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Writing Family HistoryWriting a family history can be a great way to capture all the information that you’ve worked on in your genealogical research. It’s also a great strategy to concisely convey the story of your family’s development over time in a way that’s easy to share with others – from members of your extended family to other genealogists and historians. But developing a family history, whether you write an entire book or you develop a more free flowing heritage album, is a significant amount of work. Here are some general guidelines to help you get started with conceptualizing your project.

Determine a scope of work

The starting point for any family history is determining a scope of work. It would be impossible to write one book that comprehensively covered everything you know. Instead, decide on a specific scope of work for the project. Do you want to document the life and times of one very specific, interesting ancestor? Perhaps you could tell the tale of your family’s migration to the United States? Or maybe you want to broadly develop a resource that explores the history of one family line or one geographic/historical location? The more clearly you determine what you’re trying to accomplish, the easier it will be to map out your narrative and select the right sources.

Think about your style choices

Even though a family history is a factual work of non-fiction, there are numerous ways to approach it. Will you use a story style or a more academic tone when approaching your project? Part of what drives your style choices can be determined by what you’re trying to accomplish. Is your goal to share your family stories or to provide a resource for other researchers? Determining who your audience is and how you’d like the project to help them, educate them, or entertain them will give you a good idea of the best style to use.

Use and track a variety of sources

A family history needs to strike the balance between providing a good story or reading experience and documenting the facts. Consider what sources you’ll use. Many writers incorporate oral histories, photographs, and more traditional genealogical research documentation. The important part is that as you incorporate sources, you have a clear plan for how to document and record them. In text citations, footnotes, and bibliographies are all options – sometimes in combination. Choose one approach and follow it throughout the text.

Consider working with a professional

Writing a family history can be a major undertaking. At various points, a professional may offer valuable assistance. Consulting with a professional genealogist can help you make important choices about what to cover, reflect on your text, or streamline your sourcing. An editor or copyeditor can proofread the document to give you the confidence of knowing that the text is clean and error-free.

Do you need help developing a plan for writing up your family history? Contact Price & Associates today to arrange for a personalized consultation.

Genealogical ConferenceIf you’ve ever wondered whether it’s worth attending a genealogical conference, you’re not alone. Genealogical research can be a deeply fulfilling but lonely endeavor. Attending events can help you mingle with individuals that share your passion, expand your knowledge of research techniques and resources, and spend time learning about the things you love. It can also be an investment that helps you crack tough research problems and meet one-on-one with professional genealogists that you might consider hiring. If you’re thinking about attending a national or regional genealogy conference, here are some tips to help make your trip a success.

Define your goals

As with every endeavor, the clearer your goals are the more likely you are to be successful with the outcome of attending a conference. There are numerous reasons to go to a genealogy event, from mere curiosity to networking to trying to identify experts or researchers to help you solve a specific problem. Decide in advance why you’re going. Do you want to make friends or expand your circle of acquaintances that share your interests? Are you hoping to gather specific research knowledge on an area to deepen your expertise on a subject, such as Scottish genealogy or examining criminal records? If you have multiple objectives, prioritize them. A clear list of goals will be helpful when you’re confronted with multiple options in the same time slot that seem enticing.

Review the program

Conferences typically publish the speaking schedule well ahead of time. Not only does this allow you to get a feel for who will be attending and speaking, but it will help you identify which sessions are of interest. A well-planned schedule can help you prioritize how you’re spending your time at the conference and making sure that you’re not missing valuable information. Themes and topics vary from conference to conference, but you can typically expect sessions on: strategies for planning your research, documenting your work, specific ethnic resources and approaches, new research pathways, and specialized topics such as maritime history and slave genealogical research.

Take advantage of other opportunities

It’s easy to get tied up during a conference running from session to session. Soaking up as much genealogical research knowledge as possible is a great investment of your time. But you can miss the chance to connect with other participants and take advantage of some of the specialized opportunities that conferences offer. One popular feature is the ability to consult with an established, professional genealogist on a research question. Often, they can recommend resources; help reframe your question; or otherwise give you tips to move forward with your work. Another is visiting the exhibition floor. A wide variety of tools and services are being promoted, which may be interesting to you in your work. Finally, find out which societies and groups are in planned attendance. Often specialized groups – such as the Irish Ancestral Research Association or Daughters of the American Revolution – may be represented at the conference. Taking the time to mingle and learn more may open up avenues of inquiry. Meeting the representatives is also a great, low-stress way to see if membership might be right for you.

There are numerous reasons to attend a conference – from expanding your knowledge base to making new friends. If you’re struggling with a research problem that you can’t solve on your own, consider hiring a professional genealogist. Attending a conference they’ll be speaking at can be a great way to get the conversation started. Contact us today at Price & Associates to arrange for a personalized consultation.

Genealogical DNAThe widespread availability of genealogical DNA kits in genealogy circles is leading to some interesting scenarios. There are always the big surprises, such as learning one has been adopted or finding an unexpected sibling. But more often, genealogy fans are given the opportunity to connect with distant cousins and learn more about the bigger picture of their family’s journey. Consider the case of siblings that immigrated to the US, and then headed for different parts of the country. Today, descendants of one family could be spread throughout Massachusetts, North Carolina, Utah, and Oregon. Despite sharing a surname and exciting family history, known relationships no longer exist between these distant branches of the family tree. Genealogical DNA research and databases are helping to change that.

What is genealogical DNA?

Genealogical DNA kits typically involve a small package that gets mailed to a recipient. You collect a small amount of DNA through a method such as swabbing the inside of your cheek with a Q-tip. That material is then sent back to the lab and your DNA is decoded. From a genealogical perspective, information is often presented in two ways. The first is a general ethnicity breakdown. For example, a sample client might learn that she or he has English, German, and Japanese ancestry as well as the rough percentages of those breakdowns.

Users can also elect to include their information in a database. If you opt to participate in those databases, you’ll be shown individuals in the database with shared ancestry and roughly how you’re related. Often you’re provided with a range, as well as whatever information the person has chosen to make public. A typical entry might include, “John Smith lives in Boston, MA. His family surnames include Smith and Jones. He is your distant cousin, between 3rd and 5th.”

Where to go from there?

If you’ve signed up for DNA test, received your results, and put your information into the database, you’ve opened up a new avenue for potential research and collaboration. Here are some tips – and cautionary notes – to help you make the most out of this opportunity.
Fill out your profile: You’ll have the opportunity to provide base information about yourself, such as name, location, known ethnicities, geographies your family resided, surnames, and a short bio. Each provider’s options are a little different. Share as much as you feel comfortable, but remember that it’s wise to protect your personal information in public forums.

Privacy settings

Do you want the ability to be contacted by people who share your DNA? Most systems have the capability to set your profile as invisible, to allow people to send you a message, or to request more information.

Sharing DNA

Often systems allow two users to share their core DNA. From a genealogical perspective, it may help you determine in what way you’re related to someone. However, there are a variety of reasons that individuals would want to be cautious about sharing their DNA with strangers, so think carefully before doing so and examine different levels of sharing available through the service you’ve used to determine how you want to protect your information.

Reaching out

If the database indicates that you have a relative, it may be interesting to reach out. Whether you’re just saying hello or you’re striking up a conversation with a specific question in mind, keep your first interactions brief. Introduce yourself, provide a little background, and clarify your hopes for a conversation. Allow an adequate amount of time for a reply, as people don’t always check their mailboxes on these sites with the same frequency they check email.

Collaborative research

One of the most exciting outcomes of using a system like this is the ability to develop collaborative research relationships. For example, if you connect with the descendants of someone on your extended family tree you may have the potential to learn more about their lines and research. Finding extended family that shares your passion for genealogy can open up entirely new avenues for inquiry and enjoyment.

Are you interested in learning more about how a professional genealogist can help with your genealogy project? Contact us today to arrange for a professional consultation to discuss research projects, genealogical DNA, and more.

Swedish FlagDo you have Swedish ancestral roots? If so, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that approximately 1.2 million people emigrated from Sweden to the United States between the Civil War and the stock market crash of 1929. A wide variety of factors contributed to encouraging immigration, including limited land, agricultural troubles, and rising rates of unemployment in the homeland. Immigrants arrived through New York and other ports in the Eastern United States, as well as coming through Canada and then crossing into the US. If you’re interested in learning more about your Swedish ancestors but you’re daunted by the language barrier, here’s what you need to know.

Understanding Swedish Names

One helpful starting point for researchers navigating Swedish records is understanding how surnames worked. Approximately 90% of individuals were named via a patronymic naming system. For example, if a father’s name was Johan Albinsson, he is “Johan, son of Albin.” When Johan has children, they would be Sven Johansson (for a boy, Sven the son of Johan) and Alva Johansdotter (for girls, Alva the daughter of Johan) respectively. Swedish members of the clergy generally have Latinized names such as Lars Eriksson becoming Laurentius Erici and may also include their birthplace such as Lauentius Erici Wattrangious (Wattranfius for Vattrang). Some individuals took place names as their surnames or received names based on traits or regimens in the military to help differentiate between individuals with similar names. Women also often kept their own names upon marriage. Keep these conventions in mind when reviewing records.

Parish Information is Critical

For tracing your ancestors in Sweden, knowing their place of birth and where they lived is absolutely vital. This is true no matter what nationality your ancestors are, but it’s the key to finding the right records in Sweden. Most of the records collected were actually kept and managed by the Lutheran Church at the local parish level. There is no centralized Index to Swedish historical records even when national records exist, and civil officials didn’t start registering the information that they collected until the 1950s.

Lutheran Church Records

The Lutheran Church has been the dominant religious force in Sweden since the 16th century. Records kept by the church (known as kyrkoböcker) span from the 1500s onward. Often this information recorded births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, household surveys that list individual members, and who moved in and out of the parish. The cleric’s notes may have also included details about church accounts, disciplinary actions, and much more. Accessing these records begins with understanding what parish your ancestor was born in or lived in during his or her life.

Working backwards

The best way to learn more about your Swedish ancestors is to start with the present and work backwards. Many Swedish immigrants ultimately headed west to settle in areas such as Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa. The settlers were drawn by the promise of land for homesteaders and higher wages. Passenger manifests from Sweden – usually departing from Gothenburg – often contain information about an immigrant’s birthplace. The census and naturalization details of your ancestors may also have that data. Another helpful source is looking to see if your ancestor joined a parish of the Lutheran Church here in the United States; often they recorded detailed information about where members emigrated from.

There are numerous collections of digitized records online for genealogical researchers interested in Sweden. One of the best places to start is the Swensen Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College.

If you’re interested in learning more about your Swedish heritage and are struggling with the language barrier or other issues, a professional genealogist can help. Contact us today to arrange for a personalized consultation and to discuss how our services can help you find your Swedish ancestral roots.

Child GenealogyUncovering genealogical records for young children that died can be a difficult part of the genealogical process. During earlier time periods – including as recently as within the last century – infant and child mortality rates were much higher than today. In part, that’s why many families had so many children; it was not uncommon for a family with six children to only see two or three thrive enough to reach adulthood. Common childhood illnesses, more serious infections and communicable diseases, accidents, birth injuries, and more drove up the rates of childhood deaths. What information can a genealogist expect to find in the case of a family member who passed away early in his or her life?

Understanding the range of scenarios

One of the first things that is important to understand is the wide range of scenarios that could have occurred. Different scenarios would likely have impacted families in unique ways, and also be reflected differently in the genealogical records. A child that was stillborn or died within moments of birth would have left minimal records, and in some case, no records. An infant that passed within his or her first few months of life was potentially baptized, depending upon the era.

Others may have died later in childhood, but left more information about his or her short life. What’s important for the modern researcher to remember is that if you’re finding information about many children dying in a family, what you’re discovering is a tragic but not uncommon occurrence from certain historical periods. From there, you can move forward to determine what happened and develop theories on how it may have impacted the rest of the family’s story.

Beginning with family and traditional records

The best source of finding information about young children that died is following the traditional research path. Birth and death records can be particularly helpful. One important fact of note: if a baby died shortly after his or her birth, the child may not have been given a first name. As such, they may be listed in records as “Child Smith” “Baby Smith” “Daughter Smith” and so forth. If a family experienced the misfortune of losing multiple children, you may find reference to that in the way individuals are referred to by number, such as “Baby Smith 2 – deceased.” Census records can also be helpful, particularly during periods where mothers were asked how many children they had total as well as how many were still living.

Family bibles, when they exists, also often record information regarding the birth and death of a young child. Other records that may prove fruitful include church records, such as baptismal notices and the local equivalent of parish rosters where the minister or priest may have taken note of births, deaths, and other details of changes in the congregation. Finally, it’s sometimes possible to find information about a child that has passed away by beginning with their final resting place. Permits for burial and the sexton’s or overseer’s records for family and church cemeteries may contain information on children that are buried – either on their own or in the plot of a family member, as was sometimes common.

Learning about the realities of child mortality in your own family can be heartbreaking. But it’s part of piecing together the story of the generations that came before you. Finding documentation of these young lives isn’t always easy. If you’re running into challenges, consider hiring a professional genealogist to help with uncovering genealogical records. Price & Associates is an experienced team of genealogists ready to help you reveal your family tree.