Sunday, January 28, 2018

It Is More Than Recording Names and Dates

What do you know about your ancestors? You may have documented births, marriages and deaths, but do you know who they were? Where they lived? Where they came from? What were the economics and demographics of their time and place?

These are questions that often could not be easily answered in years gone by. Today’s technology helps us find those answers.

In James Tanner’s recent blog post Where is Genealogy Technologically-wise?, he begins by discussing the history of genealogy and the limitations imposed by the technology of the times. Early researchers often were lucky if they could find names and dates. But the evolution of technology is giving us access to unprecedented amounts of information.


What excites me and inspired this post was having such a revered genealogist remind us all that our ancestors were real people about whom we can learn more than just names and dates. He encourages us to take full advantage of technology. With his permission, I present the second part of that post. (See the link above to read the entire post.)


Genealogy involves several skills that draw on several areas of academic expertise. If you look at the common divisions of academia as reflected in university catalogs, you would see that genealogy involves many different areas. These include some of the following disciplines:

·                     History
·                     Languages
·                     Library Science
·                     Geography
·                     Economics

If we break away from thinking of genealogy as a trivial hobby of filling out forms, we begin to see the limitations of constraining our records to electronic representations of paper forms. Rather than "attaching a source or memory" about a person, what if we begin with a narrative? Rather than being presented by a program with a series of blank fields, what if we were guided by a series of questions about the person's life? Let's suppose the computer program started out like this:

What do you know about your father (mother, aunt, uncle, etc.)? Where was your (relative) born? Who were the members of his or her family? Do you have any photos or stories you can remember about this relative? We have found a U.S. Census record that seems to have information about your (ancestor). What do you see in this record that might help add information about this person or family? Here is a timeline of the time when your ancestor lived? Do you know where the ancestor lived?

In other words, we break out of the shackles of the paper-based view of genealogy and start putting the information into a historical context and do this by begging (sic) a narrative. What do we end up with? Essentially a website dedicated to a family with links and photos and stories.

At the same time, we could add in some artificial intelligence that could begin to correct the information entered. For example, an extensive expansion of the error messages now generated by some programs.

The interesting thing is that all this is now available. Rather than providing a confusing pile of information, how about using the computers to organize, help evaluate and record the information in a way that leads us through the process rather than requiring years of experience to get

Thank you, James for encouraging us to expand our scope.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Genealogy as a Political Tool

Let me state from the beginning that I will not express an opinion on this topic.  I do find it interesting that Jennifer Mendelsohn has combined two of her passions; one fueling the other.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Research Shape-up for 2018

How am I going to get my research and goals shaped-up for 2018? I am joining Elizabeth O’Neal’s January Genealogy Blog Party to try to set some goals for this year.

My list of long-term projects has gotten a lot of revision and adjusted priorities.  There are some video stories I hope to do but they’ve been lowered in priority.  Other projects got bumped up on the list.

My main focus, for now, will concentrate on the US. Via Mondays With Myrt, I learned of Val Greenwood’s latest edition of The Researcher’sGuide to American Genealogy. Santa Claus (my daughter) gave me a copy; and now I’m ready to start learning more about the few ancestors who’ve been in the US since before the mid-nineteenth century. 

There are also recently discovered distant relatives who immigrated from Poland in the 19th century and settled in parts of the US that I know nothing about. Its time to learn more about resources in Buffalo and in Pittsburgh.

The list never gets shorter, does it?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Bullet Journal: Fad or Useful Tool?

It was just over a year ago when Bullet Journals were all the rage. I wonder how many folks who jumped on that bandwagon have since fallen off.

A bullet journal is a concise way of keeping track of your plans and activities. It is not a wordy discussion of your daily life.  In its simplest form it consists of a To Do list accompanied by a Done list. I won’t try to explain it here but here are some descriptive sites:  and this post on BuzzFeed.

For some, it becomes a project in itself with expensive notebooks, fancy paper, and embellishments on every page.  You can spend a ton of money creating one.  Do a Google search on bullet journal and you’ll find images of extravagant notebooks, a how-to video, and lots of other relevant sites.  You can read very complex methods including daily log, monthly log, future log, and an index.  You can follow every aspect of your life.

Mine is much simpler, and its simplicity is what makes it work for me. My bullet journal is solely for genealogy – my personal projects and my job as Education Committee Chair for Indian River Genealogy Society  My total investment was for a vinyl 3-ring binder, paper to fill it, and a pack of tabbed dividers. It doesn’t need to be elegant, it just needs to be useful. I’ve whittled the recommended features down to 3 items.

Projects is a prioritized list of things I’d like to accomplish, both short and long term.

Future Log is a list of projects for the near future – one sheet.

Monthly Log includes a calendar for the month, things I need / want to do this month, and a daily log of what I’ve done.  One or two lines at most.

If you haven’t tried this method of keeping track, I suggest that you give it try.

Whether you make yours very complex

Or simple as mine, it can be a very useful tool