Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Research Group meeting today

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society has a monthly research group where we discuss genealogy and family history research methods, successes and problems. The usual format is to review genealogy news of the past month, have the attendees describe their research problems or ask questions, then tell success stories and show treasures recently found or obtained.

Today, we changed the format a bit. After the news, we tried to watch one segment from www.RootsTelevision.com on a laptop/projector setup. The system worked well, but the library's wireless signal was weak in the conference room. During the problem discussions, we showed a number of web sites that might help our members find online resources. We will do more of this each month, I think, and hope that the signal problems can be ironed out.

I usually gather the "news" from my own, Eastman's and Meitzler's blogs. I concentrate on new web sites, new databases and library news. I then email it to our members after the meeting so that everyone in the society can benefit from it. One of the web sites was Geni.com, and we found that one of our members had signed up and put his data on the site already.

The problems or questions raised today included:

1) How do I find a family in the 1880 census that is not correctly enumerated or indexed? We discussed using a given name search, with birthplace, birth year, and location (if known), or using wild cards for the given name and surname, on Ancestry.com.

2) What do I do when birth dates in family records conflict with other records? We recommended evaluating all available evidence, and giving more weight to primary information (such as a birth record), or secondary information produced close to the event (such as the first census with the person on it).

3) How do I find Denmark family data and parish records? We suggested visiting Denmark message boards online and checking the LDS FHL Catalog for record availability on microfilm.

4) Where do I look for vital records that are not online? The example was Wisconsin, which has pre-1907 and post-1973 data online, but not 1907 to 1973. We suggested looking at the LDS Research Guide for Wisconsin to determine the availability of records, and visit the Wisconsin USGenWeb page for access information, contact information and cost.

5) How do I find newspaper records in a distant location? We suggested using message boards asking for help, contacting local genealogy societies or libraries, and asking for help at www.raogk.com.

One member shared that my alert in December about Ancestry.com subscriptions at reduced prices led him to subscribe and he found many records as a result.

I shared finding the 1929 daily journal of my great-grandmother, and then I passed it around. One member was born in 1929, and asked what happened on his birthday - not much, they washed! Another member had found a composition book full of family recipes that she passed around.

All in all, it was a good session for our 12 attendees. Using this group, we have increased the research knowledge and critical thinking skills of many of our members.

Does your local society do something like this Research Group? Do you use a wireless hookup to show web sites and databases to help your members solve their problems?

1 comment:

Miriam said...

Hi, Randy,

My local genealogical society, Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, offers computer/Internet classes for members as part of our educational program. We meet every third Saturday of the month (except December) in our local library's computer lab. The topics range from "The Top Ten Genealogy Websites" to "German Research Online" to "Using Animap Software."

We have seen our membership grow because of these classes, now in their second year. Our members have clamored for more, and we currently have topics chosen for all of 2008! It's a great way to bring genealogical societies into the 21st century!

Regarding problem number 1: Many of the Family History Centers still have the 1880 U.S. Federal Census on CD. They are excellent to use, despite it being available for free on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, because they have unique search features which are not available online. You can do partial name searches, using as many keywords as you need. The search is a little slow, and I used to have the program shut down on my old computer when I had too many search parameters. But it is a wonderful resource, and for this reason, I have never given away my CD set.