Monday, July 21, 2014

So where do you go from here?

Thinking back on my adventures in family history there were no steps, numbered one to ten, that I took in order to reach my goals. It was kind of haphazard. A little bit here; a little bit there. Fantastic discoveries. Huge brick walls. There is no check list when you are researching your ancestors. They didn't live by a "check list" and you won't find them by using  a check list. 

By the time you decide that you need to find your ancestors, most of your older relatives will have passed on. Don't feel bad, it happens to all of us. Just in case you have a few family members left who are older than you, this is your chance to get a lot of misinformation. I can hear you questioning this statement. Why would you want misinformation? Because it contains a lot of clues.

There are times when I really believe that family folklore and gossip have more bits and pieces of accurate information than those wonderful family biographies that you find in atlases and county centennial books. After all, our ancestors wanted to make their families look better than the family that lived next door or down the road. So, the authors embellished the family histories with war heroes and wealthy landowners. Yup, a lot of our great grandfathers were close personal friends of General Grant.

After you have found your oldest living relative, you will need to set up a time for a little get together and interview session. If you have an audio recorder, this is the best way to gather information. If your have to stop to take notes you are going to miss something. Also, with a recorder you can go back and listen to the recording in a month or year or two. Serendipity says your relative will add something you did not hear before. 

You can work from a form that you create or you can go to and search for video or audio interviews with family members. I would suggest that you check what is on Cyndi's List and add your own questions. 

But what happens if you are your oldest living relative? Simple. You pick a form or two and answer the questions. And feel free to enter any other memories that pop into your mind. Also, think about some of those past Christmas dinners when your family was gathered around the table after dinner. If you had a big family like mine, this was the time when the aunts and uncles talked about the good old days. Write down everything you remember, no matter how trivial. Someday it may be the clue that breaks through a brick wall.

Of course the best oral history scenario is being able to gather together two or more older family members. That way you can just sit back and let them talk. Don't forget to encourage them to bring out their old family pictures from the closet -- that will trigger many memories. 

Once you have all the memories recorded, it is time to head to the next level. 

But instead, we are going to take a detour and head in another direction for a while -- into the world of the professional genealogist! The first episode of Who Do You Think You Are will air on TLC this Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 9/8c. Whether you are just beginning to trace your family or have been doing it for decades, there is always something new to learn. 

As usual I will comment on each episode and use it as a learning experience. Please remember this is an hour program with commercials and a lot of research is squeezed into that time period. WDYTYA only shows you what you can accomplish. It does not show you how many hours of research it takes to get there.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Back to the Basics!

Recently someone asked me a very simple question. "How do I get started in genealogy?" "Do local groups offer beginning genealogy classes online?"

Wow, that was a wake up call! I really had to stop and think about the answer and the more I explored it in my mind the more I realized that after almost 60 years of being exposed to my family history, I couldn't answer that question.

Well, yes of course, I could give the standard generic answer: Yes, I know a few people who give beginning genealogy courses at the local community colleges. These instructors are very good at what they do and I would highly recommend them.

But I didn't get started that way and in my mind I needed to know the difference. My family tree was mailed to me in an envelope. It contained all the names and dates and sources I needed to become a Daughter of The American Revolution (DAR). I am still not a member, but, today, I know a lot more about my ancestors than those few facts on that application. I know "the dash"!

So here is my advice if you are just starting out. You need to locate as much information about your family as you can get your hands on. Everything from facts to family folklore. How do you do this? Simple! 

Before you sign up for that beginning genealogy class -- declutter your house. I know, you are now saying that decluttering your house has nothing to do with family history. Bet me Buckwheat!

You get used to living with all that stuff! Like birth certificates, funeral home cards, letters, Christmas cards, pictures (maybe even some with the people identified), baptismal records, baby books, journals (if you're lucky), high school year books, envelopes with a name and address stuck in an old cookbook, post cards from World War I or II, naturalization papers, a receipt from a local store. It all depends on your family and hopefully they were all pack rats!

Once you have found all of these bits and pieces of information you will have a foundation on which you can build your genealogical research. You have yourself, your parents, hopefully your grandparents, and some locations and dates. Now you can go to a beginning genealogy class.

So, you are saying -- what is the difference. Why not go to the class first? Because if you have a little bit of research under your belt when you walk into that classroom, you can say - this is what I found - where do I go from here. And, also you know what a source of information looks like.

It is like you can't bake a cake unless you have some of the ingredients already in your pantry. Granted, you might have to run back to another store to get the rest of what you need. But you will know what you are missing and you will be able to figure out where you can get it. And eventually you will be able to have your cake and eat it too.

That is how genealogy research works. Some times it is two steps forward and one step back. 

Wait, I take that back -- it is always two steps forward and one step back.
So how do you deal with that problem? You connect with other genealogists!

Next: Where do I go from here?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Daughters of 1812

If you live in northern Ohio, close to the shores of Lake Erie, you no doubt know Put-In-Bay, The Perry Monument, The Jet Express, The Roundhouse,  Pat Daily, the Mills Race, Port Clinton, Kelley's Island.  You know all the fun things about boating on Lake Erie.  But did you know you also might have ancestors who fought in The War of 1812! 

In my case I live in northwest Ohio and have spent many hours boating on Lake Erie both on the American side and the Canadian side. And I do have an ancestor who fought in the War of 1812. I never even considered it because my northern Ohio ancestors didn't arrive here until well after 1812. As it turns out my ancestor who fought along side Commodore Perry was from Kentucky!!

Imagine that. Now all of a sudden Put-In-Bay takes on a whole new image.

The Daughters of 1812 will be holding a preliminary meeting to organize a Chapter in the Toledo and the Erie/Huron County Area 
This will be a luncheon meeting at the 1812 Restaurant in the Island Hotel at 102 Madison St., Port Clinton at 11:30 AM on Saturday, June 28.

We invite you to attend and find out more about the Daughters of 1812 and hopefully we can answer any questions that you may have about joining our Society.

For more information contact:

Sharon Myers

Ohio Society Daughters of 1812

State Registrar

Note: Sorry about getting this information out on time. Computer Gremlin Problem is my only explanation.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Visit An Old Friend!

I did something new and exciting the other day. Well, maybe not so new, but certainly exciting. It involved a book. Remember those things? I love books. I always get my conference syllabus in book form. I just like the way they look on the shelf. To me it is so much easier to flip through the pages of a book in my hands than it is to click through a bunch of pages on a computer screen. Books will always deserve a place in my house

What led to this? Well, I couldn't spell a word and no matter how much I teased automatic spell check, it would not cooperate. So I turned to this other word source. It came up with words I didn't even know existed. Of course, that is not a bad thing. I hesitated for a minute and skimmed the words on the page.  Automatic spell check does not afford you that courtesy. It gives you the word you are looking for and then moves on to someone who has forgotten how to spell to, two, and too and really screws up the meaning of yet another sentence.

I would "put money on it" that automatic spell correction on cell phones and computers has started a lot of fights just by inserting the wrong word in a text message. And then I remembered my husband and my cousin, Jerry, who both had hearing problems. Too much loud music in their early years maybe? They had their own form of automatic spell check. It was what they thought they had heard. Their conversations were classics. They could talk about two completely different subjects at the same time. Ok, you baby boomers out there know what I am talking about. At our age we tend to hear things wrong. Sort of like senior automatic spell check. We hear the wrong word and the conversation takes a wrong turn. 

So maybe instead of relying on automatic spell check on the phone or computer, you should pull that book off of the shelf in your office. You know the one that is all dusty and lonely. The one that never gets any attention any more, but still sits there waiting patiently for you to come back and enjoy its pages. 

Visit your local dictionary and thesaurus. They miss you!! 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

PictureKalahari is huge and I am exhausted. I was all packed and ready to check out this morning. Then  I got my bill and, you guessed it . . . the other Sandy! Check out time was 11am and I was planning on squeezing one more session in before I had to leave. Instead I spent that time in the lobby straightening out my bill. By the way if you stayed at the resort, you should check your bill to make sure they waved the resort fee. They will remove the fee if you were charged.

The conference runs til 4pm today. With check out time at 11am, I wonder how many people are going to leave early. Yesterday afternoon the halls were filled with families checking in for the weekend. This morning buses were arriving packed with teenagers headed for the prom. The peace and quiet of the last few days was gone and the genealogists retreated to the safety of the conference center.  I had to make one more sweep of the exhibit hall and distribute the last of my raffle tickets. Then  I said "goodbye to Kalahari" and vowed to return again someday.

This is my only conference for this year. I envy those of you who are getting ready to attend the NGS Conference in Richmond, Virginia. I have ancestors who lived in that area back in the 1700's and it would have been wonderful to walk the land they walked on. 

While I was in the exhibit hall yesterday I picked up a book, An In-Depth Guide to Richmond, Virginia by Shannon Combs-Bennett. It is a great book for anyone going to the NGS Conference or planning on doing research in the Richmond area at a later date. It contains information about downtown, safety, transportation, shopping, and nearby attractions. For more information:

So what did I learn at the OGS 2014 Conference? 
*I definitely need to start using Evernote. Also learned that Thomas MacEntee is extremely funny.
*Playing live Clue with a bunch of genealogists can be fun and confusing. Sort of like family research.
*The ague of the early days of the Great Black Swamp was actually malaria.
*It is easy to hit over 6,000 steps on your fitbit in one day at a genealogy conference. Also learned it is not easy to get out of bed the next day!
*But most important, genealogists are some of the friendliest people in the world. We relate!


Thursday, May 1, 2014


PictureFor those of you who are waiting for the next episode of Which Sandy Do You Think You Are, you won't be disappointed. Tonight was the Serengeti Social. We played a live game of Clue which was quite funny. Then we headed back to the room with wild animals and ice cream.

The first thing I saw was an albino snake. I could not resist petting him and we instantly bonded. So I spent some time with him. 

After we created our own ice cream sundaes at the ice cream bar it was time to announce the door prize winners.The second name announced brought 2 people to the stage. Since we both have the same name, we both got to pick out a door prize. We also got to compare notes on our "same name" experiences at the conference so far. And, there are still 2 days left!

And, there are a lot of door prizes yet to be awarded. Just saying . . . . . .

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oooops! There are two of me at the conference.

PictureArrived at Kalahari this afternoon around 3:30pm. I parked in the parking lot close to the entrance, went inside and checked in. After I found my room and got my bearings in this mammoth resort, I went back to my get my car. 
I then chose to go "up the hill" to the main entrance to unload my car. It was amazingly easy. There are plenty of luggage carts right inside the entrance. I parked my car in one of the many temporary parking spaces, unloaded my stuff onto the cart and took it to my room. Then I returned the cart, jumped back in my car, and parked in the parking lot area near the convention center. I much prefer this instead of watching my clothes, computer, and research disappear into an unknown room in a hotel while I take off in the other direction to check in. 

If you are staying in one of the nearby hotels, plan on parking way in the back of the resort property by the convention center. And don't worry about going hungry! There is so much food here. And if you look at candy and ice cream as a major food group -- you are absolutely in the right place.

The first time I was in the conference area I found it to be slightly confusing. And then everything else got extremely confusing. I picked up my conference packet and sat down in a nearby chair to check the contents. (This is something you should always do.) For some strange reason I had a lot of tickets for events I didn't register for. And then I noticed I was missing things. So I took my packet back and, yes, there was a mistake. So I got my correct packet and returned to my room. 

As I was unpacking, there was a knock at my door. I opened the door to a very nice security guard who told me I was in the wrong room. Ok. Wrong packet and now wrong room. Hmmmmmm!!

To be honest, it didn't take me long to figure out what was wrong. Several years ago when I visited the OGS Library in Bellville I picked up a pen to enter my name on the sign in list. Much to my surprise, I was already signed in. Yup, there was my name!! That was the day I met the other member of OGS that has the same name as me.

So now we are both at the same conference together. This should be interesting. Can't wait to see what happens when they start calling the names of the winners of the door prizes and raffle tickets!!  

See! No matter how seasoned you are. . . No matter how many conferences you have attended. . . . .There is always something new!