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What do you want to know about your personal past? Do you wonder from where your grandmother came? Is there a family story to unravel? Is there a nagging gap in your ancestry just waiting to be filled? Do you wonder how your ancestors lived or what bits of history they experienced? Are there long-ago lives waiting to be brought back by research and thoughtful retelling?
There is a process to genealogy and it starts with you. What clues do you posses? What do you already know? What records and evidence do you already have? What stories do you remember being told as a child that might not be true but that could hold kernels of information? Do those family papers need physical or digital preservation or even cataloging? Getting as much as possible out of what you have is our first step. Sometimes what seems to be known turns out to be less than certain, other times piecing together existing evidence leads one a bit farther than believed possible.
When the preexisting evidence, ideas, hypothesis and stories are organized and understood, it is time to begin drawing on new sources, combining information, thinking things through and documenting the evidence and logic, all the time approaching the goal. In genealogy there are no guarantees but the journey is always an interesting one.
With longstanding passions for research, history, and language, I relish combining those interests. There is nothing like digging into the little quirks and forgotten details of history that just happened to touch an ancestral life. Sometimes those quirks are dramatic and eye-opening, other times they might be the odd curiosity that one never hears about in a history class. The merest hint in a document can point in directions both famous and infamous and lead down fascinating paths.
I pride myself in writing precise, understandable reports that give you the evidence and logic you need to really understand where the investigation has led. You get the citations and see the documents, maps and charts.
Family history is not only the evidence and reasoning that lead to a conclusion. It is also the implications of little vignettes in a local newspaper, mentions in county histories, accusations, hints and interesting conjunctions of facts. It is odd stories, tall tales and little oddities that actually bring people to life. It is about our connections to our past.
Telling the stories is what brings family history to life. I love discovering how client’s forebears touched history’s great currents and little ripples and were changed by them.
Beyond documenting findings, I write and design family history books. I can take projects from the first stages of understanding and organizing what you have, through genealogical research, background research, photo analysis, scanning, photographing and image correction, then on to writing the story of the family, editing it, and designing the book. In the end you get a bound book in your hand. A book might be a few dozen pages of narrative or hundreds of pages of carefully laid out text and illustrations. Images might include old family photographs, digitized documents and pictures of heirlooms—whatever helps tell the story and add interest for the eye, whatever might inspire a relative to share your fascination with the personal past.
You can read samples of my writing in my weekly blog posts.
I am also available as a speaker. Currently, I present the talks:
Developing a Sixth Census: finding more in “the Census” than meets the eye, a presentation designed to help you really squeeze as much as you can from census data of many shapes and sizes. This talk can be tailored for a standard one hour presentation or a half day seminar. It also comes in two versions. One focuses on North America and the other adds discussion of British censuses (including Ireland).
DNA, Behind the Scenes, DNA testing has become part of genealogy but what does it really mean? What are the different tests? Why do they tell us different things? Where did we get the different components of our genetic heritage? Who should be tested? How can DNA testing be used to attack genealogical problems? In short, what do you need to know to start to think about DNA?
Grade School Genealogy, A bit about genealogy with connections to things kids learn in school. We put the word genealogy together from its parts, there is a little genealogical math, a look at old handwriting, an old map that we can see is very wrong…
“I” is for Identity Crisis, We think of identity as something fixed and simple, but as we try to reconstruct the identities of long gone people we need to realize that identity is a much slipperier concept. The things we use to define a person’s identity can change during that person’s lifetime. There are also questions of how a person self-identifies, the motivations they can have for changing how they self-identify, and how those changes affect the records they leave behind. (Available from 20 Feb 2017)
Introduction to Genealogy, a look at some of the basics of how to think about genealogy and develop a healthy skepticism; the basic records, where to find them, keeping track of them; and more.
Mapping the Past: Navigating Your Family History with Maps, looks at different types of maps and how to use them to understand your ancestors’ towns and migrations; changing borders and extracting data and even names from maps.
Quantum Mechanics for 5th Graders, yes, I’ve really given this talk several times and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with genealogy, not even a mention of the pedigree of Schrödinger’s cat.
Researching at Appomattox Court House: genealogy through the lens of the Civil War. Civil War era records aren’t just about soldiers and sailors. Before, during and after the war, a wealth of different types of unusual records were produced that speak of that time and tell the story of a whole generation.
Space-Time for Family Historians, Timewarps and Curved Space aren’t just for Physicists, an entertaining look at how the times and places we read about and research are often not what they appear to be. Don’t be fooled- decoding dates, comprehending calendars and understanding the time on your ancestor’s pocket watch are not as easy as they seem.
When a Life Becomes Myth: history, myth and family stories, This is a talk about the reconstruction of a life. An odd and dramatic family tale showed a life slowly being converted to myth over generations. Using genealogy, history and even weather records to reconstruct what seems to have happened, revealed a life that was not so far from the storyline of a myth from the very beginning. In the end, it has come full circle from story to research to storytelling.
Will the Real Sven Larsson Please Stand Up? getting started in Swedish genealogy, discusses Swedish last names that can be fluid and confusing, and Swedish geography that trips up the uninitiated. You’ve got your swimsuit, so what else is needed to cross the Atlantic with your research and what records are there once you crawl up onto the shore?
Writing Family History: Using Narrative in Genealogy, discusses not just the “how-to” but the “why-do.” What’s the best way to really improve your research? It might just be putting it to use. Want you’re relatives and descendants to understand your research? Write your ancestors’ stories and see how far it takes you.
My goal as a speaker is always to inform in a memorable and entertaining way. I like to come at my topics from slightly unusual angles. It makes speaking more fun and hopefully encourages people to take a fresh look at each subject.
Encore! Encore! I’m writing to let you know how much I enjoyed the program you just presented to the Elgin Genealogical Society (When a Life Becomes Myth) and it made me regret missing your Appomattox Court House presentation. When we walked out of the morning meeting, several people also commented how much they liked your program.
-Sara Taylor, president
Elgin Genealogical Society
I really enjoyed you presentation on the Civil War. I usually don’t care for the Civil War subject, but It was interesting, and covered things I had not heard before including North, South, Black and White.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR ANALYSIS!!! I was confused with the results but HAD to know for sure!! It was IMPORTANT to me. I really appreciate you taking the time clarify it for me.
-Joye (after I checked a DNA result)
What a great genealogy meeting. Thanks Dan for a wonderful presentation [DNA, Behind the Scenes] this morning. Heard nothing but positive comments. This was certainly a “hot topic,” considering the number of questions that people asked and how some stood around to chat. You are so knowledgeable; you are an asset to both the Museum and the NFGC Advisory Board.
-Vereen Nordstrom, chair of the Nordic Family Genealogy Center Advisory Board at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago
This is awesome!! Thanks again for doing this-you rock!
-Cathi (after reading a research report with a breakthrough in it)
I want to say thank you for coming to our library and presenting your Civil War era program. Many of the attendees were telling me that you did “WOW” them with your knowledge and presentation material!
Schaumburg Township District Library
Your talk the other night [When a Life Becomes Myth] was a Tour de Force of Genealogical Research. It was so interesting and amazing to realize what can be found if only we dig deep enough.
Dan’s lecture [Will the Real Sven Larson Please Stand Up?] was absolutely top notch – he is clearly expert in the field and the presentation itself was very beautifully crafted and especially well presented.
-Michelle Wilson, President CAGGNI (Computer Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois)
Just wanted to thank you for the wonderful talk you gave our CAGGNI group. Despite the fact that I have no Swedish Ancestors, it was Great.
Thanks so much… your presentation was terrific!
-Julie Benson, President Chicago Genealogical Society
Oh thank you!! This is wonderful. I was so excited to read the report. Fascinating and all very clear and logical and – well I’m just so happy. Your work really was outstanding. That brick wall has perplexed my family for thirty years or more. Poof, there it went. 🙂 I’m still digesting the impact of it! Thank you so very much.
Am sure you’re accustomed to hearing that from your clients, but that doesn’t diminish my feelings, when I see how far you have been able to get.
That read like a novel.
-Mike (after reading my rough draft for a book of family history)
Dan’s reports are thorough and well-written. He carefully lays out each step he takes to reach his conclusions, making the research easy to follow. As a bonus, he’s passionate about his work and a pleasure to communicate with.
Daniel, I’ve tried for over a year to have these obits translated & I’m thrilled with the results—especially where my great grandfather originated from in Prussia.
Dan, After talking to you last Friday, one-on-one, I know your enthusiasm is inspired by reason, controlled by caution, sound in theory, practical in application, reflects confidence, inspires association, it is beyond any price you may request.
Dan! Showed the report to my dad and he was surprised and overjoyed!
I am thrilled over the information you gave me on Oscar. Thank you!
Dan, I was delighted to meet you Tuesday evening and appreciate your excellent program, Developing a Sixth Census! You were most informative, very organized and well prepared for our crowd of genealogy enthusiasts. The facts, census samples, case studies and the “aha” moments were very instructive and I only heard wonderful comments about your humor and presentation style. Thank you so much for a superior program for the Algonquin Area Public Library. I will most definitely ask you back for a program another program in 2013. I learned a great deal and will highly recommend you to other libraries. Thank you again.
– Virginia Freyre
Community Outreach Librarian
Dan, I wish to congratulate you again on your eye-opening presentation last night. In my opinion, it was one of the very best our group has had. I highly recommend it [Space-Time for Family Historians] to anyone digging into the past. In fact I’d say it is a must.
– Alex Rafferty
President Lake County (IL) Genealogical Society
Daniel gave a very interesting presentation at the Swedish American Museum on the topic “Space-time for Family Historians – Timewarps and Curved Space aren’t just for Physicists”. Daniel’s passion for the subject was clear and we all learned a lot about calendars, clock time and places. The evening was very interesting to historians as well as genealogists. I highly recommend Daniel Hubbard to give genealogy presentations.
– Karin Moen Abercrombie
Executive Director Swedish American Museum
Get in Touch
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