Sunday, June 13, 2010

Identifying Women: The Ultimate Brick Wall by Barbara Vines Little

Barbara Vines Little is an instructor for Samford Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research. She is co-ordinator for the Virginia track of courses. She is editor of Magazine of Virginia Genealogy. She has been president of the National Genealogical Society and is a very popular lecturer and teacher. I will always remember she was the presenter wearing the black hat and red suit.
I was a little late getting to this class and literally took the last seat in the room. People were being turned away at the door, but a kind woman in the middle of the hall was pointing to a vacant seat near her. I climbed over a dozen people to get to this seat and I was glad. The room was jam packed with people and the lecture was jam packed with information.
This class was about "locating and deciphering the clues that help us identify the unnamed women in our family tree." The introductory premise was this. "A woman, whether servant, slave or free, frequently lost and gained property and other rights based upon her age and marital status. In order to successfully research women, it is necessary to understand these rights and how and under what conditions they changed."
Barbara Vines Little next presented definitions in English common law for age, curtesy, dower, dower by common law, femme sole, femme covert, spinster, coverture, and next friend. She gave us a check list of questions we can ask about our female ancestor and she listed resources to use in determining a maiden name. She had lots of suggestions and ideas for sources to further our research on women. Some were very creative such as searching business records for the lists of people who charged at a store or reading the social columns in the newspapers near the time of a death in the family to determine who may have visited for the funeral.
I was glad I could attend this class and I learned a great deal.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Kodak Moments and Technicolor Dreams: Twentieth Century Photos and films in the Family Archive by Maureen A. Taylor

Maureen A. Taylor is known as the Photo Detective. She has a blog entitled Photo Detective in connection with Family Tree Magazine. She writes regular columns for Family Tree Magazine and I have a subscription so I have read her work. She helps readers identify old photographs. I was excited to hear her speak. She has been a private photography consultant for 11 years and before that she was a photo curator for 20 years.

She gave us an overview of all the types of twentieth century images starting with digital imaging and reviewing home movie film, paper prints, postcards, polaroids, stereographs, slides, and tintypes. She gave many interesting details. When she explained about "silvering" which is when an old photograph gradually turns a silvery color I recognized that I have some photographs in which the silver is gradually coming to the surface. I need to quickly scan these photographs before they are completely obliterated! I liked seeing the photos of the Brownie cameras. About 1900 there were 250,000 Brownie cameras sold for $1.00 each. She referred us to the interesting web site of Northeast Historic Film I learned I need to take my old photo albums and wrap them in washed unbleached muslin. Fortunately I have about ten yards of unbleached muslin.

Maureen Taylor was a very good speaker. She had technical difficulties when the bulb on her projector burned out. She showed poise and called someone to bring her another projector on her cell phone and proceeded with her lecture without her slides. Soon the projector was replaced and we were able to see all her excellent slides.

Monday, June 7, 2010

DNA Testing presented by Thomas H. Shawker, MD

Thomas H. Shawker, MD  is chairman of  the NGS Committee on Genetic Genealogy and a physician at the National Institutes of Health with over 200 scientific publications. He wrote a book titled Unlocking Your Genetic History: A Step-by-Step Guide to Discovering Your Family's Medical and Genetic Heritage.
I attended two sessions taught by him.

1. The ABCs of DNA Testing. This session was the basic introduction to DNA testing. We learned about the structure of DNA molecules and about the two types of ladder rungs T-C and G-A. We learned about the 23 pairs of chromosomes and the sex chromosomes (XX=female and XY=male). Y-Chromosome genetic testing is used to identify father-son relationships. It is useful but we need to remember that there are circumstances where it is not accurate.
We also learned about Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) which is DNA outside the nucleus of cells and is passed to children from their mother so it is useful to identify mother-daughter relationship also with limitations. We also learned about haplotypes, an individual's series of markers. Haplogroups are associated with ethnicity. They originated with Y chromosomes and mtDNA thousands of years ago and are defined by SNP (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism). Dr. Shawker used the Irish Modal Haplotype (IMH) to show how groups of people migrated across Europe in pre-Roman times.
2. DNA Testing for Race, Ethnicity, and Ancestry. This class built on what was presented in the first class. We learned more DNA Markers which have Base Sequence Change  or Base Length Change. A SNP (Single Nucleotic Polymorphism) is the change of one base. A STR (Short Tandem Repeat) is a Base Length Change. Human DNA has a very slow mutation rate. The people of Africa have the most diversified DNA in the world. Groups like the Jewish people and the Amish people have the least diversity.

Dr. Shawker was an excellent speaker and showed interesting and entertaining slides. He explained things clearly. The group was very interested and asked lots of questions in the question and answer period at the end.

According to Dr. Shawker, DNA Testing is getting better and the price is dropping as time goes by. I do not see a need to do any DNA Testing in my immediate research work, so I will wait and see what happens with this revolutionary scientific field.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Doing Research in Real Time

Robert Raymond and David E. Rencher were listed in the syllabus as the presenters for this session. Alan Mann also helped and I think (if my memory is correct) that actually there were four men from Family Search who participated. All four had computers and were connected to the Internet. They also had cell phones and used them during the presentation to call four other people. One was at the Family History Library. One was at a court house in Alabama, if I remember correctly, and the others were at two different cemeteries in Alabama.
They used a blog to co-ordinate the research, but did not show it. They projected the results on a screen for the audience. We also saw the research questions and I was impressed when two people in the audience found information using their cell phones. A great deal of evidence was collected in a short period of time. It was transmitted digitally so we could all see it. Family Search Wiki has more information about this session at Doing Research in Real Time. You may need to register with Family Search to access this web page. I personally do not understand all the technology involved in this presentation, but I was impressed.

In their summary they wrote: "The desired outcome for this presentation is that you will take away the knowledge that research can be conducted in dramatically different ways than you may be used to doing. More people can participate, producing more artifacts and results in less time, making your valuable research time more productive."

With me, and I think with the rest of the audience, this goal was achieved. I want to use some of these new ways of doing research.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Power of Community and the Web 2.0: Tools to Foster Collaboration and Community by Jim Greene

Jim Greene is a product manager for Family Search focused on the technology required for building Family Search Family Tree.

In his class he explained the tools that are now available online to accomplish genealogical projects that were impossible previously. These tools enable the "community" to work together. Many hands make light work and many eyes make better conclusions. He told us more about the 300 million new names that were released by Family Search that week. This was possible because of the army of indexer volunteers. It is also amazing that new records are being digitized and indexed as they are created.

Tools that were discussed by Jim Greene were Wiki, Forum, Blog, Social Networking (Facebook and Twitter), Community Portals.

He gave three reasons to be an active community member and to use these tools.
1. To give back.
2. Pay it forward.
3. Leave your legacy.

I enjoyed this class and look forward to learning more about using Web 2.0 tools in my research.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Elizabeth Shown Mills

I attended three different classes taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills. She "wrote the book" on genealogical research. Actually she has written hundreds of books and articles. Quoting from her web site we read: Two of Elizabeth’s twelve books are considered "classics" and "essentials" to the field of genealogy: Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian (Baltimore: GPC, 1997) and Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (Baltimore: GPC, 2001).

Besides being such a great authority on her subject, she is a very good speaker. Her presentations are well-organized and entertaining. She prepares interesting visuals in her PowerPoint presentations. Here are the three classes:

1. What Kind of Document is This: Original? Derivative? Primary? Secondary? Or Whatchamacallit? In this class Elizabeth Shown Mills defined all of these terms and more. Her entry in the syllabus included a glossary. Here are just two of her quotes. "Sources contain information from which we select evidence ." Grandpa's Words of Wisdom are "When you drink from the water, remember the source!"

2. Hell on the Home Front: War-Time Damages & the Claims They Generated. This class focused on war involving the United States and primarily on civilian claims for war-time damages & confiscations. Elizabeth Shown Mills outlined a basic strategy for using these sources in your research and gave many suggestions. One note of caution were these wise words to remember "Where money is involved, truth flies out the door!"

3. Finding & Using Birth, Marriage, & Death Records Prior to Vital Registration. Elizabeth Shown Mills writes, "In many areas--perhaps most--the civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths did not begin until the twentieth century." Therefore, documenting these events requires "an imaginative search for records" and "innovative methodology for linking facts." She then proceeded to explain how to accomplish these tasks by explaining the basic problems, the historical background, common pitfalls, safeguards, and ways to be successful.

I enjoyed my classes with Elizabeth Shown Mills and look forward to applying what I learned and to reading her book Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian (Baltimore, GPC, 1997).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Research Reports: Meeting the Standards -- Claire Bettag, CG, CGL

I want to learn how to write good research reports, so I chose this class taught by Clair Bettag. She was extremely well-qualified and her class was very comprehensive.
She declared that both professional and hobbyist genealogists will want to report their work clearly, concisely, comprehensively -- for clients, family, or themselves.

I was introduced to The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, Millennium Edition, Helen Leary, editor, Ancestry Publishing, Provo, Utah, 2000. And I later purchased this book at the NGS Conference in the NGS booth.

Clair Bettag explained the various forms that reports can take: letter, formal, memorandum, other forms and charts. She detailed what the content should be and talked about appendices and style. She was very clear about exactly what clients should expect from a report when they hire someone to perform research. She gave tips about how to write the report as you do the research thereby saving report-writing time.

Because of her class I now have a better appreciation for the work of professional genealogists and a resolve to write good reports for myself and my family.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What's New at the Family History Library by Alan Mann

There are numerous places on the Internet where you can learn more about the Family History Library. Here is one Family History Library Utah.

The library catalog is online so you can prepare at home by making a list of the items you want to search. Here is the library page at Family Search which is packed with useful information.

Alan Mann's class was filled with things I did not know about the Family History Library even though I live in Salt Lake Valley and have been there many times.
I was just continually amazed during this class at all the resources that are now available to help me with my research. It will take me a long time to take advantage of them, especially since genealogical research in not my full-time occupation. I have to find the time to do it. But I believe these resources will save me a lot of time!

Here are just a few of the things I learned about:

Research Wiki

Family Search Indexing

Online Research Classes

Family Search Forums

Family Search Labs - New Features

This was a very helpful class for me to attend. Thank you Alan Mann.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Blog Your Way to Genealogical Success

I was anxious to go to this session so I could learn the identity of The Ancestry Insider. I have been following his blog for some time now. Now that I know -- I am not telling.

There is no way I could report all the interesting information that he shared in this presentation. He took us step-by-step through the process of creating a blog at It is very easy and takes just minutes.

I learned some new words:
blogosphere -- the community of bloggers
Google-ize -- publicize your information so others can find it through Google.

His presentation focused on three uses of blogs (there are more, of course).
1. Blogs are an easy way to publish information on the Internet. While you are writing a book, share your information on your blog.
2. Publish genealogical inquiries. Previous to blogs, this was done through newspapers and newsletters and message boards.
3. Blogs make a great research log. You will always have a copy wherever you go. It can be private, doesn't have to be public. I created one myself after the class.

I liked his basic principles for blogging such as KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid!), use free resources, and never divulge information about living people. I want to get a blog editor (for example Microsoft Live Writer ) and an image editor (for example Get Paint ) like he suggested. Except I am already using Picasa and that may do everything that I need to do.

Here is the blog that The Ancestry Insider created for this presentation that demonstrates what he taught

Here is his signature blog The Ancestry Insider. Recently there have been some very interesting posts about sources, evidence, and conclusions. Is it possible to design software that will examine the evidence and make genealogical conclusions???? Follow The Ancestry Insider and maybe we will find out.