Case Study Tips & More

2016 AZ mtnsAs some of you know, I have been taking a six week driving “sabbatical” since my retirement on 6 January 2016.  This has been a great few weeks so far and I expect it to be even better.

My goals for the trip have been:

  • get to the warm (see pic on left)
  • do some research in Salt Lake City
  • write a bunch of my portfolio (Case Study & Kinship Determination Project or KDP)
  • visit some friends along the way


Get to the warm:

I have definitely accomplished that (see above!).  I will spend about 3+ weeks in Arizona and southern California in full sunshine and 80 degree temps!  Woo hoo!

Research in SLC:

I spent four days there doing research. Of course, as soon as I left I noticed that I had missed checking out a database that is only available at the library, so I hired my friend, Barry Kline, who I knew was still there to check it for me.  Great job, Barry.  Just what I needed.

2016 AZ study stationWrite a bunch of my portfolio:

I wanted to come out of my week in Colorado (post-SLC) with my Case Study in very good shape.  Well, it took longer than that but I really like what it looks like.  A little more work but it is shaping up nicely.

I want to complete my AZ segment of the trip with a very good start on my KDP (see study station at left).  Right now–it is really ugly, but it is getting incrementally better every day (sometimes the increments are very small, however.).  I am finding some items I need to access, and so, I will be ordering some tapes so I can review them when I get back to Seattle.  It is also possible that I will have to re-up my “on-the clock”. As you can tell from the countdown clock on the sidebar, I only have two full months left. I have some information in Iowa that I need to get but I won’t be there until August, when I do another 7 week driving trip.

Visit friends & relatives

I have had the joy of being in Colorado with my husband’s two brothers and one of  the sister-in-laws. I am in AZ staying with a friend and will head out the end of this month to San Diego to meet up with my brother and his wife for a few days.  Then, it is on to Fresno to visit with another friend, BUT I have to be back in Seattle on the 8th so I can fly to Chicago on the 9th for the weekend.

Whew!! This retirement thing is exhausting.

2016 AZ postitsI promised some tips for the Case Study.  Here is what I discovered:

  1. Jot down 5 or 6 possible case studies.  Remember every immigrant is a problem of identity here and there; every person with multiple birth dates for the same person is conflicting direct evidence.
  2. Pick a problem you already have “solved.”  Do not pick one you haven’t solved.
  3. Once you pick your problem, write up your research question.  I had a hard time with this (I know it shouldn’t be, but my preconceptions kept getting in the way.)
  4. Determine what kind of a conflict it is and then read NGSQ articles for ones that are similar. While you are reading, look for a format or structure that fits your problem–you do not need to reinvent the wheel. There are good examples out there.
  5. Start writing; the sooner the better.
  6. While you are writing (at least this was true for me) there will be “little discoveries” along the way that needed to be researched. At first I was disappointed that I hadn’t noticed them before but then I viewed them as little challenges within the bigger one of the Case Study.

In the end, I got more than I bargained for–which was a very pleasant gift.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  a lot.


A KDP Conversation at NwGC

Clock mathI have been struggling with my writing of the Kinship Determination Project or KDP.  First, I procrastinated.  Now, the struggle is with multiple issues but this post is about my conversations with certified genealogists at the Northwest Genealogical Conference (NwGC) and their KDP.

Who was the audience for your KDP? Said a different way, for whom did you write the KDP?

The KDP can be written for any number of audiences including BCG, other certified genealogists, for family or for the author. The recommendation of others is that you have a lot more “fun” and write much more genuinely, if you write the KDP for yourself or your family.  There are several specific requirements by BCG (see the application guide) and these have to be dealt with directly.  These inclusions may not be appreciated by your relatives.

If the KDP theme is discordant with the thoughts today, e.g. slavery, Naziism,  how does one prevent a personal perspective or opinion from creeping unknowingly in the story?

Most respondents commented about how important it was to not mistake the moral standards of today with the standards or pressures on our ancestors, something ESM describes as “present-ism”.  The writer needs to be objective, even dispassionate while telling the story. The commonly held belief was that the answer was “yes” — one could, even must, remain dispassionate about the topic. It was also mentioned that if your ancestor was slow to make the change or even strategized against the change at a time when knowledge was available contrary to their commonly held belief, then that is part of the story as well. Our ancestors were not perfect people.  The story still  needs to be told in a way that can enlighten the reader perhaps even pointing out this inability to accept the change.

Do I have to be a super expert about the theme–or context of the writing?

The only reasonable answer is “It depends.”  If your context is “World Peace,” no one is the expert and you cannot convey all you know into 150 pages! 🙂  If your context is local, then, yes, you do have to be the expert illustrating exhaustive research.  For those in the middle–you have to decide when enough is enough to tell your story truthfully.  But remember, you are the expert of your family.

I want to thank all the generous genealogists that I quizzed throughout the day at the Northwest Genealogical Conference 2015 and who shared their thoughts and advice.

My next “KDP Writer’s Weekend” was scheduled for Labor Day weekend.  It appears that it will shift to the following weekend. Doesn’t mean that I won’t be working on the document in-between. I will be speaking next at Skagit Valley GS with Mary Kathryn Kozy on 19 September on “Just Do It! Writing Your Family History” and “My Top Ten Tech Tools I Really Use–Really.”

Happy Hunting!


What I have been doing since the last posting:  Attended the NwGC.  Congratulations to Stillaguamish Genealogical Society and Karen and Eric Stroshein for developing this significant NW conference. I continue to educate myself on my theme of my KDP. I am putting together a workshop on “An Overview of Scandinavian Records” so I am reading the materials that Kathy Meade handed out at her sessions she gave on ArkivDigital at NwGC.




KDP Writing Weekend #1: 7-9 August 2015

2013 0818 writingOK, I know I need to start writing the KDP (Kinship Determination Project).  There is an extra motivation–I will probably have to return about 13 books about “my family” to the library in the next few months.  If returned, I may have difficulty getting them back and I certainly won’t be able to check them out for weeks/months at a time.

So, I have decided that I will schedule two KDP Writing Weekends.  One will be this coming weekend (schedule below) and another will be over Labor Day weekend.  And, why, you ask, would I pick these two weekends?  Because the Hubby will be out of town and it will be just me and the cat.  Although Ollie sometimes walks across the keyboard, in general he is a pretty good writing companion.

Here is my proposed schedule.  On Monday, I will report in a short post, how I did:

August 7, Friday

6:00 – 8:00 (with 20 minutes out for dinner) I will review my books, my Evernote file, and my emails (pre-Evernote, I emailed myself articles about “the fam.”)

8:00-8:30 break

8:30 to 10:00  I will write.

August 8, Saturday

7:00 -7:30 read paper and eat breakfast

7:30 – 8:30 print business cards and extra speaker flyers for the PS-APG chapter table at the NwGC in a week.

8:30 – 11:30 write

11:30 – 12:00 lunch

12:00 – 3:30 write

3:30 : leave for PS-APG picnic in Sumner and have a good time.  Don’t forget to take business cards and speaker brochures with me to the picnic to give to table coordinator.

Take the rest of the night off

August 9, Sunday

6:00 -6:30 have breakfast

6:30 – 9:15 write

9:15 get ready and go to yoga

12:30 – 3:30 start writing again

3:30 – 5:00 take a “Get Out of the House Break.”  This might be a drive over to Discovery Park and a walk to the lighthouse or it might be just a walk by the water.  We’ll see.

5:00 – 6:00 dinner

6:00 – 9:00 write!

KDP Writing Weekend is complete.  I have no goal for how much I will get done or what parts.  We shall see. Your thoughts, comments and criticisms about the schedule would be most welcomed.

Wish me luck.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: Had lunch with Luci Baker Johnson about the “Digging Deeper” series.  She has an idea about the third year of the series that involves my helping out. Could be a great season about House Histories.  Was contacted by a Midwest conference that wants me as a speaker in a year.  Looks like it will happen.  Planning a trip to Peru (Fall 2015) and another to Italy (Fall 2016).  Ramping down my work with SGS but volunteered to do desk duty while Janice is giving her “Finding your Slave Owners” talk which I would have attended anyway.


Selection of the Familial line for the KDP

bode Fam3I have struggled with the selection of the familial line for the Kinship Determination Project (KDP) for my certification portfolio.  Only recently I have come to a final conclusion and I thought I would share my thought process.

Step 1: selected my proof topic

I do not have a lot of complicated proofs; most lend themselves to proof summaries.  I do not have ancestors that were in this country before 1850 (the “tick mark censuses) and the village of origin was pretty clearly stated by all immigrants during their lifetime and it was corroborated by direct evidence in the original parish records.  Few (almost none) screwed up their birth dates or divorced and changed their names etc.  I have a few “problems” that fall outside that norm so I selected one of just the few.  It is in my Swedish side of the family.  This eliminated this line for consideration in other items for the portfolio due to the requirement that there be familial no overlap.

Step 2: selected the KDP lineage

This was more difficult.  I had many choices but none seemed to be a story I wanted to tell.  I listened to Judy Russell’s BCG presentation on KDPs (not yet online) and was inspired to look for the story.  Then serendipity stepped in.  While flying back from a business trip, I read the assigned article for the NGSQ study group for October.  I finished that article  and idly went on to read the next.  About half way through that article I realized that the organization of article was similar to one I could use for my KDP.  The organization was so clear and carefully laid out, I got very excited.  It followed an immigrant to the United States with two additional generations. Since my family entered the US starting in the mid-1800s, any three generation study almost had to include an immigrant.

I pulled out my computer (not easy with the leg room you have on an airplane these days) and wrote out the outline in generic form.  Then, using the generic outline, I outlined each familial line that I could use for the KDP.  I laid out four options; two were quickly deleted from consideration. Two remained. I developed each a little more and decided on my mother’s paternal line from the immigrant forward.  That lineage seemed to layout easier and better than the others. It was also one I could get excited about writing.  I had already decided to do a descending genealogical summary because the layout of the summary seems easier for me to understand.  I get lost with the ascending type.

Step 3: select the document for transcription

Now you can select the document for transcription.  I had tried to select this first and had a couple of documents transcribed.  I just combed through my exhibits and picked one where I had not used that family line for other work.  That was the one I used.

Step 4: start identifying gaps

The three generation KDP was going to involve a grand-uncle who I had done some work on but not enough.  He is rather famous and so I started looking for his papers which I found in Special Collections all over the Midwest.  Fun!  I now feel I have a good plan with few gaps.  The Case Study (proof argument) is also missing some information which I hope to gather at SLC when I go in January.

So that’s what I did.  Your path will differ because your parameters are different.  Nevertheless, a plan going forward is a great relief. I also would love to get started writing but a few other things are intervening.  I can tell I need to prioritize my portfolio which I am not doing a very good job at…..yet.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  The month I publish the SGS Bulletin is always one with few postings.  I just cannot get that much done and still get paid in my day job!  The Bulletin is now to the mailing service and I am very proud of it–we themed it on the Ethnic Communities of the Northwest.  Five writers wrote on Native Americans, African Americans, Nordic, Japanese and Chinese.  Starting on 8 November, I am speaking 3x at the Washington Family History Fair 2014, SGS (the 9th), the University of Washington Retirees Association (the 10th) and to the Stillaquamish Genealogical Society (the 11th).  Whew!– I am totally psyched!  This will be so much fun. (all that speaking in high school speech contests is paying off!)  I checked out a book called Sustainable Genealogy: Solving your Family Myths and Legends by Hite.  I will be writing a book review on it for this blog so stay tuned. (one of my presentations this coming weekend is on “Solving Family Myths Using the Principles of Logic.”  Thanks to Jean Wilcox Hibben CG for her wise counsel on that one.

I am also starting to book lectures for next winter and spring.  If anyone wants to talk to me about lecturing, let me know…..I would be excited about talking to your group!

GPS Element #5: Writing your conclusions

typewriterThis is the third of a series of articles about the Genealogical Proof Standard. [1]  The elements are not being published in numerical order, primarily because I had presentations to make on some of the elements, and I completed those first.  You can read about GPS #1 (thorough search), GPS #2 (source citations)  and  GPS #3 (analysis and correlation), by clicking on the links.  I haven’t yet published GPS #4 (resolving conflicting evidence).

My ProGen class is in its second month of writing their proof arguments. Proof arguments are the basis of the BCG case study and components of the Kinship Determination Project, both requirements for certification.  Proof arguments are a type of genealogical writing that describes, in a scholarly way, our findings to a question.

I won’t dwell on the definition of a proof argument, you can find explanations and examples in a variety of places, including the BCG website ( Almost every article in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly is a proof argument.

As our class discussed their first drafts, I started to see some trends in my writing as well as that of my cohort. These observations may reflect a single paper or sometimes the issue is systemic.  One thing remains clear–these are my personal comments.  Each of the items below is composed of 1.) what I see/experience, 2.) any documentation or analysis which clarifies the issue and finally 3.) a statement of how I plan to approach the issue in my own writing.  What you select to incorporate into your proof arguments is a personal decision; your choice may be different than mine.

I pause here for a minute to thank Karen Stanbury, my facilitator for Mastering Genealogical Proof (MGP) by Tom Jones.[2] She made the course, taken in late 2013, rigorous and demanding. I utilize daily the information contained in that book and emphasized by Karen. I know that some facilitators were not as rigorous as Karen and that is their loss.

1. Research Question:  The crafting of the research question seems easy at first and then reveals itself to be surprisingly difficult. At times I was struggling with defining exactly what I was trying to “prove.”  Did I want to answer when Mary was born, or her location of birth or who were her parents?  In the end, for this assignment, I decided to focus on the parents because I had the evidence to support that question.
Analysis:  The research question is composed of two parts: a clearly defined and unique individual and a measurable interrogatory. To identify an individual who is “unique in the world,” you must supply enough known descriptors that there is only one person who could satisfy those requirements.  The interrogatory may be relationship (e.g. who are the parents of…), or an identity (e.g. Which Alonzo Fedpussle paying taxes in Whichamacallit County in 1879, was the son of Alphonso Fedpussle?) or an activity (e.g. What military service, if any, did Alonzo Fedpussle, born in 1847 in Whichamacallit County, provide in the Civil War?)  The interrogatory also needs to be measurable.  A question such as “who is John Smith?” fails on two counts.  John Smith is not unique in the world but, in addition, the interrogatory “Who was…” is not measurable; said a different way, how would you know if or when the question of “who was John Smith” had been answered?
How I plan to approach it:  I believe that I understand the concept of the unique individual but I will continue to work on the crafting of the good question.  I am hopeful that writing more PAs will result in more efficient writing.  Reading more articles will help as well.  I struggle most with research questions that are implied in the writing but not specifically stated.

2. Organization: The organization of the writing is very challenging. It’s not that I cannot organize the writing, but rather I have trouble picking the best organization for the question, the evidence and the reader.
Analysis:  I am not sure I see too much written about this.  In MGP Dr. Jones describes how the work must have a beginning, a middle and the end (I work with several people who always start conversations “in the middle.” Irritating, isn’t it?)  I think this is harder for some people than others.  Dr. Jones discusses various constructs for the argument, including single hypothesis, alternative hypotheses, building blocks and syllogisms [3]
How I plan to approach it:  My articles usually use one of these techniques as the prime organizing methodology and then within that structure some or all of the others will be utilized.  It sounds like I know what I am doing but it is still hard to pick the right structure for the evidence you have.  I’ll probably blog about this more later.

3. Inclusion/Exclusion: We want to include all we know. We worked so hard to get all that information and just because it doesn’t support the research question doesn’t mean we should eliminate it, does it? Well, yes, it does. The focus of the writing should be on the research question and all other material which does not support the thesis should be deleted. On the flip side and equally as “wrong” as too much information, is making the paper so “bare bones” that the author forces the reader to make assumptions and “leaps of faith.”  A third type of problem with writing of proof arguments is where the author writes something which “begs the question.”  In the latter, the reader is busy wondering why something wasn’t covered; just the inclusion of a brief discussion would have eliminated the alternative focus by the reader.
Analysis:  Inclusion of other information which does not directly support the question, leads the reader away from the prime focus; the author appears to have wandered off topic. The reader should also not be making assumptions because the writer has failed to include necessary evidence.  This type of writing leaves the reader with questions which interrupt the flow of the reading.
How I plan to approach it:  I actually have the problem of putting in too little information and making leaps of faith, under the guise of “isn’t it self-evident?” My writing improves if I have the opportunity to let it sit for a while before rereading.  I also write the paper and then outline it after the first draft.  I find outlining helps identify errant bits of evidence which do not support the question, but notice — I outline after I have written the draft.  If I have difficulty outlining the paper, the area of writing which needs improvement is immediately identified.

4. Proof Argument/Research Plan?: Some in the class wrote the argument as if it were a research plan. This sometimes looked more like a listing of sources which supported the query.  The author would include all the evidence in a source list/discussion but never pull it together and correlate by contrasting and comparing.  They told the story but seemed more interested in the sources than the proof.
Analysis:  The eleven points of MGP continue to guide us in the writing but everyone needs to improve on this. [4]
How I plan to approach it:  I will continue to read NGSQ and study other articles.  I admit I was amazed how much I had learned in the past two years by reading and rereading these articles.  I am a much better consumer of peer reviewed articles than I was before–it’s a bit scarey!

5. Analysis of sources: Am I the only one who doesn’t want to read about whether that will was original or derivative or the information was primary, secondary or undetermined?  The inclusion of source analysis after source analysis which is not additive to the argument makes for difficult reading.  The author has the responsibility to provide informative citations which tell the reader the viability of the source that was used; it is not necessary to do the analysis in such a visible way.  For all the analysis, the evidence could still be wrong.
Analysis: These citations should make obvious whether the author was looking at an original, derivative or authored work; using primary, secondary or undetermined information and providing direct, indirect or negative evidence.  Only when two sources conflict is it reasonable–it seems to me– to expect the author to discuss the quality of the source and then draw a conclusion.   The inclusion of that analysis can happen in one of three places– in the body of the proof, in the footnote of the proof and outside of the paper altogether. Authors who analyze every source and include their analysis in the narrative, make for difficult reading. Note the fifth bullet of the 11 in MGP, “We discuss sources to a lesser extent, because most information about sources belongs in the citations and footnotes.” [5]
How I plan on approach it:  I leave out most and sometime all references to the categories of my source, information and evidence.  I have a tendency to write about the analysis of the source only when it is in conflict, i.e. does the source analysis make one answer more appropriate than another?

6. Style of writing: Some authors wrote a portion of their article in a very familiar style- first person, present tense.
Analysis: The third bullet of the 11 points in MGP states “present-tense verbs refer to extant sources and living people….(consequently, much genealogical writing is in the past tense.) and the tenth bullet “the tone of a proof argument or summary is that of a “defense” in the academic sense.” [6]
How I plan to to approach it:  I have little difficulty using past tense fairly consistently in my writing but occasionally, a present tense verb sneaks in.  I just have to be aware of the issue and address it at the time of writing.  Generally, my writing is rather academic (read: dry) so the use of the first person does not often enter my writing.

So this was, and continues to be, a great exercise. I have written a few proof arguments now and although I cannot say I am comfortable, the efficiency of writing is better and my initial output is stronger.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: commented on my classmates proof arguments; got the SGS newsletter out to our membership; campaigned to have our society join FGS; purchased, received and deeply skimmed Applied Genealogy by Eugene A. Stratton and Genealogical Evidence by Noel Stevenson. Both are older books but are still the go-to reference for genealogy fundamentals. Also read the ProGen assignment for next month and 4 NGSQ articles (one is related to my BCG case study, one was written by a friend, one is the Q study article for March and one is about a special schedule of the 1880 census where a great grand uncle was enumerated as he was labeled insane. More about this later—I am doing some deep research on the topic of incarceration in an insane asylum in the late 1800’s.)

[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville: Turner Publishing Company, 2014) p. 1-2.

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

[3] Ibid, p. 88-89.

[4] Ibid, p. 90.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Are you on the “should I/should I not” roller coaster?

Lately I have wondered why I am procrastinating about “going on the clock”  and signing up to apply for BCG Certification.  The last few months I have actually thought seriously about not getting certified for a number of reasons, one of which is that I am having too much fun working for the clients I have right now.   This past week I was in Chicago and I spent part of a day with a new genealogy buddy who urged me to apply.   We discussed reasons to apply and reasons that did not support applying. So, I admit I am still waffling but it might be because I am so busy planning the genealogy conference in Illinois in 2.5 weeks.

As I write this I find myself becoming more committed to applying.

The document I am most concerned about is the Case Study. I spent a lot of time on this document a year ago but now find that it does not qualify as a conclusion based on indirect evidence but rather is a proof argument.  So I have to identify another example and write something that complies with the requirements. ( I wonder how many people miss on this issue. I can’t be alone in misinterpreting what they were looking for.) Luckily, I have found another example that might work: a problem raised by Theresa’s Irish project where there are too many Mary Coynes immigrating.

The other piece that will take some time to shape up is the kinship determination project. There is a requirement for two embedded arguments. I did not do that. So, I will have to give that some thought as well.

So, I am going to put that aside and go order pretzels for 150 people. Who knew that Freeport IL was the Pretzel capital?

Let me know if this is a thought process that you struggle/struggled with.  I would be interested in knowing.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since my last post: went to the Newberry Library with my friend and also the Chicago Historical Research Center.  Had a great time researching my own family! Finished up the report for Susan and had a chat with her about it. Both she and Stephanie want books to be published so they can share it with their families. I am now challenged to see if i can do a book in a minimal amount of time and still produce a quality product. The good news is that i have done two of my own and as a consequence i am a lot quicker than i was.  I also worked on Mary’s problem.

How to pick a Client Report? or….don’t do what I did.

You might have numerous client reports available from which to pick.  I didn’t.  My friend and I are trading services….she is making me a quilt and I am researching one of her family lines.  I really like the product I have been working on for her but, I do believe I “bit off more than I can chew!”

This has been a labor of love but it has been intense.  I have been fascinated by her ancestor who fought in some of the bloodiest of Civil War battles, was hospitalized for “malarial fever” and was in Confederate prison for seven months.  I have learned so much about the Civil War!  While I love the project, I think I should have defined the project a lot smaller.  I have two documents:  one a lineage report and the other a graphic narrative.  I loved putting both together.  But I admit I got so “into it” that I am sure I am doing more than what was anticipated.

Nevertheless, I have a few more hours of coordination of the footnotes between the two documents and the attachments and I will feel that I am very very close to being done.  One thing I cannot forget to do is to review the rubrics and make sure I am address each of them (or at least if I think I am.)  Whoo wee!

I am getting eager to work on my other projects such as the kinship determination report.

So, if there is a lesson here, it is to “think small.”  I am sure this is a classic “beginner” pitfall.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  incorporated the pension record material I got from Veteran’s Affairs into the report, standardized all the footnotes in the Narrative, reviewed the lineage report and noted the footnotes that needed adjustment, accepted a position on the SGS Board as publications chair after September 2012, worked on the program for the Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America’s conference in Rockford iL in August, did the registration spreadsheet (we already have 7 people signed up…we usually get ~130.), went to NARA Seattle and checked whether my gggrandfather was on a passenger manifest coming into New Orleans (he wasn’t) and worked on my assignment for class which isn’t due until the end of the term on 15 March.