San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Addendum to Jamboree

For those of you who couldn't make Jamboree, you have the opportunity to hear most of the talks and even watch some on video.  Visit Conference Resources to order a zip drive!!
Picture of Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree Conference 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

June 7-10, 2012
Part Two

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

Friday Classes
A list can be found here if it hasn’t been taken down yet.

In the regular classes Friday afternoon Robert Raymond talked about Evidence Evaluation; he stated that “Not all information is created equal. We must take several factors into account to judge its quality.” “Evidence is something that furnishes proof,…information that is relevant to the problem and information that we conclude—after careful evaluation—supports or contradicts the statement we would like to make, or are about to make, about an ancestor.”

Steve Morse brought us up to date on the latest thing in DNA—Autosomal testing. And speaking of Steve and his One-Step page, I had lunch with Joel Weintraub, co-creator of the Census part of Steve’s site. He talked about how he and Steve are already working on tools for the 1950 census!

I visited both the Family Tree DNA table and the 23 and Me table to find out more about their autosomal DNA tests but I think $300 is just out of my league right now. Maybe when the cost goes down. I’m still in line for the $99 test.

In his talk on “Lost in the Unknown: The Delicacy of Probing Family Secrets” Steve Luxenberg discussed problems when we’re doing those all-important oral interviews. How do you navigate the emotional pitfalls that surround the secrecy? How do you avoid alienating family members who might rather leave well enough alone?  Which interviewing styles tend to work, and which tend to go awry?

Saturday Classes
A list can be found here if it hasn’t been taken down yet.

At a breakfast on Saturday morning, Curt Witcher talked about “And the Rocket’s Red Glare: Online Resources for War of 1812 Research”. Although I’ve always liked it, Wikipedia has been looked down upon by many (most?) librarians but Curt actually recommended the Wikipedia War of 1812 article! It has more than 153 citations and many dozens of references at the end—a treasure trove for genealogists looking into their ancestors lives and service in this, the 200th Anniversary of the war.

Kory Meyerink held a class on “An Overview of Advanced Research Methods”. (I do wish speakers could think of more exciting titles, but I digress.) This was a fascinating look at how “advanced researchers use the same sources as all genealogists, they just use them differently. They must first change their thinking about how to approach research problems, learning how to deal with sources in new and different ways.”

I wanted to hear F. Warren Bittner talk about “Beat the Children With a Fresh Birch Stick So the Animals Don’t Get Worms: Reading for Historical Context” but the room was full! (See my remark about talk titles above.)

Instead of Bittner’s talk I got into D. Joshua Taylor’s “A Broader Context; Using JSTOR for Family History.” I may write about JSTOR in a future Digging For Roots Online column.

I heard Geoff Rasmussen talk about an “Insider’s Guide to Legacy Family Tree: Tips and Tricks.” And even though I’ve used Legacy for more than 10 years I still learned more about what I can do with it!

That night we attended the banquet “How Psychic Roots became an "Unsolved Mystery?" with Hank Z Jones, FASG. Hank shared “his adventures behind the NBC-TV dramatization of his ground-breaking bestseller (now in its 6th printing) and related even more amazing serendipitous experiences contributed by genealogists worldwide for his new sequel More Psychic Roots.”

Sunday Classes
A list can be found here if it hasn’t been taken down yet.

On Sunday I started the day at a breakfast where Rhonda McClure talked about “The Strange and Unexpected - Dealing with Research Surprises", a “light-hearted look at some of the unexpected surprises that fall out of the family tree when you least expect them.”

 I then went to a F. Warren Bittner talk (remember the “Beat the Children…” talk earlier?) with the admittedly non-exciting title “Complex Evidence: What Is It? How Does It Work? Why Does It Matter?” and found him to be a fascinating speaker who discussed Genealogical Proof Standard in a way which even I could understand with excellent examples from his own research.

Lisa B. Lee gave an interesting talk on “Speling Dusn’t Cownt and Why Wild Cards Are the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread”. But for once I actually knew as much about the subject as the speaker did! And was even able to disagree with her (silently, of course) about some of the things she said. But still she was a good speaker.

Perhaps one of the highlights of this conference was sitting and chatting in the evening, outside the classes, with genealogy superstars like Megan Smolenyak2, The Ancestry Insider, Ron Arons, Lisa Louise Cooke, Elyse Doerflinger, Thomas MacEntee, Steve Morse, and Randy Seaver (while my wife was in the hotel swimming pool with his wife Linda). They treated me just like a real fellow genealogist!

This was just a small sample of the kinds of subjects covered at a genealogy conference. If you’ve never been to a one I hope you will get the pleasure of experiencing one yourself someday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Brief Review of the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree

June 7-10, 2012
Part One

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

It’s hard to break a 41 year habit of being a librarian so I attended the “librarian-track” in the JamboFREE sessions held on Friday morning before the actual Jamboree classes started. (Sorry, Cath Trindle—I didn’t get to attend your “Projects!!” for genealogy societies.)

Curt Witcher talked about “Engaging Beginning Genealogists in the 21st Century”. In the talk he gave a profile of the 21st century “genie”:
·         Not a genealogical society member (not good news for SMCGS!)
·         Typically uses bricks-’n’-mortar repositories as a last resort
·         Consumer of the latest technologies
·         Engages in social media
·         Expects “real time” answers/information
·         Expects rapid technology changes—expects Moore’s Law (Originally about data density in transistors, it has come to mean that computer power and capacity doubles approximately every 18 months.)
·         Born with digital data available
·         Huge numbers of new genealogists only come through online activities—that is where they live.
·         And they don’t consider themselves beginners!!
·         More individuals (those who consider genealogy a hobby has gone from about 400,000 in 1977 when Roots was on TV, to today’s 9 million.)
·         They have a wider variety of life experiences
·         With an increasing variety of technology backgrounds
·         They are using more technologies which are increasingly sophisticated.
·         They want enjoyment and even more, they expect success.

Curt summed it up by saying “21st-ers don’t need us; however we (i.e. librarians) can make their genealogical experiences so much better.” And I believe that holds for non-librarian genealogical veterans too.

In The Exhibit Hall

At the BillionGraves table in the Exhibit Hall I learned that that organization has partnered with FamilySearch which most genealogists use regularly (and you do too, don’t you?). In the near future when someone conducts a name search on, they will get a hit from BillionGraves if a tombstone with that name has been photographed and entered into that system. That’s much like what does now when a search finds an entry on Find-A-Grave.

DIGRESSION: I found out something about the “Terms of use” at both BillionGraves and Find-A-Grave in a blog called The Legal Genealogist— Grave terms of use. If you contribute to either or both of these sites you might want to read the blog column.

The Bureau of Land Management—Eastern States, Dept. of the Interior table seemed not to attract as many visitors as many of the other exhibitors. Which is a shame since Land Records are being used more and more as important genealogical sources. Besides they were handing out the most colorful pencils!

The people at GenealogyBank talked me into renewing my subscription for two more years instead of one. Pretty smooth talkers at that table.

At the Legacy Family Tree table I got my copy of “Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing” signed by Megan Smolenyak2. (I just love the way she prints her double-last name now!)

I brought an old Ambrotype to show to Maureen Taylor, the “Photo Detective” but it was always too crowded to get to her.

I resisted, again, joining the Sons of the American Revolution at their table. I guess the work on getting my wife into the DAR was too wearing on me.

And once again I didn’t win the drawing at the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel table for a free week in Salt Lake City. Sighhhhhhhhhhh.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Digging For Roots Online

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

You’ve probably already visited YouTube and you’ve been either amazed or bored by cats playing pianos, the latest viral video, your favorite music, or flashmobs. But I’ve found another use for YouTube—as a genealogy and family history tool!

The site says that, “48 hours of video are uploaded every minute, resulting in nearly 8 years of content uploaded every day.” This means that the chances of finding something on our favorite subject (and you know what that is, don’t you!) are pretty good.

I started out by doing a search for “genealogy or geneology or family history research”. And yes, I needed to include the spelling “geneology” because it’s found much too frequently in our subject! Interestingly enough one of the first things I found was a video on  Geneology-Why Do We Tend to Spell It Wrong?
But I digress.What I found were videos in these areas: How To…, explanations of genealogy computer software, and genealogical inspirational videos.
All of the major players in the family history field are represented with “channels” that you can subscribe to. They have videos that show not only what they can offer but also videos on research techniques that can be used by researchers on both their site and in non-computer related settings. Let’s look at a few of the “channels”:

FamilySearch channel:

Here you will find such topics as Creative Ways To Honor Your Ancestors, video presentations from RootsTech 2012, an excellent series to introduce non-genealogists to our favorite subject--Genealogy in 5 Minutes, Using Name Variations To Find A Record, and Societies and Archives. And that’s just the start of 60 videos! channel:

Uniqueness in the Ordinary”, My Jewish ("Polish") and Hispanic ("Dark Irish") Story, Using Search To Successfully Tell Your Ancestor's Story, Star of Your Family Story Contest: Free Blacks in the South, and many more.

NARA (U.S. National Archives) :

George Washington and the Paparazzi, Pearl Harbor: In Their Own Words, Passport Applications, 1795-1925, Immigration Records at the National Archives, Military Research at the National Archives, etc.

Family Tree Magazine:

City Directories on Internet Archive, How to Use Digital Magazines, Organize Your Hard Drive, Hairstyles in the Family, Spitting Images: My First DNA Test, Making a Protective Book Box, Using Google Books Search.

Lisa Louise Cooke’s GenealogyGems:

Military Records, Newspaper Research, Obituaries: Clues to Look For, Interviews with Genealogy Experts.

National Genealogical Society:

NGS has a series of what I consider inspirational videos that encourage me and make me want to go on when I hit those brick walls. Here are some examples: Helen F.M. Leary: Stories from My Research, My Life in Genealogy with David Rencher, Paths to Your Past with Elizabeth Shown Mills, Thomas W. Jones, David Rencher, and other experts, and Genealogy for Teens by Thomas Adams, recipient of the NGS Rubincam Youth Award


You may notice that I use both “genealogy” and “family history” in my posts. I think of them as different but complementary ways of looking at our heritage. This video, while biased towards the “family history” side and with a British slant, discusses the differences:

If you were fortunate enough to be with me at the National Genealogical Society annual conference for 2010 in Salt Lake City, you’ll remember the fantastic program presented by FamilySearch/LDS. The wonderful and inspiring videos shown there are also here on the FamilySearch channel: Woven Generations, Letters from Estonia , Searching for Emma, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, (I think the entire audience was crying at the end of this one when the Mormon Tabernacle Choir started to sing it!) and my favorite, Clan McCloud. (Full disclosure: being of Scots descent I’m biased towards bagpipes.)

For additional inspiration, you can watch many of the episodes of the British version of Who Do You Think You Are?

My favorite is the JK Rowling episode but they are all good even though I don’t recognize many of the people who are featured.

And finally, there are various videos that you won’t find with the “genealogy or geneology or family history research” search but just may be what you need to put “flesh on the bones” of your ancestors.

Look for what they may have done for work (Coal Mining in Early America), or their health  (Healthy Living Conditions in the 19th Century). How did your great-great grandmother dress (19th Century Women's Clothing ) or what kind of music did great-great granddad listen to (Brass Band Music of the mid-19th Century and the American Civil War- North & south)? What were our ancestors’ lives like in Colonial America 17th century Colonial America)? Did they participate in one of our wars (War of 1812 Katzhütte, Großbreitenbach, Böhlen) or live in early 1900s Ireland (Ulster Folk and Transport Museum)? Did they survive the plague in medieval Europe (The Plague) or the1918 Flu epidemic (The Influenza Pandemic of 1918)? Since we’re thinking much about 1940 these days (remember the census?), what were schools like in Appalachia in the 1940s (The Children Must Learn: Education in Appalachia)?

I believe that if you dig into YouTube you will find that there is more than just “ Double Rainbows”.
Remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen says,
“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

Sunday, June 3, 2012

San Francisco Colma Cemetery Index

Exciting news for all San Francisco Bay Area Researchers

3 June 2012


SFgenealogy is excited to announce a new major database available online:

San Francisco Colma Cemetery Index

The database currently includes over 305,000 burial records for the Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma (1887-2001). In the future, other historic and current cemetery databases will be added to this resource.

This database is the newest addition to SFgenealogy's collection of other major databases available on the internet for free: San Francisco Mortuary Records database and the California Birth and Death Indexes.

Ron Filion and Pamela Storm, Founders
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