The National Institute for Genealogical Studies


The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION


Comparative Timeline 

Comparative timelines can be used to compare two or more people/families. For example, the objective may be to determine the migration of two separate families joined together by marriage. A timeline showing both families will help to focus the research.


Unlike a basic timeline, a comparative timeline shows each year, whether there is an event or not. Constructing a timeline whether simple, detailed or comparative, can help illustrate gaps of time. The timeline can help determine where to look for records. 

You can take comparative timelines a step further by adding additional family members or associates to the mix. For example, you could follow, and ultimately compare, children, siblings, in-laws or even neighbors, to see if other connections can be made.   

A comparative timeline is also useful when trying to sort out identities. Sometimes we run across instances of name changes or aliases, and of course, we all have those female ancestors with unknown maiden names or parents. A comparative timeline can help you track each of the individuals to see if any fit the pattern to be your ancestor. For more information on Comparative Timelines and our Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls course.


Client Relationships 

It is often said that people tend to hire service professionals that they know, like, and trust. Clients entrust us with their life stories, their precious photographs, and personal data on their entire family tree. Developing and maintaining a respectful, professional relationship – that is warm and friendly but not too close – is a key skill that should be considered of utmost importance.  



Difficult Discussions 

You may find yourself in difficult situations where you will have to deliver some sort of bad news to a client. If you find these situations difficult, stop and think about what it would feel like if you were in the client’s shoes. You will go a long way toward helping the client accept the situation if you approach them with possible solutions to the problem. 

Another situation might arise when you feel you must refuse a client’s request, perhaps because you believe it is unethical. Here are some suggestions for having a conversation with the client about this difficult subject: 

  • Try to keep from expressing judgment of the client. 
  • Time the conversation for as soon as you learn of the situation as possible.  
  • Steer the conversation away from blame or accusation.  

You may find, however, that a satisfactory resolution cannot be reached, and you may have to withdraw from the project. 

Client Feedback 

Another prime opportunity to communicate with clients is when all the work is done (i.e., after you have completed the book, presented them with a family tree, or pulled the records they requested). Soliciting feedback and evaluation is something that many entrepreneurs neglect to do. When you have received evaluations or feedback, be sure to review them in detail. Make note of any positive comments for your Compliments File. Look for suggestions for improvement and follow through on them.  

In the course Business Skills: Business Administration  you will discover more about keeping your clients happy and growing your business. 

Your Genealogy Business 

 2 Tips for your Genealogy Business 

Tip #1: Your Professional Image 

The public image that you and your business project are important and should not be overlooked. Realize that prospective clients will be checking you out in whatever way they can. Take some time to set up a routine check of your online presence and reputation by doing a search for your name and your business name. If you uncover some issues that need repair there are a few steps that you can take to improve your online reputation.  

  • Take the time to say you are sorry. 
  • Speak to the negative commenter (on your blog or social media account, etc.) on the phone if you can; if that is not possible, try another form of contact. 
  • Clear up any misconceptions by posting the facts online.  
  • Create positive profiles for yourself and your company on social media websites.  


Tip #2: Your Connections  

Networking is a vital skill, especially for a business owner. This is another skill that is often taken for granted. We tend to network sporadically and without a plan. One way to analyze for yourself how effective your networking activities and/or organizations are is to make a simple list of the events you attended during a set period of time, the number of new people you met, business cards exchanged, and any results from that event. Don’t forget the other side of the networking coin. In order to receive, you need to be willing to give. You are also part of your network and you have value to offer the people with whom you connect.  

The “Business Skills: Business Administration” course is packed with information, tips, and advice on helping you develop and fine-tune your professional image.  



Headstones and Cemeteries

Headstones and Cemetery Indexes 

Your ancestor’s headstone can indicate both their date of birth and death. However, this information is only as accurate as the person providing the information to the stone carver. Always locate other sources to confirm the dates carved into the stone.  

If you have a death certificate and it states the name of a cemetery, Google the cemetery name. Then add the word “Index” to your search. Sometimes you will find that someone has transcribed a cemetery and uploaded it to a website. You should also search websites such as FindAGrave and the FamilySearch Catalog.


Indexes are always a great start to your research but remember the goal is to locate the actual record, not just the index. We can help you learn about locating these vital records and indexes with our United States: Vital Records  course. 

February 2019 Virtual Meetings

Month by arztsamui /Courtesy

Have any questions about your courses or your research? Virtual Meetings are a way for you to communicate with an instructor. These are NOT mandatory, but a fun & interactive way to ask questions about courses/research. Below are the February scheduled sessions.


Tuesday, February 12th at 11:00 AM EST – Canadian courses with Kathryn Lake Hogan
Time zones:
Tuesday, February 12th – 11:00 AM Eastern; 10:00 AM Central; 8:00 AM Pacific; 4:00 PM in London, England;
Wednesday, February 13th – 3:00 AM in Sydney, Australia
MEETING LOCATION: (Note: “Enter as a Guest”)

Tuesday, February 12th at 7:00 PM EST – Analysis and Skills Mentoring Program – GENERAL with Gena Philibert-Ortega
Time zones:
Tuesday, February 12th – 7:00 PM Eastern; 6:00 PM Central; 4:00 PM Pacific;
Wednesday, February 13th – Midnight in London, England; 11:00 AM in Sydney, Australia
(Note: “Enter as a Guest”)

Tuesday, February 12th at 8:30 PM EST – Internet Tools with Gena Philibert-Ortega
Time zones:
Tuesday, February 12th – 8:30 PM Eastern; 7:30 PM Central; 5:30 PM Pacific;
Wednesday, February 13th – 1:30 AM in London, England; 12:30 PM in Sydney, Australia
(Note: “Enter as a Guest”)

Saturday, February 17th at 11:30 AM EST – Analysis and Skills Mentoring Program-Part 3 – ARTICLE REVIEW with Gena Philibert-Ortega
Time zones:
Saturday, February 23rd – 11:30 AM Eastern; 10:30 AM Central; 8:30 AM Pacific; 4:30 PM in London, England;
Sunday, February 24th – 3:30 AM in Sydney, Australia
MEETING LOCATION: (Note: “Enter as a Guest”)

Saturday, February 17th at 1:00 PM EST – STUDENT LOUNGE
Pop into the Student Lounge for a genealogy coffee break with your fellow students.
Time zones:
Saturday, February 23rd – 1:00 PM Eastern; Noon Central; 10:00 AM Pacific; 6:00 PM in London, England;
Sunday, February 24th – 5:00 AM in Sydney, Australia
MEETING LOCATION: (Note: “Enter as a Guest”)

Wednesday, February 20th at 7:00 PM EST – American Record courses with Gena Philibert-Ortega
Time zones:
Wednesday, February 20th – 7:00 PM Eastern; 6:00 PM Central; 4:00 PM Pacific;
Thursday, February 21st – Midnight in London, England; 11:00 AM in Sydney, Australia
(Note: “Enter as a Guest”)

Wednesday, February 20th at 8:30 PM EST – Methodology courses with Gena Philibert-Ortega
Time zones:
Wednesday, February 20th – 8:30 PM Eastern; 7:30 PM Central; 5:30 PM Pacific; Thursday, February 21st – 1:30 AM in London, England; 12:30 PM in Sydney, Australia
(Note: “Enter as a Guest”)

Saturday, February 23rd at 10:00 AM EST – Scottish Records courses with Sheena Tait
Time zones:
Saturday, February 23rd – 10:00 AM Eastern; 9:00 AM Central; 7:00 AM Pacific; 3:00 PM in London, England;
Sunday, February 24th – 2:00 AM in Sydney, Australia
MEETING LOCATION: (Note: “Enter as a Guest”)

Thursday, February 28th at 7:00 PM EST – Student Presentation with host Kathy Holland
Presenter: Victor Corrales; Topic: TBA
Time zones:
Thursday, February 28th – 7:00 PM Eastern; 6:00 PM Central; 4:00 PM Pacific;
Friday, March 1st – Midnight in London, England; 11:00 AM in Sydney, Australia
(Note: “Enter as a Guest”)

Basic Timelines

Building a Basic Timeline 

More often than not, you will want to create a basic timeline for your problem ancestor. Start with information about all of the events in their life, including their birth and death dates, any marriages, birth and death of any children, the death of a spouse, and death of parents. You might also want to incorporate relevant information about the locations you are working with, for example, boundary changes.


You may choose not to indicate the source to begin with or you may use footnotes to cite the source. Creating footnotes in a spreadsheet program cannot be done with ease so you may want to include a short source reference instead.  

One of the other uses of a timeline is to help illustrate instances where two people may have been combined. You can usually see this by just looking at the dates and locations and notice that something does not quite add up. 

In addition to helping solve tough genealogy problems, this type of basic timeline is a great tool to keep handy when doing research. There are multiple ways to approach timelines and with our Skills-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls course you will learn more.  




Analyze Data

Your Data  

Based on your research log and evaluation log, you will want to take some time to analyze your findings.  Some of the important things to keep in mind while analyzing your data are: 

  • Is the record for the right person/family? 
  • Is the record original or derivative? 
  • Are there other records that need to be checked? 


Look for clues that can lead to other record types.  For example, if you find a civil marriage record that indicates a couple was married by a minister, try to determine the church the minister served so you can look for the marriage and other records of family events.  

You may need to do additional analysis to make your determinations, our Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls” course will help with this.  

Mortality Schedules

US Mortality Schedules  

The U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules are a supplemental schedule to the “every ten year” population schedules and are available for the census years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880.  The census enumerators were required to gather the census information for the population schedules in addition to determining if any family member had died during the previous 12 months before the date the census was taken.

US: Vital Records, Understand and Using the Records

Even though these lists of deaths are widely believed to underreported the actual number of deceased, this is still a valuable source of information.  In many states where vital records were not kept, it provides a nationwide death resister for four years between 1849 and 1880.  The schedule lists the deceased’s name, sex, age, color, widowed or not, place of birth, month of death, occupation, and cause of death.  In 1870 the parent’s birthplace was added.

If you locate an individual on the Mortality Schedule, it is always wise to locate the family associated with the individual on the population schedule.  With our United States: Vital Records course you will learn more about using Mortality Schedules in your genealogy research. 


Client Management 

When you first started your genealogy business, you perhaps did a few projects for family members to get some experience and work out the details of your offerings and fees.  At some point, you began actively marketing to obtain new clients.  Depending on how long you have been in business, you probably now have had some experience with actual, paying clients.  



Client Correspondence 

Although researching, writing, editing can be done alone, much of the work a genealogist does involves communicating with clients on an ongoing basis. These communications include but are not limited to: 

  • making appointments 
  • discussing projects 
  • conducting interviews 
  • negotiating a change in the project scope  
  • asking for fee payments 
  • soliciting feedback 

Every interaction with a client can affect the business relationship.  A positive interaction can enhance the relationship and might even help to smooth over a difficulty or repair a problem.  A negative interaction can do all sorts of damage.  

Technology has brought us many new ways of communication.  Email, texting, and social media have become the go-to forms of connecting and exchanging information.  However, there are not without their drawbacks. First of all, not everyone uses all forms of communication equally well. 

In a way, an invoice is also a form of client communication, by which I mean communication between you and the client.  You are communicating with the client about what work has been completed and what fee is owed.  Take advantage of the fact that there can also be room on the invoice for a comment, such as “Thank you for this opportunity to be of service” or “Enjoy your family tree!” 

To succeed in business, part of your ongoing administration should focus on client management and client relations. With our Business Skills: Business Administration”  course you’ll find the tools needed to effectively work with clients.   

Research Gaps

Previous Research  

Sometimes we get so caught up in the thrill of the hunt for our ancestors that we might not always practice good research techniques.  We find a document, pull a few bits from it, put it aside, and move on to the next search.  This is why reviewing the research we have already done should always be the first step when trying to break down a brick wall.


Many brick walls can be solved simply by reviewing what we have done and identifying gaps.  Oftentimes, the records we already have contain the missing link and can help us solve our genealogy mystery.  Another reason we should take the time to review our research is because many of these brick walls probably were established when we were new to genealogy.

Even if reviewing our data does not demolish the brick wall, it will help us develop a road map for further research.  You should keep in mind that genealogy research is cyclic and as such, the process of evaluating and analyzing sources should be repeated until a conclusion is reached.

With our “Skill-Building: Break Down Brick Walls  course we will look at multiple approaches you can use in reviewing your research.

%d bloggers like this: