Follow Friday – WordPress Genealogy Blogs

Apparently this is NaBloPoMo, or in English, “National Blog Post Month,” so I’m going to not quite participate, but encourage others to at least post some.

My current favorite blogging platform is WordPress.com, a hosted version of the WordPress.org blogging platform. A whole lot of genealogy blogs are there and I spent the other day looking at a couple hundred of them. A couple hundred? Yup! It was fun, and I now follow most of them. I’ve also added them to my del.icio.us list under the keywords “genealogy” and “blogs.”

One, “Stanczyk – Internet Muse,” has recent, and interesting, op-ed piece about Ancestry.com. The Stanczyk blog I read pretty much weekly because the writer has interesting materials and things to say way outside of my own research interests. Another, “Potato Roots,” has such an interesting name that I shared a comment with it’s owner.

WordPress.com encourages responsible and reasonably accurate blogging. It also enforces a good no-ads policy. A couple of tools I especially like on WordPress.com are the Zemanta content suggestion feature and the After-the-Deadline spelling and grammar checking feature.

The Zemanta feature is a huge collection of material from your own and others’ blogs and websites that can be re-used without fear of copyright infringement. It can suggest images from a bunch of popular sites, including Flickr, Picasa, Wikipedia, and other Creative Commons-oriented repositories.

The After-the-Deadline tool takes your text and runs it through a well-maintained dictionary, thesaurus, and grammar checking tool and offers up corrections and improvements to better match online reading habits and writing styles. While the A-t-D extension doesn’t work on the scale of the tools in a regular word processor like OpenOffice.org Writer, it is a good final check to help you look better online.

These two tools, Zemanta, and A-t-D, are also available as Chrome and Firefox extensions, so they are useful even if you don’t use the best integrated blogging platform. The A-t-D extension even works on regular websites and social media spots like Google Plus.

Another feature I really like on WordPress is it’s media library. No more flipping about in Google Docs for links and sharing permissions and posting those links into your Blogger blog. Yuck! In the WP dashboard, a well-designed cockpit, you can upload and manage materials sharable by the blog as a whole or on a post-by-post basis. Each entry for the media items shows which part of the blog it is attached to, so you can find things easily.

While WordPress blogging won’t make you a better genealogist, it will make what genealogy stuff you post look better.

Hoping to see more genealogy blogs on WP, soon.

NPM

© 2011 N. P. Maling – Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research

Congratulations to the APG folks

Congratulations to all of the new, present, and past Association of Professional Genealogists officers.

Press release about the APG elections.

Picking a Professional Genealogist, Redux

The Association of Professional Genealogists is composed of members who choose to be called professional. Does that, in fact, make them “professionally designated”? No. That makes them self- designated professionals. The APG does not screen for anything other than paid membership and signature on a piece of paper.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists does not “professionally designate” it’s members. The people who go through the certification process choose to be professionals, or not; their own designation, not the Board’s. Many of the members of the BCG have chosen to test their skills against the Board’s requirements so they can demonstrate to others that they are qualified to do other highly specialized work, but, they are not practicing professionally as genealogists. That makes them self-designated non-professionals, doesn’t it?

The International Commission for the Accreditation of Genealogists does not “professionally designate” a member of their group. The members choose to be called professionals on their own. The members who practice professionally, again, are self-designated, like they are with the APG and BCG.

One of my favorite librarians is a member of these organizations. She is not a practicing professional genealogist. She got these postnomials to prove to herself and others that she knows the subject. Is she a non-”professionally designated genealogist”? She is one of the best I have ever met, but she doesn’t take clients. That’s her choice, not the APG’s, the BCG’s, or the ICAPGEN’s.

Taking the following quote and facts from the LDS church’s own standards:

 “Years of education, research experience, and satisfactory service to clients may be just as important as credentials.”

Continuing:

Professional genealogists include those who are experienced researchers having:

  • some unique research specialty
  • credentials that show advanced skills
  • years of education and professional development
  • access to facilities with many records

Where is it necessary to have a specific degree here? Nowhere. Where is it necessary to have a specific postnomial here? Nowhere. Where do “professionally designated” genealogists fit in this picture? It does not matter. Period. If you do the job well, the client is happy, and all parties involved are satisfied, great. That’s the point of doing business, satisfying the customer.

Put simply, the customer’s satisfaction is all that matters in business. Will you chose the appropriate genealogist to work with? A genealogist, self-designated as professional or not, who has years of experience and satisfactory service?

I am not a member of any of the groups mentioned, yet I adhere to the ethics and sound business practices advocated by the APG and BCG. They are worthwhile organizations to recognize and follow because they have strong ethical standards for all genealogists to adhere to.

Thank you for reading.

© 2011 N. P. Maling – Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research

Review: AlaskaGenealogy.com

Map of USA with Alaska highlighted and shown i...

AlaskaGenealogy.com focuses, obviously, on matters Alaskan.

The site has a clean design, clearly presenting the categories of links that it hosts, and minimal irrelevant advertising.

The most valuable links are in the archives, cemeteries, census, and immigration categories. The rest of the links are to sites that cover a broader array of topics, or are under construction. Alaska is a huge state but with a shorter history and fewer people living there than most. The information for some of the categories and topics may simply not be available online.

There is a bit of background for each category that explains what’s there, but these descriptions could go a bit more in depth to tell readers more about why the included links are relevant. Linking to a message board on Ancestry.com for information about a topic is a sure way to lead a new or less-experienced genealogist into a site they may not be able to navigate as easily. The content on the message boards is probably not what they are looking for, anyway.

Some of the links are broken, but that happens all the time on the Internet. The AlaskaGenealogy site seems to be a one-person project, and one person can only do so much with so many links at once. They do ask for additions, updates, and corrections, which means they care about their content.

I like the site and have added it to my del.icio.us list.

© 2011 N. P. Maling – Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research

Lookup Providers – Valued Genealogy Researchers

[Updated 6 December 2011]

Genealogists search records to trace ancestors and descendants and find missing people. Genealogists consult with others about their findings, instruct others about their pastime and profession, and publicize their findings.

All genealogists are lookup providers one degree or another. Some of us do it as volunteers. Some of us do it as professionals. Likewise, some genealogists go all the way to the top with credentials: Michael Hait is a credentialed genealogist. Jill Morelli [her blog is in process of being renamed] is on track to become one. Me? I’m just a lookup provider who has respect for these two. I’ve never met either Mr. Hait or Ms. Morelli in person, but through their writing, I feel we are all strongly committed to genealogy, as professionals and volunteers. What do we have in common?

I like to think we “raise the bar” on quality genealogy. We do it to help others. My, occasional as they are, “Sunday’s Obituary” posts are one way of sharing what I do. Some of these items come from materials I use personally, and some are “extraneous” to professional findings. Most other of my posts also have materials which might help another genealogist. They are all meant to help others accurately trace their ancestors, descendants, and missing people.

Mr. Hait’s post this morning which discusses Mary Petty reminded me of my own post about her a couple of years ago. In it I pretty much dissected one of her posts about what makes a professional genealogist, and the results aren’t pretty. She is an example of someone in the genealogy pastime or profession that I cannot respect. Her posts were designed to lead other genealogists not to consult with others, but to drive business to her company by being rude to other genealogists, disrespectful of other professions, and using scare tactics. Scare tactics are an unethical business practice in any profession. Rudeness and disrespect are flat-out not nice.

I mentioned several books in that post, which I think exemplify professionalism in genealogy, and am going to do it again. One of them specifically addresses professionals like me, a record searcher. These books are items that Ms. Petty knew about or should have known about as part of her education but ignored.

Board for Certification of Genealogists. The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. Provo, Published for the Board by Ancestry. Inc. 2000.

This book is referenced heavily by Ms. Clifford’s book, below.

Karen Clifford, AG. Becoming an Accredited Genealogist. Orem, Utah: Ancestry, Inc. 1998.

This book was written for genealogists who seek to be certified by the LDS church, and focuses its research practices on resources Ms. Petty’s company uses.

Donald Lines Jacobus. Genealogy as a Pastime and Profession. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. 1978.

Mr. Jacobus was the premiere professional of his day and left a strong legacy for others to live up to.

Sunday’s Obituary – Eliza Jane Sawyer – Arlington, Washington

Eliza Jane Sawyer – Arlington

Mrs. Eliza Jane Sawyer, 72, Route Four Arlington, died Friday morning at a Stanwood nursing home after a long illness. Mrs. Sawyer was born in Fall River, Calif., January 9, 1879. She moved to Washington in 1904 to Douglas County. In 1924 she moved to Bryant, where she lived until one year ago when she took up residence in Stanwood. She belonged to the Bryant Grange for many years. Surviving are a daughter, Mrs. Ben Ludeman of Wenatchee, a brother, B. F. Gassaway, Fall River Mills, Calif., and a sister, Mrs. Olevia Sutliff of Mount Shasta, Calif. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday at the chapel of the Moll Funeral Home. The Rev. Quall will officiate. Burial will be at a Waterville, Wash. cemetery.

Everett Herald, Everett, Washington, 3 March 1951, page 13, column 1.

Eliza Jane Sawyer - Obituary

Obituary from the Everett Herald, Everett, Washington

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Image courtesy of Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research. N. P. Maling.

Genealogy, Family History, or Something Else?

The LDS church is getting out of the family history business, even going as far as removing the word history from it’s products. It’s getting into the data mining business, instead.

Ancestry, Inc. doesn’t even know the definition of genealogy. You can’t find an explanation of it on their website.

A frequent result on the search term “family history” is discussions of medical issues more properly called medical history – health information. These are matters appropriately discussed with one’s own personal physician. It’s not family history. It’s not genealogy.

Tamura Jones has an excellent two-part discussion of what genealogy is. He’s left the matter open to fault-finding and improvements, so I’ll take a crack at an improvement.

Genealogy is the study of family, human family, relationships. Medical history is a subset of genealogy. Religious history is a subset of genealogy (albeit based on unfounded and impossible to resolve assumptions). Good, solid, generational history, as E. S. Mills once wrote, is based on information gathered from diverse sources and merged into a whole by skilled researchers. There is no bias in it, nor is there any favoritism or branding of one generation or person as better than another. Family history, as Mr. Jones puts it, doesn’t care about biological, or religious, history. It does care about legal and other “official” facets of human family relationships.

The term stemma is more technically proper to the results of someone’s research into biological, or religious, history. These areas are more amenable to the sort of “pedigree” and “ancestry” results that textual analysis involves.

Biblical scholars have a very long history of doing such textual research. Have they found conclusive proof of someone’s descent from [insert your favorite deity/planet/galaxy here]? The Christian belief system “stems” from unproven assertions and assumptions based on archaic written materials. Are they able to prove a genealogically solid family history?

Medical researchers, too, have a long history of recording their research results, building huge databases of genetic data and long, involved histories of various conditions. Their work, with all of its jargon, Latin most of it, fits well with stemma. Truth be told, most human medical conditions “stem” from genealogically significant events.

Stemmata of this sort can fit into a family history, if it is appropriately labeled as such, and not mis-qualified as genealogically significant. Questionable representations that one person is of another sort should be qualified as such and held to a high standard of proof. A responsible genealogist uses facts, not fictions.

History, the study of human relationships, is also a subset of genealogy. Historical information is something the LDS church apparently doesn’t care about anymore. Historical information is something Ancestry, Inc. is marketing as a commodity. History is the story of lives, it has no ownership or monetary value. One doesn’t need to go to a church to get a biased view or go to a publicly traded commercial endeavor to get historical information. A genealogist doesn’t need those things. A genealogist relies on his or her own smarts in making a family history work, not the opinion of someone who’s selling something. Facts, not opinions, not money, make family history worthwhile.

Family history, all of it: biological, religious, historical lore, and so on, are part of a genealogist’s work. The facts and the fictions merge into a whole. Whether the genealogist calls it a genealogy or a family history depends on which way the results hang together, mostly facts, or mostly fictions. A genealogically solid research product is a balance of both: the truth, with no unnecessary qualifications or favoritisms toward one facet or another of someone’s existence. A smart genealogist has reliable facts, with excellent sources backing them up.

Responsible genealogists have standards and ethics. There are groups devoted to upholding those standard and ethics. There are other groups which try to counter-act these standard-bearers but their members can’t rightly be called genealogists because of their biases and agendas. Only people who follow solidly grounded research practices can produce quality family histories as described above. If you aspire to be a genealogist you need to study and abide by recognized standards and ethical beliefs. If you don’t, you are just making more fiction for the rest of us to wade through and debunk.

Are you making a genealogy, a family history, or something else? Let’s hear it.

Standard-bearers for genealogists:

Association of Professional Genealogists

Board for Certification of Genealogists

National Genealogical Society