AppGen Registration now open!

The registration window for the Applied Genealogy Institute 2022 winter courses is now open. Please go to https://appliedgen.institute webpage to review the course offerings and to Register Here! The week long registration window is open until 9 January.

We have superb instructors teaching five unique courses:

  • Catholic Records; Margaret S. Fortier, CG
  • Applied Genetic Genealogy; Leah Larkin, Ph.D
  • Foundations I: Using the Records; Lisa Gorrell, CG
  • Advanced Swedish Genealogy; Jill Morelli, CG
  • Learning from Ledgers: Diane L. Richard

You can review the dates, cost, class outlines on the website. We have recently instituted a Contact Us! page and if you have any questions, do not hesitate to fill it out, we will respond as quickly as we can.

AppGen is a unique institute, born virtual in 2021, that focuses on practicum based learning. It is offered twice a year. We are committed to small classes (15 max.), direct and frequent interaction from the instructor and “learning by doing”.

Hope you had a happy holiday and are looking forward to a great 2022!

Happy hunting!

Jill

What i have been doing since the last post: working on my renewal for my BCG certification, (it is 99.9% complete and in it’s “let it rest” mode so I can go back and do one more look with fresh eyes.) and writing the syllabus and assignments for the Advanced Swedish Research course. Next up: CDG starts with 60 new students on 31 Jan.

Applied Genealogy Institute Inauguration

“If you see a vacuum, fill it,” said my boss to me in the 1990s when I was at The Ohio State University as their University Architect. It might be better said, “When you see a need, how can you not fill it?”

Such was the case of the Certification Discussion Group (CDG). I saw a need, based on this blog, for a more systematic presentation of the tips and techniques that I (and others) had gathered by talking to those who had received the credential and those who had not. CDG was born in winter of 2017.

Then it happened again. Early in the pandemic I was monitoring the private CDG Facebook (FB) page (alumni of the program) and noticed a recurring theme of laments about lack of focus and purpose, lethargy and sense of loss. I started weekly (now every 2 week) sessions with successful CGs explaining their journey, outside speakers, and projects. Oh, did I mention– and an outstanding mentoring group program for those “on the clock” managed by Pam Anderson. These offerings have been very popular. One person said the FB page was worth the price of the course! I might not go that far but…. CDG FB page became active in summer 2019.

Well, “opportunity” has struck again. While monitoring that same FB page in early 2021, Mary Roddy, Lisa Gorrell and I identified that people were frustrated with certain aspects of institute learning or loved portions of it that were not regularly presented. We identified some key principles for a new institute, and Applied Genealogy Institute was born in the summer of 2021. Applied Genealogy or AppGen is a virtual institute for intermediate to advanced genealogical learners who want to delve deeply into a topic in a practicum-based environment. Our moniker is “Learn by Doing,” as we believe small classes (15), homework (due weekly) and high interaction with the instructor (who responds to homework) make for a better learning experience.

We kicked off the 2021 fall session with three classes, Irish Research, Land Records and Broad Context. This winter 2022 session will include:

  • Catholic records, Margaret R. Fortier, CG
  • Foundations I: Using the Records: Lisa S. Gorrell, CG
  • Applied Genetic Genealogy: Leah Larkin, Ph.D.
  • Advanced Swedish Research, Jill Morelli, CG
  • Getting Lost in Ledgers, Diane L.Richards

If you are interested in AppGen, please sign up for our Mailing LIst. If you are interested in the winter offerings, our window of registration will open 2 January until 9 January 2022 at our website.

Meanwhile the winter classes for CDG are assembled and will launch the end of January. Sign up at the CDG website if you wish to be considered for the Fall class.

Happy hunting!

Jill

What I have done since the last post: well, Christmas is to celebrate, isn’t it? I also have been working very hard on the assignments for my AppGen course and starting to write the syllabus (it may end up 60+ pages!)

Genealogy Goals for 2022

Do you set goals for the new year? I usually don’t because I find them intimidating and rarely achievable–like world peace or a bi-partisan Congress. This year I decided to do so. Here we go…

Genealogy Goals for 2022:

  1. Submit my BCG renewal (and hopefully “pass”)
  2. Submit a second article to a peer reviewed journal for publication (first is slated for February’s NCGS Journal.) (and hopefully get accepted)
  3. Write the best syllabus for AppGen’s “Advanced Swedish Research” class (and while I am at it–have the strongest lesson plan for the course)
  4. Have two more articles in final draft stage for submission to peer reviewed journals.
  5. Develop with my co-coordinater, a terrific and do-able plan for the SGS Centennial 2023.

OK, that’s enough. I’m exhausted.

I admit to cheating just a bit….

No. 1: My renewal is due mid-January and I am essentially done with it. I am letting it sit for a bit.
No. 2: My article on three Union Civil War deserters is slated for February, but I would like another. I am trying to extend my publication “reach” to other journals and hope this next one can go into a journal I haven’t been published in yet or haven’t for a while.
No. 3: I am working on my course syllabus now and since I teach the course starting in March, I will either have achieved it or not by then. Note: “Best” is not measurable.
No. 4: I have a couple in the gestation period but would like to get them moving.
No. 5: We have to have this done in the next few months. Note: “Terrific and do-able” are really not measurable.

So, consider doing some genealogy goals for 2022 and then we can revisit them together at the end of the year.

Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays and, why not….world peace in 2022!

Jill

What I have done since the last post: Did some final touches on the renewal docs; started working on the syllabus and presentations for Applied Genealogy Institute (“Advanced Swedish Research”); prepared for the holidays

My Renewal

In January of 2017, I was granted the credential of Certified Genealogist by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, attesting to the quality of my work. But, you do not get to rest on your laurels for long (about a day and a half!). Once you obtain your credential, you have five years to plan and execute your renewal submission. I have been working on mine as it is due in mid-January 2022 (with a 3 month one-time extension due to Covid to mid-March.)

Renewal documentation is quite different than the requirements for submission of a portfolio:

  • A maximum of 2 documents are required, at least one of which must exhibit application of the Genealogical Proof Standard.
  • You must submit your development activities of this past 5 years, illustrating how you have attempted to correct the discrepancies identified by the judges
  • it can be reviewed by anyone at any time in advance of submission–even edited and proof read.

I have many documents I could select. I first spent some time looking at my judges’ comments and identified two areas of weakness:

  1. my research report was particularly weak (This is often the weakest element.)
  2. I had no knowledge of DNA

I worked hard on number two in 2017, and have had two articles published in peer reviewed journals that used DNA to provide evidence (it never “solves the case” contrary to newspapers and DNA hobbyists). I have stopped taking clients, except those with Scandinavian problems, so I lacked research reports written for someone else but I had loads of them I had written for myself.

My renewal will (at least at this moment) consist of my DNA article for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (December 2018) and a personal research report, both of which exhibit application of the GPS, and my development activities for the past five years. Since I am an education junkie, the latter is not a hard document to put together, except to keep it succinct.

I had a false start–I first thought I would have just one document, a Swedish study which was published in the Swedish American Genealogist (June 2020). As I got into it I realized that I would write it differently today and I had to change all the footnotes anyway. I worked on it for a while, but then decided that a personal research report was better.

As of yesterday, I have completed the personal research report and it is sitting for a while (a week?) before I pick it up again and see if there are things I want to change. I hope to submit it to BCG before Christmas.

I hope for you, your family and the world–peace. We thank our researchers and our government for fast tracking the vaccine and making it freely available to us and the world. For all of you who are not vaccinated—Omicron is coming. Please get vaccinated for the sake of your family and your loved ones, if not for you.

Happy Hunting and see you in 2022!

Jill

What I have done since my last post: Two friends and I have started a new, virtual institute for intermediate and advanced learners. This past fall I taught “Exploring Broad Context,: and this spring will teach “Advanced Swedish Research.” If you are interested in this kind of a program of small classes and practicum-based learning, pop over to https://appliedgen.institute/mailing-list and sign up to receive the announcement of when class registration opens (2-9 January). Hope to see you there.

[1] Image in public domain.
[2] Has one ever tried to “rest on their laurels”? I suspect it would be very uncomfortable.

“My Case Study just blew up! What do I do?”

You have been working hard on your indirect evidence based Case Study (CS) for your portfolio.[1] You are proceeding with “reasonably exhaustive research,” per the Genealogical Proof Standard.[2] And, then…..there it is….the direct evidence that John Doe is the father of Fred Doe. Crap (or worse)! Your case study just blew up–or did it?

Just because your case study “blew up,” doesn’t mean it really has. Let’s explore some thoughts and some alternatives. Start by revisiting your research question. Let’s just say yours was one of a relationship—like noted above.

  1. Your research question must be one of identity (two same named individuals or one individual/two names) or relationship (child, parent, siblings, etc.)[3]
  2. If it is one of relationship then you will need to establish the identity of the person first, to a point that the person could not be conflated with someone else of the same name or does not have a gaps in the timeline of their life.
  3. THEN you can address the relationship.

In step no. 2 above, you are making sure there are no other same named individuals who could possibly conflict with your person or fill the gaps. What results is that you have your primary relationship question but you have a sub-question of who was Fred Doe (identity)? If your major question blows up, you sub-question may be enough to carry your case study. Re-craft your research question and you may have salvaged much of your CS.

Several past CDG students have outlined their blow ups. Melissa shared her ProGen project.[4] I have somewhat simplified it for this post.

This is a case of one woman all named Ora that each had a different husband—Ora 1, Ora 2, Ora 3, and Ora 4. Melissa wanted to find the father of Ora.[2] She started by finding out the Oras were the same person with 4 different husbands. No birth or marriage records exist. She was working towards an indirect evidence based proof when…. she found the death certificate of Ora 4 and it named her father, James Doe. sigh.

Did her Case Study blow up? yes and no.

Her research question was answered and thus the finding of direct evidence forced her to refocus. Three options lay in front of her:

  • she could find another case to work on;
  • she could shift to an identity issue with the research question being “Can Ora 1, 2, 3 and 4 be merged into a single person?” The latter option would result in her salvaging much of what she had already done and still be an acceptable Case Study if it was complex enough to illustrate her skills. In this case she pivoted; or
  • She could discover another piece of evidence that said the father of Ora was not James Doe but rather Theodore Doe and she would have conflicting direct evidence.

Barring that additional finding, if she changed her research question to “Were Oras 1, 2, 3 and 4 all the same person?”—her sub-question– she is back in the game.

Recognizing that your primary research question may have layers of sub-questions, means that you may have the ability to pivot to one of the sub-questions and use that instead.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Always work on a Case Study where you have solved the problem. If you don’t, you may be working on a problem that cannot be solved or you will be stuck waiting for a repository to open.
  • Sometimes we have 10 problems and have solved 8 of them. Those problems and their solutions now look easy and we dismiss them to work on unsolved problem no. 9. Wrong. Pick from one of the 8 and write it up.
  • I thought my CS would take about 10 pages to write up. When I started applying the GPS to my CS, 34 pages later I had a Case Study that satisfied “reasonably exhaustive research.”
  • Remember, unless it states specifically that Ora 1 is the same person as Ora 2, you are probably working with indirect evidence.  
  • Mary Kircher Roddy has written two articles for the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (Q) both about individuals who did a change of name (same man/different names).[5]
  • My Case Study was about two same named individuals and whether they could be merged into one.[6]

So, before you abandon all your good work, think about shifting your research question instead. It might still be a valid Case Study suitable for your portfolio.

Happy Hunting!

Jill

What I have done since the last post: I won’t bore you with all the details. The major item is that the two partners and I have formed a partnership to bring educational opportunities in the form of an institute to high-intermediate and advanced learners. In September, we had our first class offerings and we are now preparing for Spring classes, having issued a Call for Proposals and have received some excellent proposals. Our next steps will be select the classes to be offered. If you are interested in knowing more about us you can find us at https://appliedgen.institute.

[1] The portfolio is a submission requirement to be considered for the receipt of the credential Certified Genealogist. this program is administered by the Board for Certification of Genealogists.
[2] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, Second Edition (Nashville: Ancestry.com, 2019) 1-2.
[3] For all rules pertaining to the Case Study and other elements necessary for submission, see Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Application Guide 2021 (revised), download at https://bcgcertification.org.
[4] This was a ProGen Study Group project and Melissa was “safe” in addressing the problem to the group. Portfolio submissions cannot be reviewed by others before submission. I use this example with Melissa’s permission.
[5] I direct you the index of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly at http://hodges-hodge-society.org/ngs/NGSQsearchForm.htm You need to be a member to access the articles online.
[6] Ibid.

Harry Bittner, b. 1886, d. 1900

“Obituary,” Daily Freeman Tribune, (Webster City IA)
28 Feb 1900, p. 8, col. 3.

Working with Orphan Train Riders is a roller coaster of emotions. I cannot imagine a little boy or girl just 5 or 6 years old, standing on the platform of the train station having adults look them over like cattle–some wanting to be accepted by a family and some just wanting to go home. The families wanting farm help, or care givers or children they never could have.

This is a short story of Harry Bittner’s short life, just one of the 35 boys who got on that train in New York, traveled to Hamilton County, Iowa in August of 1890. [1]

In that year, the Children’s Aid Society made three stops in Hamilton County, Iowa, to distribute children, in August, October and November.[2] The program was based on the idea that children without parental care would benefit from the bucolic rural life in the Midwest. Many of these children had living parents.[3]

Harry was in the group of 18 children, 14 boys and 4 girls who arrived in Webster City, Iowa in August. The town had been anticipating their arrival for a couple of weeks and had formed a committee of townspeople to accept applications for the children, of which more than 60 were received.[4] Hiram Olmstead and his wife was probably one of the applicant families. Whether they had made a “reservation” for a child ahead of arrival or if Harry was selected randomly on that August day is not known.

Hiram Olmstead (b. 1826) and his wife, Lucy, had migrated from New York where they were born, to Illinois and finally resided in Hamilton County, Iowa by 1880.[5] In 1890, advancing in years and with children of their own mostly grown, the couple received the boy, Harry Bittner, age 4. Things must not have gone as anticipated. Harry was very young, the Olmsteads were elderly. After about 18 months, Harry Bittner found another home with Charles and Harriet Young, also of Hamilton County.[6]

There he resided until his death in February 1900 at age 14. We know little about his short life. The Youngs were obligated to send him to school and to give him room and board. We assume they did. We don’t know the chores Harry was supposed to perform. We do know the family was Baptist and Harry became confirmed and accepted the Baptist faith just prior to his death.[7]

Harry appeared in one census, the 1895 Iowa state census as a 9 year old.[8]

Iowa State Census, 1895,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: accessed 20 December 2020), Hamilton County > image 311 of 681, Charles Young household; citing State Historical Society, Des Moines.

Three newspaper articles outline his death and provide an obituary of his life.

“…For a few days he had been feeling poorly, but was usually very rugged and healthy. In the night he arose and was walking the floor, and a member of the family gave him medicine, but a few moments prior to his death.”[9]

The story of the Orphan Train Rider Harry Bittner is just one of the 34 stories I am researching.

Happy hunting!

Jill

What I have done since the last post: I am a believer in DIY context. As I was researching an Orphan Train Rider (OTR) who was adopted into my family, I was impressed with the amount of newspaper coverage of their arrival and their lives but the lack of identification. Small town newspapers believed that everything was news! I wanted to know what happened to this little ones removed from an urban existence and thrown into rural Iowa. There is much I cannot find documentation for; however, I can tell the stories of those that appear in the records in Iowa.

1 Iowa Genweb, “Orphan Trains to Hamiliton County,” http://iagenweb.org/hamilton/misc/orphantrains.html;
2 “E. Trott of the Children’s Aid Society…,” The Freeman (Webster City, Iowa), 3 September 1890, p. 5, col. 3; Kendell Young Library, Webster City, Iowa. The article says the train arrived “last Friday,” making the date of arrival 29 August 1890. Also, “Ten boys and three girls…”, The Freeman (Webster City, Iowa),15 October 1890, p. 5, col. 3; Kendell Young Library, Webster City, Iowa. Date calculated to 9 October 1890. Also, “The third and last party…” The Freeman (Webster City, Iowa),21 November 1890, p. 5, col. 3; Kendell Young Library, Webster City, Iowa. Date calculated to 20 November 1890.
3 Ron Grossman, “The Orphan Train: A NobleIdea that Went Off the Rails.” Chicago Tribune, 19 July 2018. https://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-flashback-orphan-train-children-separated-immigrants-0722-20180718-story.html
4 “Boys Wanting Homes,” Webster City [IA] Freeman, 24 August 1890, p. 4, col. 5.
5 1880 U.S. census, Hamilton County, Iowa, population schedule, Webster Township, ED 104, page 3, household 26, dwelling 28, Hiram Olmstead household; NARA T9, roll 342.
6 “Obituary,” Daily Freeman Tribune, (Webster City IA) 28 Feb 1900, p. 8, col. 3.
7 Ibid.
8 Iowa State Census, 1895,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org, accessed 20 December 2020), Hamilton County > image 311 of 681, Charles Young household; citing State Historical Society, Des Moines.
9 “Harry Bittner who has been making his home…,” Daily Freedom Tribune (Webster City, Iowa), 26 February 1900, p. 8, col. 3.

My “Moments of Change”

As you think about your genealogical journey, what are the “Moments of Change”–those opportunities that you took and which made a significant difference in the quality of your genealogical work? I had four. These are my “Moments of Change.”

Moment of Change #1:
In 2002, I decided it was time to place my bits and pieces of information that I had gathered on my family for a couple of decades into a genealogical computer program. I did a “do-over.” I took all my evidence I had gathered on 144 ancestors, and source by source entered it into my brand-spanking new genealogical program. Looking at my information with fresh (and more educated) eyes was very revealing.

I made some “rules” about the database:

  • I would never import a GEDCOM into my database. If it was important enough that I wanted to include that information, I would manually enter it. (I adhere strictly to this rule)
  • I would always cite my sources.
  • Every source that supported, or conflicted, with a decision would be included. Some have 12-15 source citations. For example a birth might have all the censuses, BMD certificates and multiple obituaries. (Today I have 88K citations for 13K people.)
  • I devised a system of filing so I could find any source within 5 min…..actually, I can find anything in about 2 minutes or less.
  • I would treat my research no differently than an academic who is doing original research–because I am!
  • I got more serious.

Moment of Change #2:
I decided to take ProGen Study Group. I don’t know where I heard about it, but it seemed like a good idea. I really hadn’t thought about taking clients, but isn’t that what you did? I was included in a stellar cohort, PG 19 Tuesday, that has opened their own businesses and/or gone on to leadership positions in various local and national genealogical organizations.

I threw myself into the assignments, offered and received critiques from the others, and completed the course in April 2014. Some takeaways from that course:

  • While I thought I wanted to take clients, what I really wanted to do was lecture and teach. I shifted my focus midway in the program.
  • The later assignments revealed my love of writing research reports, initially identified in Grad School. I took my genealogy skills of researching primary materials to Grad School and Grad School taught me to read (not skim) for content and write with an academic tone.
  • I started thinking about receiving the credential of Certified Genealogist from the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG). This process was one of “no, I don’t need it;” to “why would I want to do that?”; to “well, why not?” It never was a blinding passion.
  • I started going to conferences, and institutes.
  • I got more serious.

Moment of Change #3:
I took Tom Jones’s class “Advanced Methodologies” at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. I walked in thinking I was an advanced researcher and walked out a beginner–really. Dr. Jones showed me what I didn’t know. It was a humbling experience.

  • The homework exposed me to regions of the country and eras I had never worked in.
  • He laid out principles for the best genealogical work; ones I try to emulate every day.
  • He was available to answer questions. There were times he couldn’t contain himself and a touch of derision would enter his voice because of the naiveté of my question–but I was tough.
  • I got more serious

Moment of Change #4:
I decided to pursue certification, but this decision was not an easy path! There was little information and no support, except with friends were were operating in the same (perceived or real) “vacuum.” When I looked at portfolios at the BCG desk, I decided not to pursue certification because I could never be that perfect.

I decided to journal my certification journey and created this blog ‘Genealogy Certification: A Personal Journey.” I thought maybe some people would find my musings helpful, and probably funny, as I stumbled along. I also thought I was taking a risk–why was no one else doing this? Did I miss something in the BCG Application Guide that said I couldn’t talk about what I was learning or how I learned it?

I thought it would be helpful to others to know the quandaries I had; I didn’t realize it would be helpful for me to know others were feeling the same way. Some observations on writing of my blog:

  • It was a risk.
  • I became a better writer, the more I wrote (duh!).
  • I explored issues I never would have otherwise.
  • I began to hear from others, CGs and not, about what a good service I was doing.
  • It gave me an outlet for describing some of my “discoveries,” which usually were just good practice.
  • It led to the founding of the Certification Discussion Group, of which I am most proud. It, too, was a risk.
  • I got more serious.

I received the credential of Certified Genealogist in January 2017. I was thrilled. At that moment, I realized I now needed to show others that I was worthy of the honor. I got serious.

So many of my “moments of change” were ones of education, either formal or informal. You, too, will find a path that works for you. There are some basic takeaways, however:

  • Your education as a genealogist will be continuous, whether you receive the credential or not.
  • Assessment of strengths and weaknesses is important. While you want to make sure your strengths are current, strengthening your weaknesses is imperative. don’t pick the “safe” topics; pick ones that will stretch your genealogical skills.
  • Don’t use “I need more education,” as an excuse not to submit a portfolio. You will always need more.
  • Writing the portfolio is an education in itself.

Assessing your own strengths and weaknesses is a first step. Are you just “getting the idea” that perhaps your casual approach to genealogy can be “ramped up” to a different level, or perhaps you already think you are pretty careful with your work and you want to strengthen a weakness? Or, are you somewhere in-between? All are OK–we have all been there. But, the assessment is key to determining your next steps.

Let me know your “Moments of Change.” Happy hunting!

Jill

What I have done since the last post: I wrote and distributed a survey to the Certification Discussion Group alumni (n=422), to identify where they were in their personal journey. Report of that survey is almost complete. I only go out of the house for doctor’s visits (last visit was very positive on all counts) so I am writing a lot. I just started a DIY context study on Orphan Train riders in Hamilton County, Iowa and I am working on a presentation on the three riders that show up in my database. I had 2 articles accepted by the Swedish American Genealogist, one just published in June issue (yes, they are late) and the next scheduled for the September issue. Launched our latest CDG classes for 2021.1 (winter)–60 eager students. Rebuilt the website for the CDG attendees. (It needed it–even the attendees were complaining!)

What is YOUR Genealogical Legacy?

I was recently asked, “What kind of impact do you think a career in this field makes?” I answered it slightly differently than asked. “What kind of impact can you make as a genealogist?”

The holidays are for family and friends and I hope you are celebrating sensibly in this time of pandemic. These holidays also make me think of holidays in the past and the impacts others have made on me. Our families make the largest impact, but I want to address the impact of each of us in the profession of genealogy.

My life work is in architecture. I never thought about a “legacy” until I was leaving The Ohio State University after having served as University Architect/AVP for 12 years.  On the day I left, I identified over 40 major projects that our office had been engaged in during my tenure. That’s a lot of physical “legacy” on a campus.

My next career move took me to the University of Washington, School of Medicine. I never thought about legacy there either, until the last year I was there–2016. My boss said I had changed the physical face of the School of Medicine by bringing good design to our School. I was thrilled.  The public face of the university’s SoM was visible and it was good. 

So, now I devote my life to genealogy. What is my genealogical legacy? (FYI: While I can see the end of my genealogy career, it’s not the “train in the tunnel.” Don’t write the obituary yet!)

I think a person chooses a personal focus that interests them. That doesn’t mean that one consciously picks a focus so you leave a legacy.  Any choice can be the vehicle for making a difference in other people’s lives. But you, working with other people, can make your legacy–not buildings and not a database and probably not paid work. You cannot know what will be impactful in a positive (or, unfortunately, a negative) way until at least time has past and in my case, at least 10 years.

I didn’t leave much of a legacy in my younger years, so I think age, maturity and knowledge imparted to others OVER TIME “makes a difference.”

It is not what we keep, hold or horde that will define our impact, but rather the wisdom and knowledge  we generously give, with no expectation of return.

The latter part of that statement is important. We have to give with a generous heart.

This is not to say we should give away research time or presentations. We deserve to be paid for what we do and paid appropriately. But, my volunteer work as president of the Seattle Genealogical Society will mean more to me than any client I have had. The establishment of the Certification Discussion Group means more to me than the actual submission of my portfolio. And the CDG will mean even more if it continues after my involvement is over.

The genealogical friends I have and have yet to meet are ones I cherish. And the fact that I have been able to do what I love to do–genealogy– while sharing that journey with them, has made a difference in MY life, if not their’s. 

Happy holidays,

Jill

What I have done since the last post (which was scheduled for today but written a week ago.): Gaining a focus on Orphan Train Riders. I have three that were adopted into my family and their stories are fascinating. Sent out a survey to all CDG alumni and so far we have a 63% return. Not bad! Wrote postcards for TX, GA, CA, FL and others to get out the vote and trimmed up an article for publication.

My Writing Challenges

I have never considered myself a great, or even a good writer. I just want to be a better writer.

This summer I took the Tom Jones’s “Writing and Publishing for Genealogists” class at the Institute for Genealogy & Historical Research (IGHR).1 Our pre-class assignment was to submit a genealogical work sample of 500 words. Halfway through the class he asked us to edit the document and submit to him. Tom then edited the work of each class attendee.

Humbled. Again. By “Yoda” Jones.

I decided to take that document and assess what he changed.

Here are my discoveries–some of my most common issues:

  • Avoid the use of the passive voice (was, is, to be).
  • Avoid the reference to the record set in the narrative. I thought I didn’t do this. Wrong.
  • Avoid repetition. I repeat information stated just a couple of paragraphs before. I must learn to trust the reader.
  • Avoid weak active verbs, like “do” and “get” or their variations.
  • Think about verb selection. Many of my verbs, even if active, require a preposition to complete them. I should instead select verbs that send the same message, but do not have the preposition attached.
  • Avoid extra words at the beginning of a sentence. I often want to “ease” the reader into the paragraph, by using unnecessary phrases like “Therefore,” or “According to the ….” or “Having ridden the train…”
  • Avoid naming people unless they contribute to answering the research question. It confuses the reader. Generic labels can be used instead, e.g. sister, the farm hand.
  • Use the word “apparent” to describe family structure or relationships that are implied but not stated, e.g. pre-1880 censuses. (But, you only have to use it once.)
  • Edit your work by reducing the number of words. Each remaining word brings a higher value to the sentence. Words that “take up space” have no value–delete them.

Not all of these are horrible; not all are to be avoided at all costs. I am trying to be cognizant of these issues as I write. Hopefully, my writing will improve.

My initial work sample for the class was 503 words. After the self edit, the sample was 429 words. Tom reduced it to 383 words–24% from the original! If you are working on an article or your portfolio, think about what you would do if you had to take 25% out of your document. Wouldn’t each word gain in value? Wouldn’t that be better?

Why not start your own list? What are your common writing problems? My list is taped to the wall I face as I type this post.

Or, pretend your editor has told you to remove 25% of the content, otherwise they cannot publish it—what would you do?

Happy Hunting!

Jill

What I have done since I last blogged: I am on a roll lately with my posts. I just seem to have a lot of subject matter right now. Hope you all had a happy and COVID-free Thanksgiving and plan ahead for a safe Christmas.

1 You can find out more about registration for the 2021 classes at IGHR and Tom Jones’s writing class at https://ighr.gagensociety.org.

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Numbering! Maybe You Don’t Have to Buy “the Book”

The Kinship Determination Project (KDP) seems daunting to many who are writing their portfolio.1 In the previous post we covered the formats one could choose. Another aspect of the KDP that causes concern and questions is the numbering of the work. Perhaps this is heresy–maybe you don’t need to buy “The Book”, much less sleep with it under your pillow!2

“The Book” I am talking about is Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin, the Bible for numbering formats.3 And while I think it should be in everyone’s library, for this exercise you will need it only for the definitions of the various elements I am deleting or keeping.

The BCG Application Guide says that we have to “Submit a narrative genealogy, a narrative lineage, or narrative pedigree that documents and explains linkages among individuals through three ancestral generations–ascending or descending.”4 In a previous post I showed you– visually– what each of these types of presentation of your genealogy might look like and debunked a few myths along the way. It was obvious that using a narrative lineage reduced the amount of people needed to be covered, while still staying within the 150 maximum page count.

The BCG Application Guide 2019 (6th bullet, in section 6) states that “a clear, comprehensive [numbering system] format” needs to be used.5 Numbering Your Genealogy is the standard recommended for numbering the three formats of KDPs.

In the Genealogy Standards “Standard formats,” it states “Lineages… need not be numbered.”6 What does that mean to you, writing your KDP and writing it as a narrative lineage?

I attempted to number my narrative lineage for my portfolio and one judge said I did it wrong and another said I didn’t have to number my lineage at all! My conclusion was and is, “why open yourself up for criticism when you can avoid it?”

But what should you do?7

I like to think about my reader. What would make reading my KDP easier for a judge? I think the following would make it easier for a judge to read my descending KDP and reduce the numbering system interjections.7:

  • I would still separate the generations with the subsection titles “Generation One,” “Generation Two” and “Generation Three;”
  • I would not assign a sequential “individual number” to the first or subsequent people, because it is an easy format to follow;
  • I would not include the past generations in parentheses of the first person;
  • I would not include a “generation number” to the first or subsequent people. It’s obvious based on your subsection labels of the generations.
  • I would include a genealogical summary (that dense summary information about your person of interest) right at the top–born, died and married.
  • I would include the children’s list. This would list all the children and include their vital information. I interpreted that as meaning birth, death and marriage info. Others write much more. I use a table with hidden lines for my list of children–much easier then wrestling with Word tabs.
  • I would include the birth order number, the lower case Roman numerals which number the generations’ children.
  • I would include a + sign to indicate which child is the person of interest in the next generation.
  • And, of course, I would comply with all the other requirements of the Application Guide and the Rubrics which are not covered here.

You may disagree. You may include something I haven’t or take something out that I included. Your KDP might be set up as an ascending narrative lineage. In the end it’s YOUR KDP and you will decide what is best for your reader and your evidence. This is just what I would do– in retrospect.

Happy Hunting!

Jill

What I have done since the last post: quarantined in place to a point where if I take out the trash, it’s a big deal!; had an article accepted at the Swedish American Genealogist for June 2021; started and completed a Certification Discussion Group–always fun and visited my daughter, SIL and their new daughter. (We “bubbled up.”)

1 The KDP is one element of the portfolio which gets submitted to the Board for Certification of Genealogists for the purposes of review in the determination of whether the credential “Certified Genealogist” should be granted to the submitter.
2 The need to place the “Book” under your pillow in an effort to absorb the information while sleeping was stated to me twice in a conversation on 18 November 2020 in a Zoom meeting.
3 Joan Curran, CG et al., Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families and International Kin, (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 2008).
4 The BCG Application Guide 2019, (Washington, DC : Board for Certification of Genealogists, 2019) item 6. Emphasis by the author of the book.
5 Ibid.
6 Genealogy Standards, Second Edition, (Washington, DC : Board for Certification of Genealogists, 2019) p. 39, item 72, second bullet. Why don’t they number their pages!
7 I do not speak for BCG, nor am I a trustee. These suggestions are what I would do and if I submitted this way I have no idea how the judges would view them. Your situation will be different and you will have to make that judgement about what to include or not on your own. I repeat: I do not speak for BCG.