A Question from a Reader

Slide1A reader recently asked a very interesting question about the Advanced Practicum:

I’m wondering (other than sharpening skills) how a class like this with Polish, German, and a slave research would help me learn better research skills for my emphasis of 17th, 18th & 19th century US records?

This question got me thinking about why I, a person who does almost all my personal research in the 19th century Midwest or overseas, would find Advanced Practicum helpful or even interesting.

The same question came up recently in the January Seattle Genealogical Society Board meeting.  We were discussing the spring seminar where we have invited C. Lynn Andersen to speak.  She is an accredited genealogist with ICAPGen with a specialty in Mid-South States.  If one has no one in their ancestral path that is associated with any of the Mid-South States (VA, WV, KY, TN, MO, SC, NC), why should they attend the seminar?

I believe they should but here are some thoughts.

Just as a refresher, the Advanced Practicum is a class taught at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) from which I returned in mid-January.  We received a different genealogy problem each day for five days to solve.

The problems varied:

  1. identifying multiple generations of women (North Carolina)
  2. sorting out multiple families when the heads of household have the same name (Poland)
  3. identifying the freed slave and his ownership (South Carolina)
  4. identifying the father who abandoned his family. (Pennsylvania)
  5. identifying 3 generations of a maternal line of an immigrant family in the Midwest (Iowa, Germany)

So, …

  • none of the families were “mine”
  • only one was in a geographic area where I regularly work

But, each problem…

  • represented a universal genealogical problem
  • improved my analytical skills , as none of them relied solely on direct evidence
  • exposed me to record sets that otherwise I would not come in contact with.
  • provided interesting “puzzles to solve” which I did with varying success
  • represented a time frame within which I work–19th or 20th centuries
  • and some day I may work in these areas.

I posed the question of why should one attend the SGS Seminar if they did not have people in the Mid-South states to Lynn, our speaker and her answer was not surprising–to learn transferable skills.  And, as she noted, you never know when you will be asked by a friend or a relative to look at their line and find that they came through these states.

So, besides having the fun of solving of puzzles, I recommend attending both the Advanced Practicum and educational events outside your focus area–not because you will find record sets that answer your problems or ethnic groups with which you are familiar but because –you won’t!  But, you will learn problem solving skills and get exposed to other record sets. The skills learned might be the  ones that break your own brick walls.  Oh, and as you work these unrelated problems you might find yourself being able to dispassionately view your own work and identify similar problems in your own family history.

So, if improving your skills is not enough of an incentive, perhaps learning about new records set is or perhaps you have an inquiring mind and just want to know.  All are great reasons to attend seminars outside your research focus or to attend the Advanced Practicum.

But, then again you might find yourself making a different decision, which is OK too.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I recovered from the “SLIG Sickness”–it was an insidious thing.  I have agreed to speak twice at Skagit Valley–a one hour session and an all-day presentation in September.  I have been madly working on two presentations which are incredible time consumers–House Histories (60 hours?) and Scandinavian Research (40+ hours?).  While I love them both, they are both very complex–more so then I was expecting. I also have helped a friend put together her first presentation.  It is interesting the tips you forget that a newbie brings to the surface.


King County WA Court Case Index released!

Guest post by Reiley Kidd


Did you know that SGS has an index to every probate case and divorce record that occurred in King County, Washington from before 1880 through 1980? It’s called the “SGS King County Court Cases Index” or KC3I for short, and it contains over 1.7 million records. Of these, divorces and other end-of marriage cases comprise over 700,000 of the cases, and probate and similar cases account for nearly 300,000 more.

The KC3I was created over a ten year period by a small but resolute group of SGS volunteers, headed by Marilynn Van Hise and Sandie McBride, from over 100 boxes of index cards from the Chicago Title Company, an index of all King County court cases that could potentially affect property rights, and therefore the title to property. In addition to divorce and probate cases, it also includes all King County court cases involving name changes, community property agreements and guardianships. Nearly 80,000 hours of volunteer time went into the creation of the KC3I.

As its name suggests, the KC3I is an index only. It does not contain abstracts or summaries of these cases. A search of this index

  1. informs you if your ancestor is mentioned in one or more cases during this period;
  2. lists the date and a few other details about each case (such as date of marriage or death, wife’s maiden name, etc.), and
  3. provides you with the case number and date of each case.

Once you have the case numbers, you can then obtain the complete case records from the King County Court Clerk’s office.

SGS is adding this unique database to our research offerings, and will charge non-members and professional researchers $5 for each name searched, and $15 more to provide the case numbers for each individual (the Court Clerk’s office charges $30), to help sustain the Society.

For SGS members, the service is free. All you have to do is send the full name, name of spouse and date of death (if known) of the individuals to SGSkc3iLookups@gmail.com or complete the KC3I Search request form at our web site (below).

For more details about the KC3I, visit http://www.seattlegenealogicalsociety.org/kc3i or see the KC3I article in the SGS Fall Bulletin.

Thanks, Reiley for the informaiton.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: worked on three proposals for the Northwest Genealogical conference…I have started thinking about a new lecture on Blogging for Beginners.

OTC: Elgin Watch Works

watch 1(I am sorry–I couldn’t resist the pun!)

How much more “on the clock ” can one be except at the Elgin (IL) Historical Museum–touring the exhibit about the Elgin Watch Factory?  Yes, Elgin watches were made in my genealogical destination of Elgin, Illinois.  I was there not to see the watches and other time pieces or to learn about Elgin Watch Works but like so many of our adventures, we learn something about a topic we had no idea we would be interested in.

I had a special tour of the Historical Museum by William Briska, who wrote the history of the Elgin Watch Factory. While most of our time was spent discussing his other book, The History of the Elgin Mental Health Center, I had a few moments to tour the watch exhibit before going on our road trip out to the asylum.[1]

Elgin Watch Works produced its first movement in Elgin in 1867.   Individual Elgin watch models were known by a name much like automobiles are now.  These high end timepieces were often made of gold and msot were pocket watches.  Later, the wristband type were made.  A single watch could take months to make and the machinists who made them were more artists than craftspeople. [2] Notice the photo.  This is clearly a woman’s timepiece. embedded in a cigarette case of mother of pearl and gold. It brings visions to me of a “Great Gatsby” type of a setting.  I would feel glamorous just holding it!

In the months ahead I will be highlighting some of the beautiful watches and timepieces designed and created in Elgin, Illinois.  Most timepieces I will show are ones that are on display in the museum as I explore the process of being “on the clock” or OTC.  The inclusion of a timepiece in the blog posting will let you know that the article is about being “on the clock”.  Like my work product right now, not all timepieces will be glamorous; some are down-right “homely.”

I am also glad to report that the attitude of giving back to the community is still strong in Elgin and is manifested in the persona of William Briska. William rattled off six, seven, -or was it eight? — different organizations that he actively supports with his time and talents. He is the type of guy  every organization wants as a member and every town wants as a citizen.

Thanks, Bill. It was truly a pleasure to meet you and one I will remember for a long time, including the BLT at Al’s-I owe you lunch!

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  This posting sat while I became totally engrossed in the conference planning for the OGSA Family Reunion, a genealogy conference for Ostfriesens.  We had 130 attendees from across the country and Germany.  The 3.5 day conference culminated in a banquet with party hats and clappers!  I have done no BCG work this past month.  I got out the SGS newsletter to the proofreaders.  I print next weekend.  Then I start work on a major article for the SGS Bulletin which prints in November.  I had better start carving out time for the BCG or I will get caught up in that renewal thing-y!  I did write a note to Nicki of BCG with a question about what constitutes “publishing” per the Application Manual’s directive that you cannot use something that has been published previously unless you use it as it was submitted.

[1] The Museum is housed in an 1856 landmark building known as Old Main that was once part of the Elgin Academy. The docents there will, for a fee, assess the historic value of your Elgin watch. So, check them out if you have that old watch in the box you do not know what to do with.  http://www.elginhistory.org/museum.html

[2] Kevin James, The Watch Guy (http://thewatchguy.homestead.com/pages/ELGIN.html : accessed 23 August 2014), “Elgin Watch Works.”

The maturing of the citation writer–which one are you?

What I observe:

  • Genealogy newbies: Do no citations because they will remember.
  • Genealogy beginners: Know they won’t remember and cite only so they can find the source again–a dashed off note is good enough.  If they refer to a style guide, they look for the exact citation  and copy what they see.  If there is no example that addresses the exact situation, there is a frustration directed towards the failings of the author of the style guide.
  • Genealogy intermediates: Look to the style manual to see what citation form might be closest. If they don’t find it, they try to incorporate the information of the source in the best location. Some frustration with the style manual but figures that it’s “good enough.”
  • Genealogy experts: Identify the focus of what is being cited; design the citation while empathizing with the reader and how they may perceive the citation.  Think about the research question and what is the emphasis of the item being cited and how that impacts the citation. Refer to the style manual for overall form and as a checklist for order and content. Also understand that they are telling the reader a story in the subtext–the story of the quality of the sources and the extent of the search through the variety of sources studied. When reading quality journals will often read the citations first to understand the subtext story.

Which are you?

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  finished reading Genealogical Evidence by Noel Stevenson and ordered the book, got my flight information for Richmond, reading my newly arrived Genealogy Standards; posted the blog about gender and genealogy, worked on my ProGen assignment (Proof Argument, draft #1) and the SGS newsletter a bit (it’s my weekend project), pet the cat and watched the Olympics (dare I say it–I am finding them a bit boring). Am investigating a Udacity course called “Build your Start-up,” a MOOC about starting your business.  It’s free and self paced.  ProGen will be done in the summer and I might start it in the Fall.  It would be fun to do it as a small group.

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!


Research Plans! I have become a believer.

This past month the ProGen class has been working on Research Plans.  I got mine written and along the way I learned a lot about why people write them and their value.

I have not been a fan of research plans.  Recently I posted about them:


…and I received some great comments from Yvette!  Thank you.  Her comments illustrated how (and why) a research plan for a client is helpful.  In discussions with others in the class, a second scenario was presented.  One of the class members uses a very short (one page or less) research plan every time she is researching problem A and she runs into problem B.  Problem B could totally divert her from working on problem A. Instead, she quickly writes a research plan on problem B and move back to Problem A.  She stated sometimes she ends up with quite a stack of problem statements/research plans but at least she knows where the gaps are.

Pretty cool and probably obvious to many!  I have no clear system for tracking identified problems but ones that cannot be addressed at the moment.  This seems like a reasonable way to do it.

One of the common issues with the research plans of the class is that they ended up writing more of a report and less of a plan.  They incorporated the implementation of the plan as part of the plan.  It seems to me that  “A Plan” is strictly that….what you will do in the future to address the problem.  Even BCG when it requests the research plan, restricts it to one page (part of the document work segment.) Many of the commenters suggested alternative sources and places to look.  While this was helpful it didn’t address the effectiveness of the structure of the plan itself.  The lesson for me was to see how quickly I could write a research plan–the quicker I write them then the more likely I am to write many more.  I need to keep refining the process and worry less about the product.  I also learned that one type of problem, say document retrieval, might not elicit the need for a plan and others might vary in what is needed to include.

So if you care to look (and comment) here is my revised class submission:

2013 0327 research plan

(The client, whose name has been changed, approved the inclusion of this in my blog.)

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  submitted my assignment (took comments and revised it accordingly and that is what is posted here), participated in the group critique, got out a SGS newsletter (painfully), attended SGS Board meeting, got 2 more clients (!), got a request to present my Civil War Prisons presentation to SGS (end of April) and to present at the fall seminar. I also started researching doing house histories (I will blog about that soon), read Inheritance in America: from Colonial Times to the Present by Shammas (I’ll blog about that as well), skimmed The Law of Sexual Discrimination by Lindgren, and am in the midst of reading Visiting the Courthouse.  I found that my great grand uncle purchased a parcel of land using the Timber Culture Act, which I had never heard of; that’s a blog topic for the future as well.  I am starting the layout of the Spring SGS Bulletin, which must be published by the end of the month.  Whew!  It’s an over achiever month.

What is in your library? And, what is missing?

I am making an assessment of my genealogical holdings.  I am surprised as how many publications, in this day of google books etc, i have on my shelves.  And, I admit, I am glad I do!

I have:

  • 38 reference books: these are books of background for my various ethnic groups, e.g. Ostfriesen, Swedish, or are church anniversary books, The Handybook, How to books.
  • 12 books related to specific families: the two books I wrote, “Dear Ones” (Heikens), Siemens, Groenveld, Wientjes
  • 8 narrative books: narrative non-fiction, e.g. The Children’s Blizzard, We Will Go to a New Land
  • 2 census books (German): Kopfschatzung 1757 and Kopf-Schatzung 1719.
  • 14 Ortsippenbüchen (OSB) or Familienbücken (compilation of BMDB in parish by family): e.g. Loquard, Uphusen, Wybelsum etc.
  • 3 others: 3 books that just do not fit in the groups above.

I also subscribe to Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America (OGSA) newsletter (4 times a year) since 2003, NGS Quarterly (2x per year) since 2011, NGS Magazine (4x per year) since 2011. APG Quarterly since 2012 and Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS) Quarterly since 2012.

The assessment was pretty easy to do as I have for years had an app on my phone called Booklist.  I first bought it to keep track of the fiction books I was reading, but in the end the app wasn’t what I wanted and was better for a static list, like a library.  So I stopped using is as a book “journal” and instead made it be my library list.  This has worked great because I don’t buy books, especially OSBs that I already own! Aand they are very price-y!  I do not think that it is a great app and I am sure there are better ones out there. (Now I have to figure out how to download the list of the books off the app for ProGen!)

But, what am I missing or what did I wish I had more of?

I have very few context books/materials on Sweden and Denmark.  These would be of the type that provide the window into the life of my ancestors when they lived in Sweden and Denmark.  I also would like to expand my holdings for those ethnic groups other than my own, e.g. Ireland, England, Canada etc.

So, have you done an assessment of your holdings?  What are you missing?  Perhaps you have a birthday coming up and can drop some hints!  Can you give me some recommendations?  How do you keep track of your library?

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  read a couple more chapters of Evidence Explained!, revisited the SGS Writing Guidelines and resubmitted for review, wrote the Publication Guidelines and distributed the document; wrote to all the potential authors for the next SGS Bulletin to remind them of the deadline for draft submission; commented on the submissions of the mission statement and the citations and I am preparing for our second cohort  discussion next Tuesday for the ProGen class. started reading the latest NGS Magazine (somehow I missed it when it first came out.)