29 May 2009

Genealogy Lessons Learned

The blog prompt from the world of Geneabloggers is "Week #21: Lessons learned. Fess up to your research mistakes so others can learn from them." Where do I begin? Seriously, I have done many things in genealogy the "correct" way. I had some excellent teachers early on in the dark ages of the 1980s. Did I listen to them all and do all that they recommended? Well, maybe not.

I am now someone who teaches other family historians through my writing, lecturing, and consulting. Do I always listen to my own advice. The honest truth? No. But, I mean well.

Here are a few of my lessons learned

1. Try to file paper away more frequently rather than let it pile up. The current view of my office stacks of paper is not for public viewing.

2. Do all years of city directories. I missed a couple years in the mid 1890s and years later kicked myself when I did check and found that several of the missing brothers of my great grandmother were listed at the same address as her.

3. I did not always copy the title page from a book when I made copies from the inner pages. That has led me back to libraries to get that info.

4. When you estimate the time needed at a courthouse or archive, double it. Or maybe triple it. I thought I was so smart I could get things accomplished faster that those who said that. I can't make the clerk retrieve a volume of records any faster than anyone else. Standing in line at a copier is slow for me, too.

5. I figured I had plenty of time to interview certain relatives. Turns out I did not. I have a cassette tape recorder and a digital recorder. Now it's too late for that older generation.

That's enough fessing up for one day.

"Small towns need to dust off websites"

Today's [Minneapolis] StarTribune.com carried an interesting column "Small Towns Need to Dust off Websites" by James Lileks. His comments about towns and websites hit home with me. I am sure that it will have great meaning for vacationers, genealogists, and others looking for information on a specific place. When I travel, I often look for a website of a place I am planning to work in or just stay the night in a motel. So often the info online is meager to say the least.

James is a unique writer -- I can just see him standing in his backyard or sitting at the dinner table when a column idea and the associated humor and commentary pop into his mind. His idea made me remember trying to find info online about the small towns where two of my adult children and their families were living.

A research trip to a new place always gets me planning. Is there a restaurant, park, any shopping, parking, and what does the place look like? Whether it is an outlying town or the county seat, I love to "see" what it looks like before my visit. James' emphasis on the history of the towns is right up my alley. Many libraries in these places in Minnesota and elsewhere have local history rooms that could provide much of the historical detail for such a website. A county history might have some neat details on the early history of the town.

James wrote "That's where the Minnesota Hamlet Website Project would come in. Sending unemployed Web designers around the state would be the modern equivalent of those WPA Guides the government used to sop up all the loose writing talent sitting around in the '30s. If they were put to good use, the idea went, they wouldn't sit around hungry and angry, writing rabble-rousing plays about woebegone Bolshevists. Send them around the country, the government decided, and have them do something nice and useful."

WPA [Work Projects Adminstation/Works Progress Administration] -- was he writing for me? Many of my readers know my passion for the records, abstracts, indexes, clippings, inventories, guides and other material created under the auspices of the WPA. The Historic Records Survey part created much that continues to assist family and town historians today. My lectures and articles on the WPA era are high on the list of requests.

I still believe that some sort of WPA system could help out-of-work Americans put food on the table for their family or pay the rent. Libraries and historical societies everywhere have less budget and staff to work with. Just think of all the tasks a WPA type worker could accomplish. Small town, county, and city websites would be wonderful projects also.

Anyone listening? Yes, the WPA and other parts of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal system was not perfect but it did produce a lot of good.

27 May 2009

Support your local genealogical society and one other

Have you given some thought to all those other genealogists who walk through the cemetery and transcribe the info found on the tombstones? How about those who edit genealogy newsletters and quarterly journals? Who teaches classes in the area where you live? I'll bet the local genealogical society plays a large part in all of these.

What can you do to lend a hand to a genealogical society? What projects does your society have in the works. Have you been reading a really good guidebook and might be able to write a short article about its usefulness? Do you belong to your local society? Your local society may be a county or state society one. At any rate, be sure to join it And then join one in an ancestral area. Contribute to both. Can't make it to that other locality? Offer to do some typing, indexing, proofreading. Have the back issues of the quarterly publication been indexed -- if not, offer to do that so both your and others may benefit.

What does all this connecting with genealogical societies do for you? You may gain access to special databases, learn about area experts, find an index to an ancestral cemetery, and maybe even find a place to donate some funds.

Becoming a member and reading the publications and perusing the website could help you expand your genealogical knowledge, find others to network with, learn about the massive number of recommended (and a few not-so-hot) genealogical guidebooks, keep up-to-date on vital records legislation, gain you entry to some libraries and courthouses, plan your continuing genealogical education, and find out that someone else was researching one of your ancestral lines.

It really is quite simple. Join a genealogical society. That’s it. If you are already a faithful member of one or more, join a new one. Some even accept online credit card payments for memberships.

Multiple benefits

How many do you belong to? None? Well, let me tell you what you are missing. Or are you a member of only those in ancestral areas and not where you live? Continue reading for some reasons why membership is beneficial.

• In some localities you need a membership card to gain entry to a historical society, archive, town hall, or courthouse.

• Info in the society’s library or publications may not appear anywhere online. Or if online maybe only accessed by members.

• Some have the capability for online discussions and queries – but only for members.

• Local society events are the place to find new acquaintances that might be willing to car pool to a seminar a distance away, to the state archives, or to a major genealogy library.

• If you don’t drive, you may find someone that travels monthly to research at a large library and has room in the car for you to tag along.

• You would miss newsletters and flyers that tell about upcoming educational events.

• The society’s publication may contain articles from the local experts that share news about the updating of the newspaper index at the local library, of the volunteer efforts to transcribe all the local cemetery tombstones for an upcoming publication, or of the recent donation to the local history room of the 50 years of material collected by a local genealogist.

• Lending of lecture audiotapes, books, and periodicals may be for members only.

• You might find a fellow member that might lend you their entire bookshelf of back issues of a genealogical or historical society publication.

• Stuck on a genealogical software problem? A fellow member might be available to teach you the finer points of that software.

Old Queries
The publications of societies are often a gold mine. Even the queries published ten, thirty, or 60 years ago may help solve one of your genealogical situations. That person may no longer be interested in genealogy (although, I cannot fathom that!), may have died, may be ill, not have a computer, or for some other reason has not posted family information or queries online. This older periodical may be the only place you find some long sought after clues. (If your research shows that this long-time genealogist is deceased you may be able to find current relatives through an obituary or probate file.)

Take the step
Are you ready to consider joining or rejoining if it has been a while? Check for brochures at your area historical and genealogical libraries, and check online for names of societies at Society Hall , which is a joint effort of Ancestry.com and the Federation of Genealogical Societies.

Check out their websites
One way to find out more is to see if the society has a website. Society Hall is one place to find links. You might also try typing in the name of a society in a search engine or simply type in some key words such as: genealogical society Smithtown.

While you are joining, please consider some volunteer time for the society. It can be in your local area as an on-site volunteer. If you live distant from one of your favorite societies maybe you could offer other services as mentioned above. They may need someone to do data entry of their old typewritten cemetery transcriptions, to write articles, or index a newspaper that is on microfilm. Participate further by donating genealogical books, CDs, and periodicals you no longer need. If the society has a library, your materials may be needed in their library. If they are duplicates of what is already in the library, or the society has no library, selling the donated materials helps with the society budget. Thirdly, why not add a society or two to your list of charitable organizations to which you donate funds? Almost all societies have very limited budget and would appreciate some extra funds for helping to share information and education.

21 May 2009

82 years ago today -- Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. Today's news is not so good.

82 years ago. This is the anniversary of the day Minnesota's own Charles A. Lindbergh became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. May 21, 1927 was the date he flew the "Spirit of St. Louis" from New York to Paris. It's easy to learn more about the man and his flight on a variety of websites. Type in his name or the plane's name into your favorite search engine and plan on a lot of interesting reading.

His childhood home and a visitors center are a historic site run by the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS). The home has original family furnishings.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the current economic situation may be forcing the Minnesota Historical Society to close the historic site of "Lindy's" childhood home in Little Falls, Minnesota.

MHS like so many other historical organizations, archives, museums, and libraries is in the midst of humongous funding and budget cutbacks. It's similar to what is happening with households, businesses, governments, and other organizations today. Staff, public hours, collecting and processing artifacts and manuscripts, cataloging, publishing, and other services are being cut dramatically. The Lindbergh site is on a preliminary list of places MHS maybe forced to close. Legislatures and governors across the U.S. are still in the throes of budget talks and not all value history. Our history both locally, statewide, and nationally is in dire straits.

Our historical memory is threatened at so many levels. Those involved in preserving history are constantly being put out of work, historical society staff trips around a state to pick up records in need of preservation and proper storage are being canceled, families are selling off beloved heirlooms in order to put food on the table, travel to research our family histories has been put on the back shelf, research and museum hours at repositories have been slashed dramatically and some have been closed entirely.

The immediate future is not looking up. Don't forget to let your legislators at the state and federal level know that history is fading away and if it is not saved, preserved properly, or kept within reach, it may not be retrievable.

20 May 2009

Six weeks now left to save $50.00 on the FGS Conference price

We have just six weeks left to save $50.00 on the FGS/AGS Genealogy Conference!

Save $50.00. Sounds like a deal. The Federation of Genealogical Societies and Arkansas Genealogical Society invite you to four full days of genealogical education (and fun) surrounded by fellow genealogists, historians, librarians, archivists, editors, authors, and others who speak genealogy. Beautiful Little Rock, Arkansas is the site of the 2009 Conference “Passages through Time.”

How do you save $50.00? Register by July 1, 2009 and save $50.00 off the full conference registration cost. That is a significant savings, but to take advantage of this make your online reservation before the end of July 1st or make sure your regular mail registration is postmarked on or before July 1st. Of course, you may register after that, but saving $50.00 is mighty tempting.

• View the extensive conference program at www.FGSConference.org. It features many well-known specialists in genealogy, history, archives, and libraries along with lots of new faces and many lectures you have never heard before. There is something for every level of family historian. Learn about techniques, databases, libraries, archives, and maps that will help your search. Several tracks on Wednesday are geared toward those involved in running genealogical societies. Librarians and professional genealogists will find lectures dedicated to them.

• Use that $50.00 savings in the Exhibit Hall where you’ll find row after row of genealogical vendors, societies, software, memberships, magazines, databases, newsletters, books, maps . . .

• Check the conference blog (a online newsletter) for conference and locality news, updates, hotels, local transportation, expanded vendor, speaker and lecture info, advertising opportunities for businesses, individuals and societies, special events, FAQs and so much more. www.FGSConferenceBlog.org

• The FGS Conference has gone green. Watch the blog for details.

• Join your fellow genealogists for a night at the ballpark complete with a baseball game, lots of food, and door prizes. The Arkansas Travelers team is a Texas League AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

• Arrive on Tuesday, September 1st, pick up your registration packet anytime after 2:00 and join us for a free Ice Cream Social from 3:00-5:00 for registrants only. A couple of workshops that day make it a 4.25 day conference!

18 May 2009

Louisiana Slave Records, 1719-1820

One of the blogs I regularly read is the "Ancestry Insider" which is written by "a person" who is currently a FamilySearch employee and formerly worked for Ancestry.com. The Insider continues to cover both FamilySearch and Ancestry.com. The writing is entertaining educational, and truthful. Successes, problems, neat features, corrections, and future plans for both sites are talked about.

A posting today discusses Ancestry.com’s version of the “Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1719-1820” database, which Ancestry lists as “Louisiana Slave Records, 1719-1820.”

"In 1984, a professor at Rutgers University stumbled upon a trove of historic data in a courthouse in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. Over the next 15 years, Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, a noted New Orleans writer and historian, painstakingly uncovered the background of 100,000 slaves who were brought to Louisiana in the 18th and 19th centuries making fortunes for their owners.

Poring through documents from all over Louisiana, as well as archives in France, Spain and Texas, Dr. Hall designed and created a database into which she recorded and calculated the information she obtained from these documents about African slave names, genders, ages, occupations, illnesses, family relationships, ethnicity, places of origin, prices paid by slave owners, and slaves' testimony and emancipations. . . ."

Check out the Ancestry Insider for the rest of the discussion and some previous problems with it on Ancestry.com, changes made by Ancestry, and comments from Dr. Hall herself. The Insider will have a later post reviewing the current Ancestry.com version of Dr. Hall's compilation.

17 May 2009

David E. Rencher named Chief Genealogical Officer of FamilySearch

I can say I knew him when! A long-time friend, David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FUGA, FIGRS, has been named the Chief Genealogical Officer of FamilySearch. David is well-known in genealogy circles worldwide, yet he remains "one of us."

David is a former President of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and is a dear friend to many in the genealogy world. It was nice to be able to congratulate him in person at the NGS Conference in Raleigh last week.

David will coordinate FamilySearch's activities and presence in the genealogy community and will act as a liaison to key industry communities and associations worldwide. He will also explore third-party affiliation opportunities and related marketing initiatives for FamilySearch.

Rencher is both an Accredited Genealogist and a Certified Genealogist. He holds a BA in Family and Local History from Brigham Young University. He served as president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) from 1997 to 2000 and the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) from 1993 to 1995. He is a Fellow of the UGA and the Irish Genealogical Research Society, London. David is a former Director of the Family History Library. He is currently serving as the chair of the joint Federation of Genealogical Societies and National Genealogical Society committee for Record Preservation and Access and serves as a director for the National Institute of Genealogical Research Alumni Association (NIGRAA). He will continue to serve as the vice president of the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) and the director of the Planning and Coordination Division of FamilySearch.

Many genealogists appreciate his involvement to ensure that patrons of family history centers had more timely delivery of microfilm, and he has extended microfilm circulation to public libraries. He initiated the book-scanning program for the Family History Library collection, and helped produce the automated indexes for the Social Security Death records, the 1880 U.S. Census, the 1881 British Census, and the military casualty files for Korea and Vietnam.

As if all this isn't enough, David's conference presentations are excellent. He is one of the speakers at the September 2009 Federation of Genealogical Society's Genealogy Conference.

15 May 2009

Hello from the NGS Conference in Raleigh

Genealogists everywhere you turn. This is a good NGS Conference. Registrants and vendors seem pleased and the meals at the one banquet and two luncheons I attended have been great. I have seen people from my genealogy family that I haven't seen for years. Lots of hugs to catch up on. I have had opportunities to chat with some of the Facebook friends I had never met. Other genealogy friends I had seen more recently, but it has been a few months. The hugs are prolific, even with relatively new friends. These conferences are events that I crave -- for the knowledge, networking, and the laughter. My credit card seems to crave being used in the Exhibit Hall at several of the vendor booths.

The one banquet I attended was a very friendly, relaxed evening. It was the annual banquet for the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors and one of the awards that evening went to Jay Fonkert, CG, a fellow resident of Minnesota. I was privileged to be the speaker at this dinner.

The FGS/AGS booth in the Exhibit Hall is where the word is spreading about the September 2009 FGS/AGS Conference to be held in Little Rock. It has been a busy booth and people from all over the country have indicated they plan to register for that conference. Quite a few additional vendors have reserved booths in the Exhibit Hall.

06 May 2009

U.S. National Archives Grants "Excellence in Genealogy" Awards.

This press release was just received from the National Archives. Nice to see promotion of things genealogical. This year is the 75th anniversaryt of the Archives.

May 6, 2009

Essay contest celebrates 75th Anniversary of the National Archives

Washington, D.C. . . . Acting Archivist Adrienne C. Thomas has announced the winners of the National Archives "Excellence in Genealogy" Awards. The essay contest was held to celebrate both the 75th anniversary of the National Archives and the Fifth Annual National Archives Genealogy Fair. The awards recognize significant achievements in genealogy research, based on genealogical records from the National Archives. Acting Archivist Adrienne C. Thomas presented these awards at the Fifth Annual Genealogy Fair at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, on April 22, 2009.

First place ($1,000 award) was awarded to Myron McGhee of Decatur, GA, who is a Library and Information Science Masters student at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA. Mr. McGhee's essay, "The Use of National Archives Holdings for Genealogical Research," traces his family's ancestry using Federal, state, and local government records.

Second place ($500 award) was awarded to Stephanie D. Smith of Richtor Park, IL, who is studying intellectual property law at the John Marshall Law School, Chicago, IL. Ms. Smith's essay, "Resounding Resonance: Heeding the Call of My Male Ancestors," details her use of Federal census, military service, and pension records to trace her family history.

The National Archives is known worldwide as a treasure chest of genealogical information. Each year, millions of people use Federal records in the National Archives to search for their family roots. Census schedules, ship passenger arrival lists, citizenship papers, military pension files, land patents, and court records offer detailed evidence to flesh out family histories. Information about National Archives holdings relating to genealogy can be found at http://www.archives.gov/genealogy/. This competition provided an opportunity for students to share their research "treasures" with the public.

04 May 2009

DearMyrtle debuts a new blog

I hope you readers know about DearMyrtle and her genealogical activities. This lady has energy. She has begun a new blog and this is what she had to say about her new venture:

"Well, after much anticipation and behind-the-scenes effort, Ol' Myrt here is pleased to announce the birth of a BRAND NEW Genea-Blog namely the Internet-Genealogy Blog featuring my take on topics presented in Family Chronicle, Internet Genealogy, Discovering Family History and History Magazine. NOT TO WORRY Ol’ Myrt here is not abandoning her own DearMYRTLE’s Genealogy Blog.

You can count on me to continue to opine” here on a regular basis. (Opine is a word Genea-Musing's Randy Seaver used recently to characterize one of Ol' Myrt's posts.)

WHY ANOTHER BLOG? As if six to twelve DearMYRTLE blog entries each week aren’t enough, eh? Seriously though, all sorts of great things are happening in the magazines from Moorshead Publishing, Ltd. and I’ve jumped at the chance to spotlight the work of some mighty talented genealogy experts.

Hmm, does Myrt really jump? You betcha. Just ask my grandchildren.

Visit http://blog.internet-genealogy.com today, and subscribe to the RSS feed using whichever blog reader you are familiar with.The best part is they’ve turned on “comments” so you can freely share your feedback with the other blog readers. I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy family tree climbing!

Myrt :)
DearMYRTLE, Your friend in genealogy.



02 May 2009

Family sleuth knows how to connect the dots to the past

The online edition of the Jordan Independent newspaper in Minnesota has a May 2, 2009 article about a woman whose name is closely associated with the history of the City of Shakopee and Scott County, Minnesota. Betty Dols has done a lot for history and genealogy in Scott County.

I first met Betty Dols many years ago at a Minnesota Genealogical Society meeting. We saw each other over the years and she always had news on some interesting Scott County history or whatever project she was than working on. Genealogists do not often get publicly recognized for what they do in the field of genealogy. In Betty's case many descendents of Scott County ancestors have a lot they should thank her for. You can read the nice article at http://www.jordannews.com/news/activities/family-sleuth-knows-how-connect-dots-past-105

I blogged about one of Betty's projects back in June, 2008.