My 2023 Genealogy Recap

I got interested in genealogy when I was fourteen-years-old and discovered a weathered lime green vertical file in my grandparents’ hutch. This folder of wonders was full of little booklets, family group sheets, and various other scraps of paper of dubious origin. 

To me, that was like finding a treasure chest. Who are these people? Why do they all look so mad? Do we Dunns really have a coat of arms? (Reader, we do not.)

Last year, I decided to rededicate myself to learning sound genealogical research methods. In other words, if 40(ish)-year-old me now stumbled on that same box of unsourced booklets, family group sheets, and ephemera I would now be much more capable than 14-year-old me of formulating a research question, analyzing each item, and determining what type of evidence it holds to help me answer my question. 

And in honor of getting just a little more genealogy-wise, here’s what I got up to in the genealogy world this year.

Classes & Educational Opportunities

IGHR – My First Genealogy Academy

Since this was my very first genealogy academy, I took the introductory class, Methods and Sources, with the wonderful Rebecca Koford and a host of other genealogy experts. Though I’ve been doing genealogy for years, as someone who is self-taught I wanted to ensure that I hadn’t missed anything obvious. If you’ve never done a genealogy institute before, or you are self-taught and looking to level up, I recommend this course because there WILL be blind spots in your foundation! I especially found the sessions on DNA, maps and geography, genealogy and the law, and reading old handwriting to be beneficial. (You can sign up for IGHR here starting March 4!)

Research Like a Pro Study Group

First I read the Research Like a Pro: A Genealogist’s Guide book, then I started listening to the podcast, and by Fall 2023 I decided it was time to participate in a Research Like a Pro (RLP) study group. 

In RLP, you complete a genealogy project from start to finish. That means framing a research question, making a research plan, doing the research, then writing up the results of that research according to the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). The beauty of RLP is that not only do you learn a lot in the weekly lectures, you have a peer group to bounce ideas off of and gently correct you when you start to veer off course. (Or in my case, when my citations became less standard and more “fanciful.”)  

By the end of the 3-month study group I ended up with a 25-page research report with 80+ reference notes. For comparison, that is the same length as my capstone project for completing my entire bachelor’s degree in History. And I think I probably worked harder on it, too. (Shh! Don’t tell the good folks at Kennesaw State University!)

Best of all, I’ve made decent headway on the complicated brick wall problem I’ve been chipping away at for ten solid years now. 

Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group

I also participated in a smaller study group to read and analyze the seminal genealogical methodology work Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones. With my good friends Cathy Duncan and PJ Elias, we went chapter by chapter and exercise by exercise through a book that trains your brain in understanding, analyzing, and dissecting every teeny tiny genealogical clue. 

This book trains your brain to think about genealogical sources and information as more than just words on a page. Along with Evidence Explained by the incomparable Elizabeth Shown Mills, it’s probably my most returned-to genealogical resource. 

Folks, there’s nothing I recommend more than a study group. First, you get to hang out with your fellow genealogy nerds and do nerd things. Second, it’s always valuable to take a peek inside a brain that doesn’t think like yours does. My peer groups’ insights, knowledge and even offhand jokes have all led me to a deeper understanding of genealogy methods. Plus, they’re just fun!

What I Did With All that Learning

And here’s where all the learning took me!

Found Some Graves… Literally

AKA My first research project for someone who didn’t know me personally. I used every ounce of my land research know-how to help our county’s Cemetery Preservation Committee identify some unmarked graves! Sadly, the report isn’t public because the land owners don’t want people tromping all over their land. (As a land owner who doesn’t want people tromping all over my land, I’m 100% with them.) I will say that this was an excellent crash course on genealogy client work, knowing your audience, and working within time limitations.

Joined Some Genealogical Societies 

I decided it was high time to get more involved with the genealogy community rather than continue as a siloed hobby. And I’m so glad I did. I joined the National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Georgia Genealogical Society (GGS), and the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG). The publications alone are worth the price of membership to each organization. 

Became a Webinar Coordinator

I work in technology as my day job and they just happened to be looking for someone to handle the technical side of registering, publishing and hosting webinars, so this was a match made in heaven. I hosted my first webinar (with wise hand-holding from outgoing webinar coordinator Stacy Cole of They Had Names) and I’m looking forward to another year of muting people and spamming the Zoom chat with handout links!

…And More

I took advantage of a lot of other educational opportunities that don’t fit in anywhere else! I went to the Georgia Genealogical Society’s Genealogy Day at the Georgia Archives. I watched forty-nine (49!) Legacy Family Tree webinars. I also learned more about the business of genealogy at the APG’s Professional Management Conference (for genealogy businesses) which led to…

Hung out my Genealogy Shingle

Copper Mine Genealogy

You might notice things look a little different around here. This is because, after years of doing genealogy pro bono for friends and family, I decided to go professional. Now, consider this a soft launch. I am not actively seeking clients yet, but my project for the Cemetery Preservation Committee plus projects for friends got enough of a standing ovation that I decided to go ahead and prepare to do professional work. Once I am Board Certified (more on that in the next post) I plan on adding “professional genealogy” services to my long list of eclectic careers (i.e. making movies, making apps, and writing books!) 

You can check out my professional genealogy website at Copper Mine Genealogy

This post is getting too long, so look for my 2024 Genealogy New Year’s Resolutions coming next!

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