“Anatomy of a Case Study: Steps Used to Write for Yourself or for Publication,”
Presented by Melinda Daffin Henningfield, MS, CG®

Reviewed by Darcie Hind Posz, CG®

NOTE: This post is one of a series reviewing the BCG Skillbuilding lectures presented at the National Genealogical Society’s 2019 Family History Conference held in St. Charles, Missouri from 08-11 May, 2019. Recordings of these lectures and the accompanying session handout can be purchased from PlaybackNow NGS at https://www.playbackngs.com/

In this lecture, Melinda Daffin Henningfield presents five steps to writing a case study and some strategies for success. When a room is this packed, you know the subject and the speaker are needed!

Think about the reasons to write about your ancestors. Consider that genealogical writing is non-fiction (FACTS!), and that genealogical writing is technical writing. Melinda discussed the types of genealogical writing, along with examples, and approaches to a case study.

The explanation of writing to meet the GPS broke what sometimes is a confusing process down into five simple strategies: 1) Gather, 2) Report, 3) Assemble (analyze and correlate), 4) Explain, and 5) Write conclusion.

Light bulbs were flashing in brains all around the room at this description!

Melinda then demonstrated the smart construction of paragraphs. Subsections, sections, and subheadings direct and guide readers through the written work. A more detailed discussion of the five strategies included:

  • Gather: Find out as much as possible about the target ancestor. Pose genealogical questions to focus the research. Focus on the record most likely answer the research question and generate a plan to locate it.
  • Report: Citations show the who, what, when, where, and wherein.
  • Assemble: Correlate and explain, then compare and contrast.
  • Explain: What conflicts exist? Do pieces collectively agree or disagree? Show which position is more credible than another.
  • Conclusion: Make sure it is clear and logical.

Melinda’s lecture goes further, showing with humor and humility a part of one of her case studies before and after editing. This lecture will help anyone who wants to successfully write their genealogy and who aims toward publication.

The words Certified Genealogist and letters CG are registered certification marks, and the designations CGL and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.