Are 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 tasks such as transcribing historical, handwritten documents, summarizing data, or creating detailed ancestral narratives from research notes. Understanding the best way to convey your needs to your favorite Generative AI (GenAI) tool can dramatically streamline your workflow and improve the quality of your results.

How to C.R.A.F.T. an Effective Genealogy Prompt

  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.

    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, etc.

    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—transcription, summary, narrative creation, analysis, etc.

    Example:

      “Create a narrative from a 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.

    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.

    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.”

By utilizing the CRAFT method, genealogists can effectively communicate their needs and expectations to AI tools or assistants, ensuring outputs that are more aligned with their research goals.