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The History Dictionary

Today is National Dictionary Day here in the U.S. and I thought it would be a fun time to look at some unusual words that pertain to history.  These aren't really dictionary definitions.  After all, what fun would that be?  They are more, definitions as they apply to historical research.

Life is our Dictionary.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Context
[kon-tekst]
noun

Definition - the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.

Origin -
early 15c., from Latin contextus "a joining together," originally past-participle of contexere "to weave together,"
from com- "together" + texere "to weave".

In history - 
When looking at a specific, small topic, like family history, establishing context can mean two things.  The first, is gathering information about outside events that might have affected the subject of your research.  For example, researching your ancestors living in Oklahoma in the 1930s, it could be very important to understand the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, so that you can understand what the sources you find mean within the context of those two events.  

The second form of context, can refer to bias.  Every piece of information is subject to bias.  You are bias, and the sources you choose to incorporate as well as the information you choose to wain from those sources and how you tell the story will be influenced by that bias.  Even your sources are bias, they were written by humans with opinions and objectives for specific reasons.  This establishes a context that can help you understand what further information you might need as well as how to interpret your sources. 

Heritage
[her-i-tij]
noun

Definition - 
the evidence of the past, such as historical sites, buildings, 
and the unspoilt natural environment, considered collectively 
as the inheritance of present-day society

Origin -  c.1200, "that which may be inherited," from Old French iritage, eritage , heritage, from heriter "inherit," from Late Latin hereditare,
ultimately from Latin heres (genitive heredis) "heir."

In history - 
Heritage has earned itself a rather controversial position in the historical vocabulary.  According to historian David Loewenthal, "The purpose of 'heritage' is to domesticate the past for present causes."*  It is the idea of using history as a kind of propoganda with a specific end in mind.  Consider it the ultimate bias-- and one more often than not political in nature.  This simple term, while often used innocently, can have rather dark connotations in some instances.
 

Historiography 
[hi-stawr-ee-og-ruh-fee, -stohr-] 
noun

Definition - 
the body of techniques, theories, and principles of historical
 research and presentation; 
methods of historical scholarship.

Origin -

1560s; see from history + -graphy. Related: Historiographer.

In History - 
Typically this refers to a method of doing research that we adhere to, in order to make our research valuable for future generations.  Historiography dictates that we should attempt to interpret history without bending it based on our personal biases or the biases of our sources.  It also tells us that to do this we should try to rely upon primary sources for our information where possible, rather than relying on the interpretation of another historian too heavily.  

*taken from John Fea's Why Study History? pp. 39-40.  

If you are interested in knowing more about the how and why behind genealogy and family history research, my book The Purposeful Family Historian delves into how to harness the bigger picture of historical context and research to find your purpose and propel your research. 

For 5 days only ( 10/16-10/20)  - starting today -  I'm giving it away for free on Amazon! 

It's normally $9.99, but to celebrate my birthday, I thought I'd give it away for a very short, limited time!

I am only asking one teeny, tiny favor: If you download the book and you love it, would you consider writing a review on Amazon? The more reviews the book gets the more potential others will find it and it will help them.  I really appreciate your help!

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Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


Last Chance to Win!

They are almost here!! If you haven't heard about the Historical Research Planner system yet, you can find out more here. They will be available for sale as three separate packs beginning October 1st!  I have been hard at work on this system for almost two years now and finally they are perfect and ready for the world!

To celebrate the upcoming launch and the release of my new e-book The Purposeful Family Historian, I am running a giveaway.  Three lucky entrants will be chosen at random to receive three pre-sale bundles including all of the packs available in the system so far, including: The Calendar Pack - to set goals, schedule tasks and keep track of your progress; The Genealogy Pack - with all of the forms you need to keep notes, track sources and color-coding to work with The Filing Pack; finally, The Filing Pack - which has tabs and labels to color code all of your notes, papers, documents and research.

HistoricalResearchPlannerGiveaway

Updated 10/11 - Although our contest has now ended, you can still get your planner.  They are now available for sale in the shop.  Stop by and check them out by clicking here.  Want to make sure you are in the loop for future contests? Subscribe to our mailing list at the bottom of this post.  

To enter all you need to do is sign up for the newsletter (or if you are already signed up, follow the steps to validate your registration through the form below).  You can win additional entries by liking The Historium on Facebook, following @TheHistorium on Twitter and pinning our image as well as sharing the contest with your friends through the social links provided below! Altogether that gives you seven possible entries for one of three possible prizes, pretty good odds! 


Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


Beat Procrastination With Scheduling

September 6 is National Beat Procrastination Day, and the productivity seeker in me couldn't pass up the chance to pass on some goodies I've learned about using scheduling to take down procrastination and make insane progress on your family tree!

So here are my tips to beat procrastination and amp up your productivity by scheduling:

1. Schedule goal-setting sessions.   Everyone else gets a chunk of your time, so why don't you? Set up some time with yourself to figure out what you need to get done.  Make 4 separate 20-30 minute appointments with yourself on different days. In these appointments you will come up with annual, bi-annual, monthly and weekly goals.  

**Make sure you are making your goals reasonable.  A good rule of thumb is to use SMART goal setting and start with one goal for each time period.**

2. Break each goal into tasks and schedule those tasks.  Figure out how many tasks you have, and divide them evenly over your time period.  Do this first with your longest term goals and work toward your shortest term goals.  Schedule the tasks for days and times when you are typically free to work and concentrate.  Remember, none of this is set in stone, just like you can reschedule your dentist appointment if something comes up, you can reschedule these tasks if you just can't do it. 

3. Give yourself credit and schedule rewards for accomplishing goals.  The importance of this step cannot be overstated.  Even if you understand the importance and value of achieving your goals, the subconscious, reward-driven Id in your brain will still pitch a fit like an unruly two-year-old if you ignore it for too long.  Everyone needs a substantial 'atta-boy every now and again.  If possible, match the reward value to the difficulty of the goal.  More difficult goals that you have been working toward for a longer period of time should have a more substantial reward assigned. 

I hope these tips help you beat procrastination!  What tools and tips do you use to make sure you optimize productivity when you are working on a big project? Share with me in the comments!


Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here


The Organized Genealogist: 5 Tips

If you read Sorting It All Out and Filing FTW!, you know the basic idea of how to set up and get started with a filing system for your genealogical records.  The biggest obstacle to overcome is getting started with the process, the second biggest obstacle is setting up a system to help you keep it up.  Here are five tips to help make things as simple as possible:  
      
1. Start Today.  The most difficult thing you can do is get started.  Before you start your mind is zooming 
with doubts (can I do it? how do I do it?), frustrations (this is impossible!),  or denial (it’s not so bad… I don’t really need  to find _________.). It’s time to put all of that noise out of your head.  Don’t think. Just do. That is why we  start big and work towards small.  The more mechanical and systematic you can make it, the fewer excuses you  will come up with, the less intimidating it will be, and the less time it will 
take you.  

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2. Let your Pedigree Be Your Guide.   If you are having trouble figuring out where something goes or how you  want to organize your files, look to your forms.  Your pedigree will show you all your family members in an organized format, it is a visualization of how you want  your filing to be.  Bonus: once you get everything sorted out, your pedigree can function as a map to find what you are looking for.  You can use other family history forms the same way!
 
3. Figure Out How To Handle Difficult Documents and Stick With It. Sometimes a document might list more than one family, more than one individual, or have some other complication that  makes it difficult to file.  When  it comes time to empty out your other folder and file these away, figure out how  you want to do it and stick with it.  

One of the easiest things to do is to make a copy and put it in with both  names or families, but this can prove difficult if you a) don’t have a copier b) have been doing it a while and it is making for extra paper bulk.  Other ways you can handle it are to make a note in the second area saying  “refer to “_______________” under this file, this folder, this box. 
 
Note: you will also have to make a similar  judgment call when it comes to marriage. When does an individual stop being a  part of one family group and become a part of another.  I handle this by making the change at the date of marriage.  Whatever you decide to do, decide early and be consistent
      
4. Make Indexes.  Once you  get all of your papers filed and organized, you might consider making indexes so  that you can refer to them in the future if you can’t remember how you filed  something or if you need to find something quickly.   As mentioned in No. 3, if you use your charts to help you organize your  documents, an index might be as simple as including those in the front of each  section of your files. 
      
5. Keep It Going.  All this  would be for nothing if we had no intention to keep our stuff organized in the  future.  It isn’t as difficult as  you might think.  The most helpful tip I can give you here is to pick a day, weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever you have time for, and spend a little bit of time re-sorting things.  Find a place, whether you start an extra pocket folder in the front of each of the boxes for documents “To Be Filed.” Or just use your “Other Box” as a  transitional holding place between your filing days.  

Have a specific, pre-determined place to put unfiled papers, with the express intention of filing them on a specific day.  That way you won’t fall into the same old cycles, even if you aren’t immediately putting each paper in its specific place. 
 
Follow these easy tips, and set realistic expectations for yourself. Spend a little bit of time regularly keeping up with what you’ve done, and you will be living the dream, you’ll be an Organized Genealogist! 
  
What tips do you have to help with organization and filing?  Lay ‘em on us in the comments!

The Organized Genealogist: Sort It All Out

Is your workspace totally over run with stacks of paper? Dining table buried in “proof” and "evidence” from your family history research?  If so, you are not alone. 

We all know getting our foot in the door is the hardest part.  So, where do you start?

Big to Small
Of course it would be nice to know exactly where every single piece of paper should go, right off the bat.  
But it is totally unrealistic.  Sorting every individual page all at once will leave you in a mess worse than what you started with and feeling bogged down and totally overwhelmed.  Instead, we’re going to start big and  work toward the smaller, detailed organization. What the heck does that mean?  In the same way it can seem daunting to fulfill a huge goal (i.e. lose weight) it can be daunting to take on a huge project like organization.  So, we combat this by breaking it off into bite sized chunks that we can do in our spare time, here or there.  Come up with a way to break up your research into about four groups.  I like the surname of each grandparent  (each of your grandfathers' surnames and your grandmothers’ maiden names).  There are other ways to break it up, but I find this is a good division point.  

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Getting Boxy With It
Get a box for each of the surnames you are using to divide things up and an extra one for “other”papers.  Label each one.  Remember, however you decide to break it up, we are starting with BIG, general headings.  We don’t want to do any detail-oriented work right now.  

If you used my example of grandparents, you would  put any document pertaining to any ancestor of that grandparent in that  box.  So, your grandpa’s dad’s military records, go into your grandpa’s box.  Same with your grandpa’s mom’s baptismal records—even though she has a different surname than the one that is  on the box.  Doesn’t matter.  Any of her parents’ (and their parents’) records will also go in there.
 
Don’t Know? Don’t Sweat It.
 If you get confused or hung up on a record don’t worry about it, put it in the “other” box for now. We’ll go back to it later.  The goal right now is to get every document into one of those boxes in as little time as possible.  The sooner we get this step done, the sooner we get to move on to the next.  When we reach the next step we’re one step closer to conquering our mess and setting up an organizational system that will keep our paper’s straight from now on! 
 
Hopefully, just by finishing this step, you already feel like getting organized will be a bit easier and you can see a noticeable difference in the state of your work space!  

How do you sort your genealogy information?  Let us know in the comments! 

Getting Started With Organization

The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.
— Marcus Aurelius

We have talked about how setting goals can help propel your family history research, but there is another hurdle that can interfere with your trajectory: disorganization.  Yes, I said it.  And I already know that when you read that word you let out a groan of frustration.  We're researchers, not organizers! 


In the heat of the moment, the excitement of the hunt for details, facts and information about our ancestors, it can be all to easy to just hit print thirty times and leave the stack of papers sitting in a stack on our desk (...or the floor, or the dining room table).  Then, weeks later, you know you printed it... somewhere? In this stack? In that? In the closet? Maybe you ought to check the accordian binder your significant other bought you out of frustration with the stacks of paper in every corner of the counter, the table (and even, you are embarrassed to admit, under your bed)! But, let's be real, when was the last time you used that accordian binder? Would you even be able to fit half of your papers in there? Probably not. 

January is National Organization Month, and a great time to use that New Year Resolution motivation your feeling help you get your genealogy information organized.  

For the month of January we're going to start a weekly series called The Organized Genealogist, we're going to cover some simple measures you can take to get and keep your genealogy information organized. 

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