Mar 26, 2013

Resurrection from the Dead

Having just returned home from RootsTech 2013, I felt the need to start posting again at my long dormant blog (the last post was more than a year and a half ago). Seeing that RootsTech 2011 was what originally inspired me to start blogging, it's only appropriate to begin anew now.

What happened? Life. When I started blogging, I had been unemployed for quite a while (I like to say funemployed), living off savings. Of course, that can't go on forever, so I accepted a good-paying, one-year contract job last year. It was hard work, long hours, and few days off, but it allowed me to save up more money. I recently returned to Minnesota after the contract was over, and went back to school. That has also kept me sufficiently busy so blogging was far from my mind. I hadn't even visited Blogger for months, and just realized I still have as many posts in draft as I've ever published.

My purpose in blogging hasn't changed. I need writing practice now, as ever. And using it as a quasi-research log would be a great improvement over the random scribbles in a notebook and on multiple note cards from the last couple years. Although I haven't blogged in a long time, I did research as much as I had time for: some evenings,  weekends, and during a two-week vacation.

I still haven't fully exploited all the sources I collected on a research roadtrip and a few visits to libraries and archives. I'll try to write posts as I finally get around to analyzing them and incorporating them into my family tree. I intend to blog more specifically about Minnesota research and especially also on genetic genealogy. It's still a rather new and misunderstood topic for many long-time genealogists, so I want to communicate some of what I've learned from a wide variety of sources to help others understand it better.

Sep 16, 2011

Meme: The Tech-Savvy Genealogist

I'm still working on an FGS conference wrap-up post, but this meme was easy to finish. It was started by Geniaus, then expanded on the Transylvanian Dutch Blog, and already posted on several genealogy blogs I read.

The list is annotated in the following manner:
Things I've already done or found: bold face type
Things I'd like to do or find: italicized red type
Things I haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain strike through type

Which of these apply?
1. Own an Android or Windows tablet or an iPad [I want a TouchPad; then eventually an iPad3]
2. Use a tablet or iPad for genealogy related purposes
3. Use a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader for genealogy related purposes
4. Have used Skype or Google Video Chat to for genealogy purposes
5. Have used a camera to capture images in a library/archives/ancestor's home
6. Use a genealogy software program on your computer to manage your family tree
7. Use multiple genealogy software programs because they each have different functionalities.
8. Have a Twitter account [but I don't use it]
9. Tweet daily
10. Have a genealogy blog
11. Have more than one genealogy blog [I have enough trouble updating just one]
12. Have lectured/presented to a genealogy group on a technology topic
13. Currently an active member of Genealogy Wise [I'm a member, it just seems redundant, with Google+, Facebook, ...]
14. Have a Facebook Account
15. Have connected with genealogists via Facebook
16. Maintain a genealogy related Facebook Page
17. Maintain a blog or website for a genealogy society
18. Have submitted text corrections online to Ancestry, Trove or a similar site
19. Have added content to a Person Page on Fold3 (formerly Footnote)
20. Have registered a domain name
21. Post regularly to Google+
22. Have participated in a genealogy-related Google+ hangout
23. Have a blog listed on Geneabloggers
24. Have a blog listed on Cyndi's List
25. Have transcribed/indexed records for FamilySearch or a similar project
26. Have converted a family audiotape to digital
27. Have converted a family videotape to digital
28. Have converted family movies pre-dating videotape to digital. [my family has no films that old]
29. Own a Flip-Pal or hand-held scanner [I brought a flatbed scanner on my roadtrip]
30. Can code a webpage in .html
31. Can code a webpage in .html using Notepad (or any other text-only software)
32. Can write scripts for your webpage in at least one programming language
33. Can write scripts for your webpage in multiple programming languages
34. Own a smartphone
35. Have a personal subscription to one or more paid genealogy databases
36. Have a local library card that offers you home access to online databases, and you use that access.
37. Use a digital voice recorder to record genealogy lectures
38. Have contributed to a genealogy blog carnival
39. Have hosted a genealogy blog carnival
40. Use an Internet Browser that didn’t come installed on your computer
41. Have participated in a genealogy webinar
42. Have taken a DNA test for genealogy purposes
43. Have a personal genealogy website
44. Have found mention of an ancestor in an online newspaper archive
45. Have tweeted during a genealogy lecture
46. Have tweeted during a family reunion
47. Have scanned your hardcopy genealogy files
48. Use an RSS Reader to follow genealogy news and blogs
49. Have uploaded a gedcom file to a site like Geni, MyHeritage or Ancestry
50. Own a netbook [I already have a laptop and smartphone; I'd rather use a tablet]
51. Use a computer/tablet/smartphone to take genealogy lecture notes
52. Have a profile on LinkedIn that mentions your genealogy habit [maybe if I ever work as a genealogist]
53. Have developed a genealogy software program, app or widget
54. Have listened to a genealogy podcast online
55. Have downloaded genealogy podcasts for later listening
56. Backup your files to a portable hard drive
57. Have a copy of your genealogy files stored offsite
58. Know about RootsTech [I was at the inaugural RootsTech!]
59. Have listened to a BlogTalk radio session about genealogy
60. Use Dropbox, SugarSync or other service to save documents in the cloud
61. Schedule regular email backups [Google does it for me]
62. Have contributed to the FamilySearch Wiki
63. Have scanned and tagged your genealogy photographs
64. Have published a genealogy book in an online/digital format [someday]
65. Brought a USB device to a microfilm repository so you could download instead of print. [my first choice, if possible]
66. Have a wearable USB device containing important files. (Watch, keychain necklace, etc) [that's what pockets are for]
67. Created a map on Google Maps plotting ancestral homes or businesses.
68. Recorded the GPS coordinates for a tombstone, or ancestral home
69. Edited the Wikipedia entry for an ancestor, or their kin
70. Created an entry at FindAGrave for a person
71. Created an entry at FindAGrave for a cemetery
72. Uploaded the MediaWiki software (or TikiWiki, or PhpWiki) to your family website.
73. Have downloaded a video (for genealogical purposes) from YouTube or other streaming video site using KeepVid.com, or in some other fashion
74. Have transferred a video from a DVR to your computer for genealogical purposes
75. Have participated in a ScanFest
76. Have started a Genealogy-related meme at least one other geneablogger participated in.
77. Have started a Genealogy-related weekly blogging theme other geneabloggers participated in.
78. Have used Photoshop (or other editing software) to ‘clean up’ an old family photo
79. Done digital scrapbooking [I'm not exactly sure what qualifies as scrapbooking]
80. Printed out a satellite photo from Google Maps of a cemetery, and marked where a tombstone was located on it.

To sum up, yes, I am a nerd.

Sep 9, 2011

FGS Mid-Conference Report

This is my second major genealogy conference, after RootsTech. It's got a different feel to it, but still a great experience. I'm actually meeting people at this conference, for two reasons. The first day of sessions didn't interest me much. They were geared towards people who are officers or otherwise very active in a genealogical society. I am a member of a couple, but don't participate often, since I don't live very close to their events. So instead, I volunteered at the conference, and met several other volunteers. Also, last night, I went to the bloggers' get together, and met some of the bloggers I follow, in real life. Now they know my secret identity, which truthfully isn't a big secret, I just choose to blog pseudonymously.

The day before, I took advantage of a conference discount, and toured the Abraham Lincoln Museum. It's pretty new, and it showed. Besides lots of artifacts related to Lincoln's life and the Civil War, it had multimedia presentations, which reminded me of the so-called "4D" movies at Sea World or Disney Land. They had a documentary video projected onto three large screens, while smaller screens in front of them came down from the ceiling at certain points to create a 3D effect, highlighting different documents or photos. The main screens were also pulled up at times, to reveal silhouettes of log cabins, trees, etc. in the background. Besides surround sound, when there was a storm during the movie, fans or air compressors blew "wind" in the theater, and lights flickered to simulate lightning, for added effect. It's definitely enough to hold the attention of children, or people who aren't history nerds like me. Overall, the museum was very interesting. The only strange thing is the presence of a Subway restaurant, within the museum. On the tour map, between the listing of exhibits, one of the sections of the building is labeled SUBWAY®. Kind of tacky if you ask me, but I guess the museum needs to raise funds somehow. Later today, I'm going on a behind-the-scenes tour of the associated Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library (not to be confused with Springfield's public library, called the Lincoln Library).

That night, FGS held an "Old Fashioned Prairie Social." It was just dessert, so I ate beforehand, which turned out to be a huge mistake. Although ice cream, cake, and candy don't make for a very nutritious dinner, I probably had two meals' worth of calories. Abe and Mary (Todd) Lincoln impersonators were in attendance, and many people dressed up in old-fashioned costumes. There were also some fun activities planned; I was on a winning Genea-Jeopardy team.

You've got to love any conference where the Archivist of the United States (AOTUS)–essentially the top librarian in the federal government–is treated like a rock star. Several people went up to have their picture taken with him before his keynote address. If I had any interest in being a high-ranking political appointee, that's the job I'd want. An ambassadorship may sound like a good gig, because I love to travel, but that would involve wearing a tux far too often.

I went to four sessions yesterday, all very good. First was a session on common surnames, since I have Davis, Martin, and Harris among my ancestors. That's nothing compared to well-known professional genealogist, Thomas Jones, who presented a case-study of finding the parents of one of his ancestors named Charles Jones. There were dozens listed in the counties where he lived, and his wife was Jane (Jones) Jones! It took more than ten years to sort them all out. I don't know if I have that kind of patience. None of his strategies were really new to me, but the depth and breadth of his research was impressive. I haven't come anywhere close to exhausting the possible avenues of research on my ancestors with common surnames.

The second session was on immigrant cluster communities, by Lisa Alzo. She's a specialist in Eastern Europe research, so I've read several of her articles before, for ways to research my Polish ancestors. Her talk involved the town where she grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which had a large Slovak population. It easily resonated with me, because Minnesota has several towns, or neighborhoods within cities, that still have palpable ethnic influence, which I've blogged about before. The main thing I got from her talk, is that I really need to join some of the ethnic genealogical societies affiliated with the Minnesota Genealogical Society. She also gave some ideas for creating virtual cluster communities, to collaborate with others researching the same village or ethnicity. I think I might try something like that.

The next session was also on immigrants–how to find their origin in US records, by David Ouimette. He's an Irish research consultant at the Family History Library, and people often come in wanting to dive straight into the Irish records, when usually they haven't done the necessary research on this side of the pond yet. He gave a ton of examples how many different records can be used to find the origin of our immigrant ancestors. It gave me some ideas I can use for some of my ancestors; all I know is the country where they were born. And again, he also stressed the value of joining an ethnic genealogical society. These two sessions really hammered that point home. I need to stop procrastinating and just join some of them.

The last session I attended was another by Thomas Jones. It was filled to capacity; I almost didn't get a seat. He titled it "Going Beyond the Bare Bones" and literally talked about fleshing out stories about our ancestors that go further than just listing names, dates, and places. I haven't yet written much of my genealogy, but I'm approaching the point where I'm about ready to write some family history to share with relatives. I've already started to mentally outline what I know about specific ancestors I have enough to write on. With some, I have plenty of details, from numerous records and oral history from older relatives who remember them, or at least stories about them. Some of the best examples he shared came from letters. They can help get to know their personality. I need to reach out to more of my distant relatives, and newly found ones, to find any letters that may have been passed down.