So a few more things have been finalized that I can now mention publicly.
I have two all-day seminars scheduled this year:
12 August 2017 – Ark-La-Tex, in Shreveport, LA holds an annual conference. This year I am their conference speaker! See this link for details.
7 October 2017 – San Antonio Genealogical and Historical Society, I will be the annual seminar speaker for this group as well. You can find out more information about the seminar here.
The BIG NEWS that I want to share is that I will be a co-coordinator in a course at SLIG in 2018!
I will be teaching a course with Kathryn Lake Hogan, with special appearances by Judy Russell and David Ouimette! The course will cover the Great Lakes region, more than a general survey, and intended to highlight the unique nature of history, records, documents, and methodology surrounding research in the Great Lakes region, both from the U.S. and Canadian sides. Watch for more details on this course coming soon!
The summer is fast approaching! It seems like Christmas was not that long ago. (Don’t tell anyone but I still have a string of Christmas lights hanging on our banister.) Since April is already here, I thought I’d take a moment and share my Summer and Fall travel and speaking schedule with you. Exciting things are on my horizon and I hope to see some of you at one of these events!
September 22-25 – I am attending the APG’s Professional Management Conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I will also be presenting a program on Thursday titled “PERSI Possibilities: Better Research with ACPL’s Periodical Source Index”
October 9 – 14 – I will be one of the lecturers in the course “Crossing the Pond” coordinated by Eric Stroschein at the British Institute sponsored by ISBGF in Salt Lake City.
November 11-13 – I am considering attending the FamilyTree DNA Conference in Houston, but we will see what my budget and energy will allow by then. After writing up this list, this one may have to wait until next time.
November 17 – I will be speaking at the Sun City (TX) Genealogy meeting.
Wow! I’m exhausted just writing this up! Well, that’s what’s in store for me for the rest of the year. I’ve got other projects underway as well. So, if you find yourself near me at any of these events, be sure to say ‘hi’!
One of the most frequent questions I get through my website relates to how I “became” a professional. What educational steps did I take? When did I feel “ready” to take the step beyond being a hobbyist and into the realm of being a professional? I’m always more than happy to offer a few suggestions from my experiences on this path. My path is going to look different than your path, of course. But these are just some of the things I’ve learned along the way and am sharing so that perhaps you can take one less step than I took to get here.
Before you decide to take the plunge, you will need to determine how much time and money have to devote to the educational process. If yours is the main income for your family or situation, your path is going to look a lot different from someone who has the luxury of having a spouse whose income can take care of the family needs. And of course these are two points on the spectrum and everyone’s situation is going to be unique. Examining your time and financial situation will determine which courses, programs, classes, institutes and so on you might consider in the future.
If you want a “fast track” I would look at something like the Boston University program in genealogy or the National Institute of Genealogical Studies where you can earn a PLCGS (Professional Learning Certificate in Genealogical Studies). They have higher price tags up front, but I’ll bet that if I tallied up all of the money I’ve spent on the educational events I have done, their price is probably comparable if not less expensive. My educational funds were spent in smaller increments over many years. Taking a more condensed course like those above will require a larger upfront commitment.
These online courses were not available when I got started. I took a longer, slower road, finding educational opportunities when and where it was convenient. The whole paradigm of online education was not available to me yet and all of these great webinars that are not online… Woah! And even though I have crossed some imaginary line and have “become” a professional, I still partake of any online class, webinar, and study group I can fit into my schedule. A professional never stops learning and should never be so arrogant to think that they can’t learn something new everyday.
If you don’t have as much time and/or funds to put into it at once, you could do something closer to what I’ve done which is to take less expensive but just as effective courses over a longer period of time. This might be more effective if you are needing to remain employed at your “day job” while taking the necessary educational steps toward professional genealogy. I would highly recommend the peer to peer study group “ProGen” based on the book Professional Genealogy. (If you don’t have that book, get it. It is a little outdated, but only a little. All of the principles are still sound and valid. The rumor on the genealogical street is that an updated edition on the way but I have no idea when it might be published.)
Another great way to get an in-depth education is by attending week long institutes. I’ve written some blog posts about these and other relevant topics:
In addition to this I recommend attending every weekend seminar, online webinar, local genealogical society meeting, and any other online or in person study group you can fit in your schedule and budget. Read anything you can on the topic. There is no shortage of reading material when it comes to genealogical study. I have a steady stream of blogs, journals and books that pile up on my desk. I recently saw a quote by Earl Nightingale that claimed if you read one hour per day in your chosen field, you will be an international expert in 5 years. I don’t know if that is true but it makes sense. The more you read the more you learn, boost your analytical thinking, and improve your memory (or so says the internet). I know that if I didn’t read NGSQ articles, I would lack understanding of how to analyze my research findings and how to present it in a coherent proof argument.
Probably the biggest thing that happened to me that caused me to “become” a professional was that nudge from my mentor, nationally known and well-loved Birdie Holsclaw, who told me I could be and I should be doing more with my genealogy. Having someone of that caliber believe in you really is a confidence booster. So, I try to pass those messages on to others in Birdie’s honor: You can do more, you do have something valuable to share, and you can make a difference in someone’s career. It is difficult to find a mentor, I have found that mentoring just kind of happens. But you can leave yourself open to it happening. Volunteer at your local or state society, attend local events, forge genealogical friendships, don’t be shy, and allow yourself to be available to a mentor.
The imaginary line I referred to above, is really just a mental decision that my work was going to meet a higher standard than it had been at before. I would put citations on everything. I would follow the Genealogical Proof Standard. I would adhere to the standards set forth by my colleagues in regard to professionalism in my work, behavior, online presence, writing, and so on. It had nothing to do with taking clients, making money, getting the post nominals, or landing a national speaking gig. It was a mental decision. That’s when I “became” a professional.
I hope these little bits of information help you with your path to becoming a professional. Realize that your journey is different and if even one of these thoughts helps you find your path, then it was worth it.
I recently had a reader ask me how I got started, more specifically, where I took my first genealogy class. So here is a quick summary of my genealogical education.
I have always enjoyed research. In college I was an art major and spent a semester as a research assistant for my art history professor. It was a blast. Also, I was one of those weird kids who was delighted every time a research paper was assigned in class. I love being in libraries and archives and this is probably one of the aspects of genealogy that drew me in.
When my first child was born in 2000, I felt myself losing brain cells. There’s only so much Sesame Street and Bob the Builder one can take in a day before their vocabulary is reduced to one-syllable words. As a stay-at-home mom I needed an outlet, some place where I could hang out with and converse with adults that also had a purpose. I had been dabbling in genealogy for a little while by this point so I found a local genealogical society and joined. (Hi Boulder Genealogical Society!)
A genealogical society usually offers lectures, classes, regional conferences and other people with experience from whom you can ask questions and grow as a genealogist. At the society I attended, I learned about genealogical methods, records, and other topics as well as about conferences and classes I could attend. Shortly after this I attended my first national conference in 2003. A national conference has the benefit of having a lot of lectures to choose from on a large variety of topics. You can also meet other people who are also researching their family history and begin a wider network of genealogists.
As for actual classes, I attended any regional conference that came my way. I begin in the Denver-metro area and there were many active genealogical societies who brought in a lot of high-caliber genealogists. I also began attending week-long institutes that focus on one topic for an entire week. And now I have found many online opportunities such as free or for-pay webinars that I enjoy attending in my sweat-pants and slippers in the comfort of my own home. I wrote a series of blog posts about these institutes which can be read here.
Genealogical conferences, like the recent FGS 2014 conference in San Antonio, are as much about reuniting with far-flung friends and making connections with new ones as they are about the wonderful educational opportunities. Attending the high quality lectures invigorates me, renews my energy for finding ancestors and gives me new insights on projects I’m working on. Plus, I get a chance to visit a city that I’ve most likely never been to before. If you’ve never attended a conference, I encourage you to do it. The next national conference will be the FGS 2015 conference combined with RootsTech in February 2015.
I have the following tips for making good connections at conferences:
Don’t go alone. Plan to attend with a friend who has gone to a conference before, especially if you have never attended one yourself. They can show you the ropes and perhaps introduce you to some folks they’ve become acquainted with, breaking the ice for you.
Attend at least one luncheon. You will have the chance to sit at a meal with other genealogists and make new friends.
Talk to people in the exhibit hall, not only the vendors but also volunteers and other attendees.
Attend unusual lectures. Sometimes I attend lectures that are on topics I have no research projects in. I find I always have a good time and I definitely learn something new. Also, new methods are almost always applicable to any project and get you thinking about your work in a different way.
Go out to dinner with new people. Find a new friend or two (or seven) and go to dinner with them! This is one of the best ways to form new connections and see the city.
Over the years, I have made so many great friends by attending conferences and every time I attend, I make even more! Not only are these friends fun, but they can be very helpful in giving insights into your research, giving opinions on documents, taking classes with online or at institutes, or by sharing your finds with others who are interested. Consider making some new connections at the next conference!
When you begin any new project, you need to understand the geography of the area you are researching. It is possible that it’s an entirely new location, an unfamiliar county or state, and understanding where you are researching can have a profound effect on who you are researching.
My first step is usually to Google the county. I look at it on a map, I look at its entry in Wikipedia and I’ll look at the FamilySearch Wiki to see what’s been written about it. I will do a quick scan of the Ancestry.com card catalog and the Family History Library catalog to see in general what holdings and databases they have available. I will also see if there are any local genealogical societies, historical societies, libraries, archives, courthouses, and so forth. In essence, I create my own locality guide.
Sanders Scroggins and Sarah Dimick lived in Hardin and Gallatin Counties which are in the southern tip of Illinois along the Ohio river. Hardin County was created out of Gallatin County, so some of the records I might need may be in one or the other of those counties. When you are researching a new area, be sure to learn about county formation and boundary changes. Locate a county history to learn more. These are readily available through Google Books, FamilySearch Books, Internet Archive, Hathi Trust or sometimes through local library, university or historical society websites.
The History of Hardin County, Illinois was very helpful in understanding the migration to and from this county on the Ohio River. The area was largely settled by people moving from Tennessee and Kentucky, mostly Irish. Some English and French settlers arrived early on before moving farther west. The book also contains some information on the first pioneers, agriculture, Ohio River transportation, and much more.
Familiarizing yourself with the geography of a new area can help you understand where records might be located and how the people may have traveled. This is an essential first step when undertaking any research in an unfamiliar area.
From the compiled genealogies I mentioned in the previous post, I compiled the following data:
Jeduthan Dimick, 1787-1837 m. Mary Burgoyne
daughter Sarah Dimick, 1819-1884, m. Sanders Scroggins (she was his second wife)
Franklin Dimick, 1823-1885, m. Amanda Clancey
2 other children: Fayette and Mary
Chatten Scroggins, c. 1787 – bet. 1840&50, m. Elizabeth Ledbetter, 1790-aft. 1850
Son Sanders Scroggins, 1816-1893, m. Sarah Dimick (his second wife)
other children: James Lewis, Mary, John, Henry
So, this was what I had to work with to begin my research. The next several posts will go into detail the geography of the area, record types searched, websites used and more.
I needed an Illinois family to research, quickly. I had less than a month to put together a program all about Illinois research. I knew VERY LITTLE about Illinois research. (I am still baffled that I pulled off the program.) Most of my research experience is in Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, Missouri and New Hampshire, with a smattering of stops in other states. I pulled up my database and searched for any individuals who had “IL” or “Illinois” in any of their fields. I found four. 4! Yikes.
It turns out one of those four is a surname I’ve done quite a bit of research on: Dimick. However, this line of the Dimicks is a collateral line that I have spent no time researching until now. The only information I had was from an undocumented (no sources given) compiled genealogy from Dr. Alan Dimick. He has compiled an impressive amount of research on all of the known Dimicks in this country since the 1600s. However, there are very few sources (a few names of contributors now and then) so I can’t be sure how accurate it is. I actually find this situation to be a lot of fun. A compiled genealogy is full of clues and breadcrumbs to be followed. I personally love working with them.
The entry in my database was for a daughter of Jeduthan Dimick, Sarah. Jeduthan is the cousin of my ancestor who moved to Ohio from New Hampshire. His daughter Sarah Dimick, according to this compiled genealogy, married a man named Sanders Scroggins. Sanders Scroggins. I’m sorry, but that name is so rare and odd that I had to take it on. There was also a compiled genealogy on the Scroggins family (the surname was more prevalent than I thought it would be) available online.
With these two compiled genealogies as a starting point, I was on my way. I spent the next couple of weeks learning as much as possible about the geographic area and the individuals as possible using the Internet. As any good researcher will do, I scoured the Internet from the comfort of my home office in my slippers, hot coffee in hand, and learned as much as possible before stepping foot outside and spending one dollar on gas or one minute driving to a repository.
I am continually grateful for the education opportunities that are available to me on the state level, national level and online. I am also thankful for the teachers, educators, lecturers and mentors who give their time to bring those opportunities to me (and everyone else who benefits, too). I know I wouldn’t be where I am today in the field if it hadn’t been for some really excellent examples who have stood at a podium and unleashed their wisdom upon a group of eager students or those who take time to talk to me (and others) personally about genealogy-related topics.
Those who have “gone before” taking the time to teach those of us coming next is one of the best parts of the genealogical community. A big thank you to all of those who have gone before and are “up there” at the podium (or writing books and articles, or teaching webinars, or leading small study groups). You’ve been a great influence on me!
Like the problem of language barriers, literacy (or the lack thereof) likely complicated the census taker’s job. Most of my ancestors, as far as I can tell, had a limited education. Only in the 1900s do I begin to find out that my ancestors went to school. Those that I was able to talk to only went through some elementary or middle school. Their focus was on earning a living, and especially through the Depression era, helping their parents make ends meet. School and education were not a focus in my family until recent times. I have one grandfather who attended Bowling Green State University, but it is unclear if he graduated (WWII happened and he enlisted). Other than that, it’s been my parents’ generation that really began to focus on education.
Keep this in mind when trying to locate your ancestors in the census. While YOU may know how your ancestors spelled their names, sometimes they did not. Take Andrew Slye (father of Leonard Slye, aka Roy Rogers). He is enumerated in the 1920 census as ‘Schlei.’ We can only imagine why. I don’t believe the Slyes had accents since they had been in the country for many generations. Maybe a neighbor gave the information because they weren’t home. Maybe the census taker was foreign-born. Maybe the census taker hadn’t done that well with spelling in school or never went to school. Who knows. The point is, literacy could and did affect the way millions of ancestors were enumerated.
Literacy can be complicated by the previous post, language barriers. Imagine if the census taker had a limited education AND had to try to understand a thick accent! Double trouble.