Suit Up and Show Up
November 16, 2015
I am a young genealogist. True, there are days when the gray hair pokes through and I pop when I walk, but since I am not yet forty I am clinging to the fact that I am among the younger members of the field. Even when I may feel like I’m falling apart, I still suit up and show up making my presence known. Do you?
What do I mean by that? Well, I like to think that we are the future of this field. One day we will be the mentors, the establishment, I guess you could say “the man.” However, nothing happens overnight and many times becoming a trusted member of a community takes years. Are you working towards that goal?
If you are not actively working to safeguard the future of genealogy, why not? Many people tell me they are scared or do not know where to start. Some do not want to rock the boat of their local society. To that I say, sometimes you have to splash in the water to keep a community on course. Trust me, getting a little wet never hurt anyone. If you are interested in spreading those wings and trying to become a leader in your area, here are a few things you should think about.
Continuing education: We are primarily a self-taught community since there are only a few (when compared to other professions) degree programs or professional outlets. Genealogists have to make the commitment to themselves to suit up and show up to advance their knowledge in the field. Making yourself accountable to participate in whatever way possible will only help you be a better researcher and professional. Then try teaching what you learned to others.
Dress the part: While there is a time for jeans and grubby clothes (like in a cemetery), if you want to be taken seriously you should dress the part. If you are lecturing, wear a suit or something appropriate for the venue. If you are attending a conference, seminar, or society meeting, consider wearing business casual. You do not want people distracted by your appearance. You want them to think, “Yeah, he/she has it together.”
Smiling and manners: Did you know that smiling on the phone, even when the person can’t see you, still comes across in your tone? Being friendly, approachable, and easygoing are traits that people respond to. No one wants to be around a sourpuss, so even on my grumpiest days I put on that smile and save my smart aleck comments for my close friends and family. Frequently, I see genealogists with very bad manners and habits. You can be polite yet firm if you are upset, just like you can patiently sit through someone’s family brick wall without looking bored.
Stay focused: You have to hold yourself accountable. It’s the hardest thing to do, but the only one who can keep it all going is the person you see in the mirror every morning. Your success will not be handed to you. Work hard every day. Accomplish something (even if it is as simple as writing an email) every day. Lead by example in all things.
Learn from the mistakes: It is very hard for me to put myself out there. Many times I do not feel confident in my abilities. I have made mistakes and there are things that now I would have done differently. Working through the setbacks and learning from those mistakes, especially when I started my genealogy career, only made me better. If you can kick aside the failure when it happens and see the accomplishments along the way, you will find a better path. Your successes should be touted and your failures learned from.
How do you suit up and show up in the genealogy community?
Shannon Combs-Bennett is the owner of T2 Family History, Creative Director for The In-Depth Genealogist, and Education Coordinator for the NextGen Genealogy Network. Based in Virginia, she writes and lectures on a variety of topics from genetics to methodology and is a contributor to Family Tree Magazine / University.
Something Worth Sharing: Creating a Family History Book
September 21, 2015
You’ve put countless hours into researching ancestors, digitizing photos and collecting stories. Now what? Of course the family tree with all its records and photos can be thrown onto a USB drive and passed out to interested parties, but there’s a good chance the drive may just sit on a shelf collecting dust. Sometimes the best way to generate interest and appreciation in family heritage is to make a good old-fashioned book or poster.
As the Internet has grown up around us, we’ve begun to discover some amazing ways to express ourselves through the printed word. Services like Shutterfly, Snapfish, and even WalMart offer the ability to design and build a photo book through a web browser. Photos are uploaded to be manipulated and arranged, clip art is available to make frames or embellishments, and text can be added throughout the book as captions for photos or even entire stories. But using these sites to make a family history book may be the hard way to do it.
If you are a user of Ancestry.com, you should be aware that they actually have their own media printing service called MyCanvas. The really, really handy thing about MyCanvas is that all of the family tree work done in Ancestry.com is actually linked up to MyCanvas. To get to it from Ancestry.com, click on “Extras” along the top, then click “Photo Books and Posters.” The site has family history books and poster templates and once a project is chosen (a family history book for example), all of the relevant names, dates, locations, and profile pictures will be pulled from your tree on Ancestry.com and laid out in a book in MyCanvas within seconds. Once the general template has been filled in, pages can be added, layouts edited, media inserted, and stories shared.
I have found that the MyCanvas page editor is easy to use and very flexible for creativity. All Ancestry.com family tree records and media are accessible under each ancestor’s name, and photos not yet in your Ancestry.com tree can be uploaded directly to MyCanvas to be used within your project. Books can be made with up to 250 pages and five generations deep. Posters can be printed in various styles from the standard family tree or descendant layouts as well as a combination poster showing the union of two families. The poster can display from three to nine generations and range from 16 x 20 inches up to 24 x 36 inches.
In my experience, it has taken a lot of time and patience to tweak my books and posters to the way I ultimately wanted them, but an unexpected benefit is that the exercise actually pointed out various holes I had in my own research. It pushed me to find missing dates, spouses’ names, pictures, records, and newspaper articles. The result is something to be very proud of, something which locks context and connections together in a permanent way and gives the family’s heritage a better chance of outliving its author.
Eric Wells is a Missouri-based construction contractor in between his genealogy work. He frequently gives talks about publishing family history to his local society and regional conferences. He has published several books and posters for his family, friends, and clients, and is a volunteer with the NextGen Genealogy Network.
Call for Volunteers
September 17, 2015
Young genealogists don’t always have a lot of time on their hands. Whether we’re preoccupied with school, careers, families, or all of the above, it can be hard to find a spare hour to research our own family history, much less engage with the genealogical community at conferences or online.
We know your time is valuable. That’s why we’ve broken down our volunteer opportunities into bite-sized pieces. Are you squeezing in one genealogy conference this year? You can spend your lunch break there as a Meetup Coordinator. Are you always on Facebook and Twitter? Do double-duty and help us engage with our online community as a Social Media Assistant.
Read about these opportunities and more below:
- Content Contributor: If you love to write and would like to expand your professional exposure by reaching out to a growing community of young genealogists, consider writing for us. Learn more…
- Social Media Assistant: Can’t stay away from Facebook and Twitter? Volunteer your time online to share content and engage with our active community of young genealogists. Learn more…
- Graphic Design Assistant: If dreaming up eye-catching graphics and getting creative on Canva.com is your idea of a good time, help us connect with the next generation of genealogists. Learn more…
- Community Liaison: Are you planning to attend an upcoming genealogy conference? Do you love to meet new people? Represent our organization wherever you may be. Learn more…
- Meetup Coordinator: Whether you plan to attend a local, state, regional, or national genealogy conference, we encourage you to lead a fun and informal meetup event for young genealogists. Learn more…
Have a different idea? Complete our Volunteer Application and let us know how you’d like to get involved. We would love to have you join our growing team of volunteers – all dedicated to engaging the next generation of genealogists.