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Archive for the ‘Seminars’ Category

Busy As Bees on Our Genealogy

We have had a lot going on in our genealogy world over the past week:


  • On Saturday, I attended the spring seminar put on by the Colorado chapter of the Palatines to America Kory Meyerink of ProGenealogists spoke on various topics. As always, they had a good turnout for this seminar. The gentleman sitting next to me traveled all the way from Tulsa, OK. I feel so privileged to live in a city where seminars of this high quality occur regularly.
  • On Tuesday, the Germanic Genealogical Society of Colorado held its monthly meeting at the Denver Public Library. We heard a presentation by our own Joe Beine who runs the Online Searchable Death Indexes & Records website and the German Roots website These are wonderful genealogical resources.
  • All week long, my husband/tech advisor has doggedly used his lunch hours to search for my Norwegian roots. He has now learned that they lived all along the coastline of Nordland and Helgeland. But even more surprising, many of them lived in the Bergen area before that. No way can we visit every site during our trip to Norway next month. The poor man is now busy re-routing our driving trip to enable us to visit as many of these new areas as possible. Meanwhile, I have been entering his data into my software program as fast as I can.



Learning to Organize the Chaos

The timing could not have been better. Just as I resolved to organize my photos, the Computer Interest Group of the Colorado Genealogical Society (CIG, to the locals) offered a program on this very topic. Of course I was right there on Monday evening to learn all I could.

The speakers, Nancy and Gary Ratay, have a lot of experience with digital preservation. He is a retired IT professional; she is the Editor of the Colorado Genealogist, the quarterly publication of the Colorado Genealogical Society. These folks have lots of digital images, and they can find one when they want it.

First, they addressed the issue of an organization structure for images. They have images of not just the portraits and cemetery photos that I want to organize, but also images of all their documents. They stressed the importance of using standardized keywords (people, places, and events) to label images and sort them into folders. They created Surname folders for people and Place name folders for items like cemetery photos and county histories. Some items go into both types of folders. Once they had this system set up, they documented it by leaving “help” sheets for their heirs and placing “help” pages and keyword lists in each folder.

Nancy and Gary also discussed types of organizers for images. In addition to mentioning the Picasa software that we have used, they suggested a more robust browser-based organizer: Adobe Bridge. The latter looks like a powerful tool but probably too complex for what I need.

I think I will emulate the organization system they use, but I will stick with Picasa to do it. I already have it installed on my computer, and I have some familiarity with it. Now, thanks to Nancy and Gary, I have an organization plan and can move ahead. Of course, as they pointed out, you cannot eliminate the chaos, you can only reduce it.

The Genealogy Talk Circuit

Because I live near a large city, I frequently have the opportunity to hear nationally-known genealogy speakers. Just this fall, I attended day-long seminars by Dr. Michael Lacopo (sponsored by the Palatines to America), and David MacDonald (sponsored by W.I.S.E., the Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England research group). The genealogy speaker’s market has exploded in recent years, and most of the well-known genealogists make their way to Denver sooner or later.

For those genealogists who live in more remote area, the pickings are not so rich. To view similar presentations, they must attend genealogy conferences. The National Genealogical Society (NGS) and the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) host large annual conferences around the country. A consortium of societies and vendors sponsors the technology-focused RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City each year. Some state societies hold large conferences as well.

Potential speakers pitch topics to the event organizers. The subjects selected for the conferences often focus on development of professional skills or research in the conference locale. There may be a group of presentations on a current hot topic, like DNA.

The speakers for the upcoming FGS conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana were announced recently, and I was surprised to learn that Thomas McEntee will not be among their presenters. He is well-known in genealogy circles as the organizer of all the genealogy bloggers out there, including me. At this year’s RootsTech conference, he spoke on Twitter for genealogists and inspired me to try it. He has a lot of good ideas about how to use technology in genealogy.

Those in the Denver area will get to hear Thomas McEntee next year even though he will not speak at FGS. The Computer Interest Group of the Colorado Genealogical Society has invited him for their one-day spring seminar on May 25, 2013. I am eager to learn more from him, so I plan to sign up for this seminar. I am lucky to live in the midst of a large genealogy community that provides these opportunities. I wonder who FGS selected to speak next year when they passed over Thomas McEntee. Would it be worth a trip to Indiana?

Say No to the Shotgun Approach

I find that I make more progress with my genealogical research when I focus on one familyline at a time. Recently I am feeling almost disoriented because I have not been following my own advice. All year, I have tried to find the discipline to study only the Finns, but I keep getting distracted.

Earlier this month, I went to Salt Lake City for a research trip. After one day with Finnish records, I needed a break from that difficult task. I spent the remainder of my time at the LDS library investigating my English and Scots-Irish lines in the American Midwest.

I resumed some Finnish research once I returned home, but a week later I attended the semi-annual Palatines to America seminar in Denver. This took my attention away from the Finns again as I spent an entire day learning about German research from Dr. Michael Lacopo.

What a harried month! The Finns, the English, the Scots-Irish, the Americans, the Germans! No wonder my head spins. I need to get everything I collected this month filed and put away pronto. Perhaps then I can get back to the focused research tool that works for me, the laser, not the shotgun.

To Tweet or Not To Tweet

How do you locate other genealogists searching for the same surnames you do? Trading information with them can really push along your results.

For many years I have used a couple of online genealogy message boards for this purpose. I have been delighted to discover Reed cousins in New York and Florida; Riddle cousins in Montana, Canada, and Germany.

But increasingly, the posts on the message boards have dwindled. Often they are not queries and answers at all but rather just people looking to test DNA or posting links to recent obituaries. Although I still check them every week, I am finding the message boards have become less and less helpful. So where did all the family researchers go?

I suspect I might find them on Facebook or Twitter. Neither of these has interested me much. They seem time-consuming, and I worry about privacy, so I have been dragging my feet on joining.

This week, however, I listened to a RootsTech presentation by Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers on using Twitter. He made a good case for establishing a Twitter account and using it solely for genealogy. One can follow surnames, other genealogists, or genealogical organizations to connect with like-minded researchers.

I am thinking of giving it a try. I just need to think of a clever Twitter name first.


So Many Lines

“I am researching Finns this year,” I keep telling myself. And so I must if I hope to maintain focus and steady progress. Jumping from family line to family line creates confusion and slows you down.

But the temptation this week has been strong to take a long-postponed look at my Revolutionary War ancestors. Not only did we celebrate Independence Day yesterday, but I also attended a class last weekend that stole my attention away from the Finns.

Four times a year, on a 5th Saturday of the month, the Denver Public Library hosts a class on some topic of specialized genealogical interest. This month they discussed Virginia research. Well, who has 4 family members who served in the Revolution from the colony of Virginia? I do–Joshua Reed, Robert Kirkham, and John Day (Senior and Junior). I attended the class, learned a bunch, and now I would love to dive into the records to learn more about those patriots.

But I have a research plan. Everything Finnish lies spread across my desk, and I need to finish (ha! ha!) this before I move on to something else. Those Revolutionary ancestors will wait for me, and when their time comes, they will get my full attention.

An Inspiration

I changed my tagline on this blog today. I chose the new one after I attended a seminar last weekend and heard an interesting twist on a familiar phrase. We all know that the Declaration of Independence asserted our right to the pursuit of Happiness. The seminar speaker took that phrase and changed it to speak of genealogy as the happiness of pursuit. That really says it all for those of us who relentlessly seek information about our ancestors. So I adopted that thought as my new tagline.

And I have had a happy discovery or two this week. I located a ship passage record for relatives from Finland, and it proved quite interesting. This group came over in 1908, and their record was very detailed–physical descriptions, names and addresses of kin in Finland, and information about relatives already in America.

I still have a couple more ship passage records to locate for my Finns. Four  Mattila siblings in all came over, some with spouses and some with children. I now have the passenger lists for Alex and Ida. I will be truly happy when I have found the records for the rest of them.