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Genealogy Boomers can Embrace Chat GPT too!

Chat GPT for Genealogy

The first time I heard anything about Chat GPT, I was reading online about how students were using it to blow up writing assignments being given by teachers. As a retired educator, I felt for the teachers tasked with teaching and assessing written work by their students. Teaching writing is tough enough, but now kids were going to use a tool to do it for them? I felt my opinion about this new technology forming and it wasn't looking good.

The second time I heard anything about it, my 35-year-old son, who is an IT manager mentioned it to me. I was already of the mindset that this was more than I was ready to embrace.

He explained that it would write for me when I told it what I wanted, but my educator heels were pretty dug in. He left it alone as he knows how to do with me, and the next thing I knew, it just kept coming up over and over again online.

It all reminded me of when I worked for a bank back in the 1980s and the first debit cards were coming out. The branch I

ATM Machine for Genealogy

worked at got its first ATM machine. Minds were being blown left and right, but I was young and excited. There were some who were sure our teller jobs were going to disappear with this newfangled machine. For me, the idea of being able to get cash when I wanted was innovative.

My grandmother who banked at our branch came in one day and I talked her into getting a card. I walked her through the whole process, and being the loving grandmother that she was, she listened to every word I said. Then she put the temporary ATM card in the back of her wallet and never used it again. She was born in 1911, so I am sure she had seen enough change in her lifetime. It's all good.

Despite my history of embracing change and my preoccupation with innovative ideas, my now 63-year-old self, has the thought process of, "I'm a little done with change." I could relate to my grandmother and the ATM card so much better now.

So, ChatGPT for Ancestry Research

With an online presence in the genealogy social media, that was difficult to ignore, I gave this Artificial Intelligence called ChatGPT a try. I wondered what it would look like for a genealogist wanting to write about her/his family history. Would it be worthwhile for someone who doesn't necessarily want to be the next Diana Gabaldon? (I love her historical time travel fiction.) If preserving family history is the goal, would this help a genealogist reach it in an effective way? Trial and error would tell.

I tried a couple of chat requests just to get to know it a little better. It felt like I was talking to an assistant. I'd send a chat message, and it would instantly respond with the written version of what I told it to do. It didn't even blink! It felt a little like being the boss.

Despite the initial glamour of it all, the writing wasn't exactly what I was thinking I would get. So, I clarified what I wanted. It responded with something closer to what I was explaining, but it still wasn't exactly what I was looking for. "Wait a minute," I thought. "Am I the problem in this Artificial Intelligence/Human Intelligence relationship?" Well apparently, I needed to be clearer about what I wanted, so I guess I have my answer. It was kind of like talking to another human being. Clarity about my desired outcome was important.

Genealogy by AI?

When I was feeling more confident, I got a little braver and copied and pasted a Spreadsheet I had on the Converse Family right into the message and asked for a Genealogy. I accidentally typed Generations instead of Genealogy and from what I had pasted, even though the rows and columns were now just a bunch of text, that little AI guy knew what I was talking about. It turned my information into a well-developed break-down of what was on my spreadsheet. I was beginning to be impressed.

I then told it to take this information and turn it into a Family History. My mind was as blown as those folks back in the 1980s who were sticking a card into a machine and getting magic money out. The voice in the writing was not exactly mine, but it wasn't bad at all. In fact, with a couple edits and revisions to make it more mine, it had potential. This writing was definitely something I could work with. It was more of a draft to finish, but it was so much better than a blank page. So, what is the moral of this story? Don't tuck ChatGPT in the back of your wallet just yet. I say, give it a chance.

An aside note to educators, remember when spell check and the pocket calculator was going to ruin all of our students lives? They didn't. They're tools. For genealogists? It's completely up to you whether or not you embrace this change, but I'd give ChatGPT a try. It was pretty fun. You never might help!

Here is what my ChatGPT results looked like from the Google Sheets pasted prompt followed by, "Now write this as a family history":

The Converse Family History: From English Roots to California Pioneers

Generation 1:

Our family's legacy begins with Edward Converse, born on January 30, 1590, in Great Burstead, Essex, England. Edward married Sarah Parker on June 29, 1614, and together they embarked on a journey that would shape the destiny of the Converse family. They eventually settled in the New World, in Woburn, Massachusetts.

Generation 2:

Edward and Sarah's son, Samuel Converse, was baptized on March 12, 1637, in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He married Judith Carter on June 8, 1660. Tragically, Samuel met an untimely end on February 20, 1669, in a heartbreaking accident at the Converse Mill. His widow, Judith, later remarried and moved to Charlestown.

Generation 3:

Samuel and Judith had a son, also named Samuel Converse, who was born on April 4, 1662. Samuel Jr. married a woman named Dorcas, though her last name remains unknown. The couple made significant land transactions in Woburn, showcasing their involvement in the community.

Generation 4:

Edward, son of Samuel Jr. and Dorcas, was born on September 25, 1696. He married Elizabeth Cooper on August 6, 1717, in Putnam, Connecticut, continuing the family's journey through different regions of the burgeoning United States.

Generation 5:

Asa Converse, born on September 30, 1730, carried the family torch by marrying Ruth Lee on January 19, 1755. Their union strengthened the Converse lineage and kept the family story moving forward.

Generation 6:

James Converse, born in 1757 in Thompson, Connecticut, was a true patriot. He bravely served as a private in the Revolutionary War's Eighth Company. James married three times—Mrs. Whitman, Sally Wheeler, and Chloe Walker—during his life in Stafford, Connecticut.

Generation 7:

Horace Converse, born in 1783 in Litchfield, Connecticut, inherited the spirit of adventure that seemed to run in the family. As he journeyed through life, he carried the Converse name with pride, inspiring future generations.

Generation 8:

The Converse family continued to grow, and Frederick Deloraine Converse came into the world in December 1848 in New York. He married Effie Blodgett, building new chapters in the family history.

Generation 9:

Ralph Hudson Convers, born on July 27, 1875, in Cataract, Monroe County, Wisconsin, added a western touch to the family tale. He met and married Ruth Summers Hinkson, whose family had been California pioneers since the Gold Rush days.

Generation 10:

Della Evelyn Convers, born on July 23, 1911, in Turlock, Stanislaus County, California, found love in the arms of Virgil Lloyd Crowell. Their marriage on October 1, 1930, marked another milestone in the Converse legacy.

Generation 11:

And now, we remember Converse Crowell, born on March 12, 1938, in Turlock, California, who left us on March 11, 1983, in Napa, California. He was laid to rest in Fairfield, California, leaving behind a cherished memory among his family.

From the small village of Great Burstead in England to the vast landscapes of California, the Converse family has endured challenges and celebrated triumphs, leaving a lasting impact on the tapestry of history. Their courage, resilience, and adventurous spirit continue to inspire future generations, ensuring that the Converse family saga will be remembered for ages to come.


Cuzens Genealogy

Robin Stewart is the founder of CuZens Genealogy. She is a retired teacher and school administrator and lives with her family in California. She has been researching genealogy since 1983. Her passion has always included the pursuit and preservation of family history and designing creative digital solutions for organizing information. Why? Because genealogy matters.

For more information about CuZens Genealogy visit:



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