Saturday, February 6, 2010

Live from Falls Church, Virginia, It’s the Third Annual iGene Awards!

It's Academy awards time... time for the Academy of Genealogy and Family History, aka AGFH, to honor their best blog posts of 2009 in the following 5 categories: Best Picture, Best Screen Play, Best Documentary, Best Biography, and Best Comedy. Start digging back into your archives and choose which of your blog posts deserve to be recognized for outstanding achievement. This is not a competition between bloggers but a chance for you to spotlight your own shining efforts at recording your genealogy and family history in 2009.

Thanks to Jasia at Creative Gene for sponsoring this 90th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

Best Picture: I have been extremely lucky during my four and a half short years in genealogy to be on the receiving end of some amazing generosity by my “research cousins,” and this year I received from my cousin George a picture of my paternal grandfather, Lawrence Carroll Brinlee, as detailed in Wordy Wednesday: About That Happy Dance. Having been born after both of my grandfathers died, I have always felt there was something missing, but at least I now know what they both looked like and know a bit about their lives. And if you look at the picture of Grandpa Lawrence, you might see some resemblance to my Uncle Bill.

Best Documentary goes to a series of posts, though I did not present them as a series, on my music-making Moore family: Memory Monday – Fiddles and My Family, I Was Wrong, and Musical Instruments – More on the Fiddling Moores. The first outlines how fiddles came to occupy such a place of importance for the Moores, the second has a picture and obituary of my Uncle Howard the fiddle-maker, and in the third I share some additional materials I found on my Uncle Howard and Aunt Joy as well as a video featuring the Violano Virtuoso, an unusual mechanical instrument that my Uncle Howard owned. If you made a movie from these posts, the best part would be the soundtrack (think O Brother, Where Art Thou?).

Best Biography goes to Uncle, Uncle – William Henry Lewis: A Little Man Who Stood Tall. W. H. Lewis was such a fascinating person and led such an interesting life in his 95 years that this article practically wrote itself. And yet, I almost missed learning all of this; only my curiosity at seeing him and his wife twice listed as boarders in the household of another family led to a series of events that ended in one of my biggest finds and a real genealogical treasure chest.

Best Screenplay would go to the two-part series submitted for the Orphans and Orphans Carnival of Genealogy: Searching for Preston Moore and The Two Preston Moores. It is in the form of a mystery and takes place in two centuries, the 19th and the 21st. At the heart of the story is the “why” behind our search for our ancestors; it is not just an endless pursuit to learn the names and accomplishments of our direct ancestors, but often becomes a heartrending quest to find our “forgotten” relatives. Filling the main roles would be Gary Cooper and Mildred Natwick as Preston’s parents Spencer and Emily Moore, with a young Jeffrey Hunter or a teenaged Tommy Rettig as Preston, and as the researcher … hmm … how about Sharon Gless?

Best Comedy goes to The Language of Cats: An Illustrated Glossary. Another post that wrote itself. After I spent hours selecting the pictures, that is. The cinematographer never gets any real credit.

Now for my long-winded acceptance speech.

This is usually the part of my blog post where the “spoof” starts. However, I’m going to buck the trend and get serious here (even though the purpose and spirit of the iGenes is mainly a light-hearted self-review of our blogs over the past year).

I have often said that I never really learned how to research until I started genealogy. The other thing that has surprised me is that writing a genealogy blog and reading others’ blogs has taught me a lot about writing.

When I say that the geneablogging community is like an online university, I mean it. And this applies to our writing efforts. When we submit our work, however, instead of getting a paper back all marked in red, we see what attracts our readers’ attention initially and what keeps their attention and compels them to comment. And by reading others’ blogs we see what works for them. So it is a very gentle way of “teaching.” We learn that we should strive to do our best, but that we cannot always be perfect and occasionally we have to hit the PUBLISH POST button when we can tweak no longer. The information should be shared, whether or not the post has been polished to gem-like perfection. And when we learn that lesson, we are able to write and publish quickly enough and often enough that we can learn from the experience – practice may not make perfect, but it sure makes a heckuva lot better.

We have learned to develop our own styles. Some are chatty; some are laconic. Some are matter-of-fact, while others exercise their imaginations to walk a few steps in their ancestors’ shoes. Some of our fellow GeneaBloggers came to blogging from professions or avocations that were centered around their writing skills, so blogging has been a way to focus and sharpen these skills even further. “If you enjoy writing, you should start a blog!” The problem was, I did not enjoy writing…. In my profession, where I translate other people’s words, I used to see writing my own words as a time-consuming chore. Everything had to be perfect, as though it were a paper submitted for a grade in a class. The way I got around that inhibiting “need to be perfect” was to imagine myself speaking to another person, a sympathetic audience of one, write the words down as they came into my head, and then edit out excess verbiage and make corrections and improvements. And I learned that sometimes we need to remove that mask of insouciance and detachment and write with sincerity.

I do not kid myself that blogging has made me a “real” writer or that my skills do not still leave much to be desired, but I am enjoying my “classroom experience” in the GeneaBlogging community. I enjoy seeing new bloggers take those first few tentative steps, just as I did in the fall of 2008, interact with their readers and fellow bloggers, and acquire the skills and confidence to try new things and write about their genealogy research and other subjects with both precision and panache.

To my fellow GeneaBloggers, to those such as Jasia, Thomas, footnoteMaven, Amy, and Randy who orchestrate Geneablogging community efforts and encourage new genealogy writers, to those who write blogs, and to those who read and comment on my blog: Thank you. You are my teachers.


  1. Me thinks you write just fine, and snow storms seem to bring out the best in you.

  2. Don't kid YOURSELF - you ARE a REAL WRITER!!!!

  3. Greta,
    that was inspiring! T'was a worthwhile university leture/course in itself!

  4. You are a true shining star in the Genealogy-blogging community Greta. I count you among the best writers and I always enjoy reading your blog posts.

    Your choices for the iGene awards are terrific!

  5. I love how you write! :) Keep 'em coming!

  6. I mentioned you in my SNGF post! :)

  7. Carol, Donna, Joan, Jasia, Lori, and Herstoryan - thank you for your kind comments; I am flabbergasted! And Herstoryan, thank you for including me on the team - I am ready to do my defensive duty! All the fun (SNGF) and reminiscing (iGene) this weekend in the snow has certainly been enjoyable!

  8. Greta, Greta, Greta! If I could only write half as well as you do, I'd have it made. You always make me feel like I am right there in the story.

  9. Oh, Sheri, you make me blush! And I am in awe of your writing - your personality comes through so well in what you write. It's really hard for me to do that; sometimes it's as through the words want to tie themselves in knots.

  10. Yes, my friend you are a writer. But more than a writer, you are a storyteller. Storytelling is a gift. A gift you polish and hone with every post and memorable comment.

    Thank you for naming me. I started just like you after a publisher told me that to get published I must come blogging. But it is turned into "romancing the blog." Much more fulfilling than I ever thought it would be.

    The GeneaUniverse is so much better for having you among its shining stars.


  11. Oh Greta, the "Language of Cats" post is priceless. I missed it when first posted, so I'm so glad you included it here.

  12. fM, you have brought tears to my eyes - I am so touched by your words. And what makes me proudest is to be deemed a friend. The GeneaUniverse - I love it!

  13. Tonia, I am so happy that you enjoyed that post. And it gives me an idea - I think I'll make a separate page for all my "Language of Cats" posts (there are a couple of others and I hope to add a few). Thanks!

  14. Great post, truer words were never spoken! I also loved your post about William Henry Lewis.