Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Google and Genealogy

The other day the book, Google Your Family Tree by Daniel M. Lynch arrived.  It is a nice sized book published by, Inc.  For those using Google on a regular basis, there may be some techniques and tips that you already know. However, on through the book things become more involved and intense.  There are 352 pages of great information in the book.

There's more about Google besides a typical search.  These include Google Toolbar, Google Alerts, Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Notebook ... and lots of images and videos.  The book is full of illustrations.  You just need to take the time to read it, keep it beside your computer and try out your new-found knowledge.  

If you are interested in purchasing the book, check it out at Google Your Family Tree.  You can view samples of the book and also place your order.  

Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Up Genealogy!

Never!  It's temporary in order to be chief cook for Thanksgiving.  I have been going through lecture notes and scanning.  In general making a big mess in my genealogy/computer room.  Rather than shut the door when company arrives, I'll force myself to quit and clean up the place.  

It would be nice if somebody in the Thanksgiving company would ask about relatives and family history.  Just one simple question would make my day.  Maybe they will be drawn to this room if I clean it up, pull a book off the shelf and get me started.  I hope they are not too tired from eating or lazy watching TV that no interest is shown.  When they are all gone I will retreat to "my" room and once again make my genealogy mess.  For one day I can survive ... I think!  

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Morning Blogs

My morning consists of tea and a bagel while reading e-mails.  Then I make sure I have money in my bank account.  On to checking the newspapers, here, where I used to live and where I have relatives.  Next, I check the weather maps.  Then I settle back to read my favorite genealogy blogs.  

Some change frequently and others do not.  High on my list are those that keep me informed of web pages, changes in the large genealogy databases on Internet and unique places on Internet for the genealogist.  

The Ancestry Insider is one of my favorites.  He keeps readers informed about FamilySearch and issues and most recently recommendations on using NARA in Washington, DC.  

Rainy Day Genealogy Readings doesn't have to read just on rainy days.  If you live in arid country, you might miss all of the blog!  This contains very interesting and unique ideas for research on Internet.  

Since I use a Mac, I enjoy reading the blog.  It is informative not only for Reunion, but other genealogy software for the Macintosh.  His almost daily videos are easy to follow and understand. 

If you are looking for free Internet web pages, be sure to read Free Genealogy.  This is updated daily and contains many worthwhile links. 

 It is important to go back through archives on all of these sites.  Then you will learn what has been posted and be caught up to speed. 

Happy blogging ... morning, afternoon or evening!  

Friday, October 31, 2008

Seasonal Spooks and Spirits

Tonight is the night for spooks and goblins to appear on door steps.  Ah ... that a few spirits would appear to answer my questions.  I would ask Jacob Bruner about his parents, such as their names, where he was born and where he married his wife Christina Sattler (various spellings) in Pennsylvania.  Jacob has refused to answer my questions for years.  Perhaps I need to do more researching instead of trying to summon his spirit!

I would ask my ancestors, Sampson Mason and Mary Butterworth, why they left their third born child, John Mason (born 1656), with the John Gornell family in Dorchester, Massachusetts, when they moved to Rehoboth, Massachusetts in 1657.  Was something wrong with the child?  They did not return for him or send for him.  In fact, they gave permission for him to be baptized in Dorchester when he was four years old.  He married and died at age 26.  

The spirit of William Amsberry (Amsbary) might be a good visitor.  I would ask him about his first wife.  What was her name?  What caused her death?  Who was the unknown male child in his family?  

Back to work in the real records.  Perhaps those spirits will guide me in some strange way to the records I need.  Then again, it may be just up to me!  

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Family History Month

October is Family History Month.  This morning the North Platte Genealogical Society attended a proclamation signing by the Mayor.  It is a month to enjoy family and also understand and learn about family backgrounds, culture and heritage.  The family is the building block for the community.  

The society will have a month-long display at the library where the genealogy collection of books and microfilm is housed.  We hope to have people there frequently throughout the month to assist others.  In addition, we are encouraging people of all ages, young and old, to explore their family history.  

We are all here because of our family and the families before them.  It is our hope that the people who will spark an interest in genealogy this month, will continue their research for years to come.  

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Dead Speak

Spending a warm, September Saturday afternoon in a cemetery is fun, but talking to the dead makes it special.  The 2008 Cemetery Tour of the North Platte, Nebraska Cemetery, sponsored by the North Platte Public Library Foundation, was held this past Saturday.  And, indeed the dead spoke!  

The theme of the cemetery tour was "The Movers and Shakers of Little Chicago."  North Platte had a reputation of being linked to the mobs.  Maybe they just created their own gangs and hoodlums. That era in our history is always interesting.  

One of the leading players in the cemetery was Annie Cook, a ruthless character who ran the poor farm and preyed upon other, even her own daughter, for her personal rewards.  From the time she was a young girl she knew she had to have money to succeed in life and she would obtain the money and status any way she could.  She realized that to obtain that success she would need to grease the palms of corrupt government officials and there were plenty of them in Lincoln County, Nebraska.   

Her own daughter became an employee and she put her out to work in prostitute houses that Annie eventually owned.  Selfish, greedy Annie is buried in the cemetery.  The person portraying her did an excellent job, even jabbing at the crowd with slurs about them and others that she knew.  She was definitely a part of "Little Chicago."  Rocking at the foot of her grave, Annie told her story, leaving out no details or expressions of hatred.  

Others included Dr. Marie Ames who benefited from treating gunshot wounds and prostitutes, and the undertaker, William Maloney, who reportedly wrote out death certificates to the advantage of those who forked over the money.  Ever consider that when you are doing your research?  Maybe the information was padded or totally incorrect.   There were many mysterious deaths at the Lincoln County Poor Farm that were covered up by Maloney.  

The best book to read about the Little Chicago era of North Platte and Lincoln County, Nebraska is Evil Obsession by Nellie Snyder Yost.  It was published in 1991 by Tom Yost Publishing.  Now deceased, the author anguished writing it, knowing about the corruption that prevailed in this area and how it was accepted and covered up.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Library to Love

A few weeks ago I spent quality time in the Alexandria Library, 717 Queen Street, Alexandria, VA. The local history room was most appealing!  They have a large collection of books pertaining to Alexandria and Fairfax County.  This patron-friendly library also has many books pertaining to all of the counties in Virginia, along with the surrounding states.  Their microfilm of the Alexandria Gazette is particularly helpful if you are researching in that area.  It is also indexed.  

I was impressed with their collection of books and resources dealing with the Civil War, particularly the Confederacy.  Their Confederate Corner contains a Roster of Confederate Soldiers containing of names and units.  If your ancestor served from Virginia, you will be able to find the roster in the Virginia Regimental Series.  There are also specific Northern Virginia regimental records on microfilm.  Major Civil War compilations, such as Dyers Compendium can be found in this section of the library.  

The library has an extensive collection of photographs, manuscripts and maps.  Their rare book collection is the original collection of the Alexandria Library Company which was begun in the 1790s.  If your ancestor happened to live in Alexandria, you will want to use the city directories along with film of building permits and other documents to determine exactly where they lived. There is a good chance the house is still standing. 

I have added this library to the top of my list.  They deserve another visit!  

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Journey to London

Life will eventually become more normal, but for now I am enjoying London.  I am staying in a lovely flat off Baker's Street.  How thankful I am that I have been walking diligently every day for well over a year.  Comfortable shoes and stamina are needed here!  
As time is limited I am using most of my time to explore old cemeteries.  I had hoped to get to Suffolk to visit some ancestral homes, but that will be for another trip.  
On Sunday afternoon I toured the Highgate Cemetery, west.  Climbing the stone stairs from the entrance, one is quickly engulfed in a forest of trees, vines and tombstones.  The stones appear to come out of the earth in any which direction.  It is dank, dark, somewhat spooky, and yes ... Gothic.  It is truly London!  
My camera could not shoot fast enough.  Oh the many unusual graves I should capture for future reference and viewing!  I'll be back again ... and to do other things in London and ancestral haunts.  For those of you who won't be coming any time soon, check out London Cemeteries for a closer look at Highgate and others.  

Monday, August 4, 2008

Library services for genealogists

A friend just alerted me by e-mail that the Kearney Public Library in Kearney, Nebraska has an online collection of newspapers.  The Kearney Daily Hub can be accessed from June 1889 through October 1905.  The database is searchable by date and keyword.  If you don't have ancestry in Kearney or that area, it is still a good idea to check the newspapers. 

Many newspapers carried interesting stories or news items from other newspapers.  I have found that if there are missing newspaper issues, Nebraska or another state, I can sometimes find the same news item in another location.  For instance, I found a news item in the Kearney Daily Hub about a relative who died in Indiana.  

To access the newspapers from the home page of the Kearney Public Library, click under "Reference."  While there you will also see a link to Research Databases.  Kearney is a Nebraska library that offers library edition to patrons.  

Mid-Continent Public Library in Independence, Missouri offers many helpful databases for genealogists.  To explore what is available click on "Research Databases" under Online Resources.  Another click under "Genealogy" will make you wish you lived in Independence, Missouri!  Not to worry.  Go back to the opening web page and click on "Get a library card" in the top right hand area.  

This is a library that offers out of state or out of district library cards for a very reasonable annual fee ($20).  E-mail them to obtain all the details.  Some of the databases that you will find there are:  America's GenealogyBank, America's Obituaries & Death Notices and Digital Sanborn Maps.  There's more ... just start looking.   

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Czech friend, Margie

Several years ago somebody suggested that if I needed advise on Czech research I should contact Margie Sobotka of Elkhorn, Nebraska.  At the time I was not researching Czech ancestry.  Little did I realize that a few years later I would discover my grandson has paternal Czech ancestry.   I contacted Margie.  We almost instantly became close friends.  In fact we have worked together on genealogy research projects.  

She was born to Czech parents in Omaha, Nebraska.  Growing up became interested in her heritage and culture.  In 1972, Margie was instrumental in forming the Eastern Nebraska Genealogical Society.  She served as President for two years and since has been their treasurer, sending all of us friendly reminders of dues.  

What makes Margie so special is that she has an abundance of Czech history and genealogy not only stored in her mind, but in translations she has done, plus indexing.  Her first project was to index The History of Czechs in Nebraska by Rose Rosicky.  She has worked with the Nebraska State Historical Society on projects and presents programs and workshops about Czech genealogy.  One of her classic publications that helps researchers is Nebraska-Kansas Settlers, 1891-1895.  

Margie continues to work on her own Czech ancestry, writing her memoirs.  She recently finished indexing 6,000 names of people buried in the Bohemian Cemetery in Omaha, Nebraska.  

It is no wonder that on June 29th she received the Czernin Palace Bronze Memorial Medal in a ceremony at Clarkson, Nebraska.  This award was initiated by a former ambassador of the Czech Republic.  It is given to an individual or entity that has made significant contributions in Czech-American relations.  The metal was awarded for the year 2007 and Margie was one of just five Czech-Americans to receive it.  She was surprised, but those of us who know Margie were not surprised at all.  She is a well-deserving person and genealogist.  

Margie was surrounded by her friends and family at the celebration in Clarkson.  Speakers included Gene Aksamit of the Czechoslovak Genealogical Society International.  Cindy Drake, library curator of the Nebraska State Historical Society, along with Clare Mares of the Eastern Nebraska Genealogical Society spoke on behalf of Margie and her achievements.  

I know that my friend Margie will continue as long as she lives to help researchers, transcribe, index and publish about Czech ancestry.  I hope there are more awards for her in the future.  It's a honor to call you my friend, Margie.  

Monday, July 14, 2008

Genealogy Dreaming

Do you ever have day dreams about doing nothing but genealogy?  I call those my "what if" thoughts.  They include being able to go to every cemetery I can locate looking for ancestral stones.  Going to every courthouse that has records I need.  They also include visiting ancestral locations, here in the United States, in the U.K. and Europe.  And then something jolts me back to reality.  Usually the gas pump! 

I have started writing letters, contacting by e-mail and searching more on Internet to locate things I need.  It is somewhat boring, but helps the budget.  The other day I drove about 25 miles to the Fort McPherson National Cemetery here in Lincoln Co., Nebraska and took digitals of tombstones.  It was something I had been meaning to do for a long time.  The early morning was cooler than afternoon, and it was quiet and peaceful.  

Have you tried FindAGrave  for information on tombstones, along with maps of cemeteries and photographs of people plus tombstones?  It's a great web site, so be prepared to spend some time.  You can search by names and locations or look up cemeteries.  While there, you should also plan on submitting data on your relatives.  I am particularly impressed with the number of stones they have listed for New England.   Some of those cemeteries I have walked through myself.  It brings back memories and starts those "what if" thoughts all over again.  

Another good place to look for cemetery information is the USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription web site.  Click on the "Tombstone Photo Project" to search by states.  This will also take some time to browse through all of the stones.  

Back to the genealogy dreaming!  Maybe I should win the lottery!  

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Nebraska ... a great state to research

Nebraska is where I live.  It's also the land that people passed through on their way somewhere else, normally to the west coast, places like Utah and California and Oregon.  Some who were disappointed in the west came back, and some people came here to stay.  The Homestead Act provided land for those who needed it and thus supplied our state with people.  

Researching in this state is different than other states.  For one thing, if you know where you ancestor(s) married, you may be able to locate the marriage record on which, most of the time, the names of parents are shown, along with mothers' maiden names.  A great bonus!  

Unfortunately people are not going to find birth and death records in courthouses.  If they are there, they are minimal in content and years.  This means you will need to obtain them from the state Vital Records office in Lincoln, NE.  Information on ordering them, along with downloadable forms can be found at   Birth and death records were recorded on a state basis starting in late 1904.  This does not mean every physician or clerk complied.  

The best place to locate records in Nebraska is at the Nebraska State Historical Society, 1500 R Street, Lincoln, NE.  Be sure to check out their resources and indexes at the web page.  They have an extensive collection of newspapers, photographs and manuscripts.  

To locate some excellent web pages pertaining to Nebraska history, geography and genealogy, check out Linkpendium.  A number of obituaries can be found at O'Bits of Nebraska.  Another excellent place to look for obituaries in Nebraska is at Newspaper Obituaries on the Web. 

If your ancestor settled on the plains of Nebraska, you definitely need to use the Library of Congress web page, Prairie Settlement.  This contains Nebraska photographs and family letters, 1862-1912.   An excellent place to locate maps of early Nebraska territory and state can be found on Internet at Nebraska Counties, 1854-Present.  

It's a nice state to call home.  Because of Nebraska's rich history, it's a great state in which to do genealogical research.  

Friday, June 20, 2008 --- free and great!

Whether you are a beginner in genealogy or have been researching for a while, there is a web site that is free and designed to assist you in building your family tree.  You can also share your research with family members, including those who are not into genealogy.  By entering your data and building your family tree, you are not sharing it with the world.  Only people that you invite can access it.  

There's more than building a family tree at  You can share family photographs, create profiles and timelines and celebrate special events.  It is as easy also as importing a GEDCOM file into ... no retyping of information.   You can also export a GEDCOM file from the data you have created.  

One of the most interesting features of is the ability to map your ancestors.  You can customize the maps for locations of your ancestors, where they lived or where they were born.  

As you network with friends and family, you can send messages and share news.  You decide who is in your group.  While you are using you can also search for your surnames not only within your tree but in other trees.  You will not be able to view all of the information in the family trees of other submitters unless you are invited.  

There are over 20 million profiles on  Yours can be there as simply as registering and logging in.  In the near future they will be adding family video sharing.  It is such a great site that TIME magazine named as one of the top 50 websites of 2008.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Life of a Genealogist

Is there any other life?  It's the best!  However, genealogy can consume every minute of my day and into the night.  Such has been the last seventeen days.  I have been scanning hundreds and hundreds of documents and photographs.  Sorting them into appropriate categories, sharing originals with my sister-in-law, I have barely come up for air.  

This afternoon I finished my project.  There are photographs left and a few documents, but basically it is over.  Those can wait, maybe a week or two or perhaps a couple months ... definitely not tomorrow.  

It is amazing what happens when you are scanning.  I am behind in reading genealogy blogs of others.  I noticed that my daughter found time to blog at Growing up Genealogy.  Good for her.  She's not scanning.  I have had no time to check all the new newspapers that have been added to's subscription service.  There's no hurry as I have a subscription.  Maybe tomorrow! 

Because I have been living in the digital world, I decided to check out some of the places I have ignored.  These include HBLL Online Collections where you can search the holdings of BYU, Utah newspapers and many more, all with one click.  It's a great place to look for manuscripts and books, then download them in PDF format.  It is really growing.

I have also discovered the digitals at Illinois Harvest, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.   Particularly if you have ancestry in that part of Illinois, this is something you will want to search.  I found many news articles and obituaries for relatives.  And now that I have finished with my scanning (for the moment) I don't feel guilty about searching all day and night. 

The University of Missouri Digital Library will also keep me busy for a few days.  They have both text and image collections.  With so many Missouri ancestors, I will undoubtedly find a lot of good things.  

Each time I find a Utah ancestor, I have to check out the Historical Photographs from the Harold B. Lee Library.  There are seven collections to search individually or all at once.  The photographs are of excellent quality. 

Have you checked FindAGrave lately?  The site keeps getting bigger and bigger with photographs of tombstones and also individuals or family on it.  It's a great place to find missing information along with the photographs.  

If my genealogy mind doesn't switch me back to scanning, I need to check out the web site, 250+Killer Digital Libraries and Archives.  Just think of that ... over 250 places to look for digital images.  My mind is swimming already with ideas.  

It's great fun to be a genealogist today and tomorrow and the next day ... never been better! 

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Joy of Scanning

A few days ago I rearranged my genealogy/computer room.  This also entailed rearranging the office supply closet.  With my scanner located very close to my desk, I began scanning documents and photographs.  This has been an on-going project for several years, but now close to the end, it becomes challenging and interesting. 

Having documents scanned, along with proper citations, certainly helps in trying to locate them and share them.  I have also located a number of photographs that needed scanning.  At some point in time my mother-in-law made photocopies of old photographs and shared those with me.  The quality is not good, but it's better than nothing.  My sister-in-law and I now wonder what happened to the originals.  Our next quest will be to locate them.  We hope they did not meet the fate that many old photographs do ... the dumpster. 

The joy of scanning documents is that my memory is refreshed about various lineages and this leads to more research.  I am not becoming distracted though, so the scanning will continue.  Another joy to this project is that it keeps me at home and saves on gas in the car!  

How safe are your documents?  Now is a great time to start scanning them.  I also recommend backing them up to CDs, DVDs or better yet an external hard drive.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Love of My Life

As I prepare to decorate many graves of loved ones, I am mindful of one special person who was in my life.  The final resting places of our ancestors are special. 

My dearest husband ...
As I decorate your grave this first Memorial Day after your death, I am mindful of how quickly this first year has gone.  Day by day after you left me, I thought the days could not be any longer.  They passed so slowly and each step I took seemed painfully sluggish.  What was I supposed to do with my life?  An empty life without you in it.  It was a life that I had known for almost forty-six years with you, by my side, in my arms, my thoughts and in my waking and sleeping moments.  Now as quickly as I could blink my eyes, you were gone from me. 

Four days before your death, you told me that I should resume my genealogical research, my passion for genealogy, my writing, teaching and lecturing.  You knew that you were not going to be with me much longer.  I had cared for you for three years.  We cried together, laughed together and prayed together.  After you left, I knew each day that I must return to my genealogy.  I knew you were proud of me and my work.  Each day I grew stronger and more secure in what I was doing.  

There is not a day that goes by when I am researching ancestors, mine and those of others, that I do not think of you.  All the memories of our life together come rushing back.  Like a surge of energy, I know you are here guiding and encouraging me.  You will always be here in my heart, my mind and soul.  I know you are with the ages and those wonderful ancestors and relatives who paved the way for us and our life together.  

You are still the love of my life!   .... Ruby 

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Genealogy Conferences

I went to a genealogy conference and found my family tree!  Not exactly, but the Nebraska State Genealogical Society Conference held May 1-3 in Lincoln, Nebraska was rewarding and fun.   The featured speaker, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak was excellent.  Be sure you take in her lectures if you are where she is lecturing.  

While I did not find my family tree, I did find information to assist me with my research.  That is also the fun of attending a conference.  My sister-in-law and I planned our conference trip to go to cemeteries, libraries and archives ... no courthouses on this trip.  I created a notebook with directions, including which exits to take, back roads that would get us to cemeteries along with the hours and directions to the libraries and archives.  This is easy to do with Google Maps.  I drove and she directed!  

At Topeka, Kansas we visited the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.  Unfortunately the day we selected for research was the day the Kansas Historical Society was closed.  The public library made up for it.  On the second floor, they have a very inviting genealogy section which includes state of the art equipment, moving shelves and a Victorian appearing Topeka room for research.  It's not huge, but comprehensive with a lot of good books and maps, plus more.  If you are passing through Kansas, take a jaunt to the library ... you will be glad that you did. 

Conferences also mean laughing, telling a year's worth of genealogy stories, meeting old friends and making new friends.  I enjoy being around people who speak my language which is the language of genealogy.  

For those of you following my blog along with that of my daughter, Growing up Genealogy, you will be interested in knowing that my car was full in the back seat, trunk and around my sister-in-law's feet in the passenger seat.  I took three bags and she took six.  I took five pair of shoes and wore all of them.  She took five pair of shoes and wore one pair.  By the time we got home we had a lot of purchases in the way of books as well as memoirs from an ancestral home in Nebraska.  The next time we travel together, I'll make certain she leaves half the bags at home! 

Next week I'm heading out again, this time going west and north to do research and decorate graves for Memorial Day.  I may not find my family tree, but I'll have fun trying.  

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Happy Mother's Day Grandma Caroline

It is difficult to pay Mother's Day respects to just one grandmother, particularly since I have so many in my various family files.  However, I have recently visited Grandma Caroline's grave, thus I have selected her for my blog.  The vitals on her are ... Caroline Gettis, born 11 February 1839 in Ohio to Ira Ellis Gettis and Mary "Polly" Daniel; died 20 August 1924 in Beatrice, Gage Co., Nebraska.   She married Jacob Zehrung in 1855 in Tama Co., Iowa.

Her life between the dates is interesting and adds meaning to the family history.  Caroline had thirteen children, the first born when she was almost eighteen years of age and the last when she was almost forty-four years of age.  There were eight girls and five boys and twins (boy and girl) born in 1874.  That qualifies her for being an outstanding mother!  

The Zehrungs lived in Iowa until about 1879 when they moved to Jewell Co., Kansas.  According to family stories they made the journey by wagon, most likely stopping off at places in eastern Nebraska and eastern Kansas to visit relatives.  In 1881 they moved to Harlan Co., Nebraska, where they lived near Ragan.  Some of their older children married in Kansas as well as Harlan Co., Nebraska.  

Jacob took advantage of the Timber Culture Act in Nebraska and left Harlan County in about 1890, going to Sheridan County, NE in the sandhills.  It was there that he died on 15 June 1893.  The land had not been proved up on and Caroline was left with some young children.   Jacob was buried in a country cemetery not far from the land that he owned which was relinquished.  Each year our family decorates his grave.  

In 1969 the son of Caroline's older daughter, Nellie, visited me.  He was elderly, but his memory was sharp.  There would be no written documents to verify his stories, but they were interesting.  When Jacob, Caroline and children (some married and some children) left Harlan Co., Nebraska for the sandhills in Nebraska's panhandle, they went by wagon north to the Dismal River, stopping to visit his brother, David Zehrung.  They followed the river as far as they could to locate the land they would claim.  The prairie was desolate, and while the government wanted settlers to plant trees, it would be next to impossible to grow them in sand.  

Caroline tied young children up to their wagons to keep them from wandering off in the never ending flow of sand.  The older boys hunted wild game and eventually they built a house, most likely from sod.  When Jacob died at age 57, Caroline probably didn't have to think twice about leaving the sandhills of Nebraska.  According to descendants, Jacob's brothers in eastern Nebraska provided the means for her to bring the younger children to Gage Co., Nebraska.  In 1915 Caroline married Aaron Rummerfield.  

With Jacob in the panhandle of Nebraska and Caroline in eastern Nebraska, there were children married and buried in various locations.  Amazingly they stayed in touch through their lives.  My sister-in-law and I had never been to Grandma Caroline's grave until last week.  She is buried in the Evergeen Cemetery in Beatrice, Gage Co., Nebraska.  This year, both she and Jacob have flowers on their grave for Memorial Day.  

Happy Mother's Day, Grandma Caroline ... you were indeed a great mother!  

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Joy of Being a Genealogist

It's quiet in my study/computer room/genealogy room.  Maybe that's because my sister-in-law hasn't arrived.  Maybe it's because it's only 7:30 in the morning, the long awaited morning of Tuesday, the 29th of April.  We have been planning today (and tomorrow) since January.  That has lately included a day and night watch of the weather reports.  She just e-mailed me her schedule ... she will be here by noon.  

Then the "fun" begins.  We don't travel light.  If any of you have read by daughter's blog at Growing up Genealogy, you will understand that completely.  We are the You Go Genealogy Girls and that means packing everything we can fit into suitcases, bags, totes and purses.  On this trip of approximately nine days,  I have limited myself to four pair of shoes.  I am sure I'll miss all the others that have to remain in my closet at home.  She is bringing a box of presents for her grandchildren.  We will visit them over the weekend in Topeka, Kansas.  I am sure it's a large box because she has seven grandchildren, all in one family.  

The real fun happens when we arrive in Lincoln, Nebraska for the Nebraska State Genealogical Society Conference.  This is an annual affair every May.  Because I am vice-president of the local society, North Platte Genealogical Society, I am taking two boxes of has-been books.  These will be given away or sold for next to nothing in the vending area.  I may replace one of the boxes with books that I buy in the vending area.  

The speaker for this year's conference is Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak.  We will all leave with good information and memories.  I always look forward to seeing genealogy friends I have not seen in months or maybe a year, as well as making new genealogy friends.  We are a special breed ... we talk dead people, we look for dead people and we compute dead people.  How much better can it get?  

After the conference we are locating cemeteries between Lincoln, Nebraska and the Kansas border (and maybe a few over the border).  Then on to Topeka to visit her son, wife and their seven children.  For sanity and space reasons, we are checking into a hotel in Topeka!  Also that's why we are bringing a box of presents for the grandchildren, ages 16 to 3, with twins for good measure.  

Coming back to Nebraska, we will visit more cemeteries and relatives.  I am not sure in what order that will be, but they tend to go together ... genealogists, relatives, cemeteries.  We're going heavy when we leave in the morning in my little red Dodge Neon.  We'll come home even heavier.  Then the fun begins again as we plan another trip toward the end of May.  Ah ... the joy of being a genealogist!  

Friday, April 25, 2008

Family History Center Research

Is there a Family History Center (LDS) in your town or area?  You can find locations of thousands of centers at their FamilySearch web page.  Once you locate a Family History Center, be sure to check their hours.  

At the Family History Center you can borrow (for a nominal fee) microfilm and microfiche from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  The centers are branch facilities of the library.  Many of them contain a core collection of books and CDs for their area ... definitely worth checking.  

Yesterday I was at my local Family History Center ordering microfilm.  The volunteer told me that most people don't even look at the center's file drawers of indefinite microfilm.  These were reels of film ordered in the past by patrons who extended them to indefinite status.  Not only that, but those reels may have many different filmed items on them.  To determine what is on a reel of microfilm, go to the Family History Library Catalog on the FamilySearch web page.  Click on Film/Fiche and enter the number.  This will display every item on that particular reel of film.   There may be something on these that interest you.  The same thing can be done with microfiche which is always on indefinite loan at Family History Centers.  

In addition to this, you can spend a few hours at the Family History Center using a computer.  Many databases are available to patrons; almost all of them are available otherwise to subscription users.  Some I have used are, Kindred Konnections, World Vital Records, and of course, the New FamilySearch.  

Isn't it time to return to the Family History Center and see what's there?  Or, if you are a first time user, go prepared to spend some time exploring all of the offerings that are there.  

Thursday, April 17, 2008

All in the Bag

Last night was the April meeting of my local genealogy society.  The program was a panel discussion, Planning Your Summer Research.  The panel consisted of four people who were knowledgeable in areas of courthouse research, cemetery research and library research.  Questions from the audience were presented in writing on 3x5 cards.  They were good questions and the panel proved to know their stuff.  They could defer to another panel member or tactfully a panel member could insert opinions.  

The teaser of the evening was my genealogy bag, packed to the brim with supplies for that summer research trip.  They were to guess how many items were in the bag.  These could be things taken for research in a courthouse or library.  A prize was awarded to the person coming closest to the correct number.  No peaking ... can you guess? 

Forty items were in the bag and one person guessed exactly that many.  Here's what was in my bag:  laptop computer, pen, pencil, file folders, flash drive, computer security cable, hand lotion, chap stick, tissues, cell phone, digital camera, map, iPod and ear buds, guide book by state, spiral notebook, eye drops, post-its, small spiral for quick notes, magnifying glass, highlighter, business cards, cordless mouse, calculator, small pencil sharpener, to-do list and charts, paper clips, charger for laptop computer, name tag inside and outside bag, eye glass cleaner, hand sanitizer, paper holder, finger nail file, staple remover, stapler, money bag with money, bandage, antibiotic cream, camera battery charger, extra glasses and membership cards.  

Why all this?  It's true I might not need all this, depending upon where I'm going and what I'm doing.  The iPod and ear buds come in handy to block out other noise and I enjoy listening to genealogy podcasts.  Please do not use post-its on library books or documents.  You can use them for quick notes or to post on your own items.  Never take your original documents on a research trip.  Make copies and attach to your to-do list.  It is important that you identify your belongings.  I always have an inside and outside ID on my genealogy bag.  A small paper holder is great when you are making notes from a piece of paper.  It will stand up for easier viewing to transfer data either to paper or computer.  I frequently have paper cuts so the bandage comes in handy and since I don't want to get infection and miss out on another genealogy research trip, the antibiotic cream comes in handy.  There are courthouses and libraries that require ID in addition to your normal driver's license.  To prove you can use genealogical documents it is a good idea to take some form of ID, such a memberships in national, state or local genealogical societies.  

Just like my luggage when traveling, I tend to pack and repack.  My bag last night was brim full as you can see.  I would segregate that perhaps for trips and also have it more organized.  Keep in mind that you may be asked to place your bag in a secure locker, taking out only specific items such as paper, pencil and/or laptop computer.  

Half of the fun of making a research trip is in the planning.  Get busy with your plans which should include how to pack a genealogy bag.  Don't forget a thing! 

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Teaching and Learning Genealogy

Thursday night will be the final class of Genealogy In The Beginning which I started teaching in March at my local college.  It has been a six week class, not named to scare off the more experienced genealogist, but in case they are interested to refresh their knowledge.

The class has been interesting.  I have made new friends ... genealogy friends.  Some, like beginning artists, have lines going various directions with the need to bring them together into form.  Others have generations of ancestors just waiting to be found.  There is always a need to learn research techniques and analysis.  Where do you look for this or that?  More importantly how does it apply to the research problem.  What kind of evidence is within a particular document?  Is there a better source?  I hope they remember all of these things. 

To enhance the learning process I have used Keynote presentations each week.  I am a Mac user and simply take my laptop with me and plug into the classroom projector.  The students also receive handouts.  Each week I have presented them with a loop presentation in Keynote called In the News, Genealogy News.  While they are waiting for the class to begin they can watch all the latest genealogy news on the screen.  

As usual they want all the information they can get on Internet.  I have stressed that they also need to do hands-on research and write letters.  Some have Internet database subscriptions and some do not.  The pros and cons of those are discussed.  For some the leap is just too expensive to subscribe.  

It is difficult to tell them everything they need to know in two hours, once a week for six weeks.  I hope they will continue with their genealogy education, reading methodology books and applying what they learn to their specific genealogy.  

I have been teaching genealogy for many years and each class has been a challenge that I have accepted and enjoyed.  This means that I am also a student.  I learn from them and their needs and enjoy their questions.  Let's hope the next class I teach is just as great!   

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Researching in Nebraska

This morning I walked out to the mail box and paused to listen to the birds chirping and the sandhill cranes cawing in the field west of my house.  This means spring has arrived in Nebraska. 

If your ancestors came from Nebraska, or passed through going elsewhere, the resources are great in this state.  Many travelers drive through the state on I-80 which follows an aged trail formed long before Nebraska became a state.  Following the Platte River route, many explorers, adventurers and pioneers came through this land on their way west.  And many came back through here returning to family and friends in the east. 

Traveling the I-80 route, genealogists will be interested in stopping at libraries and museums that contain records.  These contain extensive records on Nebraska and Nebraskans, but also have other genealogical and historical books and records.  

The W. Dale Clark Library is located at 215 South 15th Street in Omaha, NE.  Look for the Genealogy Room.  The library is located in the downtown area of Omaha, so time your driving to avoid rush hour traffic.  There is limited, metered parking at the library and parking garages within walking distance of the library.  There are also restaurants in the library area. 

There are several genealogy stops to make in Lincoln, NE.  The first should be the Nebraska State Historical Society, 1500 R Street in Lincoln.  This is on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, thus parking is limited.  There are metered areas and also parking garages within walking distance.  Before going there, you should check out the society's web page at  The Museum of Nebraska History is located close by at 15th and P Streets.  

The Lincoln-Lancaster Genealogical Society book collection is located at the Union College Library in Lincoln, Don Love Building.  The college is at 2800 S. 48th Street.  This is a religious college so check their web page for hours and a map for parking,  

Many Germans from Russia settled in Nebraska.  Their history and genealogy is richly preserved in the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) located at 631 D Street in Lincoln.  You can learn more about this society at

Traveling west you will want to stop at Grand Island and visit the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, 3133 West Highway 34.  They have a closed stack, non-lending library and archives, but the historical items displayed are worth the stop.  The Edith Abbott Memorial Library, 2nd and Washington Streets in Grand Island, has an excellent collection of genealogy books.  

Other libraries along the route include the Calvin T. Ryan Library on the University of Nebraska campus, 2508  11th Ave., Kearney, NE.  The Wilson Public Library is located at 910 Meridian in Cozad, NE.  The North Platte Public Library is located at 120 West 4th Street, North Platte, NE.  The genealogy collection is on the second floor.  Just before crossing into Wyoming, stop at the Kimball Public Library, 208 S. Walnut Street, Kimball, NE.  

Preparation for a trip through or just to Nebraska is half the fun.  You will want to check out web pages and Google for maps so you are prepared to make the most of your visits.  These libraries and museums are located along the I-80 route through Nebraska.  The state has many more offerings for the genealogist.  

Monday, March 24, 2008

We've Come a Long Ways

Remember when we used to spend hours looking through unindexed microfilm, such as census records?  Remember when we used to write letters, and wait impatiently for a response to our letter?  The large publication that put people in touch with others researching the same names or families was The Genealogical Helper.  It came out bimonthly and I had it read cover to cover within a matter of days.  

Thank goodness times have changed.  We have better means of communication.  Letters can still be written, but for the most part we communicate by e-mail or through mailing lists.  The Genealogical Helper is still being published with a new style and features, but still contains those queries we loved, including e-mail addresses.  There are other periodicals and magazines geared to teach us methods for improving our research.  Census records are indexed and images are being digitized and indexed.  When the year 2000 rolled around I wondered how we could top the new things that happened in the genealogy world the last decade of the 20th century, but we have and the progress continues.  

I want everything I can get.  That means taking the good along with the bad.  I need everything I can find on Internet.  That includes subscription databases as well as the free items.  Maybe it is because I have done genealogical research for so many years and have so many surnames that I research.  Or maybe it's because I'm impatient and greedy when it comes to obtaining information.  I use the information submitted to places like World Connect on RootsWeb. 
That information supplies me with clues.  The information may not be totally correct.  It's up to me to use it wisely and prove what is there.  That is not much different than we did years ago, except we can readily obtain the information from Internet.  

Just because you have to pay for genealogical information doesn't mean it is bad.  It might be bad on your check book or credit card though.  Perhaps the indexing is not as thorough as it should be.  That means you will have to put your thinking cap on and do some good sleuthing to find what you need.  The good and the bad "stuff" has always been out there.  The method we locate it has changed.  

If you don't like the indexing at subscriptions places such as, try something else. A good deal of census has been indexed on HeritageQuest Online which is available at many libraries as well as Family History Centers (LDS).  Another source of indexing and images can be found at Family Search Labs. What doesn't work at one place, may at another for you.  These places will continue to get better as more records are digitized and indexed.  It's up to you to use them wisely.  

Not everybody has a budget for the subscription databases.  Go to your local or area Family History Center (LDS) and ask about databases they have on their computer.  These should include, Godfrey Memorial Library, Kindred Konnection and more.  It's time to make use of these resources.  These three will allow you to search for records, but not view the records on your own computer.  Do that on your home computer before you go to the Family History Center, then go prepared with what you want to check while there.  

Do you still enjoy writing letters (not e-mails)?  Do you enjoy going to the cemeteries and courthouses?  Not everything is on Internet.  There is that thrilling rush when you find a courthouse document that contains information on an ancestor.  There is an awesome feeling when you stand at an ancestor's grave.  Those cannot be replicated on Internet.  We have come a long ways, but there are many miles to go and the going is sweet!  

Monday, March 17, 2008

Research Ideas and Tips

It's a snowy March day and I'm dreaming up all kinds of research ideas.  I am also trying to space spring and summer research trips out of my mind.  By tomorrow when the snow melts I'll be out walking and thinking about cemeteries, courthouses, visiting relatives and all that good stuff that goes through the minds of genealogists. 

In the meantime, let's talk about research ideas and tips.  Why doesn't your research succeed?  You need think outside the box.  That's the computer box where you are entering your data, the limited box of your research knowledge, and the box where you have isolated your ancestor.  Start looking for your ancestors by doing cluster genealogy.  This means you will study the area where you find your ancestor for other people.  They may be unknown to you now, but they just may become your friends.  When you can't find answers for where your ancestors came from, where they went to church, what prompted them to migrate, look at others around them.  Did they come from the same place?  Did they attend the same church?  Did they intermarry?  Was there a connection to the old country?  

Another tip is to study the geography and history of the area in which your ancestor lived as well as where he or she had lived prior to coming there.  What motivated them to move?  When was the county formed?  What were the parent counties?  Are you isolating your research to one county or one area?  Make a list of the records that can be found in the county, plus the parent counties.  Place your ancestor on a timeline and then progress through your plans for researching that area or areas.  

Then when the sun shines you can also start planning a research trip that will be successful.  Best of luck with your research on St. Patrick's Day!  ....  Ruby