AI Image - Crafting a LLM Prompt for GenealogyAre you a genealogist or family historian looking for a way to improve the accuracy and efficiency of your AI-assisted research? Effective communication with AI tools is vital to unlocking their full potential in AI genealogy tasks such as transcribing historical, handwritten documents, summarizing data, or creating detailed ancestral narratives from research notes. While just asking your favorite Generative AI (GenAI) tool to produce something or answer a question can often produce good results, a well-written prompt can streamline your workflow and improve the quality of your results.

  1. Context (C)Set the Scene

    Provide background information relevant to your task. This includes the type of document, historical period, and specific genealogical details. Context is an important part of our own understanding and analysis of historical content; it is important to your AI tool for the same reason.

    Example:

    “Transcribe a handwritten will from the 19th century involving the Clarkson family from Virginia.”

  2. Role (R)Define Your Assistant’s Role

    Clearly state the role you expect the language model (or the tool you’re using) to play—transcriber, summarizer, storyteller, expert genealogist, etc. This helps AI tools such as chatGTP, Claude, and Gemini, better understand the output you’re expecting.

    Example:

    “Act as an expert Virginia historian with expertise in summarizing key events.”

  3. Aim (A)Specify Your Goal

    Clarify what you intend to achieve with the prompt—a transcription, summary, narrative creation, analysis, etc.

    Example:

    “Create a narrative from the provided timeline of the Clarkson family’s migrations in the 1800s.”

  4. Format (F)Establish Expectations

    Specify the format in which you want the information presented. This could include a detailed narrative, a bulleted list, or a summarized paragraph. The better you can explain what you envision in your head, the better the output will meet your expectations.

    Example:

    “Summarize the key points from the will mentioning property distribution in a bulleted list.”

  5. Tone (T)Identify the Voice

    Indicate the tone or style you want in the output. This is particularly important for narratives or content meant for publication or presentation. If you want the AI to avoid certain types of language (flowery, dramatic, conversational, etc.) or even certain words, such as “delve,” state that as well.

    Example:

    “Write with a respectful and informative tone, suitable for family history documentation.”


Example Full Prompt:

“Given a 19th-century handwritten will involving the Clarkson family from Virginia, act as an expert Virginia historian to summarize key points regarding property distribution. Present the summary in a bulleted list, maintaining a respectful and informative tone suitable for family history documentation.”


Try it For Yourself!

Practice and experimentation are the best ways to learn how to use AI tools effectively. Try using the CRAFT method as a guideline for a few AI genealogy prompts. The better we can communicate our needs and expectations to AI tools or assistants, the better the chance of getting useful outputs. And don’t worry if the AI doesn’t get it right the first time. Read what it gave you and then use some of the same guidelines to craft a follow-up prompt, asking it to change the tone or adjust the format. Think of it as having a conversation with a virtual assistant — the better that you explain what you want, the better the results!