Saturday, January 09, 2016

Why You Should Write a Family History in 2016: Last Call to Register for The Write Stuff Genealogy Writing Intensive

Have you been putting off writing that family history?  Is it a task you keep leaving on your "I'll get to it someday" list? 

Here are three tips to make 2016 the year you FINALLY stop procrastinating and start writing. 
Image Credit: (Author: thinglass)

And if you need some encouragement, there's still time to register for The Write Stuff Genealogy Writing Intensive that begins on 11 January 2016.

No More Excuses!

Most genealogists I know are dedicated, passionate, and persistent.  We’ll spend countless hours researching online databases, in courthouses or libraries, travel across the country or around the world to walk in our great-grandma’s footsteps, and even go to extreme measures to “dig up the dirt” on that “black sheep” uncle. But, when it comes to compiling the years of research, charts, photographs, and other data into an interesting, informative, and captivating format, how many of us become creatively paralyzed before our fingers even hit the keyboard?  Perhaps, we don’t know where to start, we’re overwhelmed by the amount of information we’ve gathered, or we simply say “I don’t have time.” 

If you are ready to get serious about documenting the stories of your ancestors, here are three tips.

1. Think like a writer, not a genealogist. The first thing you need to do is get over your “fear of writing.”  Many people mistakenly believe they need to have formal training in order to write a family narrative.  I was a writer before I was a genealogist (this is the reason I call my Blog “The Accidental Genealogist”), and I consider myself more of a story gatherer as opposed to a name collector, so I’m always looking for the best ways to record, store, and share information. You may not have the same training or experience, but don’t be intimidated.  You can do it—you may just need more practice!

2. Have a focus.  Decide what it is you want to write.  Is it a 250-page book?  A series of profiles, or character sketches?  A house history?  Do you want to focus on one particular ancestor, one family, or several generations?  Take some time to think about what story you want to tell and write down your writing goals and the steps you will take to achieve them. Then, set reasonable and realistic deadlines and stick to them.

3. Play Favorites.  A popular piece of advice given to writers is: “Write what you know.” You can apply this to family history writing as well.  It will be much harder to write about an ancestor for whom you have very little information, so choose a good candidate.  You can also select a favorite ancestor or one who has a “juicy” backstory.  Start with the “easy” subjects before you tackle the harder ones.

These are just a few of the topics I will address in The Write Stuff Genealogy Writing Intensive starting on 11 January 2016.

There are still a couple of spots left, so if you are willing to take writing a family history off of the "someday" list, now is your chance. Click here for more details and to register.

You CAN do this!

[Disclosure: I have been hired as a freelance instructor this intensive by HackGenealogy, and I will be receive payment for leading this intensive.]

©2016, copyright Lisa A. Alzo. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 08, 2016

It Still Takes a Village: Trace Eastern European Ancestors with New Genealogy Guide

When my Slovak grandparents arrived in America, they settled in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, a "cluster community," where they were surrounded by relatives, friends, and neighbors--all the people who formed the extension of their villages in the New World. They could count on these people for friendship, support and help with life's ups and downs.

Group gathering, Ostur┼ła, Slovakia; photo courtesy of Lisa A. Alzo

Many decades later, I found myself channeling this sense of community while working on The Family Tree Polish, Czech, and Slovak GenealogyGuide. I have been been a freelance writer for FamilyTree Magazine since 2005, and since that time I have written a number of articles on various Eastern European Genealogy topics, so it seemed a natural fit to expand that work for the Ethnic Research Guides series.

This guide will walk you step-by-step through the exciting--and challenging--journey of finding your Polish, Czech, or Slovak roots. You'll learn how to identify immigrant ancestors, find your family's town of origin, locate key genealogical resources, decipher foreign-language records, and untangle the region's complicated history. The guide also includes timelines, sample records, resource lists, and sample record request letters to aid your research. 

In particular, those just beginning the research process will find this guide to be useful starting point for how to discover their Eastern European ancestors and trace their stories from American shores back to the old country. An extensive Appendix lists other books and resources to follow up with for advanced research in each group (including one of my personal favorites, Going Home: A Guide to Polish-American Research by Jonathan Shea).

In the past twenty-five years, I have had the good fortune of working with many skilled research colleagues who were instrumental in helping me navigate the complexities of Eastern European genealogy. My journey back to find my ancestors would not have been possible without the guidance of many others. One of the biggest lessons I learned early on as a genealogist is the importance of collaboration and networking with those researching similar surnames or geographical areas. While researching our individual families, we might have a tendency to hold on tightly to knowledge gleaned from our efforts, but there is a lot to be said for sharing what we learn. Thanks to collaborative efforts with other East European genealogists, I have been able to break down many of my own research brick walls.

In the same collaborative spirit, this guide is designed to teach and inspire others who have an interest in exploring their Polish, Czech, or Slovak heritage.

Writing is often viewed as a solo endeavor, but the truth is it really takes a village to produce a guide of this scope, and I am particularly grateful to my research colleagues (especially Professor Jonathan Shea, Michal Razus, and Jan Ebert), as well as others who contributed photographs or other stories or anecdotes, and of course, the editors and copy editors at Family Tree Magazine.

The book is currently available for pre-order at ShopFamilyTree and Amazon.

[Disclosure: Articles on this website may use affiliate links.  Please see my Disclosure Policy in the About section for more information]

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Trying Again: Another Chance at the Genealogy Do-Over ~ Review of The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook

Thank goodness for genealogy second chances....

I need to re-do my Genealogy Do-Over I tried last year. I confess I did not get very far and had to stop just two weeks into it. But this time I have a secret weapon, and it is called The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook, recently published by Thomas MacEntee.

Finally...the book so many genealogists (myself included) have been waiting for is here! I have been a genealogist for more than 25 years, but when I started out, I didn't know much about methodology or how to properly format source citations, or even how to find the best resources. I learned through trial and error and by making plenty of mistakes along the way. 

So in January 2015, when Thomas MacEntee shared this concept with the genealogical community, I made the decision that a "do-over" was just what I needed. [See my post, "Embracing My Mistakes: Why I Am Participating in the "Genealogy Do-Over" in 2015"]. 

But life got in the way and I had to stop after just a few weeks. While the guidelines for the Genealogy Do-Over were posted online and through a Facebook group, many genealogists were asking for a book version. 

Newly released, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook is an easy-to-follow, success driven program designed to help genealogists improve their skills, Whether you have been working on your genealogy for two months or 20 years, The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook will help you learn and/or review the key research concepts and techniques, and discover the tools and technologies you need to be a better genealogist so that you can effectively share your family history information with future generations. The best part is that if I get sidetracked again, I can always use the workbook to start the Do-Over at a time that is more convenient for me.

Now that I have this Kindle version, I am armed and ready to "redo" my own "Genealogy Do-Over" in 2016!

Yes, thank goodness for genealogy second chances...and in some instances, third and fourth...

UPDATE AS OF 06 JANUARY 2016: The paperback version of the The Genealogy Do-Over Workbook is now available to order at Amazon.

[Note:  I purchased this Kindle book on my own and have not received any form of compensation in exchange for this review. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

[Disclosure: Articles on this website may use affiliate links.  Please see my Disclosure Policy in the About section for more information]

Friday, January 01, 2016

On the Road and Online: Where to Find the Accidental Genealogist in 2016

It's the start of the New Year and I am happily working on calendar planning for 2016. It is going to be a busy year for The Accidental Genealogist and I can't wait to start talking about genealogy again to audiences near, far and in cyberspace! 

Lisa (The Accidental Genealogist) presenting at the 2015 CGSI Conference in Cedar Rapids, IA

Below is where you can catch me in 2016:

  • 3-6 RootsTech, Salt Lake City, UT
  • 3-6 Genealogy Gems Think Tank Sessions at RootsTech, Salt Lake City, UT

Additional dates and events may be added.

I am very blessed to have a supportive spouse who doesn't mind staying home while I go on the speaking circuit. 

It is going to be a spectacular year for genealogy!  I hope to meet many of my blog readers at these events!

©2016, copyright Lisa A. Alzo. All rights reserved.