27    May 20090 comments

New Mexico: History, genealogy resources

In the US, more than 35 million people identified as Hispanic or Latino in the 2000 census. The census form provided for people to identify as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or "other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino."

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Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated in the US from mid-September through mid-October. Many organizations, archives and libraries organize special lecture series, classes, exhibitions and spotlight their holdings.

President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 and President Ronald Reagen expanded it to a month. The time frame was set to include the independence and independence days of several countries: Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.

Among the US-based organizations highlighting Hispanic heritage are Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the National Archives with the National Park Service.

There are many resources available for those researching their Hispanic heritage, both in the US and other countries.

Many Hispanics settled in New Mexico. The New Mexico History Museum held its grand opening in Santa Fe earlier this month.Put tooltip here

The museum highlights the history of the state, including Native Americans, Hispanics and European immigrants and all of their contributions.

The exhibits trace the the history from pre-Colonial Era to the present. There's even a re-creation of a wall of petroglyph-type handprints; touch some and the words of Navajo, Apache and Pueblo Indians talk about their worlds.There are interactive displays, bilingual exhibits, a hand's-on room for kids where they can handle artifacts and watch films and more, .

Among its holdings are the digitized collections of the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library, which is the successor of the state's oldest library (established 1851), and part of the Palace of the Governors. A non-circulating, closed stack research facility, the library preserves historical materials in many formats documenting the history of the state, the Southwest and meso-America from pre-European contact to the present. Search its catalog here.

Put tooltip hereThere is an obituary database here. Started by staff and volunteers of the Historical Society of New Mexico as early as the late 19th-early 20th century, serious efforts to maintain and add to it were begun in the 1930s. The database goes through the end of 2005.
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24    May 20090 comments

Genetic Genealogy: Persuading People to Participate

DNAWhile DNA testing for genealogical research is the best new tool that we have, it is sometimes hard to convince people to participate in a surname or geographic project.

My own DNA projects have experienced good participation with the exception of my own closest male cousins. This means I have representation from several branches (except my own) descended from my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. One of the mysteries is that some branches tell the story that one of his sons was an orphan left on the family's doorstep and brought up within the family - we don't know which son or even if the story is true. But I keep trying to convince them. Genealogy's mantra is "never give up!"

Traditionally, we researchers deal with paper documents (or online images of those documents) and follow the paper trail to our ancestors. This is kind of like the Yellow Brick Road to genealogical success. Put tooltip hereDocuments include birth, death and marriage certificates, wills, property deeds, census and voting records, obituary notices and other sources to either prove or reject a connection. Without documents, there may be a rather substantial thick brick wall. One way to open a door in that wall is with genetic genealogy DNA testing, which will tell us whether two people are descended from a common ancestor or not.

This post will focus on Y-DNA (male DNA) which is much more valuable for tracing lines within a historical framework, while mtDNA (female DNA), is more suited to anthropological resources as mutations are much slower. Instead of looking at 1000 years or less, mtDNA gives a window onto what happened tens of thousands of years ago. The results are interesting but difficult to use in a contemporary genealogical sense.

Y-DNA passes unchanged from father to son. Thus it is useful to see if two descendants of one man are related, no matter how far back in time. If both are direct male descendants of one man, their DNA should match. This makes it perfect for genealogical purposes and can link people even if surnames differ, as some family lines may have spread out to different areas before surnames were required.

Y-chromosome DNA markers used for genetic genealogy have nothing to do with certain diseases or hereditary traits. The markers used are described as "junk" genes and can't be used to determine paternity or possible disease markers.

Have you decided to get started with DNA testing to answer questions? Here are some hints to try to get your family branches involved.

The caveat is that DNA testing is also good to avoid wild goose chasing as it will rule out families that do not connect. And when a genetic match is made, researchers will then be able to go on from there and perhaps find clues and more information previously unavailable.

Approaching family you know and asking them to test is one thing, but how do you approach strangers and ask them to participate?

The reactions of strangers may be suspicion, hostility, misunderstanding, not knowing what genealogical genetic testing really is and what it can demonstrate. Of course, the person may just not care about family history research.

The process may be complicated and may take some time.

New Yorker Judy Simon is an administrator and co-administrator of a few family and geographical sites at FamilyTreeDNA.com (which partners with MyHeritage.com) and she offers some hints and tips that may help you.

She operates on the theory of creating curiosity and interest on the part of strangers (as well as friends and relatives).

If she can grab their interest, she hopes she can persuade them to order a DNA kit and join the family.

Her recommendations:
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19    May 20091 comment

Social networking for family historians

Put tooltip hereThe Internet changes so rapidly that family history researchers must be aware of how to access every possible resource, including those created by companies, organizations and individual researchers.

Digital genealogy expert Drew Smith has had a lifelong interest in family history. In real life, he is a University of South Florida academic librarian. He's a director of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and Florida Genealogical Society (Tampa) president, well-known co-host of the weekly Genealogy Guys Podcast and contributes to Digital Genealogist magazine.

He has just authored "Social Networking for Genealogists" (Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, Maryland, 2009). I've just read it and wanted to let you about it.

While not a heavy tome, its concise 129 pages set out the nuts and bolts of how the social information revolution can benefit each of us on our journeys down Discovery Road. The book covers - in a concise easy-to-read manner - podcasts, RSS, tags, wikis, genealogy social networks, general social networks, message boards, mailing lists, sharing photos and videos, collaborative editing, blogs, sharing personal libraries and even virtual worlds.

Each chapter begins with a definition. The first chapter asks 'What is social networking, and what does it mean for genealogists and their research methods?" followed by:

social networking (noun): A way of using online resources and services to create and maintain a community of individuals who share a common interest.

While social networking used to mean meeting people face-to-face, it is no longer exclusively a physical term. While in-person relationships are an important part of human society, we can now locate people around the world who share our interests - a community of like-minded individuals.

Technology means, writes Drew, that we now "go" to our e-mail box as if it were our home's physical mailbox, or a website as it were a store or meeting. For 10 years, online social networking sites and services have seen a remarkable increase, and some have been designed exclusively for genealogists. Today, we also use general networking sites for genealogical research (such as Facebook and Twitter, which I have written about previously).

While family history researchers have been working on their families for hundreds of years without any technological assistance, other than a better ink or writing instrument, we now have many more resources to access in many different ways.
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5    May 20094 comments

Reconnecting: Plan a Family Reunion

Wouldn't it be great to get your farflung family together and meet them in person? E-mail goes only so far.

Some families plan reunions every year or every few years and have been meeting for decades, while others have never organized a formal get-together.

family reunion

We've been talking about this for our Dardashti family - there are so many relatives that we'll need a football stadium. Several years ago, we had a mini-reunion with descendants of six Talalai branches. It was probably the first time in more than 100 years that that these branches had been together since before most cousins began leaving Belarus and Russia for the US. We were all stunned by the familial and personality resemblance within the group, which included those who had remained in the ancestral towns until very recently.

How do you plan a family reunion? Here are 12 steps to help:

1- Get organized.

Breaking down the responsibilities among a group of people is a good idea, but you'll need a chairperson which may be you as this might be your idea! Some tasks - depending on how big the event is - include committee meetings, making lists of volunteers and jobs, keeping to a calendar, getting people to follow through. Think about committees for food, activities and publicity.

2- What type of event?

Reunions can be informal or formal, planned on a budget-conscious shoestring (important these days) or an anything-goes gala. A picnic may be the easiest and most cost effective. What about a dinner at a restaurant? A camping trip? A theme park? A family cruise? A family ski vacation? There are many possibilities.Distance and cost are important considerations.

3- Choose a date.

Think about the season, holidays. How long will the event be - a day, an evening, a weekend or longer? Try to plan for off-season. A family reunion planned for June will compete with weddings and graduations. Will seasonal weather that might impact activities and participation?

4- Track down relatives.

Will this event be for all descendants of one immigrant ancestor or, for example, just one branch of your grandmother's line? The larger the group, the more planning is necessary. And the more people expected, the more expensive the event may be (larger venue, etc.). How to find lost relatives? If you are a good family history researcher, you may already have many names and addresses available. Use the social networking benefits of Facebook and Twitter, as well as genealogy social networking sites, like MyHeritage.com, to find long lost relatives. Of course, if you've kept a list of relatives' addresses, phone numbers and emails all along, it will be a snap to update. Better late than never should be your motto. Start building your relatives' list now.

5- Reunion location.

Small groups can meet in a someone's backyard, a small resort or a theme park. According to Family-Reunion.com, choices also include camping out, a hotel weekend, bed-and-breakfast, the family's ancestral home or town ( a roots trip), a dude ranch, a family cruise, etc. In the summer, pool access would be welcomed by participants, especially for younger relatives. Remember that the more expensive the event, the fewer the number of attendees.

6- How to pay for it.
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