Ever gone down a rabbit hole so far that you had trouble digging yourself out?

Well, I did today!  I share this experience because it might be helpful to some one out there  and it might foster a laugh, if nothing else because it happened to me and not to you!

I have been working on Susan’s project.  This is a very interesting project with the ultimate goal of self publishing a family book.  I was determining the parents of one of Susan’s ancestors.  the known ancestor had a common surname but an uncommon given name.  I easily found her exactly in the county she should be in and I proceeded to enter the data, and enter the data, and enter the data…..census after census, until I discovered that this ancestor showed up in an early census with her parents when she was supposed to have been married!  I started looking and discovered there were two women with the same given and surname, in the same county born two years apart (certainly within the guesstimate gauge of the censuses).  And, of two choices, I had picked wrong.  I had tied Susan’s ancestor to the wrong person.  OUCH.

It was relatively easy to fix but it was a bit of a “reveille” for me.  I need to be more careful with every ancestral relationship.

Susan would like to have a book.  I have recently published the Jens T. Dahle project. It took me many hours.  I want to develop a method for setting the graphic standard and putting the book together in as short a time as reasonable.

Here are some ideas that I will use:

  • don’t let the book that must be written quickly be the first one.  I took a long time (months) with book number one.  Almost wrote the whole thing in landscape orientation before rewriting the whole book in portrait
  • do a “story board,” where you lay out each page in draft form so you get the idea of what data you are missing and what you have.
  • come up with a graphic scheme that is pleasing to your client and live with it.
  • leave lots of “air” for readability and last minute add ins.  The Jens book is the most densely written of any of my three. At the end I added four pages at the front.
  • focus on what information you have, not on what you do not have.  In my first book, I had a lot of original BMD information from Sweden.  I used that.  The second book, I only had access to transcriptions and so I built the book around a letter the ancestor had written about the immigration experience (yes, the letter still exists, all 37 pages of it, written in 1865.)
  • follow the KISS principle

I would love to hear your ideas.  If you can help me be more efficient with my time to get a quality ancestral book written, let me know.

You can see the Jens book on lulu.com.  Here is the link: http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=Jen+dahle&categoryId=100501

Happy hunting!


Done since the last post:  Wrote up two more contracts for work.  Listened to two webinars, “Putting Flesh on the bones” (an interesting case study) and one on German research (very elementary.  I was hoping for a higher level presentation.); worked on Susan’s project and ordered some films from the FHL for Mary’s project. Sent the Jens book to Mary just in time for her to take it with her to her family reunion.  They found a death date I had missed on Jens’s Dad.  Good job, Mary and Paul!


6 comments on “Ever gone down a rabbit hole so far that you had trouble digging yourself out?

  1. We had a good time at the reunion and it was enhanced by having the Jens book to show people. We handed out many cards with links to lulu.com…thanks for your great work!


  2. Oh…and to answer your question, goodness, I’ve been down many a rabbit hole!! =D

  3. The situation you describe with Susan can happen to anyone. And does! Thanks for sharing.

    • jkmorelli says:

      I guess the good news is…..when the obvious was staring me in the face, I didn’t twist the facts to make it fit! I did, however, think about my grandmother who was enumerated with her parents AND with her new husband in 1910. The effective date was such that she should have been enumerated with her parents. You cannot blame about being excited about starting her own family. But, this situation was over a year off! I, instead, went looking for an alternative family and found them. What I am not sure is why I missed them in the first place. The second time I looked more closely at the alternatives and made sure there were no other options. Thanks for your encouragement.

  4. Kelly says:

    Hi Jill, I am glad I found your blog! I am just beginning the process of proper studying toward the goal of certification, having worked with a cousin on our family histories together for a couple of years. We both decided we love the sleuthing and research so much, and as our children grow older we think we would enjoy working on some books together in the coming years, so we are each pursuing a path of study. Mine includes starting with the NGS home study program, which I hope to complete over the next several months. I plan to take the BU course for certification that begins in January. And *eventually* I think I’d like to get some specific training from NIGS on German research, as a huge amount of work will be done there.

    Glad to have found your blog, and I plan to go back and read your entries from the beginning for inspiration!


    • jkmorelli says:

      Hi, Kelly! I think I will be taking the BU course this January as well. Maybe we will be in the same group! Good luck with the NIGS program. I would be interested in your comments about it. Certainly feel free to ask questions/challenge assumptions/contribute your thoughts at any time.

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