Wordless Wednesday

An abandoned school house in the Palouse, taken when I was in high school.

Look closely and see if you see anything interesting in the windows.


Using Off-beat Record Sources in Genealogy

One of the points the National Genealogical Society makes in its “Standards for Sound Genealogical Research” publication is to:

“seek original records, or reproduced images of them when there is reasonable assurance they have not been altered, as the basis for their research conclusions”.

is a good one. One of the major sources of genealogical information is Ancestry.com. They offer a huge amount “reproduced images” of “original records.” The images however, have sometimes been altered to show ownership of that record. This is an improper practice given that the original has been modified in ways that sometimes cut their validity and use as primary sources of information.

Notwithstanding the policy of Ancestry, Inc. to give accurate records, they are claiming ownership of materials that are in the public domain and/or not eligible for copyright protection. These records have become compilations, according to the NGS’s standards.

“use compilations, communications and published works, whether paper or electronic, primarily for their value as guides to locating the original records … ”.

By citing directly to the record compilation as provided by Ancestry.com, one is effectively using a secondary source. Even though Ancestry does offer a clue about the original source, it remains a fact that their records are only “guides to locating the original records”.

Many genealogists find that the records provided by Ancestry.com to be enough for their purposes. This is unfortunate, however, as using this record group is only one step in the research process. Finding the record closest to the original is the next step.

Using the census as an example, one would best go to the nearest National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility to view the record on microfilm. This is what I do for my research and I cite the record as such. I also do this research professionally for those researchers who prefer the best sources available.

The records from Ancestry.com are useful only as “contributions to the critical analysis of the evidence discussed in them”. This analysis aspect is good for all records found online as the majority of records we use as genealogists are not found online. The originals are found in repositories such as the NARA facility in Seattle, Washington where I do my research.

As a genealogist for hire, I find an obligation to do this type of research not only for myself, but also for others. It is one way to give back to the community. Although I do ask that my expenses be covered, as a professional ought to, it is a business transaction of the simplest sort. You can contact me and arrange for lookups in a number of primary records available through NARA or another repository in the Pacific Northwest region.


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


Articles in the Spring-Summer Seattle Gen. Socy Bulletin

The new issue of the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Bulletin is out. One of the articles in it is my contribution. It is a little database I constructed a number of years ago of citations to significant life events from the Washington State Supreme Court reports.

The lead articles in this issue are about the RMS Titanic and the Century 21 Expo in Seattle, in 1962. The Titanic articles include details of some of the passengers’ Pacific Northwest connections. The Expo article is a reminiscence of a society member They are all interesting!

See SGS Bulletin, Spring – Summer 2012, Volume 61, Number 2, page 89 for my piece. The bulletin is a benefit of society membership and is included within the cost. Non-members are encouraged to join and/or find a copy at a major library.

You can contact the society at SeattleGenealogicalSociety.org for copies or find it at your local library.

It is a fun and interesting experience to write for the SGS, and I’ll be contributing more articles in the future.


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

Happy Birthday, Oregon Territory (1843)

On this day in 1843, the Oregon Territory became recognized by a provincial government. Good going, guys and gals!


What Professional Genealogy Look-up Providers Do


Image via Wikipedia

Genealogists search records to find family ancestors, descendants, and other related people. Genealogists consult with others about their findings, instruct others about their pastime and profession, and publicize their findings. How do we do that? By helping each other look up records.

All genealogists are look-up providers to one degree or another. Some of us do lookups as society volunteers or on websites like FindaGrave.com. Some of us do it as professionals. Some genealogists go as far as being credentialed as expert researchers, so other researchers have a better source to cite. Me? I’m just a professional look-up provider. I specialize in the Pacific Northwest states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

One of the ways I do lookups as a volunteer is posting to a GeneaBloggers theme, “Sunday’s Obituary.” Some of these posts come from materials I use personally, and some are extraneous to professional findings. I also post materials that might help another genealogist. All of the posts are meant to help others accurately trace their ancestry, family trees, and other persons.

Like many occupations, a genealogy look-up provider is a specialized job. Some people call us record searchers. We accept calls for specific documents or records and return the results of our efforts. When someone contacts us on GenLighten.com or GenealogyFreelancers.com, for instance, we are ready to provide insight into the research issue. If we feel good about taking on a project with reasonable certainty of success, we bid on it. If we feel that there is little certainty of success or the project is beyond the ken of our services, we pass on it.

The lookup services I provide on GenLighten are straightforward record pulls from several archives and repositories. The site also allows researchers to make specialized requests to all researchers for an area. We, the area’s researchers, can respond and bid on the request or simply provide information that will help the requester make a decision on how to proceed with their project.

GenealogyFreelancers is less structured, as it is geared toward full-fledged genealogy projects. GenLighten users focus on specific records and GenealogyFreelancers users focus on projects with a wider scope, such as searching for entire families. The site also provides for international research projects, as it has a global focus. There is some overlap between the two, but that is unavoidable; you can post a project on either site.

The costs of using a genealogy look-up provider are generally less than those of using a full-fledged professional genealogist. The primary reason is that a professional genealogist has a higher cost of doing business while a look-up provider focuses only on the act of retrieving the record.

My rates on GenLighten are a bit above average due to costs that need to be accounted for; it is a business, after all. A professional genealogist generally has a higher standard for project acceptance as well as a minimum hourly working scale. They may require say, two hours to review all of the project’s documentation before deciding whether and when to proceed with a project. Genealogy look-up providers don’t need to analyze a researcher’s entire project before pulling a record.

Working as a professional look-up provider has its benefits and drawbacks. The benefits are that you are providing a service that helps others, you learn something new for yourself, and you receive income from it. As a professional, you need to account for your actions in a responsible manner. If you follow the rules of the site you are working through and follow recognized standards for genealogy professionals, then you will likely gain legitimacy and reputation in the genealogy pastime and flourish.

Check out both GenLighten and GenealogyFreelancers and see if there are projects you’d like to work with. If not, you can always work with a genealogical society as a member volunteer, pulling records from their collections. The benefits of doing lookups there are also pretty good.

Happy Friday.


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