Archive for October 2009
Just as with the modern practice of social networking in genealogy is the practice of networking ancestral families and their associates.
Many times a particular problem of identity can be solved by analyzing an ancestor’s associates in detail. In-depth research of this sort requires the serious genealogist to document the ancestor’s neighbors, business associates, and in-laws. The latter may be the most important, and potentially the easiest to document as the families are related. With common names, and people of the same name in the area, familial relationships are also important. In-laws and relatives are the people to focus on when examining wills and land transfers. In business dealings such as personal property item transfers, such as when an estate is distributed, a neighbor probably bought an item.
When it comes to neighbors and business associates, it may be necessary to document an entire neighborhood, or even a village. I recall one article in Forensic Genealogy (ISBN-10: 0976716003 ISBN-13: 978-0976716006) which detailed one woman’s efforts to document her earliest known ancestors in a French village. It was a fascinating account of documenting the lives of people who lived through a difficult migration, famine, and pestilence.
Other groups of people, such as church members, are also sometimes important, too, beyond just those whom the ancestor lived and worked with. A minister, for instance sometimes performed marriages for cousins and other relatives in other communities which shared a minister. In some instances, it may be possible to document the minister’s relationship to the family through church records. If the minister’s records have been preserved in a seminary or society collection one may be able to find the records of other members of an extended family. A real goldmine of information would be to find lists of best men and women, and bridesmaids for each marriage in a churches records.
Genealogy is more than just looking at a record set, and copying the information found in that document. Occasionally, one can do valid genealogy research in that way, most times, however, it is not possible. Few people are lucky enough to have had their genealogies written already and fewer of those people are able to compile the entirety of a family history back to the fifth generation, at any rate. Given these facts of life, a professional genealogist is a great resource for the amateur family historian.
Most lineage research, both ancestry and descendant, involves detailed examination of difficult to read records. Old-fashioned language is the least of the problem; many records that genealogists use are poorly microfilmed and the context of a document, historical, legal, cultural, or otherwise must also be considered. Again, sometimes it is necessary to consult a professional genealogist, someone who understands the time, place, and context of a record.
Many times an amateur genealogist will contact a professional and ask that they do some in-depth research for them. A responsible and accountable professional will follow a number of steps in fulfilling the need of the amateur; to list them briefly, a professional should:
Analyze the data received
Check for availability of records
Develop a research strategy
Do original research; i.e., that not already done by the client or others
Keep track sources examined and record all documentation
Summarize the research
Provide suggestions for further research
At the end of the research time allotted by the client, the client should expect to see much progress made on his/her stated goal as demonstrated with the above specifications. Even though the professional may not have solved the research problem, or completed the task, the client expects results.
As a professional genealogist, I follow the guidelines set forth above in working with a client to consult and tell them of any questions about the data provided and all results found in a project.
Some of the material in this article was abstracted from the GENTECH flowchart from the National Genealogical Society’s website.
The new Alaska Newspapers Index project at the Alaska State Library is an interesting on-line genealogy resource.
There are newspapers from many places in Alaska, including Fairbanks and Juneau. These two are the primary cities for statewide news. Chena, Tanana, Nenana, Hot Springs, Rampart City, and Fort Adams newspapers are also in the archive database.
Although most of the database is searchable by title, headline, and year, Juneau’s records include the abstracts and authors of articles where available. The bulk of the database is as described, an index. The full-text must still be gotten elsewhere.
As a professional genealogist covering the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska, I am in a place to retrieve the full-text of the many of the articles indexed in the database. In most cases it is possible to retrieve the image of the article as a JPEG or TIFF file for quicker turn-around on your order.
Gena’s Genealogy: Plagiarism in the Genealogy Community is an interesting article, well written on the subject. Very general however, but she does say she’s not pointing fingers . . .
I like Gena’s article because it addresses some concerns of mine. I wrote some articles along the lines of others that I have seen on-line, but like you say, there is the issue of *idea* plagiarism. Ideas cannot be copyrighted so the source of your quote above is a bit iffy. There is, though the issue of proper credit for the main idea of an article being similar like what I’m about to do with this one, link to it. 🙂
I’ve created a second blog to go with my editing, proofreading, and indexing project. It’s at http://www.seattlebookscouts.wordpress.com/. The primary content of the blog there is the subject of the previous sentence, editing, et cetera. There is some genealogy and genealogically relevant matter discussed as examples, however, so if you are ever in need of more from me … have at it. Like this blog, the other one also offers comments. Happy weekend. I’m gonna stay home, be dry, and do genealogy. 🙂 NPM
One of the things we do as genealogists is read blogs. The information we find in them ranges from interesting and useful to the utterly useless and downright wrong. I find using Google’s blog alert feature one of the more perceptive things a person can do with blogs. In the daily alert, one can set up a search string like that for doing a regular Google search with required, optional, and negative keywords. For instance, if I want to exclude any drivel from a particular blogger, I can simply append the source of the blog to the end of my keyword string, i.e., “-trakkrs”. In all future alerts, these blog posts will be excluded, giving the daily alert at least one more potentially useful post for us to look at.
For a professional genealogist, project management is a process of determining what can be done for a client within the boundaries of time, scope, and cost. Performance of the genealogist is measured by these variables in the terms of the contract with the client.
The specifics of a project are those laid out in the initial contact with a client. They must be molded into a project with realistic, attainable goals, with measurable results in a time-limited fashion.
For instance, if a client asks that a genealogist find the birth record of John Smith in Oklahoma, in the 1920s, then the genealogist has part of the picture and can give the client some idea of the scope of the project. How long it will take to do the search, however, is difficult question for the genealogist to answer. With John Smith being a common name, there are likely to be several of them in Oklahoma, especially during the early days of the territory and state. Time and cost become factors here due to the number of records to be searched. The more information a client can give about the particular John Smith they are interested in, the better.
Consulting with the client, some of these questions might be answered with more data, such as parent and sibling names. A more accurate estimate of the time and cost a research project may take is possible with more information.
Initially reviewing the information provided by the client is billable time, however, and the client must be made aware of this fact. Reviewing a client’s information limits the amount of real, new research that can be done by the genealogist. The time and performance of the contract is affected by these limits, as well.
Determining the scope of the research within the period of the research request is one other item a genealogist and client must consider when beginning a project. Are primary, original, and direct records available? Are there alternative record sources available if primary, original, and direct records do not exist?
In the John Smith example, if the subject person were born before Oklahoma became a state, some territorial records may exist in the form of census records. The 1900 U. S. census, for instance for the territory would include, most likely, at least the month and year of a person’s birth. The census may also give the genealogist and client with the actual birthplace, other than Oklahoma territory, where the person was born. Mr. Smith may actually have been born in one of the states bordering the territory, or a more specific place may have been given, depending on how the enumerator completed their form.
Informing the client of the results of this preliminary research also takes time away from doing original research for the client. Analysis of the found data, report writing, and administrative tasks are also billable time for the professional. The client must also know this so they are not surprised by the limited amount of information provided in the time allotted for researching a project.