Sunday, February 27, 2011

In Defense of Genealogical Societies

Or, to be more precise, in defense of my local genealogical society. Which is to say, I would like to write about what my genealogical society is doing right.

Several bloggers have recently posted their reasons for quitting or not joining their local genealogical societies. This may a symptom of the downward trend in overall genealogical society membership, one which is especially noticeable for societies that are not welcoming, especially to younger people and “noobs,” or do not do programming that reflects advances in technology, online resources, and social networking that can be used to advance our research.

At the same time, however, we see some genealogical societies with active programming and involvement and a very visible online presence to promote their activities; several of the blogs I follow are for genealogical societies, for example. Two that are probably familiar to readers are the Southern California Genealogical Society and the Illinois State Genealogical Society, and readers can probably name at least several more.

I would include my local society, the Fairfax Genealogical Society (FxGS), in this group.

What does FxGS do to attract and keep members?

It starts at the beginning of our monthly meetings, which take place on the fourth Thursday of September through through May, except for December. The Society President’s welcoming remarks include asking that people who are attending for the first time stand up, introduce themselves, and indicate the geographical areas (states or countries) where their research is focused. They are welcomed and given information on the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that would be relevant to their research.  If the SIG leaders are present, they are asked to stand up so that the new attendees can get in touch with them after the meeting.

There are quite a few SIGs: Beginners, BCG, Carolinas and Georgia, Methodology, Family History Writing, German, Irish, Mid-Atlantic, Midwestern, New England, New York, NGS Home Study Course, Old Dominion, Pennsylvania, Speakers, Surnames Projects and Genetic Genealogy, and Technology. Some of these SIGs are currently in need of leaders, it is true, but usually if there is enough interest someone will step up. I attended one of the SIG meetings held in the local Family History Center, and it was quite lively! We sat at computer monitors while the SIG leader introduced us to some new databases and provided tips on successfully navigating the databases. Afterward several people shared brickwall problems and we all brainstormed possible solutions.

On the Saturdays following the monthly meetings there is a two-hour education class which may take the form of a lecture or workshop. Each year there are usually beginning and advanced brickwall workshops.

In March the FxGS holds a Spring Conference (Friday night and Saturday) and in October there is a Fall Fair (Saturday). Vendors are present at both events, and the conference includes four tracks (one is always a beginner-level track) with speakers, workshops, and consultations.

The Society also organizes field trips; destinations have included the Library of Congress, DAR, NARA, Library of Virginia, and Pennsylvania research facilities as well as introductory sessions at the local Family History Center. In the past members have traveled as a group on Salt Lake City tours, and the Society often has a table at FGS and NGS events as well as other genealogical society events.

FxGS is involved at both the institutional and member level in a number of volunteer projects: tombstone transcription, 1812 Pension Files, Colonial Census Substitute, and Family Search indexing, to name a few. The Society solicits and delivers donations to a number of genealogical causes, including the Virginia Room of the Fairfax County Public Library, and cooperates with other local societies, such as the Mount Vernon Genealogical Society, to keep track of and publicize all local history and genealogy events.

FxGS has a website, blog (hi, Myrt!), a Facebook presence, and a newsletter that can be received in electronic and/or paper form. Members receive regular e-mail notification, including downloadable syllabi, for upcoming meetings and events. The website has maps and instructions that are also aimed at helping out-of-towners find their way to events.

All of these things would be nice but not enough to retain members were it not for the friendly and welcoming attitude of FxGS members. The Society has a large number of professionals as well as highly skilled and devoted amateurs. Yet they welcome newcomers and novices and have dedicated programming for the beginner level. When I take the initiative to introduce myself, I always get a friendly reply and usually end up in a good conversation on subjects such as research trips, brick walls, and interests.

No society, of course, is perfect. As I mentioned, not all leadership spots are always filled. The Society does have the usual skewing toward the gray end of the age spectrum, and people retire, move away, and unfortunately become physically no longer able to maintain their previous level of activity. Nevertheless, there are some relatively young people in some of the leadership spots and people “pinch hit” when they can.

Smaller local genealogical societies may not be able to emulate the larger ones such as FxGS in every aspect, but could perhaps do a few of these things (especially the welcoming part!) and might think of joining up with other local societies for some of the online alternatives that have been proposed recently, such as webinars and combined online resources. Denise Olson at Moultrie Creek Gazette has written about this in “Is It Time for a Virtual Genealogy Society?”

I continue to believe that genealogical societies can be one of the primary vehicles for continuing genealogical education and hope that by adapting, looking for new approaches, and combining resources, they will be able to survive.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Newsletter and Follow News 25 February 2011

This Week in Genea-Blogging

Getting overwhelmed by information?

Check out Marian Pierre-Louis’ post “Where I Get My Information” at Roots and Rambles - some good hints for streamlining your “information acquisition” experience.

Best game ever!

And if you haven’t heard of it by now, go check it out: “The WDYTYA Drinking Game,” as described at Donna Pointkouski’s What’s Past Is Prologue. Best practiced in a group of giddy genealogists who are getting ready to watch the show/watching the show/chatting and calling in to GeneaBloggers Blog Talk Radio. Hic.

Interview with Curt Witcher

at Lorine McGinnis Shulze’s Olive Tree Genealogy Blog: “Talking to Curt Witcher, Allen County Public Library (A Roots Tech Interview).”

Here’s one I missed because I only started following this blog this week

“Programmers and Genealogists: Just How Different Are We?” at the TechnoGenealogist.  I love #1 and was surprised by #9.

Have you ever wondered what makes James Tanner tick?

I have. He’s one of the Energizer Bunnies of genealogy blogging (and I’ll bet you know who the other two are). Wonder no more - he has written a great summary of what it means to him to be a genealogist at Genealogy’s Star: “Who do they think we are?” Love the shuffle board quote. (But, Mr. Tanner - not everyone who doesn’t like website reorganization is a Luddite - just sayin’.)

Helpful hints on finding ancestors using their address:

An illustrated step-by-step explanation by Philip Trauring in “When you have an address but not a name...” at Blood and Frogs. My favorite quote is when he refers to as “a veritable swiss-army knife of genealogy tools.”

A post I wanted to feature just ‘cause

“Walkabout” at Patten Project. I’m sure we’ve all felt like this at some point in our lives.

This is how they got ready!

Check out the 1940 census training films at T.K.’s Before My Time in “Getting Ready for the 1940 Census.”

Subjects swirling around the genealogy blogosphere

Discussions and comments are everywhere, and some of the subjects are still inspiring a lot of activity. An interesting question in this context is posed by Harold at Midwest Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog in “The Abominable Snowman of Genealogy.”

With charity toward all

Speaking of subjects swirling around the blogosphere, at Kimberly’s Genealogy Blog, Kimberly Powell asks “How Do We Make Genealogy Fun for Everyone?” Good question, and Kimberly also discusses the problems that too much fun and no (real) work can lead to.

A wonderful response and elaboration of Kimberly’s points is provided by footnoteMaven in “It’s Not Going to Be as Easy as It Looks on TV.” She also reminds us that there is no need to forget civility in our exchanges, either, and this is a point that is becoming increasingly important in what is developing into an often animated, sometimes heated, and occasionally sarcastic and unkind exchange.

What should be preserved

Amy at Amy’s Genealogy, etc. Blog discusses the state of confusion that exists - among young and old - about what is being and should be digitally preserved in “Digital Youth and Digital Preservation.”

We may complain about that generation jump on “Who Do You Think You Are?”

But Kathleen Brandt, who appeared on Episode 3 this season, can tell you how to do quickly get through the generations - read “5 Tips to Genealogy Research: 8 Generations in 60 Seconds” at a3 Genealogy.

We’ve been waiting for this one

Thomas MacEntee finally weighs in on the impact and meaning of RootsTech at GeneaBloggers in “The RootsTech Revolution - Woodstock or Waterloo?” Lots to ponder here....

For more suggested blog reading...

Check out “Best of the Genea-Blogs” at Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings and “Follow Friday: Around the Blogosphere” at Susan Petersen’s Long Lost

This week I started following these blogs:

The Moyer Mysteries & Histories


The Mashburn Collection

Dallas Genealogical Society

Appalachia Ponderings

John Kuzmich Jr. Genealogy Blog

Kentucky in My Heart

Minnesota Family Historian

Family History & Memories

The Arrowood Trail Thru the Mountains

The Technogenealogist

Brenda Dougall Merriman

My Georgia Roots

My Research Week

A lot of my research this week focused on three family family lines that lived in the Dallas County, Texas area and this has involved a lot of use of Genealogy Bank.  I'm trying to be both efficient and effective: one newspaper/one family/one year at a time for each of the four newspapers, with an entry  listing the newspaper name, date, and title of each article downloaded.  Talk about time-consuming.  And then, because the OCR process is not perfect, I may select a few time periods centered associated with important events in the family to browse the issues.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

Week 8 of 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Technology

Week 8 of 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Technology.  What are some of the technological advances that happened during your childhood? What types of technology to you enjoy using today, and which do you avoid?

Well, ah, um ... color TV.

Ah, but I see that Linda McCauley at Documenting the Details has recorded her early memories of color TV - and they are the same as mine! Going over to a neighbor’s house to watch Bonanza. One thing I miss is the NBC peacock and the original music that was played when the peacock was shown.

I thought of several things that I believed might have been invented in the 1950s - Melmac, Tupperware, baggies/Ziploc bags - and it turns out that they were actually invented earlier. Ziploc bags may actually date to the 50s/60s; there is some dispute about that, depending on what you call a baggie or Ziploc bag. I just remember seeing the commercials for them, which claimed that they were something really new, appearing on TV in the 50s and 60s.

OK, so there was Teflon. My mother loved that. Saran wrap (1953) was another thing she loved. For me, it was always a love-hate relationship. Saran wrap had that Scotch tape thing - it just had to stick to itself. So that’s why I loved baggies and Ziploc bags. Well, if you count baggies as those things that had the fold-over flap, they weren’t good for too much - the sandwich would dry out. But Ziploc bags - now there is a truly great invention. But, as I said, they were not actually invented when I was a child.

I know that my contemporaries will be able to come up with much more than this. The thing was, most high-tech inventions did not trickle down to families at our end of the income curve for quite a while. I remember hand-held calculators (1967) coming out in the late 1960s and early 1970s. When I went to a National Science Foundation summer program at Hardin-Simmons in the summer of 1971, I remember that my instructors had those. They were clunky and expensive and they didn’t do a whole lot.

If it didn’t have to do with the kitchen or entertainment, my family was not greatly affected by advances in technology. The computer, of course, has changed my life, but I did not really get into using it to its full potential until I started genealogy. Something about little children having to have my complete attention during every minute of the day....

I am not an early adopter of much of anything, since I like to let the developers get the bugs out first and I have to save my money until I can afford these items. This year I was given a wand scanner and a MacBook Pro. Next year - a FlipPal scanner. The year after that - an iPad, for which I’ll get a Kindle app. Fancy phone - not so much. Phones are tyrants. Perhaps when I am out shopping or traveling or visiting without my phone, I am missing things. But I also enjoy a great feeling of freedom.

So, to answer the prompt, color TV it is.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Toward a Genealogical Democracy

This post is not going to start with an attention-grabbing first sentence. And it is going to be too long. There are just too many thoughts swirling around in my head right now, inspired by reading about the RootsTech conference, listening to Blog Talk Radio, reading blogs, and all the while continuing with my own research and its challenges.

From reading the blogs (and yes, I’m aware that they are not the entire genealogy community), there would appear to be a near consensus on the future of genealogy; the changing of the guard from “old” to “new” appears to be taking place. It is not so much a revolution as a shift in emphases and thinking. Many have written about what it is they are glad to get rid of with the “old,” and it is not so much to eliminate a particular approach, but to make it part of a larger picture and its practitioners less autocrats than elder statesmen.

In short, we’re going to have a democracy in genealogy. I’m all for it. But, of course, I suppose I have a few nagging reservations and cautions to express in the aftermath/coming down from the high of the “RootsTech Revolution” (or Rock Concert, nay, the Woodstock of Genealogy!). I know that there is no need to caution against banishing source citations to an undeserved oblivion, because no one is asking for that. However, democracy is a funny thing, and once you let that ole pendulum start swinging, it has a way of going farther than you expected.

I have not encountered many proponents of the “old” thinking, but then I’m pretty much of a “noob” to genealogy, having started only five and half years ago, and my very positive experiences with the genealogy community, and especially the genealogy blogging community, may not be typical.

The division that people apparently want to make more fluid and less absolute appears to run along two different fault lines that only occasionally coincide: “professionals versus amateurs” and “traditionalists versus techies.” (“Techies” is not a totally satisfactory description here - it includes the entire group of people who do not think that the Internet is ruining genealogy and who see the potential of social networking for genealogy.)

The following bloggers have written about these distinctions and and some have eloquently described the “new” approach, so I will quote their words:

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings: “Three (or more!) Genealogy Worlds?”

Randy divides genealogists/family researchers into members of three worlds: the “traditional genealogy world,” the “online genealogy world,” and the “technology genealogy world.” See his post for the full definitions; based on these definitions, most professionals would fall into the third category. My “traditionalist” category does not correspond to his “traditional” category, but is closer to Debbie Parker Wayne’s (Deb’s Delvings in Genealogy) “traditional, but experienced” category - “researchers [who] haven't embraced technology and advancements in research methodology, but they spend much more time on genealogical research than ‘traditional’ researchers and many of them hold positions of authority in the genealogical community.”

Moreover, there is no open warfare, but rather an occasional hostility or contempt that pops up in places like mailing lists for professionals and aspiring professionals. And the main casualties seem to be genealogy societies - a number of bloggers have mentioned not joining them, quitting them, and having some unpleasant or unsatisfactory experiences with them. According to a comment posted by Kerry Scott (Clue Wagon) on Randy’s article, “Societies are missing most of the population of genealogists. They're catering to a minority, and that's going to have to change.” (Not the case in my local genealogy society, but it could very well be the exception to the rule.) According to some, much of the fault for this can be laid at the feet of the Citation Police and their ilk.

Kerry made some pointed observations on this subject in the series of articles she wrote right after RootsTech: “Warning: Contents May Have Shifted During Flight,” “What Was Different About Roots Tech,” and “Source Citations in Genealogy: Church or Cult?” (another eloquent post on this subject was written by Amy at Amy’s Genealogy, etc. Blog: “I Don’t Care Where You Put the Comma”).

In the first article, Kerry mentions some aspects of genealogy that reminds her of her “old life in HR (and not in a good way)”: “There’s the idea that anyone who doesn’t put the semicolon in the right spot on their citation is probably an idiot. There’s the idea that it’s important to impress people inside your profession, and maybe less important to impress the people who actually hire you.”

Yeah, this reminded me of my old life in academia. People Trying to Impress Other People Just Like Them. (And you really do need to check out all of the comments on her articles - particularly the one by ESM in which she has a priceless quote from “a recent college graduate in history” - you just can’t make stuff like this up!). But what was really important in Kerry’s articles were her perceptive responses to positive changes that are taking place.

One area where I am not in total agreement is on the NGS and FGS conferences. I enjoyed FGS in Knoxville last year and am looking forward to NGS in Charleston. They could definitely adopt some of the new ways of doing things seen at RootsTech, but - in a genealogical democracy - there is still room for presentations with a scholarly focus. Yes, they will probably continue to have smaller attendance than RootsTech, but academic-geek will always have a smaller audience than technogeek, and not every event needs to be a rock concert.

In “The Week My Outlook on Genealogy Changed: RootsTech 2011” at Pollyblog, Polly Fitzgerald Kimmitt voices “the counterintuitive realization that technology will bring us closer” together, but emphasizes that “It’s not about the gadgets.” She and many of the others reporting on the conference expressed the desire to be able to work more closely with their colleagues in spite of being separated by distance. They want to share their enthusiasm, excitement, and joy in doing genealogy with others, including newbies, whom they don’t want to scare off/put off by immediately throwing a gob of ├╝ber-scholarly jargon at them (“I won’t talk about ESM until the third date.”). This describes to a considerable extent what I think of when I think of a genealogical democracy: people of all levels of expertise and involvement sharing what they have and what they know.

Finally, at The TechnoGenealogist, Anne Roach had a number of interesting observations in her post “Programmers and Genealogists: Just How Different Are We?” My favorite was “Expecting everyone who wants to do genealogy to become a professional genealogist is equivalent to expecting everyone who wants to use a computer program to learn how to program - as in code (real code, by the way; not html, folks).”

So true! And this gets to the point that I would like to make about genealogical democracy: How to give people of all of the categories a place at the table. Amateurs do and will have a real role in genealogy, not just as onlookers, but as people who can make significant contributions: to knowledge, to methods and technology, and to other areas touched by genealogy, such as preservation efforts and the saving of our endangered repositories. This is where that gentle and welcoming approach to newbies comes in. Eventually and tactfully, we need to let them know that there is a certain learning curve, but that it is not one that is too steep to climb and can even be fun (in a roller coaster kind of way, of course).

And it’s not just the participation of people like me in genealogy/family research that I want to see acknowledged. I would like to see acknowledgment of the contributions of the type made by many of my relatives: even those who are not into GEDCOMs, proofs, and citations can still contribute as the keepers and sharers of memories, photos, and heirlooms. I have quite a number of first and second cousins who share these things with me, and do so with a generosity that humbles me. In return, they read my family stories and give me feedback - in the early days, it was my breathless e-mails, and now it is the reports and stories in my blog. Some days I feel like Scheherazade.

In this “democratic community” the scholars and professionals will still be our exemplars, and people such as Elizabeth Shown Mills would be the ideal: the ultimate unpretentious professional and scholar.

Of course, there are some caveats. But this post is already too long - those are fodder for another post!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I Stayed Up Late to Listen to GeneaBloggers Blog Talk Radio

And, boy, was it fun!

I have been on mailing lists and am on Facebook an GenealogyWise, but had never participated in any kind of “chat” before. Yes, it was a bit chaotic, but people were actually exchanging information like mad! Perhaps things were especially lively because everyone was talking about (and perhaps some had already participated in?) Donna Pointkouski’s “WDYTYA Drinking Game.”

The call-in part of the show is very enjoyable - it is great to hear the actual voices of people with whom you have corresponded or whom you recognize from the genealogy world. DearMyrtle was a fantastic substitute host, juggling the phone-ins with the chat conversations, and Thomas MacEntee even called in at one point.

There were many different “sub-conversations.” In one of them, Lisa Alzo and I (and a couple of others) were putting out ideas for Linda Robbins for researching her husband’s uncle, Jozef Marion Jurkiewicz.

I missed the first 45 minutes of the show, but during the time I was listening, the number of people connected to chat was in the 60s and 70s.

The URL is This is a great way to socialize with your fellow genealogy bloggers even if you cannot travel to conferences and other events. For those of us in the East, the show is on from 10:00 to 12:00 p.m. on Fridays.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Episode Three of “Who Do You Think You Are?”

(Note to readers not located on the East Coast: There may be spoilers in the post below, but I hope that I have written it so that it does not really give away anything substantial.)

In the previous Friday Newsletter I mentioned that I had really enjoyed the Tim McGraw episode because his background was so much like mine. Tonight’s episode with Rosie O’Donnell was also a treat.

Rosie (and the researchers helping her, of course) went off on a tangent! Been there, done that - many times. This is a wonderful way to show viewers one of things that genealogy really is about. It is not about just us and our direct ancestors, but also about the many people to whom we are related (or otherwise connected, however remotely) who have their own fascinating stories to tell. Anna and Elizabeth Murtagh definitely had one of those stories, as did the child Patrick Murtagh, who apparently died in Ireland. The effort to track down all of our ancestors’ children, even and especially those who died young, is an important part of the search.

“I feel like I’m on a scavenger hunt - at another time, in another country, in another language.” How true!

I also appreciated the explanation of the workhouse system and of the dire straits a family had to be in to qualify for it, as well as Rosie’s honest response to the horror of it: “Now get me the hell out of here.”

While there are certain quibble-worthy aspects of WDYTYA, I think the cumulative effect is a positive and educational one. Many things have to be simplified or glossed over, but not everything is, and when you add it all up, you get an overall feel for the complexity of the events, for the role that chance plays in shaping subsequent events, for how much and how often our ancestors’ lives were touched by tragedy, and for how resilient the human spirit is in overcoming adversity. Yeah, I know these all sound like platitudes, but this is something that you cannot teach or learn in a history class. There is nothing like tracing that tenuous connection back in time to touch history, nothing like standing in the places where your ancestors lived.

Friday Newsletter and Follow News: 18 February 2011

This Week in Genea-Blogging

How can you use Findagrave, let us count the ways

At Blood and Frogs, Philip Tauring shows us through some of the ins and outs of Findagrave in "Using to..."

Another “What she said” post

This time from Denise Olson at Moultrie Creek Gazette: “Why Blogs Matter.”

One of the best portraits of a relative I have ever read

is Susan’s reminiscences of her grandmother Anna at Nolichucky Roots: “Anna’s Story - Memories and Reflections.”

The most devastating stories are told in plain words

At My Ancestor’s Name, Angela Walton-Raji related the heartbreaking story told by her great-great grandmother in the deposition for her Union Soldier’s Widow’s and Mother’s pension in “I Ain’t Seed Them No More.”  Angela is having a great week: at The African-Native American Genealogy Blog, she follows this up with “Following the Paper Trail of Our Ancestors,” in which she relates her experience in finding documents on her ancestors in the Indian Territory (which is a challenging area for research at the very least) and the story that these documents tell.

Good companion pieces to Lisa Swanson Ellam’s post

entitled “Another Google Alert Makes My Jaw Drop” (which is up to Part 4 now; you must read this series!) a while back are two of Marian Pierre-Louis’ posts this week. The first is “An Easy Way to Find Gravestones Online” at The Symbolic Past. Marian walks us through the steps for entering the information for a Google Alert that would bring up this information. The second is over at Roots and Rambles: “How Do You Use Google Alerts?”

An idea whose time has come

Read about Denise Olson’s thoughts on “Is It Time for a Virtual Genealogy Society?” at Moultrie Creek Gazette.

Read about some interesting “mind-mapping" tools

at Tami Glatz’s relatively curious about genealogy in “Approaching Your Genealogy Problems Creatively.” When you need a visual approach to projects and problem-solving, these applications could be just what you are looking for.

Tell us about it!

In “Happiness Is: The Family History Library in Salt Lake City,” Lorine McGinnis Shulze of the Olive Tree Genealogy Blog writes about her recent visit to the Library and provides pictures and a step by step description of accessing, scanning, and saving images from microfilm - very useful information for anyone who has not visited the Library.

Old and new

Check out Valerie Craft’s old/new photograph juxtaposition technique in “Tombstone Tuesday: Looking Into the Past” at Begin with Craft.

How many types?

Randy Seaver has an interesting division of genealogy types in “Three (or more!) Genealogy Worlds?” at Genea-Musings. This has generated a good bit of discussion.

One of the responses to Randy's post is “More ‘Genealogy Worlds’” at Deb’s Delvings in Genealogy, where Debbie Parker Wayne adds a fourth world, “traditional but experienced.”

There have been several posts this week in response to the Roots Tech Conference or very much in tune with some of the issues highlighted by that conference, both by bloggers who attended Roots Tech and those who didn’t. As a matter of fact, I hope to post some reflections on these issues, if my so-called “real life” doesn’t keep interfering. Some of the notable posts (but not all - there were many!):

Kerry Scott’s “Warning: Contents May Have Shifted During Flight” and “What Was Different About RootsTech?” at Clue Wagon.

Marian Pierre-Louis’ “What Genealogists Want! Conference Organizers Take Note” at Roots and Rambles.

Amy Coffin’s “Why RootsTech is the Bees Knees” at We Tree Genealogy Blog.

Angela Walton Raji’s “Future Genealogy Conferences” at My Ancestor’s Name.

And, one of the most interesting at all, because it presented some suggestions for improvement, was Dear Myrtle’s “RootsTech 2011: My Report to Management” at Dear Myrtle’s Genealogy Blog.

Also check out Thomas MacEntee’s “Open Thread Thursay - The Rootstech Effect” at Genea-Bloggers for a list of posts.

For more suggested blog reading ...

Check out "Follow Friday: Around the Blogosphere" at Susan Petersen's Long Lost and "Best of the Genea-Blogs" at Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings.

Happy Blogoversary to Nick Gombash at Nick Gombash’s Genealogy Blog!

Happy First Blogoversary to Donna Jane at Hanging from the Family Tree!

Happy Second Blogoversary to Robin at Where I Come From!

Happy First Blogoversary to Deborah Andrew at The Sum of All My Research!

Happy Fourth Blogoversary to Granny Pam at Granny’s Genealogy!

Happy First Blogoversary to Lisa Swanson Ellam at The Faces of My Family!

Happy First Blogoversary to Elizabeth at Genealogy Geek!

Happy Blogoversary to Consanguinity!

This week I started following these blogs:

A Few Nuts from the Tree

Barking Up Our Family Tree

Curbow-Montoya Family

For All My Relations

Journey to Recite the Kaddish in Uzlyany

Kentucky Genealogy

Le Maison Duchamp

Our Creative Souls

Search for Family

The Ginger Jewish Genealogist

Amy’s Genealogy, etc. Blog

My Research Week

Quiet but steady. Hope to use the long weekend for research and writing.

I really enjoyed last week's "Who Do You Think You Are?" Tim McGraw's background - the kinds of ancestors he had, where they lived, and their experiences - was the closest to my ancestors of any of the celebrities featured so far. And I am familiar with that "Aw, shucks" reserve - I think the discoveries really made an impression on him.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Week 7 of 52: Toys

Week 7: Toys:  What was your favorite childhood toy? Is it still being made in some form today?

This subject has been covered in some previous Memory Monday posts:

Memory Monday: Favorite Toys

Memory Monday: My Playhouse

Memory Monday: Lost Things

But of all these things, what was my favorite toy?

I think the answer can be found in my earliest memory (from “Memory Monday: Running Away”):

“I remember when we lived in our house in Cabazon, California (talk about desolate…) that I crawled out of my crib one day. I must have managed to do it without cracking my skull open. If my memory does not deceive me, the incentive was to get to my fluffy new robe, which was white and had a pocket into which I could slip the first present I ever remember getting – a box of eight Crayola crayons. New, pointy crayons with that new crayon smell.”

I think a new box of Crayola crayons probably tops all of the dolls and gadgets. They smell good, they look good, and there is no limit to the possibilities of what you can create with them.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ancestor Approved - For Sassy Jane and Jenny L.

During the past few weeks I have received the Ancestor Approved award from Sassy Jane at Sassy Jane Genealogy and Jenny Lanctot at Are My Roots Showing?

I have previously received the award, passed it on, and written the “surprised, enlightened, and humbled” post (the image has now been retired from the main page to my “Woo-Hoo Wall” above); you can read my list here. Greedy creature that I am, I appreciate and adore receiving awards from my fellow genealogy bloggers and I do like to “sing for my supper,” so my expression of gratitude will be:

Top Ten Comfort Items I Like to Have When I Am Researching at Home

1. A cat on my lap. Once the little stinkers settle down, they are a warming and soothing presence, and I am less inclined to pop up from my seat to do various household chores that might otherwise distract me from my work.

2. A cup of coffee to keep me alert. Yeah, I drink too much coffee. That’s why I have Emergency Coffee.

3. Whatever random piece of chocolate from the previous Christmas I have stashed away in the recesses of the shelves next to my desk - Terry’s Chocolate Oranges are good. Okay, so that’s extra caffeine. You can’t have too much caffeine when you are hot on the trail.

4. My iTunes on full blast. Cajun music, Hardanger fiddles, Hungarian recruiting songs, and Bulgarian women’s choirs are incredibly inspiring.

5. My USB Hubman (see “What I Do”). He lets me upload pictures, transfer files, and all sorts of other stuff without having to mess around on the scary back part of my iMac box. And I can vent to him when one of my ancestors is ticking me off.

6. My Saint John of Rila icon that hangs over my desk. When things aren’t going well and I can’t find what I need, a saint’s prayers could always be helpful.

7. My green tension-relieving rubber squeezy thingy shaped like a hand-grenade. Self-explanatory.

8. 3x5 cards. I don’t generally use them in my research, but they make me feel like I’m organized and on top of things.

9. A Beenie Baby/lovey to throw to get #1 to leave my lap - gotta get up some time.

10. Photos of my family. For inspiration.

Thank you, SJ and Jenny - you inspire me!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Newsletter and Follow News: 11 February 2011

This Week in Genea-Blogging

The Carnival’s in town!

At Creative Gene! Check it out: “Carnival of Genealogy, 102nd Edition.”

A well-deserved tribute

Genealogy bloggers often write tributes, but they are usually to family members, alive or deceased. Paula Stuart-Warren of Paula’s Genealogical Eclectica has written a well-deserved tribute to someone who makes a great contribution to the genealogy community - Cyndi Howells of Cyndi’s List - in “Cyndi’s List - what would I do without it?”

Uh-oh, a crack in the binding

T.K. reports with regret that all is not seamless, er, perfect in Blurb’s book production process or in her dealings with Blurb in “Blurb Rant: I tried, and I tried, but...” at Before my Time. She follows that up by letting us in on her deliberations: “Blurb Anyway?” and then with “Yet Another Post on Making Books!” wherein she weighs the options for pricing the book she is working on right now.

The rest of the story...

There is more to story of David Carll and research on his story that happened before Who Do You Think You Are? Read about it in “Descendants Search for Ancestor David Carll” at Professor Dru’s Let Freedom Ring.

What we really want for Christmas

The Ancestor Search blog provides some suggestions on “Ways to Find Photos of Your Ancestors” - these are some of the “prizes” that top our “Most Wanted” lists.

If only they had known what we can know...

I enjoyed doing some appropriate wintertime reading over at Personal Past Meditations, as Daniel Hubbard related “A Tale of Three Blizzards.” He captures precisely some of the reasons that it is so difficult for us to imagine how different our ancestors’ lives were from ours and uses the subject of our current capabilities for foreknowledge of major weather events for illustration.

So much to do, so little time

Polly Kimmitt has a nice description of “What It’s Like to Research at the Family History Library?” as well as tips for how to prepare for a research trip and links to other articles on the same subject at Pollyblog.

Kerry Scott has said another one of those things ...

that makes me want to say “What she said!” - “Why It Doesn’t Matter Which Genealogy Software You Use” at Clue Wagon.

A great tip for Oklahoma researchers

is at Heather Kuhn Roelker’s Leaves for Trees: “Tuesday’s Tip: Oklahoma Land Rush documents.” If you have an ancestor you suspect to have been in one of Oklahoma land rushes, she outlines how you can get more information.

Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman clears up some misconceptions

about Irish records at On a Flesh and Bone Foundation in “Be careful out there; there’s misinformation afoot.”

There are some good tips on historical newspapers

at Philip Trauring’s Blood and Frogs in “Genealogy Basics: Historical Newspapers.”

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

read What’s Past Is Prologue! In “Better Late Than Never,” Donna Pointkouski recounts the response she received from the USCIS Historical Research Branch to her post from last week, “Not Worth the Wait.” Way to go, Donna!

Why we should all use Google Alerts

See what Lisa Swanson Ellam found through Google Alerts in “Another Google Alert Makes My Jaw Drop - Part 1” at The Faces of My Family.

Elizabeth Shown Mills

Hah! Admit it, just her name is enough to get your attention. Thomas Macentee at GeneaBloggers has a wonderful e-mail interview with her: “Interview - Elizabeth Shown Mills.”

Other excellent interviews this week:

Leslie Albrecht Huber has “A Conversation with Pamela Boyer Sayre” at The Journey Takers Blog.

Cynthia Shenette at Heritage Zen interviews Colleen Fitzpatrick in “Presenter Interview: Colleen Fitzpatrick, Forensic Genealogist.”

Marian Pierre-Louis interviews Leslie Albrecht Huber at Roots and Rambles - “An Interview with Leslie Albrecht Huber, Author of the Journey Takers.”

For further suggested blog reading,

check out Randy Seaver’s “Best of the Genea-Blogs” at Genea-Musings and Susan Petersen’s “Follow Friday: Around the Blogosphere” at Long Lost

Happy First Blogoversary to Teresa Klaiber at Eastern Kentucky Genealogy!

Happy Eighth Blogoversary to Lorine McGinnis Shulze at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog!

Happy Second Blogoversary to Taneya Koonce at Taneya’s Genealogy Blog!

This week I started following these blogs:

Bayern Roots

Deal With Your Room

Family Cherished

Family Folklore Blog

Genealogy Ink

GeneaBloggers Radio

The Gerke Family Tree

Growing Your Family History

Musings of a Genealogy Nut

Peg’s and MJ’s Genealogy Exchange

Prince William County Genealogy

Searchin’ for Kinfolk

Stone Gardens

Identifinders’ Blog

She Finds Graves

My Research Week

I finally signed up for NGS. One lecture I MUST go to is Problem-Solving in the Carolina Backcountry by Elizabeth Shown Mills. My dream lecturer and dream presenter. Oh wow.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Memory Monday: TV and Radio

The prompt for Week 6 of “52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History” is: What was your favorite radio or television show from your childhood? What was the program about and who was in it?

Television shows are a subject that I have covered before, mostly in the two posts below:

Memory Monday: Television

Memory Monday: Scary Movies

This only scratches the surface of the TV watching we did, however. I could go on and list many other shows we watched and what they meant to me - in my pre-reading days in particular, these shows were the main fodder for my imaginative life. They most likely shaped many of my tastes in music, literature, and other arts. It was a good thing, then, that lots of cartoons had classical music, that there were lots of old British shows based on books (Scarlet Pimpernel, anyone?), and there was a lot of good old-fashioned adventure - the past (mainly the old West) and the future were my mental playgrounds. I never did buy into that “Vast Wasteland” stuff.

However, the prompt for this week’s 52 Weeks theme also mentions radio. And radio has also played something of a role in my life.

I remember two radio stations from our days in San Bernardino, California: KFXM and KMEN. These radio stations were, of course, my brother’s choice in listening (see “Memory Monday: My Brother’s Music”), but I was quite happy to listen along. They are the stations where we first heard the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones (and all the rest of the British Invasion). I remember KFXM as being the older, established popular music station, and the DJs had that funny, nasal sing-song delivery that was supposed to sound smooth. The KMEN were the new guys in town, and they brought goofiness and promotions such as treasure hunts into the mix.

During my junior high-school days, when my family was moving around a lot, one of the cities we lived in was Palo Alto, California, which happened to be in range of some interesting radio stations. I had a small portable AM radio (it was 1960s avocado green, as I recall), and at night when I could not sleep, I would see what programs I could tune into. One of my unexpected favorites was a show that featured old radio comedy programs from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. One that I remember in particular was the "Battling Bickersons" with Don Ameche and Frances Langford. These shows were a revelation to me. I was familiar with all kinds of TV comedy, but on radio you couldn’t really do physical schtick. Everything was in the dialog and the voices of the performers, though sound effects did sometimes also play an important part. This was part of the beginning of my education in the fact that not everything that was intelligent, sophisticated, and witty began with my own generation. We did not invent everything; in fact, we did some pretty heavy borrowing from previous generations, up to and including our parents’ generation.

The next phase in my radio education took place in Boston, Massachusetts - the “Hub of the Universe.” As in, “Live from Boston, Massachusetts, THE HUB OF THE UNIVERSE: It’s WCRB Saturday Night!” - followed by the opening peals of Fucik’s Entry of the Gladiators. This would be followed by Richard L. Kaye’s voice, outlining the lineup for the night, which might include any or all of the following: Tom Lehrer, Victor Borge, Spike Milligan, Allan Sherman, Beyond the Fringe, and many more delectable specialty acts and classic routines. I think I remember music piped in from Pipe Organ Pizza as well. Richard L. Kaye has been called a “connoisseur of music-based humor” (see John Bishop’s article in the Diapason) and truer words were never spoken. WCRB Saturday Night was every bit as much of an education as graduate school was for me. It introduced me to a world that I had actually glimpsed before - my college friends had been big Lehrer fans, for instance, and I was already well on my way to becoming the rabid Danny Kaye fan that I am today. But to listen to this show was to join a veritable banquet of wit and culture - nothing snobby, snooty, or smarty-pants about it. It was a combination of silliness and keen observation, all packed into the late night hours.

I love TV and movies, and radio has not occupied nearly as much time in my life, but I have to say - it has provided some of the best hours of pure fun and stimulation for the imagination I have ever experienced.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Friday Newsletter and Follow News: 4 February 2011

This Week in Genea-Blogging

Remembering the past

We all remember certain historical events in our lives, especially those that evoked a strong emotional response. When we actually have a personal connection or were involved somehow in the event, our emotional connection is even stronger. Susan Petersen has written a moving post about her memories of and connection to the Challenger space shuttle disaster at Long Lost in “Space Shuttle Challenger - My Personal Disaster.”

Book or blog?

T. K. at Before My Time gives us a treat in “Don’t ya just hate when that happens?” - a consideration of how a genealogy blog and genealogy book may supplement one another but do not take the place of the other, and an illustration of how her blog is being used to supplement a book - she includes scans and transcriptions of a family letter that did not make it into her recent book.

Must get this...

Just what I need for handling the images I use on my blog! In “Blog Tools: ImageWell,” Denise Olson at Moultrie Creek Gazette describes this tool that bloggers with Macs can use for handling the images in our blogs.

Hmmm, this gets more and more interesting...

At The Family Curator, Denise Levenick reports on her progress in keeping her genealogy resolutions using the buddy system with Amy Coffin of We Tree in “January Update on 2011 Genealogy Resolutions with Blogging Buddy, Amy Coffin.” And do I see a competition developing between them and Sheri Fenley (The Educated Genealogist) and Cheryl Palmer (Heritage Happens)?

Vertical files, what vertical files?

Cynthia Shenette at Heritage Zen reminds us to check the vertical files at libraries in “Does Your Public Library Have a Vertical File? - Tuesday’s Tip.” I would add that a number of genealogy and local history societies also keep vertical files.

Roots in the Census

Taneya of Taneya’s Genealogy Blog has done some interesting research on the people featured in the book and miniseries Roots - see what she has found in “The Husband Knows.”

If you’re not part of the solution ...

Last week I highlighted a post by a person who had reexamined some of her research and admitted that it might contain a mistake; this week a blogger admits she might have been a bit hasty in her criticisms of the local genealogy society and that she decided to get involved in helping the society to change where necessary: Lisa Swanson Ellam of The Faces of My Family says “I Stand Corrected.”

Which backup is the best bet?

If you are trying to decide among various services for offsite backup of your genealogy files, check out “Mozy drops unlimited backups new pricing introduced” at to see a comparison of some of the main backup services.

More on Lulu

At Olive Tree Genealogy Blog, Lorine McGinnis Shulze describes her experience in creating a book of family photos using - how she produced the book and her assessment of the results - in "Publishing a Photo Book on Lulu."

“Pic” of the week:

Check at the bottom of Carol’s Reflections from the Fence. Then read about how it was done in "THE Trip, How to Make a 420 Foot Circle of Montanas."

For more suggested blog reading ...

Check out “Best of the Genea-Blogs” at Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings and “Follow Friday: Around the Blogosphere” at Susan Petersen’s Long Lost

Happy First Blogoversary to Jenn at Roots and Stones!

Happy First Blogoversary to The Scottish Genealogist!

Happy First Blogoversary to Anglers Rest!

Happy Second Blogoversary to Amanda at A Tale of Two Ancestors!

This week I started following these blogs:

World War II London Blitz Diary

A Worthington Weblog

Beldin Family Alliances: From Then Til Now

Climbing the Genealogy Tree

Families of Old Hawaii

Family History

Finding the Feitner Family

Hearts Turned

Heritage Heart

Kentucky Kinfolk

My Journey Back

My Savage Family

Ontario Genealogist

Prairie Bluestem

Saint Cross Upheaval

Tipton Tales and Trails

Grave Encounters

Anglers Rest

My Research Week

All the girls were farm laborers, working out

This week I was working with a 1930 census showing a family consisting of a widowed mother, no occupation, and two teenaged girls, occupation - Farm laborers, working out. I have seen families where some of the teenaged girls were listed as farm laborers, but it for some reason it seemed strange to see this in a family consisting of just the widowed mother and her daughters.

Ancestry on iPad!

There is now an Ancestry app for iPad! Yeah! (Not that I have an iPad, yet, but still, I’m looking ahead.)

Comments and contacts

In response to Amy Coffin’s “Comments” Post at We Tree, I have changed commenting (removed word verification) and added more direct instructions on contacting me. So far, so good with the comments.

Two strikes

Our genealogy society meeting was canceled due to bad weather last week and I had to pull out of the DAR Library tour next week due to work obligations.  Waaah....