Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chris O'Donnell & Who Do You Think You Are?

Did you watch the latest episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, featuring actor Chris O'Donnell? This episode was quite good. Chris learned that two of his grandfathers--one great-great grandfather and one great-great-great-great grandfather--served in the military. (I hope I counted the generations correctly!) One served in the Spanish-America War, in 1846, the other served in the War of 1812.

One of the highlights of the episode is that they took the time to explain--albeit briefly--the significance of these two wars in American history. The Spanish-American War occurred because the United States had a domestic policy of Manifest Destiny, a policy of stretching the America's western border all the way to the Pacific Ocean. In order to achieve that, the United States needed to grab the land that is now known as the states of Texas (western part), New Mexico, Arizona, southern parts of Colorado, Utah and Nevada, and the whole southern half of California.  This territory is also commonly known as the desert southwest. And, yes, the United States won.

The War of 1812 occurred because of ongoing tensions between England and the United States, some of which reached back to the American Revolution. Some of the tensions were connected to the fact that the  United States had trade relations with France, who had ongoing tensions (and wars) with England.  In fact, from 1792 onward, France and England were already at war with one another.  Ultimately, the War of 1812 led to the resolution of these tensions between England and the United States.

Why do I think it was a highlight when they described these two wars? As genealogists and family historians, we know how important it is to research the world in which our ancestors lived. Such events had an impact on how our ancestors lived their lives. They were, in fact, eyewitnesses to our social, political, economic, and military history. They are the storytellers!

I was also glad to see a mention of Fold3, a relatively new website (newer than that focuses primarily on military service records. It's amazing how much they have in their website.  I highly recommend that you visit Fold3 and check out the military history of your ancestors!  The website is at There are stories to be told!!

Until next time.... :)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pro Gen Study Group

This Sunday afternoon I participated in the final chat of my Pro Gen Study Group. For the last 19 months--since February 2012--I have been a member of the Pro Gen 15 group. I was in the Sunday group (there are two other Pro Gen 15 groups--a Monday and a Tuesday group). It has been a most worthwhile endeavor on my part.

The focus of the study group involved reading the book Professional Genealogy, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. It's a collection of 29 chapters written by various professionals, including Elizabeth herself. Each chapter focused on all things that matter to professionals--writing effective source citations, writing client reports, creating a marketing plan, a business plan, and a mission statement. And, yes, considering publishing and lecturing opportunities.

In addition to discussing the content of the chapters in a monthly, one-hour chat room, there is the dreaded (!) writing assignment. Every month we had to write and submit an assignment. Some of the topics included a mission statement, business plan, marketing plan, client reports, sourced citations, and family reports, and all based on the reading assignments. Some assignments are easier than others, and some were quite demanding of one's talents.  The tough part is that each member had to critique one another's submissions. Yes, critique--and we weren't allowed to just say "good job".  We could say "good job"(and we often did), but then add the constructive criticism. It felt brutal at times! Even so, I appreciated the focus and the discipline required of me.

Do I recommend the program? Unequivocally yes! Yes, there is a 19-month commitment. Several hours a month to complete the writing assignment and to read and critique the other assignments. It does cost $95 US dollars, plus the cost of the book, Professional Genealogy (I found a decent price on Amazon at about $50 US dollars, and I hear an update is in the works).  Is there a payoff at the end? Yes, I do feel strengthened and better prepared to enter the professional ranks.

The only criticism I have of the program is the chat room experience.  The chat room experience is old-fashioned--just a dialogue box to type in your part of the conversation, with no web-cam and no microphone. No chance to have a real face-to-face conversation that is now available via online software programming.  Even so, we worked around that by meeting up at the various conferences we were (and still are) attending. 

If you are interested, here's the link to the website:  Yes, there are many education programs out there--above and beyond the worthwhile conferences and institutes--to choose from. But this is the only one focusing on the professional aspects of being a genealogist.

Until next time....