Saturday, September 5, 2009

Day 4 at the FGS Conference

Someone didn't look at his schedule for the day, and slept in and missed the first session.

I got there in time for the 9:30 a.m. set of talks, and chose to go to "GPS for Genealogists" by Rick and Pamela Sayre. Now, the GPS here stands for Global Positioning System, not Genealogical Proof Standard. Rick is the hardware expert who understands the technical things, and Pam loves to play with and use the toys. In their talk, they demonstrated what GPS can do for the genealogy researcher. For instance, it can locate the cemetery, schoolhouse, ancestral lands, etc., depending on the features in the GPS unit. Using a gravestone in Arlington National Cemetery, they showed how to use the GPS to find the cemetery, and geotag the gravesite, and geotag photos of the gravesite with the latitude and longitude for upload to a computer. For the State Land system, the website can be used to identify the latitude and longitude of a land plot, and then it can be put on the GPS and found by driving to the site or on a Google map. This talk was interesting for the use of modern technology to find historical sites.

My next experience was Paul Milner on "Effective Internet Use of England's National Archives." The website is Paul took us through most of the top menu line and the associated dropdown menus, especially the "Research and Learning" and "Search the Archives" items. He explained the Catalogue search techniques, and visited the Documents Online area. All of the index items and doing a search on the TNA site are free, but there is a pay-per-download for specific documents, and they accept credit cards. This was a fascinating talk about a website that appears very useful for UK research.

It was noon, so I went to the sandwich cart in the Exhibit Hall, had a cheeseburger, and went to the hotel for an hour of reading my email and writing the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post on Genea-Musings. I headed back to the Conference site in time for the 2 p.m. sessions.

I chose to attend Thomas Jones presentation of "Solving Problems with Original Sources." Tom went through nine case studies, each of which was solved by finding the critical piece of information in original sources not online, not available in indexed books, and sometimes found in a box of loose papers in a repository. For each case, he described the known information, research process used, the sources found, and how he learned of the existence of the sources. In many cases, he learned about the source from a "how to" book or periodical article. This was a fascinating talk, not only for the unusual cases addressed but the methods used to solve the problems.

I decided that I was done for the day, so I walked around the Exhibit Hall for about an hour saying goodbye to old and new friends, and took some pictures. Then I came back to the hotel and wrote some blog posts for the next few days. At 6 p.m. Linda and I ventured down to Iriani's for a pizza on the trolley. We were back by 7:30. We leave in the morning for the Memphis area.

I did not attend any of the six talks by presenters in a special all-day session today - it was free for conference attendees and walk-ins to attend, (as was the Exhibit Hall). It looked to me that there were about 300 persons in the Ancestry presentations. I think that it was an excellent plan for to execute.

Some people think that there were 900 to 1,000 persons at the conference, but others think the number without the exhibitors was more like 500 to 600. I thought that the Conference was very well organized and executed by Jan Davenport and her team. I enjoyed the talks I attended, and had a great time talking to and getting to know the exhibitors, geneabloggers and many attendees.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Favorite Blogs!

It's Saturday Night (well, here in Arkansas it's 1:10 in the afternoon, and I'm on lunch break), so it's time for some Genealogy Fun!

Diane Haddad, on The Genealogy Insider blog, has asked blog readers to nominate genealogy blogs for the Family Tree 40 in her post Nominate a Genealogy Blog for the Family Tree 40. There is a link to a nomination form in the post, and voting will take place between October 5 and November 5.

The assignment for this Saturday Night, should you choose to accept it (cue the Mission Impossible music again), is:

1) Identify three of your favorite genealogy blogs to nominate for the Family Tree 40 list, and fill out the nomination form for them.

2) Tell us which three you chose, and a reason why you chose it, in a blog post on your own blog, in comments to this post, or in a Note or comments to this post on Facebook.

3) For purposes of this assignment, please don't name Genea-Musings as one of your three (obviously, I would be honored to be nominated, and you can do so at your pleasure). What I'm hoping is that by writing about three of your favorite genealogy blogs, that you will introduce many blog readers to more outstanding blogs, for the benefit of all of us.

Here are three of my favorite blogs:

* Genealogy's Star by James Tanner. James has some of the most thoughtful and useful blog posts week in and week out.

* relatively curious about genealogy by Tami Glatz. Tami's posts are helpful and informational, and entertaining too. I've enjoyed Tami's company here at FGS - it's been fun meeting the person behind the blog and the web pages.

* The Educated Genealogist by Sheri Fenley. Sheri is a funny lady, and a great genealogy researcher (not necessarily in that order, but close!). Actually, I put her on my list because she is my ProGen group leader...hey, it's my list!

C'mon - show me yours now!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Day 3 at the FGS Conference

My day at the FGS Conference started with a quick turn around the Exhibit Hall, and then I attended Rick Sayre's presentation on "Researching in Government Documents" at 9:30 a.m. His talk concentrated on the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention Papers (1774-1789), the American State Papers (1789-1838, 38 volumes), and the U.S. Serial Set (1817-present, over 14,000 volumes). These record sets invaluable to researchers, if their ancestors are in them, because of the biographical detail, unique source material, and the broad scope of the records. Rich provided information about the unique distribution and catalog system, and the accessibility to them at repositories and websites. LexisNexis and NewsBank have the entire sets online, while GenealogyBank has a limited subset of them, and HeritageQuestOnline has a small percentage of them.

Before 11 a.m., I ran upstaits to watch the Peabody Ducks waddle from the elevator to the fountain - they make a big deal of it. I thought the ducks showed little or no regimentation - didn't even march in a straight line. Then I decided to wander through the exhibit hall and talk to exhibitors, including Dean Richardson (, Leland Meitzler (, Craig Scott (, Steve Anderson at the FamilySearch exhibit, the exhibit, and the FamilyLink exhibit. I even took some pictures of these exhibits, but will not post them now. In the process, I met Thomas Jones, Beau Sharbrough, Christine Sweet and Juliana Smith for the first time. At the FamilySearch exhibit, Steve showed me the link for the Family History Lesson Series provides useful guides. Those beginners lessons look useful to me.

Then it was time for lunch, and I ate in the lounge area adjacent to the exhibits, with several of the other attendees. I wandered back into the exhibit area, and ended up at the FamilyLink site just in time to see the GenSeek presentation by Jim Ericson. It was interesting, and the potential for GenSeek being the portal to the genealogy world is high. We are all waiting for the launching of GenSeek for the Family History Library Catalog access and links to online databases, but the GenStream feature has the possibility of keeping track of what a researcher has pursued and to make contact with other researchers with similar interests.

I had to run off to attend the 2 p.m. presentation of "A Detailed Look at Footnote" by Roger Bell of Roger did a great job of walking the attendees (only about 50% attending use through the home page options and links, the search process, the search results, filtering results, and how to use the filmstrip and annotation features. He also described connecting record images to persons in the user's gallery, uploading images to the gallery, and the Footnote Pages feature. He closed his talk by showing how to use the different collections found on the home page, like the Vietnam Wall and the USS Arizona Memorial. In the Q&A time, I asked if there were plans for adding family trees to the website, and he said that they could do it, but that it wasn't planned. This presentation was done online, and was really well done by Roger.

At 3:30 p.m., I attended Dallan Quass's presentation of "Discovering WeRelate: An Introduction to the World's Largest Genealogy Wiki." Dallan is the creator of http://www.werelate,org/, and presented the reasons to share your research using WeRelate - to leave a legacy, to involve family members, to connect with distant cousins, to become a better researcher and to create well-documented, accurate and free source of genealogy information. He said that the ideal solution for a connected family tree is to encourage sharing within families and within the genealogy community. In the WeRelate wiki, anyone can browse the information, but a person has to register for free to edit, and the persons that add to or edit your information are usually relatives or other researchers that share your ancestors. The site has quality control in the form of a permanent history of all changes, change notification to the original submitter, and a recent changes portal for the site administrators to monitor suspicious activity. is still in beta, but Dallan anticipates that it might launch in 2010.

One more turn around the exhibit hall at 4:30 p.m., and I decided to head back to the hotel for an early dinner and my final edit of the CVGS September newsletter. In doing so, I missed excellent presentations by Elissa Powell, Thomas Jones, Barbara Little, Laura Prescott, Pat Stamm and several others. It would have been a hard choice! But my butt is sore from sitting in the chairs squashed together, and I tend to doze in the late afternoon. Thank goodness for syllabus materials!

When I got back to my room, I found that Linda was off campus doing laundry, so I worked on the newsletter until she returned. We left at 6:30 p.m. for dinner at Bosco's down at the River Market, amid a sea of Arkansas Razorback supporters having a rally, followed by a concert. We got back on the trolley by 8:30, and I polished up the newsletter and sent it off in PDF format to my colleague for printing on Sunday. Then I read my blog lists (only 132 posts today!) and wrote this tome.

There is one more day left at the conference, and I need to find some "Best of Genea-Musings" posts to put up over the weekend until I have Internet access on Tuesday night in Branson. Any suggestions?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 2 at the FGS Conference - Post 2

After lunch at the Hop Diner across from the Convention Center, I wandered around the Peabody Hotel trying to find the Chicot Room for the blogger briefing, scheduled for 1 p.m. I found Pat Richley looking also, and we finally found the right elevator but then the fire alarm went off and we were ushered outside to an area overlooking the river. The Ancestry people were there too, so we all watched a landscape guy fighting a high-pressure hose and almost getting everybody drenched. After about 15 minutes, they said the building was safe, and that there was no fire. Apparently, the firetrucks came up to the front entrance and firemen ran into the hotel to stop the false alarm.

We finally joined others in the room, and Mike Ward, Eric Shoup, Duff Wilson and Gary Gibb gave presentations about what has done recently (as opposed to what they will do, which they cannot talk about). Bloggers attending included Diane Haddad, Dick Eastman, Pat Richley, Drew Smith, George Morgan, Tami Glatz and myself.

There was too much information to really summarize here, although these were the highlights for me:

* The Ancestry search indexes are updated every three weeks.

* They have been experiencing over 110,000 edits to database information every week.

* The 1930 U.S. census index has been updated to include street address, dwelling and family number, and father and mother's birthplace.

* They will have one viewer eventually, with the index entries at the bottom of the screen, and the member connect and source entries in the right-hand panel.

* They want one search experience, but are not satisfied with the New Search screen yet, and will work with it some more. About 70% of searches are done in New Search now.

* They are working on the search form and user controls, and the specific collection search pages in order to make results relevant, quick and consistent.

* Some researchers are still using FTM 2006/Version 16 - many because of the Books feature in FTM 2006 that was not replicated in FTM 2008-2010. There are different book options in FTM 2008-2010, including the MyCanvas application.

* FTM 2010 files are downwardly compatible with FTM 2008 and 2009, but not with FTM 2006 and earlier versions. FTM 2010 can upload from any previous version, and has uploaded corrupted FTM 2006, and earlier, files.

* Synchronization of FTM 2010 with Member Trees was discussed in detail. The user can upload a tree from FTM 2010 to a new member Tree, and can download a tree, with attached images, to FTM 2010 (but not images attached directly from databases).

* They discussed the databases added so far in 2009, using the December 2008 "Coming Soon" page, and the August 2009 revised page, as a baseline. A CEO letter in early 2009 also listed planned additions. Based on the December 2008 page items and the CEO letter, they have completed 48 databases so far, 14 more are coming in 2009, and five more will be completed in 2010. 99% of the planned record content for 2009 has been released.

* has been upgrading images and indexes, but do not discard images and index entries that are not duplicated when the dataset is upgraded.

* They have added 681 million records, with 1.4 billion names, and 83 million images in 2009. They have also revised their name count, eliminating the estimates used for some pages.

* "Updated" major databases account for most of the added content. Users can go to the Card Catalog and filter by "most recent" or "record count" to determine how many records are in each database released.

This was an informative presentation, and was punctuated by another fire alarm and bright flashing lights for a minute or so. I appreciate's willingness to share their work with genealogy bloggers in these forums. We all know that they are trying to influence the bloggers and the blog readers, but that;s OK with me. I would rather have this regular interchange of information than have to rely on press releases and blog posts.

After that intense two hours, I wandered off to hear Paula Stuart-Warren talk about "City, County and State Archives: Not Created Equally" in the 3:30 p.m. session. Paula went through the "ideal archive" and the "reality archives," then highlighted some differences between different archives, and the reasons for the differences. She then showed some of her favorites, and that's when the day caught up with me - I'm afraid that I dozed a bit and left really tired.

I headed back to the hotel, took my nap, and we went to dinner down at Big Whiskeys. We were back by 8 p.m. and I worked on the CVGS newsletter for awhile. I was panicking until I remembered that I had emailed the 60% complete document to myself rather than put it on my flash drive! Whew! I am about 95% done and hope to send it by email on Friday night. Then I blogged, and tweeted, and Facebooked a bit. Talk to you tomorrow!

Day 2 at the FGS Conference - Post 1

Day 2 at FGS was different from Day 1 - mainly because there was a Keynote Address by Tim Sullivan ( CEO) and the Exhibit Hall opened for the first time. Therefore, there were only four presentation periods, and I attended two of them. Here are the highlights of my day:

1) The FGS Conference Welcome ceremony was opened by Pat Oxley, President of FGS, with a color guard and a fine vocal rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

2) Tim Sullivan's Keynote Address was "The Future of our Past: Preserving Yesterday's Records for Tomorrow's Researchers." Tim could not talk about the future at due to SEC restrictions during the IPO period, so he talked about the past. The most interesting thing was quotes from the "Computer Genealogy" book written in 1985 by Paul A. Andereck and Richard A. Pence. The book authors accurately predicted the use of computers to put a person's research in a database, be able to share information with others, and have a large "Family Tree of Man" online. Tim went through the processes of archival records preservation, document digitization, transcription and indexing, community annotation, user-aggregated content, and collaborative networking on He then suggested that "Genealogy Utopia" might be attained by the FGS 2019 conference, but didn't really spell out the future (of course, due to legal reasons!). It was an engaging 30 minute talk, and he finished so quickly that they had to open the Exhibit Halls early!

3) I was one of the first into the Exhibit Hall, and talked briefly to Leland Meitzler at his FamilyRoots Publishing area, Curt Witcher and Dallan Quass at the Allen county Public Library exhibit, Bruce Buzbee at the RootsMagic space, Jim Ericson and Gena Ortega at the FamilyLink display, Diane Haddad at the Family Tree Magazine area, Tom Champoux, David Lambert and Rhonda McClure at the NEHGS exhibit, and Tim Sullivan in the hallway as I headed out. I didn't buy anything, but dropped some of my door prize entries in a number of boxes, hoping that they will draw mine and receive a benefit. Nearly every software and database provider offered discounts on their products.

I also saw and talked to blogger Harold Henderson while wandering through the area.

4) Before 11 a.m., I went off to hear George Schweitzer's presentation on "US Migration routes and Settlement Patterns, 1607-1890" to about 200 attendees. George does this talk in a frontiersman outfit, talking in dialect, with significant humor, and he uses four overhead slides of historical maps to show his points. He often comes back to the screen and points to the area or path he's talking about, and he wanders all of the aisles as he goes through his presentation. I had never heard George before, and learned quite a bit. Unfortunately, the acoustics in the ballroom were not good, and it was difficult to understand him unless he was up front or nearby.

5) At lunch time, I went back to the Hop Diner and had some chicken strips and fries for lunch.

My post-lunch activities will be covered in a separate post.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day 1 at the FGS Conference - Post 2

After a brief afternoon rest, I toddled down to the Peabody Hotel and found the Blogging, Social Networking and Podcasting Open Forum hosted by Drew Smith and George G. Morgan, with Jim Ericson of and Gena Philibert Ortega of WorldVitalRecords and GenealogyWise on the panel.

They each introduced themselves to the audience of about 60, some of whom were bloggers, some were blog readers or podcast listeners, and many use GenealogyWise. George made the point that each format used the Internet to connect with people. Drew asked who in the audience were bloggers, and we had Diane Haddad, John Hoda, Donna Moughty, Sue Tolbert, Tami Glatz, Pat Richley, Amy Coffin, Paula Stuart-Warren, Dick Eastman and myself in the audience, plus one or two others that I didn't catch the names of because they were not repeated.

Drew discussed blog readers, and highlighted Google Reader. He showed George's Google Reader list on the screen. He also talked briefly about how easy it was to set up a blog using Blogger. Drew asked how many blogs people read, and no one could top my 510.

The Social Networking action was briefly discussed - 75% of the attendees were on Facebook. Jim and Gena discussed GenealogyWise and it was shown on the screen - forums, blogs, groups, chats, etc. Then George and Drew discussed podcasts in some detail.

The audience questions concerned: podcast quality - the Mac software seems to be better than the PC software; Videocasts - they can be done with Camtasia and Profcasts; Blog readers - use RSS, and there are several providers; the We're Related application on Facebook - is challenged to upload GEDCOMs, partly because of the Facebook platform. will have an improved family tree feature in the future.

In closing remarks, Gena noted that social networking allows you to connect with others, and is a great way to find people with common interests.

After the Forum, I hustled across the street to a pizzeria and joined Linda for dinner. Before I could order, Robbie from Omaha and Diana from Dallas offered me their leftover pizza, which I eagerly accepted. Thank you, ladies. We had a great discussion, and you saved me 20 minutes I didn't have to spare.

Then it was back to the Peabody Hotel for the dessert reception, with almost 300 in attendance. We heard Tim Sullivan and Todd Jensen talk about Ancestry. Tim disclosed that and NEHGS have agreed to a partnership for NEHGS to participate in the World Archives Project to index records and share content. Tom Champoux of NEHGS came up to thank Tim and expressed hope for a long and rewarding partnership together. Later, they declined to name the indexing projects explicitly, so we'll have to see what they are in the future.

Tim then introduced Todd Jensen, who is a Director (?) of the Document Preservation Services (DPS). Todd briefly described the responsibilities of his division. The Content development process has five segments - licensing, imaging, indexing, assembly, and product. Todd's DPS operation is responsible for the middle three - imaging, indexing and assembly. He then told some stories about employees in his division, and how he is inspired by their knowledge, skill, effort, dedication and enthusiasm.

Finally, Tim came back and announced the 10 winners of an world Deluxe subscription. There was a brief question and answer period as we waited for the dessert setup to be ready. He immediately got a question about "what's coming next" and said he couldn't talk about it because of SEC restrictions on "forward looking statements" resulting from the company being taken public. Then it was time for dessert.

The dessert spread was very nice, with pastries on one table and fruit on the other table. We were seated at tables of 10 and there was sharing with our seatmates. This was a very nice reception hosted by and I appreciate being invited to attend.

Tomorrow is another full day, with Tim Sullivan's keynote address at 8 a.m. followed by the opening of the Exhibit Hall at 9:30 a.m., and then four sessions in the late morning and afternoon.

Day 1 at the FGS Conference - Post 1

I'm taking a break from the sessions at the conference to read my email, write this post, and hopefully get a quick nap before the evening events.

Last night, I went over to the Peabody Hotel at 8:30 p.m. to try to be part of the ProGen Study Group picture, but they took it earlier when the APG Roundtable ended early and the 30th birthday party for APG began. So I made it for the party and talked to some old and new friends. Maybe they can Photoshop my picture into the picture taken.

This morning, I went down to the Peabody and enjoyed the Tom Champoux (of NEHGS) presentation on "Loud and Clear: Effective Society Marketing for Everyone." He talked a bit about marketing strategy and tactics, using NEHGS ad campaigns as examples of how to appeal in both the cerebral and emotional ways to potential customers and product users. Tom discussed how to get press coverage, how to get your society into the news, and creating a press kit. This was a very useful presentation and I will pass my notes to the boards of CVGS, SDGS and CGSSD.

The second session I attended was "Clustering and More: Successful Internet Searching" by D. Joshua Taylor. I did not review the syllabus before attending, and thought that it would be about cluster genealogy. It wasn't - it was about using search engines like Google and Clusty effectively. Josh had some great suggestions, and it was my first look at the Clusty search engine which puts search matches into categories based on web site content. This session was packed wall to wall, over 200 in attendance, and Josh is a very effective presenter - lots of examples and some humor.

At lunch time, I wandered west to the River Market area and had a burger and shake at the Hop Inn with Patti Hobbs. Then it was back to the Peabody to get ready for the next session. I met Jeffrey Vaillant, who is in my ProGen study group, on the way in and we talked for awhile.

I chose J. Mark Lowe's presentation on "Legislative Petitions: an Important Genealogical Resource." This is a resource that IK've only recently had a taste of - finding the legislative act for Devier J. Lamphear's name change to Devier J. Smith in Wisconsin in 1866. Mark described the types of local, state and federal legislative records that may be available in various states, and where to find indexes for some of them online. In general, the actual records, and the supporting "loose papers" are not available online and the researcher needs to search for them in the appropriate jurisdiction. Mark's advice was a start local, then look in state records, and then in federal records.

That's my day so far, but there is more to come. At 5 p.m., the "Blogging, Social Nwtworking, and Podcasting Open Forum" is being hosted by George G. Morgan and Drew Smith. Then at 7 p.m., Linda and I are attending the dessert reception at the Peabody Hotel. I need to grab a bite to eat sometime during this time - it may just be the chocolate chip cookies in our room!

More later - perhaps after the reception.

Tomorrow is an early morning with Tim Sullivan's Keynote Address on "The Future of Our Past: Preserving Yesterday's Records for Tomorrow's Researchers" at 8 a.m.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Day 0 at FGS Conference

We made it to Little Rock today just in time for the FGS Ice Cream Social at the Arkansas Museum from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. It was outdoors, but there was some shade. More importantly, there was ice cream and water, and lots of interesting people to talk to.

Bloggers I met today included Amy Coffin, George G. Morgan, Drew Smith, Sue Tolbert, Lori Thornton and Jordan Jones. I may not be remembering everybody! If so, please comment and let me know so I can add you to the list!

I talked a bit with genealogy luminaries like Paul Milner, Lou Szucs, Sandra Luebking, Karen King, Jana Broglin, Rick Sayre, Craig Scott, Tom Champoux, and several others (again, my memory has failed here).

Of course, there are many people here that I don't know yet, and who don't know me. From what I've seen, I don't know and have never heard of probably 90% of the attendees to FGS - that's just the way it is. So many genealogy enthusiasts, so little time!

After the ice cream social, I went down to the Peabody Hotel and picked up my registration packet with my nametag and program, plus a nice conference totebag.

I'm going down to the Peabody Hotel later tonight for the ProGen study group photo after the APG Roundtable meeting.

Backing up one, day, I want to thank Patti Hobbs and her family for hosting Linda and I at her home on Monday. We had a wonderful time sharing our lives with each other, and sharing our genealogy research experiences. The hours seemed to fly by - it was after 10 p.m. before we knew it. We resumed the research experiences at breakfast and had to stop so we could hit the road for Little Rock. Patti has a wealth of knowledge and experience, and a tremendous personal library too! That was really fun for Linda and me - I hope it was for her, and wasn't too much of a burden for her.

Wednesday is the first official day of the conference. I will try (but may fail!) to summarize each day's activities. I am not going to tweet or live-blog the conference sessions because I don't want to be tied to the laptop and I'm not sure that there are outlets to plug into. I seem to capture session details better the old-fashioned way - taking notes and using the syllabus.

Bridging the Internet vs. Traditional Genealogy Gap

James M. Beidler's article in the Lebanon (PA) Daily News titled "Genealogy's 'Big Bang' Theory" postulated that the Internet is killing off genealogy societies, but held out hope that Internet researchers would eventually come to their senses and join societies, attend conferences, visit repositories, etc.

Leland Meitzler noted the article, but didn't comment extensively. Dick Eastman disagreed with the article, and reprinted his two-year old opinion piece that showed that heritage society membership was increasing and posited that genealogy societies should reach out to Internet researchers.

Denise Olson and Jasia recently wrote blog posts discussing the Beidler article noting that they have had problems with local societies and their publications, and making constructive suggestions for genealogy societies. Jasia posted a Carnival of Genealogy in August 2006 about improving genealogy societies that included many contributors, including her own series of articles.

Thomas MacEntee posted "The Pajama Game: Can a Romance Blossom Between Genealogy Societies and Stay-at-Home Genealogists?" today in which he compared the debate to the movie The Pajama Game, and showed that both sides have similar attitudes on genealogy, but different outlooks. It's an interesting post by an excellent writer.

As a President of a small genealogy society (90 members) with an active membership and volunteer corps, I have my own opinions about this topic. I firmly believe that genealogy societies can thrive if they plan and promote the following -

1) Education through programs, seminars, and classes. Help the traditionalists learn computer techniques and help the Internetters understand genealogy research methodologies. Provide links to members for online learning opportunities. Have a mentor program to help beginning genealogists learn both traditional and online techniques.

2) Communication through newsletters, email notices, web sites and blogs. Newsletters can be both paper and electronic, and societies can save money by shifting willing members to the electronic version. Publish articles about using both traditional and Internet resources. Email can be sent regularly keeping the members reminded about programs and activities. Web sites and blogs can draw Internetters to genealogy societies (e.g., if you Google [chula vista genealogy] you find the Chula Vista Genealogical Society web site and the Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe blog at the top of the list).

3) Foster collaboration between researchers with "user groups" for Internet genealogy, genealogy software or genealogy problem solving that bring people together and demonstrate the benefits of working "both sides" of the research aisle. Hold programs that discuss problem solving while demonstrating using all types of resources. Facilitate research trips to libraries and other repositories. Design a matching program to enable computer experts help computer novices with computer problems.

4) Offer society developed databases on the society web site for researchers to find and use. Offer online query research and resolution. Offer locality specific publications for sale or for free. Involve members in creating local databases like cemetery records, obituary indexes, member ancestries and biographies, etc.

5) Adapt society programs, classes and meetings to meet the realities of younger and working genealogists by holding more on weekends and evenings. There are problems with having only weekday meetings - students and workers cannot attend. Evening meetings are difficult for many seniors to attend. Weekend meetings seem to be the best solution. A society can do both weekday and weekend meetings throughout the year.

I am a firm believer in using surveys to gauge the pulse of the society membership. CVGS did an extensive program survey and computer skills survey a year ago (which I posted on Genea-Musings). As a result of this, we put together and executed a basic Computer Skills class, a FamilyTreeMaker course and an Online Genealogy seminar to help our members improve their computer skills and knowledge. The seminar also drew many genealogists from the community that were not society members, and we gained a significant number of new members.

Smaller genealogy societies may have an advantage in present times - they are often more nimble, more innovative and better able to "reach out" to new members than larger societies. Large societies have resources to do large projects, hold regional seminars or conferences, and produce high quality periodicals. The best solution might be local chapters of a larger regional society or association. An arrangement like that would combine the best of both worlds.

The old society model of a monthly paper newsletter and a monthly meeting with a speaker is not enough. Societies need to expand their horizons and try to attract young and inexperienced genealogy researchers. When new members join, they need to be welcomed and enmeshed in the society activities, thereby suffusing the society with enthusiasm and innovation.

The new society model encompasses all of the above and more. There is room for Internet genealogists in local and regional genealogy societies, and they are vital for the future success of societies and all genealogy researchers.

NOTE: While I'm on vacation, I'm posting some "Best of Genea-Musings" posts to keep my readers thinking and commenring. This post was originally published 4 January 2008.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Is Genealogy Blogging Healthy?

There was an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper on 3 June 2008 (page E2, titled Blogging: It's the New Jogging, on the Wellnews page) that reads:

"Writing -- the kind that's expressive and heartfelt -- has long been known to be a kind of self-medication: Jot down your personal thoughts and feelings and you just feel better.

"Research backs this up. Studies show writing can improve memory and sleep, boost the immune system, even speed healing. A recent study found that cancer patients who practiced expressive writing just before their surgeries felt better, mentally and physically, than those who did not.

"The explosive growth of blogging -- there are an estimated 60 million of them in the world, about half in the United States -- has some scientists speculating that it's the feel-good nature of writing that's driving the blogosphere's growth.

" 'You know that (biological) drives are involved (in blogging) because a lot of people do it compulsively,' Alice Flaherty, a Harvard University neuroscientist told Scientific American.

"So Flaherty and other researchers are launching studies to parse the neurological reasons of blogging. One possibility, it triggers the release of the brain chemical dopamine, which also happens when people listen to music, look at art or run."

I just knew that blogging was good for me! Since I started blogging two years ago, my blood pressure is down, my cholesterol is down, my weight is down, and my stupidity is down (isn't that what dopamine does - relieve stupidity?). Who knew that it was a brain chemical? I was treating my health by blogging without even knowing it!

What about genealogy research? Is that good for your mental and physical health? If it gets me out of my genealogy cave and the computer, and into the library, the FHC, a cemetery, or a society meeting room, it must be good! I get much more than finger exercise when I venture out to go to a meeting, share lunch with my genie friends and colleagues, attend a lecture, do research (but then much of what I research at the FHC is on a computer system...). Helping other researchers solve their research problems stimulates the detective in me.

To me - being a genealogy blogger is a double win - it's good for my physical and mental health, and is fun besides. True confession here - I think that modern drugs are responsible for some of my physical improvements...

The article claims that there are about 30 million bloggers in the USA. I wonder if that includes all of the social networks, or just folks with a blog account of some sort. My observation is that there are less than 1,500 genealogy blogs online (from the Genealogue's Blogfinder) at present, and probably less than 50% of them are actively posting on a regular basis (at least weekly).

Look at all the health benefits that genealogy researchers are missing out on! But if every researcher devoted an hour or two a day to blogging like I do, even less real genealogy research would be performed!

What about you - do you enjoy writing expressively or creatively? Do you get a rush doing genealogy research?

NOTE: While I'm on vacation, I'm republishing some of the "Best of Genea-Musings" for your reading enjoyment. This post was originally published 4 June 2008.

I recall that there was a recent New York Times article along these lines too that several bloggers wrote about.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

At the Kansas State Historical Society and Archives

I had an enjoyable three hours yesterday at the Kansas State Historical Society and Archives on Saturday. It is in Topeka, Kansas, and is free to enter and use. They do have rules about "no bags, pencils only, get a user card, inspect your stuff when you leave." So I entered with only my notepad and my brain full of memories. I had only three hours to work with, since I wanted to get back and watch the Little League World Series game at 2 p.m.

The public area of the building is fairly small - I think that the Carlsbad (CA) library has the same floor space, but the holdings of the KSHS are tremendous. I think it has microfilms of any available public record created in Kansas towns and counties. The microfilm drawers line the walls of about half the perimeter. There is a central area with tables and chairs, and a microfilm/fiche area with quite a few machines, including three reader-printers. There didn't appear to be any microfilm scanning/printing machines.

The KSHS catalog is online, and is available on the computer stations at the library, in addition to a large card catalog and helpful books listing each collection near the microfilm drawers.

My mission was to see if there were any records for Samuel and Mary Ann Vaux in Marshall County, Kansas vital, probate and land records. The last record I have of them is the 1880 US census when they reside in Blue Rapids township. They don't appear in the 1885 Kansas State Census, so I'm thinking that they may have died before 1885, perhaps in Marshall County.

I used the catalog to find Marshall County resources, and saw that the Birth and Death records start in 1885. Oh well!

The archives has Probate records from about 1860 onwards, so I checked the Case Files index and the Administrations Index (1857-1886) on microfilm - with no positive results. Oh well!

Then I spent a lot of time looking through the Deed Indexes for the years 1860 through 1890, also without success. In these indexes, I also searched for Devier Smith hoping that he bought or sold land there. Again, no positive results. Drat!

I looked at the Newspaper index, narrowing the search to 1875 to 1890. There were four sets of Blue Rapids weekly newspapers listed (along with many other Marshall County newspapers, of course). I decided not to go through the papers page-by-page because I don't know the death dates and because of my time constraints.

My other Kansas research interest is the Devier J. Smith family that was in Pottawatomie County, Clay County, Cloud County and Cheyenne County. The newspaper index indicated that it had the Wano Plaindealer (which published a D.J. Smith biography in about 1886), but I didn't read that either.

The catalog had an intriguing entry for selected newspaper clippings from Cheyenne County for 1882 to 1996, and I ordered those books through the KHS staff window with a call slip. The only thing I ordered was listed erroneously in the catalog! They brought me Clark County at first, and then found Cheyenne County with a different call number. Unfortunately, the early years' clippings are very few, and this collection was not useful.

Some people might say that my three hours at the archives was useless, but my view is that it saved me several months of research time. To view these vital, probate and land records would have taken me at least two months at the FHC - ordering six films, waiting for them to arrive, then reading them. I haven't checked to see if the FHL Catalog has the newspapers - if they do, I may order them at the FHC. If not, I'll have to make another trip back to Topeka!

We've enjoyed our three days here in Topeka visiting with our friends - Linda's best friend from San Francisco. We went into Kansas City on Friday and viewed the Steamboat Arabia, which sank in 1856 in the Missouri River and was excavated in 1988 from a cornfield, and quite a ways down below the surface. What a fascinating story about the sinking, the excavation, and the restoration of the collection of "stuff" salvaged from the ship - all of it destined for the homes of people living upstream from Kansas City. They are still restoring it!

After the KSHS visit, I headed back to the house all set to watch the Chula Vista team play the US Championship game. The game was supposed to start at 2 p.m., but there were rain delays and it was rescheduled for 6 p.m. We had plans to go out to dinner, so we went to Outback Steakhouse and were able to watch the first two innings on the TV in the bar. After eating, we headed back to the house and saw the last inning there. The Chula Vista team won 12-2 over San Antonio, so they are in the World Championships against Taipei today at 2 p.m. (if it doesn't rain).

The Pace of Genealogy Research - Post 3

In the first two posts of this series, I've discussed how online genealogy passes by some genealogy researchers (in Post 1) and how some new genealogy researchers don't realize that there is more to genealogy than online research (in Post 2).

How has the "Pace" of Genealogy Research, resulting from near instantaneous availability of results from indexes, databases, images, etc. affected my own genealogy research patterns?

Besides the obvious "I can find many facts, stories or leads quicker than ever before," I think it has affected me in these ways:

1) I do much more research online in the available resources rather than go to the FHC, the library or an ancestral locality. I do online research almost every day, but I go to the library or FHC to do research only 2 or 3 times a month. If I'm lucky, I get to an ancestral location once a year.

2) I can review many of the resources that are in published books, FHL microfiche databases and FHL or NARA microfilms (e.g., census, passenger lists, etc.) in a short period of time in online databases with every-name indexes. It used to take weeks to obtain, find and copy these documents or information.

3) I don't keep careful records of what web sites, databases or images I visit or view. I used to keep a research log for each family surname - I'm not disciplined enough to do that now - it would take a long time to track all of my clicks. I'm sure that I duplicate searches almost every day. When I am doing "real research" (meaning doing a "reasonably exhaustive search" in all resources (not just online) as opposed to a "survey" search to find leads to sources and information), I use several forms to collect information on the ancestral family I'm working on - an online search summary (see a typical list here), a family research summary (all possible resources), a timeline, etc. I put these in my research notebook and consult them frequently.

4) I am able to capture images from databases, web pages, articles, etc. and put them in my computer files easily. I rarely make xerox copies at libraries or the FHC any longer, since nearly everything I read there is now online somewhere. If I read a microfilm or microfiche at the FHC, I can save the page images to my USB drive and plant them on my hard drive at home.

5) Having images in digital format, I can transcribe or abstract text right into my genealogy software database using my handy "split screen" method. When everything was on paper, I had to transcribe or abstract from the paper copy which was often difficult to read, even with a magnifying glass.

6) I can make many more errors in putting families together if I'm not careful. With more experience has come skepticism about the work of other researchers and my own assumptions of connections between parents and children.

That's enough for now - what effects have you noticed from the increased "pace of genealogy research" in your own research?

NOTE: While I am on vacation, I'm republishing some "Best of Genea-Musings" posts from the past. This one was originally posted on 28 April 2008.