Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Now available – “Library Edition” of “Online State Resources for Genealogy”

Many public libraries now offer e-books to their patrons. For self-published authors such as myself, this causes a bit of a dilemma. Do we forego the library market altogether, or risk the loss of income from library patrons who copy the book file to their own computers? (This is, of course, a violation of copyright.)

Adobe, who really helped to usher in the e-book revolution with the development of its Portable Document Format (PDF), also offers a solution for Digital Rights Management. These files are read with the free Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) software rather than the standard Adobe Reader. Adobe Digital Editions can be downloaded from According to the Adobe website, Digital Editions “works in conjunction with Adobe Digital Experience Protection Technology (ADEPT), a hosted service that provides publishers with copy protection in both retail and library environments.”

Online State Resources for Genealogy (currently #36 on’s all-time best-selling e-books) has now been converted to a “Library Edition.” This new edition utilizes the Adobe PDF format with Digital Editions in order to provide a version of this e-book that can be safely offered by libraries to their patrons.

For more details, including purchasing information, visit—library-edition/18777978.


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!

5 Ways to Manage Your Blog (or Blogs)

Since this is National Blog Posting Month, I thought it might be a good time to discuss managing a blog.

As a full-time professional genealogist, time for my blog is often limited. I do not always have the ability to write every day. Occasionally I do have a great idea, or an issue arises, that I simply feel compelled to write, right at that moment.

More often, though, I find myself without the time to write. Or worse, I have an hour or so to write, but my mind draws a blank. What should I write about?

This month, I have challenged myself to post a new article every day. To three separate blogs. That comes to 90 articles that I will have to write and post over the next 30 days. I tried this in 2009 with one column, and managed to post about 2/3 of the required 30 articles. I tried again in 2010 with two columns, and only managed to post about 1/2 of the required 60 articles. So what makes me think I will succeed this year, with 90 articles needed?

This year, I am managing my blogs a little better. For me, the most difficult part of managing a blog is coming up with fresh and interesting content every day. Here are a few ideas that might help you:

1. Brainstorm post ideas. In an earlier post I mentioned one of my favorite blogs, Litemind. One of the posts on this site describes the “List of 100” brainstorming method. I have done this quite a few times, for numerous brainstorming sessions: potential articles, potential books, potential lectures, etc. Generally speaking, in a list of 100 you will find a bunch of ho-hum ideas, a bunch of repeats, a few ridiculous ideas, and several gems. By creating such a long list, you force your brain to move outside the box–past the everyday, ho-hum ideas; past the just plain silly; and into the best ideas. You may find only 15 great ideas in that list of 100. With 90 articles needed, I will probably have to post a few ho-hum ideas, but hopefully there will be some great ones too!

2. Read other blogs. What are other bloggers talking about? Many of my blog ideas start as responses, or “my perspective,” on things that other bloggers have said. Sometimes it is a response to a blog post as a whole–sometimes it’s just a single sentence that inspires an entire post. Sometimes just the act of reading gets your creative juices flowing enough that you come up with an idea of your own. If you want to see the best genealogy blogs, I would recommend Randy Seaver’s weekly “Best of the Genea-Blogs” posts, posted every Sunday on his Genea-Musings blog. Randy reads a lot of blogs, and manages to find the best of the best every week. Read these, and you will be forced to kick it up a notch.

3. Keep a list of blog ideas. Many of the best ideas come when you are busy with something else. For example, I often come up with an idea for a blog post while I am working on a client report. There is simply no way that I should stop what I am doing to write that blog post at that time. I could wait–and risk forgetting about the idea before I do find the time to write it. Or I could keep a list of ideas, so that when I have time to write, all I have to do is look at my list, pick a topic, and write. I keep two lists: one on paper for those times when I am not near a computer, the other as a text file on my desktop. That list is definitely going to come in handy this month.

4. Create a blog calendar. Once you have a list of ideas–from brainstorming, reading other blogs, and recording ideas when they come to you–you should schedule out your posts in advance. Since I am scheduling ideas for three separate blogs/columns, I created a table with four columns. The first column is for the days, 1 through 30. Each one of the other three columns is for one of my blogs. Then I just write the topics for each day into the calendar.

5. Participate in a few memes (but not all of them). There are several blogging memes available every day for genealogy bloggers. If you wanted to, you could easily post every day just by following a different meme every day. I wouldn’t recommend it, though. Before I ever started writing a blog, I was a blog reader. Memes lose their attraction pretty quickly. If you are not providing good, quality content every day, you may lose some readers. And if you don’t have any readers, is there really any reason to write? Instead, pick one or two of your favorite memes, but no more than one or two days a week. Personally, I love “Follow Friday” and “A Friend of Friends Friday.” Both of these are on Friday, so I have to alternate or use different blogs to participate. In my blog calendar, I can mark off every Friday to participate in one (or both) of these memes. This saves a little time in trying to come up with a unique topic for these days. But it still leaves me with six days of content that is not attached to a meme.

And here’s a bonus tip:

6. Write your posts in advance. Some blogging platforms, like WordPress, allow you to draft your posts in advance and schedule them for publication later. Take advantage of this when you have time to write. Instead of just writing one post and publishing it immediately, write two or three (or however many you have time to write), and schedule them for later publication.

Do you have any other ideas for managing multiple blogs?

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.

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