top of page

Writing for Discovery: A Genealogy Mindset Makeover by Kimberly Powell

by Kim Richardson

I am an advocate for writing to solve genealogy mysteries and problems. It is quite possibly THE best way to break down brick walls. And I just finished a class that focuses on just that. Here's my review:

Kimberly Powell’s course Writing for Discovery: A Genealogy Mindset Makeover is eye-opening! The purpose of the course is to boost your confidence and provide you with the skills you need to be successful. You will learn how to take your research and turn it into a written work that organizes your thoughts and research, problem-solves, and saves time. Game changer!

“Writing is not what we do AFTER we’ve figured it out, writing is HOW we figure it out.” -

Kimberly is well-suited for teaching this course. She is down to earth, practical, and will meet you where you are as far as your skill level and ability. She is supportive and kind. You will love her. Aside from her great personality, she is uniquely qualified to teach this class. She is a professional genealogist and author as well as an educator in the genealogical field. She has served as the president of the Association of Professional Genealogists. She was the Genealogy Expert for for sixteen years. She has written several books and is on staff with the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP), the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), as well as for Boston University’s online genealogy programs.

The topics of the course are:
Writing for Discovery: Writing as Thinking, Memory & Recall, Taking Good Notes, Overcoming Overwhelm, Note-Taking Options, and Organization & Note-Taking Strategies

Writing as Problem Solving: Memory Exercise, Why Processing Aids Retrieval, Improving Notes Over Time, Folders vs. Tags/Keywords/Labels, Designing Notes, Using Color and Emphasis, and Tools & Methods for Correlating Evidence

Writing as a Journey: Prewriting, Organizing & Assembling Evidence, Rough First Draft, How to Avoid the 3 P's: Perfectionism / Procrastination / Paralysis, The 4-Step Writing Process

Writing as Communication: Writing to Figure Out What We Want to Say, Writing to Learn, Write in Stages, Writing as We Research – Why and How, Methods for Organizing Writing, Revision: The First Pass/ Paragraphs/ Sentences, Strategies to Move Our Writing Forward

Writing as a Process: The Process of Revision/ Editing/Proofreading, Self-Editing Tips & Strategies, Cutting Clutter & Removing Redundancies, Choosing Better Words, Tips for Finding Grammar & Spelling Errors, Peer Review - Give & Receive Writing Feedback

The course is seven weeks online, and each week focuses on a different stage of the writing process.

The format is:
- a pre-recorded presentation drops once a week into the course platform (about an hour-long presentation packed with great tips and information! Seriously, I watched everything twice. And I never really thought that it felt “pre-recorded.” It seemed like I was in a live session.)

- you’re given a focus for each week to apply to your own project. You may work on anything you wish. Your work may be at any stage of completion, but you will learn more if you choose to work on a project that is at the early stages of writing. The focuses range from developing an organizational system to writing a draft to polish the work product.

- each week, you meet live via Zoom for a coaching and Q&A session. These coaching sessions follow a few days after the pre-recorded presentation for the week. You can ask anything you like and the group explores various topics. These are recorded so that if you miss the meeting, it’s ok. You can watch it later.

- nearly every week, you have the option to participate in a live writing session with your peers. This was a new concept for me, but I am glad I tried it. The purpose is to help you start the habit of setting aside time to write with a purpose in mind. I highly recommend that you try this optional session.

- you may (or may not - your choice) exchange work with classmates for feedback. I recommend that you choose to do this. I learned a great deal from my fellow classmates by both reading other people’s work and by receiving the feedback they offered.

You are also supported through a private Facebook group. You may ask anything you want and discuss things with your classmates. Kimberly actively participates in the group, too.

The biggest takeaways for me were
- Perfection is overrated
- Getting your thoughts on paper is the primary goal
- Writing should become a genealogy habit because it is THAT GOOD for problem-solving
- There is a simple organization method (taught by Kimberly in the class) to produce work much faster and better

Writing for Discovery: A Genealogy Mindset Makeover by Kimberly Powell will be offered soon. You can find more information and sign up to receive course notices at

*I was not asked to review the class and received nothing for doing so. I chose to review it because it is a wonderful resource that will help solve tough genealogy problems.


bottom of page