Thursday, October 23, 2014

Upcoming Conferences

We have a couple of conferences coming up that I'd like to tell you about.  Conferences are such a great way for me to have face time with each of you.  It's one of my favorite parts of my business.  So if you're available for any of these, be sure to register and then come on by and see me.

Coming up quickly is the ICAPGen 2014 Conference.  This one is in Provo on November 1st, running from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., in the Joseph Smith Building on the BYU Provo  campus.  This conference is being held in partnership with ICAPGEN and the BYU Center for Family History & Genealogy.  Registration is open until October 31st, there is a luncheon served in conjunction with your registration fee, and some really great classes will be made available.  In fact, speaking of great classes (wink, wink), I will be teaching two classes myself.  At 1:30 p.m. I am presenting "Voila: Professional Charts to Impress Your Clients & Family" and at 4:00 p.m. I am presenting "6 Steps to Choreograph Your Research Across the Internet."  It would be great to see you all at either (both!) of my presentations.  I've got some great ideas and tips to share with you about not only effectively researching your genealogy, but also effectively presenting it once you've found those precious family members.  I won't have a booth at this conference but I'll be more than happy to visit with you before or after my classes.  Please be sure to register and then find me on November 1st.

The next conference I want to tell you about isn't until next year, but you should put it on your radar.  I'll be presenting at the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium conference in April of next year.  It will be held in Providence, Rhode Island from April 15th-18th, 2015.  I am excited about this because I have never been to Rhode Island before and it will be fun to attend a conference in a new-for-me place.  Early Bird registration is available until February 28th and it does save you some lunch money, so be sure to take advantage of it if you know you can make it.  There are over 95 classes available from a lot of top of their field genealogists.  I actually have three classes that I will be presenting.  First is "Beyond Scotch Tape: Charts to Fascinate Your Family" where I will show you all of the amazing options you have for displaying and sharing your family history.  Then in "Trip the Tree Fantastic: Intriguing Family History Trips for the Whole Family," I'll give you great ideas and tips for turning your next family trip into a multi-generational bonding opportunity.  Of course, I've got to give you a Zap the Grandma class too with "Zap the Grandma Gap: Leave a Heritage" so I can share tips, tricks, and ideas of how to leave the best heritage possible for future generations.  My booth will be in conjunction with Maureen Taylor and Lisa Louise Cooke, just like in Austin and a few other past conferences.  It's always a bit of a party when the three of us get together, so you have to be sure to stop by and say hello.  I hope this conference works into your schedule.  If this looks like you can make it, you can register here.

I hope to see you at one or both of these conferences.  Of course, we have RootsTech coming up as well.  I'll be presenting two classes there.  The first is "Family Adhesive: The Science of Why History Binds Families and the Simple Tech of How to Do It."  This one falls in line with the science research I have been doing and blogging about lately.  And the great news is that I have found even more studies that are so exciting and I cannot wait to share these things with you.  It's a must-see class that you need to add to your schedule!  In addition my "6 Steps to Choreograph Your Research Across the Internet" class (spoiler/preview if you go to ICAPGen) has been selected to to be recorded for worldwide distribution for future local genealogy conferences.  I mean, right?!  I am so excited!  You've got to make sure you register and come to my classes.  It will be worth your time, I promise.  Be sure to keep an eye on my Family ChartMasters newsletters as well because I always make sure to update you of upcoming conferences and my speaking schedule.  I am hopeful that somewhere along the line, over the next several months, we can have an opportunity to meet.  Let me know if you'll be at any of these and I will be sure to look for you!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SCGS Webinar


It's a hopping day in my office when you get three blog posts!  I can't help it though, I have so much to tell you and I am excited about all of it.  Especially this next announcement/update.

I am presenting an SCGS Webinar tomorrow, October 15th.  I am really thrilled to have this opportunity and I would love for all of you to join me.  My topic is: "Post It Forward: Archiving Lessons from My Great-Grandfather's Records."  I was really lucky to have an ancestor who tried to make sure I would have access to the records I would need for future family history work but I have still run into several glitches along the way.  After all, who could have predicted the digital age as we now know it?  So, as a result of some life lessons, I have pulled together a presentation to help you know how to navigate your record keeping for future generations and what we can learn from what happened to my Great Grandfather's best laid plans. 


The webinar is free and open to anyone, but you do have to register first.  It's a great opportunity to learn some new tips and tricks, all while staying in the comforts of your own home.  You can even wear your pajamas if you want.  I won't mind.  In fact, I won't even know!  So there really is no reason not to join me.  Please be sure to reserve your spot today!

The webinar will be held live at 6:00 pm Pacific, 7:00 pm Mountain, 8:00 pm Central, and 9:00 pm Eastern.  You can find more information here.  Just click on the link by my picture to be directed to the registration page, or click the link above.  I can't wait to share this presentation with you!

More Website Updates

Lately we've been able to revamp quite a few things on the blog.  As mentioned on an earlier post, we did a tune up on the Embellishment Page to get it working in a faster and smoother gear.  We also added new Military Graphics that can be added to your family charts.  We're quite excited about these improvements and additions and we, and our customers, have been pleased with the results in some recent charts.

In addition to these modifications and improvements, we've revamped our FAQ page, to better serve you.  Please feel free to look over this page if you have any questions about how the chart ordering process works.  In the meantime though I'd like to share a couple of our most frequently "Frequently Asked Questions" are as follows:

What type of file do you need to create a chart?

We can create a chart from any type of genealogy computer data file such as Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, Ancestral Quest, Family Tree Builder, The Master Genealogist, Personal Ancestral File, and many others. We would prefer the actual data file i.e. .ftm, .rmgc, .fdb, .paf, etc. All genealogy programs have the ability to export a .gedcom file and we can use that as well. Feel free to send us the whole file and we can take out just the parts we need.

If you have your data on a genealogy website, we would need a .gedcom file to create the chart. Most websites have instructions to let you create a .gedcom file. You can contact the website company and ask for instructions on how to do this, or if you want to give us a call we can walk you through it over the phone. To download your family tree from FamilySearch, just use our easy Family Search Download Page.

To download your family tree from Ancestry: When you are logged in, scroll down on the home page to where you can see your family tree box (under the "recent activity" box).  Click to "view this tree".  At the top of the tree you'll see "tree pages" with a down arrow.  Click once on the down arrow and you'll see the menu item "tree settings."   On the right you will see a green button that says "Export Tree"  After processing, the button will change to say "Download your gedcom file."  Click on that button and save the file to a place where you will remember where it is (the desktop is a good place to put it if you are unsure.)

If you don’t have your information in a genealogy format, we can still work with what you have. We do need to eventually use a genealogy file but we can create one for you. We charge $15.00 per hour to do Data Entry. Just get us your genealogy information any way you can and we’ll send you a quote before we start. E-mail, Excel, Word—any format you can get to us will work.

How do I create my own oversized genealogy chart and have Family ChartMasters print it?
You might try one of the following programs:
What if I have something else in mind and it is not like any of the sample charts you have on the website?

After 11 years of experience in building and printing a multitude of genealogy chart styles from every kind of genealogy file, we're confident in our ability to say that we really can print exactly what you're looking for. We'll do everything we can to create a beautiful representation of your family history.  

New Webpages to Highlight Our Graphics Options

So many new and exciting things are happening these days at Family ChartMasters!  I feel like we're getting into a great groove lately and to celebrate, why not show you some of the new enhancements "under the hood."  Interested?

I am extremely happy to announce a couple of things.  First and foremost, we've updated our graphics and embellishment page on the website.  It's running much faster and smoother these days.  Click on over and check it out.  Happy Dance #1.

In addition to our vast collection of frames, backgrounds, symbols, flags, and more, we've added new graphics.  That's right, NEW.  I always like new options.  We now have an assortment of military icons that can now be added to any chart.  Please take a look at all of the possibilities below:










Pretty awesome, right?  You can find these icons under the Embellishments tab on our Embellishment Gallery on our website.  Happy Dance #2.

We used these new military icons this summer in a beautiful chart for a wonderful client, K Baumann.  She highlighted the military service in her family by placing one of these icons over each person who had served.
We added military icons over each ancestor who served on this decorative chart for K. Baumann
We are excited about these new enhancements and offerings.  The website should be faster and easier for our clients to use now, allowing you to see all of the endless possibilities we could come up with for a personalized chart for you or someone you love.  Please contact us for a free consultation today.  The holiday season is fast approaching and we'd love to take care of some of those gifts on your list.  The Winter holiday season is one of our busiest times of the year, so the sooner you place an order, the better.  Our team is ready and excited to make your gift giving memorable and heartfelt this year.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Ancestor Effect, Part IV

We have been having a great discussion on The Ancestor Effect here on this blog, and recently over on Zap the Grandma Gap.  I have loved really studying this research and seeing the science back up these things I've known, experienced, and taught about for years.  There is something great about getting scientific validation for all the effort we genealogists put into the work we do.

Today I am going to talk about the final portion of the experiment study.  Study 4 decided to further define when and how The Ancestor Effect is in place by trying to determine if it only works with positive associations with ancestors, or if negative associations would diminish the effect.  These negative associations could be either through a direct negative experience or memory, or because their ancestors suffered from severe personal or societal problems (the whole "guilt by association" type of feelings).  The researchers then tested the individuals in an intelligence task taken, like the others, from the WIT (Kersting et al., 2008).

The set up for this portion of the study was both simple and slightly complicated.  Simple because there were two main groups, complicated because each group was then divided into two further groups.  So, in theory it was a 2x2 set up, but in practice it ended up being a 2x4 set up.  Let me explain.  To further determine that the improved performances were due to The Ancestor Effect, the control group for this particular part of the study was instructed to think about themselves and their attributes (self-salient) as opposed to their counterparts who thought of ancestors (ancestor salient).  The general idea behind this particular control group was that the researchers wanted to see if simply having positive self-affirmation (or negative) affected the participants performance in intellectual tasks in a similar way to the ancestor salient groups.  So, as a whole, there are two groups: ancestor salient and self-salient (control).  Each group was then divided into "positive affirmation" or "negative affirmation" sub-groups.  The researchers were looking for two things:
  1. Can being self-salient affect people the same way as being ancestor salient? 
  2. Do negative experiences have the same or similar effect as positive experiences when it comes to intellectual performance?
Are you with me so far?  Like I said, simple but complicated. :)

With the groups divided, the instructions were in similar fashion to the other studies: each person was given five minutes to think and write an essay about either their ancestors (ancestor salient group) or themselves (self-salient, control group).  This was then fully crossed with each group being divided in a way that half of the participants (of both groups) were instructed to write/think about negative aspects of either themselves or their ancestors and half were instructed to write/think about positive aspects of either themselves or their ancestors (all depending upon which original group they had been divided into).  Following this five minute portion of the study, each group was then given four minutes to complete 15 tasks that measured conclusive thinking by completing letter rows.  The researchers used the number of correctly completed items as their dependent variable.  The study also ended, like all the others, with the testing of perceived personal control.  The results were not reported in Part 3 or Part 4 (this portion) of the study because the researchers determined, across the board, that the ancestor salient groups always had a significantly higher sense of personal control.  It's a given fact, within the terms of this study as a whole.

At this point, do I even need to tell you the results of Study 4?  I'm going to, of course, but I know you all already know what I am going to say.  First and foremost, the ancestor salient group tested significantly higher in correctly completed items on the intelligence test.  They also (no surprise) attempted marginally more test items than that of the control group (self-salient).  Of course they did!  And what is so fascinating to me isn't the results at this point, but rather the researchers attitudes toward the expected results.  The researchers state in the study that they fully expected this result at this point in the study.  They knew, no matter what the control group set-up was, the ancestor salient group would dominate the intellectual test.  In addition to all of this, the researchers discovered that it didn't matter whether the participants in the ancestor salient group thought about positive or negative associations with their ancestors; the ancestor salient group all performed similarly to one another.  And that is the major bombshell of Study 4.  It does not matter if we have good or bad associations with our ancestors, we perform better when we think of them.  And the researchers specifically stated, in addition to this, that (and I quote this directly from the study) "...the ancestor effect is unlikely to be due to self-affirmation, since self-salience led to significantly lower intellectual performance than ancestor salience." (Fischer, et al., 2011)  Folks, that literally means that being wrapped up in ourselves (positive or negative) is absolutely less effective than being immersed in our ancestors (positive or negative).  Being connected to our ancestors is far more influential to us than anything we could do on our own.

This particular portion of the study is the absolute greatest argument one could have against self-absorption and complete emotional self-reliance in the history of ever.  Look, we all get handed a different bag in life.  Some of us have idyllic childhoods and some of us have straight up nightmares in place of a childhood.  Some of us have the reverse.  Great childhoods followed by really awful experiences that affect our lives negatively in the worst possible ways.  And thankfully many have awful childhoods followed by better adulthood because they made it that way.  And I will never, ever discount those who, by sheer will and determination, make better lives and situations for themselves.  But what I will say is that this study backs up what I have been saying for years and that is, we need to know about our ancestors.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  All of it has a direct effect on us, for the better.  I'm not saying that means we need to tolerate or place ourselves in abusive situations, but we do need to still keep ourselves tied to our family lines in some way.  If only because of what we can learn from them.  We need the people that came before us to become the person we are meant to be.  We need that just as much as our future posterity needs us to in order to become the people they are meant to be.

So in sum, Study 4 proved that thinking about our ancestors will always be more effective than thinking about ourselves.  It also showed that even remembering or thinking about negative associations with ancestors can still help us perform better in the here and now.  We could philosophize away the day about how or why that may be but the result will always be the same: we need an association with our ancestors.  We need to immerse ourselves in their lives and their experiences in order to better our own.  Scientifically and emotionally speaking, every ancestral relationship we have matters.  And honestly, isn't that the way it should be?

*Please refer to the other posts in this series: here, here, and here. 

*The study has been referenced and linked all over the web in various places with various commentary that you can find herehere, and here.  Or just Google search ancestor effect and you can see several of the top hits for the study.  But for my blog posts, I am using the direct source and I would encourage you to take a look at it yourself.  There is so much to gather from the published study that the various reference articles tend to gloss over.

*Fischer, P., Sauer, A., Vogrincic, C. and Weisweiler, S. (2011), The ancestor effect: Thinking about our genetic origin enhances intellectual performance. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 41: 11–16. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.778

Monday, October 6, 2014

Your Online Genealogy Tips

I love Facebook.  Don't you love Facebook?  I mean, I guess, it has it's pros and cons, of course, but when it comes through for you, it usually does it with a bang!  Not too long ago, I was working on some new lecture materials and I thought I would pose a research question via my Facebook page to see what my friends there had to say about the subject I was working on.  I quickly had fantastic responses from some of the best researchers in the country.  You can't buy genealogy help like that.  So I thought I would mirror some of those ideas back to you here so that we could spread the brilliance around and make sure more people get to hear these great ideas. 

For those who missed the party (it was really fun, wish you'd been there), I am going to recap the Q&A for you here, because it's something we can all reap the benefits of in our genealogy endeavors.  The questions was: What is you best online search strategy?  The results were extremely useful whether you are just jumping on the genealogy train or you've been around the mountain a few times already.  I'll do my best to give credit where credit is due because the tips are worth their weight in gold.

Almost everyone said to have a plan going in.  Some people said they had a plan for just one person at a time, some have their trees visually laid out in the background of their computer or on working group sheets right next to them.  George and many others said to stick to the plan you create, too.  But most of us also agreed that we tend to get sidetracked and fall into the tangential genealogy group from time to time.  However my friend Laura mentioned that sometimes when you allow yourself to get sidetracked that can often be when you find your answer unexpectedly.  Has that ever happened to any of you?  But Thomas also reminded us that sometimes genealogy research online is like Costco and we need to resist the temptation to try all the samples.  Which makes me sad because the samples are all so yummy and fun.  But I see his point completely. :)

For staying on target with our research, I loved Crista's suggestion to formulate questions you want answered before you begin.  By having a specific set of questions you're aiming to find the answers to, it focuses your search on what records you need to look at in order to answer the pre-formulated questions, thus yielding a generally faster and more successful search.  Of course, the librarian in me loves that suggestion.  Ann seconded that idea with the slant of questioning why she might feel like she needs to find a particular record, then asking herself if there are any alternative ways or records to gather the information she needs, before moving forward.  Questions and cross-referencing questions.  Nice.

Naturally we all wander now and then, no matter how disciplined we try to be, and I really loved the suggestions you all had for when that happens.  Helen said she keeps a word document open in the background and then when she finds she's taken a side-road, she'll write down where she went, so she can go back later and pick up the trail another time.  Anne mentioned that she uses Evernote for that purpose as well.  What other ways do some of you keep track of the various trails in the forest of family trees that you come across?  We've all got our own way of leaving a bread crumb trail and I am always interested to know what works for people.

Becky mentioned that Facebook itself is a great way to meet up with distant relatives to swap notes. Sue and Grant said the big three (Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage) and a few other online sites are where they start and then move outward from there.  Others say that having a variety of social media on hand in order to give your brain a break is a good option too.  I am particularly fond of Susan's suggestion to have a plate of chocolate chip cookies on hand for sustenance.  Why didn't I ever think of that one?

Russ also had a great suggestion over on Google+.  His hint was to make sure you understand how the search engine works on each website you are using.  I'm going to work on that myself because I'm sure my searches would run better if I new the nuances of the differences between each genealogy site.  Thanks Russ!

As some final advice, several folks mentioned the following and it really is a golden rule for online genealogy research: search and then research everything.  We've all been there: you find something that looks promising only to discover it is the result of someone else's poorly researched, improperly cited tree merging.  It's enough to make us all want to throw a tantrum, isn't it?  We have to remember that no matter how promising something looks, we've got to check and recheck and then recheck again the facts and sources.  It can be tedious and lead to days/weeks/month/years of frustration sometimes, but it is so very necessary.  What's that joke quote floating around on the internet these days?  "The problem with quotes on the internet is that you can't confirm their validity" -Abraham Lincoln.  Basically, amen!  Be diligent in checking your facts.  Everyone seemed to agree on that.

Did our Facebook discussion miss any high points for you in your online research habits?  I'm always looking for some new ideas.  What about you?  And if you aren't friends with these people on Facebook, go send them an invite.  Check out the actual discussion thread here and get to know these amazing folks.  They are fantastic friends and I learn a lot from them all the time.  I'm sure they'd love to talk to you too.  And don't forget to friend me on Facebook and Google+  I'd love to talk to you there anytime.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ancestor Effect, Part III

I have loved hearing the feedback from so many of you via email and Facebook about this research I've been discussing with you.  Thank you for letting me know how you feel and by all means, please keep your thoughts coming my way!  As I have mentioned in the previous two posts in this series (here and here), The Ancestor Effect is pretty amazing.  Today I want to tackle Study 3 (out of four).  As a quick recap though, let's review the first two studies.  Study 1 determined how ancestor salience (the act of being immersed in your ancestor's lives) affects a person's personal expectations (academic/professional) as well as how it affects a person's perception of personal control (aka: internal locus of control).  As we discussed, positives all around.  Study 2 focused more on how ancestor salience affects a person's intellectual response to an intelligence test.  It turns out it affected things positively but not in a way that most people would think.  The ancestor salience group answered more questions correctly not necessarily because their intelligence was raised, but rather because they attempted to answer more questions than the control group.  The researchers determined this was a direct result of a higher sense of personal control within the ancestor salience group.  They had more courage and security within themselves to attempt more questions in their allotted test time.  Powerful, right?

That brings us to Study 3.  This one is extremely interesting because the researchers decided that they wanted to see if The Ancestor Effect was actually a result of thinking about people you like, or feel some sense of personal connection with.  If you remember, the control group in the first two studies were instructed to think about recent shopping trips, as opposed to thinking of ancestors.  The goal in Study 3 was to see if there was a difference in results when the test subjects thought about people, across the board.  The set-up involved three separate groups again, with a total of 41 final participants.  The ancestor salience groups were again instructed to think about either 15th century ancestors or a living ancestor (parents or grandparents).  The control group was assigned to think of a close friend.  All groups were instructed to "think hard about these people" and then to write an essay about the person/people that included everything that came to mind.  After this was completed, each group was given three minutes to work on 16 items taken from the WIT for conclusive thinking (Kersting, et al., 2008), where they had to correctly recognize geometric figures and mirror images.

(Remember, as stated in Study 2, the researchers knew that the ancestor salience groups would have a higher sense of personal control, so even though they measured this after the test, they did not bother to report it in their findings.  The results were the same across all four studies: improved internal locus of control).

It was determined that the people in the two ancestor salience groups solved significantly more intelligence items correctly than that of the control group.  There was no significant difference in the results between the two ancestor salience group either.  But there was a significant difference between those groups and the control group.  Interestingly, as well, in this study, there was not a significant difference in the number of items approached among all three groups.  A little different from Study 2, but the same results.  So while the number of items approached was similar, the ancestor salience groups were still more successful.  The researchers determined that this result then positively ruled out the explanation that The Ancestor Effect can be achieved merely by thinking about people.  There was a distinct difference in test results when it came to the ancestor salience groups versus the control group.  It's not about people in general.  It's about our ancestors.

So, Study 2 determines that the higher scores were a result of more questions attempted and Study 3 determines that the actual intellectual result is what improved.  Either way, two very profound findings that determine the academic and personal benefits of ancestor salience.  Dear Parents, here is your scientifically proven evidence for why your children need family history as part of their extra-curricular activities.  And the next time your teenager wants the keys to the car to hang out with friends instead of spending time with the grandparents (or you), you can show them this and remind them that family time will help improve those ACT and SAT scores, without the extra studying.  Shall we all have a little family historian dance party to celebrate?  Go ahead, I'll wait. :)

So in the end, as important as personal relationships of all kinds are, the family ones have the greatest impact on our emotional and intellectual health.  I can't say it enough, but this is a superpower.  An easily accessible one that doesn't require exposure to radioactive materials or being dropped in a vat of acid or some crazy comic book scenario.  It's real and it's right here in front of us.  Every single one of us can access this power and have it influence our lives for the better.  Even if you have a stubborn child or friend who says that family history just isn't their "thing" or it isn't the "right season of their life for it," show them this.  I don't know how anyone can turn away the overwhelming benefits that simply immersing ourselves in our family history can bring us.  And it all starts with our thought process.  These results were being found after just a few minutes of thinking and writing about an ancestor.  Can you imagine what regular study and research could do for us?  It's life-changing.  And finally our community has the science to back up the importance of genealogy.  It's up to us to share these benefits and get the word out there.  We need to break this open across our community (and the general population).  Family History can literally change the world.

*The study has been referenced and linked all over the web in various places with various commentary that you can find herehere, and here.  Or just Google search ancestor effect and you can see several of the top hits for the study.  But for my blog posts, I am using the direct source and I would encourage you to take a look at it yourself.  There is so much to gather from the published study that the various reference articles tend to gloss over.

*Fischer, P., Sauer, A., Vogrincic, C. and Weisweiler, S. (2011), The ancestor effect: Thinking about our genetic origin enhances intellectual performance. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 41: 11–16. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.778

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ancestor Effect, Part II

Earlier this week I talked about The Ancestor Effect study that I have been researching and the benefits that are available to those who think about their ancestors.  There were four parts to the study and on Monday I talked about Part 1 of the study, where the goal was to measure if just thinking of ancestors affected a person's academic performance and if that academic performance was actually increased by the greater sense of perceived control.  It turns out that the science stated yes in both cases.  Those in the ancestor salience (being immersed in your ancestor's lives) groups had higher academic and professional expectations as well an an increased internal locus of control.  Exciting stuff.

The purpose of Study 2 was to determine if ancestor salience increases actual intellectual performance and if that performance was created by more perceived control.  It turns out that because the perceived control of the ancestor salient groups across all four studies increased, the measured results were not reported in later studies.  Basically, the science says that ancestor salience improves the perceived personal control of those who practice it so that should simply be an assumed benefit from here on out.  Being immersed in your ancestors' lives gives you such a better sense of control over your own life.  Yeah, I've been saying that for years.

In Study 2, the final sample of thirty-one college age participants were divided into two groups.  The goal was to measure performance on a verbal task from the Wilde Intelligence Test 2 (WIT2; Kersting, Althoff, & Jager, 2008) where participants were asked to find a series of twenty-five verbal analogies.  Group 1 (ancestor salient group) were asked to spend five minutes building a family tree, while Group 2 (control group) were asked to remember their most recent shopping trip and then write a few sentences about it.  Afterwards, they were assessed on two levels.  1) Each participant was given four minutes to work on the assigned intelligence task.  2) Researchers measured the perceived sense of control on a scale of 0 (not at all) to 10 (definitely) for each participant in both groups.  To determine this, the following statements were presented to the test subjects:
  • "I have full control over my life."
  • "I have full control over my professional career."
  • "I have full control over adversities."
  • "I have full control over my own success."
As stated earlier, and not surprisingly, the subjects in Group 1 (ancestor salience) all had a significant increase in perceived control and as a result of that perceived control, attempted to solve more questions that Group 2 (control).  Group 1 answered more questions correctly than Group 2.  However, it was determined that this sense of control did not directly correlate with overall intelligence performance.  It was determined that Group 1 answered more questions correctly because they attempted more questions than Group 2.

This finding is extremely exciting and the untapped potential for improved intellectual performance is enough to make a parent giddy for the opportunity that it presents for their children.  The intellectual performance increased as a result of increased personal confidence.  In my last post, I talked about how this increased sense of personal control is a "genetic superpower" of sorts.  Every person on this planet wants improved intellect and more confidence and to see that it is as easily accessible as building a family tree is pretty astounding.  Can you imagine the academic benefits for your children as a result of incorporating family history into their extra-curricular activities?  What about better performance in your career and being able to pick up a new skill more easily?  Can you see how this could be useful as you continue to learn new things and participate in new hobbies throughout your life?  It's profound information that really is a game-changer for us genealogists.  The idea that we have the ability to tap into this resource is an exciting one.  We, and our families, can benefit from this new understanding.

How does this information alter the way you approach your own family history research?  Have you had an experience with something like this in your own life, or in the lives of a friend or family member?  It's definitely food for thought and I believe this information needs to be recognized in our general culture.  The value of genealogy needs to shift among the general population.  How do you think it will affect not only genealogists, but most people in general?

*The study has been referenced and linked all over the web in various places with various commentary that you can find here, here, and here.  Or just Google search ancestor effect and you can see several of the top hits for the study.  But for my blog posts, I am using the direct source and I would encourage you to take a look at it yourself.  There is so much to gather from the published study that the various reference articles tend to gloss over.

*Fischer, P., Sauer, A., Vogrincic, C. and Weisweiler, S. (2011), The ancestor effect: Thinking about our genetic origin enhances intellectual performance. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 41: 11–16. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.778

Say Hello To Someone New

We've got some exciting news here at Family ChartMasters.  Drum roll and applause please for our brand new employee, Christine Fazulyanov.  Christine is joining us as a Special Projects Manager and Personal Assistant.  And I have to say, I could not be happier!

Christine is a mother of 3 adorable girls, a costume blogger, musical theater lover, Christmas tree designer, gardener, and promoter of creativity.  She has an active Etsy shop where all of her amazing creative energy comes to life.  Christine graduated from Brigham Young University with a B.S. in Fashion Merchandising. 

We are so excited to have her join us at Family ChartMasters and we've all been energized by her fresh, creative perspective.  She's a good one to have around.  Keep an eye on her because good things are happening with her joining our team. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ancestor Effect, Part I

I was interviewed by Scott Fisher recently for his radio show Extreme Genes  and we talked about the research I have been doing on the intellectual benefits of studying our family history.  It is really fascinating stuff and I'd like to discuss it more in depth.  One of the studies I've been looking at was done in 2009 and published in 2010 by Peter Fischer, Anne Sauer, Claudia Vogrinic, and Silke Weisweiler titled "The Ancestor Effect: Thinking About Our Genetic Origin Enchances Intellectual Performance."  It covers several different aspects of "thinking about ancestors" and has different control groups, so I am going to break this up over a couple of posts in order to do the real science of it some justice.

The study itself looked at the Psychological Effects of Ancestor Salience, particularly the intellectual benefits.  Basically, does family history make you smarter?  In a nutshell, folks, yes it does.  The study was set up in four parts and performed with college age students.  In each aspect, the test subjects were asked, depending on their groups, to either think about an ancestor or not before being asked about their personal academic expectations or to perform in various intelligence tests, depending on what portion of the study they were working on.  The premise was to see if having a higher ancestor salience impacted intelligence positively.  I'm going to talk about each of the four tests, but today, I am only going to reference the first one.

In Study 1, the researchers wanted to see if higher academic expectations could be met through higher ancestor salience (def. of salient: very important or notable; jetting upward, and salience: the act of being salient;  a striking point or feature, highlight) and if that effect was mediated by an increased sense of control.  In this study, three groups were asked to think about three different things before being asked about their expectations on their performance in academic areas of their lives.  The first group was asked to think about their 15th century grandparents and to imagine, whether they knew who they were or not, what their day to day life might have been like, including their careers, living environment, their children, etc.  The second group was asked to do the same thing but with their great-grandparents.  The third group was asked to think about their most recent trip to the grocery store.  Each group had the instruction to think on the assigned topic until the experimenter gave them a sign, which was exactly five minutes for each group.  Upon completion of the tests the subjects' intellectual performance expectation was measured by three questions using the ranking system of 0 (the lowest) to 10 (the highest).  The questions included the following:
  • How well do you think you will perform in the final social psychology exam?
  • How well do you think you will perform in your studies?
  • Do you think you will reach your career goals?
The amount of "perceived control" (also known as internal locus of control) of their lives was then measured on a scale of 0 (not at all) to 10 (very much) by the following question:
  • To what extent do you feel that you have your life under control? 
The test sample showed that those who thought about their ancestors (15th century or great-grandparents, didn't matter) had a significantly higher academic expectations for themselves, as well as a (marginally) higher sense of personal control than the control group.  Impressive, right?  But for those of us  in this field, are we surprised?  The general population jumped all over this study, and while it is groundbreaking, it's also extremely exciting to see the crossover of the benefits of genealogy that we're somewhat privy to over to the masses.

This idea of ancestor salience and being immersed in the importance and highlights of our ancestor's lives is such a critical one, especially for young people today.  And how much we know (a little or a lot) didn't adversely affect group one and two in this portion of the study.  Simply thinking about ancestors increased their personal expectations and sense of control in their lives.  That is a genetic superpower right there if I have ever seen one!  I put up a blog post over on Zap the Grandma Gap that will give you a fun idea of how to start incorporating this idea into your own life and pave the road for future children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren, etc.

My next post in this series will tackle the other three portions of the research that actually tested intelligence after the participants meditated on ancestors.  I'm sure you can guess the results but you'll have to come back and see for sure.

*The study has been referenced and linked all over the web in various places with various commentary that you can find here, here, and here.  Or just Google search ancestor effect and you can see several of the top hits for the study.  But for my blog posts, I am using the direct source and I would encourage you to take a look at it yourself.  There is so much to gather from the published study that the various reference articles tend to gloss over.

*Fischer, P., Sauer, A., Vogrincic, C. and Weisweiler, S. (2011), The ancestor effect: Thinking about our genetic origin enhances intellectual performance. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 41: 11–16. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.778