My Path to Certification – Issue No. 4

Today is August 1st. I promised to submit my application to the BCG on August 1st. Well, I completed the application last Friday and put it in the mail. Hopefully, it arrived in Washington, D.C., about today. I can’t take it back at this point so I should consider myself officially on the clock. I feel a mixture of emotions from excitement to panic. I wonder if I can possibly pull this off in the next year. We shall see!

After taking the plunge and finally submitting the application, I worked on some other aspects of my plan. I don’t really have a plan, per se, past knowing that I have a year to submit my portfolio. I know some people who schedule what element they will work on each month. I do want to do a major portion of work on my KDP first so that I can put it aside and come back to it later. I feel such a large piece of writing needs to sit so I can go back and make improvements with a clearer vision. I can only do that if I walk away at some point. Right now I’m try to figure out how to continue researching but transition from research to writing. One strategy I am trying is—to just sit with a pad of paper and pencil and write with a purpose. For example, chose one section of the KDP to write about. No fact-checking or writing footnotes. Just write. I can go back later and correct the specifics and add the footnotes.

I received a great recommendation for a book this week—On Writing Well by William Zinsser. The 30th anniversary edition includes a chapter on writing family history (which I haven’t read yet). I believe the book is helping my brain make this transition from researching to putting pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard). Writing is such an important part of the portfolio (or the job of being a genealogist). Learning to write well should be an integral part of any genealogist’s education plan. I have read my share of absolutely boring family histories. I do not want to be one of those family history writers who strings a bunch of facts with footnotes together to make a narrative. I want to breathe life into my ancestors! Finding a balance between sound technical genealogical writing and entertaining family narrative is my goal. A couple take-a-ways from the book so far:

  • Use action verbs and consistent verb tenses – These are both lessons I learned during my time at BU and ProGen, and I cannot stress them enough. I hear them repeated at genealogy seminars and conventions continually. It’s great to read a non-genealogy related person give the same advice.
  • Writing is hard work. It requires practice just like any other craft. Find a writer whose style you admire. Read the journals—NEHGS, NGS, TAG, etc.—to find a fellow genealogist whose style you like.
  • Use a dictionary and thesaurus – I have a beat-up copy of Roget’s Thesaurus that I have used since my college days. I still use it!
  • De-clutter your words – If you can get the point across with fewer words, do it!

In the last week, besides my trip to the Family History Library to copy microfilm, I spent part of my weekend downloading journal articles (and not genealogy ones!) In order to add historical context and knowledge to my narrative, I must learn about the social, historical, and economic factors that may have influenced my ancestors lives. Sites like JSTOR and Internet Archive provide access to historical texts. I downloaded articles on the early history of my county as well as contemporary books that were written for people interested in migrating to the region where my ancestors lived. With these, for example, I gained insight on diseases that may have affected my ancestors or construction projects (railroads, canals) that impacted their lives.

Genealogical Standard 57: Background information“Assembled research results provide sufficient background information for readers to understand…what [an item] means in context of…place and time…[which] may include concepts from economics, ethnic studies, genetics, geography, government, history, law, religion, sociology, and other fields.”


I finished my sweater this weekend. Now, I’m working on completing another “almost-done” project—a sweater I started for my son last fall. He has grown a couple inches since then so hopefully he will get some use out of it!

My teacher hat goes back on this week. School starts next week so I must parcel out my time and prioritize my various projects more efficiently. Until next time!

©2017 copyright owned Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/08/01/my-path-to-certification-issue-no-4/

6 thoughts on “My Path to Certification – Issue No. 4

  1. Nola Mackey

    Congratulations! I like most people get more research and writing done when I have a deadline. The year will go so quickly. Looking forward to hearing a few progress reports along the way, if you can find the time.

    Reply
  2. Jill Morelli

    Congratulations! Now get to work! Seriously, I think you have a good plan with starting with the KDP. I am assuming you selected you family, but have you looked at your entire overall portfolio strategy? Like you I “just write,” but I do it in three phases: 1.) just write a few paragraphs, 2.) insert a footnote marker but instead of a full footnote, insert a code for the record type that is needed, e.g. DR HJB is code for death record Henry J. Bode. Then, 3.) after writing more and adding more footnote markers go back and fill in “real” footnotes. It got to be a bit of a rythumn. I didn’t lose my train of thought with writing, but I didn’t forget what to footnote either. Just how I did it. Good luck.

    Reply
    1. Deborah Sweeney Post author

      Thanks Jill! I have “plans” for what all my elements in the portfolio are going to be, just not necessarily when I will do them. I already have been working on my proof argument for years. I just need to organize it all and write it down. 😁

      Reply
  3. davidmadison1942

    “needs to sit so I can go back and make improvements with a clearer vision.” “For example, chose one section of the KDP to write about. No fact-checking or writing footnotes. Just write. I can go back later and correct the specifics and add the footnotes.” That’s the way I do it! 🙂

    ” I want to breathe life into my ancestors! Finding a balance between sound technical genealogical writing and entertaining family narrative is my goal.” Absolutely YES. I always try to make my writing accessible..and, as much as possible (in my field), entertaining.

    “Writing is hard work. It requires practice just like any other craft.” Oh, how true. 🙂 Someone once said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit down at the keyboard and open a vein”

    Reply

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