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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Genealogical & Historical Societies Online

When I'm searching the internet for people or even just background information on the area they were in, I look for genealogical societies and historical societies at the state, county and individual town level to see if they have a website available. Often these smaller, more local groups will have great collections of written information and if you're really lucky, photographs as well.

I just scored big on a family I have been researching in Minnesota, by finding old photographs from the late 1800/early 1900s with identification and captions at the Steele County Historical Society website. They don't have a huge collection, but even one photograph of an entire family taken in front of their tiny cabin with their pet dog and bird, is a real treasure.

A while back I was researching a family that went to Montana when it was wild. By perusing the collections that the Montana Historical Society had at their website, I was able to contact them and for about $20, received photocopies of prison records, mug shots, and letters back and forth to the parole agency about a man who was part of a gang of horse thieves in the early 1900s, that roamed from Montana to New Mexico. One of the letters was from a local sheriff to the parole board suggesting that they revoke his parole, because he'd recently been in a shoot-out and had his index finger shot off. They feared he was going to exact revenge as soon as he recovered if he didn't get put back in jail soon.

So be sure to check for historical and genealogical societies for the areas you're researching in, and look at all levels - state, county and town. You never know what you might find.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Great Family Search Genealogy Conference - October 10th in Plano, TX!

The website is up (, the flyers are out and registrations are now being accepted for the 2009 Great Family Search Genealogy Conference on October 10, in Plano, and is sponsored by the Family History Centers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of Carrollton, Plano & Richardson. The full day conference is completely free, but registration is limited and usually fills up, so be sure to go to the website and print off your pre-registration form and get it mailed in. You may pre-order a CD with all syllabi from the conference for $2, and if you are attending, you may also pre-order a box lunch from Kuby's Deli for $10. Pre registrations must be received by September 26, 2009.

This year many new classes are on the list to choose from, along with a couple of perennial favorites. Classes include:
  • A Survey of Internet Resources for Genealogical Research
  • Exploring Options for Implementing Your Family Website
  • FamilySearch Indexing
  • Cracking "Cold Case" Genealogy Problems with DNA
  • Using at a Family History Center (for free!)
  • Where are MY Family's Stories Online?
  • What's Cooking at Familysearch Labs?
  • Deciphering Old Handwriting
  • Microsoft Photo Story3 for Windows XP
  • Effectively Search the Online Family History Library Ctalog
  • Avatars, Blogs & Tweets (Oh My!) Social Networking for Genealogists
  • Books, Vital Records, Census & More at
  • What I Wish I'd Known 40 Years Ago
  • Canadian Research
  • Using MS Word 2003 for Family History & Newsletters
  • Early LDS Church Records & Mormon Immigration
  • Beginning, Intermediate & Advanced Hispanic Research (3 separate classes)
I am really, really excited about the classes I've been asked to present this yearand am having so much fun preparing them. The class list should offer something for everyone, so do try to attend.

Again, the day-long event is completely free, but you really should pre-register (and I'd order the CD for sure!) You can print off the registration forms at or if you have any questions, e-mail

Friday, July 17, 2009

About that toolbar...

One of the things I really love about genealogy are the people I get to spend time with, both online and in real life. For the most part, the genealogists I know, both professional and hobbyist, are just the nicest people, and most are happy to help out in a second, whether its answering research strategy questions, or sharing family information from their own research. Genuinely good-hearted and generous folks.

I like to include myself in that generalization. I volunteer at the local public library and at the local Family History Center one day a week each. It seems that just about every week I am able to fulfill a couple requests for "Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness" ( and occasionally even some from BooksWeOwn (at rootsweb). I feed stray animals and I swerve to avoid turtles in the road. Whatever I can do to help.

I do a lot of research online. Not exclusively, mind you, but libraries & courthouses don't tend to be open at 10pm, and its not a good time to be tramping around cemeteries. And you probably know that as you find more and more great websites for research, your "links" toolbar starts to get really cramped, and your "favorites" or bookmarks start getting more and more complicated. Then try sharing them all when someone asks!

The answer was to put together a toolbar for all those great genealogy website links. Initially it was just for my own personal use, but I've found that instead of e-mailing individual links to friends here and there its just easier to give out the download info for the toolbar. Its all free anyway - free for me to make, free for anyone to download and use. Just a good deal all around.

You can download it free at .
If you don't like it you can uninstall it. Or if you want you can just turn it off and on whenever you want to use it, or not have it show.

Personally, the parts that I use the most are the US State Favorites, under the "Free Sites" tab, and the links to my mail & social networks under the "Connect" tab. I continually add sites and gadgets to it as I find things that I "need" on a regular basis, and I'd be happy to include websites that anyone else thinks would be important to include. You can leave me a note here, or I think you can even send me a message through the toolbar itself (under the "Hi" tab).

So thats the story on my toolbar.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nothing says summer vacation like a 6 year old with a rifle

Just the words "summer vacation" invoke a sense of excitement in me. Unfortunately for my poor son, an exciting vacation to me anymore means we spend a week tramping through cemeteries, and hunkered over dusty old books in little tiny libraries in places that don't have amusement parks. (Thank heavens for game boy!)

My own summers growing up were spent among the people that I am so fervently researching now - oh, that I had only paid more attention to grandma's stories! Every year my folks would load my sister and me into the back seat of our '61 Cadillac (the one with the big fins), and drive back to the small family dairy farm in Northeastern Ohio. I remember the drive taking forever, but mostly I remember being surrounded by family once we arrived - grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins... they were all there. We slept upstairs in the farmhouse that my dad grew up in, and would always peek into the dresser drawers to look at the things grandma had stored in them - particularly my dad's navy uniform and hats!

During the day my grandpa would always fix us up with something unique and totally inappropriate. We got to wander through the stalls and pet the cows, and we got to drive the tractor way out through the back fields, past the sugar shack where they boiled down the maple syrup in the spring, back to the creek (read that 'crick') where my dad used to swim as a little boy. We always begged to bring home a crawfish or two for pets, but for some reason mom never thought that was a good idea.

My grandpa taught me how to shoot a rifle when I was about six, and after we had mastered the art of blasting tin cans, he set us kids up in the barn with the task of shooting bats out of the top corners of the roof. The next year or so, he taught me how to drive. I remember sitting next to him, despite being a bit scared of him, and thinking well thats all there is to that! as I drove his fifty-something chevy around the yard. It didn't matter that he had to press the gas & brake pedal, because I got to steer (its all I could reach) and that was quite enough for me.

My aunt and uncle owned the general store, and lived above it. Everyone in the small town there thought my sister and I were really something, being from California and all. But we thought that there couldn't possibly be anything any cooler than living above your own grocery store! My aunt used to send us downstairs for a can of this or that when she was making dinner, and used to let us "buy" candy with coupons. And there was no place in California where Amish people would tie their horse & buggies to the hitching post in front of a store!

Inevitably we would have to pile back into the car and head back home, to our quiet, boring existance, with only the promise of the next summer to look forward to. Once home we were back to our own quiet little family again, with all the relatives reduced to names on Christmas or birthday cards. I think that this is one of the reasons that I do genealogy - to try to recapture that warm feeling of being surrounded by relatives. Its never quite the same, but sometimes it gets pretty close.

Where to Write for Vital Records - even on the High Seas!

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has posted online a wonderful guide, alphabetically by state, giving all the information you would need to send away for birth, marriage, death or divorce records located in any of the United States, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Virgin Islands, Canal Zone District of Columbia, "Foreign", or those occuring on the High Seas. The listings tell what years are available, and not available, and what all you will need to submit along with your request. Definitely an address to file away in your "favorites"! (of course its already on my toolbar, under "Resources")

The CDC site is located at

My internet genealogy toolbar is at

Sunday, July 12, 2009

If only Second Life came with an extra 24 hours/day

I just finished my first genealogy chat in Second Life - and boy was it fun! Second Life is a free "multiple player online role-playing" site, where you create your person and navigate around in a virtual world. Not that I have any extra time for any more online gaming, mind you, but this is educational! heehee. No, really. There was quite a crowd at the genealogy discussion tonight hosted by DearMyrtle, aka Clarise Beaumont. After that I moseyed on over to the LiveRoots gazebo for yet more genealogy discussions.

If this sounds like fun, er, I mean an educational opportunity that you might be interested in, check out the SecondLife group on GenealogyWise for times, days, etc. I'm Genie Weezles, btw, so say "hi" if you see me!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

10 Truths About Genealogy

1. There is no "A" in Cemetery.
2. The census takers, more often than not, didn't really care when your relative was born, or how your relative's name was spelled. They spelled it like it sounded. They also didn't really care if the two year old hanging off of the Polish woman they were questioning was a boy or a girl, and they couldn't understand Polish anyway. Thats why your great uncle is a girl in 1900 and a boy in 1912. Its still the same person.
3. There are occasionally errors in original records. There are quite often errors in transcriptions. The guy transcribing the 1880 census didn't realize that your great grandmother was really a proselytine (a missionary), and wasn't actually a prostitute. Sorry about that.
4. Just because it was printed in a book, doesn't make it true.
5. Just because it was posted on the internet, doesn't make it true.
6. Just because someone else downloaded it and re-posted it still doesn't make it true. If they can't get your grandfather married to the right woman, most likely the lineage to Joan of Arc isn't quite true either.
7. "newspaper clipping" is not enough information for a proper source citation. Neither is "Aunt Mable".
8. Buying every subscription to every online website will not guarantee you find your grandfather. (Steven Morse found your grandpa in "one step", though -
9. Doing all of your research online is like licking your fork and calling that dinner. Go to the library! the courthouse! the cemetery! Write some letters! Call some relatives! Dare I say it... turn off your computer! (ok, but only for a little while)
10. Only another genealogist will be interested enough to listen to the story of your ancestry back to Charlemagne. But you have to be willing to listen to theirs too. He's my 35th great grandfather, by the way ;)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Interactive Historical County Boundary Map Online

I am just so thrilled with this site, that its worth yet another mention. Most genealogists are familiar with the "must have" book, Map Guide to the US Federal Census, by William Thorndale and William Dollarhide - you just can't do census research without it! But recently I found a website, hosted by the Newberry Library (Chicago), that really is incredible. Not only does it show historical county boundaries, but you can search every year, not just the census years. From the "Atlas" main page, at, pick the state you're interested in (although unfortunately data isn't available for Georgia and Tennessee at this point) and then from the map that opens, choose the dates that you're interested in. Just like we're used to, the current county boundaries are visible in the background, with the boundaries of the dates chosen are in black. You can zoom in and out which is really helpful in states like Texas that have something close to a zillion counties.

Another really neat thing is back from the main page, underneath each state's map link is the word "metadata". If you click on that, you can view all of the documentation that goes along with each map, including commentary, bibliography, and the all-important "preferred style citation" information, so that you can easily and properly cite your source!

I've "tweeted" about this already a couple of times (I'm "rcurious", in case you tweet too), but I think its just such a great genealogy tool. The Newberry Library has some other way cool gems for genealogists, but I'll save that for another blog!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Genealogy Volunteerism

Most of us were taught from birth it seems, that it is better to give than receive. But as a genealogist, its hard to imagine anything better than receiving, when that means getting golden tidbits of family information from someone you don't know who lives far away. Imagine the joy of the giver, though, in those situations, to be able to provide someone with the key that unlocks their family history or mystery!

Volunteer opportunities abound in the genealogical world, and one of the tenants of professional genealogists is to give back to the genealogical community in some fashion. Off the top of my head, I can list several easy ways that anyone, at absolutely any skill or available time level, can be a genealogical volunteer:

1. Indexing. Spend a few minutes whenever you have the chance, or get addicted to it and index for hours a day, and help the folks at index those few million microfilms they have stored in their vaults, so that they can in turn post the records as they are indexed, for the public to search, and find! Sign up at

2. Library Volunteer. Head on down to the genealogy department at your local library, or historical society, and volunteer to help out maybe an hour a week, or more. There's always something that needs an extra hand, or even just a living body to keep a chair warm. Local Family History Centers are almost always looking for volunteers to help out with a shift. Both are a great way to learn the resources you have available in your area, and help other people get excited about their family history at the same time.

3. Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. Sign up as a volunteer at if you have access to any special records or books for a particular area or interest, that you'd be willing to help others with. Maybe you live near a library with a great obituary collection, or maybe you have a shelf full of transcribed county court records at home. Sign up, describe what you have to offer, and sooner or later someone will thank you profusely.

4. Books-We-Own.
Very similar to RAOGK, Books-we-own is specifically a book look-up volunteer site, and is hosted by Sign up and list the books you have on your personal bookshelf that you're willing to do look-ups in, and be ready to provide someone with that one piece of information that rocks their world.

5. US GenWeb projects. US Gen Web is always looking for folks to either host state or county sites, or at least add to their collection of information. Check out the opportunities at

6. Share Your Knowledge on a Wiki. Know some great websites for specific state, county, or even town records? Know the best way to find vital records for a particular area? Share your knowledge and help build a genealogical "wiki" on the web. My current personal favorite is hosted by Sign in, then go to the areas of your "expertise", and add your ideas.

I'd love to hear any other ideas for volunteer opportunities for genealogists!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Testing out the feed to my blog

Ugh! There. I said it. My "blog". I'm just not thrilled with the sound of that word.

One out of three ain't bad -- literally

Ezra Wildman wore out three wives - Matilda (on the other side), Martha and Margaret. All of them died at less than 40 years old, poor things.
But what possibly possessed Ezra to have the inscription written at the bottom: "Jesus Loved Martha"...? Did Jesus not love Matilda or Margaret?

And the point of blogging is....???!!!

I completely get Twitter - 140 characters to pass on tidbits of information -- in my case genealogical information... websites, research tips, that sort of thing. Most anything like that can be said in 140 characters or less. No problem.
But blogging? The purpose has escaped me so far. Sure, I enjoy reading other people's blogs from time to time (genealogy-related ones of course), but for the most part I figure they could have easily been pared down to -- you guessed it -- 140 characters or less.
I don't know why, but yesterday the little light bulb went off in my head. I LOVE to talk about genealogy, but rarely have the opportunity because those nearest and dearest to me, and even those just in my general vicinity, don't have the slightest interest in hearing what I have to say. And I certainly don't want to be one of THOSE genealogists, who goes on and on and on and nobody really is interested in the exact relationship between the fifth cousin on my mother's side and her aunt's mother-in-law's great grand-niece... blah, blah, blah. You know how that sounds...
But blogging... BLOGGING!!! I can rant for hours on end and it doesn't matter. Let my fingers do the talking, and I can post as much as I want and yap about every minute facet of my research and get it out of my system. And, since nobody reads my blogs anyway, I don't run the risk of boring the snot out of anyone -- and if by some strange reason someone does stumble onto my ramblings, its their choice to read or not to read!
So now I get it. While its blatant self-promotion, ego-building, and quite often pointless and uninteresting blatherings, its also a mind-clearing exercise that leaves you fresh and ready for polite conversation with friends, without the need to talk genealogy!