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New Year’s Eve, 2012

It was the first of January 2012 that the first post ran: The Legal Genealogist takes flight! Three hundred and sixty six days total (leap year!), and 372 posts already (okay, so I missed a couple of days during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but made up for it elsewhere, so there!).

It’s hard to believe all that’s gone on this year. Remember that I started out the year hoping I’d managed to squeak out a good enough performance on my certification portfolio that I’d earn those oh-so-coveted letters after my name: CG, for Certified Genealogist.

Little did I know that not only would I get those letters — see Certified, yes; certifiable… well… (posted 25 Feb 2012), but that I’d get hornswoggled um… conned… er… convinced to stand as a candidate for the Board of Trustees of the Board for Certification of Genealogists — and… ulp… actually win. See A matter of trust (posted 15 Oct 2012).

I didn’t know back in January that a genealogy blog could go from, oh, maybe two readers (I think both my sister and my cousin were reading along) to literally thousands — see SSDI Call to Action! (posted 29 Jan 2012) — just by having Dick Eastman link to a post (thanks, Dick!).

Nor did I realize when I started how many people would have questions about things like copyright law — and how much I would learn in the process of helping others understand just the issues we’ve covered so far. (There’s an archive category link that’ll take you to all the copyright posts so far if you want to check them out. And there are more to come in 2013.)

And I sure didn’t realize how much fun it would be to watch people go from being casual readers to regular readers to commenters to friends as the year went on… and how humbling it would be to have so many people share their knowledge and skills and enthusiasm with me so unstintingly in this amazing place we call the genealogical community.

So when we all look back at 2012, what were the highlights for this blog? Here are the top 10 reader posts for 2012 that aren’t DNA-related (see yesterday’s blog for the top DNA posts of the year):

     • SSDI Call to Action! (posted 29 Jan 2012): “… maybe doing what needs to be done to be able to speak up effectively seems daunting. Yeah, maybe it’s a lot of work. But how much MORE daunting it is to think of never again being able to access the SSDI? How much MORE work will it be to have to find the information it provides? It’s THAT important. Let’s get to work!”

     • Cemetery photos: permission required? (posted 22 Oct 2012): “… the standard suggestion for photography in any cemetery is good advice regardless: get the rules of the road in advance — know if you need permission, whether there’s a fee, and what the hours are so you don’t accidentally get locked inside the gates.”

     • Up! Off our duffs! (posted 21 May 2012): “As a community, and as individual genealogists, we can’t afford to sit back and do nothing (about records access). We — you and me — all of us — need to get up, up off our duffs and into this fight.”

     • Copyright and the old family photo (posted 6 Mar 2012): “The photograph you see to the left here is of my grandmother, Opal (Robertson) Cottrell. Isn’t she adorable? Offhand, I’d say she might be all of two years old in this image, so it was probably taken around 1900. … (And) were it not for the concept of fair use, I’d be violating the copyright of the photographer who took this picture by using it here in this blog.”

     • Copyright & the newspaper article (posted 19 Mar 2012): A primer on how copyright law affects our ability to use newspaper articles from both American and Australian newspapers — and the law isn’t the same everywhere!

     • Grave terms of use (posted 20 Jun 2012): “(Both) Find A Grave and BillionGraves … are free services, both have content almost exclusively generated and uploaded by users, and their attitudes towards use of their sites as reflected in their terms of use couldn’t be more different.”

     • We paid in blood (posted 29 Apr 2012): “I was feeling kind of sorry for Rob Lowe … He wanted so very badly to be descended from a genuine American hero — a Revolutionary War soldier — and it must have come as something of a shock when it became clear his ancestor John Christopher East was really a Hessian soldier Johann Christoph Oeste. …And then the program disclosed that Oeste had been at the Battle of Trenton. A Hessian soldier in uniform under arms at the Battle of Trenton. That’s a battle I happen to know a lot about… and to have had a very personal stake in.”

     • The natural son (posted 28 Mar 2012): An explanation of “a natural father’s love for a natural son” from an 1842 Missouri will using the term.

     • Looking at the news sites (posted 30 Nov 2012): “So there’s a new player in the online access to newspapers field as of yesterday. launched its new website, joining and as the major players in the pay-for-play category. … So let’s take a quick look at exactly what the terms of use of each of these three websites say they’ll allow a user to do.”

     • Citing Black’s Law Dictionary (posted 12 Jan 2012): The Legal Genealogist‘s dream post — a totally law-geeky dictionary, falling on my sword about citations… and still getting people to laugh. My idea of the perfect blog post.

Now… were there others that didn’t make the top 10 list that I wish had made it? Yup. Those that center on my family I’m saving for Saturday, but there are a couple that folks may have missed that might be worth a second look. My own personal top five, besides We paid in blood, are all from reader questions:

     • What’s in a name? (posted 12 Mar 2012): “Reader Susan Clark wonders about the need for some sort of official legal process to change an immigrant’s name: … Was any legal process even needed?”

     • The lady and the Big Mistake (posted 30 Jan 2012): Reader Laurie Huey’s wonderful question that began: “Shortly after Miss Ancestor married Mr. Big Mistake, Mr. Ancestor (Miss Ancestor’s father) traveled to an Indiana land office and purchased a tract of land in his daughter’s name…” — looking at the concept of separate estate.

     • Getting hip on HIPAA (posted 9 Feb 2012): Reader Tanya found genealogical information in “binders of documents that came from a funeral home that had gone out of business” but was concerned about a federal privacy law.

     • America’s first POW camps (posted 21 Feb 2012): “Reader Fran Jackson is looking for any information or legal documents that might exist about a sixth great grandfather who served time and was later released and settled in Albemarle County, Virginia.”

Can’t wait to see what questions 2013 brings…

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