19 January 2015

Top 3 Things to Do before a Genealogy Conference (Tuesday's Tip)

Image by 89studio, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
To get the most out of a genealogy conference, there are three things you should do in advance.

If you are going to Rootstech or Who Do You Think You Are? Live or the Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry in early 2015, do these now!

1.  Order your Contact Cards

Contact cards are a personal version of a business card. Give them to conference delegates who share your interest in a surname, locality or project, and use them to publicise your Web site, online family tree, genealogy blog or social media pages.

I always order my cards from VistaPrint. (If you use that link, the commission goes to charity.)  Depending on what discounts are available and whether you choose 'Starter Business Cards' or 'Premium Business Cards', the cost of 250 cards is usually between $8 and $28. That's a great price for good quality cards, which you create by entering text into an online template. When you are happy with your design, submit the order, pay with either BPay, PayPal, VISA or Mastercard, and watch for the package to arrive by post.

Before you design your contact cards, consider what details you want to include. You won't be able to fit all of these, so make a list in order of importance to you.
  • Your name is essential, of course.
  • Your email address that will be valid long-term if you leave your current service provider. (The best option may be a free Gmail address from Google).
  • Your postal address (or at least your State and country).
  • Your Web site URL.
  • Your blog URL.
  • URL of your public online family tree - but check that it really is public (eg, a free tree on Rootsweb's WorldConnect, which is not locked away behind a pay wall on a subscription site).
  • Your social media URLs (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Flickr etc).
  • Short list of surnames that you're researching, especially any unusual names. (Putting these on the back of the card costs a few extra dollars.)
  • Phone number (but if you list this, mention your time zone compared to Greenwich Mean Time).

I created this contact card with VistaPrint, and 250 of these only cost $7.99.


2.  Submit your research interests

For the Australasian Congress in 2015 you can register your research interests online. They are immediately searchable by others who have registered, so if someone else is interested in the same family you can contact them before the Congress (which is a lot easier than finding them in the crowd).

Use a spreadsheet to prepare each of your entries for easy cut-and-paste. The fields are:
  1. Name/s (either surname only or with the family name first, eg, 'PEACOCK, Jonathan';  alternative spellings can be included here)
  2. Location (remember to specify the country)
  3. Period
  4. Extra details (put the most important details at the beginning because only about 96 characters including spaces will be immediately visible to people browsing the interests list).

3.  Plan what to take and what to do

There are lots of great tips in:
  1. Prepare Before Attending a Genealogy Conference (by Sue Maxwell).

  2. Rock Star's Guide to Genealogy Conferences (by Amy Coffin).

(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com/2015/01/top-3-things-to-do-before-genealogy.html.)

13 January 2015

Genealogy Do-Over or Source-Based Incremental Fix?

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the 'Genealogy Do-Over' or 'Go-Over' proposed by Thomas MacEntee. I am taking a different approach. I'm doing a 'source-based incremental fix'.

Starting again from scratch is not an option for me because...

  • Some archival records that I used are no longer open to the public. The Government has since changed the access restrictions.

  • Talking to relatives in the 1970s gave me vital details that I have never found in documents - and those relatives are now in Heaven.

  • Many records that I used are on the other side of the world. They are not indexed and not digitised.

  • I have never copied details from online trees, and I never will. I might treat them as clues for further research, but that's all. About 90% of my research was done in the 1970s and 1980s, long before I had Internet access, and I used original records in State and national archives. I have since used a wide range of online resources, but I have not found any mistakes in my original research.

Louis Kessler has suggested a source-based incremental fix, which will suit me perfectly. Taking one document at a time, I will analyse it carefully and check that every bit of information has been extracted and entered into my family tree programme, with the source reference. Then I'll file the source in a new and separate location. As I work, I'll note gaps in my knowledge and list my ideas for further research.

First, though, I need to decide how to organise my records. This is what I've done so far.

  1. I've gathered together all my paper documents and research notes.  There are fifteen ring binders and one archival quality photo album from which data has already been added to my genealogy programme (The Master Genealogist). There are also two 52 litre storage boxes with countless unscanned photos and unprocessed photocopies and research notebooks. Eeek!  (Note to self:  Don't panic.)

  2. I've read Nancy Loe's guides.  These three e-books are very practical: Organizing Genealogy Research Using Archival PrinciplesCataloging Digital Family Photographs and Records; and Simplifying Genealogy Sources and Citations.

  3. I've read those guides again, this time making notes about how I'll modify Nancy's method so that it fits the way I think when I look for records in my files.

  4. I've downloaded source checklists for Evernote, via CyndisList. (Thanks to Michelle Patient for bringing these to my attention.)

  5. I've started creating a 'style guide' to ensure that I name and store files (especially digital files) consistently. (Nancy Loe says, 'Using controlled vocabulary is the single most important thing you can do to keep your research organized.')

In amongst all that organising, I will be writing about my ancestors in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge.  (Note to self:  Don't panic. Nobody said the 52 weeks have to be consecutive.)

(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com/2015/01/genealogy-do-over-or-source-based.html.)

Order of words in a blog post title - why it matters (Tuesday's Tip)

Image by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Does the order of the words in a blog post's title make any difference to how many people read that post?

Probably!

Why?

https://yoast.com/articles/wordpress-seo/ says, 'Search engines put more weight on the early words, so if your keywords are near the start of the page title you are more likely to rank well. People scanning result pages see the early words first. If your keywords are at the start of your listing your page is more likely to get clicked on.'

http://moz.com/learn/seo/title-tag says, 'The closer to the start of the title tag a keyword is, the more helpful it will be for ranking ­and the more likely a user will be to click them in search results.'

So...

   Kitty (Catherine) ASHTON: ancestor #1 of 52

is probably a better title than

   52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge: #1 Kitty (Catherine) ASHTON.



And yes, there really is a blog post about Kitty ASHTON (my great-great-great-grandmother).

(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/order-of-words-in-blog-post-title-why.html.)

31 December 2014

Using LostCousins for genealogy (UK, Ireland, USA and Canada)

LostCousins logo
LostCousins is probably the only Web site that identifies (with virtually 100% accuracy) people who share the same ancestors. You do not waste time corresponding with people who are not related to you!

I have found several new relatives via the site, and its free newsletter is packed with useful information.

To use LostCousins you need to find your relatives in the census for England and Wales 1841, 1881 or 1911; Ireland 1911; Scotland 1881; Canada 1881; or United States 1880 or 1940. Then at LostCousins you enter the census source/page details for those names.

Before gathering and entering data, read the instructions on LostCousins very carefully ('Information - Read this first') because requirements for each census are different. If you prepare well, entering the data is a lot quicker.

Be sure to enter census data for brothers and sisters of your direct ancestors, because their descendants are the cousins you want to contact. One such descendant had a family bible and a letter from my great-great-grandfather, which overcame a dead end in my research.

After entering your relatives' census references, click 'Search', and the system checks whether anyone else has already entered identical data. If they have, it means that you are both researching the same people.

Remember to log in periodically, go to your 'My Ancestors' page and click 'Search' again to check for matches with new LostCousins members.

It is free to join LostCousins and enter your data, but I choose to pay a small annual subscription (about $10) so that there are no delays in making contact with my distant cousins when they are identified by the extremely accurate matching system.

The more people who enter census data for direct ancestors and their siblings, the greater the chances of finding our 'lost cousins'. Maybe you are my distant relative! I'm trying to find you - so please... start using LostCousins today!
- - -
(This post first appeared on http://genie-leftovers.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/using-lostcousins-for-genealogy-uk.html.)

24 November 2014

How to Become a Paid Genealogy Researcher

Genealogical research is interesting and challenging, but not necessarily lucrative. It involves a huge number of non-billable hours and many non-billable expenses such as stationery, ongoing education (genealogy seminars, conferences etc), books/fiche/CD-ROMs for your home reference library, computer hardware and software, equipment repairs, Internet access, Webpage costs, electricity, etc.

As a paid researcher you will need to learn about sources that you did not use for your own family tree. Before setting up a business, do voluntary research (perhaps dealing with requests sent to your local Family History Society). This will alert you to some of the gaps in your knowledge. You can then decide what type of research commissions your business should accept. Make the most of any special interests or skills, and be aware of your weaknesses.

You could start by working as a record agent, dealing with simple requests that require minimal analysis and interpretation (eg, 'I want a copy of Document-X, which I know is at your local record office.') As you become familiar with more record series, you can offer a wider range of services.

In my opinion, these are the main requirements for a professional genealogist who does research in local archives or record offices:
  • A very high degree of proficiency in using the holdings of those repositories.
  • A thorough understanding of correct research techniques, genealogical proof standards, and the difference between primary and secondary sources (original records and derivative records).
  • A clear understanding of privacy issues and professional ethics.
  • An awareness of the traps involved in using indexes and interpreting handwriting.
  • Good analytical skills.
  • The ability to use lateral thinking.
  • The ability to cite sources fully and accurately, regardless of whether results are positive or negative.
  • Knowledge of the history of the area in which you specialise (dates of first settlement, local industries etc.)
  • The ability to interpret and analyse the lives of individuals and families in the context of local, national and world events.
  • Good communication skills, especially in reports and emails. (Clients do care about your grammar, spelling and punctuation!)
  • Knowledge of accounting and small business management.
  • A willingness to undertake professional development and on-going education. This includes attending seminars and conferences (for example, the Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry), listening to webinars and podcasts, reading reference books, journals, newsletters, Web sites and genealogy blogs, and doing whatever else is necessary to keep up with changes in your particular field. If you want a formal qualification, a good choice would be one of the Local, Family and Applied History 'distance education' courses offered by the University of New England (Armidale NSW).

Some potential clients ask about my formal qualifications and accreditation, but most employ me because of word-of-mouth referrals or the helpful content of my main Web site.

Do you agree with my ideas on what should be expected of a paid researcher? If not, why? I would love to hear your point of view. Whether you are a researcher or a client, please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
~~~
I use and recommend FindMyPast.

22 November 2014

The Missing Nephew - Can You Help?

I have (at the enquirer's request) deleted many names, dates and locations that she included in her email (although I explained that this publicity may be virtually useless without them).

- - quoting from email - -

"I am searching for any info re the son of my brother."   [I'll call the brother 'B'.]   "B told me about his unborn child in 1981-1982, but refused to divulge the name of the mother. I am sure that he knew that I would contact her and offer support. My brother was in the Army and living at [deleted] at the time. In recent years the young man visited B in Queensland.

This young man may have questions about family or genealogy, and I would welcome him and offer any assistance I could. He is my nephew and he has a right to know about his birth family. I would welcome any advice on how to proceed."

- - -

If you any have suggestions, please add a comment below.

15 August 2014

FindMyPast's world records discount offer

FindMyPast's logo
FindMyPast periodically offers discounts and 'free access' days, which in future I will list on the Discounts and Freebies page on my main Web site. You may also want to read why I use and recommend FindMyPast.

A one-month 'world' subscription to FindMyPast is just $5 (usually $19.95) for new subscribers who pay before midnight on 1 Sep 2014.

The world subscription gives you access to more than 1.5 billion family history records for Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland, the USA and Canada.

If you do not want your subscription to automatically renew at the normal price after your initial period, un-tick the 'auto-renew my subscription' box in the My Account section of the site.

Check whether more recent offers are listed on the Discounts and Freebies page.

14 August 2014

National Family History Month 2014 Geneameme

This geneameme was created by Pauleen (Family History Across the Seas) to celebrate National Family History Month in Australia.
  1. What are you doing for NFHM?   I've created a Web page that lists some genealogy discounts and freebies - and (when I need a break from packing up and moving the contents of my house - sigh) I'll index more Queensland State Archives records.

  2. What do you hope to learn in NFHM?   Whatever I can. My favourite way to learn is to go to the Archives and delve into a record series that I've never used before.

  3. Do you research at a family or local history library?   Not as often as I used to, but I am still a member of the Queensland Family History Society and the Society of Australian Genealogists.

  4. Do you do all your research online?   NO!  Perish the thought!  Many of the best records are not (and never will be) online. (But until I can visit the UK again, I have to use online resources to continue my British research.)

  5. What's your favourite place to store your family tree?   With SecondSite and The Master Genealogist I can convert all of my data into HTML format so that I can store and view it as an interactive 'Website' on a CD, USB thumb drive or external hard drive. Irreplaceable or expensive documents are copied onto acid-free paper and stored off-site. I use Dropbox for electronic backups. Part of my family tree (minus living people) is on my own Web site and on Rootsweb's WorldConnect.

  6. If offline, which genealogy program do you use?   The Master Genealogist (incredibly powerful for keeping track of exactly where each tiny detail came from, and how much I trust the source).

  7. How do you preserve your family stories for future generations?   (1) I self-published a small book and gave 'legal deposit' copies to the National Library of Australia, State Library of Queensland and Queensland Parliamentary Library;  (2) My Web site (which includes a family tree) was selected for inclusion in PANDORA (Australia's Web archive);  (3) Some stories go into my genealogy blogs, which will presumably be available to the public as long as Google exists; (4) My will has instructions about donating some of my material to the Society of Australian Genealogist's primary records collection.

  8. Have you any special research projects on the go?   Lots of research jobs for clients, and an endless list of indexing projects (mental asylum patients, hospital records, illegitimate children, maintenance registers, prison records etc).

  9. What is your favourite family history research activity?   (1) Doing research in original records at Queensland State Archives;  (2) Exploring cemeteries.

  10. What is your favourite family history research place/library etc?   Queensland State Archives. Also the London Metropolitan Archives and North Yorkshire County Record Office.

  11. What is your favourite website for genealogy research?   FindMyPast, for reasons explained here.

  12. Are you part of a Facebook genealogy group? If so which one?   A private group for members of the Genealogists for Families team.

  13. Do you use webinars or podcasts for genealogy?   Yes - The National Archives (UK), the Society of Australian Genealogists, and some from Legacy Family Tree.

  14. Do you use social media?   Intermittently (Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus).

  15. What genealogy topic/class have you learnt the most from this year at a webinar/conference/seminar?   I guess I can't count Kerry Farmer's excellent seminar, Immigration: Why, When and Where, because it was in late 2013. This year I actually learned the most from the research I did while preparing for my own seminar, 'Look Beyond the Border'.

  16. Do you have a favourite research strategy to knock down your brick walls?   Yes!  Research the subject's siblings and other relatives!

  17. Have you used DNA testing for your genealogy?   Yes.

  18. Have you made cousin connections through your DNA tests?   Yes.

  19. Do you have a wish list of topics for NFHM 2015?   Hmmm (still thinking...)

  20. What do you most love about your family history research?   Finding 'flesh on the bones' information, photographs, physical descriptions and documents written by my ancestors.
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