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Family history researchers can become rather single-minded about their quest for ancestral data.
It is always good to kick back and read something funny, such as Chris Dunham's The Genealogue, or try something else that might add a different perspective to our searches.
I've mentioned Chris' site as his unusual and humorous approach to genealogy is always welcome, and he also offers lists of categorized genealogy blogs for your enjoyment. However, here's a new site to try for a different reason. Personas is an interesting "installation."
Created by Aaron Zinman (who holds an MIT| PhD in Media Arts and Sciences) as an art installation - a component of Metropath(ologies), an interactive exhibit by the Sociable Media Group, MIT Media Lab - it was on display at the MIT Museum. In its first month, it was accessed by more than 1.5 million users.
According to the site, it creates "a data portrait of one's aggregated online identity. In short, Personas shows you how the Internet sees you." It purports to provide a visual graph of an individual's persona based on an Internet search, and you can see what it is finding as it searches the Web.
Enter the name of a person and watch the graph visualization take place as you read the text under the graph.
In addition to names of people, you can plug in the name of a genealogy blog, for example, and receive a "characterization" of it after an Internet search. Here are some of the blogs searched on Personas:
Today's family history researchers see varying attitudes among their own children.
Some are disappointed and say their children have no interest at all in this journey of discovery; while others can point to an early curiosity in their children.
How can we encourage our children, regardless of their age, toddlers through young adults? Are there classes for kids? What techniques are available?
Instill in each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild a sense of their own family heritage. Share those family stories, the good and the bad of your own childhood. No matter how young, teach them, show them; remember that they are the future, for you, for me, for genealogy.(Page 2, Winter 2009 Newsletter, Young Genealogists Association)
One program that has drawn much attention is the annual Kid's Family History Camp, associated with the Southern California Genealogical Society's annual Jamboree conference and in conjunction with the Youth Genealogists Association. More than 150 people attended the 2009 kids' camp, which featured such topics as creating and preserving your family history, genealogy games, family history storytelling, genealogy merit badge, genealogy art and more.
The program is free and open to the public, for boys and girls ages 8-16. Pre-registration is required and space is limited. This year, the program runs from 9am-noon, on Friday, June 11, Jamboree's opening day, at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Hotel and Convention Center (Burbank, California).
The SCGS program is also designed for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who are working on obtaining their genealogy badges. See badge requirements here. The camp is also a resource for students working on class "roots" assignments.
Students planning to attend should download a pedigree chart and a family group sheet and complete it as best they can.
For more information on this special program, and to download the various forms, click here.
Television brings genealogy into our homes.
The BBC hit show "Who Do You Think You are?" created an entire industry, websites, books, a family history fair in London attracting 15,000 attendees. Over the years, each series has resulted in a major increase in masses of people whose interest in family history came about as a result of watching those episodes.
The new US version has also been a demonstrable hit as it has received excellent viewer numbers and has resulted in many queries received by genealogy societies, libraries and archives. In fact, the NBC network announced just a few days ago that the series has been renewed for a second season.
While most of us in the field believed without doubt that the new show would result in major traffic from beginners who had never thought much about family history, why it was important, or how to start, it appears that even experienced genealogists are finding useful tips from the new show.
In northern California, a longtime consummate genealogist - Rosanne Leeson - was able to solve her own Civil War history mystery after watching the recent Matthew Broderick episode, and shared this with me.
Wow! I am sitting here with tears in my eyes!
I have just had my first benefit from watching the "Who Do You Think You Are?" show!
During the Broderick episode, where the actor found his great-great-grandfather's grave in the Marietta (Georgia) National Cemetery, Rosanne learned about that cemetery and that dead soldiers had been moved there from Atlanta.
Rosanne had been trying for decades to find out what had happened to her great-grandmother's youngest brother who came to the US from Bavaria in the early 1860s. She had already discovered an archival record and knew when, where and how he had died. But she couldn't find out what happened to his body. At one point, she was told that his remains had probably been buried in a common or pauper's grave.
Once she heard about the Marietta cemetery, however, she went online, read its history and saw the list of the buried, which included her great-grand-uncle.
She picked up the phone and called the cemetery. The staff were going to send someone out to look and see if there was a stone and photograph it for her. They indicated that it was their duty and pleasure to provide closure to the family after some 150 years.
Although the genealogy community knew the show would be a hit, television networks rely on numbers. As we had all expected, the numbers indicated that there was great interest in the show.
I'm back at the MyHeritage Genealogy Blog, and gathering the details of my fascinating Asian and Australian journey to share.
My camera got a good workout on this trip. Here are the beautiful Blue Mountains - a must-see - north of Sydney:
Sunset at Mt. Macedon near Melbourne:
This journey "down under" was very rewarding, as I met interesting and interested people, answered genealogy and MyHeritage questions, met with genealogy colleagues (bloggers, archivists, librarians). Meeting a long lost family branch ranked as the best personal achievement on this trip. read about the reunion here.
In Hong Kong, I presented two well-attended programs in Hong Kong (a DNA project and a workshop in getting started with the focus on online resources). I had an opportunity to speak to many people - including young people - about genealogy in general and also how MyHeritage can help them share their family history.
In Australia, I presented two major programs (a DNA project and social media for 21st century genealogists) at the Second Australian Jewish Genealogy Conference (nearly 200 participants), chaired or participated in several smaller concurrent sessions for both Israel and Sephardic and was part of the closing experts' panel, as we (below) fielded questions from the attendees.
While in Melbourne, I also visited the Public Records Office and the State Library of Victoria, toured the facilities and met with archivists and librarians. On a quick visit to Sydney, I met colleagues at the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG) and also met Linde Wolters of MyHeritage.com who lives in that beautiful city.
Linde had arranged for me to appear at the Bendigo Family History Expo, a 90-minute drive from Melbourne through rolling hills. The area has a long history of gold mining and a very diverse community, representing the many ethnic origins of the gold-rush pioneers. I was able to assist many attendees soon after I set up my computer, which featured a MyHeritage.com overview on a looping PowerPoint presentation.
Family newsletters are a great way to involve relatives in family history.
Such publications can be as simple or as detailed as the author desires. They are another way to stay in touch and keep relatives informed of what's going on.
While in Australia, I attended an informative session by Bubbles Segall, who addressed the essentials of family newsletters.
CONSIDERING A FAMILY NEWSLETTER?
According to famed author Eli Wiesel,
"Your family is only the bare framework of your family history. Without the stories, legends, tales and episodes of your cousins and ancestors, all you will have is a dry collection of names and dates."
Your newsletter can be another part of the "keeping connected" plan. In addition to a family site (such as MyHeritage.com), a publication may likely reach relatives in different ways. Of course, if you have a family website, the newsletter can also be placed online at the site for invited members to read.
In any case, there are numerous reasons to create one. A family newsletter:
-- Helps everyone keep in touch.
-- Preserve stories and data which might be lost.
-- Shares information with relatives.
-- Shares, preserves photographs of lifecycle events.
-- Serves as a central family information location and points to other family resources.
-- Leaves a paper trail for future generations.
-- Records your family's history, customs, origins and culture.
How often you publish a family newsletter is up to you. Factors impacting this includes whether you will be emailing the newsletter or printing and snail-mailing copies. Although many researchers I know choose a quarterly newsletter, others prefer a larger semi-annual or annual edition, and still others send out short monthly updates. It is up to you and depends on your available time. It will take time to produce a good one.
Depending on your family's unique demographics, you may need to use both emaill and postage as older relatives may not have computers. However, their children and grandchildren are likely Internet users; email them the newsletter and ask them to print a copy for their older relative.
Mailing copies? Who will pay for the postage? It can be expensive, especially if you're considering a large semi-annual or annual publication.
Will you be including photos? Everyone wants to see photos, but it can make a Word document very "heavy." Consider converting Word documents to PDF files via readily available software.
SEND IT TO WHOM?
Before you write your first issue, think about who will receive it. Do you have a family address list already? Will you need to create one?
Consider the fact that many people will want it, but others simply won't care.
You could try sending the newsletter to everyone in the family and ask them to respond if they'd like to continue receiving it.
-- Life cycle events (births, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, deaths) are all important to each family. If possible, include photos of the individuals and make sure to identify them in the photo. An important idea is to include the relationship of each individual to the first person on your tree, e.g. great-grandchild of X, great-grandson of X's brother Y, etc.
-- Family traditions, customs, hoildays, recipes.
-- Stories about the ancestors.
-- Family history projects completed by relatives
-- Origin of the family's surname
-- Updates on recent research success
-- Old letters (remember to identify the writer and recipient)
-- Old and recent photos
-- Diary or journal entries
-- Newspaper articles mentioning family members
NAME YOUR NEWSLETTER!
Unusual original names are good. Easy to remember should be another quality. When I was considering a TALALAY newsletter, we used "Tales of the Talalay." Use the following - a thesaurus will come in handy as well - as a jumping-off point:
Tie your surname's first letter to any of these: Connections, Beat, Family, Chronicles, News, Words, Capers, Tales. Links, etc.
WHAT SHOULD IT LOOK LIKE?
There are many free newsletter templates available. Check Microsoft Publisher and other desktop publishing programs, or simply compose it as a Word document. If you plan to use many photos, consider converting the newsletter to PDF.
One of the best parts about my current trip was the opportunity to meet new cousins in person.
Genealogists and family history researchers agree that this is one of the most exciting experiences we can ever have.
Have you ever met someone new and felt that you've always known them?
That's exactly the way I felt when I met my Melbourne cousins, Alexander and Jenny Katsnelson, their daughters Nelly (with a journalism degree, married with two beautiful children) and Fleur (an attorney), the grandchildren and Alex's brother Leon.
Alex and Leon's mother was a Talalay from Mogilev, Belarus. Although her branch moved to nearby Bobruisk, she always told them about the Mogilev family. Alex and Jenny left Belarus 30 years ago aiming for a better life for their family and settling in Australia. Leon and their father arrived later.
Below (from left), Leon, Schelly, Alex.
I had located them in Australia, thanks to genealogy friends in Melbourne, and we made contact about seven years ago. Unfortunately, I experienced a computer disaster, losing much data along with contact information for the cousins down under.
My advice for computer users: ALWAYS back up your data. Our family has lost seven years during which we could have been in contact.
When I arrived in Melbourne, we checked the online phone directory and found Leon. On Wednesday, Alex and Jenny came to get me from my friend's home - they live only a few blocks away! - and the whole family spent the day together.
We looked at old photos, Alex and Leon recounted what they knew of their mother's family, and I showed them what I had found on their family from records discovered in the Minsk National Archives.
Jenny is interested in finding more information about her own Heiman family, which moved from Bobruisk to Riga, Latvia. We spent some time online as I showed Nelly and Jenny some of the major genealogy research websites, and demonstrated MyHeritage.com, of course.
We will spend another day together.
This time, we won't lose contact!
Have you found long lost cousins?
Where? When? How?
What was your experience like? Share your family reunion.
Traveling to a new destination is always interesting.
There's so much to take in, unusual sights and sounds, culture and cuisine.
Above see the city on a harbor tour.
My week in Hong Kong wasn't enough and I'm glad I will be back there for a few more days at the end of March.
In addition to two two-well attended talks - on DNA and genetic genealogy, and getting started in family history research - I met many fascinating individuals, saw some of the sights, and enjoyed delicious cuisine.
On a visit to the markets, here were some of the sights:
I'm in Hong Kong this week presenting genealogy talks and workshops. Tomorrow I travel to Melbourne, Australia for a genealogy conference and will return here for two more programs in a few weeks.
Chinese traditional genealogy features a document known as Jia Pu or Zu Pu - genealogy record. It is a record of the history and lineage of a clan, as it documents the surname origins, migration patterns, family lines, biography and much more.
PHOTO: Jia Pu genealogical record
Jia Pu have been dated as early as 1523-1028 BC.
Before writing was invented, early clan family trees were written on turtle shells, cow bones and bronze, or as a system of knots interlaced with miniature objects signifying generations, numbers, gender and more. The elders also transmitted this information orally to the younger generations.
The record begins with the first ancestor who settled in a place and ends with the descendant drawing up the genealogical record. One one form, the original ancestor's sons and descendants are the first six generations. That line is listed vertically on the right side with the sons and grandsons of the first son. The first born son's brothers are listed horizontally on the left. Information may include an individual's name, alias, birth and death dates and rank.
Women are not featured prominently as they become part of their husband's family after marriage, although their names are mentioned in the Jia Pu of their family and their husband's family.
Researchers now study these genealogies to learn about social and economic history, geography, law, demographics, religion and culture.
A now-defunct site called ChineseRoots.com, which was based in Singapore, claimed a database featuring 12,000 volumes of Jia Pu and a list of more than 1,300 surnames. It was working on English language immigration records to help researchers. Unfortunately, the site is no longer in existence.