Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Changing My Speciality and Learning about U.S. Census Records

One important note: I have decided to change my specialization from German Records to U.S. Records. Why?
-For my personal research, specializing in U.S. records is ideal. While many of my ancestors immigrated here in the late 19th century, I want to start with the latest in my family history and work backwards, learning as much as possible about each generation. This means that I'll be working mostly with U.S. records for some time.
-As a professional genealogist, I will want to know as much as possible about the records available to me in order to serve my clients' needs. The records that are most accessible to me are U.S. records.

That said, I am still very interested in learning about German, as well as Italian, records. I will continue to take classes in these areas (as well as many others) after I obtain my certificate in U.S. Records, for professional development.

On another note, the latest class I've taken at NIGS is U.S. Census Records. While I've worked with census records a great deal before, I feel like I have a much better understanding of them now. This course was particularly helpful in identifying the questions that were asked on each census, and determining what unique and useful information can be obtained from each census year. I also learned about some sources I would not have thought to look for, specifically non-population schedules, such as tax lists and veterans schedules. I think the latter will be especially useful in my research, since I believe that many of my ancestors served in the military or would have been receiving a pension around the time these schedules were taken.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Petition for Better Access to Pennsylvania Vital Records

I've recently heard about a group which is dedicated to a cause I believe in deeply: better access to vital records in Pennsylvania. This petition, created by a grassroots organization called People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access, calls for the creation of an online index of death records no less than 50 years old. This index would include only the name and death date, and would save both family historians and the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records valuable time and money when requesting death certificates. It takes into account privacy concerns, while still pointing out the fact that the process for obtaining death certificates in Pennsylvania is not at all friendly to family historians. As they point out on their website, "The information a requester is expected to supply is quite often the very information a requester is looking for and the very reason for wanting a death certificate.
Fellow researchers with interests in Pennsylvania records: if you feel as strongly about this as I do, please pass this information on. I know that if there were to be such an index, I would certainly volunteer to help create it, and I know that tons of other family historians would as well. So speak up and get involved! :)  


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ancestry Expert Connect

I have just started to participate in a great opportunity for beginning researchers and professional genealogists alike: Ancestry's Expert Connect.
You've probably heard the buzz about this new service, and it is well deserved. As with other freelance-type services, the fees that Ancestry takes from projects are somewhat steep - but, they do provide many, many leads that you would not be able to find elsewhere. Ancestry is continuing to develop this platform, and there are bound to be some problems for them to resolve. I can only speak to my first experience with the service.
Expert Connect only allows qualified professional genealogists to perform more advanced services like Record Lookup and Family Tree Outsourcing. However, I can perform Record Pickups and take local photos. While I also perform these on a volunteer basis, these services are handy for those who need their records quickly. Such was the case with my first client, who needed a death record from a local repository. I went down there, found the record (with some searching, and the help of very knowledgeable librarians, not to mention lots of luck), scanned it and sent it.
This repository also has many collections that I need to search for my own research, so this project afforded a much-needed opportunity to become more familiar with their library of materials. And it was fun! If you like searching through microfilm as much as I do, that is.
When asked to provide feedback to Ancestry on Expert Connect, this is I what said:


I received an email asking me to provide feedback on my first experience as a researcher on Expert Connect. It was a wonderful experience and it was very satisfying to be able to find and provide the record that my client needed.
I've worked with other freelance sites before, and if I had any suggestions as you develop Expert Connect further, they would relate to client/buyer education. Some other freelance platforms have become miserable and hostile places, because buyers do not know what to expect from professionals, especially what professional research entails, and why it costs what it does. This leads to some unprofessional behavior on behalf of client and provider, as clients have unrealistic expectations for cost and time-frame. I would suggest that Ancestry reviews the environment at some general freelance sites to avoid these kinds of pitfalls.
That said, I had an extremely positive experience with my client, and I look forward to working with [this client] more. Thank you for providing this service and the invaluable leads that result."