Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Journey of the Certification Process: Entry 4

Sometimes, you just have to pick up the phone and call! That is what I learned this week as I worked on a certification portfolio report.

It seems that every genealogy road eventually leads to somewhere far away. Eventually, you are going to have to start researching in another state or even another country.

Online research brings those far away places within reach. The internet is a miracle really. It is amazing what information you can find by typing in a few keywords to Google. This week, I was reminded that not everything is on the internet.

I already knew I couldn't find all the sources I needed online. There are probably thousands of records still hidden in dusty old basements that haven't been viewed by human eyes in decades. Because of this, it is possible the records you are looking for have not even been microfilmed.

Yesterday, I picked up the phone and started calling places in my targeted area of research. I called the local library. I called the historical society. I called the genealogical society. I called the courthouse. I kept asking the same questions about all the types of records I needed. Finally, one woman says, "Just a minute," and then Jennifer answers with, "Hello, how can I help you?" Jennifer is a worker at the county courthouse. When I told her who I was researching she said, "Are you familiar with John [last name withheld] who is the family historian of that family? They have a large farm here in the county." WHAT!? She pointed out where I might find his contact information, as she was not able to give it to me.

Friends, this is the type of information you may only find if you start making phone calls (or visit the area). Some people call these "cold calls." When I phoned John, he thought I might be a solicitor. Remember to talk slow, but get right to the point. I said something like, "John, my name is Amie Tennant. I am a genealogy researcher in Ohio and am researching the [name withheld] family. I heard you were their family historian in the county."

And, there you have it. This phone call led to new information, new sources, and it didn't take long at all. I think this might be part of the exhaustive research we talk about in the GPS.

I would also add, I often learn about unique holdings when I call the history department of a local library or archive. There have been many times when I say, "I would really like to find ______. Do you have any idea where I might find that kind of information in your county?" Local historians have pointed me to unknown newspapers on microfilm, family books, and more. Talk to knowledgeable people in your targeted location. Someone somewhere knows something you don't!

Here's to more weeks of exhaustive research and a few more cold calls.

Read Entry 3 of "My Journey of the Certification Process" here.

Monday, December 7, 2015

My Journey of the Certification Process: Entry 3

If you have been following along, you may have noticed that more than a week has passed and I have not written a blog post. This part of my certification process happens from time to's life getting in the way!

For two weeks, my children and I have been fighting off colds and strep throat, and it has been awful. There was still homework and housework, and just to make things interesting, wrestling season started. Even with the help of my husband, there were just not enough hours in the day. Time dedicated to certification had to be put aside for a bit.
The Family that keeps me busy!

When this happens, I try not to lose my momentum. I know that I can't dedicate the hours I want to research on the "big" projects when I am feeling lousy. Instead, I watch BCG videos and read about genealogy. I might not remember all that I hear or read, but it makes me feel better to know that I have done "something" that will benefit my portfolio.

When I have been especially busy and have only small bursts of time or energy, I work on transcription and abstraction.

Transcription and abstraction of a provided document is part of the portfolio. BCG sends you one handwritten document that could be found in the region and time period you mentioned on your initial paperwork. You also will do a transcription and abstraction of a document that you provide.

Practicing the techniques for transcription and abstraction is important. Because abstraction had not often come up in my past research experience, I have had to study that more so than transcription.

One of the best resources for learning the ins and outs of transcription and abstraction is chapter 16 in Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. 

I was still a bit confused as I read the chapter and compared it to other transcription and abstraction examples found in the document samples on the BCG website. I mentioned my confusion on the Google Group for those "on the clock." Judy Russell said it best when she said (and I quote), "There is No One Right Way. All together now. Repeat after me: There is No One Right Way." End quote.

I think the most important thing to learn during the certification process is this: There are standard operating procedures. As you learn and apply these standards, the finished product may look different than others. That's your style and that's okay. When it comes to transcriptions, the guidelines and essentials are pretty straight forward and Ms. Mills lists them in chapter 16 of the book I mentioned above.

As for abstracts, I found them...well, more abstract! Abstract examples can have different styles. Some may be written more like a list and another may be written similar to narrative format. I decided to not choose one style over another, but let my gut direct me. I ask myself, "Who is my audience? Will this be logical to my reader?" If a numbered or list abstract would help my reader to understand the document best, I use that style. If I think the narrative format might be best for the reader, I use a narrative format.

As I have said before, these are just my impressions as I go along. Please don't use these words as advice for your portfolio, I may be doing it all wrong! We shall wait and see.

In the meantime, when my life gets busy,  I do something. Read, watch a video, or practice a paragraph or two of transcription/abstraction. The important thing is to not lose your momentum! Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!

Read "My Journey of the Certification Process: Entry 2" here.