Category Archives: Skill Building

It’s National Genealogical Society Conference Week!

This week I am attending the NGS Conference and am so excited to participate! My schedule is quite full this time! First, I am attending the BCG Education Fund’s “Putting Skills to Work” day to refresh and update my skills.

During the conference I am presenting three lectures:

  • Session W154, Wednesday, 4PM, “Breaking New Ground: Creating a Locality Guide for New Research Areas”
  • Session F328, Friday, 11AM, “How’d You Find That?!? Tips for Locating Obscure or Hidden Records”
  • Session S421, Saturday, 11AM, “Family History Piecework: An Approach to Writing” (BCG Skillbuilding Lecture)

Working at the booths for the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), the Association of Professional Genealogists, and the Board for Certification of Genealogists is also on my agenda.

Beyond this, I am looking forward to new and exciting “things” in the exhibit hall, learning new techniques at lectures, and catching up with old friends and making new.

BCG Putting Skills to Work 2018

I’ve been in Grand Rapids, Michigan since Tuesday when I attended the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) Education Fund’s “Putting Skills to Work” class. What an excellent day! The time was split between two classes.

Connie Lenzen’s class “Planning and Executing Reasonably Exhaustive Research: Or How to Ensure a Successful Hunt” discussed research questions and plans. I have to say that I was quickly reminded of what I should be doing everyday. I get so excited for the research that I forget to focus, slow down, and set forth a path for my search.

Tom Jones made us think about “Citing All Kinds of Online Sources.” This class focused only on sources you find online and really made us look at all of the layers that an online source might have. The original source, the microfilmed version, the scan of the microfilm, an original digitization in color, previously published or not, and so on. We worked through many example citations as a class and discussed each of the parts.

The level of interactive instruction that one gets at a BCG “Putting Skills to Work” class is incredible. If you are interested in certification, are already on the clock, or are already certified, it doesn’t matter. These classes are wonderful examples of hands-on, lecture with discussion with exercises, types of classes many of us enjoy and will benefit for our own continuing education.

The BCG Education Fund’s “Putting Skills to Work” occurs on the Tuesday before the National Genealogical Society Conference every year, so you will want to adjust your schedule accordingly. Next year’s schedule was announced at this years’ class, and will take place in St. Charles, Missouri on Tuesday May 7, 2019:

  • “Meeting Standards with Twenty-First Century Research Reports” with Melissa Johnson, CG
  • “Evidence Analysis: Theory, Practice, and the Real World” with Nancy A. Peters, CG, CGL

For more information on the BCG Education Fund, visit bcgedfund.org.

Tips for Learning to Read Old Handwriting

In my work as a professional genealogist, I have to be able to read old handwriting. I know others struggle with this, and I have a couple of tips to share that really helped build my confidence when it comes to reading old handwriting.

My first tip and the best thing I can suggest is to take part in a volunteer indexing project. I signed up for the FamilySearch Indexing project the year it was released. I was onboard when the 1940 census was indexed in a matter of days, when the Civil War Pensions project was indexed, and for a whole host of state-organized projects through various state societies. After working on so many projects, I got really good at reading old and often messy handwriting.

Family Search indexing is not the only indexing game in town. There are indexing projects available through the National Archives and the DAR (if you are a member) as well. Here are those links:

My second tip is to get the book Reading Early American Handwriting by Kip Sperry. You can find it at Amazon or another online bookseller.

My last tip is to transcribe, transcribe, and transcribe. Any and all of your own research documents. Don’t have any? Go to FamilySearch and pick any record such as a deed or a will, and get started. If you choose to transcribe documents from a location where there is a local genealogical society that publishes a quarterly journal or other research publication, consider submitting your transcriptions to be published. Society journals are always looking for content. For more information about best practices for transcriptions, see chapter 16 of the book Professional Genealogy (edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills) titled “Transcripts and Abstracts.”

Truly the best way to get better at anything is to practice. I hope the above tips help you find your best way to practice and to also perhaps give back to the genealogical community at the same time.