Tag Archives: writing

My Path to Certification – Issue No. 7

Another month gone…not much writing done, but some serious research accomplished. Hopefully over the next month (and holidays), I will find a stretch of time to do some serious writing.

California State Capital, Sacramento, 2017

I’ve been chasing information for my proof argument instead of my KDP this month. Additionally, I am looking for a good document to transcribe for Part 4: Document Work (Applicant-Supplied Document). Two years ago at Jamboree, when the BCG had a table in the vendor hall with portfolios, I was able to talk to several certified genealogists at length. One of my takeaways was that most portfolios do not feature cases from the western United States. My family waited until the 20th century to migrate to California, providing me with little reason to learn much of California’s rich history and how to access the documents. However, I live and work in California. While volunteering at the library the past few years, I have helped many patrons with California-rich family histories. California has an estimated population of almost 40 million people, ranking her as the most populous state in the nation. Currently, only 15 certified genealogists live in California. There are fewer than 250 certified genealogists around the world, the vast majority from the United States. Hopefully, in the next few years, the number of certified genealogists in California will increase. While I would like to count myself in this group, I know several outstanding genealogists in California who are also working toward this goal as well.

For my document work, I want to highlight someone local, plus learn a little more about the people who founded my city/county. I live in a suburb of Sacramento. We have several small and old cemeteries, the resting places of some well-known historical figures. Elitha (Donner) McCoon Wilder was one of the surviving children of the tragic Donner Party. Our school district named an elementary school for her. Alexander H. Willard is believed to be last surviving member of Lewis and Clark’s expedition when he died in 1865. He, too, ended up in my town, buried next to another elementary school and the roller skating rink. Many of our early citizens (of European ancestry) came west during the gold rush and stayed on as farmers and ranchers.

William McGraw, c1870

One of the tasks I “completed” this month was tracing the ownership of several parcels of land for my proof argument. I used a combination of original land grants, county land deeds, and a county plat book to determine when my ancestor acquired and sold a particular 40 acre plot of land. Understanding the United States government’s system of townships and ranges and how land was divided and distributed during the 19th century is essential for genealogists. For example [Note: this is not the problem I am using for my proof argument], my ancestor William McGraw married a woman named Martha Higgins. I have no direct evidence of her parents’ identities. However, William purchased a parcel a land adjoining a parcel owned by Jonathan Higgins around the time of his marriage to Martha. The location of the land and the Higgins surname provide indirect evidence of a connection between William, Martha and Jonathan. This evidence would prompt me to research Jonathan Higgins further and determine if there is a connection between him and Martha. Without knowing the physical proximity of these people to one another, I might miss a valuable clue to their relationships and identities. Being a visual person, I also like to look at maps (and draw my own) to see how close people lived to one another.

Another project I have been working on this month is obtaining permission from living persons. Any information that I include about living people in any of the part of my portfolio, I must obtain permission from them. For example, I potentially wish to include some of my DNA research in one of the papers. I must obtain permission from everyone whose DNA I reference. Additionally, one element of the portfolio is a client report. Permission from the client must also be granted before inclusion in the portfolio.

Happy Holidays and happy hunting!

©2017 copyright owned by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/11/20/my-path-to-certification-issue-no-7/

My Path to Certification – Issue No. 5

Last week I was immersed in my pre-service teaching days and getting to know my new students. My school district is converting to a new online records-keeping system so the next year will be a learning experience for everyone. I spent little time working on genealogy, although I did sneak away for a few hours last Wednesday to the Family History Center.

Mostly I continued to scan the civil court records for my ancestor’s county. So much good stuff! I found one record for a man exposing himself in public. Oh my! And another for a woman accused of adultery. Apparently she had been living in sin with the gentleman for quite a while. The court’s punishment was to spend one minute in jail. However, the best part of the afternoon was finding the divorce record for a many times great aunt.

Judgement from the adultery case of Nancy King

Indiana appears to have been quite lenient in granting divorces in the 19th century. Most every quarter session of the civil court has two or three divorce cases in my county of interest. I figured my aunt had to have been divorced because I found two marriage records and the first husband appeared to be alive after the second marriage. The complete court records spell out very neatly why she wanted a divorce. Her husband had deserted her. Five years previously he had been wanted for larceny. It seems he fled the county and hadn’t been seen since.

Since my last post, I received a sampling of documents from the Indiana State Historical Society. I found a manuscript in their collection online through ArchiveGrid. I can’t recommend ArchiveGrid highly enough at the moment. Managed by WorldCat, ArchiveGrid is an online catalog of manuscript collections around the world. Unpublished manuscripts are an untapped resource for genealogical and historical information. They are also the least likely to be digitized, and can only be accessed by going to a repository. Or in my case, contacting the repository and/or hiring a researcher.

The document in question was an 1830s account book from a local merchant. I had no idea if any of my ancestors favored this merchant—there was more than one store in town. But I had to find out! I sent the historical society a preliminary surname list while the research form and my check followed in the mail. My ancestor appears over thirty times in the register. Below is one of my ancestor’s entries, likely purchases by, or for, his wife.

Account book entry for my ancestor

Jackonet is a lightweight cotton fabric. During the 1830s, Greek and Roman motifs/style influenced fashion.

The Rubrics

Another essential part of the portfolio process is understanding the rubrics. As a teacher, I rely on rubrics whenever I correct writing assignments or score non-multiple choice test questions. My biggest complaint during the Boston University Research Certificate program was the lack of rubrics. (I graduated many years ago so I do not know if this aspect has changed. I just know what it was like when I participated.)

I do not like to be graded in a vacuum. How do I know if I am achieving the goal of an assignment? Students perform better when they know their expectations. The same is true with the BCG portfolio. The portfolio rubrics are available to download on the BCG website. Two books are referenced in the rubrics: Genealogy Standards: 50th-anniversay edition and Val Greenwood’s The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. These books should have a place in every serious genealogist’s library.

Other Genealogy Related Activities

  • I submitted six lecture proposals for the 2018 SCGS Jamboree. Hopefully, at least one will be chosen!
  • Yesterday was the monthly meeting of my DNA study group and my volunteer hours at the local library. I consider volunteering or mentoring others as a valuable component of my long-term education plan. One of my clients had a branch of her family who immigrated from Canada in the 1920s. There were many great record groups that I explored with her. I do not have anyone in my family who immigrated to the United States in the 20th century, so I have no reason to look at those records. Helping others is a great way to learn about records you might not access regularly.

©2017 copyright owned by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/08/20/my-path-to-certification-issue-no-5/

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/

My Path to Certification – Issue No. 3

Since bringing home so many land deeds last week, I began the task of transcribing them. Out of seventy plus deeds, nine are completed. While doing this is important for the sake of my research (for my comprehension), transcribing the deeds serves a secondary purpose as well. For the Board of Certified Genealogists’ portfolio, items 3 and 4 (Document Work) consist of transcribing and abstracting a document, as well as constructing a research question, analysis, and formulating a research plan. There are no limitations on what type of document one chooses to transcribe and abstract, but two of the most common types of documents are wills and land deeds. The first time one transcribes a document should not be for the portfolio. Practice is required!

I consider myself a fairly competent transcriber, especially after deciphering my grandparents’ handwriting over the course of the WWII project. But transcribing wills and deeds requires an additional set of skills. Because these are legal documents, having a familiarity with legal terms is a must. Learning to recognize unfamiliar terms in a clerk’s chicken scratch can be difficult. Even though I have only transcribed nine deeds so far, I am very familiar with the terms “hereditaments” and “appurtenances” at this point. After a while the boilerplate language becomes predictable and easier to transcribe. Again, this is where I stress practice!

The Genealogy Standards address transcriptions in a couple of places. Standard 32: Transcribing, Abstracting, and Quoting Principles goes into great detail as to what is expected in a transcription, including “…when quoting and transcribing, genealogists render wording, spelling, numbering, abbreviations, superscripts, and similar features exactly as they appear in the original.” Doing this can be difficult with auto correct in a word processing program. Most of us cringe at misspelled words, phonetic challenges, and inconsistent spellings. However, when doing a transcription, it is vitally important to keep everything the same. I am reminded of the song from the second act of Hamilton when Angelica frets over the placement of a comma in one of Alexander’s letters because it changes the meaning of the phrase. This is why we must retain accuracy in transcriptions. For example, an incorrectly placed comma may create two children in a will when there is only one. (John, William vs. John William)

The book Professional Genealogy edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills has a chapter on transcribing and abstracting documents. Chapter 16 provides a variety of examples and forms, including wills, land deeds, and estate inventories. I highly recommend this chapter for anyone attempting transcriptions or abstracts. In fact, the book lays open on the floor by my desk as I work on my transcriptions.


Until next week! Sadly my summer vacation is almost over as I must return to the classroom very, very soon. August 1st—my self-imposed date for mailing in my preliminary application form to the Board for Certification of Genealogists is rapidly approaching as well!

Things I do in my spare time…I knit. I am almost done with a sweater for this fall. I should have it completed by next week.

My newest, soon-to-be finished, sweater, 2017

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/07/25/my-path-to-certification-issue-no-3/

The Descendants of Jacob Troxell

In 1998, when I was still in my twenties, I self published a family history of my ancestor Jacob Troxell. The manuscript was not fancy by any means. I wrote and typed the document on a simple word processing typewriter as we did not own a computer. I copied the pages on the xerox machine at work, then took them to Kinko’s to spiral bind them together. I wrote dozens of letters to various family members, in the beginning, to gather information for the book, and then later, to sell copies of my precious manuscript. Even then I was thinking ahead when I donated a copy to the Allen County Public Library in Indiana. Today, the book can be found by searching WorldCat.

troxell-book-worldcat-entry

WorldCat Entry for the Troxell book

mayflower-silver-books

Some Mayflower silver books from my own collection

Back then, I was a relatively new genealogist, but I knew the importance of numbering systems and including my sources. The book was not footnoted, however, but modeled on the style of the Mayflower silver books. Each descendant was assigned a number, followed by their full name with an accounting of their lineage back to the original ancestor or immigrant. Biographical information and a list of known children came next. At the end of each entry, a list of references was included. The Mayflower books have evolved since then, with later volumes in the series using inline references instead of footnotes.

As my skills have developed and evolved in the last 18 years, it has become more important to me to revise my first manuscript. I waffle between embarrassment and pride in my early accomplishment. The state of Indiana celebrated its bicentennial during the year 2016. As a result, there was a push to release state historical documents into the public view. Last June, while I was at SCGS’s Jamboree, Ancestry released several Indiana related databases, including but not limited to, death, marriage, and birth records. Overall, this has been a huge boon to my research as three of my four grandparents were natives of Indiana. Many of my maternal grandfather’s ancestors were among the earliest settlers of the state, particularly in the county of Fayette. Jacob Troxell was one of these early pioneers, arriving in the mid 1820s. His family belonged to the wave of settlers who moved west from Pennsylvania into the Miami Valley of Ohio during the first decade of the nineteenth century. As a young child (or teenager), Jacob Troxell settled outside of Dayton, Ohio. As the United States expanded into Indiana, prosperous Daytonians began purchasing land in Indiana. Abraham Troxell, Jacob’s father, bought land in Waterloo Township in 1826 and Jacob relocated his young family to Fayette county. A few years later, Abraham deeded the Fayette county land to Jacob.

jacob-troxell-outline

n The revised outline of Jacob’s descendants

So where do I start? As my friends and family will attest, I have been bombarding them with updates on this enterprise. Over my Thanksgiving break, I pulled out my copy of the Troxell manuscript. I began to construct a new framework (or outline) for Jacob and his next three generations of descendants, based on the original manuscript and all the subsequent research I have added to my database in the last two decades. My outline was simple, recording only Jacob and his descendants, spouses, and children, with only birth, marriage, and death dates. Overall, I prefer the NGS Quarterly system of numbing. (For more information on genealogy numbering systems, check out Numbering Your Genealogy by Curran, Crane, and Wray.) In this draft, I stopped to write very few footnotes as I wanted to focus on constructing the outline. Those footnotes that I did write were generally for infants who died young. There would be little for me to add later on. At this point, the outline has become my research plan.

jacob-troxell-obit-master-list

Obituary spreadsheet

In the next phase, I transferred all the names of the direct descendants to an excel spreadsheet. In four generations, Jacob’s progeny increased to 206 known individuals, including those of his four step-children. Currently, I am collecting obituaries with the goal to locate as many newspaper articles, obituaries, and death notices of these descendants as possible, with about 50% tracked down already. This week I expanded the spreadsheet to include spouses. I have been delighted to discover many of Indiana’s county libraries have improved online research request forms as well as online obituary indexes. St. Joseph county, Allen county, and Plymouth county have been extremely useful to me during the last month. I was also pleased to discover that newspapers[dot]com added two Muncie newspapers to their premium membership in the last week. Having a spreadsheet to record what records I do and do not have has been extremely helpful. I feel my research is much more focused, plus I love crossing things off when I obtain a record! One additional research bonus…I have found it very helpful to organize my research based on the assigned number a descendant was given, both in my paper and digital files.

Stay tuned for periodic updates on this endeavor in the coming months! What plans do you have to record your family history?

“Who Lives? Who Dies? Who Tells Your Story?

                                                                                Time…”

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/01/11/the-descendants-of-jacob-troxell/

2016 – A Year in Review

genealogy-lady-at-the-library

Working at the library

A week ago, I honestly didn’t think I was going to write a year in review blog. Yesterday, I pulled up the post I wrote for 2015 and decided it would probably be a good idea after all. Looking back gave me some much needed reflection. What are my goals for 2016? I feel somewhat scattered as there are several projects that I want to undertake, but I am unfocused and a little unmotivated at present. I work best when I write stuff down in lists, but I seldom take the time to do so unless I have an imminent deadline and prioritizing is essential.

I had four main goals for 2015, and I accomplished 50-75% of them. The two 100% successful goals were publishing the second volume of World War II letters, Lots of Love, Daddy, and working on my skills as a genealogy lecturer. The book was finished in late September. At over 400 pages, it is almost twice as long as the first volume Dear Mother, Love Daddy. The project was a lot of work and I am going to step away from the letters for a little while. The second goal, to improve my skills as a genealogy lecturer, is also going well. I have spoken to three northern California genealogy societies this year as well as continued to give free lecturers at my local library. For 2017, I have already accepted speaking engagements for two northern California societies, for the main branch of the Sacramento library’s genealogy department, and for SCGS’s Jamboree (a national genealogy conference in Southern California).

Lots of Love, Daddy cover

The Second Volume of Letters

Goal number three was to publish an article in a national or state level periodical. Technically, I published an article in the Utah Genealogical Association’s magazine Crossroads in late 2015, but I wasn’t aware of it until 2016. Additionally, I wrote a guest blog (online) for the NextGen genealogy network. However, neither of these truly fulfill my intention of writing for a national or state level periodical. My goal was to write a family history or lineage so I give this goal a 50/50 completion rating.

Goal number four was to lay the groundwork for my BCG portfolio, anticipating that I would go on the clock sometime in 2017. I did do some work towards this. Finally seeing completed portfolio’s at the BCG table at Jamboree made some of the elements, like the KDP, finally click for me. I had to throw out the family I was going to use as I didn’t need to “prove” any of the relationships. I pretty much had direct evidence for everything. I have a new family chosen that fits the parameters of the KDP, but I haven’t had the time to focus on any research since last summer. Ultimately though, at this point, I am not ready to jump in and go on the clock so I don’t feel like I accomplished this goal.

What I accomplished in 2016…

  • Published Lots of Love, Daddy 
  • Attended SCGS’s Jamboree
  • Submitted speaking proposals to SCGS’s Jamboree and was accepted to speak in 2017
  • Gave first paid lecture to the Roots Cellar Sacramento Genealogy Society, followed by lectures to the Solano County Genealogical Society and the Placer County Genealogical Society
  • Gave three additional lectures at the Franklin Branch of the Sacramento library
  • Continued to volunteer once a month at the library, dispensing genealogy advice and assistance
  • Finished transcribing and posting over 1,300 letters written during WWII (the end of a 3½ year project!)
  • Began organizing, transcribing, and posting the 1960s letters from the Yegerlehner family archive
  • Scanned hundreds of Yegerlehner family slides, including some photographs from Roscoe’s & Gladys’ 1964 world tour
  • Recruited two maternal family members to DNA test. Sadly, I had several people turn me down on both sides of the family. 😦
  • Inspired by the three sibling DNA chromosome mapping technique that has been very popular this year, I began chromosome mapping the DNA of two sibling pairs (my brother & myself, as well as my two children)
  • Wrote four brief family lineages which are posted on this blog under the “lineages” tab (this makes some nice cousin bait!) and I wrote some of my research down!
  • Completed my application for the Mayflower Society based on the lineage of my ancestor Myles Standish and was approved
  • Began migrating some of the WWII letters and some family documents to archival safe Hollinger boxes and folders
  • Attended the Sacramento African American Family History Seminar with keynote speaker Kenyatta Berry
  • Organized the Kerschner/Scofield collection of letters with the intent to start transcribing them in 2017
  • Continued to post daily on the blog (4th year in a row) with over 2,078 posts since November 2012
  • Wrote the new framework for an update of my 1998 book The Descendants of Jacob Troxell 1787-1885 of Fayette County, Indiana
  • Laid some basic framework for my BCG portfolio, viewed several portfolios at Jamboree, and rethought my KDP and other elements…
troxell-book

First page from the original Troxell book

Goals for 2017 – Speaking and Writing

  • Write a new addition of Jacob Troxell of Fayette County, fully sourced and using a reasonable exhaustive search. The new volume will be similar in scope to the silver Mayflower books. All descendants from generations 1-3 will be fully discussed, and the fourth generation will be named. Eventually I plan to write a second volume starting with the fourth generation. There is only one living person from the fourth generation (that I am aware of) and he is in his nineties.
  • Continue to transcribe and organize my incredibly huge family archive. I feel very blessed by this collection but I am continually overwhelmed by all the information I have to process and preserve.
  • Broaden the scope of my speaking opportunities as well as develop more presentations

Odds and Ends…other stuff I might like to do

  • Submit additional Mayflower lineage(s)
  • Write a finding aid and complete inventory for the WWII letters
  • Work on the third volume of WWII letters
  • Scan more slides
  • Map more DNA chromosomes and find more maternal relatives to test
  • Have fun and make more amazing genealogy related discoveries!

 

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/01/07/2016-a-year-in-review/

Lots of Love, Daddy

Lots of Love, Daddy cover

The second volume of World War II letters is finally available for purchase on Amazon. Titled Lots of Love, Daddy, this book covers the letters written by Roscoe and Gladys during the fall of 1942. Roscoe was a recent arrival in New Caledonia while Gladys recovered from the birth of David in Kentland, Indiana.

Autographed copies of the books can be purchased through the contact form on the website. Payment may be made through PayPal. Stay tuned for more details on this service.

©2016 Deborah Sweeney