KDP Writing Weekend #1: How Did I Do?

2013 0818 writingIn looking back over this intensive writing weekend when I put in a minimum of 21 hours writing on my KDP, I discovered some new/old truths which may help others of you who are also procrastinating about certification….

Truth #1: starting is the hard part.  While I may not be having all the “fun” that Judy Russell did when she wrote her KDP, I did find it liberating to get started. (You can find her webinar by clicking here.)

Truth #2: Mix it up!  I did some reading, some writing, some citations until I found, I really wanted to tackle the genealogical proof summary–and so I did that all day Sunday.

Truth #3: Take breaks.  I didn’t take enough of them but should have taken a few more–maybe even a nap.  These can be as small as watering the plants (Lord knows they need it.) or going to a picnic. They were great ways to disengage the mind.  I even played a few computer games.

Truth #4:  Get some sleep.  I missed on this one.  I didn’t go to bed until 1:00 am most nights and woke up groggy the next mornings.

Truth #5: Take time to read the BCG Application Guide, to remind yourself of what you might have forgotten and re-read Genealogy Standards. (It’s just dawned on my that I don’t have the latest edition on my iPad.)

Truth #6:  Make sure you have Numbering Your Genealogy and Evidence Explained close at hand.  I cannot tell you how many times I opened both.  For a while I thought I was catching a breeze but it was only the fluttering pages of those two books! 🙂

Truth #7:  I stunned myself how organized I was when I first started researching my family. I have used Master Genealogist (sigh) since 2002, and my goal then, as it is now, is to find every source with the desired evidence within 20 seconds or less and I can!!  I found a critical 1978 letter that I forgot even existed — in 20 seconds.  Course, I also found that I had misfiled a probate file and now I have to go back and get it. Most of the sources I am missing, I never had.

Truth #8: Don’t store your BCG envelope next to a window.  It can get wet.  Luckily, none of the truly important stuff did–but still–where was my head?

Truth #9:  I found myself losing focus on Sunday at 8:30 pm.  So I quit and watched WDYTYA and went to bed.  It was time.

Truth #10:  Do it again!  The next KDP Writing Weekend #2 is scheduled for Labor Day.  3.5 days!  I don’t know if I can stay focused that long.  I may have to mix it up with some library work.  We’ll see.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  Well, you pretty well know, but I also structured the OGSA program for the 2016 conference in Excel and sent it off to the Board for their review, attended a PS-APG picnic, prepped my next presentation on “House Histories–Thank You Taxman!” for the Northwest Genealogical Conference (NwGC). I present on Saturday.  Saw a Call for Proposal that looked right for my librarian friend and I to apply for. (She and I have been looking for some time to find the right venue for us to present–we are going to sit down and brainstorm a presentation.)


The BCG Application Guide. Board for Certification of Genealogists: Washington, DC, 2011.

Board for Certification of Genealogists. Genealogy Standards. Nashville, Tennessee: Turner Publishing, Company, 2014.

Curran, Joan Ferris, Madilyn Coen Crane and John H. Wray. Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin. Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2008.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: City History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Third edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015.


First Things First: a Literature Search

Clock 3I have been working on my Kinship Determination Project (KDP, a component of the BCG portfolio and struggling with the writing, In spite of Judy Russell’s admonition to “have fun,” writing does not come easily to me, but like most genealogists, I like the research and I get the papers written.1  What emerged while I was struggling with writing was I needed a theme to tie the generations together.  Lucky for me, a theme was emerging.

Photo above.2

Now, of course, due to the BCG requirements I cannot write about my KDP theme and certainly not about the family.

For my KDP, the theme emerged after I had picked the family.  Usually, when I decide to write, it is because a theme has picked me!  Often a theme of inquiry has been sparked by an ancestor’s life experience.  In those cases, my writing is not focused on the family, but rather I am writing about the theme.  The KDP is more like the former–it is about the family that has a theme–a twist which makes a difference in how you approach the writing.

I have been looking at the schism between historians and genealogists.  I am trying to understand the basis for the different points of view and to determine if there is any mechanism for narrowing the gap. To more fully understand that gap, I must also understand what constitutes an “academic discipline” and where genealogy succeeds and fails in reaching the goal of being a discipline in the academic sense.

What is the theme?  — the gap between historians and genealogists.  Where do I go for help first? My first stop is the library.  I am lucky — I have easy access to a fine academic library and, sometimes more importantly, several librarians for friends who are also genealogists.

This search in research parlance is a “literature search.”  There are many different reasons for doing a literature search but for this purpose you are trying to find what others have written, educate oneself in the vocabulary and identify the issues.  I also strive to accumulate a library of materials on my topic.

Research Question:  “What elements define an academic discipline and which of those elements does genealogy possess or which are missing?”

I start my search in a orderly way whatever is the topic of my investigation:

  • I read any Wikipedia articles on the topic–yup, I’ll admit of “dipping into the Wiki.”  But I do this to obtain the first level of background and to determine my search terms for the real investigation.
    Result: This was not a place that provided germane information for this field of inquiry.
  • I conduct a simple Google search–this sometimes is too big of a “place” to search, so unless my search terms are narrow, I will sometimes wait until I can use search terms which draw the confines of the results tighter around the topic.
    Result: I found some interesting articles, mostly by Elizabeth Shown Mills on history and genealogy.
  • I search my academic library and specifically JSTOR.  JSTOR is a database of scholarly journal articles from late 1800s.  (I recently conducted a search on Bethlem Hospital and got entries in a British medical journal from 1885!)
    Result: For this topic I found most of my possible sources here.
  • Using my academic library, I search for books on the topic. Many times these are available at my library, on line and through inter-library loan.
    Result: Again, for this topic, genealogy as an academic discipline is not the “right kind of topic” for this media.
  • I identify and search specialty databases.  Recently, iIwas researching an architect on the west coast.  I would check the Pacific Coast Architects Database (PCAD); a health issue might compel me to look in PubMed. Although I have never had great luck with it, I usually also look at ABClio, a social science database.
    Result: This source did not result in any sources on genealogy as a discipline.
  •  I search online newspapers, historic and contemporary
    Result: The discipline of genealogy is not a topic that editors would select.
  •  I then conduct a “do-over”.  I often have learned something along the way that now will make the sorts more fruitful and so I start over.
    Result: After a conversation with a public historian, I did a “do-over” and got several more hits in JSTOR and Google.

I am going to post my findings in a separate blog post as this one is getting longer than I thought it would be! But, not every of my “go-to” sites yields fruit every time for every topic.  Some topics lend themselves to books (Norwegian migration, insanity in the 19th century) and others lend themselves to articles (genealogy as a discipline, Swedish literacy)

But, what I am saying in a round about way is–for me to write my KDP “story” I have to have a theme that ties the generations together.  The theme is not as large as “world peace” but also not as granular as Jed Smith was born and so were his descendants.  I had one family I considered for my KDP where the only theme I could come up with was “unremarkable lives making remarkable decisions”.

So, if you are stuck on writing your KDP, think about your theme and then loosen up those ideas by doing a literature search and see where it takes you.  You might find that the writing comes easier if there is a thread that ties the generations together, because there usually is.

How do you conduct your search for “context”?  What are your go-to sites?  Does your KDP have a theme?  Does that help or hinder?

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: In the next four weeks I am making seven presentations.  I have been toning up the presentations, sending out the syllabi, setting up the web site for each presentation, and testing my computer and projector (had to enlist hubby last night to help get the “presenter view” to show correctly, but I got the remote to work!) Note to self: print evaluations.  I have found most societies do not distribute evaluations and so I bring my own. Had lunch with a librarian/genealogist/friend and discussed the state of the genealogy nation. I volunteered to pull the ProGen group together at Jamboree (CA) in June and to work the APG table at NGS (MO) in May. See you in MO!

1This admonition was repeated numerous times by Judy in her BCG webinar on writing the KDP. I was lucky enough to have heard it but I, like many, will have to wait to have it posted on the BCG website.
2 Isn’t this an elegant clock/compact! I can imagine Mia Farrow in “The Great Gatsby” carrying it or perhaps Lauren Bacall? Photo taken by me of the watch in the collection of the Elgin Historical Museum in Elgin, Illinois, June 2014.

Observations: Judy Russell on the KDP

[Readers: I found this draft deep in the list of my blog postings and felt it still had some great content to share. I decided to update it and post it.]

elgin watchBeing “on the clock,” I decided it was prudent to listened to Judy Russell ‘s presentation on the writing of the Kinship Determination Project (KDP) given on 15 October 2014 and sponsored by BCG. [1]   (We who live on the west coast find the presentation time is right after work and so I had my ear buds in as I walked the mile to the bus stop only to find I had just missed the bus—but that’s another story.)

More importantly, I want to share a few major “take-aways” from her presentation on this major component of the portfolio.

One: Consider doing the report as a Lineage Narrative
That took about a nano-second to agree with this recommendation! I decided to write my KDP as a lineage narrative.  It is easier. The KDP is a narrative of three generations of a family.  A lineage format focuses on three generations and gives only the basic information about the siblings.  I really don’t know how I missed this–I usually take the path of least resistance.

Two: Look for the best stories
I looked at a fan chart of my family, drew circles around those family groups that might work (there were 4). I then placed all four into a possible outline and one family stood out.  My family is boring compared to Judy’s.  In my family, there is no gunfight at the Rhododendron Lodge; no one spent time in jail and no one was a Revolutionary soldier.  I am thinking about calling the narrative “Unexceptional Lives: Three Generations of _______”.  We would not make good reality TV material.  Thanks goodness.

Three: Get inspired!
Judy inspired me to work harder on the KDP which I will do. See KDP Writer’s Block Busted!, a previous post where I committed to writing 500 words per day.  I think in the past couple of weeks since that posting I have only missed one or two days at the most and some days certainly made up for the lack of writing on another day. I am committing to work on the KDP 6 hours each of Friday, Saturday and Sunday of this Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  I do find, however, that the number of words is deceptive….I can spend an hour working on a few footnotes which amount to about 75 words.  So I am not devoting time, not word count—both important, but it depends on what you are doing.

Four: Have fun!
Judy kept exhorting us to “have fun.”   While I view writing the KDP only slightly above cleaning the bathtub, some have noted the bathtub cleaning is looking better and better!  I outlined the story and then write where I feel inspired to do so.  I am working on generation 3 now but this morning the introduction fell into place. The paper looks very chaotic and will probably get even more chaotic this long holiday weekend.

I am now putting some serious time toward the KDP.  And, amazingly enough–I am enjoying it–sort of.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  talked to my friend Michael Purcell who writes fictional mysteries and who is working on his second book.  I wanted to know about his process of idea generation and translating that into a book.  He is considering hiring a “book coach”.  I did not know such a person existed but it is logical that it does so.  We had fun brainstorming his next book.  We started with a common knowledge of a terrific boutique hotel called the Tabord Inn in DC.  We then brainstormed that something happened there.  It has to do with the Mayor of DC and some clandestine meetings involving his inappropriate use of funds.  (and if this sounds like reality for DC—it is!)

[1] The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) stated it will post these podcasts on line but to date they have not yet appeared. Keep checking their website.  I am sure it will be soon.  Two other presentations have been given:  Tom Jones on the new/old Standards Manual for Genealogists and Michael Hait on Probate records.  I missed Michael’s but caught Tom’s presentation.

My Escapades with the Elephant!

evernote logoI am now a believer!  I have drunk the Kool-aid.  I am now officially in the 12 step Evernote program!

Here is how I became addicted.  Similar to many, my habit began slowly.

Phase I:

Everyone kept telling me how wonderful Evernote is.  For me, it seemed like Scrivener and Evernote did the same thing; I went with Scrivener.  I downloaded Scrivener for the 30 day trial.  I used it about 5 times.  I haven’t opened it since.

I decided to try Evernote.  I downloaded it and opened it.  Felt it was similar to Scrivener without the writing link.  I set up a couple of note books, didn’t think it did any more than I already had going for me.  I used it about 5 times. Closed it up.

In the meantime:  I went “on the clock” and started work on some of the portfolio items.

Phase 2:

Everyone continued to tell me how wonderful Evernote was and that it deserved a second chance.  Yeah, right.  I procrastinated but in an idle moment I loaded some additional documents into my notebooks. I  tagged them but it just seemed like so much fussiness.  I did, however, see some advantages.  I liked the tagging but the notebooks seemed to get in the way.  I attended a seminar where Lisa Louise Cooke was the speaker (Autumn Seminar in Sumner) She raved about Evernote for just about everything. I talked to my friend and fellow attendee, Dawn, who is also a rabid Evernote fan and she suggested that I abandon the notebooks and just use tags. She has over 6000 notes and just a few notebooks.

Revelation! Freedom!  Freedom from notebooks!

In the meantime:  I started the KDP and noticed I was having trouble keeping track of all the new information I was gathering.

Phase 3:

Everyone continued to tell me how wonderful Evernote is and so I give it a third chance. (My old boyfriends didn’t get this many opportunities!)

I am now using Evernote for the collection of all the odd bits of information related to the KDP. It is terrific. I record all the items I need to collect when I go to SLC in January.  I store emails I send to historical societies asking for information.  I have a professional genealogist helping me in Germany and her findings are posted there.  It is a godsend for the writing of any project where there are disparate bits of information. And a KDP certainly qualifies!

In the meantime: I have listened to Judy Russell’s BCG webinar on writing the KDP and am inspired to work on it but have not made much progress.  But I know, deep in my heart, that I have not lost any little bit of information because Evernote is keeping it safe for me.

Thanks Dawn for encouraging me to keep trying.  I get it!  I get it now.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: attended the Sumner WA Autumn conference with Lisa Louise Cooke  as primary speaker (Way to go, Lisa)!  Finished up a client report (They are a lot of fun.); attended an APG-Puget Sound meeting (lots of terrific speakers are coming to Washington in 2015–it will be a banner year.) I worked on my KDP and made some decisions based on Judy’s seminar.  Thanks, Judy.  (it is not yet posted on the BCG website.)

The cute elephant and great logo is a licensed trademark of Evernote.

My Dinner with Judy!*

2013 0517 dinner Judy RussellAt the spring seminar the SGS Board members got the opportunity to have dinner with our speaker, Judy Russell.** .  I was thrilled to be included and it was a very fun dinner.

First, the Norwegian Street Fair resulted in my being approximately 60 minutes late but, I ordered and got “caught up” by dessert time.  Perfect.

So, here are some little known (and some well known) facts that Judy shared with us.

  • She is as friendly and approachable as she seems.
  • The picture she uses as her professional photo was a passport photo she took herself.
  • On the day she got notice of her certification as a certified genealogical lecturer, she found she had loaded the wrong lecture onto not only her computer but also her thumbdrive!  (Thanks goodness for dropbox)
  • She has very distant relatives here in Seattle.  Mary Roddy figured the complicated relationship to be 2nd cousins.
  • She does not have a warehouse full of blogs waiting to be posted, i.e. she does not write ahead.  As one of the most prolific bloggers I know, I find this amazing.  She does have numerous blogs started with ideas.  In my effort to “be like Judy”, I have started “idea blogging” as well.
  • She and I will both be at Jamboree  (and we had dinner together there also!)
  • She wrote a short article for the SGS Bulletin about a state legislator in VA who couldn’t get a divorce in his home state. He found out the WA didn’t have such archaic divorce rules and so he got himself named a WA territorial governor.  he stayed 2 years, just long enough to get his divorce.  He then remarried a girl from Olympia and moved back to VA.  (Judy is soon to give a presentation on divorce and this will be her lead “attention grabber”!)
  • Her topics are generally not about her family except on Sundays.
  • She will often go “mining” for material by picking a state she knows nothing about and pokes around in familysearch until she finds something that looks interesting.  And, then writes about it! (I am working on a blog posting for January which I did exactly the same way. It seems like a good technique.)

I had a wonderful time!

Happy Hunting!


*not to be confused with “My Dinner with Andre,” a movie that my husband took me to twice.  The first time I made it to the time the waiter approached the table to give them their menu’s before falling asleep!  The second time I didn’t make it through the credits!  I slept through the movie both times.  Hubby gave up.  I certainly did not sleep through the very spirited conversation we had with Judy and the Board.

**I had started this blog posting back in May and then for some reasons didn’t post it; I am doing so now.

My Dinner with Judy!*

Tonight I had dinner with Judy Russell and with other members of the Board of Seattle Genealogical Society (See below; Judy is on the left side.  Mary is the most in front and then Judy).  I had a very good time; the conversation flowed smoothly and all were engaged.  Judy will be our speaker at our Saturday Spring Seminar tomorrow.  Since I sit on the Board of SGS, I was invited.  What fun!

2013 0517 dinner Judy Russell

I thought I would share some interesting tidbits about Judy that you may not be aware of:

  • Judy writes her blog almost every day (http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/).  But, she does not have a stack of blogs ready to go out but rather has a stack of ideas that she can draw upon.
  • When she needs a topic, she goes to familysearch.org or some other online repository and looks at the records for an area of which she knows little.  After poking around in the records she usually always finds something of interest to write about.
  • She is as friendly as she seems.
  • She is employed full time and still does all that she does!  Whew.
  • Judy has family in the Seattle area that she hasn’t seen in quite some time; Mary Roddy figured it out as a 2nd cousin.
  • Ginny S. was urged to apply to speak at the FGS conference about writing grants (SGS is pretty good at writing and receiving grants–our latest is to scan the Seattle area’s VFW cards.)
  • When she bought her copy of Mastering Genealogical Proof, she went and got Tom Jones to sign it! (Mine came in the mail today.)
  • Judy was recently notified of her receipt of the certification as a genealogical lecturer from BCG.  As she was opening up her slide show on her computer to add the postnomials to her presentation, she discovered she had loaded an old version.  The good news was, she had a thumbdrive–the bad news was that even the thumbdrive had a old version.  She, like so many of us, do a “belts, suspenders and a rope” approach.  Thank goodness for the “rope”–DropBox.

I am looking forward to tomorrow and the advanced session on Sunday.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since my last post:  worked on Frank’s layouts of his memoirs (deadline:  get to lulu.com before I leave on vacation, preferably around the 1st of June); worked on my ProGen assignment (it needs polishing); worked with the Illinois State Genealogical Editor to get my article ready to be published in their quarterly.  I am still very excited.

* Have you ever seen the movie, “My Dinner with Andre?”  I haven’t, although I have paid for admission twice!  Both times I fell asleep before the waiter gave the two participants their menus and proceded to sleep through the whole thing.  That was not the  case tonight!

Do successful genealogists need to have an insatiable curiosity?

I think so!

A few days ago Judy Russell posted a blog about randomly looking at wills and how they piqued her interest because of the untold stories…even tho’ she wasn’t related to any of the individuals there.  They each had a story to tell and no one to tell it. Each seemed to “beg the question” of wanting to know more.  You can read that blog here:


Today, I looked through a new book I had just gotten and I was struck by the same thing.  The book was The Union: A Guide to Federal Archives Related to the Civil War.  I had quickly leafed through this very “dense” book upon its arrival, but decided to pick it up again today.  I stopped randomly on pages 254/5 and started to really read.  Here are some of the items on those two pages that captured my attention, not unlike Judy and her looking at wills and ….wondering:

  • “Papers on the court-martial of Fitz-John Porter”:  Who is this guy?  What is his story?
  • “Papers concerning the health and treatment of Jefferson Davis as a prisoner in Fort Monroe, VA”: You don’t hear much about his imprisonment.  Could you contrast and compare to Guantanamo?
  • “Papers concerning the claims of British citizens residing in the US who suffered property and other losses in war areas”: Was there a post CW “Marshall Plan” for the British?
  • “…the testimony of Union soldiers concerning “outrages” committed by the citizens of Winchester, Va.”:  What outrages?  How bad were they?
  • “List of monies taken from banks and banking institutions in New Orleans”:  I wonder how much?  Was it returned?  Who took it? Was there a punishment for the takers or were they rewarded?
  • “Data concerning officers of the U.S. regular Army who joined the Confederate Army”:  Not much is ever written about that!  What happened to them? Could they go back home? Or, did they go west?  If one wanted to “get away” now, where would they go?
  • “Papers concerning the board to examine Dr. Solomon Andrew’s “aerial machine” “:  Oh, I knew they used balloons for reconnaissance but what is this?
  • “Articles of Agreement between Maj. C.C. Sibley, U.S.A. and Col. Earl Van Dorn, C.S.A., relative to U.S. army officers and men who might become prisoners of war”,:  This probably has to do with prisoner exchanges and the value of a person based on their rank but wouldn’t it make interesting reading?

These are just the selected entries on two pages!  How can one not be mesmerized by each of these or on any of the almost 600 pages of content? What I thought was a dry book listing the collections of NARA related to the Civil War is actually fascinating reading.  And, I thought all I was interested in was the draft riots in New York!  And, yes, I think you do have to have an insatiable curiosity to be a good genealogist–every where you turn there is another story waiting to be told by you.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  worked more on Susan’s book, finished up another client’s report who wanted to know the Norwegian village of origin prior to a trip to Norway (I found it!), finished up my Education Plan assignment for ProGen, reentered all my books into website LibraryThing (wish they had an app) in preparation for completing the next portion of the assignment–the personal library list.

Source materials:

Kenneth W. Munden, The Union: A Guide to Federal Archives Relating to the Civil War (Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2004) 254-255.  First published as Guide to Federal Archives Relating to the Civil War in 1962, reprinted under present title in 1986.

Judy Russell, “Questions of Will,” The Legal Genealogist, 15 February 2013 (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2013/02/15/questions-of-will/ : accessed 18 February 2013).