Tag Archives: writing process

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/

Big News!

Alfred M. Dicks Cover #3Yesterday was the big day! It happened! My first book was finally published. Titled Alfred M. Dicks of Crawford County, Illinois, this book is a genealogical study of one of my ancestors, from Gladys’ side of the family. The manuscript began as a proof argument for my ProGen Study group. Over the years, I have found little direct evidence of Alfred’s parentage, but I have uncovered lots of indirect evidence. So I finally put all the little bits of evidence together, and here it is!

The book also provided a good test run of the self-publishing process through Amazon.com’s publishing company Create Space. Overall, I would recommend the process. Because the book is more academic in nature, i.e. lots of footnotes, it doesn’t work well as an eBook so the only way to read the book is to buy a physical copy. Follow the link: http://www.amazon.com/Alfred-Dicks-Crawford-County-Illinois/dp/150330728X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1418429952&sr=8-2&keywords=deborah+sweeney

This spring I am hoping to repeat the process with the first volume of letters written by Roscoe and Gladys from 1942. I have several relatives who would rather read the letters in book form, instead of on the blog. In comparison, the WWII letters book will be a much larger volume with lots more details for me to “get right.” The first volume with contain over 300 letters.

I only have about three more months until I finish the ProGen program. My last major project is a kinship-determination report. I’ve already started organizing my family files in preparation for this project. This time I will be writing about one of Roscoe’s ancestors, Michael Schiele.

The Book: Progress report – September 6

World War II letter book coverIt has been two weeks since my last progress report, and sadly, I have very little to report. I haven’t been able to do a thing on the book. Work and family have taken every spare minute. Oh, and my ProGen assignment for September and October has expended every other remaining moment of time. I have to write a proof argument; the first draft is due September 25th. Knowing that I am very busy at work this month, I tried to get a head start on this assignment. I spent a good portion of the three day Labor Day weekend working on the proof argument.

I am fairly excited about writing this proof argument. Genealogical writing is an area where I would like to focus my genealogy work in the next couple of years. I chose one ancestor who has been rather elusive in the direct evidence department so I think he is a good candidate to write about. After I submit the assignment this month, my ProGen Study group mates will edit and critique it. I then get to rewrite the report for October and submit it for a second round of evaluation. I have also enlisted the aid of my co-worker to do some additional editing. I am hoping to publish the report at the end of October/early November. I may even try to use CreateSpace’s ebook publishing software and directly market my work on Amazon. When it comes to my eventual goal of becoming a certified genealogist, I want to have several published works on my resume.

imageOne absolutely, amazing genealogical thing finally happened this week. I received my grandfather’s World War II Naval military file from the National Archives. Because he served in the Navy, his records were not burned in the big fire in the 1970s which destroyed most of the Army’s service records. The process took about five months from my initial request to having the documents in hand. I am not my grandfather’s next of kin; I had to enlist my father’s aid in acquiring the file. Since it has been less than 72 years since Roscoe retired from the Navy, his records are not available to the public. There must be at least 100+ pages in his file, and the envelope I received was easily an inch and a half thick. The file gives me additional background documentation for the book.

Many of the documents in the file are copies of originals that I already possess. Roscoe and Gladys (surprise, surprise!) kept copies of all of Roscoe’s orders and military paperwork. There are some documents in the file that are new to me, including: character references from people in Kentland when Roscoe made his original application in 1942; a copy of his county birth certificate; reviews by senior officers of Roscoe’s performance; and a copy of Roscoe’s commission. If you ever have the opportunity to find an ancestor’s military file, it is completely worth it. I am fairly tempted to go back and reorder the complete military file for some of my Civil War ancestors. I have purchased several pension files in the past, but never the complete file.

 

© Deborah Sweeney, 2014.
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2014/09/06/the-book-progress-report-september-6/