Seeking the Win-Win in Genealogy Football

The Genealogical Touchdown32 . . . 12 . . . 8 . . . 4 . . . 2 . . . . There’s no such thing as a win-win in football, unless it’s two consecutive wins. This is the obvious goal of the NFL Conference Championship games today. Only two teams will triumph on their respective playing fields . . . . Two more weeks and only one team will prevail and claim the Lombardi trophy at Super Bowl XLVIII.

I’ll leave the commentary to the NFL analysts. They’re good at what they do. But if you’ve been following along with genealogy football, the same principle applies: win, and win again! The objective is to win from the first down to touchdown again and again for as long as there is time on the clock. It’s the play-by-play effort that makes the difference. One can never win in the present what the future holds. It is elusive. But, if in the present a play is successfully executed, and then the next, and then the next, soon the outcome is the goal and the goal this season is your Family History Bowl.

One of the ways you can track your plays is with a research log, or research calendar as some call it. When you track your plays you keep on track. There are many ways to keep this log so that it can be an effective tool as you make your plays: paper and pencil, a pre-printed form [like the one from Ancestry.com], a spreadsheet, your database computer program, or your favorite journaling app. A research log is kept for each individual or family in your lineage. It’s traditionally suggested that a child remain the subject of his or her parents’ log until that child marries. One of my favorite things about automated logs is that with tagging and/or search capacity that child who became a parent can be found on either log. [This log may be incorporated into a research report, but remember that a report that contains suggestions for further research may be completely outdated on the day of review. Check for updated availability of records.]

Recently, I was going through a fifth-generation grandfather’s file. The research I completed for him is decades old but a question came to mind. When I opened the folder I found a piece of paper with a list of sources I had reviewed and the result for consulting each particular source. The paper was dated, written in pencil, and did not look like more than scratch, but it was as if this piece of paper, this research log, transported me back in time to briefly relive the plays, make the catch, and enabled me to run and score the genealogical touchdown. The answer was found among the documents that I had already secured. It’s not always this easy, but it is always the place that you, as a researcher, want to begin. The research log is your punt return; it shows your position on the field and where to begin your drive for that touchdown!

Over the years as I have reviewed the work of a number of genealogists, including my own, I have found that the key to efficiency is the research log. It’s helpful to know what information was sought for and why, the title of the record and in what form the record was recorded, whether online, microfilm or fiche, or paper, the date [especially when using online databases], the place where the information was accessed and the result, even if what you were looking for was not there. By recording this information you will be in great field position to evaluate the source, identify inconsistencies, make wise judgements about the contribution of this source to your research, and determine where your next play begins. Wishing you all the success on this game day!

[In it’s simplicity, The Genealogical Touchdown Playbook is available in PDF format for personal, non-commercial use. It provides a place for interested youth, and others, to record their drive downfield to the ultimate genealogical touchdown!]

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

There’s More Than Just a Number on a Jersey

8 QBs 4 WPTeam colors. Team uniforms. Teamwork. This is what we witnessed during Wild Card Weekend. Thanks to all the players and coaches! Winning is a time for celebration; losing is never easy.

It’s the NFL Divisional Playoffs this weekend and I’m interested in names, particularly family names, also known as surnames, the ones the guys wear on the back of their jerseys. Surnames can provide additional facts and clues about your family and their story.

Ancestry.com has a great database available to search for information about a surname’s meaning and origin. The database information is from the Dictionary of American Family Names. Additional demographic information is provided for the United States, England and Wales, and Scotland. There are charts and links that provide information on immigration, average life expectancy, occupations, and civil war records.

The FamilySearch wiki has a list of surname database links that provide information from many countries. If you do not see the country related to your surname interest on the list, use your search engine of choice. If you find a helpful site, contribute that information to the FamilySearch wiki. Other genealogists and family historians will thank you!

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

It’s Wild Card Weekend

The back of this library patron's shirt says it all!

The back of this library patron’s shirt says it all!

Warning: Participating in genealogy and family history football while watching an NFL game with your significant other may cause side effects including distraction, interference with relational bonding, and failure to fully enjoy chips, salsa, and guacamole. Research responsibly.

It’s the NFL’s Wild Card Weekend! Now that the playing field has been narrowed to twelve, the winner of the Lombardi trophy will soon be determined on the field. Although some teams are required to play more on their way to the Super Bowl, it’s anyone’s game. Since there is no NFL team in the land of genealogy and family history, the following of the locals here can change as fast as the wind. It’s a house divided. But in football, there is no place like home!

So, are you up for your game this Wild Card weekend? Do you have your goal defined for each of the games you will play? Have you narrowed the field so that you are prepared to finish the season on February 2, 2014? Each play moves you closer to a genealogical touchdown, to winning the game, and ultimately achieving the Lombardi trophy of your Family History Bowl.

Have you looked for information on your pivotal person and it’s just not where you hoped it would be? Is the record set impossible to access in the time frame of this season? Does the most obvious record set not exist? Check out this page on the FamilySearch wiki. Go to the bottom of the page to “Selecting Record Types.” There you will find a listing of objectives and a priority list of records to search. If you cannot find that record set online, check the FamilySearch catalog for available microfilm, then visit the Family History Library or order microfilm to view at your local Family History Center. If you need assistance contact me. I would be happy to provide coaching advice or execute a play or more on your behalf.

To the NFL players and coaches this season, the genealogist who struggles to find time to play the game, to our ancestors whose lives were rarely blessed more than ours, I close with a quote known as The Man in the Arena[1]:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Cheering you on in your game to win your Family History Bowl!

1.Roosevelt, Theodore. “Citizenship In A Republic.” Delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on April 23, 1910. Accessed January 4, 2014. http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html. [For a copy of the complete speech in PDF format click here.]

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

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.

Are Genealogy and Family History Your Game This Season?

stadium at nightI wrote about the genealogy touchdown back in February.1 Although it was my way of well-wishing genealogists and family historians in their work on Super Bowl Sunday, the game of football can help create a winning strategy in the pursuit of your family tree goals.

One person every team needs is a good coach. I remember when I was a little girl the undefeated season of the Miami Dolphins. Yes, that was my team and I have a childhood photo to prove it :-) Coach Don Shula once said, “I think what coaching is all about is taking players and analyzing [their] ability, put[ting] them in a position where they can excel within the framework of the team winning…”2

If you have the desire and motivation this is your opportunity. You can be the coach of your own team. As one committed to helping others grow their family trees, I provide the following questions for you to consider as the football season begins:

How do you define your Family History Bowl this season?

Like the NFL, the goal is to win the Bowl game. Although we may want to know everything about our lineage back to Adam, each season brings a different challenge. Decide on the individual that will be the pivotal player of your project. This individual’s story becomes your game. When you choose someone to focus on, realize that the outgrowth of your pursuit will encompass family, community, and social history. This pivotal player will help you determine if what you find is relevant to the game you are currently playing. The focus on this pivotal person will help you set parameters on your pursuit so that progress can be made with little distraction. Finding an in-law, or outlaw, may be interesting, but if it doesn’t take you to your Bowl game it must be put aside for another season. Note your interest, but then get back in the game. Remember, if you were playing the Super Bowl Champions today, you would not concern yourself with any other team but them. FOCUS on the goal; this is how a game is won :-)

What’s your game plan?

Every genealogist needs a plan that provides direction in their research. A great place to begin once you have determined that pivotal person is the FamilySearch wiki and the RootsWeb.com wiki. These resources can provide direction at no cost to you. Search for the known or suspected locality of that pivotal person on these sites to find what record sets are available that might help answer your questions. Then, of course, use websites, including the FamilySearch Catalog, and on-site research facilities to identify holdings and locate specific record sets. By the way, one overlooked resource is individuals who might have known your pivotal person so interview as many of them as possible. Once you know what your game plan is it’s time to make another decision…

Who’s on your team?

In football the offense has 11 players, and the defense has an equal number. Then there are special teams. You may not be able to recruit these numbers to your team, but recruit. The actual number of team players is dependent on the individual project. Teamwork is your key to success :-)

Your offense will consist of those that actually assist in obtaining the genealogy touchdowns. These individuals will be other family members, if you are fortunate, and friends of a like-mind. I would recommend that you become the quarterback; the team will need your vision and leadership :-) For those with children and/or grandchildren, involve them in tasks that engage them. Most children will have an interest in some aspect of this work if it’s presented to them in an appealing way. It’s amazing how genealogical tasks can become enjoyable. It’s not always the task at hand but who you’re with that can make the difference, especially for children.

Now the defense is critical. There are so many competing interests and distractions in life that one may believe that there is no time for this game. Your defense must be carefully considered. It always helps to have the support of family and friends. Remember, your best defense is a good offense. Determine what you will do and stay with the plan, unless of course it’s a true emergency :-)

Finally, you must identify who’s on special teams. These are the reference librarians, archivists, and others who can direct you when necessary. Make a list of the libraries, archives, genealogical and historical societies that are specialists in your area of interest. Those at a Family History Center near you may also be able to assist you.

What’s your schedule?

Now that you’ve defined your Bowl game, determined your game plan, and identified your team, it’s time to set the schedule to play the game. Decide when you can play and stick to it. Once a week is a good strategy in the lives of people who are busy with other commitments. Two to three hours on a Sunday evening may be just the activity you need, but the schedule is yours to decide. I’ve seen meaningful success in 15 minutes. Although there have been a few games forfeited over the years, your game is worth playing so stick with it!

We are in this to win!

I’m looking forward to a winning season; I hope you are, too! Unlike winning the NFL Super Bowl, each team in the field of genealogy and family history can win the big one. I look forward to your genealogical success! I am here all season to answer your questions; contact me :-) I would love to hear from you!

1. Definition: A genealogy touchdown is when you have used sound principles to gather enough information and evidence to accurately identify an individual and his or her place in the world. A genealogy touchdown is the answer to your research question. Depending on your game, a genealogy touchdown is when you have used sound principles to gather enough information and evidence to reconstruct a family, a neighborhood and/or events that tell a story of a people. A genealogy touchdown is a sense of accomplishment amidst the game, knowing the game is not over yet. A genealogy touchdown inspires an end zone celebration :-)

2. Don Shula. BrainyQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2013. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/d/don_shula.html, accessed August 31, 2013.

Copyright ©2013-2019 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.