Great Quotes from Vita Brevis

I’m a big fan of’s Vita Brevis blog. This morning’s post has tips for Jump Starting your Genealogical Research from the various bloggers, including David Allen Lambert, Andrew Krea, and others.

My favorites are the last two, from Penny Stratton and Scott C. Steward.

Penny works in book production for the New England Historic Genealogical Society. She presented the recent NEHGS webinar Sharing Your Family History: Ideas from NEHGS. Her tip starts with a quote from author Neil Gaiman “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard,” and concludes “But you do need to sit down and put your fingers on the keyboard and begin!” [1. Scott C. Steward, “Jump Starting Your Genealogical Research,” Vita Brevis, 19 December 2014 ( : accessed 19 December 2014).] Boy, is that ever true!

Scott is NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief, with numerous publications to his credit. Scott’s tip: “It seems worth repeating: Start with what you know, then prove it with documentation!… After all, many an article in the Register, the Record, or NGSQ began as a way to tie up loose research ends.” [2. Ibid.]

Scott’s point has recently come home to me as I revisited genealogical conclusions that I arrived at in past years but never formally wrote down. It is, I suspect, why the fifth point of the Genealogical Proof Standard is “soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.” [3. “The Genealogical Proof Standard,” Board for Certification of Genealogists ( : accessed 19 December 2014).] Somehow, explaining your genealogical problem and proposed solution for a hypothetical reader forces you to clarify what you think you know, raises questions you may not have posed before (inspiring you to revisit or repeat past research), and challenges you to articulate what you think in a way you may not have done previously.