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 Footnote.com, 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!