Society Saturday – Putting Money Where Your Mouth Is

One of the fastest ways to make a genealogy society better is to get involved.  I am a member of my local society, Marin County Genealogical Society.  I have been a ‘regular’ member for a couple of years now.  I have attended most of our monthly meetings in the last couple of years.

Recently, our Treasurer announced that she will be moving to a new area and will not be able to remain on our Board.  I decided that it was time to put my money where my mouth is and volunteer to complete the term of the Treasurer position.

We had our monthly meeting the last week of November.  It was awesome that the next day I was already taking checks to the bank.

I am looking forward to being in the Treasurer position.  Next time your society has a position open consider volunteering for it.  You may be surprised how happy it will make you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am thankful for many things including:

  • My family,
  • My ancestors,
  • The stack of old photos my grandmother shared with me the other week (I need to get them scanned to redistribute to family!),
  • My genealogy friends,
  • All of the wonderful people who have helped fill my genealogy requests this year at libraries and government offices around the country,
  • and that I am currently on a tropical island on vacation!
I hope you and yours enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving!

A Case Of Reverse Ageism

In my early thirties, I am almost always the youngest person in the room when I attend anything genealogy related.  When I first joined my local genealogy society, Marin County Genealogical Society, I was intimidated by the room full of people older than me.  I quickly learned that this was my own insecurity as everyone was very welcoming.

I have also realized that age is no issue in my society.  The reality is that there are different levels of experience in researching.  I have learned from some of the people who have years of knowledge to share.  In return, I have shared some of the things I have learned with members who are just starting out.  I love walking into meetings now so I can see the people I consider friends.

At the beginning of November I attended a day long genealogy seminar in the Bay Area.  I had a blast meeting new people and learning new things.  I had only one negative experience during the day and it took me by complete surprise.

At the beginning of the program, the host genealogy society, San Mateo Genealogical Society, announced that their Spring seminar would feature a well-known genealogist, D Joshua Taylor. As I was there to see Tom Jones, I was impressed with the quality of speakers that was on the menu.  At lunch the Spring Seminar was discussed.  One of the women at the table expressed that she would not be attending because she wondered what Josh Taylor would have to offer being so young.  She felt that Tom Jones as a more experienced researcher would be able to teach her new things.

I quickly shut my mouth and counted to three before saying something I would regret.  I then calmly replied that I plan to attend.  I continued that I believe Josh Taylor will have a fresh perspective to offer and that his 15 years of experience was nothing to sneeze at.  I ended by joking that it will be nice to not be the youngest in the room if only by a couple of years. The things running through my head were not very nice so I will not repeat them.

When I got home, I told my husband about the conversation and was shocked at the anger I felt when recounting it.  After processing my feelings, here is what I think about this case of reverse ageism:

1. It will be her loss if she does not attend the Spring seminar.  D Joshua Taylor is a genealogy superstar in the making.  If this woman does not appreciate what he has accomplished under the age of 30, she just doesn’t get it.

2.  I am super thankful that this is the only time I have felt my age was an issue.

3.  The genealogy community has many wonderful younger researchers.  We bring a different perspective that augments the views of the more experienced researchers.

4.  The genealogy community in general is a welcoming, friendly place.

5. Last but not least, if you hear someone making a ridiculous remark about age (young or old) – Speak Up! I did not have to yell or be mean to get my point across.  I don’t know if she got it but there was definitely some acknowledgement from others at the table.

In closing, I learned a lot from Tom Jones at this seminar and look forward to learning a lot from Josh Taylor in the Spring.  Hope to see you there!

A View Of The Ocean

I took a trip with the kids out to the beach to make some sand castles this week.  While the kids were playing in the sand, I took a moment to feel the ocean.  There is something about the ocean that I just can’t get enough of.  The smell of the salt water, the calming sound of the waves lapping up on the shore, the wind on your face, and the feel of the sand between your toes is like heaven to me.  I feel connected when at the beach.  It is a kind of faith knowing that there is something bigger out there.

My father being in the Coast Guard during my childhood probably had a huge influence in how I feel about the water.  I grew up living on both coasts.  When we lived in Huntington Beach, California you could ride you bike to the beach.  We lived on Aquidneck Island in Rhode Island.  This is the “island” in Rhode Island (it is the largest island in the state and where Newport is located).  While living in Rhode Island, we saw water everyday.  We also lived outside of Washington, DC during my middle school years.  The ocean is about 3-4 hours from our Northern Virginia house but we would camp at Assateague Island each summer on the sand dunes. Summers during high school in Northern California always included beach days at Stinson Beach.  And life was a beach while attending University of California San Diego.

While enjoying the beach last week, it occurred to me that most of my ancestors never lived near the ocean.  I come from Middle America farmers.  Most likely, the only ancestors who saw the ocean where those who traveled across it to reach the United States.

It was a WOW moment for me as I thought about the journeys they endured to get to the U.S.  I wonder how they viewed the ocean?  Was it just an obstacle for them to cross or was it an opportunity?  Did they feel the same way about the water that I do?  Did they get to spend much time outdoors when crossing the Atlantic or were they confined inside?  How long was the trip from Europe to the United States?  Time to do some more research!


Leaving My (Water)Mark On Social Media

Blogging is like anything else in life.  You have to invest in continuing education.  Genealogists are usually really good at this.  You take the time to learn about different techniques to break down that wall, read history books to create context in your ancestors life, and attend conferences to learn even more.

Helping to evolve the family business, my husband has become a social media addict.  Acknowledging that the yellow pages are not what they used to be, he spends about an half hour a day writing blogposts, twitter & facebook updates, pinning work photos to Pinterest, etc, etc, to advertise in the digital world.

We tell each other what we learn about blogging.  I mostly learn by reading other blogs.  My husband has had other opportunities such as working with a digital media consultant.

We have been talking a lot lately about how far and wide your data can travel in the digital age.  The discussion came up after my mom who lives on the East coast starting re-pinning photos my husband was posting of windows and doors.  The terms of service for Pinterest puts the responsibility on users to follow copyright law.  It also asks that you follow pin etiquette and credit your sources.   All of that being said, Pinterest is still a playground for copyright issues.In order to be sure that we receive credit for our photos, my husband and I agreed that we both need to start putting watermarks on the photos we post to our respective blogs.  Not only will this help discourage people from blatant stealing but it can also push traffic back to our websites.  I know that a watermark will not stop a true thief so I am also going to include my information in the metadata for each photo.

We recently purchased Adobe Photoshop Elements 10.  It is so much fun and there are so many cool functions.  I have been playing with some photos the last couple of days to figure out how to use the software.  The picture below was one of my test photos.  It was taken on a family weekend in Truckee this past winter.  Riley, my dog, is waiting for the next snowball to come her way.  I have figured out how to create a watermark using a text layer so I am now in business.Now I need to continue my education and sign up for a Photoshop class!

My sweet girl Riley

How Genealogy Can Be Inspired By Creativity

I have a stack of magazines next to my bed that are mostly a few months old.  I try to keep up with my reading so every so often I pull one out at random to read.  Last night’s winner was the May 2012 issue of Real Simple.    I really enjoyed the article “Can You Get More Creative” by A.J. Jacobs.  The article follows the writer’s quest to “reignite” his creative juices.  One of the big take aways from the article I read is that you need to let creativity hit you from all angles.  You need to nourish creativity and seek it out.

The left hand column of the article contained “7 Habits of Highly Creative People.”  As I read each habit, I was struck how these same ideas could be useful for genealogy research.  Life lessons always seem to overlap many facets of your life.  So here is the list and how I would apply it to genealogy:

1.  Play – take time to flip though your genealogy paperwork or browse your digital file.  Just enjoy the stories of how your ancestors lived.  Take out your family treasures.  While you enjoy them, let yourself feel inspired.

2.  Borrow Ideas – Read genealogy blogs to get ideas for further research.  There have been many times that I have found a new repository or research technique from reading other blog posts.

3.  Sleep On It – When you hit a brick wall, it is always good to take a step back to re-evaluate what you know.  Looking at something fresh the next morning can open you to new ideas.

4.  Collect Every Seed Of An Idea – Keep a research journal.  Write down ideas about how to attack a research problem.  Make lists of repositories that could be useful.  Capture ideas for future blog posts.

5.  Embrace Constraints – I have ancestors from a ‘burned’ county in Virginia.  Instead of stopping my research into that family, I learned how to use new record types to get around some of the missing papers in the county archives.

6.  Commune with Nature – Get out and visit a cemetery.  Some of my husband’s ancestors are buried within an hours drive.  It is time to get in the car, go pay my respects, and take a few good photos for my genealogy collection.

7.  Compete – Set a goal with yourself or a research buddy.  See who can complete that goal first.  You might be surprised what can get accomplished.  I compete with myself all the time.  I set a timer and see how much I can get scanned and entered into my genealogy software during the time limit.

Commentary on Comments

One thing I enjoy about blogging is the concept of comments.  When I read other blogs, I leave comments when a post speaks to me.  I also am thankful for those who leave comments on my blog.  I have received amazing support and encouragement from family and the genealogy community through the comments on my blog.

This week I have been grappling with what to do when you receive inappropriate comments on your blog.  A not so Anonymous person has used my blog to express her personal problems.  This is my blog so I have removed the content.  I respect Anonymous’ 1st Amendment Rights to free speech so I am going to suggest she start her own blog to tell her story.
I have to admit there is a part of me that just wants to put this not so Anonymous person on blast.  When it comes down to it, I just really don’t care to reciprocate the hate I have read this week.  I want to teach my children to be kind, truthful, and tolerant of others so I must lead by example.
I have the comments on my blog set up to make it as easy, inviting, and accessible as possible.  I do not want have a feeling of censorship on my blog but I feel that the best solution in this situation is to start moderating incoming comments.  I promise to stay on top of my blog and post your comments as soon as possible.
Last night I realized that the inappropriate comments are also a genealogy lesson.  I need to be sure to find as many sources of information about my ancestors as possible . It is important to remember that a story may be biased in a positive or negative direction depending on who has told the story.  I continually strive to do my ancestors justice and portray them accurately.  I know that this involves telling all stories from the happy to the scandalous and everything in between.

Tuesday’s Tip – Write Down Important Pieces Of Today’s History

Last week the publishers of The Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that the 2010 edition will be the final 32 volumes available in print.  They will be fully digital at for all future editions.

This was another one of those moments that I had to stop and take in.  It hit me that my children will probably never open an encyclopedia at the library.  When I was a kid, this was the only option. No one had a home computer let alone access to the internet for research.

I will always remember the smartest boy in my fifth grade class (Maybe not his name, I am horrible with names).  One of the reasons he was considered the smartest is that he read the entire encyclopedia for fun.  He was full of knowledge about just about everything.

I keep having moments where I wonder about what life was like on a daily basis for my ancestors.  How did they do their daily chores?  What tasks did they complete at work each day? What did they think about the major stories in the paper?  What did they do for fun on a day off?  What things became obsolete during their lifetime?

It is important to remember to write down today’s history for your descendants.  If we don’t, our kids (grandkids, etc.) will not know about things that effected our childhood like The Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The Jealous Genealogist

My local genealogy society is the Marin County Genealogical Society.  I love attending our monthly meetings.  Not only do I usually learn something new from the presentations, it is fun to talk with people who have the same passion for family history.

On Wednesday night this week, the Marin County Genealogical Society had its monthly meeting.  The guest speaker was Anthony Hoskins.  He gave a great presentation entitled, “You May Not Be Who You Think You Are, or How Y-DNA Testing Broke Up That Old Family Of Mine.”  As the title suggests, DNA testing shattered years of documentation he had collected.  It was a very interesting story that does not have an ending yet.

I found myself thinking of Mary Bradley during the presentation.  I have written about the search to identify her mother in two posts: Mystery Monday – Who Was Mary Bradley’s Mother? and Mystery Monday – Mary Bradley Update.

Tony Hoskins’ discovery was a surprise and a little earth shaking for him.  He has proven that there is an illegitimate child in his direct line.  While I feel for Tony, I still felt a little jealous on Wednesday night.  I will never be able to prove Mary Bradley’s mother with DNA.  That family line weaves in and out of males and females so I am unable to use the Y chromosome test.

It is back to the paper hunt for me and hopefully there is enough of it to prove or disprove who Mary Bradley’s mother is.  I am still trying to pin down the death date for Catherine Carey in Chicago, Illinois.  I have too many options right now for the time frame I am looking at.  Hopefully, I can pare it down soon and find probate records that identifies if Mary was her child.

Change Is In The Air

In the last couple of months, I have seen updates to a variety of Google services, including Reader, Gmail, and Blogger.  All of the online applications now have the same feel.  Now the products all “drive” the same way.  I am surprised how much I like the new Blogger interface after only a couple of days.

All of these small updates has gotten me to thinking about my ancestors lives again.  Today I am wondering how my ancestors dealt with change.  There have been some huge advances in the last couple of hundred years.  Could you imagine seeing your first automobile? Airplane? Washer and Dryer? Computer?  My great grandmother, Effie Bender, was born (1892) four years after Karl Benz started selling his first cars off the production line.  Effie died (1974) five years after Apollo 11 landed on the moon.  In her 82 years, Effie definitely saw great change!  I would love to be able to interview Effie and find out what she thought of all of the new technology she saw in her lifetime.  Did she accept these new ideas and products with open arms?  Or was there resistance?

I have heard many times “change is inevitable.”  Some people look forward to change, some cringe at the thought.  I try to embrace change and go with the flow.  I think that change is part of a continuing education in my life.