Writing for a Society Publication

English: N.E. Historic-Genealogical Society, S...

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I write for the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Bulletin and it is an experience in learning how to put together a great article on family history. Having learned the ropes of how to research family trees and how to look up records in various sources, I’m able to put all of that data together in a comprehensive article to share with the community.

Many societies need new material for their newsletters and journals on a regular basis. Local, county, and state genealogical societies often have at least a newsletter. Some have journals of varying publication schedules: quarterly, semi-annual, and/or annual. Lineage societies such as the Mayflower Descendants also have journals and publications you can write for.

Journals other than those of the national societies such as the National Genealogical Society’s Quarterly and the NEHGS Register often have broader standards for article submissions. While the Quarterly and Register articles often are written by professionals and peer-reviewed, many society journals have somewhat lowered standards for quality and source citations.

There are a number of considerations for writing for a society publication, such as their focus on a particular area, time period, or subject matter. Societies also have their own guidelines and styles of presentation.

Focus Areas

Finding a genealogical society or journal for a topic area is easy. One of the best ways to find an appropriate journal is to ask a reference librarian at your local library. The genealogy librarian is often familiar with the different journals and their focus areas and able to tell you which ones for which you might consider submitting an article.

A newsletter is often more appropriate for general articles. For a focused article, such as a compiled family tree, or ancestry genealogy, you might consider submitting it to a journal, rather than to a newsletter.

Speak with the society before you submit an article to query the editor for its appropriateness to their journal or newsletter. If it is, they are likely to accept and publish it. The article then becomes the property of the society, restricting your ability to re-publish or submit it to another society. If, on the other hand, a society doesn’t accept an article, you are free to submit it to another. Always follow up, within a month or two of submission to see whether the society has plans for the article.

Guidelines and Styles

Be sure to check for guidelines and style guides on the society’s website or contact them and ask if they have any idiosyncrasies. For instance, the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Bulletin uses the word “county” in its text and end-notes on its first occurrence. As an example: “Seattle, King County, Washington Territory.” After that, they just use the city or county name, as appropriate.


The benefits of having written an article for a society newsletter or journal are three-fold. You benefit the communities of society members, people interested in the topic area, and genealogists or family historians who read the publication.


© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

Sunday’s Obituary – Mrs. Jane Evans, Portland, Oregon

Mrs. Jane Evans

Final rites for Mrs. Jane Evans, 90, resident of Portland for the past 62 years, will be held at 3 P. M. today in Pearson’s Funeral church. Death, which occurred Thursday, was due to chronic myocarditis.

She was born in England and came to this country in 1872. She was a charter member of the Third Baptist church.

A daughter and two sons survive. They are Mrs. Alice Myers, Fred J. and Norman D. Evans. Eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren also survive. Interment will be in Riverview cemetery.

Portland Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, 23 March 1940, page 8, column 2.

TMG 8 Review

I guess I’d better say a few words about Wholly Genes’ The Master Genealogist, version 8, now. It has been a while since I wrote about the public beta release, so here are a few words about the final [sic] release.

Since Wholly Genes released their still-buggy TMG Version 8 in December, things have gotten a lot more interesting on the home front. I am still occupied with cleaning up and fixing the output from Version 7 documents, so have not really tried the new features other than to compare them to the old.

The major change for me was the Windows 7 printing capability. It works, to a degree. I cannot open a MS Word-format document in OpenOffice.org Writer without crashing it. Instead, I have to use RTF (Rich Text Format) output. There is not a whole lot of difference between the output required, and RTF is more common than Word 97, so it is satisfactory.

One other thing that particularly irks me about the reports is the changes Wholly Genes made to the Journal report. Although it is adequate to the format, the output needs extensive fixes to conform to either the NEHGS or the NGSQ Register style. In particular, I am not very happy with the forced use of “ibid” in footnotes. This problem does not occur with endnotes, which are “uniqued” for the style now. Yuck! Even more reason to write your own reports with data extracted in raw form from TMG.

I am still particularly interested in the GEDCOM import/export issues with TMG versions 7 and 8. They both continue to have numerous flaws. I tried the export in TMG 8 with the option for all tags and not all tags were exported. This is a serious flaw, especially for someone who might not examine the output before sending it off to a correspondent.

I need to export a number of major projects for backup and further processing in other applications, and this is impossible to do. To quote from my review of the public beta: “TMG’s deliberately removing a researcher’s work from public sharing or even for private backup is a grievous mistake that could have legal and ethical consequences …”.

Again, as I wrote in the public beta review “the rest of the changes are minor and more appropriate for a minor number release, say 7.5.” Tamura Jones also wrote a review of the beta version. His review is an excellent portrayal of the rest of TMG’s faults, and any potential user should read it.

While it is nice to use TMG 8 on a Windows 7 machine, I will be sticking with TMG 7 on Windows XP in a virtual machine for a while. I will use version 7 until Wholly Genes fixes a bunch more bugs and gets version 8 stable enough for full release status. Finally, by the time 2015 rolls around (the year Microsoft ends support for the TMG database backend), I’ll probably have my own genealogy application up and running with a full data set extracted from TMG, in complete form. So, until then, we’ll keep struggling with the best and worst of the genealogy applications on the market: The Master Genealogist.


© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

On Indexing

I am currently preparing an index for a family history. The index will include places as well as people. A town, county, and state name index is important to family histories. The reason for including place names in the index is to allow the reader to follow a larger family group on its migrations to various places.

In another family history, covering colonial and federal period Massachusetts, the family consistently expanded outwards to New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and New York, making the project that much larger. By including these items in the index, the reader can follow a particular branch of the family in its outward peregrinations.

Sometimes, if the family history is large enough, or complex enough, separate indexes might work better to allow for quick finding in the text. You might want to consider having the primary family in its own index, everyone else related to the primary family in a general index, and place names in a third, or subject index.

A subject index in a family history would include topics such as farming, occupations, the names of prominent universities the family members have graduated from, and other such matters. One of my current indexing projects includes references to about a dozen universities and several dozen more graduates of those universities. As is a major feature of the family history, it is imperative that they be indexed; perhaps names of graduates under the university heading, or perhaps just the universities referenced where they occur in the text. It is a judgment call whether to index the graduates and universities together.

The level of detail in a surname index can be important, especially with larger family histories. People oftentimes name their sons and daughters after other members of the family. For instance, a son would be named after one of his grandfathers. This pattern can continue for generations. In the index, one would ideally include the birth and death years, as well as at least the middle initial, if not the full middle name, of each member of the family with the same given name.


© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

This post originally appeared on the defunct Seattle Book Scouts’ Blog in 2009.

Sunday’s Obituary – Andrew M. Miller, Portland Oregon

Andrew M. Miller

Funeral services for Andrew Mortimer Miller, 62, retired contractor, and one-time resident of Portland, who died at his home in Tacoma Thursday, will be held at the Lynn mortuary in Tacoma today at 3 P. M.

Born in Davenport, Ia., Mr. Miller came to Portland with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Miller, about 40 years ago and moved to Tacoma in 1915.

He is survived by the widow, Blanche, four sisters, Mrs. Clarice Bruhn of Portland, Mrs. Esther Packard of Port Townsend, Wash., Mrs. Harrison Mason of San Diego and Mrs. Lee Abbott of Seattle, and a brother, Herbert R. Miller of New York.

Portland Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, 23 March 1940, page 8, column 2.

 Portland Oregonian, 23 March 1940, p. 8, c. 2.

Portland Oregonian, 23 March 1940, p. 8, c. 2.

Is Genealogy Romancing the Bloodlines?


This piece comes with a semi-humorous bent, so be forewarned. 🙂

I read an article a while ago about Icelandic dating. While that article had a different idea in mind, it sparked some interesting questions for me. Where does interest in genealogy come from? What does romance have to do with genealogy in the first place?

Well, thinking about genealogy in terms of ancestry, family history, and genealogy research, I’d rank genealogy as the romance level, ancestry research at the puppy love level, and family history research at the infatuation level.

I looked at some statistics from Google, and of the three terms, family history had the highest-ranking spot, ancestry was in second place, and genealogy third place. If family history research is the most common, it must be socializing, ancestry casual dating, and genealogy serious romance. Ancestry research is the information gathering necessary to get a good start on genealogy. Genealogy research is heavy-duty work compared to the simple practice of name collecting.

Name collectors are just name dropping their ancestry, like some folks who claim they are descended from Jesus. People engaged in family history research are building relationships where they have more than just names, and are getting to know the stories behind their ancestors. Ancestry researchers have a stronger interest and decide whether they have the stamina to build strong relationships. Genealogists, on the other hand, become wed to the subject and explore everything they can get their hands on.

Admission: I’m sort of in the middle group at the moment, making a stronger commitment to better genealogy.

T4G: Punctuation and Text Formatting

Hyphens are punctuation, a part of the text; en and em dashes are not, they are formatting marks. I’ll talk a little about the differences and genealogical applications of each. A brief resources section to highlight significant sources used in this article is also given.

The hyphen, en, and em dashes discussed here are part of the standard font package. The hyphen is in the Basic Latin section and the other two are found in the General Punctuation part of the font’s special characters listings.

Punctuation and Text Formatting


Hyphens are punctuation, a part of the text. In the old days of the typewriter and early days of the computer, hyphens were doubled and tripled to substitute for dashes. This is unnecessary now as we have proper dashes available. The hyphen is also distinct from a minus sign, but mathematical expressions occur only rarely in our type of writing.

En Dash

En dashes are what Bringhurst (see resources section) calls analphabetic characters. His thought about the handling of them is different from traditional usage. The differences he considers significant take into account more languages than English, which most fonts are designed for.

In genealogical writing, the en dash is the strongest visual indicator for date ranges. En dashes are meant to separate the two ends of a range such as 1582–1752. Some textual terms can also benefit from its use. En dashes emphasize a separation between a prefix and a word in a compound term such as post–1945, or pre–marriage.

Em Dash

Em dashes separate thoughts. They represent missing data in some cases as in unknown surnames (—?—).

In terms of formatting, there are several micro-stylistic thoughts to consider. One is how much spacing there should be around the em dash.

Bringhurst would have us use spaces around the en dash as an alternative to the (subjectively) lengthy em dash as in “… – …”. Doing this would lead to putting a non-breaking space between the last characters before the en dash to keep the two together, possibly affecting a text’s justification.

One of the faults with Times New Roman is that the em dash is too long. Most professionally designed fonts compensate for the length of the em dash by making the capital M a more realistic width. Times New Roman was designed for a specific purpose: newspapers, and should only be used by that type of publication. Linux Libertine, on the other hand, was designed for more common publications such as this one, and books, so its readability is greater.

Illustration: Linux Libertine and Times New Roman em dashes

Illustration: Linux Libertine and Times New Roman em dashes

Hatcher, and Leclerc and Hoff (see resource section for both), differ on whether there should be spaces around an em dash in text. I would prefer the latter, and include the spaces. Doing this also requires that you pay attention to justification and word breaks at the beginning, so the dash doesn’t sit by itself at the beginning of a line.

My own thought on doubling or tripling the em dash for missing names is that it’s unnecessary. A triple dash, or in Unicode terminology a “horizontal bar” (―) can stand in. It is shorter, and more representative of the strong emphasis necessary. I prefer to denote missing data with just an em dash or as (—?—) [opening parenthesis em dash question mark em dash closing parenthesis].

Dumb and Curly Quotes, Redux

Using real quotes (curly “ / ”) raises the tone of what we read. It’s also what we’re most brought up to see in printed published materials. Online it’s another matter, though, since most early computer systems couldn’t handle curly quotes and kept the dumb quote from the teletype repertoire.


The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographical Style, version 3.2, Point Roberts, Washington: Hartley & Marks, Publishers, 2008. See in particular chapter 5 “Analphabetic Characters.” on punctuation and textual markup.

Patricia Law Hatcher, Producing a Quality Family History, Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, Inc., 1996.

John D. Lamb, Notes on OpenOffice Writer: Large and Complex Documents, n. p.: n. pub., 2009. Available online at the author’s home page. See in particular Chapter 2 “Characters, Fonts and Highlighting,” on the details of the characters and their handling.

Michael J. Leclerc and Henry B. Hoff, eds., Genealogical Writing in the 21st Century, Boston, Massachusetts: NEHGS, 2006.

Peter Wilson, A Few Notes on Book Design. Normandy Park, Washington: The Herries Press, 2009. Available online at the LaTeX archives . See in particular, chapter 5 “Picky Points,” on punctuation and textual markup.

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