20 March 2011

Four Years of Scribbling

We GeneaBloggers may be considered a self-indulgent lot, but you have to give us credit for staying the course. This is the fourth anniversary for my blog. I’ve been blogging so long I wrote stuff I forgot I’d written. Awards and doo-dads to stick on my site are minimal. Comments from readers are the best award/reward.

If blogger stats are to be believed (i.e. genealegitimate?), “John Fraser: Missing in Action” is my most popular post. I guess it sounds like a war story (not!) ... what’s with these people? Anyway, I don’t believe stats. Even for math-challenged me, the daily page view numbers don’t add up with the weekly numbers (i.e. genealogistics?). [Two for you, Randy.] But thank you, whoever you are, the gang in Peru and my erstwhile lonely reader in South Korea! Celebrate the first 24 hours of spring!

In my opinion, GeneaBloggers have added a welcome and firmly established dimension to the world of family history. Genealogy blogging has its own broad spectrum. Many are prompt with breaking news and opinions or the latest initiatives. Some choose specific topic parameters. Others concentrate on problem-solving struggles with the ancestors—particularly proof summaries and arguments—and presenting them coherently. Many GeneaBloggers appear on the leading edge of technology and cyber-communications—social and special networking sites, tweeting, webinars, podcasts, live streaming from conferences, e-books, and so on—and tell us about it. New ways of educating. GeneaBloggers’ power as a group has great potential for advocacy or change in the “real world.”

Blogging encourages discussion through comments and feedback. We’ve seen lively blog commentary about the RootsTech effect. We’ve seen enthusiastic, even urgent, warnings that if we all—beginners, professionals, the dilettantes, the serious—don’t catch the honking superspeed technology train, we’ll be abandoned on a nowhere dirt road with a mouthful of dust. Nonsense. Those two things attached to our legs are feet we were born with. It’s an old saw, but we must be able to walk before we run or take a bus or drive a car. Most options for reaching a destination still involve using our feet!

The “shank’s mare” analogy is the fallback position. Technological innovations are a supplement, not a replacement for the standard essentials of good research methodology and family history compilation. 

On a tech level I may be merely chugging along on a bicycle (Self: Is this analogy holding up?) but writing about genealogy will never go out of style whether it’s magazines, journals, family histories, books, or blogging. The newish print-on-demand books and e-books publishing will always need decent writers.

We see criticism of sloppy or non-existent citations on blogs. Blogging is new enough to many practitioners that we are still experimenting—wishing—to incorporate and adapt source citations into our family history posts. It’s my belief that most of us want credibility when sending ancestral relationships and identities into public territory. If we know how to do it right, we should be demonstrating by example.

I’ve found the space appropriate for me (and my mascot). In future I may even adapt to a Model T. When the shoe fits, I will wear it. “Another belief of mine; that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.”[1]

[1] Margaret Atwood, BrainyQuote ( : accessed 19 March 2011).

07 March 2011

Evidence Gets Explained

Departing from my usual posts of scratching my genealogy/family history navel, I am celebrating the advent of Elizabeth Shown Mills to my town. Said town being TORONTO.

Not that—her life so often being peripatetic for speaking engagements—she is likely to see anything of my town beyond a few gazes out of hotel windows. Hotel windows are situated in the northern reaches of North York which grieves me as unrepresentative of downtown where I live. (Don’t get me wrong, the wonderful North York Central Library with its Canadiana Department is our enthusiastic and much-appreciated co-sponsor!).

That’s the life of a wildly in-demand speaker who must be booked years in advance. One hotel is much the same as another. But one audience always differs from another. This is a rare Canadian appearance for the acknowledged standard-bearer in genealogical education. The prestigious positions she has held and the honours bestowed her by major societies attest to accolades such as "the person with the greatest impact on genealogy in the post-Roots era," and “SuperGenie.”

“Advanced Genealogical Skills: A Seminar with Elizabeth Shown Mills.” Saturday April 2nd is the day and the auditorium of the North York Central Library (NYCL) on Yonge Street, Toronto, is the place 9 am to 5 pm. Details and registration at

My group, the Ontario Chapter Association of Professional Genealogists (OCAPG), and the Canadiana Department of NYCL are co-sponsoring this event. The Canadiana Department is the home for published/manuscript collections of the Ontario Genealogical Society, Société franco-ontarienne d’histoire et de généalogie, The Jewish Genealogical Society of Canada (Toronto), and much more.

NYCL is minutes off Highway 401 in Toronto and there’s a Novotel mere steps away within the North York Centre where the Library is located.

Elizabeth will be speaking on problem-solving techniques, the harder-to-identify females in our lines, and the process of analysis and planning for the toughest research cases. Of course, there will also be a session devoted to demystifying source citations! 

Ms Mills’ lecture handouts alone are worth the price of admission. They are not available to non-attendants. Trust me. The whole package of presentations is a bargain. It has been a few years since I was a trustee along with Elizabeth on the Board for Certification of Genealogists. Thus I disclose a personal interest in bringing her expertise to dedicated family historians in this region. And dear readers, should you show up as a result of this blog post, I will wrack my brain for a fitting prize.