Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 2013 Scanfest

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Friday, February 22, 2013

The ProGen Study Group: Lesson One

"The ProGen Study Group: Getting Started" can be read here.

We were supposed to have our first assignment posted January 1st. However, ProGen 18 was due to have their first online discussion that day and wanted to have a few days to look over their assignment in order to bring up any necessary questions during their chat. So our adminstrator posted the assignment a couple of days early for both groups, 18 and 19.

Our first reading assignment were two chapters in Professional Genealogy. Next there was supplemental reading on the topics of plagiarism and attribution which contained links to three online articles. To prepare for our online discussion at the end of this lesson, we were given the link to the Association of Professional Genealogists' Code of Ethics. The online discussion prep sheet listed ten questions we were to discuss and answer from the various reading assignments. Additionally, we were to read a chapter of Evidence Explained with some supplemental reading. Finally, two links to online articles on creating mission statements were included in the assignment instructions. So really, we had about half a dozen reading assignments in this lesson. I got started on the reading immediately.

We were given two writing assignments. The first was to craft a mission statement for our current business, future business, or genealogical endeavors if we do not have a business. The second was to properly cite eight sources which were given to us in image format. The written assignments were due January 25th and our feedback was due by the time our next online discussion was to take place on February 4th.

Feedback has to be more than just "good job" posted after each person's assignment. We were to be specific in critiquing our colleagues' mission statements; what we admired or suggested for change or improvement, and why. We also were required to give three constructive comments or suggestions on each of our fellow members' citation assignments.

Our first online discussion for my evening group was held on January 7th, the first Monday of the month, at 5:00 PM, Pacific Time. It was not related to the first lesson, but was more a time to practice finding and using the chat room, get a chance to meet each other online if we had not done so earlier with our mentor's chat on December 21st, and allow our leaders to address any questions we had about the website, or the reading or writing assignments. The chat room was held on the website and was a little tricky to find for some. It did not require any audio devices or microphone, but was a text-based chat forum. The chat lasted one hour.

Back when we were first accepted into ProGen, we were given an opportunity to volunteer to be a group leader. I decided my plate was pretty full and opted not to do that. The group leader generally leads the online discussion and creates a transcript. Having a copy of the discussion was very helpful for later reference.

As I mentioned above, there was a lot of reading required in this first lesson. What helped me out was to print everything up, even though I tend to be an online person who rarely prints up anything. Thus I was able to read, highlight, and study the texts as well as the printed supplemental readings while I was working one of my late afternoon jobs. I also started keeping a checklist at for my assignments.

The mission statement was difficult and required some time. Because I currently do not have an official business, I wanted my mission statement to reflect my goal for a future business, but also incorporate what I do now on an informal basis: instruct, lecture, and write. I also wanted to leave room for the possibility of taking on paying clients to do research. Finally, I wanted to honor the cultural and heritage aspect of family history, especially since it was my growing up in a Native Alaskan community and my parents' efforts to teach me about my own Dutch heritage that influenced my genealogical interests.

The statement I eventually came up with was:
My two-fold mission is first to enable my clients to increase interest, satisfy curiosity, and instill pride in their family history and culture by providing accurate and thorough research. The second is to teach quality research skills in reliable resources to the genealogical community through instruction and my published works.
I received helpful feedback on this, especially when one member recommended I switch out the word "instill" for "develop," which was actually exactly what I had been trying to convey, although I couldn't come up with the correct word at the time.

In contrast to the mission statement, the citations assignment did not seem so difficult, but did take up a lot more time. I did a lot of studying of Evidence Explained. Citation writing is not an exact science; there is more than one way to do it properly. When I was satisfied with my work, I uploaded it to the website. Then I began feedback on others' mission statements and citation assignments.

Feedback was actually the most difficult part of all the assignments. On one hand, you must give an honest review of work done, but on the other hand, you don't want to offend someone or hurt their feelings, especially when you must collaborate with them for another eighteen months and also after knowing personally how much time and effort was invested into each assignment. I found three things to be helpful. The first was something I've learned as an educator: sandwich suggestions or constructive criticism between praise. This is especially important when you are doing critiques in an online manner because your audience cannot read your body language or hear the expression in your voice. It's so easy to be misinterpreted when you can't do this in person. The second was to cite various sections of Evidence Explained to back up my statements when pointing out errors in others' citations. The third was to graciously accept the critiques of others (remembering my first point above) and to notice and point out my own mistakes as I came across them. I have to say that in giving feedback to others on the citation assignment, I did find a number of mistakes in my own. In the process, I ended up rereading the citations reading assignment and highlighting it extensively. One of the best results was to gain some clarification as to why certain items were cited one way and other similar ones were cited differently.

Reading, working the assignments, writing them up, giving feedback, and the online discussion all do take quite a bit of time. It is not for nothing that twenty hours per month is the recommended time you allot yourself to work on each lesson. Although I am a fast reader, good writer, and prepared student, I did find that I probably spent at least twenty hours, if not more completing everything.

Finally, we had our online discussion on this first lesson on February 4th. Much of it centered directly on the subjects of the two ProGen chapters we had been assigned. One of the more interesting threads of conversation was about what to do when entrusted with a family history secret. Unfortunately, we did not get a transcript of this month's discussion.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

The ProGen Study Group: Getting Started

If you follow me on Facebook, you'll see me make reference frequently to the ProGen Study Group that I began this year. A number of you have asked me questions about it, and I thought it would be a good idea to blog about the course, each month's lessons, and my progress. Perhaps you are merely curious, or perhaps you are actually interested in taking this course and would like some "inside information."

First let me explain what the ProGen Study Group (known hereafter as simply ProGen) is about...and what it isn't. ProGen is an 19-month book study of the text, Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Each month, members are assigned a chapter or two of the book to read, along with practical assignments related to the chapter(s). The assignments are posted online using a project management website. In addition to reading and assignments, members must provide feedback on others' assignments. Finally, the members gather once a month for an online discussion in a chat forum with their group's respective coordinator and mentor.

What ProGen is not is a course on learning genealogy research skills. As the ProGen website's home page states: "The ProGen study groups are for those who already have strong research skills and are ready to further develop their professional business, writing and analysis skills." And while members receive a Certificate of Completion, it is also not an accreditation course; in other words, taking this book study does not make you a certified genealogist. That is actually done by the BCG, the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

ProGen has an administrator as well as a number of certified genealogists have agreed to volunteer their time as mentors and many alumni serve as coordinators for the various groups. The first group was organized in April 2008. I am in the (so far) most recently organized group, ProGen 19.

So what made me decide to join ProGen? There isn't one particular, clear answer. I have a number of genealogy friends who have taken this course, and I followed their progress over the past couple of years with interest. I am still debating whether to become a certified genealogist, and am curious about the process and requirements, which this course investigates. Whatever my decision regarding certification, I want my current work--lecturing, instructing, writing and blogging, and perhaps researching for others later--to have a professional quality to it.

To get started, I had to go to the ProGen website and submit an application and join a waiting list. I did this on August 13, 2012. I received a response from the administrator and was told I might have to wait up to three months before being placed in a group, should my application be accepted. Additionally, I applied for a scholarship to cover the cost of the text, since it sells for about $60.00. On August 21st, I received an email from the Waiting List Coordinator, who had also been a ProGen Coordinator and a ProGen alumni. She told me that my application had been received and that I would hear from the administrator when a new group was ready to be formed.

On November 30th, I heard from the administrator that I was invited to register for either ProGen 18 or 19, both of which were scheduled to begin January 1, 2013. They had received so many applications, that they were starting two groups. Attached to the email were three documents: an organizing message listing the dates and times of the online discussion; a registration form in which to choose either ProGen 18 or 19; and a handbook outlining in detail the course requirements and member expectations, the history of ProGen, tips on using the Basecamp website, explaining the $95 participation fee (which pays for the website), and information about a scholarship for the fee. It was also recommended to have available a copy of Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills. I do own the first edition, published in 2007; a more recent edition was published in 2009.

From the organizing message, I learned there was only one choice for evening online discussions; all the others were during my work hours. So I decided to register for ProGen 19. I contacted my brother-in-law and his wife to see if they would loan me the money for the participation fee, but instead they very generously agreed to pay it as their Christmas gift to me. I also received an email on December 8th informing me that my scholarship application to cover the text had been accepted and that I was now a part of ProGen 19. My book arrived in the mail the following week.

On December 10th, I received an email with a list of all the members of ProGen 19, as well as the names of our coordinator and mentor (the latter is a certified genealogist). Besides myself, there were 15 other people signed up between the two morning groups and the one evening group.

The next day, I created an account at the website, loaded up a photo of myself, and then received a message to introduce myself to the other members of ProGen 19. As a group, we started to comment on others' introduction messages, finding many with similar backgrounds (a number of members have degrees in biology, for instance) and interests. We were also given a timeline of due dates for all the new assignment postings, assignment deadlines, feedback deadlines, and online discussion times.

Our mentor suggested that we get together for an informal chat just for fun on December 21st. About half the members (including myself) had some kind of holiday plans and couldn't make it, but the rest joined in. From what I gathered, it was an enjoyable chat and I was sorry that I had missed this first opportunity to get to know the other members a little better. Six more people were eventually added to the group, giving us a total of 22, including myself, plus our two leaders and our administrator. Eventually, we had a total of 26 members.

In my next ProGen post, I'll write about our first two online discussions and our first lesson and assignments.

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Scanfest is Coming!

The February 2013 Scanfest will take place here at AnceStories this coming Sunday, February 24th, from 11 AM to 2 PM, Pacific Standard Time.
What is Scanfest? It's a time when geneabloggers, family historians, and family archivists meet online here at this blog to chat while they scan their precious family document and photos. Why? Because, quite honestly, scanning is time-consuming and boring!

Scanfest is a great time to "meet" other genealogists, ask questions about scanning and preservation, and get the kick in the pants we all need on starting those massive scanning projects that just seem too overwhelming to begin.

To get started, you need to know the basics about scanning:

1. Don't use commercial glass cleaners (i.e. Windex) or paper towels to clean your scanner's glass plate. Use a soft, clean cloth, preferably microfiber. If you must use a liquid, use water sprayed directly onto the cloth  and make sure to let the plate dry thoroughly before placing photos or documents on it.

2. Wear cotton gloves (available at many art and/or photography supply shops) when handling photos and old documents.

3. Don't slide the photos around on the glass plate. Place them exactly where you want them. Photos should NEVER be scanned by a scanner that feeds the document through the machine, but ALWAYS on a flat-bed scanner.

4. Set your scanner to scan at no smaller than 300 dpi (dots per inch). Many experts recommend 600 dpi for photographs.

5. Photographs should ALWAYS be scanned and saved as .tif files. Use "Save As" to reformat the .tif file to a .jpg file for restoration and touchups, emailing, or uploading to an online photo album. ALWAYS retain the original scan as a .tif file.

6. Documents can be scanned as .pdf files or .tif files.

7. When you are done scanning your photos, don't put them back in those nasty "magnetic" photo albums. Place them in archival safe albums or boxes found at websites such as Archival Products or Archival Suppliers. Do NOT store any newsprint (articles, obituaries, etc.) with the photos. The acid from the newspaper will eventually destroy the photograph.

Now about the chatting part of Scanfest:

We will be using Blyve, a live blogging platform that you access right here at AnceStories. On Sunday at 11 AM, PST, come right here to AnceStories and you'll see the Blyve live blog/forum in the top post. It's not really a "chat room," per se, it's more like a live forum and anyone visiting this site can read and see what is happening in the forum.

You will not need to download any software.

We look forward to having you participate with us!

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Monday, February 04, 2013

Intermediate Genealogy Class

If you always wanted to take my Intermediate Genealogy class at the Community Colleges of Spokane's Institute for Extended Learning, you can do so! This class runs Tuesday evenings, February 12th through March 5th from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at CenterPlace in the Spokane Valley. The record collections we will be learning about are Military Records, Immigration and Naturalization Records, Land Records, and Court and Probate Records. The cost is $33.

You can sign up online here or register by phone, mail, or fax here.

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