Sunday, February 7, 2016

Meet our Sponsor: Cari Taplin of Genealogy Pants

One of our sponsors for 2016 is Cari Taplin of Genealogy Pants. Jean sat down with Cari and talked genealogy, research, and asked that burning questing, "why genealogy pants?"

Jean:  Cari, you know what the first question has to be: Why “pants”? (Of course, once someone visits your website, it becomes clear . . . well, sort of.) It certainly is a moniker that catches the eye. Can you explain a little about how you came up with that business name?

Cari: I had decided to move from being a high-level hobbyist to a “professional” and needed to come up with a business name. My husband and I brainstormed and came up with many ideas that all seemed to fall flat. I wanted something that would stand out, that would be a little quirky, and didn’t have some variation of roots, trees, family, or ancestors. We had been in the habit of calling people either “fancy pants” or “smarty pants” and so during this brainstorming one of us simply said “genealogy pants” and it just felt right. It is quirky and a little bit weird, kind of like my sense of humor. And so it stuck.

Jean: You are a Board-Certified genealogist. This is not an easy accomplishment and is probably not for everyone. Can you tell our readers a little about why you decided to take that step and maybe how they might be able to determine if it is something they would want to pursue?

Cari: Well, I would argue that it isn’t terribly difficult exactly. It is just a lot of work, a lot of details, and a lot of reading, understanding, and following directions. I would argue that some people simply may not have the level of experience needed to pursue it just yet. Some get bogged down in that and feel like they are never ready. But the truth is, you just need to jump in.

I decided to pursue certification because I had a mentor who told me to do it, and more importantly, that I could do it. I had someone who I admired and respected telling me that it was possible. So, I looked into what certification entailed and set it as a distant goal. I began by reading the portfolio requirements and determining where my shortcomings were. Then I worked at education in those areas. I also determined which projects or case studies might be the best for the required portfolio pieces. I met a group of other genealogists interested in becoming Certified in the Denver area (where I lived at the time) and we formed a support group of sorts. Several of us in that group sent in our preliminary applications that year. Having a group of individuals with similar goals was very motivating and helpful in completing the portfolio. Deciding to become Certified is a personal choice. There are many reasons for and against. For me, it was a personal decision to honor my mentor who sent me on that path but passed away before I finished. This was my personal way to thank her for her guidance and to show her that she wasn’t wrong about me.

Jean: I see that you have written a number of Legacy “QuickGuides”® . . . what is a Quick Guide and can you tell us what subjects you have addressed in these?

Cari: “Quick Guides” by various names have been published by a variety of companies and are essentially small nuggets of information on a specialized topic gathered in a short, compact, and easy-to-use format. When they first came out they were often laminated cards you could purchase at conferences and institutes. The Legacy QuickGuides are PDF files that you can download and use from your computer. They are full of helpful links on the Quick Guide’s topic so all you have to do is click and go to the site right from the electronic guide. I have enjoyed writing them because as an author they are pretty straightforward with a narrow enough focus. I love using them as a researcher because someone has already done a lot of that preliminary searching for me and now I just have to click.

I have written a few state guides on Arkansas, SouthDakota, Iowa, and Oklahoma, as well as some topic-focused guides on vitalrecords, researching family legends, using obituaries in your research and establishing genealogical proof.

Jean:  I love the title of your blog: Pants Pockets. How appropriate. I was glancing through some of your subjects and see that you have a sincere desire to assist others in being successful in their research experiences. What things to you see people doing WRONG when they first begin to research their family tree? (and don’t cop out and say “not being prepared” . . . give us a little more)

Cari: I can really only speak to what I did wrong when I started and wish someone had helped me out from the beginning. Genealogy often starts out as an isolated hobby. You work from home at your desk and begin looking into your family history. For me, I had worked on researching a family story for about a year before I even knew that genealogical societies even existed. From there I learned about all of the education opportunities that were available at national conferences and institutes. (I began in 2000, so there weren’t very many online opportunities as there are now.)

I wish I had taken better notes from the beginning. I was a research assistant in college and thought I knew about sources, citations, research methods, etc. When I look back at some of my old notes, I do not know where I got some of that information. Or I realize now that it is not good “quality” information and I needed to go to the original source. (I have scribbles on pieces of paper and do not know if I found it in a book, from talking to a relative, etc.) Or I don’t know what the note even means! And I wish I had organized my notes better. I have a system now, but getting all of the prior research into that system is kind of a nightmare.

I guess I “wish I knew then what I know now.”

Cari Taplin. Used with permission.

Jean:  Congratulations on your recent election to the Board of Directors for APG. When people “campaign” for that position, they usually present a “platform” or some ideas of what they can and/or would like to offer the organization. Many of our readers probably didn’t get to read it or have forgotten what you wrote. Will you share that with us here?

Cari: I did not campaign with a platform in mind. I was simply asked to run and gave them my bio. Having said that, if I were to have a platform it might be something having to do with education. And from the APG angle, it would be to offer and require education for professionals. I strongly feel that education is the key to higher quality professionalism in our field. And, I feel education can also foster those professional networks that we all need when we run our genealogy business. Nearly all of the professional colleagues I work with I met through educational events.

Jean: Anything else that you would like people to know about you or your work?

Cari: I feel that it is a “calling” when one decides to become a genealogist. We have the capability to connect with ancestors on a level that others cannot. They want their stories to be told and they don’t want to be forgotten. It is up to those of us who have chosen this vocation to do our best to complete this task and share it with others.

Jean: Thanks for being part of the Gena and Jean Journey!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Gena and Jean on the Road: February 2016

Woman Traveling by patrisyu/Courtesy of

Where can you catch Gena and Jean this month? We are all over Southern California and would love to meet you. Please come by and say hi.

Gena and Jean will both be at:

4 February  – Hemet-San Jacinto Genealogical Society

Topic: Panelists for program on professional genealogy with the So. Calif. Chapter of the Assoc. of Professional Genealogists (SCCAPG)

Gena is presenting at:

20 February - South Orange County California Genealogy Society
Topic: WPA

Jean will be at:

8 February – Temecula Valley Genealogical Society

Topic: America: Land of the Farm, Home of the Plow

9 February – Corona  Genealogical Society (class) – schedule alteration

Topic: Beware the Enchanted Forest: Perils & Pitfalls of On-Line Trees

27 February – So. Calif. Chapter, Association of Professional Genealogists, Orange, CA – Mini-PMC

Topic: Doing Research for Television: You Could be Next!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Genealogy Journey's Podcast # 2: Pens and Penmanship

We hope that you have enjoyed, are enjoying, or will enjoy our podcast (it should be located in the post just below this one) on Pens and Penmanship, which includes some of the details of the history of the writing instrument we generally pick up for free at hotels, conferences, and other such locations.

Today anyone can personalize a pen with a logo, phone number or email address, or just about anything. And novelty pens are a fun addition to a person's desk (though not always easy to write with). Just within the last few decades, this simple instrument has metamorphosed from something only the rich could afford to an item that, if it doesn't work just right, we think nothing of tossing into a nearby wastebasket.

While we discussed the use of pens, I mentioned my experience with learning to use a fountain pen with an old-fashioned (even then) refillable system. To learn more about the history and evolution of that item, click here.

You may notice that some of the companies that mass produced early pens are still in existence today. I mentioned that mine had to be filled from an ink well. While I'm not quite so old as to have had one of those fancy cut-glass items on my school desk, I did use one produced by the ink companies that contained both the ink and a small "well" or reservoir for it. If that is hard to visualize, check out the photos at this website (this is at Mary's Menagerie and is an item she is selling - click the different views on the right of her page to see how the well was incorporated into the bottle). I need to add that, if she sells the item, this might come up blank:
Different views of the ink bottle
If you are on Pinterest, here is a link that will show you one view of the bottle but also has a number of photos and bits of info on old fountain pens.

On the podcast we discuss the value of things today in comparison with times gone by. Whether it is a pen, a piece of furniture, even land, if you are interested in comparing what would be commensurate with what your ancestor paid, try using an on-line converter. Click "calculator" to see the one I used for the discussion on the ball point pen.

Ball point pens are really ingenious inventions and if you are interested in more about their history and the companies that first produced them, check here. You may be interested in the fact that yesterday, January 23rd, was National Handwriting Day! There was a time when the entire "art" (and it was an art) of penmanship was a subject taught in school. No doubt some of your ancestors took a course in this activity (and don't we wish that the Census takers all had done so). To learn more about penmanship, check this website on Wikipedia and this one here on the specifics of "cursive" writing.

When I was a child, we called the portion of class on this topic "learning script" (I don't think I heard the word "cursive" until I was an adult). When you consider your ancestors' writing and the uniqueness of their signatures, you find another way to identify things that he or she wrote. Here is an interesting article on that topic, mentioning some of the finer points of penmanship that we discussed on the blog.

But, as many genealogists are aware, there is a huge movement to remove the instruction of cursive writing from school curricula. The debate rages on and here are some perspectives on the pros and cons:
"Cursive No More," March 2015
"10 Reasons People Still Need Cursive," February 2015
"Preserve Legacies of Loved Ones through Handwriting," September 2015

On whatever side of the penmanship argument you are standing, we hope you enjoyed our little foray into times gone by and, it appears, times to come.

My collection of fountain pens:

Jean Wilcox Hibben

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Genealogy Journey's Podcast #1: Introduction

It's 2016 and we decided to do a few new things with the Gena and Jean Genealogy Journey. Aside from the great presentations, tours, and cruises we decided to add something that can be used by everyone...a podcast.

In this first podcast, Gena and Jean provide some introductions and talk about what to expect in future podcasts.

Welcome to the Gena and Jean Genealogy Journey's Podcast