Archive for January, 2013

January 29th, 2013

Citing Genealogy Resources, Does it Really Matter?

I remember when I was in school and preparing term papers, I was required to prepare a bibliography of my source materials. I also had to include footnotes and endnotes for individual references to facts or quotes. Little did I know at the time, but that was great training for my genealogy research! It is however the scholarly way to document research, as it provides details that the reader or subsequent researchers can use to retrace your work.

When you are collecting information for your genealogy research such as evidence, pictures, documents, or other materials, it is essential to record where you found them. Not only does this provide you with a record, but it helps other researchers to retrace your steps and find the material you used so that they can examine it personally. This helps them to locate important data that they may need for their own project, and provides you with a back-up system for verifying your data.

Everyone interprets data differently. The fact that you might be looking for different information influences the way you interpret the data you find along the way and how you apply it to your own family history. An ancestor’s name that may be insignificant to you could be the missing link another researcher is looking for in their own family history.

If you are not sure how to apply or format citations, you can easily find some listed in any historical book, especially biographies or books covering historical events. Genealogy citations follow the same format as books, journals, magazines, and other printed materials, so copying their format is acceptable. No matter what structure your citation follows, one thing that is extremely important is that it contains the essential data. As long as another researcher can use the information you have listed to locate a record or other data they need, they won’t care about the format it is presented in.

So that you can see how easy it is to include citations, I’ll demonstrate a few popular ones for you. Printed materials make up a sizable portion of what we may need to cite, so I’ll show a common method of citing a reference to a book. You may notice when you are reading some reference books that there are small numbers listed next to particular words or sentences. These designate that a citation is listed below. You can also use an asterisk or other symbols, but if you are citing many sources, numbers are generally the best way to go.

Reference Book Citation

Let’s say we are researching an ancestor and come across some information about them in a book called “History of Family Morgan.” The first thing you would do in your citation is write the name of author followed by the title of the book (in italics), the physical location of the material (where someone can find it), and then the name of the publishing company. It would look like this:

Morgan, Michael Lee, History of Family Morgan, Baltimore,MD: Family Research Publishing Co.

Newspaper Article (Printed) Citation 

If you are citing a printed newspaper article, you need to refer to the author of the article, the date it was published, the title of the article, the name of the newspaper, and the page it was located on. When you are referencing the page number, simply place p. before the number. If the article covers more than one page, you would use pp. If you are citing an Obituary, you put that in place of the article title.

Your citation would look as follows:

Smith, W.G. (2009, November 17). Obituaries – The Daily Telegram, p. 32.

If you are citing information from Online Obituaries or newspaper articles, you follow the same format; only include the internet address at the end so it looks like this:

Smith, W.G. (2009, November 17). Obituaries – The Boston Daily Telegram, p. 32.

The amount of information you need to include varies with the different source materials you use, what information you found, and where it is physically located. It is best to learn about as many different citation formats as you can. This helps you to do a professional job, and is a major help to other researchers.

If you are looking for a great publication to help with that, Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifact to Cyberspace is an excellent publication. It explains the various types of citations very clearly, and can help you to present your work in a scholarly manner that you can be proud of, and other researchers will appreciate and respect!

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January 17th, 2013

Use a Kindle to “Fire” Up Your Genealogy Project

Amazon released the first Kindle back in 2007, and the technology has made great strides since then. For those of you who might not know, a Kindle is an e-reader, originally designed for reading e-books. In 2011 Amazon released the Kindle Fire, an updated version of the Kindle that can run popular applications (Apps), stream music and movies, and of course be used to read books.

Kindle Fire Uses for Genealogists
For many family historians, the Kindle has become a valuable tool, whether being used to communicate with family members, writing their family histories, or working on their project while away from home. I use one myself, and thought I’d share the many ways I have found a Kindle to be useful for genealogical purposes.

Reading and Researching
The Kindle Fire was designed as an e-reader, so it is fairly obvious that it can be a useful reading and researching tool. You can find thousands of genealogy related titles on the internet, and with the Kindle Fire you can download them in 60 seconds or less from Amazon. The Kindle Fire presents a great reading experience, akin to reading a magazine. You can find many free publications, and many are priced at only a dollar or two.

Genealogy on the Road
If you have a GEDCOM on the website, you’ll be pleased to know that Ancestry has a free App that is compatible with a Kindle. Once you download and install the App you can access your family tree through your Kindle and share it with anyone, anytime, no matter where you are.

Stay Connected to Family
A really cool thing with the Kindle Fire is that it comes with Skype installed. I use it often to communicate with family members around the country. Recently I was researching an ancestor with origins in Florida and was able to work with my cousin who lives in the Orlando area to locate the records I needed. She has Skype on her iPad, and so we were able to search records together and chat while we were doing so, even though we were thousands of miles apart. Way cool!

Keeping Notes
A great thing about the modern world is that there is no shortage of apps. There is a particular app that works well with a Kindle known as Evernote. It can be used to capture images, PDFs, and other documents you might find online, organize them, and even add notes about them. When you’re offline you can still access your notes, and even add new ones that will sync with your Evernote once you reconnect to the internet. You can even use Evernote to create outlines or drafts of family group records and such.

Get Social
Modern day genealogists are making use of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and they are great ways to connect with other genealogists. Both sites are free to join and they are truly useful resources for the modern family historian. Facebook allows you to share your research and photos with family members and other genealogists, and you can even build a separate page just for your genealogy project. You can stay abreast of genealogical updates with Twitter, all on your Kindle Fire.

The use you get out of a Kindle is only limited to the apps you install on it. There are so many available these days, and many are genealogy specific. It would be a shame not to make use of the wonderful technology available to us today, especially as genealogists. There is an entire online community out there these days, so why not “tune in and turn on” with a Kindle!

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January 11th, 2013

Nine Nifty New Years Resolutions for Genealogists

It’s 2013 and many of us have made our resolutions for the year and so far are sticking to them, right! This year I am making some genealogical resolutions, which you might want to consider as well. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the ancestor hunt that I forget about other important things. I have so many piles of notes strewn about, shoeboxes overflowing with photographs that aren’t labeled yet, and half finished courses that I haven’t seemed to be able to get quite through! And that’s just some of the stuff!

Yes, my genealogical life is a shambles, but I’ve made these nine New Years resolutions that I hope will take my genealogical research to the next level. I’m not suggesting that you need to do all nine; in fact you’re probably much more organized than I am! If there is an area you need to work on however, you’re more than likely to find it among my resolutions. Let’s make 2013 the year we get really serious about our genealogical research; get organized, focus, and improve our research skills!

Resolution #1 – Interview Relatives

Sometimes we spend too much time on the Internet or in other archives researching when the answer we seek is just an interview with a relative away. Some of our relatives are walking archives when it comes to information about our family. They are an often-overlooked resource that we should really consult more often. If you haven’t yet, get in touch with a relative (preferably an older one), and arrange an interview. Besides being informative, it might be fun as well. If you have interviewed most of your immediate family members, extend your search to include extended family, sometimes they have information we won’t find anywhere else.

Resolution #2 – Finish a Class (Or Take One if You Haven’t Yet)

I’m definitely going to finish one of the courses I started last year. I enjoyed learning new skills, and look forward to really knuckling down this year and learning as much as I can. No matter how long you’ve been practicing genealogy, there is always a new frontier emerging. If you haven’t taken a class yet, make this the year you do. Genealogical societies and libraries in your area will most likely have a variety available throughout the year. If you can’t find one in your area, there are many opportunities online, and many of them are free!

Resolution #3 – Interact More With Other Researchers

The old adage that two heads are better than one is especially true in genealogy. Team up with other people who are researching the same family name as you are. Historical and genealogical societies might even be able to introduce you to someone. Another way of becoming more involved with others is to help with transcriptions, there are never enough transcribers, and though it can be long tedious work, it is extremely rewarding. Besides the camaraderie you’ll share, you may also learn new skills, and imagine the pride you will have in helping to preserve vital historical documents.

Resolution #4 – Organize, Organize, Organize!

This is one I’m going to really concentrate on this year, as every good researcher should! Although many of us dread this aspect of our family history research, it really is of benefit in the long run. In fact, becoming better organized can help our research to become more focused and efficient. File those family group records in proper binders, and label those boxes! I know it can be overwhelming, but if you set aside just a little time each week, you’ll have it sorted in no time. And besides, there may always be the bonus of discovering new clues you hadn’t noticed or had overlooked before!

Resolution #5 – File Those Photos

This could fall under the previous resolution, but if you have as many pictures as I do you’ll understand it’s a separate project on its own! I have piles of family photos lying around or stored in boxes just waiting for me to label and file them. I’m going to digitize most of them, but I will still want to keep the originals in as good condition as possible. I may not have time to place all of them in scrapbooks, but I will definitely label and date them all before placing them in good quality plastic sleeves for storage.

Resolution #6 – Keep Up on Correspondence

Have you ever asked a question in a genealogy forum and then forgot to check back for an answer? I have, and it’s possible I missed out on some vital family data. I have also corresponded with other researchers by mail, but I rarely put my genealogical contacts in my address book. I rather have letters lying around with the addresses on the back of the envelope, some of which are illegible because they were torn when I opened the letter. This year I’m going to create a special address book with the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses of all of my genealogical contacts along with a short description of what I am corresponding with them about. That way at a glance I’ll be able to determine whether I need to follow up or not.

Resolution # 7 – Get to Really Know My Ancestors

I’m going to learn more than names and dates this year; I’m going to study personalities. It is so easy to get caught up in the collection of data that we forget to enjoy the human aspect of genealogy. This is the real reward, getting to know our ancestors, what kind of people they were, who their friends were, what challenges they faced, and things like that. Take the time to digitally record any family stories you hear from relatives or discover during your research so that they are not lost forever. Getting to know our ancestors, really know them, is the reason we began our genealogical quest in the first place. Hold onto that passion and excitement you first felt when you discovered your first relative, but from now on take the time to treasure them and really get to know them.

Resolution# 8 – Share My Research More

Sharing what you find with others is one of the most rewarding aspects of genealogical research. People are always fascinated when I tell them what I’ve found, and always curious to know how I did. You might think you’re family are not so interested in your research, but you may just be surprised. Organize a portable, mini-family tree file that you can take with you when you visit relatives. Share old family photos with them and make copies if you can so they can keep one. Email is a great way to stay in touch with family members about your research, and you’d be surprised how many of your relatives will look forward to your latest update once you begin sharing your progress with them!

Resolution#9 – Help Others More

When I first began researching my family history so many genealogists were helpful to me. Sometimes I was completely lost and overwhelmed, but the patient, helping hands of many other researchers kept me going. Some of those who helped me were professional researchers, and when I told them I couldn’t afford to hire a pro I was met with a kind-hearted chuckle. This year I will return the favor as often as I can to as many budding genealogists as possible. One way to do this is to participate in forums, another to answer questions for mailing lists. By introducing newcomers to the kindness we received when we began, we encourage them to develop that same mindset for future generations.

So there you have it, my nine Genealogical New Years resolutions! I’m sure I could make more, but I have my work cut out with these. Hopefully you will get some ideas as to where you can improve your family history project. The point is to take this New Year and use it to develop skills and qualities that we haven’t yet. Don’t lose sight of why we do this however, and continue to enjoy the wonderful privilege we have of learning about our family’s heritage and sharing that fun with others. Happy New Year, and good luck in all of your genealogical endeavors for 2013!

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