Genealogy and Family History: A Game for All Seasons

A round "Tuit" to help you get around to your genealogy and family history!

A round “Tuit” to help you get around to your genealogy and family history!

Some of you may have started participating in genealogy and family history this past autumn when the leaves were turning and the weather called us to an inside game. For others, New Year’s Day tradition brings the air of resolutions and the commitment to new goals.

A recent survey of articles reveals that many of us have the same aspirations: eat well, exercise, get more sleep, lose weight, and/or get in or out of relationships. There are also goals related to finance, organization, and making life better, happier, and more satisfying. One of your goals may be to learn more about your genealogy and family history.

There are a number of reasons that individuals pursue their genealogy and family history, and if this is one of your goals this year I would like to recommend resources to help you get started.

First let me state that it is traditionally taught that you start with yourself, but any ancestor of interest is just as appropriate. Please be aware that if you have not proven the relationships between generations you may be learning about family history that belongs to someone else. As interesting as this may be, it will not help you reach your goal to know your family history.

If you are interested in recording your or a family member’s personal history, Real Simple has published a 10-page worksheet with questions that cover a life span of experience to help get you started. Set a time to complete this document or arrange a time to interview that family member of interest. You could even do both :-) Choose your questions wisely. Some individuals may be uncomfortable with specific topics so be sensitive and appropriate.

The second resource I would like to recommend comes in two online wikis. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “wiki” it is a web application that allows individuals to collaborate and add, modify, or delete content as necessary. The idea is to keep the most relevant and up-to-date information available to its audience. Ancestry.com has a wiki that provides the information found in two classic reference books for the United States, Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources and The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy. The information from these two books, in addition to other information available in Ancestry’s Learning Center, can help you get started. FamilySearch.org has a wiki that provides information from their classic Research Outlines that covers research resources internationally as well as more up-to-date information. FamilySearch also has online tutorials for the necessary education to reach your goal of knowing more about your family history.

And finally, don’t forget the search engines that provide access to all the information available online. Check out David Barney’s well-attended presentation at RootsTech 2013 for helpful hints on using Google’s tools for genealogy.

Genealogy and family history can be fascinating. There is a definite learning curve so take is slow. Focus on one pivotal person and build from there. With these resources you will have everything necessary to reach your goal. Remember the KISS principle. Wishing you all the best in this new year!

Copyright ©2014 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

Can You Chart the Heart? Revisited

I’ve been thinking about this question in relation to the new emphasis in FamilySearch training that says “first the heart, then the chart” in genealogy and family history. It only makes sense. This idea is important to acknowledge by those who have their charts given to them, such as in long-standing New England or LDS families. Others who begin with a question, curiosity, or desire to know the unknown naturally start from the heart because there is no chart :-) The heart provides the motivation for the quest, yet sometimes our hearts are challenged. Rarely do we know this until symptoms manifest.

Equipment to Chart the Heart WPIn 1903, a Dutch physician named Willem Einthoven invented a way to chart the heart. He received the Pulitzer Prize in Medicine for this in 1924. The electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) identifies abnormalities that provide doctors with information that helps in diagnosis and treatment. The heart exists; the chart assists. The same thing can be true in family history.

Anyone familiar with history knows that challenges within families have existed from the beginning. Without expounding, I have met many individuals over the years who resist family history and genealogy because of sensitive issues surrounding the chart. Family history can be fun if as a community we realize that one size does not fit all. Adoption and other circumstances require our understanding. I remember one student in the second grade who was asked to draw a picture of her family. She drew herself, her mom, her dad, a brother, and three sisters. In reality, her parents were divorced and she was an only child. She drew herself in her best friend’s family. In essence, she charted her heart.

The purpose of this post is NOT to address social or political issues, but to suggest ways that one can engage in and enjoy family history and genealogy by charting the way to turning the heart :-)

  • Start with anyone that you and/or your child would like to know more about :-) Consider a member of your family who has a quality or qualities that you admire. More often than not, they stand on the shoulders of those that came before them. Find out :-) Think about it; Who Do You Think You Are? finds a significant story, otherwise the majority of the audience would just tune out. Learn about your ancestor, write their story and/or a script, make your own episode highlighting a series of interesting life events. Make the ordinary extraordinary!
  • Family Roots Circle Pedigree WPPost a fill-in-the-blank chart in a high traffic area in your home, even on the refrigerator if necessary. Make sure it is laminated and that a vis-á-vis or extra fine Sharpie is readily available to record discoveries. Our chart was in the family room. Recently I decided I would erase all the ancestors and start over, more for fun than verification purposes :-) My daughter’s response was, “Mom, you do have all of this recorded somewhere else, don’t you?” My son came home that day and asked, “What happened to the ancestors!” Believe me, they notice :-) Again, the chart can start with anyone that turns your heart :-)
  • Create a chart to discover common or complementary talents, interests, abilities, and/or occupations. One can chart eye color, hair color, and/or other physical traits. [Don’t you just love military records and passport information that are so descriptive!] The point is for family members to discover patterns and what they have in common with their ancestors.

So, when I consider the titled question, my response is a resounding YES! [And, it can be a fun process.] Just like so much in life, one cannot appreciate what one has not discovered for oneself. It’s the journey, not the destination, that engages the heart and fills out the chart!

[If you have an idea for charting the heart and would like to share, please comment or send me message. At your request, full attribution or anonymity will be included in future posts. If you have your own blog and post a response there, send me the link. I would love to continue the conversation :-)]

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

A Case for Preserving an Independent Medium

Imaging Equipment WP

As genealogists and family historians, we passionately seek to preserve the past. Questions are answered, understanding is gained, and the wisdom and folly of the ages are passed on to the next generation as we publish our research. In order to recapture the past, records and other artifacts are necessary to reconstruct it. Technology has provided incredible opportunities to amass what remains and to record the activities of the present day. There is no question that digital preservation has expedited research and placed records in the hands of the world. No one in the future will have to question what we ate, where we went, or even how we felt day to day as social media documents these experiences. But does the advances of digital preservation negate the necessity of preserving the original form? Can we justify the destruction of an old picture or document?

A printed photograph is preserved on an independent medium. Documents on quality paper have lasted hundreds, even thousands, of years. Nothing else is required to view, enjoy, and recapture the memory.  Although we know that conditions have rarely favored the preservation of these items, think about the limitations of the many dependent forms of media. Electricity goes out, batteries die, and networks get disrupted. Can you remember a time when your connection to the Internet was unavailable? Did it come at a critical time? How long did it last? How long could it last?

Although an independent medium has the limitation of number, therefore, found in one location, it is still nice to have a record or artifact in this form. I know of no material that is completely indestructible, but the independent nature of paper, stone, or metal is appealing. This is not to suggest that other ways of preservation should be ignored. It’s just that it seems ironic that if we want to preserve something we would destroy an original.

As we consider preservation, we must remember that provenance is an important principle in the field of genealogy and family history. Provenance is defined as “the chronology of the ownership, custody or location of a historical object.”1 When we destroy an original we disrupt this path. As we seek a source, we never reach the end of that particular journey even though we are encouraged to trace our sources back to the original. This becomes impossible to do if we are destroying them.

In addition to preservation in an independent medium, using technology and having multiple copies in different formats backed up to your devices and migrating your data as we progress on our technological journey will assure the best chances of survival. Coupled with all of these advancements, preservation in an independent medium has its place among us as the keepers of  records. As we find our ancestors, let us consider provenance and the preservation of the records and artifacts they left behind.

1. Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), “Provenance,” rev. 6 Mar 2013

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

KISS Genealogy

KISS Genealogy WPA number of years ago a university professor asked me to write a curriculum for a family history and genealogy class. He told me to make it “KISS.” Well, I hadn’t heard of that principle before so he added, “Keep it simple s_____.” You can fill in the blank.

Now the KISS principle is attributed to Clarence Leonard [Kelly] Johnson (1910-1990), an aeronautical engineer who led the design of the SR-71 Blackbird.1 He is noted as saying, “Our aim is to get results cheaper, sooner, and better through application of common sense to tough problems. If it works, don’t fix it…. Reduce reports and other paperwork to a minimum…. Keep it simple, stupid—KISS—is our constant reminder.”2

So there you have it, my instructions. Sometimes the thought of doing genealogy brings a vision of piles of files, endless reports, and isolation. It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, does it? I can attest to this experience.

Years previous to the request to write a curriculum I enrolled in a university genealogy class. Weeks into it I thought, “never again!” I could not figure out the discrepancy. I had been doing genealogy since I could hold a “magic” marker, purple to be exact. I had designed a family tree by the time I could write, and before I ever saw one in printed form. Not to get personal, but no one in my family did such things. As an anomaly, I was having a lot of fun tracking down those ancestors anyway :-) Now, in this university setting I was saying, “something is so wrong here!” It was only appropriate that the time would come that I would be asked to write such a curriculum.

So I did. I wrote the curriculum. Originally, the request was to cover genealogy in four 30-minute lessons. I raised him two. The class increased exponentially and by the fourth cycle four times the number of students were in attendance. Simplicity breeds engagement. Simple is not superficial; it’s approaching a subject step by step, taking the time required without imposed deadlines so that one can cover the breadth and depth necessary to feel the satisfaction of a work well done. It’s finished when it’s finished. Granted, professionally speaking, deadlines are part of the contract, but for anyone reading this who’s just curious, has a question or two, or a compelling story to confirm, may I suggest you give it a KISS! Spend today with your loved ones and in future days I’ll share with you ways to KISS your heritage hunting. Happy Valentines Day!

  1. Ben R. Rich, Clarence Leonard (Kelly) Johnson 1910-1990: A Biographical Memoir (Washington, D.C.: National       Academies Press, 1995), 221.
  2. Rich, Clarence Leonard (Kelly) Johnson 1910-1990, 231.

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

The Genealogical Touchdown

The Single Leaf Touchdown WPI don’t know about you but I enjoy the game of football. In the upper elementary grades I was one of the neighborhood quarterbacks. Rules were modified to include the fact that the opposing team could not sack THIS quarterback, a definite advantage :-) Throughout my life I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with the game and its players at all levels. The game is exhilarating; their work for charity is inspiring!

But today I would like to comment on another type of touchdown, the genealogical touchdown! I define it as the reconstruction of families, neighborhoods, and/or events that tell a story of a people. As a genealogist and family historian, when I know that I have made a reasonably exhaustive search for records, identified the sources of the information through proper citations, analyzed and correlated the quality of the evidence, resolved any conflicts identified, and arrived at a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion I call it a “genealogical touchdown.” [Others call it the Genealogical Proof Standard or GPS.1] In the game of life, may we who pursue our family’s history experience many touchdowns :-) Happy Super Bowl!

1. Board for Certification of Genealogists. The BCG Genealogical Standards                Manual. Orem, Utah: Ancestry 2000.

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

The Single Leaf

The Single Leaf WPDuring the autumn season, in some parts of the world, the leaf of a tree falls to the ground. Actually, many leaves fall, but one is noticed. It’s colorful. It’s beautiful. It’s similar but not the same as every other leaf that falls from the same tree. Other trees surrounding it are different altogether, yet they too have leaves that fall, with the exception of the evergreens.

The leaf. The single leaf. Unique in its color, and pattern, and shape. Its identity is all its own. Its contribution to the surroundings can go unnoticed. Each person is like the single leaf. Without a medium of preservation, the individual’s story deteriorates into oblivion. Acknowledged, the experiences, challenges, and triumphs are added to the collective interaction we admire in the beauty of nature. Each person’s life is like the single leaf, colorful and rich. Once written, it is pressed between the pages of a book to be remembered. Individually, it can be studied, framed, and sometimes even admired. Collectively, the picturesque vision provides wisdom that aides future generations. The value of the single leaf is why I research individuals of the past in the context of family, community, and social history.

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.