Analyzing Ten NGSQ articles: Part 1

I have been studying a large number of articles from the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ or the Q) lately.  I joined the NGSQ Study Group; part of the assignment for my Mastering Genealogical Proof [1] was to analyze an article and share our observations.  We were invited to read the other articles also.  I would like to share with you my findings about the structure of these articles.  This personal examination was done for two reasons 1.) I want to become a more proficient writer with greater clarity and 2.) as I prepare to write my proof argument for the BCG certification I want to be as knowledgeable as I can about complex proofs such as those published in the Q.

Fine print:  Nothing of what I write below should imply that the writing of a Q article is formulaic; this is an analysis of what is the “same” not what is “different.”.   These observations are of the patterns that I see in multiple, but not every article, I read.  I have not done a similar analysis of The American Genealogist articles but that would be interesting.  These are my observations–a different person might come to different conclusions.  A different subset of articles might yield different observations.  This analysis is not about the content of the articles.  And, I have no idea if the Editors of the Q would agree with the statements I am making below. With that….let’s get started.

All of the articles I read follow this “simple” outline:

  • Title
    There seems to be an “art” to writing a good title. Three items are often included in the title.
    1.  Type of conflict (direct vs direct, or indirect vs. direct etc.)
    2.  What is being resolved (identity, location, lineage)
    3.  Name of individual/family who is the focus
    The following article titles contained all three: a., b., d., e., f., g., h. or 70%
  • “The Hook” The “Hook” is a short statement of the universal issue addressed in the article.  The responsibility of the “Hook” is to outline an issue which could apply universally to many genealogists.   This paragraph is in italics and can be 50-100+ words long.  All articles had a “Hook.”
  • Section 1: A full discussion of the universal issues noted in the “Hook” begins the article.  This section includes the context issues that make the analysis and correlation difficult and worthy of publication.  The author describes the problem in such a way that the reader can draw parallels to his or her own work and perhaps use the methodology described in the article.  In some articles this section is quite long, two or three pages  (c.) and includes descriptions of burned counties, unusual sources, or odd travel patterns due to external influences which affects the methodology used (c., j.)  The shortest was 42 words (b.) Because of the type of content, this section usually has fewer citations then the two sections that follow.
  • Section 2: statement of the known facts and the research question.  This section can sometimes be quite short and also sometimes quite long and complex.  Proof Statements, or simple proofs relying of 1 or 2 sources, can often be a part of this section.
  • Section 3: Analysis/correlation of discovered facts.  Because this discussion will be longer I have decided to make it Part 2.  So please check the blog posting following this one on the following day.
  • Section 4: Conclusion
    This is the shortest section. The conclusion is often a summary of the methodology used and and how it supports the research question raised in Section 2.  It was interesting that two of the articles (c., h.) did not reiterate the answer to the research question.  Perhaps there has been a change in direction by the editors as these two articles were written in 2001 and 2003.

Articles by Leary and Woodward (f., j.) were the most different from the others.  Leary’s article is from the edition of the Q on evidence published in 1999.  It is a short proof argument, almost a proof summary, focused on direct evidence/direct evidence conflict.  The Woodward article is more of a case study rather than a proof argument as it sets out to explain by individuals might reside in places very different than one might suppose.

Hope this was interesting/helpful.

Happy Hunting!


1. I have listed the Q articles I used in this analysis below and coded them to the narrative by their letter.  The selection of these articles cannot be described as random as there are five of the nine articles by Tom Jones.  They were also selected because in my classes I am taking, these articles were “required” reading.  Two were from my Mastering Genealogical Proof class, four were a special assignment of MGP, one was the article read for this month’s NGSQ Study Group and two were selected because of my personal interest.

a. Jones,  Thomas. “The Children of Calvin Snell: Primary versus Secondary Evidence,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 83 (March 1995): 17-31.
b. —–.  “Logic Reveals the Parents of Philip Pritchett of Virginia and Kentucky.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 97 (March 2009): 20-38.
c. —–.  “Organizing Meager Evidence to Reveal Lineages: An Irish Example–Geddes of Tyrone.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 89 (June 2001): 98-112.
d. ——. “The Three Identities of Charles D. McLain of Muskegon, Michigan.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 96 (June 2008): 101-120.
e. ——. “Uncovering Ancestors by Deduction: The Husbands and Parents of Eleanor (nee Medley) (Tureman) (Crow) Overton.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 94 (December 2006): 287-304.
f. Leary, Helen F.M.  “Resolving Conflicts in Direct Evidence: Identity and Vital Dates of Mary Kittrell.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 87 (September 1999): 199-205.
g. Litchman, William M. “Using Cluster Methodology to Backtrack an Ancestor: The Case of John Bradberry.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 95 (June 2007): 103-116.
h. Mills, Elizabeth Shown. “Roundabout Research: Pursuing Collateral Lines to Prove Parentage of a Direct Ancestor–Samuel Hanson of Frontier Georgia,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 91 (March 2003): 19-30.
i. Tolman, Richard Lee. “The Life and Times of English Immigrant Priscilla (nee Clark) (Pickett) (Pickett) Wilford.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 94 (December 2006): 267-286.
j. Woodward, Hobson. ” ‘Through the Furnace of Affliction’: A Connecticut Family and the New Orleans Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1853,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 89 (June 2001): 113-132.

1. Jones, Thomas W. Mastering Genealogical Proof. Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013.


What’s New in the ‘Hood!”– South End style (Boston, MA)

I visited my daughter recently in conjunction with a Boston conference I attended related to my vocation–not my avocation. She lives in the South End, a (now) fashionable section of the city characterized by three and four story brownstone and fabulous places to eat. I decided to take a closer look at the South End and in particular her street, a lovely consistent block of residential units of single and multi- family town homes.

2013 1119 boston mapThe South End, at the time of the founding of Boston, did not exist.  A narrowed strip of land called “The Neck” connected Boston the town with the surrounding countryside.  The prime arterial that now runs parallel to The Neck is Washington Street.  Supposedly you can see some of the oldest buildings in Boston along this road.   It wasn’t until the early 1840’s that the tidal basin was filled in and the South End was available for construction.  This map is a little dark, but you can see the neck and the bulb that is Boston.  My daughter’s row house apartment would be in the water, due south of the bulb. (The map is on display at the Boston Public Library’s Norman B. Leventhal Map Center.)

Originally the very wealthy moved into the area but started moving out in the late 1800’s due to the financial crisis.  The housing was split into multifamily units, the average income declined and by the 1990’s the South End was characterized by crime and housing in physical decline.  The little gardens in front were trash containers, the cast iron fencing was broken and the walls defaced.  But rent control drove some of the occupants out and the growing population of the city moved in.  The quality (if not the maintenance) of the housing was strong and the area became the home of a new type of occupant.  Today the South End remains a   neighborhood of diverse cultures and economic levels.

2013 1119 boston bow frontThere are two archetypes of architectural style in the South End– the bow front brownstone and the more Federalist or “flat front” brownstone.  Both are located on my daughter’s block.  The photo on the right shows an example of the bow front brownstone.  The predominant material is red brick, with long narrow windows with a small mansard roof  which is almost not visible in these pictures.  The primary entry is up a 1/2 level to an arched opening with a double leaf wooden door with a glass insert.  Under the entry steps are steps down to the lower level, now often an apartment but probably originally the servant’s area. There is just a small patch of green for each brownstone.  Notice how the units have a projecting bow or bay window.  The sidewalk is narrow as the canopy trees take their fair share of the available walking surface. There are two rows of parking with a very narrow one way street making the distance face to face of the brownstone less than 50 feet. It has a very tight feel to it.

2013 1119 Boston flat frontAcross the street is this flat front Federalist town home.  It also uses red brick and the primary entrance is 1/2 story above the sidewalk level.  But in this example, the windows have a shallower rectangular shape than we saw across the street and the upper level windows are much shorter than the first floor windows.  The entry has a small covered porch with columns and the unit seems larger than the more vertical brownstones on either side and across the street.  That may be an illusion.


2013 1119 cast ironBut did you know that the South End has the largest collection of cast iron in the United States?  New Orleans may be known for its textural cast iron but the shear amount of cast iron on this street and in the surrounding neighborhood is striking.

So I hope you have enjoyed this little trip.  If you wish to visit this street, check out google “street view” of Dwight Ave., Boston, Massachusetts.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  received my copy of Edit Yourself from the UW Library–oh, I have a lot to learn!  joined an on line study group that studies NGSQ articles and discusses them, listened to a webinar on Ohio Genealogy, finished up the SGS Newsletter and will print it this weekend, turned in my assignment for ProGen on Time Management (my previous blog), finished up Gloria’s report.  And….received my copy of the Association for Professional Genealogists Quarterly which has my article in it!  I am thrilled.

Sources for the above South End blog:

all photos by Jill Morelli
The South End Historical Society, “Our History,” online ( : accessed 19 November 2013).
Arlene Vadum, “A Short History of Boston’s South End, ” online The South End ( : accessed 19 November 2013).

Time Management for a Professional Genealogist

The ProGen assignment for this month is on Time Management.  ProGen is my virtual study group that uses ESM’s Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, and Librarians [1] as the text.  We are now on our 11th session of 19.  It is interesting that this assignment precedes the holidays, a time when I do not exhibit the best time management skills. But, perhaps the timing couldn’t be better, because if ever there is a time when I need my Time Management skills to be sharp—this is it!

I have on my “to do” list a need 1.) to blog and 2.) to do my ProGen assignment.   I decided to combine them; the result will be that I have accomplished both the assignment and posted a blog–a real time saver!

If you have the book, the assignment was to read Chapters 13 (Time Management) and 8 (Alternate Careers.)

For this assignment, Clients were to be defined broadly and not only paying clients.  We were to also include the tasks associated with that Client (shown below in parens)  I did not include the UW School of Medicine, my “day job,” in this analysis although it engages me in approximately 10-11 hours a day.
I identified the following Clients and the tasks needed to accomplish:

  • Gloria and Susan (client reports)
  • WA State Genealogical Society (3 lecture proposals)
  • Seattle Genealogical Society (newsletter, and two lecture preps)
  • BCG (case study)
  • Mastering Genealogical Proof [2] (readings, assignment) (completes in December)
  • NGSQ Study Group (starts in November, new series starts in January)
  • ProGen (readings, assignment)
  • Cascade Research Services (my business: filing, financial tracking, business cards & website), and
  • Family (Thanksgiving and Christmas planning).  And, don’t forget ME!  I will need some “mental vacation moments” as well.

kanban windowWith the clients and their work identified, we were to identify a date/time for completion of each task and estimate the number of hours to complete.  The readings asked us to put this in a table form.  While that was OK for a draft, regular readers know that I have been using the Personal Kanban system of post-its and a “to do/doing/done” approach to task management.  In the photo on the left is my Personal Kanban wall; the small colored tabs are the Clients, below the small tabs are the tasks to do, the top post-it is what I am “doing” and above the small tabs are the items that are accomplished or “done.” Certainly when it gets overwhelming this is what works best for me.  You can learn more about Personal Kanbans by clicking on this link:

Two previous posts about my personal kanban approach to time management and genealogical use are:
“Can I use a Kanban Effectively to Improve my Genealogical Use?”  5 October 2012
“What Happened to the Kanban?” 26 January 2013
Use the archive on the sidebar to access these postings.

There are only two “rules” for a Personal Kanban: visualize your work and pick three items (maximum) to work on at any one time.

4 square bestI also found that a table makes it difficult to for me to prioritize; I need more fluidity.  I also don’t want my time management methods to take so much time to implement that I don’t use it.  In a Personal Kanban methodology I can move the post-its around so the one on the top is the highest priority.  I also decided to use a four-square approach to test whether that was helpful in identifying what items I ought to work on next.  The X-axis is the degree of difficulty (easy => hard) and the Y-axis is time (now => later).  See photo on the left.  This approach was recommended in one of our additional readings but I was familiar with it from my Steven Covey days.

This methodology seemed to make it clear that I ought to work on the “low hanging fruit” but that I cannot continue just working on the lower left quadrant, because then I will never get to the other items.  So I decided that I would work on the lower left quadrant but add ONE item from the right side of the four-square.  Since Susan’s book as been waiting the longest and represents a gross abuse of a friendship on my part, I am committed to completing this project for her in a very short time.

One of the questions that is asked is “How do you balance volunteer, work and genealogy time?”  My answer:  not well.  Volunteer time seems to consume a large percentage of time, especially in the month of November when both the SGS Bulletin and the SGS newsletter are published. (The SGS Bulletin takes about 50 to 75 hours to get out the door; luckily there are only two a year.)   The book responded to this dilemma by pointing out that we should do only those activities that we are uniquely qualified to do or activities in which our skills may be broadened if we do them.  I, therefore, will be working on my WSGS lectures which focus on methodologies in lieu of Civil War “stories” as I wish to broaden by presentation “library” to include classes on intermediate/advanced methodologies.   I also have other time thieves such as a computer card game which I can play for hours, emails which seem imperative to answer upon receipt and a messy desk.

So management of the time thieves is difficult for me.  a few things are consistent:
I use my bus time (40 mintes to an hour plus a day) to do reading.  I do not see the addition of the NGSQ Study Group as a time thief as is will utilize the bus “downtime”.  I do not watch a lot of TV and so this is very productive time for me.  I also have a very small house, with no children at home and so the demands on my time are lessened.  My desk and computer are in a very nice spot for “dropping in” so if I have 10 minutes, I can quickly clean up that task while in-between others.  Myobservation is that time managment itself is not my issue but rather prioritization, as a consequence little gets done on the “big stuff ” and lots of “little stuff” gets done.

My personal genealogy is well organized (of course it could be better) and I can find a document in 30 seconds or less.  My “to be filed” file is very short.  I need to do more disaster planning and specifically utilize Dropbox for cloud storage of data.  For clients,  each has two files–the contract file which contains the contract and the final product and the working file which contains all my notes, plans etc.  If the client wishes to hire me again, I create a new contract file for the new work product but keep the working file.  Each is color coded.  That has worked so far.  New ideas are always welcomed.

All of this analysis has revealed that I have prioritized Marketing very low/non-existent.  This is an aspect which cannot languish for too long before the lack of marketing creates a negative result for Cascade Research Services.  I also committed to my ProGen “buddy” a couple of months ago that I would be looking seriously at the business aspects required by the State of Washington, which I only did briefly and then let it drop.  I am also not carving out time for working on my certifications portfolio.  These items represent serious gaps in the plan that I have identified.

The Study Group is great.  We have a terrific group whose participants are very engaged and willing to offer appropriate targeted criticism of our work products.  As with any group, life can intervene (moving from one state to another, illness, computer glitches) and wreck havoc with even the best of intentions.  Each person brings a unique perspective which makes the group as a whole stronger and richer for their participation. For the class, if you wish, please leave your comments in the comment section below.  Thanks.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: the SGS Bulletin is now published and mailed! I am keeping up with my assignments in Mastering Genealogical Proof and I have been working on Gloria’s report which I am now about 90% done.  I had lunch with a wonderful historian/genealogist today who is connected with Historic Seattle.  She gave me kudos for my three part series blog on Art Deco that I did the end of September and will provide me a lead to lecture to a non-genealogy group where I often find additional clients.  She let me know to watch the Historic Seattle newsletter as the organization is putting on a series of “back of the house” tours of local repositories over 11 months starting in January.  I cannot wait; it sounds very exciting.

[1] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, and Librarians (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2001).

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