Family History Alphabet: You’re a Family History Star

I thought it would be fun to consolidate all the attributes that I came up with in Alona’s Family History through the Alphabet series.

You can see that not only are you a research star, but just how many diverse attributes we draw on, to pursue this adventure we love so much. I’ve added in your comments as well so thank you for providing the supplementary attributes. We really are a multi-skilled lot.

If you want to see this in interactive form (so you can see all the words) you can click this link. This image was built using Tagxedo.

Family History Alphabet: Z is for

My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. This week we finally reach the letter Z, a tribute to our persistence in documenting our theme for the Alphabet challenge. Thanks Alona from Gould Genealogy and LoneTester for inspiring us all to do the challenge and commenting on all our posts along the way!!

So here are my final contributions to the diverse attributes of family historians.

Z is for ZEST: The very fact that we’ve all made it through the alphabet proves that we have an enormous zest for what we do as family historians. We may get knocked down by a brick wall, or stumble as we are baffled by one mystery or another, but our sheer zest picks us up and gets us back into the research quarry.

Z is for ZEAL: I think it’s fair to say that along with our zest and enthusiasm, we are filled with zeal in the belief of this great adventure we’re on, to discover our ancestors and their lives. There is the risk that living family members may conclude we’re more zealots than enthusiasts, as we burble on about this or that discovery or mystery. Geneablogging probably stops our zeal just a touch short of zealotry so we can share our discoveries with fellow obsessives hobbyists and save the non-believers from our zealousness.

Some of us are just more zany than others.

Z is for ZANY: I just had to include this attribute which is encapsulated in Ms Skeletons‘ amusing, pertinent and concise posts. Thanks Fiona for enlivening the genealogy blogosphere!

Z if so ZZZZZ: what we’ll all be doing now we’ve finished this great series.

Call back in a few days and I’ll offer you a consolidated view of just how talented you have to be to pursue your family history.

I have had a great time on this alphabet challenge and judging on everyone’s posts, I’d say you all have too. Thanks once again Alona, your idea has been a great success!

As before, images are from Microsoft Office clip art.

Family History Alphabet: Y is for yearning and yawning

My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. We are in sight of the end now with the letter Y which appropriately gives us:

Y is for YAWN: We’ve been at this series for 25 weeks now so it’s not surprising we’re a little tired, despite the pleasures it’s brought us. Not that yawning is new to family historians. We certainly love our research and explorations but sometimes that same enthusiasm carries us away into the wee hours of the night well beyond Cinderella’s coach-into-pumpkin time.

Y is for YEARN: as we long for the small or large discoveries that will break down a brick wall, or take our research further. Some yearnings will never diminish though, as we’re bound to fail in our quest to know how our families felt about lives in general and their own specific experiences. Only those lucky researchers whose ancestors wrote down their thoughts in diaries or letters will have any means of moderating this yearning.

Y is for YO-YO when our emotions go up and down like a rollercoaster as we make new discoveries or come up yet again with a blank. I’ve felt like this in the past week with the exciting adventure into German newsletters only to zoom down the emotional ladder as the search constraints through up obstacles, or my German, not to mention my lateral thinking, is found severely wanting.

Y is for YELL or YELP: the alternatives to the genealogy happy dance, or perhaps the precursor, as we exclaim over a genealogical discovery in document or our on computer screens, frightening our pets and families.

Some days are just plain tiring.

And here’s another one, inspired by Mr Cassmob having to listen to my ramblings (ravings?)

Y is for Y AM I DOING THIS? After another day peering at German newspapers or as I ponder (bemoan?) that I have yet another 9 posts before I finish the Beyond the Internet series. There are days when I wish I was less persistent.

Can you think of any more Y attributes we share as family historians?

Images from Microsoft Office images online.

Family History Alphabet: X is for Scandalous

My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. This week we arrive at the tricky letter X.

X is for SCANDALS: All along I had a rating for this letter, but then realised if I used it my spam mail was likely to be flooded, so scandals it is. Not precisely an attribute but we as family historians do need to cope with all those scandals and skeletons that come out of the cupboards, the ones that earlier generations carefully concealed: convicts, illegitimate children, adoptions in/out, bigamy, incest, murder, victims of crime, divorce, mental illness, extreme poverty, etc etc. While many of these would no longer gain that letter-rating I carefully didn’t mention, some can still bring us up short and others ensure that the information may well still be concealed within the family. How we deal with this information, balancing honesty in reporting with respect for the people whose lives they were, as well as for their living decendants, definitely needs to be part of our family historian attributes. Which takes us back to E for Ethics (not to mention eXcellence).

X is (not) for XENOPHOBIC: Thanks to a former Australian parliamentarian we’re all familiar with this word.  Since many of us have ancestors who were immigrants from different cultures and countries we can hardly afford to be xenophobic about people from other lands. It becomes a challenge to learn all we need to know about their former lives, what conditions may have propelled them to emigrate etc.

X is for eXTRANEOUS: As genealogists we need the ability to sift the extraneous or the deliberately deceptive information we obtain or are given: to sort the wheat from the chaff.  It’s all too easy to be beguiled by a fanciful story handed down through the generations but we do need to practice D for Discernment.

Can you think of any other X words that should be added to our list of family historian attributes?

Images from Microsoft Office clip art online.

Family History Alphabet: W is for hoping

My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. Only three more letters to go after this week’s W.

W is for WRITING:  This has to be one of our most important skills as we translate what we learn about our ancestors into a narrative form which reveals them as real human beings with multi-dimensional lives.  Blogging is a great way to become accustomed to writing these stories as we can do it in bite-sized chunks.  Those who don’t feel confident of their writing style (or grammar) can check out the training offerings at the local Writers’ Centre or an adult education class. We never stop learning and it’s partly about finding your own writing voice.

W is for WRITING SKILLS:  These are the skills we need to understand the cryptic writing of church clerks, immigration agents, clergymen and our own ancestors (assuming they knew how to write). Not to mention different writing styles like the old German scripts or secretary hand…definitely acquired skills… or skills to be acquired.

W is for WISDOM: It would be nice to think we can gain some wisdom and understanding about the complexities of life, so we don’t sit on judgement of our ancestors.

W is for WONDERING, always wondering: What happened to make them leave home, were they happy in their new country, did they miss their families, where did ancestor X come from, how on earth did they get to Australia (or US or Canada or..), were they glad to have made the decision to emigrate…question after question.

W is for WISHING (and HOPING): that we’ll find that missing ancestor or missing snippet of information. We never do seem to give up the wish that somewhere, some day that problem will be solved.

W is for WANDERING:  We wander through the collections in archives, haunt the library stacks and especially wander through every graveyard we can access looking yet again for that additional clue.

W is for WANTING our ancestors to have been as happy as possible in their lives. One of my hopes is that my 2xgreat grandfather didn’t regret his emigration when he died in the midst of the manic anti-German propaganda of World War I. I don’t know why it matters to me that he shouldn’t feel it was all a waste, but it does.

W is for WONDER: You know that sense of joy and astonishment when you learn something new about your ancestral family, their challenges and successes or actually seeing their handwriting for the first time. The sheer amazement that records exist centuries later.

W is for WEIRD: Have you ever noticed that your non-genie friends look at you like you’re ever so slightly weird about this obsession?

W is for WORTHWHILE: We firmly believe that this quest we’re on is worthwhile –how else to explain our determination to keep going. It means something in the longer term of lives to have contributed our own story and shed some light on those who’ve gone before.

What other W attributes, skills and knowledge do you think should be added?

Family History Alphabet: V is for Various

My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. This week is the letter “V”.

V is for VALIANT: perhaps this is a stretch but we certainly need some level of courage to keep plugging away at our research despite “brick walls”, obstacles, confusion and all the new skills we need to learn. We also need to be courageous enough to approach unknown relatives to learn more stories or appeal for photographs.

Do you feel a bit vexed by your family history occasionally?

V is for VEXED: This is how we feel when one approach after another fails to resolve our research mystery, or when an ancestor gave a glib answer like “County Clare” or “Bavaria” or when technology conspires to challenge us, or……

V is for VACILLATE: Do you do this too when you’re not sure which family to research or which story to take up next? It’s all too easy to be overwhelmed by the opportunities available to us for researching. Not to mention the potential distractions of social media (oh yes, and chores) rather than tackle the research problem on our check-list.

V is for VAGRANT: Let’s hope that this obsession hobby of ours doesn’t send us broke and we don’t end up in the poorhouse like some of our distant ancestors.

V is for VACANT: You know, the look when you can’t work out what they were doing or how to make sense of what you’ve just discovered.

V is for VAGUE: That’s when one of our real-life family thinks we should engage with daily life while our minds are fully absorbed centuries ago with long-departed family.

V is for VOLUNTEERING: There are many ways to volunteer your knowledge and time to help with family history. You might provide advice to a genimate about a particular topic. You might transcribe records from microfilm, for Family Search etc etc. You could edit some articles in Trove. Or you might be involved with your local family history society, or give talks or, or, or…..

You’ll be victorious if you persist valiantly despite the vagaries of research.

V is for VICTORIOUS: This is what we’ll be if we bravely persist with our family history research despite all the stumbling blocks. I don’t promise you won’t gain two questions for every answer you find, but isn’t that part of why we love it all?

And as for the Family History Through The Alphabet followers and bloggers, we’ll soon be victorious when we reach the letter Z…only a few weeks to go now.

Family History Alphabet: Tantalising T

My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. We’re tearing towards the alphabet’s end. Today we focus on the tantalising letter T.

T is for TENACIOUS: You’ll need to be persistent to track down all the clues you can about your ancestral families.

T is for TEARS:  You’re bound to shed your share of these in the course of this adventure. You’ll read about the loss of infant children, the early death of spouses, death in childbirth, the loss of limbs and life, the loss of farms and property.  With each tear your respect for your ancestors will grow.

There’ll be other tears too as you learn of photos or precious documents that have been lost in fires, cyclones or even wilfully destroyed because….why…the reasons never seem good enough to me.

T is for TEACHING: Connected to last week’s sharing attribute, this is an opportunity to share your skills with your fellow genies, via blogs, classes, presentations or informal conversation. You may know more about technology and be able to swap your expertise with more experienced genies, or vice versa.

T is for TALKING:  You’ll do a good bit of this too, as you “bash the ears” of anyone willing, or even semi-willing, to learn about your family history. Not to mention those relatives who might be able to tell you tales of the family and provide clues or photographs. The complementary skill is, of course, listening, or it will all be for naught.

T is for TERRIFIED: You may be braver than me, but I find it quite terrifying to cold-call people who may/may not be relatives to gain more information. 99% of the time I’ve found that while they may be initially suspicious (we’re all humbugged by too many marketing calls), they’ll mostly be happy to help, and some will be downright keen. Of course you may also connect with the frosty ex-spouse of who you’re searching for, but they’re the hazards.

T is for THRIFTY: Definitely a useful attribute for family historians because despite popular belief it’s not all free, and it’s not all on the internet. Nor should we expect people to do research for us without some recompense.  Perhaps I should be following the Thrifty Thursday prompts so I can lift my game against this attribute.

T is for NOT thieving: Sounds a bit harsh so let’s call it pinching, borrowing, appropriating, whatever. A rose by any other name….it’s poor research to take someone else’s work without acknowledgement, no matter whether it’s specifically covered by copyright legislation.

T is for THRILLED: You know, those happy dance moments when you find that tiny little snippet of information about an ancestor. It doesn’t have to be a monumental discovery, we’re happy with whatever the research fates send us, remembering the harder we work, the luckier we’ll get.

T is for THANKFUL: Most especially thankful for all those who came before us and who have made us who we are.  Thankful that they persevered through famine, fire, drought, flood and challenging migrations so their families could have a better life.

Thankful also for the support and encouragement that we gain from our peers and the learning opportunities offered to us by more experienced researchers. We’re just so fortunate.

Do you have any other T attributes to add to our list? Which do you think is most important to you as a researcher?

Images from Microsoft Office Clipart

Family History Alphabet: S sets us challenges

Family History AlphabetMy theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. We’re on the final rush to the end now and S is our letter of the week. By this stage we’re reaching some antonyms of earlier attributes.

S is for STAMINA:  We surely need a lot of stamina/endurance to make it through our family history research. There have been recent blog posts on “aren’t you finished yet?” the ubiquitous question from those who know we’ve been researching for some time. It’s the corollary to the first-time question (you know it) “how far back have you gone?” A number of us have been pursuing our family history for decades so the stamina to keep on keeping on is essential.

S is for SLEUTHING:  I’ve always thought this was a universal truth about genealogists but after Olive Tree Genealogy’s post on “what type of genealogist are you?” I wonder. Still for me it’s a given.

S is for SHARING: This is a big one especially for geneabloggers. We love to share and we love that our genimates[i] care enough to read our posts and comments. We also like to share with our families, but often they’re not nearly as interested as we’d like. Over the years we acquire a range of expertise from work as well as family history –we can offer to share this with others through classes, informal advice or volunteering.

S is for SUPPORTIVE: When you’re part of the Geneabloggers community you no longer feel the need for support -there’s always a virtual friend (and some non-virtual ones too) out there who can provide advice, cheer you on, and believe in what you’re doing.

S is for SORROW: As we learn more about our families and the tragedies they experienced it’s all too easy to be overtaken with sorrow for their losses. I never fail to be overwhelmed when I read of the tragic death of my great-grandmother, Julia Kunkel.

S is for SYMPATHY: Similar to sorrow but different.  Learning more about the times our ancestors lived in can give us a greater sympathy for the challenges they faced: leaving home never to see family again, the loss of babies, losing a farm or business, the deaths of adult children before their time.

Are you climbing up the best ladder to find your family?

S is for STRATEGIC: Ugh, I feel like I’m back at work with this one. Still and all we do need to be strategic in our approach to research especially in this online era.

Remember Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits” quote from Habit 2?  “If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster“. It applies to our family history goals as much as to the workplace or life in general.

So much information avalanches towards us these days, that we need to be discerning in our approach;  weigh up the most effective, and most accurate, way to discover more about our families; and perhaps balance where and how we spend our time. For me that means that I don’t always follow the social media for fear of being too distracted (I can hear the influence of our former staff development person in this). Each to his/her own.

S is for SKILLS IMPROVEMENT:  This seems like something of a tautology in a list of attributes but if we don’t focus on continually improving our skills then our research expertise will dwindle and we’ll struggle to say up with all the advances available to us.

What other S attributes do you think we need as family historians?

This seems like a visual metaphor for geneablogger sharing: colourful, connected, supportive.

Images from Office Clip Art.


[i] Thanks to Jill Ball from Geniaus for this very Aussie spin on genealogy friendships.

Family History Alphabet: R is for………R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Family History AlphabetMy theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. This week we’re on the letter R and all of a sudden I hear music.

R is for R-E-S-P-E-C-T:  We owe it to other researchers to acknowledge their work. Citations and  acknowledgements are courteous, and professional, attributes of serious researchers. We also need to show respect for the privacy of living family members in the publication of our research and a mindfulness that our ancestors were a product of the times, and did the best they could. We can be honest in our research reports without disrepecting their lives..

R is for Resilience: We have to be resilient when one trail after the other turns cold, when that brick wall looms in front of us. We Routinely pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again! If Ginger Rogers can dance backwards in high heels surely we can keep pursuing our goals despite the occasional obstacles.

R is for Resourceful: Family historians are tricky souls. We have all sorts of sneaky strategies for approaching those brick walls, for linking with other genealogists or cousins, or for pushing our information back through the decades. Do you have a particularly resourceful strategy?

Resourcefulness is one of our lateral attributes.

R is for Rituals and Routine:  There have been a number of blogs that talk about how we deal with our day as family historians: when we research, look at emails, blog, tweet, facebook or approach our ancestral searches. What’s your daily genealogy ritual?

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. Albert Einstein i]

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Family History Alphabet: Q is for ….guess

Family History AlphabetMy theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. This week’s letter is Q, an important one if we’re ever to complete our family history.

On your quest persevere, don’t quit, and keep questioning.

Q is NOT for QUITTING:  If we want to find out the story of our families, hurdle those brick walls, break down data barriers we cannot afford to quit. Remember those other attributes: determination, persistence, bravery, enthusiasm and energy? These are our personal resources we draw on when the going gets tough.

Q is for QUESTIONING: As we acquire information we need always to question its accuracy, the sources and its relative merits. Remember: discernment, gumption, knowledge, enquiring?

Q is for QUALITY: I think it’s fair to say most of us want to produce quality research and ensure we can substantiate our research claims. Remember citing, attribution, and acknowledgements?

Q is for QUEST: Like knights of old we’re on a quest to learn more about our families, find those ancient ancestors and bring them to life.

Q is for QUANTITY: I guess we all know genealogists whose sole aim is to build up a vast quantity of names on their trees without a care in the world for accuracy, privacy or turning those names into people. Give me QUALITY over quantity any day! Which leads me to….

 Q is for QUERULOUS: Crabby, cantankerous and just plain grumpy can be the less pleasant attributes we bring to our research, especially when we stand in front of that brick wall or when someone breaches our privacy without permission, or doesn’t acknowledge our work.

What other Q attributes do you think we need as family historians?

Images from Microsoft Office clip art.