Thursday, June 27, 2013

4 Tips For Proving Your Family Tree

BCG Kinship Determination Project
Last week I revealed the start of a new phase in my genealogical endeavors...BCG Certification. This is a one year project whereby I assemble seven parts of a portfolio, and submit it to be judged for professional credentials. My deadline for submission is 
May 30, 2014.

I suppose some or even most people might prepare each section of the portfolio consecutively: 
  1. Genealogist's Code
  2. Background Resume
  3. BCG Supplied Document Work
  4. Applicant Supplied Document Work
  5. Research Report Prepared for a Client
  6. Case Study: Conflicting or Indirect Evidence
  7. Kinship-Determination Project.
However, the combination of management multi-tasking skills and ADHD make for the perfect solution of thinking and planning for all seven categories at once, while making strides on the one part of the process I believe to be most demanding and time consuming...the kinship-determination project.

Tip #1: Organize, organize, organize
Since I've been compiling sources for my husband's family tree since 2005 and have relocated several times during that period, I have tried to (at least I thought I did) file my documents carefully in binders by family groups. But when I began checking each fact in my family tree database, I discovered that not every document was in its proper place. So, the first tip is to organize all paper documents according to family groups as soon as you print them. This saves you from the hassle of hunting them up and wasting precious time on your project.

Tip #2: Scan, upload & attach you've organized all those photocopies and printed documents into your paper file system. Now what?! The next thing you should do is scan existing paper documents, or download digital documents; and then, upload & attach them to the individuals in your family tree database. This makes life so much easier when working on your proofs.

Tip #3: Make research notes
Alright. Everything is now in its proper place. Now what? What do you do with all those vital records, census sheets, land deeds, wills and probate documents now that they're attached? Is that it? Not quite. The next step is to abstract & analyze the facts. Do your documents really prove your conclusions? I discovered that I had written down a date of death for one ancestor, but because I didn't make any notes at the time I entered the data, I couldn't remember how I came to that conclusion. And after looking at all the records I had in front of me, there were still some missing pieces to the proof puzzle. A good place to put these notes is in the research notes section for that individual in your database. 

Tip #4: Enter complete source info
There's not much worse than trying to remember where you got that fact seven or ten years ago! While my usual practice is to put printed documents in a sleeve protector affixed with a label, including: 
  • Author(s)
  • Title
  • Publisher, place & date
  • Volume & page number
  • Repository
  • Date found
...there have been instances where I was in a hurry, as when printing obituaries from microfilm at a library when on vacation.... In some of those cases I may have put all the pages into an envelope marked with some crude penciled-in notes, i.e. the reel #, newspaper & date...or maybe not...and later on, the more those documents got handled the more likely I was to lay them aside and forget about performing the steps above. Days, months or even years later I now find myself questioning:
Now why did I get this document? Where does it belong?
So, the best way to avoid trouble is to carefully write the bibliographic info onto the back of each document as soon as you print it, and then follow the above steps at your earliest convenience.

You may think you have a pretty well proven family tree, but if your relationships and events are not fully documented, abstracted, analyzed and sourced, you may run into problems down the branch!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What It Means To Be "On The Clock"

I've been silent for a couple months, but not still.

So much has happened since the Family History Writing Challenge this past February! I had continued to work on my family history memoir for most of April and into the first part of May. Then, suddenly, I hit an emotional road block....

Writers need to keep on reading
Available at

During that time I read Joyce Carol Oates', We Were the Mulvaneys. At the start of the book, I had just subscribed to Suzanne Windsor Freeman's blog, write it sideways: Writing advice from a fresh perspective, and received her free Resource Wrap-Up, Read Better, Write Better Novel Study Workbook for Aspiring Novelists. 

I printed out the template: but since most of my reading time is during lunch breaks at work, I found it difficult to follow through with the workbook pages.

I did, however, keep in mind some of the elements Suzanne encourages writers/readers to think about as they read.

The book details the affects of a traumatic event in the life of Marianne Mulvaney upon herself and her parents and siblings. While reading, the one element that became more apparent was the author's  narrative voice, which could be described as an alternating point of view, vacillating between the first-person character voice of Judd, and third person omniscient.

In that way, Oates was able to tell the story from the brother/son's perspective and still be able to fill in the gaps with scenes of how the event affected the others. This was the first time I have ever read a book whereby the author did not use the same narrative voice throughout; and, in this case it proved most effective.

A gentle "nudge"
In early June, Yvette Porter Moore gave me a little nudge regarding applying for professional certification through Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG).

At first I thought...

I don't want to be a professional genealogist. After my experience with owning a sole proprietorship, I don't want to go through that again...
But then I began to think of it as the first piece of my 5-year plan. When I had tried to apply for graduate school in the past, I could not get the required two or three professors or colleagues who were familiar with my work to write letters of recommendation for my application package.

Since I graduated with the class of 1983, most of my professors who remembered me from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst were deceased...the sole surviving writing professor who acknowledged my work I dared not ask since I am yet unpublished.

And of the professors at Houghton College, none <sadly> remembered me....a small school, yet lost as a fish in the vast sea of academia. Even sadder yet was the fact that those who had remembered me from UMASS/Amherst had only had me as a student in one (1) class. Imagine that!

So, the question of certification changed from that of working as a professional genealogist to one of making current connections through submitting a professional portfolio to those who might one day write a letter of recommendation to a graduate school offering a dual Masters degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS) and Public Records and Archives Management.

The Five-Year Plan
With a new hopeful perspective, I devised this rigorous, yet realistic plan toward reaching my goal:

  1. BCG Certification,
  2. study for and take the Graduate Records Exam (GRE), 
  3. apply for and complete a dual Masters degree in the areas listed above, and finally,
  4. change careers from Deli Manager to the start of a whole new career in research/writing/records management.

On the Clock...
On June 12th my Facebook status read:
I'm so excited! Just received my Category Application packet from Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) in the mail today! Took a look at the document they supplied and am even MORE psyched! which my husband replied...
most effective if you view the clip while reading the the comment below)

 "The 5-year plan... to explore strange new (genealogical) worlds, to seek out new life (information) and new (formerly unknown) civilizations (cultures)... to boldly go (inquire and discover) where no man (or woman genealogist) has gone before... FAMILY TREK!!! I'm sorry folks... I couldn't resist (must have been those BORG ancestors).

By May 30, 2014 I expect to have submitted my BCG portfolio and then or shortly thereafter to have received professional certification....the completion of step one in the five-year plan.

What you can expect to see on the blog...
With a new focus and determination, you can expect to see some new things as I share the process of assembling a professional genealogical portfolio...although I will not be able to share any specifics of my BCG presentation.

You can also expect to see a continuation of the series: The Civil War Pension File of Isaac Carter, as well as side-notes for the continuation of The Family History Memoir on Adventures of Family History Writing, and more commentaries on sources at The Bizzy Bee's Family History Journal.

So, I invite you to follow me as I share with you the progress of a whole new season in the life of this family historian.