Friday, September 30, 2011

Facebook is Deciding What We Should See

Genealogists actively use social media to communicate and share information.  It seems that Facebook is now making it harder for us to do that. In the last week or so they have started making major changes.  The problem is these changes are causing me to miss posts by people I want to hear from.

I discovered recently that we need to click the upper right hand corner of status updates to control our News Feeds.  This is what you'll see:

Notice all the new settings, particularly - All updates, Most Updates and Only Important?  Facebook is deciding for us what we shall see. I have been going in and changing the setting to All Updates for people I don't want to miss.

I did an experiment where I went to the wall of one of my Facebook friends.  I noticed that she posted a link 30 minutes earlier.  When I went to my News Feed her post was no where to be found.  The problem is the option box that you see above is not available when viewing a post on someone's personal wall.  It's only available from the News Feed. If I can't find her in the News Feeds then I can't change the setting to subscribe to All Updates.

I'm getting a bit frustrated with Facebook. I'm finding that I need to actively visit certain people's walls so that I don't miss their posts.

If anyone knows the way to fix this please let me know.  I'd like to get my friends back!



I've just discovered that you can get to the same options by clicking the subscribed button in the upper right hand corner of your screen (see below).  This is visible from your friends' walls.  I'm still not convinced this is going improve what I can see.

Are You Sure You're Ready? Take Uncle Bob's Advice

When I was in my twenties and had just returned from a Bohemian adventure of living in Europe, I came to the realization that I would need to settle down and get a job.  Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.  My Uncle Bob had this advice for me, "Get the Sunday classifieds and look for jobs that appeal to you.  Next, read what the requirements are to get those jobs.  Then spend your time getting the experience to make yourself qualified to get that job."

My Uncle Bob has always had great advice that has helped me through the years.  He also has a very positive, proactive view of life.  Instead of telling me to focus on getting a job, any job, he encouraged me to keep an eye on the prize.  That advice has served me well and since then I've always looked at ways to continue gaining the experience needed to take me to the next level.

The ProGen Study Group is kind of like those jobs in the want ads.   It comes with a list of prerequisites that need to be completed before you can participate.  Now is the time for you to discover what those prerequisites are so you can start completing them.

Instead of going to the ProGen website and saying, "I don't qualify for this", go to the website and say, "I'm going to create a road map for myself so I can be the best prepared for when I am ready to commit to 18 months of reading, study and assignments."

If you go to the application page of the website you will find a two-part checklist.  If you answer "yes" to all the questions in the first section they ask you continue filling out the second part of the checklist. (Note: you don't have to complete all the items in the second checklist to participate)  These checklists are your guide.  Print them out and determine where your strengths and weaknesses lie.  Then create a road map for how you can gain experience in some of your weaker areas.

By doing this, not only will your genealogical skills improve and your experience be strengthened, but you will have a schedule that will allow you to stay in control of when you want to begin the course.

Don't bemoan the fact that you might not be ready right now. Listen to my Uncle Bob. Plan your future and make it happen!

Photo Credit: Photo by Dominque Godbout used under the creative commons license.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Genealogy Challenge - Who is Carl?

I was just reading Maureen Taylor's article on crowdsourcing on the Family Tree Magazine website.  In the article she explains what crowdsourcing is and how the Library of Congress is using the technique to identify old prints and photographs.

I decided to flip through the link she provided for the Civil War Collection. I've come across a photo that I believe we genealogists should be able to solve.  Particularly those us who are strong in Civil War or Military History.

Here's what we know:
  • The name of the person in the photo is Carl
  • He was 18 years old when he was killed on April 1, 1865
    He was killed in combat during the fighting at Dinwiddie Court House (March 31) and Five Forks (April 1), shortly before Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
  • Possible identification: Carlos E. Rogers of Company K, 185th New York, who was killed on either March 29 or 30, 1865, at Quaker Road in Dinwiddie County. (Source: North South Trader's Civil War, vol. 35, 2010, p. 55)
How quickly can we identify Carl and his mother who wrote the note?  I bet we could do it pretty quickly. Anyone up for the challenge?

Here's the photo of Carl but please see the original page in case there are any more clues there:

ProGen Revisited

I've just made an 18 month commitment.  That's quite a statement for someone with a busy family life and hectic schedule like me.  But I think this commitment is going to be worth it.  I've joined the ProGen 14 study group.

ProGen is a study group of peers who read and discuss Professional Genealogy, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  The group helps genealogists prepare for doing professional quality research and many people take it as part of their preparation for certification.

The thing that is more curious is that this is not my first time around with the ProGen Study Group.  I was actually in the ProGen 2 group at the very beginning when they were still developing the program and working out all the kinks.

I loved the program then and the group of peers that I was studying with.  Unfortunately, just before the very end I had to drop out suddenly because of an unexpected family situation.  I've always felt bad about that.  Now that life has settled down a bit I'm ready to make the commitment to do it again.

I have no problem at all with repeating much of the program.  Somehow it seems appropriate.  I find that when I do genealogical research I often need to revisit my research a second time. When I do, I see things differently because of all that I have learned in the interim.  This happens so consistently with my research.  I am constantly learning so as a result I constantly revisit my previous work to see if I can re-analyze it or find new clues to obstacles.

I'm a bit of an organization geek.  I like to learn what makes organizations run smoothly and what makes them succeed.  So in addition to learning about professional genealogy, I will be interested to see how the program has grown over time into the successful program that it is now.

I can't wait to get started on Monday.  And I'm really looking forward to getting to know the folks in my group. I'm sure I'll be blogging a bit about it in the future so be on the lookout for more posts.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Photos and Privacy: Should We Be Worried?

Yesterday I went on a bit of a genealogical adventure (more on that in a later post).  Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera along.  It wasn't a total loss because I had the camera on my cell phone available though the quality of photos isn't as good.

Recently I made a change to my cell phone settings so that my photos automatically get uploaded privately to my Google+ account after being taken.

Upon my return I decided to check out how Google+ handled my photographs.   Google+ allows me to share, tag, and do basic editing to my uploaded features. 

When clicking on the photo details option I was surprised to discover an option called location.  The location tab provided a zoomable map showing the exact location where the photo was taken.

When on a genealogical adventure this is pretty handy thing.  I had gone to several cemeteries where I wasn't sure of there exact locations.  Now I just have to click on the map to see where I was.

The thing that concerned me a bit was the thought of uploading photos to Google+ or any other site and having the locations available.  I might not worry about the locations of cemeteries but there may be times that I don't want to share the location of a photo.

So I decided to do an experiment and upload several of my photos from yesterday to share on Google+.  I was happy to discover that the publicly shared version of the photo did not display the location in the photo details.  The only information displayed was about the file itself.

But that got me wondering, "Is the information really gone or just hidden?"  Just to be sure I opened the public version of the photo in Adobe Bridge.  I didn't see any location information listed in the meta file information.  Then again, I didn't see any location options in the meta file information either.  I'm not particularly savvy yet with Adobe Bridge so perhaps I just don't know where to find it.

Still I'm not convinced.  Perhaps the gps information is still there and available to programmers who know how to get at this kind of detail.  If you are more technical than I am please let me know if that is the case.

Overall, I am pleased that my phone provides me with location information for my photos and even more pleased that Google+ doesn't upload that information to share publicly. All the same, I'm still going to be very cautious about what photos I share publicly but this is a good start.

Dick Eastman has talked quite about about photography and privacy on Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter.  Please let me know if you have more to share on this topic.  Send me a link or leave me a comment.

Connecticut Webinar Available Until Oct. 3

This is just a quick note for those of you who may have missed the live presentation of my "Researching Your Connecticut Ancestors" webinar last week.  It is available for viewing (yes, for free) on the Legacy Family Tree site until October 3, 2011.  After that it will only be available on CD.

To view the webinar, go to the webinar page on the website and then scroll down until you see the header "Listen to our archived webinars."  Please note that the handout mentioned in the webinar is only available on the CD.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tea and Genealogy To Go!

I've just received my first piece of genealogy paraphernalia! It's true. Up to this date I've never had a genealogy t-shirt, sticker, mug or anything.  So far I've only collected books, syllabi and conference badges. Now I have a lovely thermal mug courtesy of Jimmy Kavanagh of JMK Genealogy Gifts.

Jimmy felt sorry for me awhile back so he sent me this mug to perk me up.  His wry Irish sense of humor is certainly showing through.  I am a big tea drinker so this mug will be a welcome companion on my genealogy research trips.

I was particularly psyched to discover the stainless steel interior.  I'm hoping it will keep my hot tea hotter longer than my cheap plastic Disney World mug does.

Thanks Jimmy - I love the mug!

Disclosure: This mug was an unsolicited gift.  Nothing was asked for in return and I'm under no obligation to review it or share it with anyone. I just really like it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Important is Geography to Research?

Tomorrow I'm giving a webinar on "Researching Your Connecticut Ancestors" for Legacy Family Tree. That has got me thinking a lot about Connecticut. It is a bit of a stroll down memory lane because I spent the first half of my life in Connecticut.

As I consider what is important for the audience to know about Connecticut, I am thinking about all the ways you can slice and dice a state. As genealogists, we want to know about records, record groups and how and why those records were generated.  Right now I'm trying to think beyond the records to see how different aspects of a state can impact research.

For instance, how many researchers really take the time to focus on the geography of a location? The small state of Connecticut, for example, has mountains, a coastline along the ocean and farmland.  That geography has greatly impacted how the people of Connecticut have interacted with each other and their neighbors and even impacted their economic development (ie the creation of a shipping/merchant industry).

Sometimes genealogists limit their vision unintentionally by peering through blinders.  It's just so tempting to take the easy route.  Here's a classic example.  Recently I gave a talk to the Central Massachusetts Genealogical Society about researching the history of your house. Typically when I give a house history talk I use a local historical house as an example.  In this particular case I chose a random house because I liked the name of the Swede who lived their in 1900 - Knut Bergstrom.

I used a lot of census records, city directories and maps in my research on Knut's house.   I looked at assessor's maps and even aerial views.  I felt like I really knew the house by the time I got ready to go give the talk. I decided to swing by the house and see it in person beforehand.

Well, wasn't I in for a surprise. As I approached the street, I was astonished to find a forty-five degree (or so it seemed to me) incline.  No map had prepared me for this steep hill. I am a bit squeamish when it comes to steep hills.  I think learning to drive on standard transmission car did that to me.  I paused for a moment and considered how badly I wanted to see that house. I really did want to see it.  The final determination was the condition of the road.  It was under construction.  All the pavement had been dug up and the top layer was dirt and rubble.  There is no historic house I want to see so badly that I am willing to drive up a steep incline on a dirt road.  I made the decision to pass this one by.

I had done my research, hadn't I?  Why had I been surprised by this unexpected situation?  Even though I had looked at many maps including aerial photos I still never got the sense of the lay of the land.  If I had looked at a topographical map that may have alerted me earlier.

Our genealogical research is often like this example.  We've done so much research that we are sure that we have a thorough knowledge and understanding of our target.  Yet without realizing it we overlook important clues that impact they way we interpret how our ancestors lived their lives.  I can think of many ways that steep hill impacted the lives of the people who have lived on it through the centuries, especially when considering wintry New England.

Take a second look at one of your ancestors and see if you can determine how geography impacted them.  Look at both the regional and the street level.  What was it about the terrain of the state that helped or impeded transportation and travel?  How did the geographic conditions impact industry and economic well-being?  Then look at your ancestor's town and neighborhood.  What type of place did they live in?  How did the surrounding land impact their daily life?

Dig deeper into the geography of your ancestor's home and you'll come away with a broader understanding of how they lived and the decisions they made.

Photo Credit: Photo by taberandrew used under the creative commons license.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Meme: The Tech-Savvy Genealogist

Here I am, a non-meme person, doing yet another meme within a matter of a week or so.  It's a little Friday night fun I guess.

Geniaus originally created The Tech-Savvy Genealogist Meme.

She came up with 50 items.  John Newmark at the Transylvanian Dutch Blog then expanded the list to 80, and also reworded two of her entries. (He added "Google Video Chat" to #4 and made #40 more generic)  His additions were intermingled so the numbering has changed, though he put an (*) by each of his additions.

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type

Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

Feel free to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you?
1. Own an Android or Windows tablet or an iPad  [waiting for the Kindle Android-based Tablet to be released soon...]
2. Use a tablet or iPad for genealogy related purposes
*3. Use a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader for genealogy related purposes
4. Have used Skype or Google Video Chat to for genealogy purposes
5. Have used a camera to capture images in a library/archives/ancestor's home
6. Use a genealogy software program on your computer to manage your family tree
*7. Use multiple genealogy software programs because they each have different functionalities.
8. Have a Twitter account
9. Tweet daily
10. Have a genealogy blog
11. Have more than one genealogy blog
12. Have lectured/presented to a genealogy group on a technology topic
13. Currently an active member of Genealogy Wise  (Still have an account. Stopped using the site when it got taken over by spam. Should I return?)
14. Have a Facebook Account
15. Have connected with genealogists via Facebook [Lots of them!]
16. Maintain a genealogy related Facebook Page
17. Maintain a blog or website for a genealogy society
18. Have submitted text corrections online to Ancestry, Trove or a similar site
*19. Have added content to a Person Page on Fold3 (formerly Footnote)
20. Have registered a domain name
21. Post regularly to Google+
*22. Have participated in a genealogy-related Google+ hangout
23. Have a blog listed on Geneabloggers
*24. Have a blog listed on Cyndi's List [I'm on Cyndi's list, not sure if it is my blog or not]
25. Have transcribed/indexed records for FamilySearch or a similar project
*26. Have converted a family audiotape to digital [Really my Dad did it but I got a copy!]
*27. Have converted a family videotape to digital
*28. Have converted family movies pre-dating videotape to digital. [My brother has, does that count?!]
29. Own a Flip-Pal or hand-held scanner [Magic Wand]
30. Can code a webpage in .html
*31. Can code a webpage in .html using Notepad (or any other text-only software)
*32. Can write scripts for your webpage in at least one programming language
*33. Can write scripts for your webpage in multiple programming languages
34. Own a smartphone
35. Have a personal subscription to one or more paid genealogy databases
*36. Have a local library card that offers you home access to online databases, and you use that access.
37. Use a digital voice recorder to record genealogy lectures [only my own, otherwise would be breaking copyright!]
38. Have contributed to a genealogy blog carnival
*39. Have hosted a genealogy blog carnival
40. Use an Internet Browser that didn’t come installed on your computer
41. Have participated in a genealogy webinar
42. Have taken a DNA test for genealogy purposes
43. Have a personal genealogy website []
44. Have found mention of an ancestor in an online newspaper archive
45. Have tweeted during a genealogy lecture [yes, during NERGC]
*46. Have tweeted during a family reunion
47. Have scanned your hardcopy genealogy files [some of them, rest are in computer already]
48. Use an RSS Reader to follow genealogy news and blogs
49. Have uploaded a gedcom file to a site like Geni, MyHeritage or Ancestry
50. Own a netbook
51. Use a computer/tablet/smartphone to take genealogy lecture notes
52. Have a profile on LinkedIn that mentions your genealogy habit
53. Have developed a genealogy software program, app or widget [I'm not that much of a geek]
54. Have listened to a genealogy podcast online
55. Have downloaded genealogy podcasts for later listening
56. Backup your files to a portable hard drive
57. Have a copy of your genealogy files stored offsite
58. Know about RootsTech
59. Have listened to a BlogTalk radio session about genealogy
60. Use Dropbox, SugarSync or other service to save documents in the cloud
61. Schedule regular email backups
62. Have contributed to the FamilySearch Wiki
63. Have scanned and tagged your genealogy photographs
64. Have published a genealogy book in an online/digital format
*65. Brought a USB device to a microfilm repository so you could download instead of print.
*66. Have a wearable USB device containing important files. (Watch, keychain necklace, etc)
*67. Created a map on Google Maps plotting ancestral homes or businesses.
*68. Recorded the GPS coordinates for a tombstone, or ancestral home
*69. Edited the Wikipedia entry for an ancestor, or their kin
*70. Created an entry at FindAGrave for a person
*71. Created an entry at FindAGrave for a cemetery
*72. Uploaded the MediaWiki software (or TikiWiki, or PhpWiki) to your family website.
*73. Have downloaded a video (for genealogical purposes) from YouTube or other streaming video site using, or in some other fashion
*74. Have transferred a video from a DVR to your computer for genealogical purposes
*75. Have participated in a ScanFest
*76. Have started a Genealogy-related meme at least one other geneablogger participated in.
*77. Have started a Genealogy-related weekly blogging theme other geneabloggers participated in.
*78. Have used Photoshop (or other editing software) to ‘clean up’ an old family photo
*79. Done digital scrapbooking [I would LOVE to do this! Help me get started!]
*80. Printed out a satellite photo from Google Maps of a cemetery, and marked where a tombstone was located on it.

I don't think I did that well but it was fun!

How Do You Feel About Followers on Facebook?

Recently Facebook has made a lot of changes.  First, they made it easier to display posts to certain groups. They threw in a new option called "public" (foreshadowing things to come). In all honestly, with the exception of the public button, Facebook has had this functionality all along.  And they didn't really do anything to make it any easier to use.  It's now just displayed more prominently under the status updates box.  It's still not as easy to use as the drag and drop circle concept in Google+.

Yesterday I learned about another feature that Facebook is introducing.  It's called subscribing.  It's just like "following" on Twitter or Facebook.  By using the new subscribing feature you can follow the public posts of people on Facebook without actually "friending" them.

It was inevitable that this would arrive.  First, they added the public feature which is useless unless the public can see the posts. Second, they need to keep up with all the cool features over at Google+.  Google+ allows its users to follow people like Twitter and segment people better than Facebook which makes it the coolest social media outlet (though the most complex) right now.

How are Facebook fans going to react?

I am most curious to see how people are going to react to the new changes.  Facebook has been a closed society and many people like it that way.  Are people going to embrace subscribing or are they going to reject it outright and continue to post strictly among their own friends?

I can see bloggers using the public and subscribe feature for posting their blogs.  If your blog is posted publicly on the internet why not post it publicly on Facebook too, right?

The only flaw in this is the reaction of friends in closed communities.  There might be a backlash from them if they feel encroached upon by seeing public posts in their mix.  People will certainly need to be more careful about leaving comments if they are commenting on a public post.

The Shake Down

Anyone on Facebook who is also on Twitter or Google+ is not going to have any adjustment issues.  They are already used to a public environment or the subtle nuance of total control.  The big shake down is going to occur with people who have remained insulated on Facebook.  The new options are going to be a shock.  Some will embrace them and others will reject them.

Perhaps Facebook is getting it wrong.  Perhaps their strength lies in the fact that they are now the only large, closed  social media outlet.  Maybe they are missing the boat trying to be like everyone else.  At least they were smart enough to make the subscribe feature optional.  It does not go into effect unless you turn it on.

What are you going to  do?  Do you think the public feature and subscribing is a good thing for Facebook or not.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Learn from My Mistake and Save Some Gas Money Too

Last week I went to a Massachusetts Registry of Deeds and Probate Court in order to try to find evidence of a connection between a father and son.  I brought family group sheets with me representing three generations.  I did a very thorough search of probate files and deeds for the father, sons and daughters, grandparents and even aunts and uncles.  I was satisfied with the depth of my research.

I didn't find any supporting evidence in probate records but I did find some great indirect evidence in the deeds.  I wish I had found some direct evidence but I was very happy with my results none-the-less.

Yesterday, I reviewed my files.  I looked over both the family group sheets and the deeds that I had photocopied.

I was aghast.  I had a made a glaring mistake.  Can you guess what it was?

I had brought family group sheets for the son, father and grandfather.  I had completely neglected his mother's family.  It is very likely that if probate records existed for his maternal grandmother or grandfather and they died before his mother that they could contain mention of his mother and father and possibly even himself.

Now I've got to pull out the information on the mother's family and do some analysis.  Did her parents die before or after she was married?  If I'm lucky they will have died afterward so that potential probate records will also mention her husband.  If they did die after the marriage, then next I need to see how many of the grandchildren were born before their deaths.  If I'm really lucky the grandchildren might be mentioned in the probate.

If it turns out that both grandparents died before the marriage then I won't bother going back to probate.  I don't need to prove the maternal line for this particular project.  But if they died after the marriage or the birth of grandchildren then I will definitely be making a second trip back.

The Probate Court and Registry of Deeds are 45 minutes from my house.  That's a lot of time and gas I would have saved if I had expanded my research the first time around. Learn from my mistake and research both sides of the family even if it doesn't seem like the obvious thing to do. You'll save yourself time and some gas money too.

Photo Credit: Photo by used under the creative commons license.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Breadcrumbs: What Are the Naming Patterns in Your Family?

[Breadcrumbs is a series on the Marian's Roots & Rambles blog that looks at ways to leave tangible breadcrumbs behind for your future descendants to find.]

No, silly, not your ancestors! Your family!  Did you use any naming patterns when naming your own children?  What clues did you leave for your future descendants?

Naming patterns are an important part of genealogical research.  Many cultures have used naming patterns.  Even ancestors who did not follow the exact naming patterns of their ethnic group may still have named their children after family members.  By looking at the names of children we can apply what we know about the naming patterns to try to determine the names of the grandparents. (That's a bit of an over simplification but you get the idea.)  It's amazing how effective it is in genealogical research.

There seems to be a free-for-all with naming children these days.  And yes, parents should be free to name their children whatever they want.  But perhaps what was old will come back in and it will become hip again to name children after family members.

Both of my parents were very interested in genealogy when they started having children.  My oldest brother is a junior.  That's an easy enough pattern to figure out.  Our dad had been named after his grandfather, so if descendants look carefully they will find an extended pattern.

My second brother was given the first and last name of a Revolutionary War ancestor. It's a very cool Dutch name and I think he's always been proud of it.

I was named after my grandmother, Marian, and since she died long before my birth I've always been grateful for that connection. My parents gave me my great grandmother's last name as a middle name.  I didn't always love that but I've grown to appreciate it more over the years.

Looking back I think my parent's did a great job naming their kids with a nod toward family history.

So how did my husband and I do?  Not too bad really, even if it was mostly by accident.

My oldest son is a junior.  That will make it easy for future descendants to figure out that relationship.

My second son is named for my husband's brother who passed away before we were married.  It also happened to be used commonly with my mother's German ancestors. 

When my third son surprised us, my husband said, "This one is all yours. Name him whatever you like."  And just right.  I felt no guilt whatsoever in choosing a name without his consultation.  He had gotten both of the first children after all. The only check my husband did was to make sure none of the potential names translated badly when spoken in French. 

By this time, I was fairly obsessed with family history.  I scoured the fan charts to find something interesting and unusual.  I picked the most unique name out of the whole lot.  It's a German last name and so makes a striking contrast when paired with Pierre-Louis. 

I was not the originator of this brilliant idea.  In fact, my great grandfather was given this as his first name as well. I've always had a fondness for my great grandfather.  He had a larger than life reputation in our family.  I was a bit hesitant because of that to bestow his name upon my son.  But I did it anyway and almost nothing has made me prouder in this life.

The thing that I like the best was that I was in control of linking the past to the future.  My name choices intentionally linked the generations.  Young parents might not think of that until it's too late and their family is already established.  If you get the chance, encourage newly married couples to consider traditional family names.

What about you?  What names and naming patterns did you lay down for your descendants?

Photo credit: Photo by Identity Photogr@phy used under the creative commons license.

Monday, September 12, 2011

And So She Risks Everything by Being Completely Honest

I have great hesitation to write this post but I'm going to do it anyway.  It's too honest and maybe it will open up divisions between genealogists like the acrimonious ones between working moms and stay-at-home moms (yes, for those of you not in the know, those two groups duke it out).

On Saturday I gave some talks at a conference.  Before my "Deeds and Probate" talk I strolled around talking to the members of the audience.  I came upon two people who identified themselves as graduates of the Boston University Genealogical Certificate Program.  We were chatting pleasantly when out of the blue one of them asks me, "Well, what are your qualifications for giving this talk?"  She was joking, I think, maybe.  But it came too soon after dropping the fact that they were BU Certificate grads, of which I am not.

In fairness, it's a good question.  And that's why we provide titles for our talks, descriptions and a bio that tells the audience in advance who we are and what kind of experience we have.  That way attendees can make a decision about whether a talk would be worthwhile or not.

I was a bit caught off guard by that question.  Any one who knows me well, knows that I enter into a state of shocked silence when caught off guard. Probably one of the few times I am ever silent.  I'm never one with a good quick come-back. I gave the person a sort of lame, "all I could think of off the top of my head" answer.

But I've been thinking about this and will probably will continue to do so for awhile.  What qualifications do I have?  None really, on paper.  I don't have a certificate from Boston University or any other program.  I haven't been to Samford, and I am not a Board Certified genealogist.

What do I have? Yes, I am self-taught (unless you want to consider the twenty years of indoctrination I received from my genealogist mother).  I have been reading the APG lists, old and new, since 2005.  Then the TGF list after that started.  I don't comment like I used but I still read them.  Those lists exposed me to Elizabeth Shown Mills, Elissa Scalise Powell and many of the other top genealogists of this generation. I absorbed their words, heeded their advice, studied as they suggested and drowned myself in books to lead me on my way.  I felt I couldn't have better teachers.  And while I've never met Elizabeth Shown Mills I still regard her as a mentor, as she is to so many, because I was willing to accept everything she had to offer.  Elissa I've had the pleasure of meeting, hearing her present and talking with her one on one.  Sometimes even a casual conversation is a teaching moment.

And no I don't have any credentials but I've thrown myself into the genealogical community, particularly in New England.  I've tried to get out there and meet everyone.  I've had the honor of getting to know, little by litte, Melinde Lutz Byrne, Helen Schatvet Ullmann and Sharon Sergeant.  Still to this day, the most terrifying moment of my speaking career was while giving a sparsely-attended talk when I was still green as could be and Melinde and Helen were both present.  And did they go easy on me with the questions? No, but I'm a better genealogist for it.

As for my work, I am a full-time historical researcher.  I use that term instead of genealogist because I wear many hats.  Sometimes I do genealogical research, much of the time I am researching house histories and other times you will find me researching cemeteries or gravestone carvers.  I work eight plus hours a day on research depending on my schedule.  Sometimes it's for clients, sometimes for a writing project and sometimes background research for something bigger.  I have researched in most registry of deeds, probate courts, archives and libraries in Eastern Massachusetts.

No, I don't have a certificate from a genealogy program.  Sorry, how many of their graduates are full-time researchers and don't hold down a second, non-genealogy related job?  Would I like to have a certificate? YES!!  Yes, I really would.  But I've made some choices in my personal life and that precludes me from committing to days or weeks away from home or even ponying up the money for these programs when it needs to be used for something else.

I do believe that credentialed programs are the way of the future.  And I would like to become certified some day.  When the kids get a little older I hope I can make that happen.

In the meantime, how am I going to look on paper?  I will continue to be credential-less.  Does that make me less qualified to give talks and to share my experience?

I struggle with this.  I've got more than just something but what is it and how do I say it when someone hits me with a question like "How are you qualified to give this talk?"

Maybe you can tell me.  I'm done venting for now.  I've got deadlines and research to do so I'm heading back into the trenches...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

99 Genealogy Things

I usually never do memes.  But I admit there are certain people who are influencers and Susan Peterson is one of them.  I saw this meme on her blog this morning and decided I needed a little light-hearted uplifting on this sad remembrance day.  The meme is about genealogy things you've done, not done or have no desire to do.

This meme comes courtesy of  Becky at the Kinexxions blog.

The rules are simple:

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (color optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

  1. Belong to a genealogical society.
  2. Researched records onsite at a court house.
  3. Transcribed records.
  4. Uploaded tombstone pictures to Find-A-Grave.
  5. Documented ancestors for four generations (self, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents).
  6. Joined Facebook.
  7. Helped to clean up a run-down cemetery.
  8. Joined the Genea-Bloggers Group on Facebook.
  9. Attended a genealogy conference.
  10. Lectured at a genealogy conference.
  11. Spoke on a genealogy topic at a local genealogy society.
  12. Been the editor of a genealogy society newsletter.
  13. Contributed to a genealogy society publication.
  14. Served on the board or as an officer of a genealogy society.
  15. Got lost on the way to a cemetery.
  16. Talked to dead ancestors.
  17. Researched outside the state in which I live.
  18. Knocked on the door of an ancestral home and visited with the current occupants.
  19. Cold called a distant relative.
  20. Posted messages on a surname message board.
  21. Uploaded a gedcom file to the internet.
  22. Googled my name.
  23. Performed a random act of genealogical kindness.
  24. Researched a non-related family, just for the fun of it.
  25. Have been paid to do genealogical research.
  26. Earn a living (majority of income) from genealogical research. I wouldn't call it a living!
  27. Wrote a letter (or email) to a previously unknown relative.
  28. Contributed to one of the genealogy carnivals.
  29. Responded to messages on a message board or forum.
  30. Was injured while on a genealogy excursion.
  31. Participated in a genealogy meme.  This one!
  32. Created family history gift items (calendars, cookbooks, etc.).
  33. Performed a record lookup for someone else.
  34. Went on a genealogy seminar cruise.
  35. Am convinced that a relative must have arrived here from outer space.
  36. Found a disturbing family secret.
  37. Told others about a disturbing family secret.
  38. Combined genealogy with crafts (family picture quilt, scrapbooking).
  39. Think genealogy is a passion not a hobby.
  40. Assisted finding next of kin for a deceased person (Unclaimed Persons).
  41. Taught someone else how to find their roots.
  42. Lost valuable genealogy data due to a computer crash or hard drive failure.
  43. Been overwhelmed by available genealogy technology.
  44. Know a cousin of the 4th degree or higher.
  45. Disproved a family myth through research.
  46. Got a family member to let you copy photos.
  47. Used a digital camera to “copy” photos or records.
  48. Translated a record from a foreign language. German
  49. Found an immigrant ancestor’s passenger arrival record.
  50. Looked at census records on microfilm, not on the computer.Happy to say I've never had to do this.
  51. Used microfiche.
  52. Visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
  53. Visited more than one LDS Family History Center.
  54. Visited a church or place of worship of one of your ancestors.
  55. Taught a class in genealogy.
  56. Traced ancestors back to the 18th Century.
  57. Traced ancestors back to the 17th Century.
  58. Traced ancestors back to the 16th Century.
  59. Can name all of your great-great-grandparents.
  60. Found an ancestor’s Social Security application. (Found or requested?)
  61. Know how to determine a soundex code without the help of a computer.
  62. Used Steve Morse’s One-Step searches.
  63. Own a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
  64. Helped someone find an ancestor using records you had never used for your own research.
  65. Visited the main National Archives building in Washington, DC.
  66. Visited the Library of Congress.
  67. Have an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower.
  68. Have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War. Haven't found one yet.
  69. Taken a photograph of an ancestor’s tombstone.
  70. Became a member of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits.
  71. Can read a church record in Latin. Not well but can piece it together.
  72. Have an ancestor who changed their name.
  73. Joined a Rootsweb mailing list.
  74. Created a family website.
  75. Have more than one "genealogy" blog.
  76. Was overwhelmed by the amount of family information received from someone.
  77. Have broken through at least one brick wall
  78. Visited the DAR Library in Washington D.C.
  79. Borrowed a microfilm from the Family History Library through a local Family History Center.
  80. Have done indexing for Family Search Indexing or another genealogy project.
  81. Visited the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
  82. Had an amazing serendipitous find of the "Psychic Roots" variety.
  83. Have an ancestor who was a Patriot in the American Revolutionary War.
  84. Have an ancestor who was a Loyalist in the American Revolutionary War.
  85. Have both Patriot & Loyalist ancestors.
  86. Have used Border Crossing records to locate an ancestor.
  87. Use maps in my genealogy research.
  88. Have a convict ancestor who was transported from the UK.
  89. Found a bigamist amongst the ancestors.
  90. Visited the National Archives in Kew.But I have visisted Kew Gardens!
  91. Visited St. Catherine's House in London to find family records.
  92. Found a cousin in Australia (or other foreign country).
  93. Consistently cite my sources. I try to.
  94. Visited a foreign country (i.e. one I don't live in) in search of ancestors.
  95. Can locate any document in my research files within a few minutes. Ha!
  96. Have an ancestor who was married four times (or more).Not sure.
  97. Made a rubbing of an ancestors gravestone. Won't do it either.
  98. Organized a family reunion.
  99. Published a family history book (on one of my families).
  100. Learned of the death of a fairly close relative through research.
  101. Have done the genealogy happy dance.
  102. Sustained an injury doing the genealogy happy dance.
  103. Offended a family member with my research.
  104. Reunited someone with precious family photos or artifacts.
I wasn't sure what this was going to be like before I started.  I guess I've done more than I expected.

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Societies and Book Publishers: A New Partnership?

    This week the annual national FGS Conference is taking place in Springfield, IL. I'm not at the conference but that doesn't keep me from thinking about it.

    One of the main themes of the conference is "Focus on Societies for organizational leadership training." I've always been interested in clubs and societies and what makes them succeed or not.  Lectures during the FGS conference will try to provide society officers with suggestions that will help their societies thrive.

    As many of you know, I've been thinking a lot about publishers lately in my quest to find hard to find books.  It seems to me that publishers and genealogical societies are similar in many ways.  They are both struggling to find a new audience and are both suffering from lower numbers.

    Many publishers, even ones that aren't specifically genealogical, provide local history books that are of great interest to genealogists.  Some publishers that come to mind from looking at my own book shelf are Arcadia Publishing, The History Press, Down East Books and even university publishers such as the University of New Hampshire Press which publishes a series called Revisiting New England: The New Regionalism.

    I'll be the first to admit that I know nothing about publishing companies and how they work.  But from my point of view a partnership between genealogical societies and publishers would be a good fit.

    Here's why:

    What Publishers Have to Offer Societies

    1) Publishers can provide authors as speakers for meetings and events.  This would give their authors greater exposure and give the societies a broader range of topics for their members.  Authors can also do book signings at the meetings.

    2) Publishers can send representatives to talk to society members about what they are looking for in authors and topics.  This will increase the pool of potential authors and let publishers establish relationships with them.  This will help genealogists realize that their research is worth publishing.

    3) Publishers can send representatives to talk to society audiences about the specifics of pitching a book and the do's and don'ts of writing a book.  This kind of insight would be invaluable to potential authors and would benefit the publishers by having new authors provide something closer to a polished finished product.

    4) Sponsorship of events. Societies have strong expertise and a willingness to share it amongst the community but they often lack the funds or the know-how to publicize a regional event.  Publishers and societies should team up to co-sponsor a local event whether it be a multiple author book signing or an ancestors road show.  The society will have the opportunity to increase its membership and get much needed publicity while the publisher will sell books, get publicity for their authors and build brand awareness.

    What Societies Have to Offer Publishers

    1) Societies can offer a perfect target audience.  Their members are just the people that publishing companies want buying their books.  I'm not sure why more history-focused publishing companies don't spend more effort targeting genealogists.

    2) Societies can offer sales.  Genealogists often lament that they don't have the money to buy database subscriptions or attend conferences. But, honestly, show me a genealogist who won't spend $25 on a book that will give them greater insight into their ancestors.  If a genealogist thinks that a book or other item with help them solve an ancestral brick wall then they will find a way to buy it.  The big problem is that many genealogist aren't aware of these books by smaller publishers.  You can't buy something you don't know about.

    3) Societies can offer a window into understanding an unknown market.  For those history publishers who don't target genealogists, a relationship with a genealogical society will provide the knowledge of who genealogists are and what makes them tick.  Very few major demographic research studies have been done on the genealogical market.  Be proactive and go straight to the source to get your answers.

    4) Societies can offer potential book reviewers. Among its membership there may be people who would like to write book reviews for their local society newsletter or quarterly and potentially for other magazines or journals as well.  Book publishers should cultivate this aspect of a relationship with societies.

    These are just some ideas of ways in which genealogical societies and book publishers can work together.  I'm sure with a bit more brainstorming even more creative ideas could materialize. The key thing is the think "out of the box."  Shake it up and create something completely new so that by working together you can both attract a new audience to increase your bottom line.

    Photo Credit: Photo by Horia Varlan used under the creative commons license.