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.


What Kind of an Historian Are You?

As you may know I am coming off an intensive month of conference planning for the 2014 OGSA (Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America) Family Reunion.  The conference culminates in a banquet where we honor our attendees and volunteers for the year.  This year I volunteered to present some thoughts to the group as a whole.  They are presented here in almost the way it was presented.

Comments to the 2014 Ostfriesen Genealogical Society Annual Conference Banquet

Delivered 6 August 2014;  based on the book The Methods and Skills of History: A Practical Guide by Conal Furay and Michael J. Salevouris.


What kind of historian are you?

What is your reason for being at this conference? …to have access to the Ostfriesen Library collection? …to meet with Ostfriesen friends? …to learn something new about Ostfriesen culture or genealogy? Each of us attended this conference for different but similar reasons–but ultimately to deepen our understanding of our ancestors and their Ostfriesen culture and customs.

The ties that bring us together every two years are strong as we make new and renew friendships. I hope that you have met some new Ostfriesens these past few days–I know I have, but what ties us together in-between conferences is our common love, some times obsessive passion for, the deeper understanding of our ancestors. It is our sense of that historical string that ties us, not in a genetic sense although that is real, to those who came before us.  And like us our descendents will continue the connection. It is by understanding the customs and traditions of the past that we understand better the discussions of today.

This makes us not just genealogists but historians.

But, what kind of historian are you?

Remember when you were in high school and you took history tests? My goal was to memorize the dates and places and be able to give a sentence (at most) about why that event was important. But the “whys” were just another fact to memorize. I did history because I had to.

Think of that as a Stage 1 Historian. Is that you today? A genealogist at this Stage would gather the dates and places to fill out the pedigree chart and be done.

Or, are you a Stage 2 Historian–one who sees that history of your ancestors, and of the events that shaped their lives, as a sequence of events over time. You are beginning to see how your ancestors might have been influenced by history. But, ultimately you wish the historians would just decide on what happened when and tell us! I mean, certainly there is only one version of history and they should just teach it. And can’t it all be reduced to a tidy timeline?

The genealogist at this stage will record the facts but also realizes that other documents may be of interest and seeks them out. They are interested in those court cases where one brother sued another or what the experience was as a Civil War soldier. but interpretation of those events is seen as just too much speculation and not worthy of deep thought. A genealogist sees that they have information that conflicts but doesn’t quite know what to do with it.

A Stage 3 Historian instead sees history as a complex conglomeration of events and is so complex that you cannot see where to begin to make sense of it. At Stage 3, we now understand that history can be taught with an economic overlay, or focused on religion or on the societal impacts–and they all may be right–and all different. History certainly isn’t like the mathematics or chemistry where there are theorems and those theorems are not broken.

This stage is interesting because we, as genealogists, are more confused and feel like we lack more knowledge than we did in the previous two stages. In other words–we now know what we don’t know–and it’s intimidating. But, we also now are starting to understand how macro history issues can directly influence the decision making of our ancestors–or our personal microhistory.

We see that there are different points of view and each historian is conveying a unique point of view. We are starting to be critical thinkers and have what I call, the ability to do “mindful analysis.” We start to unravel and re-assemble those conflicts and see that we can identify errors in documents and understand why they may have been made.

But, there is a Stage 4, — where we start to see that the historian is interpreting history in their own writings. The writer-historian picks some things to write about and discards others; sees that some events are more meaningful than others. He then interprets those events into the context of the time and the decision making of people of long ago.

At this conference, we have had the luxury of hearing about the fate of the poor, and the Dutch emigrants of the 16th century while sitting in the comfort of a nice hotel in Minnesota—will that 16th century perspective change how we feel now about the poor and the immigrants of the 21st? Should it? Will we read our newspapers with a question that asks—”I wonder what the writer is not telling us?”—as we now know that this question is just as important as reading what he IS telling us.

Our understanding of our ancestors and the events that shaped the decisions they made is deepened by the swirl of historic events around them just as we, too are being shaped by the events which swirl around us.

This year I challenge you to write some portion of your personal story or to write about your ancestors. There is no single act you can do that will influence your microhistory for your descendants than that simple act. In the process, I guarantee, you will move from one stage to the next on your own genealogical, –and yes, your personal historical journey.

The question really is not “What kind of an historian you are?” but rather “What kind of an historian do you want to become?”

A Diversion– the Professional Management Conference in SLC

This week, starting yesterday (Friday), I have been attending the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) Professional Management conference and it has been a blast!  I have been meeting old friends and new, doing a little research in the FHL  and attending sessions oriented towards becoming a better genealogical business person, however one may define it.

Some highlights include:

  • Seeing my friend Karen Stanbery from Chicago who was also my Mastering Genealogical Proof mentor
  • Interviewing Jeanne Bloom who will be the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Spring Seminar speaker for our newsletter.
  • Attending a session by Angela Packer McGhie on building a genealogical business plan– our ProGen assignment for this month
  • Hearing (and subsequently talking to) Harold Henderson discuss the road to his NGSQ article.  A personal goal of mine is to submit and have printed an article in the Q.  It was also a thrill when HH complimented my blog.
  • Meeting Barry Kline, a member of my ProGen group and mutual attendee next week in Tom Jones’s Advanced Methodologies class. I have also met about eight others that will be in the class as well . (I am told to buy groceries because there will not be enough time to eat!)
  • Hearing Josh Taylor talk about his experiences with working with corporate clients and how that differs from working with single clients.  Josh will be the speaker at the Washington State Genealogical Conference in August in Arlington.
  • Meeting and talking with Jay Fonkert, who will be a speaker at  the Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America (OGSA) conference I am chairing.
  • Meeting new friends including Mary, a researcher who specializes in Italian research; Anne, a Wisconsin genealogist; Margaret, a blog contributor and on and on and on….

Great fun but I must pace myself–Advanced Methodologies is next week!

Happy Hunting!


How does one revigorate certification?

I am not sure what “switch was flipped” but in the past few weeks I have been totally reinvigorated about certification.  Maybe what happened is I passed through the typical stages…you know them:

"light at the end of the tunnel"

“light at the end of the tunnel”

Stage 1:  I don’t know what I don’t know:  This led to an overconfidence of my abilities and made certification seem easily within reach.

Stage 2: I know what I don’t know:  This was the scary time, especially at the beginning.  It was a time when it seemed like there was so much to know that I couldn’t possibly ever be qualified to be certified, much less write the portfolio for submission.

Stage 3:  I know what I know.  I am not at this stage yet. I definitely feel like I am in the middle of Stage 2 but “feel like” I can see the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

So, what pulled me out of this crisis of conscience?  Action! Taking the ProGen course helped a lot. (I am on lesson 8 of 19) and holding my own.  In one week I will start start the 8 week course based on Mastering Genealogical Proof by Tom Jones and mentored by Karen Stanbury.  In January I will be attending the Salt Lake Institute for Genealogy’s class Advanced Methodologies taught by Tom Jones.  I am looking forward to all of these opportunities to improve my skills.

But, those are looking forward…ie. they are the “light at the end of the tunnel.”  What has happened that has made me get to the point where I can even see the light?  (at some point this metaphor will run its course!).  There were a number of things.

The article on Grietje Wientjes and her sister Eda being accepted in the Illinois State Genealogy Quarterly was definitely an ego boost when I really needed it.  I also had a long talk with the Publications Editor of the Quarterly and her issues were my issues for the SGS Bulletin…..I think the various publications chairs would be a very supportive community if we could tap into it in a more organized way.  She, too, was taking ProGen, so we had much to talk about.  In addition, I received a very nice note from Judy Russell (The Legal Genealogist) who was very supportive of what I had written and who encouraged me to apply.

I am working very hard at ProGen and really want to bring my “A-game” to the group.  There seems to be 3 or 4 of us in our cohort that have these same goals.  We work hard, critique using BCG standards and just “take it.”  It’s working.

I have started writing the Case Study….I realized that I was making the determination of the problem too hard.  I thought I didn’t have any unresolved issues (Stage 1) but as soon as I got a good (better?) handle on the Genealogical Process Map I realized that every relationship qualifies, it’s just that some are more challenging than others.  I picked one with conflicting direct evidence and I am writing, writing, writing.

While I haven’t decided for sure which of my family lines to use for the Kinship Determination Project. I have several good ones I could use, even after publishing Grietje Wientjes.  While I could extract her section from my submission exactly, I think that I will probably not do that.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  Prepped for my MGP class, writing a great blog on Mrs. Frank Bunce (d. 1881) which will not be posted until January (you’ll know why when you read the posting.), cleaned my office because of my aunt’s visit,  reading about Swedish emigration/immigration, trying to find any published materials other than OGSA’s on the Ostfriesens (not finding anything), sewed 6 cute linen tops–with adorable buttons.  Attended a conference in San Diego for my “day job”.  started getting ready for a speaking gig for SGS on self publishing (note: the 210 hardbound books arrived just in time for the big event for my client–woo hoo!) ,  worked with Puget Sound Association of Professional Genealogists to determine the viability of submitting a program to UW continuing education which would revamp the program.  It will be presented tomorrow.  Played golf with hubby.

What is “Plan B”?

….especially when you decide to abandon “Plan A?”

Plan A: Use my friend’s request to trace her Norwegian Civil War ancestor as my project for the Client Report.

Plan B: Do another (how many?) client report instead.

Michael Hait made the observation after the last blog posting that I should instead do lots of client reports and pick the best one.  This was instead of submitting the first one I did.  He thought that the improvement in the reports is observable and I would see that as well.  I fought this idea for this past week but have now come to the conclusion that he is right, not only for the reasons he gave but for a couple others as well.

So, here is the thought process I went through:

I love what I have done for Mary.  I think she will be very excited when she sees it.  Of course, I did not want to “abandon” all that work, but then I realized I was trying to have the report do “too many things”….it was 1.) my friend’s request, 2.) a class project AND  3.) the Client Report.  I needed to give up on at least one of those three and it couldn’t be the first.  I then toyed with the idea of starting another class project, which if I worked very hard I could do.  The problem?  The topic I was thinking about required obtaining a lot of InterLibrary Loan sources which may or may not arrive in time for the paper.  I could pick a different topic/person for the class project, but I didn’t feel like there was anyone that really captured my imagination.  So, I looked at the Client Report…..

Dispassionate assessment: The project was getting too complicated for a Client Report.  I now think that being much simpler is a better approach for this report.  The point is to show the level of professionalism of the author.  (of course, more than that, but you get what I mean.) I love the report but perhaps that was getting in “the way.”

I went back to my original list of options I had:

  1. spend X number of hours to identify the occupants of Beshotenweg, a street between Weener and Bunde in Ostfriesland, Germany.  The pastor recorded the house number of each family as he recorded a birth, death or marriage.  Eventually, it would be very cool to trace their movements in and out of the street.  My gggrandmother was born and lived on that street.
  2. spend X number of hours assisting in the development of the family book for German Valley, IL.  This is a monumental task that is being taken on by the Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America (OGSA), but in all honesty, it is about completed.  I think there is little opportunity for this one.
  3. I am sure there is a person who would like some portion of their family traced.

It is probable this will delay the submission.  If the new Client Report delays the submission by more than a month then I am in conflict with the conference I am planning.  If that is the case, the submission wouldn’t occur until after September of this year.  But, that’s OK.

That’s what I am thinking about today. A setback, by one definition, a new learning curve by another.  Did I think it would be smooth?

Happy Hunting!


Things I have done since the last post:  worked on the conference (program, budget, respond to requests for information, publicity), assumed management of our Class web site for the instructor, worked on my class assignments for March 15 and (albeit slowly) worked through what to do with the Client Report that I have done.

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.

Do you have any genealogy resolutions?

First of all, I want to thank each of you for subscribing to this blog.  I am not an “expert” at anything but I have an inquiring mind that leans towards the concept of seeing whether information gathered for other uses can be applied to genealogy.  This sometimes leads to exciting discoveries; and sometimes it does not. I believe that blogging is more about the journey than the destination and that’s why my small attempt at becoming certified seems to be a reasonable topic.  Genealogical content is better left to others in less ephemeral locations/media.

My genealogy resolutions unfortunately look more like a “to do” list:

1.  Have a successful OGSA conference in Rockford IL in August….just 8 short months away!  (I am chair.)

2.  Apply and submit for certification (apply in May, do supplied document in June, submit in, say July)

3.  Attend NGS conference in Cincinnati (would love to meet up with any of you if you are going to attend)

4.  Clean out 25% of my genealogy e-mails (of which I have 1000’s)

5.  File/record the 4″ of “stuff” I have never found a home for.  Some people have transfiles full of paper they need to file.  I do not.  But, that 4″ has been there for about 6 years.

6.  Schedule some event with my husband once a month…a play, a concert, an outdoor festival…something.

That’s it.  What do yours look like?

Happy 2012!


What I have done since the last post:  written up the oral history interview narrative and sent to my friend, written up the class assignment (only to find out it isn’t due until the first part of April!), checked out some of the other blogs about genealogy that are out there.  If you haven’t done that you might want to check out geneablogger.