Friday, January 28, 2011

Eleanor's Story

My great-grandmother Gertrude "Eleanor" Baerecke died when she was 42. With the exception of a death certificate and some census records, I don't have much in terms of papers that describe her life.

What I do have are lots of pictures of Eleanor. Way more than any of my other ancestors from this era. These photos tell a lot about my great-grandmother.

I've gathered some of them for a slideshow, which I'm putting here. I hope you like it:

This video is also available in a bigger screen at my YouTube channel.

I hope to do more of these in the future. I think they're a great way to tell family stories to a more technically oriented audience. [And as Rootsmagic pointed out in the comments, a less technically oriented audience as well.]

What should my next subject be? I'm thinkin' RootsTech, but let's just see how it all plays out.

Thanks for watching.

Note: Someone in the comments asked which program I used to make this video. It's Roxio Creator 2011. I have included an affiliate link here:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Genealogy Blogs Part 2: Readers Weigh in on Comments

Last week I asked my readers and fellow bloggers about the process of leaving comments on blogs. Boy, did I get a lot of feedback! Here are some of the themes from the comments on blog comments:

1. Bloggers adjusted their email contact access
I asked if and where bloggers put an email address on their blogs for reader contact. This question caused a lot of bloggers to go back and re-examine their points of contact. I'm of the opinion that email information should be on the front page of the blog/web site, because some readers may not know to where to click to get contact information. Several bloggers commented about possible spam coming from having an email address out there for all to see. That's the reason I don't give my primary email address on my blog. This Yahoo! address is secondary.

2. Blog readers don't like word verification.
The readers have spoken, people. They do not like it. Oh sure, they may put up with it in order to comment on a blog, but what about those who don't understand how it works? You risk alienating them, and you may never make that special contact with your Betty With All the Answers.

I'm sure there are a couple people out there that might want to change word verification and comments settings on their blogs, but don't know how and are afraid to ask. Am I right? I think so. Here's how you do it on Blogger. Go to your Dashboard, which is the jumping off point on Blogger. You'll see a bunch of tabs at the top. Click "Settings" then "Comments." You should be able to adjust your preferences:

Don't forget to save your settings when you're done making changes. If you don't like it, you can always go back to the way it was.

3. Several bloggers use comment moderation to control junk comments.
For those who don't maintain a blog, this means that after you leave a comment, it has to be manually approved by the blogger before the comment can be seen. It's done to filter out spam, but it also means readers can't see their comments or others until they are moderated. This can be kind of frustrating if a blogger only moderates comments every 24 hours or more. How will readers know what's being said?

My only comment on this practice is that Blogger has a pretty good spam filter now so I have bailed on comment moderation for the time being. I still get an email for each comment left on my blog, so I know who is saying what. However, 99% of the time, Blogger steers the spam into the right bucket.

I review my comments daily, so if a junk comment gets published, I can delete it and get back to business. Here's how you too can monitor your comments on Blogger:

If you see a suspect comment in your "Published" folder, simply delete it and get on down the road.

This discussion on comments has been eye-opening, hasn't it? I made some changes as well based on the dialog. For now I've turned off all comment moderation so my readers have the best experience possible. I've also changed the comment page itself by putting comments directly below the post, instead of a full separate page. Hopefully that makes it easier to see the post on which you're commenting.

Thank you to everyone who weighed in on the subject of blog comments. If you didn't get a chance, do go back and read all the feedback that was left on the original post.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

FamilySearch January 2011 Bloginar Now Available Online

On January 18, I attended a FamilySearch bloginar and gave a
brief recap for those who couldn't be there.

That bloginar is now available for you to view here.

Topics discussed include:

FamilySearch latest collection updates
Indexing milestones
Update on upcoming 2011 RootsTech Conference
Info on FamilySearch Research Courses Online
New webinars and podcast offerings
Big picture of research curricula coming online
Community involvement and free training courses

Check it out if you have the time. The next FamilySearch bloginar will be sometime after RootsTech, perhaps March. I will let you know if and when I get an exact date.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Need a Professional Genealogist? Houston, We Don't Have a Problem

Yesterday, announced that they are terminating their Expert Connect program, which was a way to connect clients and researchers. Projects ranged from basic record look-up to custom research, and Ancestry took a slice of the pie.

A quick glance at the comments on's own Facebook page indicated that some folks weren't too happy with the abrupt halt of services, as there's now a void when it comes to identifying location-specific researchers.

If you are in need of professional research assistance or record retrieval in the Houston area, I am happy to help. My territory includes:

The Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research

Houston Public Library

Houston Metropolitan Research Center

Rosenberg Library (Galveston)

Harris County Courthouse

Woodson Research Center at Rice University

Montgomery County Public Library Central Branch (Conroe)

Montgomery County Courts

Liberty County Courthouse

Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center

I am willing to travel to other counties in Texas as needed.

I'm also available for custom research and other genealogy needs including family history writing projects. Please contact me for pricing and questions.

Should you need research services in other portions of Texas, please let me know as I have established a network of wonderful professionals ready to serve you. If you need assistance in other parts of the country and world, consult the Association of Professional Genealogists directory.

Do not feel discouraged or worried about the demise of Expert Connect at There are so many researchers out there willing to assist with your family history.

Also remember that you have a friend in Texas who is more than happy to help.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's a Small Genealogy World After All

This week's prompt in my 52 Weeks of Personal History series is about family homes. I've enjoyed reading all of these posts, and even was surprised by one of them.

In Mary's Musings, blogger Mary Post Warren reflected on her family's homes. She even gave the address of one of them on 118th Street in 1940's Los Angeles. This rang a bell in my head. My dad was born in Los Angeles and his family lived on 117th Street during the same time frame. A comparison of house numbers showed that they lived at the same location on the block, just on different streets. They were neighbors!

Here are some of the neighbor kids during a birthday party at the house on 117th Street:

Here is another photo of a neighborhood party. My grandmother circled herself and her son.

I doubt Mary will recognize any of these people, but it's worth a shot. 

Today, this area of Los Angeles is crammed with homes, but back then, there still was quite a bit of open land. 

If Mary's family and my own lived near each other, it was for a short time. My grandparents pulled up stakes and head east to Pomona in the later 1940's.

Quite a small world, isn't it? Also another example of the magic of genealogy blogs.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Genealogy Blogs: A Comment on Comments

What if a sweet little old lady with generations of research of your family tree stumbled onto your blog? Wouldn't that be great? What if she had trouble leaving a comment and got so frustrated that she left your blog without saying a word? This is my worst nightmare. In my genealogy fantasy world in my head, I picture this lady out there somewhere. I call her Betty With All the Answers. When she does find my blog and wants to share all her notes, I've made it easy for her to contact me.

This got me thinking...and it's always dangerous when I start thinking...

I'm curious to know how your blog is set up to receive comments from others. I have some questions to ask all of you. These are in bold, and I've put my responses below them. If you want to answer as a blogger or reader of blogs, I would love to get your input. Leave a comment below.

Do you have your email address on your blog? Why or why not?
I do have my email address in the top right corner of my blog. It gives readers a way to contact me privately. Sometimes, as a blog reader, I want a way to share family history information or other details that I'd prefer not be in a public comment. I'm assuming some of my blog readers feel the same, so I've given them an option to contact me off the blog.

Do you allow comments from only those who are registered or have special accounts, such as a WordPress account or Google for Blogger? Why or why not?
I comment on a lot of blogs, and I notice that some require readers to have an account in order to comment. This is to curb anonymous commenters and possible junk, I'm sure. However, it also blocks regular people who don't have special accounts. I don't have a WordPress account, so I can never comment on those blogs with that setting.

My blog is open to all commenters. You can be anonymous and don't have to have a Google account, otherwise my own parents would never be able to comment on my blog. I've found that most people provide their own names, or familiar nicknames, and I rarely have a real "anonymous" commenter. This open commenting setting is important to me because it's one more way Betty With All the Answers can reach me.

What's your take on word verification?
Many, many blogs have this feature turned on. My blog does not currently utilize word verification. Here's why:

1. The Blogger word verification feature is not entirely reliable. Sometimes it plain doesn't work. I can't see a word in the box, there's nothing for me to type, and therefore I can't comment on a blog. Everyone loses.

2. The squiggly letters are getting more difficult to read. People, I'm in my 30's and I can't make sense of the letters sometimes. I can't imagine my wise elders with worsening eyesight are faring any better in deciphering them. One less headache in my book.

3. The purpose and process of word verification isn't as easy for our readers to comprehend as we think. Two different family members of mine expressed confusion with the word verification process. I don't want readers dealing with the same experience, and I sure as heck don't want Betty With All the Answers to be confused.

Blogger has been really good about sorting junk comments into the trash bin. I've only had one junk comment get into my blog since turning off word verification, and it was easily spotted and erased from the "comments" page on Blogger. I really hope I can continue to keep word verification off as long as possible. So far, so good.

Do you manually approve your comments before they are published on your blog? Why or why not?
I only require this of comments that are over 14 days old. I have a couple of blog posts that are magnet for junk comments, and this controls that. However, I may turn this switch off as well and see if Blogger can handle it.

On this here old blog, it's important to me that I provide a welcoming, friendly space for a someone to contact me. It's scary to contact a stranger out of the blue and I want to ease that process. Comments are just too important to me. I know my Betty With All the Answers is out there and I want her to contact me when she finds me.

I read a ton of blogs and comment on a daily basis. Usually there are 2-3 blogs a day where I am unable to comment due to restrictions put forth by a blog owner. Perhaps this is their preference, but it is also a lost opportunity to connect.

Does tight management of junk comments come at the expense of real blog readers? There is no one-step solution for all. I don't think there is a right or wrong way to manage blogs, as everyone writes for a different purpose or audience. I just wanted to comment on comments and invite you to do the same.

What say you on the subject?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FamilySearch Bloginar, January 18, 2011

I attended another FamilySearch webinar this afternoon. The basic goal was to give a general update on the latest developments at FamilySearch. Here's a short recap:

1. FamilySearch indexing and arbitration are posting record numbers each day.

Yesterday was a record with over 1.9 million items indexed. Yowza.

2. RootsTech

Registration is still ongoing for RootsTech. There was also a brief discussion on a collaborative station and unconferencing at RootsTech. The collaborative station will (I think) be set up in the exhibit/tech hall. There will be a large screen tv, seats, and a place to hook up laptops. The intent is to use this space to discuss or collaborate on an idea of the group's choosing. The subject discussed is up to the group.

Unconference events will also be held at RootsTech. These are slightly more structured than what happens at the collaborative space. You choose your topics, but they are discussed in a classroom setting with whiteboards. These are considered working sessions.

Open Interactive Discussions: there will be five of these events during RootsTech. They will cover subjects that generate dialog (such as genealogical data standards). Audience input is encouraged. The goal of these meetings is to come toward a consensus that would be helpful for the industry. There's nothing like this being offered at any genealogy conference that I know of, so I'm looking forward to this format.

3. Research material and classes

FamilySearch has big plans to offer many classes and lessons (thousands). They will be loosely grouped into beginner, intermediate, advanced and professional levels. Courses are offered in video and audio formats. There's even a podcast. Look for more of these in the future. Visit the Learn page at FamilySearch.

Next up in the education department are five-minute videos geared toward beginners.

4. Questions from the crowd

Various people had specific questions about FamilySearch records and other things. You can hear all about it at the bloginar recording.

Go to the FamilySearch Wiki and search for bloginar. Today's (1/18/11) bloginar will be up and available for view soon.

About 85-90 people were dialed in for this event.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Interview with RootsTech speaker Diane Loosle

I had the pleasure of speaking with Diane Loosle,CG, AG recently. She is one of the many speakers at the upcoming RootsTech conference. I asked her about the RootsTech in general, as well as her session "FamilySearch: Providing Help Now and in the Future."

What makes RootsTech different than other family history conferences?

RootsTech is an opportunity like no other for genealogists and technologists to get together and discuss how technology can be a solution to helping us be successful. How often do we have challenges with technology which makes our work in finding our ancestors more difficult. This is a chance to talk with the creators of the technology and share where we struggle so they can improve our experience with their products. Most family historians are completely unaware of how a wide variety of technologies can help them with genealogy. This conference goes beyond the traditional technologies represented at genealogical conferences. The sessions are a wide variety of products that people have found to be helpful in genealogy. This is a great opportunity to learn how to be more effective and efficient in your family history.

There are a large number of hands-on workshops and sessions on a many different technologies. This is exciting to be able to try out different technologies with an instructor. Also, as I have looked over the sessions and workshops, I have been surprised by the many different technologies people have found helpful to them in genealogy. Wow!!! I am only scratching the surface of the things I could be using to be successful.

I am personally excited about this conference because it is something new and different and I am certain I will learn a lot that will be helpful to me. I am also excited because the technology developers will be there and listening to us to make products that meet our needs and solve our challenges even better in the future. I think that everyone with any interest in family history would benefit from attending and hope to see as many of you there as possible.

2. You're teaching "Family Search: Providing Genealogy Help Now and in the Future." What can attendees expect from this session?

All the resources available!

Have you ever needed help from someone to do your family history? We all have. Sometimes finding the person who has the piece of knowledge you need can be time consuming, expensive and difficult. The knowledge we need exists in the heads of people all over the world: librarians, archivists, more experienced researchers, societies, local historians, record searchers, people who live in the place your ancestor lived, etc. It is important to have someone there to answer your questions when you have them and help hold your hand through to your next step. FamilySearch has been there for decades helping people free of charge to be successful in doing family history. We are here to stay and helping people be successful is what FamilySearch is all about.

Attendees will learn about little known services that FamilySearch provides both in our physical locations and online to help people find answers to their questions and receive one-on-one help. They will learn about our latest services to give you better access to the right information, training and people who can help you. For example, FamilySearch Research Wiki and Research Courses are some of the latest additions to the FamilySearch website, with FamilySearch Forums to be added soon.

FamilySearch is working together with the genealogical community to enable you to help each other and be successful in finding your ancestors. We are collaborating with many organizations and people to make more information and training available. This session will cover all the services that are now available and give you a glimpse into the future of our activities in this area. You’ll be surprised by the wide variety of things FamilySearch is doing to help you be successful and find the help you need anytime, anywhere. The key to success is YOU, because everyone knows something that can help someone else. FamilySearch will be there to connect YOU to the people who can help YOU and the people YOU can help.

Since your class is about the present as well as looking forward, what do you see in regard to collaboration between FamilySearch and the genealogy field in the future?

Of course, it is difficult to know exactly what will happen in the future because we learn and shift our thinking all the time. But, I will share with you my opinion about the areas that I think are likely to grow and develop in the future.

I feel that you will likely see more collaboration with the genealogical community to bring you access to records, information, training and people to help you. There are many organizations and people who are trying to preserve and make records available and who are trying to provide help. These include: archives, libraries, historians, commercial companies, genealogists, societies, technologists and many others. Many of these organizations do not have the resources to make what they have available broadly, whether it is records or knowledge. Many do not have the resources to advertise to make people aware of their services or records. There are hidden treasures all over the world in people’s heads and in physical locations. I see FamilySearch doing more in the future to enable and facilitate others to preserve, share and provide the records, knowledge and services to the world so we can all benefit. The FamilySearch Indexing is a perfect example of this where FamilySearch provides the technology and the images and others provide the indexing. Another example is the new service to assist organizations and individuals with putting training classes online. Many different people and organizations have and will participate in the future.

I also see FamilySearch providing more tools to connect you in the genealogical community to each other because everyone knows something that can help someone else. Wouldn’t it be great if you always had access to the right people, information and records you needed to solve your research problem from any location, in any language and at any time of day. Imagine if you had an ancestor who came from Poland to the United States and settled in the Midwest. What if you could bring together in one place the following: a Midwest expert, a migration expert, an immigration specialist, a Polish researcher, the archivist in Poland, someone who speaks and reads Polish, someone who lives in the place your ancestor comes from in the Midwest and another one in Poland, historians familiar with the time period and social context, and the records you needed. Would that be an amazing world? I think so and I think one day it could be possible if we all work together towards a common goal.

FamilySearch has always been interested in your success and the success of the genealogical community as a whole. That will not change. FamilySearch is here to stay and we are anxious to give you the best service experience possible. To that end, you can expect to see improvements to all of our services in the future. You can expect us to talk with you more and learn what you needs are. You can expect us to listen and as we find better ways to help you, new services and tools will become available. You can expect that we will always try to provide you the best solutions to your genealogical research problems, regardless of where the solutions can be found. FamilySearch offers our services for free, but often the best solution for your particular problem is to refer you to a commercial company or a professional genealogist. We are interested in a strong genealogical community with many players and we know that we need them all to be successful. We are interested in your success, so our goal is to always point you to the best possible answer no matter where it may be.

Together we can find our ancestors! The future looks very bright and very interesting as we all work together to provide solutions to challenges we all face.

Special thanks to Diane for taking the time to share about the RootsTech conference and one of her sessions. Interested in attending the RootsTech conference? Register here.

Disclosure: I am an Official Blogger for the RootsTech conference, and will periodically write about the event in this capacity. This perk includes complimentary registration to the event. 

Friday, January 14, 2011 Grant Program just announced a grant program to promote and advance family history research and historical preservation. Each month, recipient will be chosen for a $1000 grant. Individuals and groups are encouraged to apply.

For more information, see the press release announcing the grant program, or fill out the application.

If you know someone or a group that could benefit from this grant, please spread the word!

Thank you for for the opportunity, generosity and willingness to support family history.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Genealogy Society Memberships: What Makes You Join?

Today was the day that I renewed my membership in several genealogy societies. I also decided not to renew memberships in two societies. Here are the reasons why and why not:

Renewed distance membership in small society.
I am a member of a very tiny society. They send me a small publication 4 times a year. I am invited to meetings, but never go because of the driving distance. I give them my money to support their group. I want them to keep going to preserve the area's history, and expect nothing else from them. I am happy to pay.

Renewed membership in regional society
Frankly, the society doesn't do many events and I don't know where my money goes. However, I really like the members. They're a fun crowd. Basically I pay to hang out with them.

Renewed distance membership in state society
I may never get to a meeting with this organization, but I love what they do. They have their act together as a group and make good contributions to genealogy. They also welcomed me as a distance member and put me to work. I am happy to support them from afar.

I also made the decision not to renew with two groups.

Let membership lapse in large society
Sometimes with big groups, individuals get lost in the crowd. I sent in my checks and received publications, but that was it. Differing philosophies on genealogy education made me decide that it's time for an amicable parting.

Let membership lapse in regional society
Shortly after I joined this society, an officer told me that the group events are geared toward the 55+ crowd. I was also told that there aren't many genealogy society officers my age because we have trouble keeping our commitments with all the other things going on in our lives (such as taking care of children, etc.). Really. I mentally dropped out on the spot and haven't been back. One less check to write this year and forever.

There are a couple more societies where my membership renewals come up mid-year. Barring any big change, I expect to renew those as well.

My reasons for belonging to genealogy societies depend on the group. Some I want to help fund. Some I expect to help me learn. Some I support because I admire the way they help others learn.

There are so many genealogy societies, historical societies, heritage societies, library friends groups, and more out there that depend on our financial support. It would be nice to fund them all, but we can't. That's why today I had to make choices to stay or go. Some were easy, some weren't. It made me wonder how others decide.

What about you? What do you look for in a genealogy society membership?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Civil War Sesquicentennial Grants for Societies and Libraries

If you're part of a non-profit group with 501 (c) (3) non-profit status such as a historical society or a library, these grants may be of interest to you:

Civil War Sesquicentennial National Traveling Exhibition: "Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War"
A partnership between the National Constitution Center, the American Library Association, and the National Endowment for the Humanities are the foundation for this grant. Two hundred institutions/organizations will be selected to host this exhibition each for six weeks. This would be a great event for historical societies or in partnership with their local libraries. Imagine the press and exposure this could generate for your group. More information on the exhibit, requirements, application details and questions can be found here.
Application deadline, May 5, 2011.

Small Grants to Libraries: Let's Talk About It: Making Sense of the Civil War
A partnership between the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities brings forth this scholar-led reading and discussion program for public audiences. This grant is open to U.S. public, academic, community college libraries with 501 (c) (3) status. If you're a part of a Friends group or other group that has a strong relationship with a local library, consider sharing this grant announcement with them. More information on the exhibit, requirements, application details and questions can be found here.
Application deadline, April 19, 2011.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jost Family in Inzenhof, Austria: My Tallest Brick Wall

[Note: One of my genealogy goals for 2011 is to find my elusive 16th great-grandparent. To do this, I need to list everything I know and don't know about my great-grandmother. This is the only way I will find more about her mother.]

My great-grandmother is Cecelia Yost, though I believe her name is really Cecelia JOST.

What I know:
I retrieved the following facts from her death certificate:
Birth: 6 December 1892 in Inzenhof, Austria
Death: 23 Sep 1932 in Nuevo, Riverside, California
Father: John Jost (also possibly Johann Jost)

Federal censuses say she immigrated to Lehigh County, PA in 1909. She was a cigar maker in Allentown in the 1910 census.

By the 1920 census, she is married to Albert Turk. I was hoping a marriage record would list Cecelia's parents' names, but Lehigh County Historical Society has no record of the union. It cost me $30 to find that out, so I've been gun shy about further requests. I have not contacted repositories in the surrounding counties yet. If anyone is able to search in this area, I may consider purchasing your services. Contact me.

The 1930 census provide no clues, and Cecelia died a year later. Her youngest daughter (my grandmother) does not remember her mother. She believes Cecelia had relatives (possibly sisters) in Pennsylvania.

I made an initial inquiry on the Ancestry message boards in October 2010 and received some great leads. I need to follow up on these. I also need to scour the Burgenland Bunch website, especially the list of Jost researchers. There are several people researching Josts who settled in the Lehigh Valley, as well as some who came from Inzenhof!

My attempts to research this name in Pennsylvania so far have been unsuccessful. There are simply too many Yost / Jost folks and I don't have enough details to make my ancestors stand out. As for passenger lists, there are several possibilities for my Cecelia Yost / Jost. I'm wondering if I'm just spinning wheels trying to research Pennsylvania and maybe it's time to cross the pond to Austria in search of an answer.

The next step I'm going to take is to contact some of these Jost researchers and see if they have my Cecelia in their trees. After that, I need to analyze the passenger lists and study all the possibilities for my great- grandmother. I need to look at their destinations, look the contact person on this end and see if there's a paper trail anywhere that could lead to my Cecelia (and possibly other relatives).

I don't believe Cecelia's parents made the trip to the United States, though the answer to the identity of my 16th great-grandparent may be here.

Well, there you go, my tallest brick wall to date. If you have any advice or expertise in Austrian research, please comment below. I'm also interested in any historical resources for this area in the late 1800's. Given Inzenhof's proximity to the Hungarian border, I'm thinking I need a basic history lesson.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Genealogy Resolutions: Checking In

A few weeks ago, I met with The Family Curator. We came up with some genealogy challenges for the coming year and promised to hold each other accountable.

This post is an update in that challenge. How have I done so far?

Well, I got my third-great grandfathers 103-page Civil War pension file scanned. Gold star on the organization part of the challenge.

The writing and research parts took a backseat while I got my family back to school after the break. I also had 2 genealogy book reviews that needed to get done. I'm pleased to say I've finished both.

Now that everything is caught up from the holidays, I'm ready to pick up speed. Here are my short-term goals for accomplishment:

Organization: more scanning. I hope to finish scanning the lengthy Chickasaw History paper in my files.

Writing: Develop outline for e-book idea #1 (yeah, there's two now swimming around my head but that's another issue). Since I spend so much time waiting in my car for my kiddo, I've purchased a spiral notebook specifically for this purpose. I write everything in the car, don't you know?

Research: I need to gather all the information I have on my great-grandmother and post it here. That's the quickest way to get it out on the Internet, and perhaps get some research advice from my knowledgeable readers. This is the first step in finding that elusive 16th great-great grandparent.

Guess that's it for now. I totally recommend the buddy system when it comes to genealogy goals. Keeps ya honest! 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Genealogy Videos: Family History in 3 Minutes

 I think I found a way to share family history without people knowing they're learning family history.

(Heads up at work: there's music involved. Also, enlarging the video to full-screen makes it blurry. Blame Blogger.)

What do you think?

I love this process. It lets me tell stories with words, pictures and music. In 3 minutes, I shared with you (and my family members who are reading this blog) about my great-great grandparents, and your eyes didn't glaze over nor did you fall asleep at the table.

Genealogy purists will probably get their ahnentafels in a bunch because this piece lacks sources, but you know what? I don't care. My mission is to share about the lives of my ancestors and help others do the same. With this nifty storytelling avenue, I'm well on my way. 

The process of developing a personal genealogy video isn't too hard. You just have to have the patience and confidence to experiment with whatever software program you choose. I used Roxio Creator 2011 (affiliate link). You can also use programs that came with your computer, such as Windows Movie Maker or Mac equivalent.

Once you have that sorted, here are the basic steps to creating a narrative slideshow:

1. Gather photos. Make sure you own them or have permission to use them. Finding pictures on the Internet or someone else's Ancestry tree doesn't count. Allow time for cropping and editing if necessary.

2. Upload and sort. Upload the photos you want to use in your slideshow. All the video programs I've used have a place where you can drag images around the screen and put them in the order of your preference.

3. Add text. Depending on the story you want to tell, you can interject slides between photos or put words directly on the images. Keep the narration simple. Limit the amount of words per slide and use a big font.

4. Add audio if desired. If you choose this option, I recommend making the selection of music "Step 0" in this process. Finding music for this slideshow was the first thing I did. Why? Because once I found the right piece, it set the tone and guided my story. There are plenty of places to get legal music for videos. If you want to get all fancy, you can also use audio clips from your own digital recordings. 

Hopefully this little video gets your own creative gears grinding. Telling the story of my great-great grandparents was a fun process. I fully intend on making another narrative slideshow. In fact, I already have an idea....

[Note part 1: This video is also on You Tube. I tried to upload it here via that site, but Blogger was having a fit. Perhaps their ahnentafels are in a bunch. --Amy]

[Note part 2: Grandpa, if you're reading this, I hope you liked it! --Amy]

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Suzanne Freeman Memorial Genealogy Student Grant for SCGS11

[Note: Below is a press release for a genealogy grant named for a wonderful woman. Suzanne Winsor Freeman passed away last year, but I am fortunate to have known her. Special thanks to her daughter for this wonderful way to honor Suzanne's memory.  --Amy]

Memorial Grant to Assist Young Genealogists Attending 
2011 SCGS Jamboree

Student genealogists interested in attending the 2011 Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree are invited to apply for the 2011 Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant established by friends and family to honor Suzanne’s Freeman’s lifetime of service to young people and to assist young genealogists seeking to advance their genealogical education.

Suzanne Freeman was the mother of blogger and writer Denise Levenick, The Family Curator, and a life-long volunteer who worked with many youth organizations in the capacity of leader, organizer, and administrator. She also developed a strong interest in family history, and enjoyed the growing number of young student genealogists. At the time of her death in Tucson, Arizona August 28, 2010, Suzanne was
still searching for her elusive Winsor cousins.

Genealogy bloggers came to know Suzanne the past two years at the SCGS Jamboree where she enthusiastically joined the GeneaBlogger Welcome Bag project, assisting in the assembly and distribution of gifts to attending genealogy bloggers.

To honor her support of the SCGS Jamboree, the first Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant will be awarded to a student attending the 2011 Jamboree. The grant includes a check for $500 toward conference expenses.

Applicants need not be a currently registered student, but must have been a enrolled at a college, university, or secondary school within the last twelve months, and be between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five.

Complete guidelines and application are available online at The Family Curator blog Deadline for applications is February 15, 2011; the award recipient will be announced March 1, 2011.

Suzanne Winsor Freeman was born January 5, 1933 in Olathe, Kansas to Arline (Kinsel) and Frank Ammi Brown, and grew up in Orange and Santa Ana after her family moved to California in 1937. She purchased property in Green Valley, Arizona in 1982 and became a full-time Arizona resident in 1997.

The Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Fund honors her love of service and of family history. The purpose of the fund is to assist young genealogists by offering grants to advance their genealogical education, including funds to attend genealogy conferences and workshops.

Suzanne enjoyed researching family history online and frequently posted queries that resulted in new family connections. She supplied stories and anecdotes for, the blog written by her daughter Denise Levenick, and also appeared as a guest blogger at

Donations to the Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Fund may be made at any Wells Fargo Bank c/o Wells Fargo Bank, Green Valley, Arizona 520/625-1222.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors: Book Review

Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors is a handy little tool for genealogy research in this era of United States history. The publication is presented in magazine format, with 84-pages and a UV coated cover. By appearance and weight, it feels like a double-size genealogy magazine with a stronger cover.

Author David Norris has written extensively on the subject, including books and over 250 articles for various publications.

The design of Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors is similar to the Family Chronicle and Internet Genealogy magazines published by Moorshead Magazines. Numerous research topics are presented in 28 articles, each covering a different aspect of Civil War era research and records. Article subjects include:

First steps to finding a Civil War ancestor
Learning how armies are structured
Ancestors in the navies
U.S. Colored Troops and African-American sailors
Medical records, pay records and parole lists
Pension records, civilian records, tax records and Southern claims.
Newspapers, photos, maps and flags

Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors stays true to the magazine format and does not contain an index or suggested reading list at the end of the publication. However, each article includes many mentions of books, record groups or links readers can access for more information on a given subject.

Black and white photos are peppered throughout the publication. Subjects include soldiers, documents and maps. Most articles have a least one photo in them.

David Norris packs a lot of information in one spot. Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors is a good introductory resource for the various records that are available with regards to Civil War ancestors. A complete cover-to-cover read of Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors will give you a basic understanding of Civil War resources and suggestions for further research.

Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors
ISBN 978-0-9781592-7-6
$9.95 US/CDN
Available at through this page.
Also available at Barnes & Noble and Books a Million in the USA, and Chapters/Indigo in Canada.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this publication from Family Chronicle. I was not compensated for this article.

Monday, January 3, 2011

This is not a Flip-Pal review

The genealogy princess, about 1977

In December I wrote about negotiating that one of my Christmas gifts be a Flip-Pal scanner. I wanted it before the holiday so I could use it when I visited my family in California. The goal was to scan family photos while I was at my parents house.

I am pleased to announce that I met that goal. To be more specific, I scanned the hell out of my Flip-Pal. I sat in my parents' family room, visited and watched tv with everyone. Then I did the same at the in-laws. The whole time I just scanned photos. The final tally on this trip: over 2,800 photos scanned!

This was the first time I used my Flip-Pal and it worked just fine. I have not yet used the software that allows users to stitch photos together. That time will come.

Here are the modifications I made for this marathon scanning session:

I bought a 10.2" netbook case at Target to hold my Flip-Pal for the trip. It is a pretty blue shade and has a zippered front pocket for all my scanner stuff like the USB stick and extra SD cards.

The Flip-Pal uses 4 AA batteries. I had 8 rechargables. When I was using 4, I'd recharge the other 4. On a good charge, I was able to scan 250 photos or more.

I used an extra SD card, larger than the one that came with the scanner. I knew I'd be a scanning fiend for a whole week and I wanted to make sure I had enough space.

The scanner held up in air travel. I took it out of it's case to go through security, but the rest of the time, it was in it's padded case in my padded backpack. It came out just fine.

Those 2,800 photos made but a dent in my family's pictures. I plan on taking the Flip-Pal next time I go out there and get some more. My goal is to have copies of all photos in two different locations for disaster prep purposes. Flip-Pal has helped me take significant steps toward that goal.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

RootsMagic 2011 resolutions and webinars.

The RootsMagic blog lists some 2011 New Year's resolutions for the company. It looks like webinars are on the horizon. Color me pleased.

Included in their blog post is the invitation to participate in a survey to help determine user interests and the types of webinars they might provide.

If you are a RootsMagic user or are interested in the software, please consider taking the survey so the RootsMagic folks can get an accurate picture of our genealogy and research interests. Thanks.

[Disclosure: None. RootsMagic did not ask me to post this, nor did I receive compensation. Though if they wanted to pay me, I like those little peppermint candies that have a cinnamon middle to them. And bacon.]

Press Release: Find My Ancestor Gets New Look

I received the following press release from A.C. Ivory, the driving force behind

Of the gazillion professional genealogists in Salt Lake City, A.C. is my preferred resource when I need items from the Family History Library. I am pleased to help him get the word out about his revamped site:

Find My Ancestor Has Received a Makeover

January 2, 2011 - Taylorsville, UT. Find My Ancestor has announced the redesign and update to their site. The site has received many new pages and features including new downloads, new resources, a completely new blog design, social media integration and many more. With the new design, Find My Ancestor is much easier to navigate and find your way around making it a more enjoyable experience for the users. Using the new website builder makes it very easy for creating new pages, quickly allowing Find My Ancestor to be able to create more pages, how-to’s, downloads and many other features to help it’s users learn more about genealogy and the tools available to help them in their research.

About A.C. Ivory

As a genealogist specializing in the use of technology, social media and Mac computers, A.C. Ivory relies on his young genealogist perspectives to relay the importance of using the new tools and resources that will help genealogists achieve their research goals faster, easier and more efficiently. As the creator of, he has striven to provide genealogists with genealogical news, events, conference reports and new technology updates available to help genealogists in their research efforts.

About Find My Ancestor

Find My Ancestor provides various services to the genealogy and family history community including education, design, Family History Library research assistance and more.

A.C. Ivory is the driving force for Find My Ancestor. A.C. Ivory has been involved with genealogy and family history for over 4 years. A.C. Ivory is only 23 years old and full of genealogy knowledge and ambition.

Follow Find My Ancestor on Facebook (, Twitter ( and on our blog at

Saturday, January 1, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History

Well, the cat is out of the bag. We spend so much time writing about others, I figured it was time to write about us as a gift to our own descendants.

My new genealogy series is 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History, and it's once again graciously hosted by

I hope you like it and do take the time to write down the details of your own life.

Please make this a fun event. Don't get upset if you don't do all 52 weeks. That was never the intention.

Guess that's it. Good luck and get writing!

RootsTech 2011 Announces Lineup of Keynote Speakers

RootsTech 2011 Announces Lineup of Keynote Speakers

The RootsTech 2011 Conference announced its keynote speakers today. The national speakers reflect the conference’s focus on creating a forum where genealogy technology users can discover exciting new research tools and technology creators can learn the latest development techniques from industry leaders and pioneers. The conference will be held February 10–12, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Shane Robison, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Technology Officer for Hewlett-Packard Company. Mr. Robison is responsible for shaping HP’s corporate strategy and technology agenda and oversees the company’s corporate marketing function. He is instrumental in steering the company’s multibillion dollar research and development investment and leads the company’s merger and acquisition activities. He also has responsibility for worldwide corporate marketing activities, including brand strategy, internal and external communications, digital strategy and, environmental sustainability, social innovation, and customer intelligence.

Brewster Kahle, Founder, The Internet Archive. A passionate advocate for public Internet access and a successful entrepreneur, Brewster Kahle has spent his career intent on a singular focus: making information free and accessible through digital means. Mr. Kahle created the Internet’s first publishing system and has helped revolutionize the electronic publishing market. Through the Internet Archive, Mr. Kahle is working to create an online catalog of every book ever created. At the same time, Mr. Kahle cofounded Alexa Internet, a service that collects data on web browsing behavior for future analysis. The services provided by Alexa Internet are used in more than 80 percent of web browsers today.

Curt Witcher, Historical Genealogy Department Manager, Allen County Public Library. Mr. Witcher’s success in community involvement, integration of technology in library science, and collaboration with various organizations has made him a highly visible individual in the genealogical community. His dynamic presentation style has made him a highly favored presenter among a wide variety of audiences. He is a member of the Genealogy Committee of the American Library Association and past president of the National Genealogical Society and of the Federation of Genealogical Societies. He is coeditor of the 1987 through 2000 editions of the Periodical Source Index and was a research consultant for both PBS Ancestorsseries.

Jay L. Verkler, CEO, FamilySearch International. Mr. Verkler currently serves as president and CEO of FamilySearch, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. FamilySearch has gathered the largest collection of genealogical records in the world. Operations include worldwide image and information collection, product and tools delivery, and patron services in over 4,600 family history centers around the world. Mr. Verkler previously served in various executive positions within innovative Silicon Valley companies such as Oracle Corporation, inCommon Inc., TIBCO Software, Vitria Technology, and Mr. Verkler studied electrical engineering, computer science, and chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as Japanese and Asian studies at Harvard University.

About RootsTech

RootsTech is a new conference designed to bring technologists together with genealogists so they can learn from each other and find solutions to the challenges faced in family history research today. The conference’s activities and offerings are focused on content that will help genealogists and family historians discover exciting new research tools while enabling technology creators to learn the latest development techniques from industry leaders and pioneers.