Where should I publish my work?

In my last post I requested suggestions for where to publish the Dirk Bode article.  I got some suggestions from Harold–thanks, Harold–which set me on my usual “dog on a bone” hunt for options.

Scenario: you have spent a lot of time writing an article and you think it is pretty good.  Someone should want to publish it, right?  Well, here are some options for you.  We will start with those that you probably think of first:

Option 1:  Do nothing.  You could write it up (because to comply with the GPS Element #5 you need a written conclusion) but you keep it private so no one can read it.  :-(  This is very sad and not recommended!
characteristics: This option is chosen, either with mindfulness or not, the most frequently.

Option 2: Self-publish.  You write it up and publish though a local printer, an on-line service (I use lulu.com, but there are others) or even a local print shop, like Kinko’s.  You then distribute to your relatives. And, if you are really thinking ahead, you run 6 extra copies and send one to your local genealogy society, the library in the locale in which the family was based, the state historical society, SLC Family History Library, Allen County (IN) Library and the Library of Congress–yes, all of them.
characteristics:  These companies will print anything you give them.  You are the editor and no one reviews your work.  You can also purchase marketing or editing services from some of these services.

Option 3:  Commercial press.  You could submit your book (usually) to a commercial press who thinks your work is so wonderful that it will have mass market appeal.  I don’t know about you, but I cannot imagine anyone thinking that my family is so fascinating that they buy the book!–but you might have a compelling story.
characteristics: usually you have to have a book and they are very selective.  The selection process can take a year or more.

Option 4: Submit to a periodical.

The latter option is the one I researched and I thought I would share my findings.  There appears to be groups within this option and I will discuss each. [1]

Group 1: national peer-reviewed genealogical journals, top rank
example: National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ), The American Genealogist (TAG), New England Historic & Genealogical Register, New York Genealogical Register.
These journals are moderately to highly selective. Each has staff and an editorial board which puts each submission through a rigorous review.  The focus of each journal may differ, for example, NGSQ uses the case study format to illustrate various methodologies.  TAGs articles focus more on the kinship determination and tend to be longer, even extending over multiple issues.  TAG and NEHGR seem to me to be fairly similar but that is probably my Midwestern bias.

Group 2: regional/state-wide reviewed genealogical journals
example: Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly
These journals do a little editing and accept work that ranges from family stories (Southern California Genealogical Society) to more scholarly.  Usually there is no paid staff or editorial board but they have built a reputation by having a consistent vision over a long period of time and have a larger distribution network.

Group 3: local genealogical publications
example:  Seattle Genealogical Society Bulletin.  While the quality of the articles has improved recently, with these publications there is no history of sustained quality by today’s standards of scholarship.  (full disclosure: I am the Publications Director for SGS, going into my 3rd term)

I suspect that you could have identified these same groups listed above and identified the same or similar publications. but, we genealogists are missing another segment of publications–scholarly journals but not genealogy publications. .

Group 4: scholarly journals
These are peer reviewed journals which are more scholarly in nature.  The journals with a national scope tend to be more rigorous in their selection criteria.  Genealogists rarely submit to these types of journals, yet,  there is a wide variety of publications which fit well with the topics of our research.  If we truly believe we are creating new knowledge, shouldn’t we be submitting–and getting published– in such journals? These journals fall into three sub-groups that are of interest to us–locality, ethnic and thematic

Sub-group A: general journals, locality focused
examples: Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Alabama Review, California History, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Journal of Illinois History, Traces  (Indiana & Midwestern History)
My friend Trish, a certified genealogist, submitted a paper to the Pacific Northwest Quarterly on Rebecca Lena Graham, a native American from the Seattle area who lived in the early part of this past century.  The PNQ is not an historical journal, and they accepted her work.  Most of these journals are published by the state’s historical society.

Sub-group B: historical journals, ethnically focused
examples: The Jewish Quarterly Review, German History, Irish Historical Studies

Sub-group C: historical journals, thematically focused
examples: Agricultural History, Journal of Women’s History, Journal of Social History, Journal of the Early Republic, Journal of Military History, Journal of Urban History

Any of these journals, depending on your focus of your article could be considered for publication of your work.  I found most of the lists of possible journals in three places:

  • Conference of Historical Journals, a membership organization of journals which focus on history. but not all belong.  There is a link on the left sidebar to members websites.
  • SAGE journals: a consortium of journals which appear to be managed by SAGE.
  • Project MUSE: is a provider of humanities and social science scholarly content.

Here are some hints as you go exploring. Always read a couple of issues to see the character of the submissions that are accepted.  Read the submission requirements carefully; for example, some, but not all, use the Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition as their style guide. Most wanted between 4000 and 12,000 words including the endnotes; the work had to create new knowledge.  The document could not be published, including the web, prior to publication in their periodical and copyright issues were important. A few of the journals editorial staff ran the document through the software program that has been developed to identify plagiarism.

Only one of the journals I looked at specifically stated it did not accept genealogy or family history articles (Chronicles of Oklahoma).  In a review, however, of their past issues, I observed numerous articles focused on individuals and their contribution to culture or society.

Let me know if you found this interesting.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  worked more on the Dirk article (getting close to having all the research done–but I keep finding good stuff.  I have about 5000 words); got the the contract out for our plenary speaker for the OGSA conference in Minneapolis in August; completed the research for this article; sent in my registration for the SGS Spring Seminar with Jeanne L. Bloom and to OGSA for the Ostfriesen Family Reunion; printed the SGS Bulletin; kissed my hubby ‘hello’ as he got back from CO and almost simultaneously kissed him ‘good-bye’ as he flew off to Alabama.  And, like two ships passing in the night, I fly out on Thursday on a red-eye and am gone when he returns!

[1] Fine print: This is my view of the world and your world-view may differ.

What am I working on? Dirk Jans Bode

I don’t normally focus on my family for blog postings but this time I am making an exception.  The reason for the exception is that I have been working hard on a major paper on my latest obsession, Dirk Jans Bode, which has delayed my already irregular blog posting.

jacksonvilleI am totally immersed with the story of my great grand uncle, Dirk Jans Bode, b. 1848, d. 1905 who I had never heard about.  Our family is not one of story tellers, so I do not suspect a sinister reason for this omission.  So far, he sounds pretty ordinary except… he died in Bartonsville (Illinois) Asylum for the Insane [1] after living in three different “insane asylums” for over half his life, all in Illinois:

  1. Central Hospital for the Insane (Jacksonville, ~1872-1878), (photo top)
  2. Northern Hospital for the Insane (Elgin, 1878-1902) (artist’s conception, middle) and
  3. Bartonsville Hospital for the Insane (Bartonsville, near Peoria, 1902-1905).  (photo in third position)

elginFor the past couple of weeks, I have been reading and learning about the changes in residential care for mentally ill individuals in the latter part of the 19th century. This is not for the faint of heart as the standard of care in this period was almost primal.

I also cannot use what I write about Dirk for my BCG portfolio due to previous a publication about his brother so I am thinking about publication in some other likely spot.  Suggestions are welcomed.

PeoriaI love the research of social history and this research has led me to reading:

  • annual reports from the early parts of this century of the three asylums.  These are mostly about operations, projects, pleas to the legislature etc. but are very revealing of priorities and the state of the science–or not.
  • anniversary books published at 65 years and 125 years. These tend to be in the “aren’t we wonderful” category which contrasts with the annual reports and their pleas for more money because they are so bad off, but they give a history of the facility, illustrate the pattern of the day and focus on the state of care at the time.
  • a book about David Hyrum Smith [2], son of Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, [3] who resided in the Elgin asylum when Dirk was there. His story has some interesting information about process of committment and his affliction of “chronic mania,” the shared “diagnosis” with Dirk and most other patients.
  • a book by Elizabeth Packard, [4] who was admitted to Jacksonville Asylum by her husband in 1860 because she wasn’t religious enough. She took her case to court to be released after two years of trying to prove she was not insane and she finally prevailed. This all occurred prior to Dirk’s entry into the institution.
  • a medical casebook for one + year of the “Dirk years” at Elgin that is off limits until I can get a court order for access–er…IF, I can get a court order!
  • and the 1880 United States special enumeration of the “Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes”. (and you thought they only did the agricultural census!). [5]

Fascinating stuff!

Here are some interesting bits of information that I have found so far:

  • prior to the Civil War, residential facilities that did exist were mostly custodial in nature.  In other words, one was “kept” but no one attempted a “cure”.  This continued until 1870 or so.
  • Elizabeth Packard got out of the asylum after two years and went on to lobby the legislature to change the law so the husbands didn’t, by right, have the ability to incarcerate their wives without a court proceeding.  Although she never divorced her husband, she did not live with him again. (editorial comment: duh!)
  • Between 1870 and 1890, they believed that cure could only happen in the first year or less and after that you were incurable.  Since they wanted their numbers of cures to be high, they would only let in those who had only recently had an “attack” of insanity. Restraints were common and you do not want to know what that meant!
  • After about 1890 they started making up cures and testing them out on the patients. (Freud didn’t start developing his theories until the 1890′s in Europe. [6])
  • Doctors gave the patients malaria to build body heat which was thought to “cure” insanity. (1932)
  • Doctors induced a chemical “sleep” for a week or more as a cure (1932)

But, I am also interested in why my ancestors determined Dirk needed to be placed into the asylum. I am not yet complete with my investigation, but it appears to me that he was either violent or suicidal and the family could not handle him.

All of these issues will be explored further in the paper and perhaps here in this blog as well–all to get a better idea of who Dirk Jans Bode was and perhaps to aid you in finding sources you may not have thought of.

Do you have someone enumerated on the DDD schedule?  The schedule enumerated those confined to institutions including poor houses, prisons as well as “insane asylums.” If you do, they have a story to tell.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  worked on Dirk’s story, worked on a blog posting about a migration strategy of our ancestors, completed my ProGen assignment and produced the next SGS Bulletin in record time!  Woo hoo!  I also attended an Olympia Genealogical Society seminar with Christine Rose, the writer of one of my favorite books on Courthouse research.  Check it out at http://www.christine4rose.com/Rosebooks.html.  Still fresh today.

[1] I will be using the name of the facility at the point of time referenced by the narrative.  This means that “insane asylum” is the generic term for the residential facilities housing the mentally handicapped for the purposes of this posting.  “Insane,” “maniac” and “idiotic” are also terms of the period.  It is possible, even likely, that the individuals committed to asylums in the late 1800′s were not psychologically handicapped at all, but rather could have had a  birth defect or were epileptic, autistic, deaf, hyper-active, etc.  The common diagnosis in 1880 for most patients was “chronic mania” and it covered all but depression and schizophrenia. Photos are from Wikipedia using the common use license.

[2] Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hyrum_Smith : accessed 19 April 2014).

[3] Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Smith,_Jr. : accessed 19 April 2014).

[4] Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Packard : accessed 19 April 2014).

[5] Interestingly, the DDD is difficult to find.  If you do a simple search for Dirk Bode, b. 1848 you will only retrieve the 1880 US population schedule.  Go back to home, click on advanced, scroll down to the map, click on Illinois, then find the DDD schedule, as it is called…at least that is how I could get to it.

[6] Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freud : accessed 20 April 2014).

GPS Element #3: Analysis and Correlation

In the afternoon of  30 March 2014, I will give a presentation to the Seattle Genealogical Society on the GPS Element #3: Analysis & Correlation.

For the use of followers and attendees of that session and at the request of the previous group who attended GPS #2, I am posting a PDF of the slide deck early.  For those of you who follow the blog and will be attendng the session, copy this and bring it with you.  For you others the usual caveats apply: please do not copy or in any way infringe upon my rights as the creator of this work.  I thank you for that.

2014 0310 GPS 3

Included with that presentation was a worksheet and evaluation form which are not included on this posting.

I will keep this posted until the series is over and then take it down.

Happy Hunting!


GPS Element #5: Writing your conclusions

typewriterThis is the third of a series of articles about the Genealogical Proof Standard. [1]  The elements are not being published in numerical order, primarily because I had presentations to make on some of the elements, and I completed those first.  You can read about GPS #1 (thorough search), GPS #2 (source citations)  and  GPS #3 (analysis and correlation), by clicking on the links.  I haven’t yet published GPS #4 (resolving conflicting evidence).

My ProGen class is in its second month of writing their proof arguments. Proof arguments are the basis of the BCG case study and components of the Kinship Determination Project, both requirements for certification.  Proof arguments are a type of genealogical writing that describes, in a scholarly way, our findings to a question.

I won’t dwell on the definition of a proof argument, you can find explanations and examples in a variety of places, including the BCG website (http://www.bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/worksamples.html). Almost every article in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly is a proof argument.

As our class discussed their first drafts, I started to see some trends in my writing as well as that of my cohort. These observations may reflect a single paper or sometimes the issue is systemic.  One thing remains clear–these are my personal comments.  Each of the items below is composed of 1.) what I see/experience, 2.) any documentation or analysis which clarifies the issue and finally 3.) a statement of how I plan to approach the issue in my own writing.  What you select to incorporate into your proof arguments is a personal decision; your choice may be different than mine.

I pause here for a minute to thank Karen Stanbury, my facilitator for Mastering Genealogical Proof (MGP) by Tom Jones.[2] She made the course, taken in late 2013, rigorous and demanding. I utilize daily the information contained in that book and emphasized by Karen. I know that some facilitators were not as rigorous as Karen and that is their loss.

1. Research Question:  The crafting of the research question seems easy at first and then reveals itself to be surprisingly difficult. At times I was struggling with defining exactly what I was trying to “prove.”  Did I want to answer when Mary was born, or her location of birth or who were her parents?  In the end, for this assignment, I decided to focus on the parents because I had the evidence to support that question.
Analysis:  The research question is composed of two parts: a clearly defined and unique individual and a measurable interrogatory. To identify an individual who is “unique in the world,” you must supply enough known descriptors that there is only one person who could satisfy those requirements.  The interrogatory may be relationship (e.g. who are the parents of…), or an identity (e.g. Which Alonzo Fedpussle paying taxes in Whichamacallit County in 1879, was the son of Alphonso Fedpussle?) or an activity (e.g. What military service, if any, did Alonzo Fedpussle, born in 1847 in Whichamacallit County, provide in the Civil War?)  The interrogatory also needs to be measurable.  A question such as “who is John Smith?” fails on two counts.  John Smith is not unique in the world but, in addition, the interrogatory “Who was…” is not measurable; said a different way, how would you know if or when the question of “who was John Smith” had been answered?
How I plan to approach it:  I believe that I understand the concept of the unique individual but I will continue to work on the crafting of the good question.  I am hopeful that writing more PAs will result in more efficient writing.  Reading more articles will help as well.  I struggle most with research questions that are implied in the writing but not specifically stated.

2. Organization: The organization of the writing is very challenging. It’s not that I cannot organize the writing, but rather I have trouble picking the best organization for the question, the evidence and the reader.
Analysis:  I am not sure I see too much written about this.  In MGP Dr. Jones describes how the work must have a beginning, a middle and the end (I work with several people who always start conversations “in the middle.” Irritating, isn’t it?)  I think this is harder for some people than others.  Dr. Jones discusses various constructs for the argument, including single hypothesis, alternative hypotheses, building blocks and syllogisms [3]
How I plan to approach it:  My articles usually use one of these techniques as the prime organizing methodology and then within that structure some or all of the others will be utilized.  It sounds like I know what I am doing but it is still hard to pick the right structure for the evidence you have.  I’ll probably blog about this more later.

3. Inclusion/Exclusion: We want to include all we know. We worked so hard to get all that information and just because it doesn’t support the research question doesn’t mean we should eliminate it, does it? Well, yes, it does. The focus of the writing should be on the research question and all other material which does not support the thesis should be deleted. On the flip side and equally as “wrong” as too much information, is making the paper so “bare bones” that the author forces the reader to make assumptions and “leaps of faith.”  A third type of problem with writing of proof arguments is where the author writes something which “begs the question.”  In the latter, the reader is busy wondering why something wasn’t covered; just the inclusion of a brief discussion would have eliminated the alternative focus by the reader.
Analysis:  Inclusion of other information which does not directly support the question, leads the reader away from the prime focus; the author appears to have wandered off topic. The reader should also not be making assumptions because the writer has failed to include necessary evidence.  This type of writing leaves the reader with questions which interrupt the flow of the reading.
How I plan to approach it:  I actually have the problem of putting in too little information and making leaps of faith, under the guise of “isn’t it self-evident?” My writing improves if I have the opportunity to let it sit for a while before rereading.  I also write the paper and then outline it after the first draft.  I find outlining helps identify errant bits of evidence which do not support the question, but notice — I outline after I have written the draft.  If I have difficulty outlining the paper, the area of writing which needs improvement is immediately identified.

4. Proof Argument/Research Plan?: Some in the class wrote the argument as if it were a research plan. This sometimes looked more like a listing of sources which supported the query.  The author would include all the evidence in a source list/discussion but never pull it together and correlate by contrasting and comparing.  They told the story but seemed more interested in the sources than the proof.
Analysis:  The eleven points of MGP continue to guide us in the writing but everyone needs to improve on this. [4]
How I plan to approach it:  I will continue to read NGSQ and study other articles.  I admit I was amazed how much I had learned in the past two years by reading and rereading these articles.  I am a much better consumer of peer reviewed articles than I was before–it’s a bit scarey!

5. Analysis of sources: Am I the only one who doesn’t want to read about whether that will was original or derivative or the information was primary, secondary or undetermined?  The inclusion of source analysis after source analysis which is not additive to the argument makes for difficult reading.  The author has the responsibility to provide informative citations which tell the reader the viability of the source that was used; it is not necessary to do the analysis in such a visible way.  For all the analysis, the evidence could still be wrong.
Analysis: These citations should make obvious whether the author was looking at an original, derivative or authored work; using primary, secondary or undetermined information and providing direct, indirect or negative evidence.  Only when two sources conflict is it reasonable–it seems to me– to expect the author to discuss the quality of the source and then draw a conclusion.   The inclusion of that analysis can happen in one of three places– in the body of the proof, in the footnote of the proof and outside of the paper altogether. Authors who analyze every source and include their analysis in the narrative, make for difficult reading. Note the fifth bullet of the 11 in MGP, “We discuss sources to a lesser extent, because most information about sources belongs in the citations and footnotes.” [5]
How I plan on approach it:  I leave out most and sometime all references to the categories of my source, information and evidence.  I have a tendency to write about the analysis of the source only when it is in conflict, i.e. does the source analysis make one answer more appropriate than another?

6. Style of writing: Some authors wrote a portion of their article in a very familiar style- first person, present tense.
Analysis: The third bullet of the 11 points in MGP states “present-tense verbs refer to extant sources and living people….(consequently, much genealogical writing is in the past tense.) and the tenth bullet “the tone of a proof argument or summary is that of a “defense” in the academic sense.” [6]
How I plan to to approach it:  I have little difficulty using past tense fairly consistently in my writing but occasionally, a present tense verb sneaks in.  I just have to be aware of the issue and address it at the time of writing.  Generally, my writing is rather academic (read: dry) so the use of the first person does not often enter my writing.

So this was, and continues to be, a great exercise. I have written a few proof arguments now and although I cannot say I am comfortable, the efficiency of writing is better and my initial output is stronger.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: commented on my classmates proof arguments; got the SGS newsletter out to our membership; campaigned to have our society join FGS; purchased, received and deeply skimmed Applied Genealogy by Eugene A. Stratton and Genealogical Evidence by Noel Stevenson. Both are older books but are still the go-to reference for genealogy fundamentals. Also read the ProGen assignment for next month and 4 NGSQ articles (one is related to my BCG case study, one was written by a friend, one is the Q study article for March and one is about a special schedule of the 1880 census where a great grand uncle was enumerated as he was labeled insane. More about this later—I am doing some deep research on the topic of incarceration in an insane asylum in the late 1800′s.)

[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville: Turner Publishing Company, 2014) p. 1-2.

[2] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 2013).

[3] Ibid, p. 88-89.

[4] Ibid, p. 90.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

BCG: Selecting Your Focus for the Case Study

I have been working on my Case Study (proof argument) for my ProGen assignment. This is an assignment requiring a significant commitment of time if one wants to do it well.  In the first month we created a draft document for cohort review and in the second month we incorporate the comments and complete the paper.  We are in the second month; the paper is due to be posted no later than the 25th of this month.

One of the areas where I struggled was the selection of a topic or focus, both for ProGen and the BCG Case Study. Perhaps you also have that problem, and my struggle and how I overcame it, might help you.

For ProGen, I was very careful in the selection of the individual of focus. It had to be an individual that I would never consider for use in my BCG application.  It could be based on client work but it could not be the client report I was going to use for BCG!  I sifted through all my client reports and picked my best client report at this time.  This one I reserved for BCG. I then looked at all the others and picked a different one for the ProGen assignment.  The problem was to pick one where the research question was a “meaty” enough question that it qualified for a proof argument (complex) and was not a proof statement or summary. [1]

I elected to focus on the determination of the parents of a client’s grandmother, an Irish immigrant in the early 1900′s.

I knew that a problem based on work for a client with only a two month window to write the argument would never rise to the level of a “thorough search” (GPS Element #1) as I was unwilling to approach the client to pay for additional documents and I was uninterested in paying for them myself.  I included that clarification in the ProGen paper and cited the documents that would complete the study.  I obviously do not have that luxury with the BCG Case Study.

But, let’s go back a year or two….

I have been trying to understand what constitutes a good topic/focus for a genealogical proof argument for some time.  At first I thought I had no eligible foci!  They all seemed obvious to me–so what was the big deal?  I kept looking for brick walls that hadn’t been yet solved that I could use for the proof argument.  This was the wrong approach.  I was focusing on filling in a blank on a pedigree chart, rather than writing about the thoughtful analysis of a problem.  I needed to think logically like a mathematician where “if a=b and b=c then c=a.”  So, my writing of a proof argument was the culmination of folloiwng the GPS and presenting the conclusion in a manner that was convincing to other genealogists.  My quality of research would determine the veracity of my work as it would be vetted by other genealogists.

When I made that shift, I realized that every decision we as genealogists record is a proof candidate–whether it is a proof statement (short), proof summary (longer) or proof argument (complex). When I realized the definition of “direct evidence” and “in conflict” could pertain to any individual in my database that had multiple birth years (and I have a lot of those), I realized that I was thinking too small.  And, when I realized that it would pertain to any decision we make as genealogists, I went from having no potential cnaidates for a proof argument to having an overwhelming number of options.

I also realized that when I made that shift, I had completed my shift from a “pedigree blank filler” to a genealogist.  It was a heady moment.

The BCG Application Guide describes the types of proof arguments they will accept:  direct evidence in conflict, uses indirect or negative evidence only or a conflict between direct and indirect/negative evidence.[2]  Here are some thought-provokers as you consider the focus for your BCG Case Study:

  1. Do you have an individual with multiple and different birth/marriage/death dates?  This might qualify for direct evidence in conflict.  (This is the one I am using for my Case Study)
  2. Have you solved a problem about where an individual was born/married or died?  This might quality for direct/indirect/negative evidence in conflict
  3. Do you have an immigrant or someone who moved from one place to another with a relatively common name?  Then you might have the opportunity to use indirect evidence to prove that your guy in location A is the same as the individual in location B.
  4. Do you have a family tradition (event) that you proved true or false? This, too, might qualify.

One of the documents that started opening my mind was the September 1999 NGSQ.  the lead article, “Working with Historical Evidence: Genealogical Principles and Standards” by Elizabeth Shown Mills precedes Evidence Explained by two years but, using a genetic analogy, shares DNA.  The issue follows with an article using each of the BCG options for proof:  conflicting direct evidence, using indirect and negative evidence, and conflicting direct, indirect and negative evidence. [3]

Good luck selecting your focus and…

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: presented the GPS Element #2 to SGS, rewritten the presentation to prepare it for a lecture capture to submit to NGS for consideration of it and others for the 2015 conference, did a literature search in preparation for my major article for APG on gender balance in genealogical peer reviewed journals, and prepped for the SGS Board meeting which I will not attend due to a conference (work related) that I am attending in CA.  I am also gathering background for a paper on my great grand uncle who was “housed” in the Elgin (IL) Asylum for the Insane from c. 1878 to 1906, when he died.  I want to find out what some of his experiences might have been.  In the 1880 DDD census he is listed as a chronic maniac and locked up 24/7.

[1] Part of the reason why I am avoiding using my own family for the ProGen assignment is that I am not completely happy with my selection for my BCG Case Study and may change it.  I want to reserve as many options as I can.

[2] Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Application Guide  (http://www.bcgcertification.org/brochures/BCGAppGuide2014.pdf : accessed 14 March 2014), 6.

[3] National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 87:3 (September 1999) 163-217.

URLs Revisited

TheresaBarryJillBarry Kline, a member of my ProGen cohort (l to r, Theresa, ProGen Coordinator, me, Barry at SLIG), commented on my ProGen paper in which I used long URLs and disagreed with my use of them.  I thanked him for his comments and referred him to my blog posting about URLs.  After reading it, he responded.  I thought it was a thoughtful response and it changed my mind about how I will approach long vs. short URLs–at least for a while.  At the end of Barry’s response (unedited)  is where I stand now on this issue.  For ease of differentiation, I have placed Barry’s response in italics.  Thanks, Barry!

Hi Jill,

I read your blog post on URL’s, well done and I think you covered the topic thoroughly and you got a lot of great responses.  Consisten[cy] is important but so is good judgment and in my opinion that is where this topic falls.  So we might just have to agree to disagree on this point! :-)

TinyURL’s are not acceptable – I think we both agree on that.

For me, Ancestry’s full links fall in the same category.  They are too long, they completely disrupt the citation and like I said in my comment, unless you have an electronic form of your article, they are useless.  Would you sit there and try to retype all of that information into the URL bar of your browser – one space or character error and the person would have to start all over. Not to mention that after the first “/” a URL becomes case sensitive, not everyone realizes that fact.  A properly crafted citation should be able to take a reader to the point in a database website.  For example a census citation gives you county, ED, page number, family number, etc.  nothing more is needed.  (And in the case of the Ancestry.com links you are using, if I were “officially” reviewing your article, I would have to go to a library that has Ancestry.com because your links are using Ancestry.com Library Edition. The links produce an error page if I try from home.  Which is not a good use of my time as an editor.  So I would be relying on the rest of the citation anyway to guide me to the correct location).

On the other hand, your use of the FindAGrave full citation was appropriate.  It is a smaller database that has simpler URL naming scheme.  For me I try to include the full URL as long as it is not too long – or if trying to explain how I got there would be too difficult. 

This is one of those sticky widget type of areas.  This is totally just my opinion, and I don’t own a copy of CMOS, but I would find it hard to believe that even they would recommend using full URL’s that are as long as Ancestry’s, which tend to be among the longest I run across.  I have made a note for when I am at NGS to look at the portfolio examples and see how they handled URLs.

One of the points that is standing out for me through this discussion is does a full URL add anything to my citation?  If the rest of the citation contains enough identifying information that will lead a reader to my exact location, i.e. an EE crafted census record, then I would say No.  If my citation does not have enough information either in the main body or in an additional comment, then yes a full citation would be needed.  Even though this way of thinking would result in the use of two different types of URLs, the consistency lies in the use of the initial question; does the full URL add anything to my citation?

I think I am rambling so I will stop now and finish my other reviews!!  ;-)  Again … good job Jill!


Thanks, Barry.

Barry raises some good points and let me discuss where my head is at on this issue now…until it changes! :-)

  1. TinyURLs are out! I agree.
  2. I think the most persuasive part of Barry’s argument was not the issue of error introduction if the reader had to type the long URL.  I was much more persuaded by the argument of whether you get more information about of a long URL or just the homepage URL. In the case of Ancestry, I agree, you do not get any more information out of a long URL than the short one, especially if  you include the search terms you used to find the document.
  3. I disagree with him about the library edition.  I believe I should cite what I am looking at and I was looking at the library edition.  This is a moot point if you use the homepage URL.
  4. CMOS clearly states the full URL or the DOI is what you cite.  The typical user of the CMOS style manual is an humanities writer who would cite journals and other writings.  I suspect they have not run into a URL the length of an image on Ancestry.com.
  5. I, and others, will have to decide what is too long and what is short.  I feel comfortable saying that Ancestry.com’s image URL’s are too long, but I am not sure if half that length would qualify or if 25% of that length would qualify.  I would tend to say, for now…Ancestry.com– yes; all the others– I will use a full URL.

One of the things we agreed to do was to review the portfolios at the NGS conference in Richmond and then get together and discuss one more time.  So stay tuned for a reprise of that conversation!

Happy Hunting & thanks, Barry!


Since my last posting:  put the finishing touches on the draft of the paper for ProGen but will now go back and change the ancestry URLs to a shortened form; turned in my SGS Board materials and report; put the finishing touches on the GPS #2 PowerPoint presentation that I am recording on Wednesday to comply with the  application procedures for NGS Conference 2015 Call for Papers, put the finishing touches on the GPS #3 presentation for SGS on the 30 March; drafted another blog; explored the free websites this weekend to see what they had.  The Swedish site was interesting but didn’t have the document range of SVAR.  Mocavo was unimpressive and I don’t have any direct need for the pre-1758 Irish wills, but I bet there were some folks doing the genealogical happy dance!

SLIG: a Retrospective

I wrote this shortly after SLIG but didn’t post–it got “stuck” on my iPad.  I think it will still be beneficial to those attendees in the future even if a little stale today.

TheresaBarryJillA week ago (now seems like a lifetime!) I blogged about hints for surviving SLIG and specifically Advanced Methodologies. Now that I have completed the course it seems reasonable that I look back at the list and confirm, deny or add to my hints received from previous attendees. I have placed the previous post statement in italics.

Although the extra homework is optional, if you want to get the most out of the class, just do it. This is absolutely true.  I believe there were some who didn’t do the assignments, but not many.  I did the homework but did not do well in the assignments.  I was not efficient with my research and did not follow some of the basic tenets of correlation of evidence.  It was great to have some partners in pain.  In the photo at left is Theresa Scott, me and Barry Kline.  Barry is in my ProGen group and Theresa is the coordinator for the group.  It was great to meet them and team up with them on some of the assignments.  Not to mention breakfast!  (As you can tell I didn’t even have much time for photos, since this is a recent repeat.)

If you elect to do the home work, plan on spending 3-4+ hours in the Family History Library every night and/or on your computer. This is true. Unfortunately, the wifi in the hotel was so limited that it was difficult to do work after the FHL closed at 9:00 pm. Option #1: complete as much of the assignment as you can in the FHL until it closes, go back to the hotel, sleep and get up at 4:00 and finish. Option #2: Similar to no. 1…but go to the business center and work there.  #3: Since SLIG is switching hotels this next year maybe it won’t be a problem, but don’t count on it.  Think of a hotel filled with genealogists all logging in at the same time and you get an idea of the massive bandwidth the hotel would need to accommodate the demand.  See below for Option #4 and an even better idea.

You may not have time at lunch or dinner to eat, so stock some healthy supplementary food in your room. This is true. I did not eat lunch or dinner except to consume the food I had bought. I did go out for a good breakfast even tho’ pastries and fruit were provided.

You get the syllabus the Sunday night before the classes start but you do not get the assignments until the end of the class Monday through Thursday.   This is true. This leaves only noontime excursions to the library to do your own research. This worked out great for me as I had some small chunks of research pre-planned.

We are creatures of habit and so where you sit the first day is your “assigned seat” the rest of the week. True and I sat in the second row. The downside was that in a class of 32 there were people in the class that I couldn’t see when they participated. It might be better to sit about 1/3 of the way back on the side. You could see more of the class.

New tip #1: do not bother attending the evening lectures. You won’t have time.
New tip #2: And Option #4: bring your own internet hotspot. That would have saved me a lot! And you need a laptop computer.  My husband missed my hinting for a laptop and I slogged through SLIG with my iPad.  Deadly.
New tip #3: learn what you can. Some information you will know; some information you will learn and some you will just be exposed to. You will need to recognize that you need to spend more time learning what you don’t know.

My personal take-aways were…
I have almost no experience working the pre-1850 censuses which are heads of household only. This unfamiliarity was a detriment. Even just having explored them a bit would have been helpful.
Because of the above, I spent too much time in my comfort zone and should have moved more quickly out of it.
I am a slow and deliberative thinker when correlating evidence; however, when forced to guess I usually guess accurately.
There are some big record groups that I just do not know.

SLIG was a great experience and I highly recommend the institute. They are moving to another hotel next year, made necessary due to their growth. It is a little further away from the library. Hopefully, the wifi will be better.

Happy Hunting!