarily be aware of.

4. Who are the most common clients of forensic genealogists?

Most of our clients are attorneys; oil and gas companies; banks; trust accountants; guardians for the elderly.

5. What is the mission of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy?

From the homepage of our website, under “Our Objectives”

  • Advance public awareness and understanding of the profession.
  • Encourage broader use of the services of qualified forensic genealogists.
  • Promote and maintain high standards of professional and ethical conduct.
  • Encourage best practices in client services and business models.
  • Promote interchange of information among members through electronic forums, trade publications, meetings, and seminars.
  • Provide education and training for professional advancement of membership.
  • Assist fellow members in professional development though mentorship, full membership, credentialing, and awarding of fellowships.
  • Influence legislation that impacts the profession or the ability to access public records.

6. What advice would you give a genealogist who is considering a career in forensic genealogy?

Understand that these cases can be very challenging; time sensitive affairs. If a judge is nipping at an attorney, you can bet that attorney will be nipping at you. Know the law of the state you are working within. Ask a practicing forensic genealogist if they can mentor you so that you can learn the ropes. You might not be able to access the professional’s files because of their confidentiality agreements, but you can certainly practice on your own family by picking a line you know nothing about and bringing all those lines forward to today; then contacting said family members. Perhaps you’ll have a fmily reunion with that new information you’ve uncovered. Understand that we are constantly learning about available records, and networking with others to be our legs on the ground when we need onsite researchers.

If you want to pull records for anyone, learn how to write citations! We’re not looking for perfection; we’re looking for accurate citations. If I receive a document with citations you can be pretty sure I’m going to call you again if I have work in that area. And you can also bet I’ll share your name with others. Understand if you are a record puller, forensic genealogists need prompt response, follow through, and citations.

And if you really want to learn about forensic genealogy, come to the Institute! At this writing there is one slot left open. You can learn more about what we are offering at the website. It will be an intense 2 ½ days, and your mind will be swimming when you return home. It is our intention to walk you through all kinds of real life scenarios that we have run in to while doing this work. We hope to give you answers to many of the common and not so common questions. Our hope is to truly stretch you as a professional genealogist.

UPDATE: For another perspective on this subject, see Barbara Matthews, “Response to ‘What Is Forensic Genealogy?,’” The Demanding Genealogist blog, posted 23 May 2012 ( : accessed 23 May 2012).

The APG Young Professional Award


11 April 2012

(APG) Now Accepting Applications for APG Young Professional Award

APG to Honor Student with Strong Interest in Developing a Career in Genealogy

WESTMINSTER, Colo., 11 April 2012 The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG®) is now accepting applications for the APG Young Professional Award. The award goes to a student with a significant interest in genealogy and with a strong interest in developing a professional career in genealogy. The award includes a scholarship registration for the APG Professional Management Conference (PMC) and a stipend of up to $500 towards travel and lodging at the conference. The winner will be announced in August 2012 for attendance at the APG PMC 2013, which will take place in Salt Lake City on 20 March 2013.

“We are excited to offer this award to an up-and-coming professional,” said Kenyatta D. Berry, APG President. “Our Professional Management Conference provides an excellent opportunity for the winner to learn more about the profession. We look forward to receiving many applications.”

APG Youth Awards Eligibility and Application Details

Eligible applicants are between the ages of 18 and 25, enrolled as a high school senior or undergraduate, post-graduate, or recent graduate of an accredited college or university and have at least a 3.0 grade point average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale (or equivalent).

Applications should contain the following: name; address; main contact phone number; email address; school name; school address; GPA; list of extracurricular activities (including student organizations and volunteer activities); a letter of recommendation from a dean, principal, or faculty advisor that also indicates the applicant’s current grade standing or transcript; a letter of recommendation from an individual who has witnessed the applicant’s interest in genealogy; and short answers (500 to 750 words) to two questions. The questions are:

1) Discuss a specific record collection that has significantly changed the course of your family history, or research strategy along with the pros and cons of that record source, and how you used it to resolve a genealogical problem.

2) What do you envision a genealogical career will encompass in the year 2025 and how do you see yourself involved then?

See for the application. Applications should be submitted to the APG office by 1 June 2012. Send applications to APG Executive Director Kathleen W. Hinckley, CG, at .

About the APG

The Association of Professional Genealogists (, 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 ( and FaceBook (


APG is a registered trademark of the Association of Professional Genealogists. All other trade and service marks are property of their respective owners.

Media Contacts:

Kathleen W. Hinckley, CG

Executive Director

Association of Professional Genealogists

P.O. Box 350998, Westminster, CO 80035-0998

phone: 303-422-9371, fax: +1 303-456-8825

Corey Oiesen

Communications Officer

Association of Professional Genealogists

Free webinar tomorrow: “The Pursuit from Genealogy Hobbyist to Professional”

Tomorrow afternoon, 4 April 2012, Legacy Family Tree will be presenting a free webinar entitled, “The Pursuit from Genealogy Hobbyist to Professional,” featuring John M. Kitzmiller, II, AG and Claire V. Brison-Banks, AG.

According to Legacy’s website,

Several terms are applied to individuals that are interested in their ancestors. Those who are fascinated by the story but not really interested in the data could be termed amateurs. Moving up a rung on the ladder would be the hobbyists, who gather photos, letters and family memorabilia to share with others. They quite often are members of societies, are familiar with local history, and help others to find their ancestors. This group is quite underestimated, in that many have self-taught expertise and are quite knowledgeable. However, most of them do not charge money for their assistance. The next step is to operate at the “professional” level, which requires perspective, attitude, methods, process, and some business skills. This webinar will discuss various ways to make that transition. Join John M. Kitzmiller, II, AG and Claire V. Brison-Banks, AG for this special webinar, sponsored by the The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen).

For more information, and to register for the free webinar, visit

Another word on “Evidence-based” and “Conclusion-based” genealogy software use

Recently I was researching a client’s ancestor and I found myself thinking about the recent discussions on “evidence-based” and “conclusion-based” genealogy software use. This case perfectly illustrates my difficulties in using genealogy database software. The case has not yet been concluded, so I am unable to publish the specifics here.

In this particular case my client’s ancestor (“S. B.”) was born ca. 1764-1765, based on analysis of several sources, including pre-1850 federal census records, the 1850 federal census, a Revolutionary War pension deposition, and an obituary.

A man with the same name was identified as a son in the 1762 will of the presumed father (“M. B.”). Obviously this immediately presents a problem, but the census records are vague enough, and the other sources late enough in life, that the possibility of the date of birth being pushed forward a few years remained, so it was possible that S. B. could have been an infant when his father wrote his will.

The most important evidence came when examining the other probate records related to M. B.’s estate. S. B. served as the administrator of the estate, in 1762-1763. By checking a 1759 compilation of laws in effect in the state, I confirmed that a person appointed executor or administrator of an estate had to be at least 17 years of age to serve as such. This would mean that S. B., son of M. B., had to have been born no later than 1745. In other words, there was simply no possibility that my client’s S. B. was the son of M. B.

Writing the report in MS Word, it is very easy to quote the relevant portion of the probate law, and cite the law book. This law provides the crucial evidence to prove that M. B.’s son S. B. was born before 1745. No other record provides this information, either directly or indirectly.

In a genealogy software program, how would one:

(1) enter a “fact” or “event” for S. B. or M. B. to reflect the existence of the probate law?

(2) cite the probate law?

I am sure that there is a way, and if I relied on genealogical software in my research, I would have to figure it out. But I have a feeling that it would be a bit convoluted, whereas it is much easier to accomplish simply using a word processor with footnotes.

The next question is then–how would this be handled differently by an “evidence-based” software user and a “conclusion-based” software user?

I am open to all comments.

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “Another word on ‘Evidence-based’ and ‘Conclusion-based’ genealogy software use,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 23 March 2012 ( : 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.]

“Evidence-based” and “Conclusion-based” software use

My discussions of genealogy research conclusions have taken an interesting turn. (See “What is a conclusion?” and “Simple and complex genealogical conclusions.”)

While my posts deal with the use of proof in forming conclusions, Randy Seaver, prolific author of the Genea-Musings blog; Tim Forsythe, author of Ancestors Now; Russ Worthington, author of A Worthington Weblog; and others have taken it a step further in discussing how they use their genealogy database software. This new turn is particularly interesting, considering that I rarely use any genealogy software in my research, especially my research for clients.

Read the following posts to witness the development of the terms “Evidence-based Genealogists” and “Conclusion-based Genealogists”:

I would like to applaud all of the bloggers mentioned above for giving so much thought to how to apply research standards to how they use their tools. Every day more genealogists start using one of the genealogy database programs. I hope that they all come across these posts, so that they will also give this discussion some thought.

I would quibble about one word being used, though. Rather than calling oneself an Evidence-based  or Conclusion-based Genealogist, it would be more accurate to call oneself an Evidence-based or Conclusion-based Software User. Using the word “genealogist” as opposed to “software user” implies that there are two separate approaches to genealogy, rather than simply two separate ways to use the software.

I also want to address a related topic, that of “evidence-based” and “conclusion-based” genealogy research. So as not to confuse the issues, this will be discussed in a separate post.

Again, to all of the bloggers who have taken part in the discussion, thank you!

The Genealogical Proof Standard – it’s not just for professionals!

Though I started researching my genealogy (in the loosest sense of the word research) when I was about eight or nine years old, I have been involved with genealogy off and on throughout my entire life. I started researching at the National Archives (Archives I in Washington, D. C.) at age sixteen, when I was still in high school. By the time I was nineteen I was spending every Saturday cranking through microfilmed federal census records, passenger lists, and military indexes, looking for my family.

I learned everything I could about the records available where my ancestors lived: Stamford, Connecticut; Harrisonburg, Virginia; Schoharie, Suffolk, and Saratoga counties, New York; and other places. Doing this I was able to find out quite a bit about my ancestors, but there were plenty of brickwalls. Inch by inch I would creep forward, relying often on derivative sources and a network of other researchers found through word of mouth and (eventually) surname email lists and message boards.

Learning methodology–“how to research”–never entered my mind.

Fast forward a few years. After a couple of years without active research, I learned that my wife was pregnant with our daughter. The pending addition to my family inspired me to jump back in with renewed excitement.

Internet genealogy had changed significantly within just two or three years! Those old surname- and location-specific mailing lists and message boards barely scratched the surface of what was available online.

But more importantly, I started to read about research methodology. Elizabeth Shown Mills’s Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian and Christine Rose’s Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case taught me that research does not end when you find a record. These books taught me the importance of evidence analysis and other skills that I learned to apply to my research.

Not client research as a professional genealogist. My professional career came later. I learned to apply proper research techniques to my own family research first. (And one of these days I will go back to some of my older research and bring it up to par.)

As I learned about the Genealogical Proof Standard, and started to apply it to my research, the brick walls amazingly started to crumble before me. I was able to “form logically-reasoned, clearly-written conclusions” based on a “reasonably exhaustive search for records that contain pertinent information,” and by “analyzing” and “correlating” the information and “reconciling conflicting information.” These conclusions carry so much more confidence because they meet the standards.

One comment I have heard from time to time is that the Genealogical Proof Standard or the more detailed BCG standards are “just for professionals.” In my experience, and I would venture to say the experiences of all other researchers who apply them to their own personal research, the Standards are definitely not “just for professionals.”

The Standards are for anyone who wants to accurately research their family history.

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