Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pursuing Genealogy on a Shoestring Budget - Association Memberships

Genealogy is expensive!  There's costs for membership to associations and online databases, travel, research supplies, vital records, mailing, and conferences.  When doing our taxes earlier this year the reality of the expenses hit me.  When I received an email recently from a reader who mentioned how the costs were pinching her lifestyle I decided to investigate ways to save.

I'm open to suggestions so please readers, comments are welcome on ways you've found to be frugal! The focus today is on association dues because one of the benefits of belonging to a group is discounts on related items.

Most likely your local and state association's yearly membership dues are reasonable.  I believe it's important to support your local group, if you can afford to do so.  My local group costs $17.00 annually and provides a weekly email of free classes offered and genealogy tips.  If the cost is prohibitive for you, speak with the group about ways you can take part without paying dues. Volunteering at events, assisting with the newsletter or transcribing local records may all be needed and appreciated more than the amount of the annual dues. It can't hurt to ask!

My state society costs $25.00 per year.  I have access to a monthly free webinar, archived journal and newsletters, and access to a members only forum where I can post questions or ask for help with lookups. There are also occasionally special offers; the current being Fold3 for half price ($49.95). Adding the cost to join the state society with the Fold3 discounted membership is less than the cost for Fold3's regular price, however, Fold3 offers discount premium memberships all the time so that alone would not be a reason to join the state association.  For me, the webinars and journal are well worth the price of $25.00.

Regional societies offer specialization and if you're looking to cut costs this may be where to do it. For example, I do a lot of research in the midwest, mostly Indiana-Ohio-Illinois.  There are many local societies and historical groups in the areas that I mine for records, along with larger groups, such as the Ohio Genealogical Society, which costs $35.00 a year.  I tend to not join these groups because I don't live close enough to benefit from the local events they offer. Before you join, check out the groups website and contact members for their advice on where to find what you're looking for.  I have found the majority are knowledgeable and willing to share their expertise. If there is a record you need that is in their holding, discuss the cost involved for you to receive a copy.  I try to pay it forward by also sending them the information that I have collected at the end of my project.  This allows their resources to grow and benefits the whole group.  If you find that the society won't assist you unless you become a member, contact the local library instead by emailing through the Ask-a-librarian link.  For a quick look up, direction in which to research, or knowledge of where a record may be housed these folks are the best and it's free!

If you research in primarily the New York or New England area you may want to join the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society (NYG&B).  NEGHS is $89.95 annually; I love their quarterly magazine, journal (The Register), weekly e-newsletter and using their library for free.  I find their database powerful, too.  I've attended two of their workshops in the past six months (one in Boston and one in Florida) and weren't all that impressed, though.  They also have an Ask-a-genealogist service that's free but I've never used it so I can't attest to how it works.  I have asked for help in person and found some of the genealogists to be extremely helpful.  I'm trying to limit my book collection so I haven't taken advantage of the 10% discount on what they publish. If you're going to save check your local public library.  Mine has access to the database and the journals so I really don't need to pay for this membership but having the resources at home is worth it for me.

NYG&B is $70.00 per year and offers a quarterly journal (The Register) and review of genealogy news (The New York Researcher), monthly e-newsletter, free FindMyPast US-Canada subscription, access to records in special collections, and discounts on other promotions.  My library does not have copies of The Register but another library in my area does. If my budget needed to shrink, I'd cut this and read the superb journal in the library.

National societies have many benefits of membership.  The National Genealogical Society (NGS) is a bargain at $65.00 a year.  Members receive access to free online courses, a quarterly journal, (NGS Quarterly) and magazine (NGS Magazine), digital monthly newsletter, and access to Bible records, ancestry charts sent in by members, and a marriage and death notice database from early American newspapers. They also offer some partnership discounts.  There are additional fees to attend conferences, however, members receive a discount.  I, personally, would not cut out belonging to this group.

I realize the hobbyist is not going to join the Association of Professional Genealogists as a professional member for $100.00 a year.  A subscriber only member price is available for $45.00 annually and provides a paper copy of the Quarterly journal.  If you're a professional, though, this organization is well worth the cost; the members only listserv alone is an extremely valuable resource, along with professional development webinars, conferences and discounts, such as a 25% off a JSTOR pass, 10% off Legacy Family Tree software and webinars, $20.00 for Rootsmagic and book, and 10% off BYU online certificate in genealogy program tuition.  There's more deals then I listed but subcribers only do not have access to them.  So unless you're going pro, you won't have a cost savings here.

The Board for Certification of Genealogist (BCG) has a free website that is of value to everyone interested in genealogy, whether you want to become certified or not.  The free Springboard blog is informative regarding methodology, links are given to educational programs so you can continue to grow and the skillbuilding and sample work sample areas are important for all levels of genealogists. Most importantly, The Standards are a must and only $6.99 for a Kindle edition.

Notice I haven't mentioned lineage society memberships?  That's because the application fees and membership dues vary.  With all the added costs, such as luncheons, travel to events, and highly encouraged donations for philanthropy, if you're on a budget it's best to avoid them.  Their members may volunteer to help newbies though, so you might want to check that out.  Some groups, like the Daughters of the American Revolution have very helpful information for free online to everyone.

Here's the rounded cost if you've joined all - $407.00.  On a fixed income, my recommendations are paying for your state and NGS membership and definitely purchasing a copy of  The Standards if you don't have one already - that cost is less than $100.00 a year.

Next time we'll explore cutting costs for online databases.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Every Genealogy Record You Need is Online" - I Beg to Differ!

I want to apologize in advance for this long blog.  Possibly, this should be two or three but due to the importance I don’t want to break it up. 

Recently, I've heard and read in a number of places that there has been so many additions of records online that there is no reason to search elsewhere.  I vehemently disagree!  

I wasn't going to blog about this topic because I am so adamant that the statement is wrong I don't even want it out there as a meme but I changed my mind due to the frequency this belief has been expressed lately. Here's where that information popped up just in the past two weeks:
  • A listserv to which I belong 
  • Two emails I received from hobbyists
  • The 18 May 2016 Legacy Family Tree Webinar by James M. Beidler
  • A volunteer genealogist at my local Family History Center
My own experience has shown me that there is nowhere near enough online "that many genealogy scenarios could be taken care of from start to finish using just online sources."  I will agree that there is A LOT of records that are of value to genealogists that have been uploaded from a variety of sources since the beginning days of the internet.  I will also agree that someone COULD build a tree with just online sources. I know that practice is happening frequently but that doesn't make it right.  In fact, I believe it's not advisable to do that for many reasons.  

Before I discuss the reasons to venture offline in your search, I want to identify why there's this mistaken belief.  I've come up with the following:
  • Time - we live in a fast paced world and with all the day to day pressures we face to earn an income it is often not easy for us to visit an archive to check out documents that may or may not be available.  (One of the comments on the listserv was that it was a waste of time to look for an unknown record.)
  • Money - genealogy can get expensive and frugal genealogists don't always have funds available to fly off in search of a record.  (One of the emails I received mentioned a fixed income limiting travel. That is a valid reality so I'll be blogging soon about ways to maximize your income source so you can pursue genealogy.)
  • Advertisements - simply perform a search for "genealogy records" and you'll receive 36,000,000 hits.  The first one that appears advertises a company that boasts "6.1 billion records & newspapers.  Powerful search technology - Start   2 billion profiles - Over 6.3 Billion records - 31 million family trees."  No, that wasn't even for Ancestry or Familysearch. Those large figures give the impression that there is everything in one place so you won't need to look elsewhere. Don't fall for it!
  • Ease of Access - why go in search of the unknown if you've got a known at your fingertips?  Plus, "millions" have already posted your family tree online which you can view and copy.    
Putting that all together the thought process becomes that those billions of records are right there in front of you just waiting for your click! You've spent quite a bit of cash on membership so you want to get your money's worth, which is understandable.  Why reinvent the wheel, just copy from someone else's posted family tree and voila, you're a genealogist.  From my experience that is far from reality and I know others have had similar situations that back up my claim.

Please be aware that I value online genealogy sources and highly recommend them as a starting point. Occasionally, if a client limits my time, I may have to just perform an online search.  I clearly note, though, in the report that further hours need to be spent performing a boots on the ground search.   You can’t be reasonably exhaustive unless you’ve done so. 

I do look at unsourced trees online.  "Look" is the key word in the previous sentence!  Once I look I think about the validity and if it's plausible, I'll add it to my research plan to search for records.  Records is plural - I don't rely on just one source.  

For my Kinship Determination Project (KDP) portfolio submission for certification through the Board for Certification of Genealogists, I selected a family I am not related to but had much data previously found while researching online.  I started out by printing all of the documents and assembled them in folders by generations.

When I began to analyze the info I noticed in the second generation's wife's obituary that she had been a member of a particular church for many years.  Huh?  I had her online baptism record from a different denomination, marriage record (handed down through the family) not specifying a denomination and she was buried (online sources) in the same denomination as where she was baptized.  Did I have a mix up in identity?  Her maiden name was common but her married name was not.  So I got the cemetery record (NOT ONLINE) and then investigated the cemetery; it contained many different denominations and it was where her parents were interred.  That made sense.  I next decided to contact the church mentioned in the obituary where she had been a long time parishioner for any records.  It took me months to get a response.  Finally, I was told by the acting minister that a former parishioner might know where the old records were housed.  Contacted her and she didn't but she had saved on CD old church newsletters from the 1990's which contained transcriptions of a diary (NOT ONLINE) that had been donated to the church about the beginning days of the denomination in that area.  It turns out that the diary writer lived across the road from the family I was writing about and was related by marriage.  The writer mentions the family numerous times throughout and I was able to locate deeds and estate paperwork (NOT ONLINE) that was somehow omitted in the county's online index.  I also better understood why the family relocated to the area.  Making an analysis from simply looking at online sources would have given me the wrong reason for the move. Additionally, all the online sources had a child that died at birth but the diary had recorded specific information as to the cause of the child's death three months after birth.  The cemetery record only listed the year of birth and death so it appears online sources assumed the child had died at birth by just looking at the tombstone picture posted but that wasn't the case.  The numerous online trees are wrong because no one looked for a record that wasn’t digitized.

Nondigitized records enabled me to discover church records in another state that identified previous generations. Those records are NOT ONLINE.  I was also able to find pictures of one of the individuals from a church's commemorative book that was NOT ONLINE.  This led me to find more pictures at a local library that also were NOT ONLINE.

The biggest find, though, was for a related line in a prior generation.  The author mentioned her sibling.  NO ONLINE source ever connected the author (who was not in my tree) to her sister (who was in my tree).  The individual who had children died before mandatory state record requirements so there was no death record that named parents or place of birth..  The NOT ONLINE cemetery record had a maiden last name but not place of birth.  I obtained the diary writer's death certificate and the maiden names did match, a place of birth was noted and it was not in a state I had searched for the sister's record.  After I submit my portfolio, I will happily begin researching that line in a different state.  

I understand how this happened.  Individual 1 had no children so no one ever bothered to obtain her NOT ONLINE death certificate.  Individual 2 had children but no death certificate.  Lots of trees online for both but no one had ever checked for nondigitized records of Family-Associates-Neighbors. 

It is true that the nondigitized information was not quickly accessible.  I did invest a lot of time and a little money, about $8.00 for the death certificate, but the effort was well worth it.  It enabled me to correct wrong online information, connect branches and gain a better understanding of the family dynamics. 

What I overheard at my local Family History Center a few days ago made my blood boil and was the last straw for me regarding this topic!  A newbie couple had come in for help as they had found numerous online trees that connected them to a turn of the 20th century gateway ancestor.  Believing the unsourced trees were accurate, they booked a flight and headed off across the pond to visit the ancestral home, a small village in the Mediterranean. Although they do not speak the mother tongue they met a family with the same surname who shared documents that took the family back centuries.  The problem was that those documents did not match birth and emigration records they found online when they returned from their trip.  I could spend another blog going over all that is wrong here but for time sake, I’m just going to mention the comment made by the volunteer genealogist – something to the effect that the online unsourced birth date must be accurate because it had a day, month and year.  Huh?!  Finally, another volunteer recommended that the newbies contact the posters and ask where the date came from.  Not surprisingly, they had and no one responded. None of the volunteers offered to the newbies that perhaps the same surname people they had met and the online posters were not of their line nor that people post wrong information all the time. 

What I wanted to hear was “Take that birth info out of your tree until you can prove it.”  Or how about making recommendations to newbies about where they can find additional information, like church records, emigration, naturalization, census, land, probate, etc. and show them how to analyse what they discovered.  If that was too overwhelming then refer them to someone who will do the research accurately.  Perpetuating the myth that online data is correct is wrong!

Will we ever reach a point where one can comfortably say all you need for research is online?  I doubt it.  How could one know what remains out their in the future to find?  No one knows what is hidden in a box in someone's attic, has been donated but not cataloged in a repository hundreds of miles away by a descendant who left the area or for sale in an antique store somewhere. 

Mining  every reasonable location for existing records by following the breadcrumb trail to people and places is critical and always will be necessary.  The reward is worth it.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

An Update on Submitting the BCG Portfolio

I’m finishing up with my portfolio for submission to the Board for Certification of Genealogists and I have butterflies in my stomach!  Officially, I have until late October but since I selected several papers that I had previously done for clients last fall and winter, I am about finished.

At the National Genealogical Conference in Ft. Lauderdale, I was able to view successful portfolios that were submitted.  I also found it useful to be able to pick the brains of some of the Certified Genealogists (CGs) that attended the "On the Clock" dinner.   So glad I was able to attend and meet several other “On the Clockers” and those on the other side. 

Additionally, the National Genealogical Society conference enabled me to further refine my skills and now I pulled out the Kinship Determination Paper I finished last month and reread it yesterday.  I caught one missing comma and changed one sentence.  I'm satisfied with the content and the numbering so I just need to take another look at my footnotes.  I had bolded a few that I knew weren’t quite right as I was so into the writing I didn’t want to stop and lose the momentum.  I also need to make sure I’ve been consistent with my citations. The next few weeks I'm busy with other tasks so I probably won't revisit it until mid-June.

 I’m still uncertain if I should hold off portfolio submission until after an upcoming trip to DC this summer or not.  On the one hand, I want to submit before I get extremely busy with my full time job in late July.  On the other hand, I have this nagging feeling that the missing record in Pennsylvania will miraculously show up if I look one more time.  The document was supposedly misfiled in the 1960’s and hasn’t been found since.  Why in the world I think if I look again I’ll find it now I don’t know!  I’ve already looked twice over the past 5 years AND hired someone to try to find it.  Clearly the “3rd time’s the charm!” as my mom used to say didn’t happen and a fourth visit would be beyond reasonably exhaustive.   My thought process is bordering on irrational and I realize that. This certainly is like the tongue in cheek meaning of insanity - doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result!

Reflecting on my behavior I see this as déjà vu – I did the same thing when I was ready to submit my portfolio to the National Board of Certified Teachers several years ago.  One morning I woke up and I knew that there was no more I could do so I just packed it all up and mailed it off.  Even so, I stood in Office Depot and just stared at the box.  The clerk was nice, though I’m sure she thought I was nuts.  She told me to take as long as I wanted.  As soon as she said that, I was able to let it go. 

Now I have to decide if I’m going to send it snail mail or electronically.  Decisions, decisions!  Another way to procrastinate finality! Will keep you informed...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A FREE Research Assistant - Google Keep

Found a new tool that could help you immensely with your research notes, to do lists, and anything else you want to write and remember.  From Google, it's entitled Keep and with just one click, you can save your work and be able to retrieve it from any online device.
Click on the left hand corner of the Keep page where there are three horizontal lines (the main menu bars).  This will open up the main menu where you can view your notes and reminders, once you create them.  Filing is easy, just click the "Create New Label."
If you'd like to share what you created, click on "Settings" and make sure "Enable Sharing" is checked.
You access Keep through your Google account so if you have gmail or Google+ you already have a Google account. If you don't have an account, the page should direct you to how to obtain one but I haven't checked that out since I have an existing account.
Keep works on both IOS and Android so whatever is your preference, you can use this tool.  It does need Chrome so if you aren't using that already, you may have to download it for Keep to work efficiently.  The Chrome download is supposed to also be available from the Keep page but again, I have it so I'm not able to verify that information.
So, how can you use this with your genealogy?  What I think is the best feature is that it is a blend of Evernote and Pinterest.  I can click the grey lightbulb on the panel to add text or a part of a webpage. I especially like that I am able to simultaneously update my research log that I'll display on Keep; the display is viewable like Pinterest.  Another beneficial feature is that I can see everything on the same page at once which will make sorting for a timeline or rearranging when analyzing the records much easier.
I can then create a label for the whole group which will enable me to separate out various projects that I'm working on simultaneously.  This method also allows me to quickly access the information anywhere (desktop, laptop, tablet, phone) AND be able to retrieve everything about the project in an organized way. Want to see all your labels?  Simply click the main menu bars and it will list all the labels you have previously created.
The "Reminders" feature will also help you stay organized. Give it a try!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Top Five Conference Lessons Learned

Finally cleaned up the tote bag with all the info I accumulated at the National Genealogical Society Conference held the first week in May in Ft. Lauderdale.  I learned a lot but these five ideas keep circulating around in my head:

  1. Mind Maps - I always encourage my students to use them but I'm negligent in doing so myself.  Elizabeth Shown Mills displayed quite an elaborate spider web map that showed relationships and it was impressive.  I'm adding this to my "to-do" list to incorporate in my practice.
  2. Identify Expertise - D. Joshua Taylor mentioned that he always asks antique store owners what their area of expertise is.  Although I chat with store owners it never dawned on me to ask for specific information.  He related a wonderful story about finding a relative's belongings in a shop in New York state by simply asking that question.  Definitely will add this to my genealogical tool box!
  3. - One of the most valuable online resources to find materials I somehow missed the box on the right side that's called "Related Searches."  You have to sign in to view which I often don't do.  This may give you information that you didn't even know existed!  Definitely worth a look.  
  4. DNA - I need to really get serious about DNA testing!  I learned a bunch from Tom Jones' lecture but there is still so much more I need to learn.  That is where I'm going to be focusing my continuing education.
  5. At the BCG Luncheon, I learned a lot about copywrite and fair use.  Didn't know that there is a free Fair Use Evaluator online that can help you determine whether a work is fair use or not.  
I learned so much more but these items were those that I starred as Ah-ha moments and I wanted to share.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Heirlooms and Hand Me Downs – Who Cares?!

I read recently an online article about the glazed over look that family members often get when we genealogists start talking about the past.  The author mentioned that he was frustrated that his family doesn’t seem to care while the actors featured on tv shows are always so excited about their genealogy finds. 

I understand why our family members often don’t get it.  Here’s my top 5 reasons for the disconnect and a way to get around it:

1,  The past is done and it’s not relevant to me.  Geez, I even had that philosophy when I was young.  Think about the 1960’s mantra of not trusting anyone over 30!  It’s rare that young people can connect the dots of how several times great grandpa’s life could be meaningful today.  It's not just young folks.  Some people never out grow this belief so don’t get me wrong and think this view only applies to youth.  The solution is simple – tell or write engaging family stories that are applicable to life today. Write the story as a cliffhanger and I bet your relatives will want to learn more about their past.
     2.  Concrete tactile learners – there are many learners that have to SEE the picture, TOUCH the artifact, or LISTEN to the voice in order to process the information so show that photo taken at the 1920 family reunion and point out the resemblance to Great Uncle Fred.  Caution is needed, though.  Don't overload them with a lot of photos or items as they'll disconnect from sensory overload. A little goes a long way and what you're aiming for is to pique interest.
          3. Money, Money, Money!  Of course the television actors are excited about their family history finds.  Your relatives would be, too, if they were being paid for appearing on tv.  This is not a suggestion to pay our family members to listen to us but it does explain why there may be a lack of enthusiasm.  D. Joshua Taylor, of Ancestry Roadshow, mentioned at the National Genealogical Society Conference that his grandma updated the family history annually and every one expected to receive a copy gift wrapped under the Christmas tree each year.  That tradition, coupled with the $20. bills she hid in the pages, did help family members look forward to the gift. (And he's interested in the family genealogy so clearly this approach worked.  Thank you, Josh's Grandma!)  

·        4. Individual Attention.  Another reason tv actors are enthusiastic is because they are exclusively meeting one on one with noted researchers who sweetly answer their every question and have the documents all nicely transcribed for them.  I tend to talk family genealogy when everyone is together and that may be counter intuitive.  Instead, mention some tidbit that can easily blend in with the conversation when you are with only one of your family members.  A few weeks ago, while cleaning out a closet, I wondered what happened to a collection of needles I once had - darning, knitting, embroidery, tapestry, etc. that originally belonged to various females in my lines.  When I was into arts and crafts, I used them and always thought about the original owners.  Daughter said, "Oh, I have those." She brought them over on Mother's Day and I pulled out a few and said, "I remember when your great grandma used these to embroider a kitchen towel" and "Grandma Duck used to use these when she repaired the hallway stairs carpet, the one I told you about that I used to slide down on my derriere when I was five."  Will daughter remember and cherish?  I don't know but I gave it my best shot!  She is quite artistic so I suspect she will make the connection and remember it. 

·       5. Road trip needed!  When you think of "Who Do You Think You Are?" or "Long Lost Family" you know the participants get to travel.  Most family members would just love it if they got to go somewhere, all expenses paid.  I always sneak in a side trip whenever we used to vacation and my family still talks about the house on Long Island that several times great grandpa John Hicks Williams had built that just happened to be for sale so we got to see the inside (online - couldn't find an agent who was available to give us a tour). Walking in your ancestor's foot steps is a powerful experience and with summer coming, perhaps you can take the most interested of the family on an excursion.

     Hope these suggestions help get your family interested in your findings - Happy Hunting!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Life is Short, Do it Now!

Just back from the National Genealogical Society conference in Ft. Lauderdale and it was awesome.  Wonderful to meet face-to-face with folks I have only interacted with online and some I haven’t seen in person in awhile. 
The only downer was that a colleague of mine from my primary job had to cancel at the last minute due to a family emergency.  She is working towards a PhD in creative writing and was looking forward to attending the writing workshops that were offered.  Additionally, she is interested in family history and is the keeper of her family’s records so the conference was a great fit for her.
As genealogists, we typically place our family’s first so her disappointment in missing the conference was minimized by her right on priorities.  This got me thinking of the lost opportunities that we often miss with our own family members.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just have one hour with that brick wall ancestor (and maybe a translator included!)?  Don’t you wish you could ask dearly departed Great Aunt Alice a couple of questions?  Recording her answers would be icing on the cake. 

Do yourself and the generations to come a favor and ASK TODAY your mom, grandma, and if you’re really lucky, great grandma, what you’re dying to know.  Make sure you write it down (and seriously, cite it).  It’ll be a Mother’s Day gift that will be appreciated long into the future.  Enjoy your day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

News from the National Genealogical Society Conference

Greetings on Star Wars Day!  How appropriate that the start of this year's NGS Conference is on May 4th (Force) be with you.  If you're following me on Twitter you may have seen my tweet this AM.  One of the sound technicians at the conference who was working hard to make the sessions available live told me he is really interested in genealogy and was so excited to learn about family history while he did his primary job.  When he showed me his travel mug - of Darth Vader with the words "I Am Your Father"- I had to take his picture and send it out into the universe.  It was a perfect way to start the day!
I mentioned in my last blog I didn't think I was going to be able to write until the weekend after I return home from the conference but I need to share a few events that have me really excited.
The first was the Board for Certified Genealogists "On the Clock" Dutch Treat Dinner that was held at Bravo Italiano Ristaurante on 17th Street in Ft. Lauderdale Tuesday evening.  There were 42 attendees consisting of Certified Genealogists, wanna be's and family/friends.  Russ and James, the restaurant co-owners, and their staff did a phenomenal job making sure that our party was accommodated.  The food and atmosphere was superb!  I cannot convey how nice it is to be with a group of people who get excited about that serendipitous photo find of Great Aunt Betsy or can relate to the time you slogged through a violent rainstorm only to discover that the rural cemetery is now on private property you can't access.  It was heartwarming!
I don't know about you but I've not had much luck with connecting hubby's or my dna that I had done through  I haven't had it redone with the new dna kit but with the old one, my closest connection was Marie Antoinette.  I'm not making this up.  For the record, she didn't really say "Let them eat cake" but that's for a different blog.  Apparently others have had great match up success.  Today, I met 3rd cousins who found each other through's match.  They had never met in person before today and asked if I would snap a few pictures of them together at the conference.  They had a remarkable resemblance!  I was honored that they asked me to take their picture of that special meeting.  It was like living Long Lost Family in person!
When the Exhibition Hall opened after the keynote address, I never would have guessed what amazing event was in store for me.  I was meandering along when I came upon the booth of ArkivDigital, a Swedish Genealogical & Historical Research site online.  I had used the site once before, when I was in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library last spring. It helped me obtain the Swedish names of my husband's maternal great grandfather, his first wife and their children.  I had tried to find information about the second wife, of whom my husband is descended from but I had no luck.  One of the ladies at the table asked me if I had any Swedish research needs and I responded that I had a major brick wall and that I absolutely hate doing Swedish research because I just don't understand it.  She laughed and said I should speak with her co-worker who was engaged in a conversation with someone else because Swedish research is not difficult.  Yeah, right, I'm thinking.  Soon I was introduced to Kathy Meade who recommended I write down any dates I had for the ancestor and she would look them up in her database.  Since I was volunteering as a room monitor for the next session I had to run; I told Kathy I'd be back later in the day.  The other lady said she was sure that Kathy would resolve my brick wall. 
After the next session ended I went online and wrote down what I knew - birth date from the death certificate, marriage date from the marriage license, death date from the death certificate, 1900-1930 census info, a few years of City Directory listings and the cemetery record.  The death certificate did not list a maiden name, of course.  The marriage record had the name of Johnson but I always figured it was wrong because she married a Johnson.  Perhaps instead, they were cousins. 
I had the place of birth as Sard, Sweden but I'd never been able to find that place name.  A colleague told me she thought the place must have existed once in a rural area and was no more.  Kathy said she never heard of Sard and thought it might be a mistranslation or misunderstanding by a family member.  She recommended focusing just on known dates.  Into her database she entered the birthdate and Voila! there shows up the birth record, baptism date, census and parish exit emigration record.  I was stunned.  The first name wasn't Louisa, it was Louvisa.  The last name wasn't Johnson, it was Jonnason.  The emigration date matched the US census records AND she was from the same area that her future husband was from.  More research is needed but it is possible she went to the US because his first wife had died and there was small children left motherless. 
Louvisa had worked as a maid in Sweden and her mother had died a few years before she emigrated.  She left behind two sisters and her father.  Once the shock of the find wore off I started crying.  Then I called my husband who told me to stop crying.  I then got up and did a happy dance.  I understand that in most public locations people observing my behavior would most likely make a judgement that I was mentally ill but at the convention I was soon joined by other attendees who had overheard what was happening.  They joined in the fun.  I tried to buy Kathy lunch but she said no.  Once I get home I'm purchasing the program AND taking her 4 Swedish research classes on Legacy.  I am sincere when I say this was worth the entire price of the conference.  If you are stumped with your Swedish line I highly recommend checking out ArkivDigital and Kathy's Legacy classes.  Clearly, the Force was with me today at the conference!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Why Do We Do Genealogy? Your Input Needed!

I think it’s important to reflect on why we do this thing called genealogy.  Take a moment before reading further and get ideas of what is important to you about our discipline. 

I identified five factors that are relevant to me.  The first thing that comes to my mind is discovery.   Genealogy unlocks events involving real people whose decisions impacted me personally and continue to do so, even today.  Think of your Gateway Ancestors.  Their choice to uproot and start a new life on a new continent directly influenced who you became.  That emigration may have occurred 400+ years ago or much more recently.  Why did they come?  Oh sure, for a better life, duh!  No, I want to discover what was the final event, the straw that broke the camel’s back, that made them say, “Enough already, we’re out of here!” 
Discovery leads me to think about another reason why our work is important.  Perhaps it was best said by George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” [1]  Let’s not look at the big historical picture but instead, narrow it down to your own family.  If your parents are deceased you most likely know what was the cause of death.   If not your parents, think of your grandparents.  It may have been due to lifestyle and that knowledge can be important in regards to your own health. You can make a change by simply knowing what had been.  Very powerful!
Remembering leads me to honoring those that came before us.  I have a much more privileged life due to my ancestors’ resolve and I appreciate their gift to me immensely. Since I can't personally let them know I write about their impact and record their contributions in my public tree.  It's small, really, considering how much they did. 
I am, by nature, an impatient person.  I get an idea and run with it.  Genealogy is the antithesis of that nature. Patience is critical in this field.  Brick walls do come tumbling down and like earthquakes, there's no way to predict when that will occur.  
The last factor for me is that genealogy is empowering.  When I learn about events that my ancestor's lived through I am reminded that the small trials and tribulations that I experience aren't so awful.  I live in Florida and our air conditioner is on it's last leg.  It is very very warm as a I write this, uncomfortably so.  Being warm is so unimportant compared to fires, epidemics, and the hot topic of discrimination that my predecessors experienced I'm almost thankful it's just a bad a/c unit in my life. Knowing that I come from a long line of strong individuals enables me to be more confident in knowing I can stand what life throws at me.

On a different note, I'm looking forward to my upcoming road trip to Ft. Lauderdale to attend the National Genealogical Society's Conference that begins on Wednesday.  If you're planning on attending look for me and say hello - I'll be wearing a yellow button that says, "Ask Me" and you'll find me answering questions and serving as a room monitor.  If you aren't able to make it, many of the lectures will be live streamed so visit the National Genealogical Society's website for registration so you can view them.  

Due to my upcoming travel, I'll not blog on Thursday as I typically do but hope to resume next Sunday - same time, same place.  Happy Hunting!

[1] George Santayana.  The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense. Scribner’s, 1905: 284.