The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

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

Your Ancestors Network

Patterns and Relationships of our Ancestors  

Analyzing your ancestor’s network can be challenging. There are usually many people and often times, they are interconnected. Additionally, there are many different variables at play so you may be on the lookout for something specific for one question you are trying to answer. As you explore your ancestor’s  FAN Club (Friends, Associates, and Neighbors), be sure to keep track of your discoveries by making notes to yourself.

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  • Are there people in your ancestor’s network, not identified as family, that have the same surname as that person? 
  • Does the same person keep appearing as an associate over a long period of time or as a neighbor across two or more locations? 
  • Do you see clusters of associates and neighbors that share a surname? 

The people identified from the questions above are usually the ones that deem further research at a higher priority. This does not mean you want to discard the others that do not fit these criteria. Of course, if after researching the “high priority” people you still have no answers, you will want to move on to the other people in the FAN Club.

In addition to exploring patterns to figure out who requires further research, the FAN Club may reveal the possibility of two or more people merged into one. Learning to analyze your ancestor’s patterns and relationships is part of our Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls course. 

Timelines

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.

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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.

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.

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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? 

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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.  

Clients

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.  

 

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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.

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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.

Vital Records

Some Vital Record Alternatives 

You’re familiar with birth, marriage, and death records but what are some other record types that can help you discover information when the vital records can’t be found? 

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  • Probate RecordsIf you know where a person died, check to see if there is a probate record.  Do not just assume there is no record-check. Even if there is no will, there can still be a probate file. One part of the file that can be vital is the “Final Distribution.”   This will tell you who the heirs and devisees are and where they were located at the time of the filing.
  • Funeral Home RecordsFamily members fill out paperwork at funeral homes detailing the life of the deceased.  In addition, the funeral home keeps a copy of the obituary published in the local newspaper.
  • Church RecordsChurch records can contain information about birth, marriage, and death.  Each church keeps different types of records so make sure to learn more about the church your ancestor attended and what records they possess.

 

There are many resources available in assisting you with your research that can found in our United States: Vital Records course.  

Project Proposals

 Client Proposals  

Many genealogy researchers charge for their services on an hourly basis.  This is simple to administer and easy for the client to understand.  However, some clients are uncomfortable with an open-ended expense.  One way to deal with this is to tell the client an upfront estimate of the number of hours expected for a given project.  As an alternative, some genealogists simple quote their clients a flat fee, which is fine as long as the anticipated work fits with the project quoted in the fee schedule.  

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The proposal you present to the client does not have to state all the details of how you will accomplish the work.  Focus on what is important to the client – what they will get as an end product and what it will cost them.  If you do create proposals, review them periodically to see how effective they are.  Be honest with yourself.  

Review your past proposals to see what has worked best and identify what areas may need more work on your part.  One way to find out how accurate your time-based proposals are is to keep a log of the time you spend on each project.    

By taking our, Business Skills: Business Administration” course you will come away with the tools needed to create effective proposals for you, your clients, and your business as a whole.  

Research Reports

Creating Your Research Report 

The process of writing a research report is a great way to capture your analysis and collect your thoughts.  Although your report does not have to be a formal document, you will want to include your name, the date of the report, and the research question.   

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Sometimes we find that we have completed an exhaustive search, but perhaps misunderstood a key point in a record, missed a relevant piece of data, or had not properly analyzed all of the data as a whole.  Seeing our research in a different perspective may have been the key to solving our problem.  If you feel that you have reached a solid answer to your question you should include a section in your report that contains your conclusion.

If a conclusion is not reached, you should include a section in your report that outlines your research plan.  In some cases, this will be a simple task of filling in obvious gaps such as a missing census year or other typical genealogy records.  When developing your research plan, think about what sources might answer your research questions. 

Once your report is complete, take a moment to review what you have found against your individual summary and family group sheets.  Be sure to follow through on your plan and do not forget to record your findings in your research log.

Our Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls” course will help you in developing these reports and research plans.    

Brief History of Photography 

Brief History of Photography

The “idea” of photography dates back to the 10th century “camera obscura” and “pinhole camera” described by the Arab scientist, Abu Ali al-Hasan (or Alhzaen), author of The Book of Optics. The camera obscura was a large dark box with a hole in one end which could produce an inverted image opposite it. It is the forerunner of today’s cameras. All it lacked was a lens and means of fixing the image chemically.  

It wasn’t until 1816 that a Frenchman, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, began experimenting with chemically fixing mages. His first success was in 1822, and in 1826 he created the first photograph. That photograph required an 8-hour exposure time. He called the process “heliography.” After his death in 1833 his partner, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre continued working on the photograph process. In 1837 Daguerre succeeded in reducing the exposure time to 30 minutes. He dubbed his photographs “Daguerreotypes,” and in 1839 he introduced them in Paris and New York City. 

Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, digitizing and Various Projects

  The Daguerreotype photographic process was in widespread use from 1839 through the 1920s, and 21st century Daguerreian hobbyists still use it. It was at the height of its popularity from 1839 to 1858.  

Daguerreotypes or “dags” are laterally-reversed high-contrast images with very fine, crisp details. They are always case-mounted and sealed with paper tape. The image area is mirrored, so it is necessary to hold it at an angle to see the image clearly.  

Identifying antique photographs is just one of the many things you will learn in the Photography: Clues Picture Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects” course with The National Institute for Genealogical Studies.  

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