Monday, June 30, 2014

Methodology Monday: Is a good memory a method?

This morning Jill Morelli's excellent blog post reminded me of one of the six qualities Donald Lines Jacobus required of a good professional genealogist: "Ability to grasp and retain an infinite amount of detail."

The idea that a genealogist (or anyone) needs to know lots of facts was more fashionable 80 years ago than now, when we can always look things up on line. But the reason to have them in our heads is to be able to flag things as we see them and make the connection.

Some examples from a set of records recently viewed. What would you suspect about the parents, or the place, or the time of birth, if you found a child with one of these given names?

W. H. H.
Wilbur Orville
Byron Garfield (1880s)
James Blaine
Chester Arthur
Grover Cleveland
Benjamin Harrison
Raymond Roosevelt (1899)

The more we know, the more we can learn.

Do you have more obscure examples? Share them in the comments!

Harold Henderson, "Methodology Monday: Is a good memory a method?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 30 June 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, June 23, 2014

Methodology Monday with city directories

City directory research can be time-consuming, but the truth is I rarely spend enough time on them. This morning's stint reminded me that they are deceptively easy to use -- deceptive in that it's easy for us to leave some of their information ungathered. (It also reminded me why I sometimes prefer physical directories to the on-line versions.) Eight suggestions:

(1) Especially in the 19th century, different publishers may have issued multiple directories in the same year. Make sure to see them all.

(2) Look at every edition. Not only do some years contain obvious mistakes (obvious if we know the context), some years also contain unique pieces of information. More importantly, seeing them all allows the series of still shots of our research target to merge into a motion picture of his or her life.

(3) Check for known associates or relatives of interest and work them the same way as the research target.

(4) If one person is at 444 E. 44th Street and another is at 666 S. Presidential Avenue, check the directory's map or street listing or both. They might be right around the corner from one another.

(5) If previous research or the directory itself has provided the name of an employer or a business or a partner, look them up in the business portion of the directory. Where are they? Who's in charge? Do they relocate or disappear over time? . . . And check to see if there is a "vertical file" or clippings file on them.

(6) For cities and towns of the right size at the right time, don't overlook the criss-cross directory (which lists addresses in order, number by number and street by street). Not only does this make neighbors easier to detect, these listings may indicate who was thought to be the owner, whether they had a telephone (still an issue in the 1950s!), and who the various tenants were.

(7) Again, for cities and towns of the right size at the right time, don't overlook the appended directories for twin cities, small towns, suburbs, and farmers (AKA rural taxpayers, often with the acreage and/or assessed amount listed). Our people might be a few steps outside the city limits.

(8) Don't be too sure that a place was too small to have a directory. Size is relative -- especially a century and more ago, when most small towns really believed they had a future as economic centers. You may need to go there to be sure. Even towns that have some directories digitized or on microfilm usually have additional years that have not been picked up, for whatever reason. Worse yet, some small-city directories have been grouped randomly together on unlabeled reels of microfilm identified only by the state name. I have provided indexes to these reels for Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. But don't believe for a minute that those towns didn't produce additional directories. A lot of local, niche, and small-market publishers saw this as a business opportunity.

I haven't made up a form for all this stuff (similar to forms some people use to make sure they don't overlook items in deeds), and it wouldn't always help. Sometimes we learn of a new associate or employer, the research turns back on itself, and we have to go back through. City directories are the records that just won't quit.

Harold Henderson, "Methodology Monday with city directories," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 June  2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What I would have liked to know as a newbie

I did a lot of genealogy before I had any idea that there were such things as standards, national conferences, an Association of Professional Genealogists, or a Board for the Certification of Genealogists. These things all dawned on me once I got more serious -- and as my previous job, career, and occupation started dissolving.

I love being in genealogy as a business and as a profession. But there are still a few things that I would be happy to have learned sooner:

(1) Most professional genealogists do not rely exclusively on genealogy-based income to support themselves and their families.

(2) Aside from Utah, which is a special case, it helps to be farther east. Pennsylvania has more decades of researchable genealogy than Indiana, just as Indiana has more than Wyoming.

(3) Not all specialties are created equal. Some make better business models than others.

(4) A professional -- whether in terms of standards or doing work for money -- needs to be prepared for some bumps. We don't always know what we don't know; I sure didn't. The process is more fun for those who can take some correction, and who can enjoy both learning new things and un-learning some old ones. (And if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I think genealogy's problem is that people don't criticize one another enough or in the right ways.)

(5) It helps to have some family background or comfort level with running a business. I did not.

Harold Henderson, "What I would have liked to know as a newbie," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 19 June 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

More advanced genealogy education news from CAFG

The Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy will hold its 2015 institute 26-28 March in Dallas. Below is the press release. I'm especially glad to see that the practicum idea is getting additional footholds in genealogy education. These conferences have been well reviewed and they have the additional benefit of being condensed, and taking a minimum amount of time from researchers' busy schedules.

The Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy to Hold Fourth Annual Forensic Genealogy Institute on March 26-28, 2015

The 2015 FGI Offers Two Brand-New, Cutting-Edge Courses for Forensic Genealogists

Dallas, Texas – June 12, 2014 – The Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (CAFG) announced today that the fourth annual Forensic Genealogy Institute (FGI) will be held March 26-28, 2015, at the Wyndham Love Field Hotel in Dallas, Texas. The 2015 FGI features two brand-new, concurrent, 20-hour courses: “Forensic Genealogy Master Practicum” and “Advanced Genetic Genealogy and Unknown-Parentage Cases.”

“FGI offers attendees one-of-a-kind education in forensic genealogy and access to expert forensic genealogists who can answer questions and act as mentors,” said Leslie Brinkley Lawson, CAFG President. “We are excited to offer FGI 2015 participants the opportunity to participate in an unprecedented forensic-genealogy practicum or to gain experience in cutting-edge genetic genealogical research.”

“Forensic Genealogy Master Practicum”
The “Forensic Genealogy Master Practicum” offers six interactive modules that focus on the practical application of forensic skills. Each module is team taught by a pair of experienced professional genealogists. Students will receive hands-on experience in the following areas:
·         Researching various types of forensic cases
·         Working with clients – interviews, contracts, and other
·         Writing forensic reports or affidavits (students will write three reports)
·         Participating in or observing a mock trial to defend a forensic report

The Master Practicum allows students to put forensic skills to work immediately in a review- and discussion-based classroom environment, where they will work one-on-one with fellow students and with instructors.

“Advanced Genetic Genealogy and Unknown-Parentage Cases”
The “Advanced Genetic Genealogy and Unknown-Parentage Cases” course explores the application of DNA and traditional genealogical research to uncovering the genetic heritage of individuals with unknown parentage. Attendees will receive active experience in the following areas:
  • Developing custom DNA-testing plans
  • Analyzing the vast amount of data generated through DNA testing
  • Integrating multiple record types and/or DNA-test results to comprehensively address the research question
  • Navigating potential media exposure

Genealogists who can use DNA to successfully address unknown-parentage cases are in great demand,” says course coordinator CeCe Moore. “This unique course offers in-depth instruction of the methodologies used by professional genetic genealogists.”

Each FGI 2015 course offers 20 hours of instruction over just three days, minimizing hotel costs and time away from families and jobs. The learning opportunities presented at FGI are created specifically for professional, practicing genealogists who specialize or seek to specialize in forensic genealogy.

Registration for the 2015 Forensic Genealogy Institute will open in summer 2014.

About CAFG
Established in 2011, the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (CAFG) is a business league with a professional membership dedicated to the advancement of forensic genealogy, which is research, analysis, and reporting in cases with legal implications. CAFG promotes high standards of professional and ethical conduct, provides education and training opportunities, and assists in professional development though mentorship, full membership, credentialing, and awarding of fellowships. Learn more at

Harold Henderson, "More advanced genealogy education news from CAFG," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 17 June 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, June 16, 2014

Methodology Monday with NGS Magazine on women and DNA

The April-June issue of NGS Magazine includes two introductory "gateway" articles (including further references) that can help us jump-start some potentially neglected aspects of our genealogy:

* Jane E. Wilcox on "Finding American Women's Voices through the Centuries." In research on five centuries of records on her surname family, "The records where I most often 'heard' their voices were court records, letters, journals, and newspapers."

* Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, on "Using Autosomal DNA for Genealogy." Unlike more familiar male-line Y-DNA and female-line MtDNA, autosomal DNA involves the other 22 chromosomes. Over the generations DNA from the two parents is mixed but some comparatively long segments are retained. To make the ancestral connection, both automated and hand analysis of matches and an accurate document-based family tree (preferably including collaterals) is needed. "The atDNA test offered today for genealogical purposes looks primarily at five hundred thousand or more individual locations or markers on the chromosomes. The value at each location of one person is compared to the same location of another person . . . . It takes work to determine who a common ancestor is."

Jane E. Wilcox, "Finding Women's Voices through the Centuries," NGS Magazine vol. 40 (April-June 2014):28-32.

Debbie Parker Wayne, "Using Autosomal DNA for Genealogy," NGS Magazine vol. 40 (April-June 2014):50-54.

Harold Henderson, "Methodology Monday with NGS Magazine on women and DNA," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 16 June 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Time is not on our side

For those planning to submit a portfolio to the Board for the Certification of Genealogists, BCG proposes a 12-month timetable.

Is it a good timetable? That depends on you and your situation. For me, the task was so much bigger than any other genealogy project I'd ever done that it was just hard to wrap my mind around it. But I think we all could use some such timetable . . . and then use it to track our progress so that we can see whether we are likely to get done in time, or whether we will need an extension. I'm a great believer in breaking tasks down into manageable components.

If you're going to seek certification (or undertake any comparably large project), figure out what you're going to give up for the duration. Even if you follow Michael Hait's path of submitting samples of your everyday work on randomly chosen families, it will take longer than you think. 

Seriously. All the genealogists I know are overcommitted. Those I know who are on their second or third extension to complete their portfolios are not there because they don't know how to do the work and write it up. They don't have time.

A former employer evinced little sympathy for people who told him that: "We all have 24 hours a day." He was right in the sense that priorities have to be set. A segmented schedule of the kind BCG proposes will give us a way to measure whether we've got them set right yet, while there is still time to make mid-course corrections.

Harold Henderson, "Time is not on our side," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 12 June 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy registration for January 2015

The following is the SLIG press release on registration for the 12-16 January 2015 session. Obviously I have a vested interest here since I'm co-coordinating one of the courses, but seriously -- if none of these twelve tempts you to spend a week in Salt Lake City next winter, check your pulse.

Registration for SLIG 2015 opens on Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 9:00 AM Mountain Time! Pick your course, so that you are ready to enroll when registration opens as there are limited seats and the courses fill fast. The following tracks are being offered:
  • The Family History Law Library (Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL and Rick Sayre, CG, CGL)
  • Beyond the Library: Researching in Original Resource Repositories (John Colletta, Ph.D., FUGA)
  • Advanced Genealogical Methods (Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS)
  • Finding Immigrant Origins (David Ouimette, CG)
  • Advanced German Research (F. Warren Bittner, CG)
  • Advanced Research Tools: Post-War Military Records (Craig R. Scott, CG, FUGA)
  • Resources & Strategies for United States Research, Part I (Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FUGA, FMGS)
  • From Confusion to Conclusion: Writing Proof Arguments (Kimberly Powell and Harold Henderson, CG)
  • Getting Started with Genetic Genealogy (Debbie Parker Wayne, CG, CGL)
  • Advanced DNA Analysis (CeCe Moore, Angie Bush)
  • Diving Deeper into New England (Advanced) (D. Joshua Taylor, MA)
  • Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum (Angela McGhie)
Immerse yourself in a specific genealogical topic for a week-long educational opportunity that is unparalleled. Many of the courses are interactive and highlight on site research at the Family History Library (FHL) as well as one-on-one consultations with the course coordinators and instructors. These individuals are genealogical experts and provide guidance and insight that may help you overcome those brick walls and move forward with your research.

Attendees have time to explore Salt Lake City’s many attractions as well as spend time outside of the course researching at the FHL. The library is a short walk from the Institute’s location.

When making your travel plans, you may also want to consider attending the Association of Professional Genealogist’s Professional Management Conference (PMC), which will be held the 

Thursday and Friday before the Institute begins. You can check their website ( for more information. You can experience two great events being held back-to-back at one location!

Sign up before October 31st and you will save over 10% off your registration. Become a member of UGA and increase your savings even more. 

​For more information on the Institute and registration information go to

Harold Henderson, "Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy registration for January 2015," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 11 June 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, June 9, 2014

Methodology Monday: Genealogy in bulk? Twelve suggestions

When I have a choice, I prefer to work on one genealogy problem at a time. But there are other times -- such as when the task becomes identifying and documenting all descendants and spouses in three of four generations.

And in order to meet standards, we have to find the people first. Most of the following items work better when working on people who lived on both sides of the Dark Age in the US (that is, before and after 1850). Deep in the Dark Age or well up into the 20th century would be another post, actually several different posts depending on the location.

* When possible, do the work in a good library or archive where it's easy to switch from on line to on paper. Some on-line materials are hard to navigate, and some on-line providers omit crucial material like prefaces and introductions where authors and compilers tell something (intentionally or otherwise) about how they did their work. For me that place is in  Fort Wayne. More info here.  One practical reason to make it the HQ-away-from-home for this work is that it has the world's best collection of genealogical periodicals, indexed on PERSI. Get the basic info from Find My Past and then get the relevant call numbers from the online catalog.

* If this is a perennial project, check the old folders, binders, emails, and notes created long ago and scattered on various web sites or cloud locations for clues that may mean more now than they did at the time.

* Use property and probate records if they are within reasonable driving distance, or if they have been digitized. (Not using property records could land you in trouble. Using probate records will not be the death of you.)

* Don't start by searching broadly. Approximate a birth/marriage/death date and place and look for candidate parents/spouses/children then and there. Check metasites for digital newspaper availability.

* If you have a region or state, search broadly within those confines, for instance New England. Peruse Michael Hait's inevitably incomplete Online State Resources for Genealogy 3.0.

* Ancestry and FamilySearch have some of the same data, but their indexes are not interchangeable. Search both. If you have candidate parents, search Family Search's main site using only their names in the parent boxes.

* Google Books and Internet Archive often harbor old periodicals as well as old genealogy books. A lot of microfilms have been digitized and uploaded to Internet Archive as well.

* Less famous venues can be useful when searching broadly, such as the GLO site for federal-land states. While we're waiting for the master newspaper site to emerge, give a try to the larger collections of on-line city directories on Fold3 and Ancestry as well as local providers. For tips see this metadirectory. (But as you close in on the person, the ability to survey every year of a given city's directory becomes crucial.)

* Find A Grave is the best, but it is not the only cemetery site. Also, it contains random unsourced assertions about unpictured grave markers. Which brings me to . . .

* Don't be a source snob. Put on your hazmat suit and acid-resistant gloves, or whatever you think you need, and dive into genealogical dumpsters. Source-free clues appearing there may be verifiable elsewhere -- or at least may lead back to a contemporary document of some kind.

* Use ArchiveGrid within reason, especially if your target people had literate and gossipy neighbors, or belonged to record-creating institutions or societies.

* Don't forget to write it up! Local, state, or national, genealogy editors everywhere are waiting for you.

Enjoy the bulk-genealogy chase. In my experience, it is likely to provide both surprises and -- a bouquet of interesting problems, each of which will require up-close and personal work to solve.

Photo credit: per Creative Commons

Harold Henderson, "Methodology Monday: Genealogy in bulk? Twelve suggestions," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 9 June 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Genealogy resources for La Porte County, Indiana -- work in progress

Some of the northwest district Indiana county genealogists will be getting together today in La Porte, so I finally got serious about starting to put together a list of research resources for this medium-sized county. (You can either follow the link or go to and click on "La Porte County Indiana" in the lower right-hand corner of the page.)

It's amazing what local genealogists have accomplished over the years. Except for the obituary indexes, where I got overwhelmed, I have tried to credit the authors/compilers when I could identify them.

The guide at present comes in four unequal-sized sections:

  • Local Repositories and Societies (courthouse; libraries, archives, and museums; and on-line)
  • Periodicals (two county newsletters and the two state periodicals)
  • Indexes and Abstracts (70 and counting: for births, cemeteries, court records, deaths, divorces, funeral homes, land, marriages, military, naturalizations, newspapers, obituaries, periodicals, probates, professionals, and schools)
So far it's up to eight pages printed out, and as you can see I've stuck pretty much to indexes and the like, without yet starting to describe the actual records! It is a work in progress, so corrections and additions are welcome.

Harold Henderson, "Genealogy resources for La Porte County, Indiana -- work in progress," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 7 June 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]