Mar 2017

Writing Family Narratives

Exceptionally well-written family narratives inspire others to try to bring their own ancestors to life in the same way. It sometimes seems, however, that talented writers are born with a gift—that either a person has or doesn’t have talent. Having talent certainly helps, but everyone can improve their writing ability. Just as genealogists spend time […]
Mar 2017

Second Looks, Second Chances

People often say to themselves, “If I only knew then what I know now.”  They look wistfully at past experiences thinking that if they had another chance they might do things differently. In most cases, people can’t redo yesterday. But in genealogical research, we sometimes can—and should—do just that. Second looks are often needed before […]
Feb 2017

Correlation and Validation

Eureka! You’ve found the record you’ve been looking for. It’s right where you expected it to be. The names, dates, places, and situations are consistent with the people you’re researching. You’re tempted to celebrate, thinking you have the information you need. But you’re a responsible researcher. And responsible researchers don’t celebrate based upon something found […]
Feb 2017

Thinking About How Couples Met

In 1898, the sensationalist New York American reported the story of an unusual engagement. A Polish man from Pennsylvania had approached a New York City saloonkeeper and offered to pay him $20 for his help in finding the man a wife. The immigrant requested that for the same $20 the saloonkeeper host a party—complete with […]
Jan 2017

Resolutions, Goals, and Objectives

It’s January—the first month of a new year. This is the time when people tend to think about clean slates and a fresh starts. They make resolutions and set objectives. If you’re a member of the National Genealogical Society, at least some of those objectives likely relate to genealogy. Most people express their resolutions as […]
Jan 2017

Creativity in Genealogical Research

Genealogists’ work is grounded in sources—in records, artifacts, images, traditions, and other items that provide information used as evidence. But sources and the information they provide are only part of any given solution to a problem. Skilled, knowledgeable, determined researchers go beyond the obvious facts found in sources. They capitalize on what the sources say […]
Dec 2016

Family Tradition as a Source

Most genealogists probably encounter family traditions. They’re the stories—often with uncertain origins—that have been passed down from one generation to the next. The tales may involve subjects such as ethnicity, places of origin, military exploits, occupations, accomplishments, connections to famous people, and so on. Can we use family traditions as sources? Absolutely! As Thomas W. […]
Dec 2016

Learning from NGS Family History Writing Competition Winners

Each year the National Genealogical Society holds a Family History Writing competition. The winning entry is submitted to the NGS Quarterly editors for possible publication. When accepted, NGS Quarterly readers benefit, for the contest winners’ work demonstrates excellence in researching and writing family histories. Kay Haviland Freilich’s “Verifying an Ancestor’s Words: The Autobiography of Mary […]
Nov 2016

Breaking Out of Comfort Zones

My mother knew someone who was so afraid of making a left turn in her car that she simply refused to do it. Rather than take the most direct route, she would make only right turns and circle around until she reached her destination. She’d get there eventually, but giving in to her fear added […]
Nov 2016

In-depth Record Analysis: An Example from National Genealogical Society Quarterly

Most of us have probably encountered a situation where a record seems unusual. We may be tempted to overlook the problem, accept the information, and move on to other research. When George Findlen found duplicate entries in Catholic church records for what seemed to be the same baptism, marriage, and death, he didn’t just accept […]