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Research To-Do List in Zotero

Zotero Research To-Do ListMost genealogy software tools offer an embedded to-do list feature–useful, as far as they go. But for me, they don’t go far enough. Most are not accessible away from your own computer. If you have to move  or restore your data via GEDCOM, you will usually lose your  to-do items. The tools aren’t designed to let you apply a single to-do item to multiple people. Zotero, on the other hand, provides the ideal research to-do list. It fully integrates with research notes, and it’s free.

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IGHR 2017: Seats going fast. It’s that good.

IGHR 2017 Registration OpenThe GEG in me emerged in the summer of 2015, when I finally committed a week of my life to the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research. I returned in 2016 to an even better experience. This year I’m registered for Course 3, and we’re relocating to the University of Georgia. Join me in Athens July 23—28 for IGHR 2017 — the best value your genealogical education dollar can buy. Continue reading IGHR 2017: Seats going fast. It’s that good.

What’s in a name? Conflicting practicalities.

In genealogy,  a rose by any other name may not smell sweet. A feud broils over what is acceptable, when it comes to naming conventions. Do you use question marks for unknown portions of a name? Do you write helpful information in the suffix field? Congratulations, we’ll call you a Montague! Do you get annoyed when you see people doing the above, fearing trashy data transfers — a messed-up GEDCOM? You, friend, we’ll call a Capulet. In determining how to use the name fields in our software, we find ourselves having to choose the house of Montague or Capulet — expedient practicality or clean data sharing. Some want both, and we call ourselves GEGs. Starry-eyed GEG I may be, but with the right tools and rules, I think Romeo and Juliet can have a future together.

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Facing your dread of courthouse research

Darwin Fear Face_Fear of the CourthouseYou hear rumors that courthouses can yield ten times what you’ve learned about your ancestors from online sources. Ten times! But still you don’t go. “I’ll get around to that,” you say to yourself. “Let me just check one more database.” Well, friend, it’s time to overcome your dread. Pack your laptop and hit the road to a place where Wifi rarely goes. I dare you. I double-dog dare you to face your dread of courthouse research. You’ll thank me.

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FamilySearch, same-sex marriage, and the risk of obsolescence

We genealogists use family trees to reflect the past, not to morally judge it. Our trees contain many family situations our churches then and now have disavowed. But we’re the historians of families; it is our job to gather, interpret, and present facts. In FamilySearch Family Tree (FSFT), I can reflect unwed parents, infidelity, common law marriage, and even incest. But FSFT blocks me from recording the legal marriage of two men. As a historian, I then have a problem: FSFT, great gift to the world that it has been, now risks obsolescence. (Welcome to my newest, and rather disturbing, addition to the Wish I’d Known Series.) Continue reading FamilySearch, same-sex marriage, and the risk of obsolescence

There are hobbies, then there’s genealogy

There are hobbies, then there's genealogyI’ll grant you, genealogy is a hobby to many, and I am glad we have the hobbyists in our numbers. The more the merrier. But when I think of genealogy, as applied to myself, the word “hobby” grates on my sensibilities. For me, it is the wrong word. The wrong idea altogether. Genealogy means so much more to me than that. How do I give it proper tribute? If I can’t stomach saying, “Genealogy is my hobby,” what can I say? Genealogy is my … what?

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Goodbye research log — hello Zotero

Zotero for Research LogA research log made perfect sense once. In fact, I felt great pride in my mammoth binder with neat notations, hand-crafted tabs, and cross-referenced numbers. My notebook even had a flap with a Velcro latch to secure it. I protected this treasure, when paper ruled. But paper stopped ruling a long time ago. Once I weaned myself from the inconvenience and limitations of paper, OneNote became my research log of choice — also with limitations. But then came Zotero, which made me ask the million-dollar question: Why do I need a day-by-day research log at all? And guess what? I don’t. 

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Parental relationship — the unproven link

Parental relationship: Unproven linkYou proudly display 25 sources citing  life events of your grandfather John Smith, and 20 on his father Robert Smith. You’re a source citer of consummate skill. Everyone can trust your work with so many sources, right? Well, maybe. How many of those sources prove that this particular Robert Smith was your John Smith’s father? It’s a great big gap in our genealogical software — the absence of a parental relationship proof requirement. But we can solve it with a simple custom fact.

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Childless siblings & empty silhouettes

Childless Siblings & Empty SilhouettesSome of us will never be ancestors. We have no descendants. We died too young, or we married too old. We stayed single and took care of our parents or stayed single just because. Or married and couldn’t or married and didn’t. For any number of reasons or none, we died childless. So, who will tell our story?

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The avocational genealogist’s code of ethics

The Ethics of Genealogy_Summary ImageI’ve heard it again and again from my fellow GEGs. “I’m not a professional genealogist, but I want to be as good as one.” Perhaps we should begin by adopting their moral compass. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) requires its members to agree to a Code of Ethics. If avocational genealogists adapted the code to their own work, how might it look? Continue reading The avocational genealogist’s code of ethics