Do you ever go back and re-read reference books?

While I rarely re-read a leisure reading book (FYI: I am reading Catherine the Great right now by Massie), I do find myself going back and re-reading my reference books.  As I have now done a few client reports, I thought I would glance again at Professional Genealogy by ESM.  It was interesting how it resonated with me much stronger the second time around.  I suspect that it will resonate even stronger the 3rd and possibly the 4th time as well.

Some of my ah-ha moments as i went through the first two chapters were:

Observation no. 1: I did a little homage to Birdie Holsclaw when I saw her name in the Table of Contents. Birdie was a friend of mine when we lived in Colorado.

Observation no. 2: I have been thinking a lot about what is a “professional?” (Chapter 1: Defining Professionalism by Donn Devine)  There are the professions (usually considered law, medicine, architecture, teaching etc. as professions) of which I belong to one.  Since I did the pro bono work for my clients, I wondered…does that made me a “professional genealogist?” Or, did I have to have a paying client to do that?  Or, did I have to practice for a length of time before I could call myself a professional genealogist?  As an architect I had to have a certain level of degree, then go through an apprenticeship program for three years, and take a comprehensive exam.  Then and only if I passed the test, could I call myself an architect.  Was getting certified kind of like that?  Without a required internship?

Mr Devine defines professionalism by the perceptions of three groups:  public, peer, and self. The narrative about public and self perception are very short, less than 1 page each.  The one on Peer Perception is 6 pages long.  Obviously he considers the perceptions of peers to be the critical audience.  He then outlines some of the elements of peer perception, noting that preliminary applicants for BCG certification have, on average, 15 years of personal experience (check!) and 3 years of professional experience (nope).  At some point I might set up a score card and see how I have progressed on the 7 major categories (some have subcategories).

Observation no. 3: I read through Chapter 2: Educational Preparation by Claire Mire Bettag, CGRS.  It was very interesting.  I promise myself that next year I would either go to Samford or take the BU course.  Ms. Bettag gives a good overview of the courses, some of which I was not aware of.  One I hadn’t checked out as closely as I should is the NGS course or those given by NARA in DC.  I will check those out.

And that’s how far I am right now.

I would like to offer two ideas for comment:

  1. BCG should consider the addition of a mentorship program to their process of certification.  I find that I feel particularly isolated here from the serious researchers and would like to have someone I would talk to regularly to push me to a higher level and to comment on work product.  While each client report got better and better, I think they would have been much better quicker with some mentorship.  I do not think this has to violate their rule about it being 100% your work if the comments were received after the client report was delivered to the client but it allowed the individual to incorporate the comments into the next work product.  I am sure they have thought of this.  I just think it sounds like a good idea.
  2. Teleconferencing would make some of these classes/conferences more accessible instead of having to journey to a specific location and pay for housing and food etc.  I was glad to see RootsTech have some of their sessions on-line.  A friend of mine recently got her a business doctorate on-line.  She lives in Houston.  You can get your doctorate in Pharmacy on line.  All from reputable universities.  Seems like genealogy classes (complete with assignments and class participation) could work with a Skype feature.

So those are my thoughts today.

Happy Hunting!


Things I have done since the last post:  read the first two chapters of Professional Genealogy again; worked on incorporating the comments of my instructor into my paper, posted 3 postings on the class bulletin board on sources, information, evidence and about writing footnotes and bibliographies; worked on the brochure (I have the next draft done…I need to get a good picture of me), did some filing of work product.


How am I doing on the class assignments?

I have been working hard on the assignments

  1. Pedigree chart and family group sheet, fully cited: already handed in
  2. Vital records:  found out this is just to request/acquire a vital record.  Easy.  Used my request for the death certificate for Anna Olina Seim Dahle.
  3. census document with citation: done, have to admit that using a MAC makes it easy to clip and insert into a document.
  4. Critique of two GENWeb sites: done.  Did Hardin County, Iowa and Waseca County, MN.  Did you know that Iowa requires it’s GenWeb people to post something on a reqular basis or they are removed and replaced?
  5. Letter of inquiry: completed; This seemed like such a close request to no. 2.  I used my request for pension records (under the Freedom of Information Act!) for Jens T. Dahle.  Did this right before Thanksgiving.  I hope I get the material before Christmas, but I am not confident.
  6. Identification of a US county history and cited: completed, not submitted
  7. Take home quiz: done.  lots of questions about Soundex.  While I know it is important to know when this is applied and what difference it might make, there were far too many questions about how to apply it.
  8. Bibliography of a variety of sources (15+): completed, not submitted.  This was a fun exercise….citing 15 different types of sources.
  9. Newspaper research: newspaper ordered through Inter-library Loan; PROBLEM!  ILL has informed me that the newspaper I requested is not coming.  I have to find another newspaper and review/write on it instead.  Ouch.  I will do that tomorrow.  Thank goodness for Chronicling America!
  10. Annotated chronology: completed.  The most difficult part was reducing the information to one page (as requested by the instructor)
  11. Oral history interview: assignment not yet given, not due until the start of 2nd quarter.

So I need to do the newspaper review and and run one copy for me of all the parts of the assignments.  Yeah!

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  check the cat’s paw where he engaged in a fight with the neighborhood cat last night…..and lost!

So, what DID I do on my Thanksgiving vacation?

I hope that everyone’s Thanksgiving was a good one.  We spent ours with my husband’s brother’s family and our daughter flew in from Boston to be there as well.  The weather even cooperated!  While I was there I was able to work on a number of my assignments for my class.  I was going to work on the resume for the BCG certification but because they did not have iPages (the MAC equivalent of Word for Windows) I decided to wait until I got home.  The assignments are due 15 December.  I worked on the following in yellow:

  1. Pedigree chart and family group sheet, fully cited: already handed in
  2. Vital records:  I have realized that I do not know what this assignment even is!  Gotta work on this.
  3. Example of census document with citation:  did this one.  I consider it 100% ready to hand in
  4. Critique of two GENWeb sites: Have it drafted at 95%.  Need to final review and then I will be done
  5. Letter of inquiry: Picked a different one and got it’s letter off.  I consider this 100% complete.
  6. Identification of a US county history and cited: completed, not submitted
  7. Take home quiz: did this one to about 90% complete.
  8. Bibliography of a variety of sources (15+): re-reviewed this one and saw several things I could improve upon.  My next blog will be about the variety of sources that are out there to investigate and the improvements  I made..
  9. Newspaper research: newspaper on order through Inter-library Loan, not yet received; if it doesn’t get here right after Thanksgiving, I will have to identify another newspaper and write the (brief) report on it instead.
  10. Annotated chronology: started, not yet in final draft form.  Got this one further along.  This, for some reason, and maybe it’s my topic, seems harder to do.
  11. Oral history interview: assignment not yet given, not due until the start of 2nd quarter.

So I am in really good shape for the assignments and to get them turned in.  I did not work on my certification specifically.

Happy Hunting!


Things I worked on since the last posting:  I did some on-line looking at the Samford and the Boston University Genealogy courses.  I would really like to see their syllabi.  If anyone has it to share, I would love to see it.  I organized my assignments into a 3 ring notebook; although I won’t hand it in that way it made is simpler to know which documents I had and which ones I needed to work on.  I worked a lot on the Bibliography.  I wrote two articles for the OGSA newsletter (Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America) and I did the problem description of my distant relative so Helle can give it to her genealogy friend in Denmark and see if he can make any additional headway.

So where am I with my classroom assignments?

I am finding my class at the UW in Genealogy & Family History is a combination of new and interesting information, a different approach to doing family history research and some activities which are so basic I am amazed the instructors even consider it necessary to cover!  The course is conducted over 3 quarters for 1 full academic year, with the final assignment a major paper which is an integration of history and genealogical information.  I am doing my paper on the Civil War and the evolution of medical care using Jens T. Dahle as my person of focus.

The assignments are as follows:

  1. Pedigree chart and family group sheet, fully cited: already handed in
  2. Vital records:  I have realized that I do not know what this assignment even is!  Gotta work on this.
  3. Example of census document with citation
  4. Critique of two GENWeb sites: not started.  I will do this over Thanksgiving
  5. Letter of lnquiry: completed, not submitted
  6. Identification of a US county history and cited: completed, not submitted
  7. Take home quiz: not started
  8. Bibliography of a variety of sources (15+): completed, not submitted
  9. Newspaper research: newspaper on order through Inter-library Loan, not yet received; if it doesn’t get here right after Thanksgiving, I will have to identify another newspaper and write the (brief) report on it instead.
  10. Annotated chronology: started, not yet in final draft form.  Might work on this tomorrow.
  11. Oral history interview: assignment not yet given, not due until the start of 2nd quarter.

So, it looks like I am in pretty good shape to have these get submitted on the 15th of December.

I found doing the Bibliography the most interesting as the instructor forced me to use resources that I never would have investigated: scholarly journals, encyclopedias (don’t poo poo this until you find out the shear numbers of them that exist on amazing topics), diaries, county histories, etc.  This assignment was fun.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  pet the cat.

Part 3: How do you incorporate your data from the computer to the papers you write?

The only right answer is “It depends!”  For me, it depends on what I am writing and who is my audience.

I used to think that making good genealogy reports was only a function of the computer program I bought.  I now think differently.

I had always believed (and still do) that the computer program is for storing evidence about my ancestors and their descendants.   This evidence is the result of the compilation of information that has been analyzed by me and connections/relationships have been identified and recorded.  I used to believe that if I just worked the information cleanly enough then I could “punch a button” and out would come a really good report I could use in all situations.  I was wrong.  The information is sterile; the stories are repetitive….this doesn’t make them bad, but they are just not acceptable in all situations such as the books I write or for the requirements of certification.  I also admit that my requirements have changed over time; I never started doing genealogy because I wanted to write the family book or get certified!

I am now careful about when I use what is “canned” in the computer.

This is what I do:  while I gather the data I try to think of the good “stories” that each person could tell.  Is there anything unusual, such as a very young or old person getting married? …a solo emigration at a young age?  …anything odd about the timing of children (my grandfather was a “1 day baby”….his parents married the day before he was born!  It was a miracle!)?  Or, did they work outside the parish frequently?   Did their parents die when they were young?  All events tell you something about their lives.  Because I am an architect, I also think that our physical environment shapes us, so I ask questions about the land and how it might have influenced decision making.  Lacking our ancestors direct communication, we have only our own analytical abilities to rely upon.  These questions can sometimes be answered by looking very closely at the “public” information provided.

Let me give you an example of information you can gather which is a great story:

  • the Christmas Day Flood in 1717 struck the entire North Sea coast of Holland, Denmark and Germany and affected all families living in it’s path.
  • this is documented in a beautiful map (see below)
  • Also in 1719, to pay for the improvements to the Ostfriesen dike, the officials conducted a tax census and counted households.
  • All my mother’s ancestors were within the flood zone.
  • I have over 80 identified family members who are survivors of this flood

In my computer program, I can create a tag that allows me to link people to the flood and tax census events. But, the repetitiveness of that story for each person is mind numbing and implies that each had the same experience.  If you look closely at the map, one can see that those closer to the dike break had a different experience than those further away and others ended up with a ship in their backyard!  It’s a great story and it’s all on the map or in the census! If I were to use just the computer program’s suggested language it would tell the same story for all but not a true story.

When I wrote books on two of my immigrant families, Bengt Peter Anderson and Ryke Rykena and their families ( I quickly found that I was using the information stored in the database but very little of it was “canned” from the computer, the notable exceptions were the pedigree charts and family group sheets at the end.  Of course, I could have written it differently, but I wanted the books to be for a family audience not the NGS, BCG and not even other genealogists.  I also knew that the more graphic rather than narrative information I could include, the better the book.  This approach would not be suitable for the types of reports needed for BCG.  For certification, the format of these reports is so prescribed, it takes me less time to rewrite then it does to use the “canned” report and modify.  (I admit that because of my internal set up with my MAC, the latter is not even a possibility.)  The writing style is better if “fresh,”  rather than relying on the repetitiveness of a computer.

How do you work?

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  Added 500 words to the Dahle lineage report and have the narrative completed.  Now to start the footnoting.  Worked on my class assignment for the Bibliography.  We have to find 15 different sources and annotate them.  I have all but 3 or 4.  All relate to Dahle’s Civil War service and his stint in the hospitals of Washington DC.  Also found some very interesting photos.

Part 2: What is your physical set up for working back and forth between the data and the narrative?

I have a double screen set up.  I cannot imagine doing this without that duality.  On the left side I have my genealogy program always “live” and on the right side, I have the browser open.  I use FireFox, but I am not sure it isn’t because it’s got a cute logo.  The browser has the following tabs open as I write this:, 1801 census for Norway from DigitalArkivet, the 1875 census for Norway, findagrave, David Rumsey historical maps, Pottery Barn and…and, of course, WordPress for this blog.  I have had more open at a time but that is what I have right now.  I work on a MAC so I the option of 4 complete set ups.  What I have described with software/browser is one.  The other set up is my e-mails and the third has the documents that I am working on such as the lineage report for Jens, the bibliography for class and/or the chronology.  Sometimes if I really get to multitasking, I have the materials for the conference I am chairing in 2012 open also, but not often.  I don’t generally use the fourth.

I will often move the document I am actively working to the primary set up of the data and internet.  That way I can click between people and record the data right from my software program, The Master Genealogist or TMG.

I also have my reference materials at hand.  We have to use Chicago Manual of Style for footnotes for the class and I use Evidence! for the certification reports.  These are just to the right of the keyboard.

Do you do something similar or different?

Happy Hunting!

What I have done since the last post:  made Halloween cookies and gone to the UW football game which we won but now I am hoarse.  Also started reading, Civil War Nurse, the Diary and Letters of Hannah Ropes.  Hannah worked in the DC hospitals during the Civil War until she too contracted  typhoid pneumonia and died in 1863.  She would have been in the hospitals at the same time as Jens but she was in Georgetown.

When to stop researching and start writing?

Good afternoon from the Northwest!

OK, I have identified a serious personality weakness of mine….I love the research but I am less wild about the writing!  So a little discipline is necessary.  Check out Michael Hait’s comment on this blog about “passion” and the confines of the client request.  In response to that comment I went back and read my contract and what I said I would do.  I agreed to work on my client’s Jens T. Dahle family line but it was a little vague. Here are the components of what I said!  (Michael, you were so right!)

  1. “to investigate and report on your great grandfather, Jens T. Dahle, of Waseca County, Minnesota, his family and his ancestors and those of his wife, your great grandmother, Anna Oline (nee Seim) Dahle.”
  2. to produce a graphic narrative “This graphic narrative will be similar to what I have published of my ancestors with limited citations.”
  3. to also produce a lineage report: “The lineage report will be fully documented three generation ascending lineage report starting with Jens T. Dahle, adhering to approved citation and reporting standards.”

I have been very busy this past weekend working on Jens T. Dahle.  So busy that I have his lineage back about 5 generations.  While I stopped myself from checking out all the siblings, I have got both his line the three generations I said I would in the contract as well as his wife’s, Anna Oline.  So it appears that it is now time to stop researching and start writing the lineage report and start the graphic narrative.

An interesting development is that while the report for certification will include the Civil War information about Jens, I have decided to also use Jens T. Dahle’s Civil War experience in the Lincoln General Hospital (LGH) as the topic of the report for my class.  This paper will be about the development of nursing as a profession.  It became more visible as a profession at the time of the Civil War (think Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix) and so there is quite a bit of information available.

It is important to note that these two documents will be very differently focused.  The one for the client (and certification) will be about Jens T. Dahle and include his Civil War experiences.  The paper for the class will be about the history of nursing and bring in the intersection of that with Jens’s experiences in the hospital.  Note:  Clara Barton was at the battlefield of at least 3 of his battles after he got out of LGH.  The latter is due after I have the report for my client completed.

So, I am back to writing but still have some great resources coming my way that I have ordered.

Happy Hunting!


What I have worked on since the last post:  I have read a book called Norway to America: a History of the Migration and done a lot of parish and census work for the various parishes of Norway associated with Jens and his wife Anna.  I have started bibliography and a Research Log (should have started earlier!) for both Norway and US for Jens.  I ordered the latest Stephen Oates book on Women of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War and done a lot of “noodling” around the internet finding resources on nursing, Norway, migration etc.  I also took pictures for 3 researchers wanting tombstone pics for FindaGrave.