I’m heading back to the US for the largest West Coast genealogy conference - and the largest number ever of participating genealogy bloggers (70) – at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree 2011.
I just finished a short visit home after a long trip covering the East Coast. Here are some highlights of that trip.
At the end of March, I ran the MyHeritage.com booth at the Ohio Genealogical Society regional conference in Columbus. I reunited with old friends and colleagues, met new friends and also gave some lectures for local genealogy groups in Dayton and Cleveland.
The New England Regional Conference - in Springfield, Massachusetts – was next. I tried to find the Simpson family, but it seems it was the wrong Springfield. There were some very interesting lectures and the opportunity to work on my personal research with a lecture about genealogy repositories in Romania and Ukraine. A later conversation with the speakers discovered some previously unknown resources.
Years ago, when I was very new at the genealogy game, I believed that I could accurately remember where I had discovered every bit of family data.
And - for awhile - I actually could do that. However, as the years went by, and the numbers of people on my trees increased - and my brain cells seemed to decrease - it became impossible.
Sometimes, I would write the information on a scrap of paper. We all know what happens to a scrap of paper stuck in a bag or pocket.
At one point, I had to stop all new research and back track, almost to the beginning of my quest, to fill in all those blanks.
Fortunately, I had even saved some of those scraps of paper on which I had scribbled information while visiting archives and libraries. To preserve them, I had taped them onto regular sheets of white paper. Eventually, I transfered that data to the family tree software I used, but the scraps didn't cover all my research.
It wasn't easy to admit that I had neglected this important documentation. And it required a very long time to retrace my steps.
Since those days, I clearly - and loudly - advise beginners to document every bit of data they find.
Some have replied innocently that they'll remember - they only have a few people on their tree. Others have even asked why it's important: "The names are what we need, right?"
Do you have ancestors or relatives who served in the military?
As we peer into our past, we often find family members who served on land or sea in many countries and in many capacities. Some were on-the-ground forces, while others filled support roles such as tailors, doctors, nurses, cooks or musicians.
London's Imperial War Museum has organized a Family History Day on Saturday, November 6, sponsored by MyHeritage.com. The event will assist participants - from beginners to experienced family historians - to learn how the Blitz affected families, the roles relatives played to help win the war, the aftermath of this history in today's families, and what records are accessible for more information.
The Imperial War Museum is the museum of everyone’s story: the history of modern conflict told through the stories of those who were there. It is an educational and historical institution responsible for archives, collections and sites of outstanding national importance. You can view the Museum’s main website here.
Women as well as men have served in diverse capacities in all US military branches - Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and the Coast Guard. For information on women veterans from Colonial to contemporary times, view stories here (scroll down to see other relevant pages on that site), and a time line here. For a collection of photos and artifacts documenting women's service, click here.
One Civil War surgeon - Dr Mary Edwards Walker (photo left) - was the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor.
Accessible records include regiment lists, files for widows' pensions, death and burial records, medals, hospital lists for the wounded, transport lists and many other records, each supplying another piece of the family history puzzle.
Where can you find more information on those who served?
Imagine going down to the cellar of your house and seeing "1423" carved in an original beam.
Our daughter once lived in Zurich, Switzerland. Her fascinating house on a historic street - Rennweg - in the center of town was on all the medieval maps at the city museum.
In the Middle Ages, it was the main street of the city's upper town and ran along the 12th century city wall from a fortified gate to the town hall. During street renovations, a Roman-era well was discovered.
Except for that carved date in an ancient wooden beam, a casual visitor would not have known the nearly 600-year-old building's history. Of course, other clues were the very steep steps, sloping floors and oddly-shaped rooms, but everything else was modern.
Wouldn't you love to know the history of your home? When it was built and by whom? Who lived in it through the years? How they were connected to the community in which they lived?
Unless preserved, this type of information is often lost.
In Ithaca, New York, a group of people have come up with a local project to preserve house history - one which could easily be replicated in places around the world.
Photos of bride and groom are among the most cherished in families. Copies are sent far and wide, to relatives in other countries. When researchers begin to expand their family histories they often find the same photographs in the hands of branches in several countries or different cities.
It's another way of confirming the relationship between two groups of people. The sender of the photo may have inscribed it to the person who received it and indicated that the receiver was an aunt, uncle, cousin or sibling of the person who sent it. They may also have included the date and place of the wedding and the full names of bride and groom.
Here are more tips when working with wedding photos:
If you are lucky, these lifecycle events will be documented in the newspapers where your family lived. The pages also allow us to glimpse how people lived, what they bought, what they ate, their social activities and more through advertisements and local event coverage.
If your family lived in New Mexico, you may find information dating back to 1860, as the University of New Mexico Libraries has just received a major grant to digitize the state's old newspapers (1860-1922).
A New Zealand library has just launched a database with more than 2,500 historical images, as well as cartoons, drawings, posters, watercolors and ephemera.
The photo below is of Manurewa’s creamery, circa 1905 (CREDIT: Manurewa Historical Society).
South Auckland's Manukau Libraries Footprints Archive database is now accessible to researchers around the world, with images detailing everyday life from the 1870s-1990s, and covering a geographic area from Otahuhu down to Papakura and Franklin.