Friday, April 27, 2012 + = Great News for Genealogists

Although I have read comments otherwise, I honestly believe that this union of and is going to be good news for genealogists. is the largest online genealogy resource. is an affordable online genealogy resource that seems to attract those people who are just getting started with their research. Everything I have read about this merger seems to indicate that both sites will remain the same while striving to compliment each other. I hope this is true. We desperately need affordable genealogy for beginners. But we also need the more expensive version for those of us who have figured out how to finance our favorite hobby. I say we give a thumbs up to this union.

Rob Lowe Tonight on NBC

This evening's episode of Who Do You Think You Are, featuring Rob Lowe's ancestry, should prove to be interesting -- from Germany to Colonial America to fight in the Revolutionary War. But what side was his ancestor on, the Rebels or the British? There should be plenty of research opportunities to explore so be sure to watch. NBC, 8/7central.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Those of you who are not familiar with the Cincinnati, Ohio area, may not realize the important role that The Underground Railroad played in the history of the area. The Ohio River served as a border between the non-slave state of Ohio and the slave state of Kentucky. As a result Cincinnati, plus the counties of Clermont and Brown, played major roles in the Abolitionists Movement of the 1800's by providing escape routes with many stations or safe houses through out the area. Clermont County alone has 33 known locations and, of course, Brown County is home to Ripley and the well-known Rankin House.

To honor the Cincinnati area's rich history in the anti-slavery movement The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was dedicated in August 2004. The Center is located on the banks of the Ohio River at 50 East Freedom Way in downtown Cincinnati. 

On Thursday, 10 May 2012, Family Search has joined with the Freedom Center to offer free admission to the museum from 6-9pm for those attending the NGS Conference. In addition to the exhibits, there is a Family Search Center in the John Parker Library on the fourth floor. There is no transportation offered for this event. Check with the Hospitality Booth for directions and parking information. 

Once you have visited the Freedom Center, it is time to head up river for a tour of the historic Underground Railroad stations along the Ohio River. Clermont County offers a self-guided tour of 33 locations. Please keep in mind that some of these sites are private homes and not open to the public.

Brown County is the home of the Rankin House and the Parker House. The town of Ripley,  where the Ohio River points toward the North Star, has a rich history in the Underground Railroad. The book, Brown County (Greg Haitz, Lisa Haitz), from Arcadia Publishing tells all about the area's role as the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.

Arcadia Publishing also has a book about Batavia and Williamsburg in Clermont County and numerous books about Hamilton County and Cincinnati.

**Please note Tuesday, 24 April 2012, is the deadline for pre-registration and the last day to buy luncheon tickets for the NGS Conference. Onsite registration will begin on Tuesday, 8 May 2012, at noon.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Genealogy Conference, 101!

Over the past several years I have attended a number of genealogy conferences. I remember my first conference being a bit of an overwhelming experience and it was not even a particularly big event. In a few weeks I will be attending the NGS Conference in Cincinnati. Since I have to be there early for a volunteer training session, I will begin posting a couple of days early in order to keep you informed about what to expect when you arrive.

Conferences are a place to learn, network, shop, and have fun. Everyone is focused on the same thing -- finding ancestors and living, breathing cousins. I have never met anyone who wasn't friendly, helpful, and more than willing to talk about their research. So, if this is your first conference, relax -- it is going to be a great experience.

Sometimes a lecture will be offered on the first day for beginners who are attending their first conference. I highly recommend attending, even if you think you are totally prepared for the event. There might be a last minute change in the program or something unique to this particular conference. These sessions are not limited to beginners and can benefit everyone.

The main focus of any conference is the selection of programs offered daily. Usually these run from 9am to 5pm with a break for scheduled luncheons. They are usually based on skill level -- beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Naturally if you are a beginner, you will want to concentrate on the basic skills lectures, but don't be afraid to venture into an intermediate session if it is something that interests you. 

Since several lectures can be scheduled at the same time, you will want to make a list of all the ones you are interested in and rate them by importance. After you receive your syllabus at the Registration Booth, you will want to check all the handouts offered. Some will be in great detail, while others will offer only a brief outline. If you find that two lectures are scheduled at the same time, choose to attend the one with the brief outline. You can "read" the other one in the syllabus. Also, check for any speakers who have cancelled so you rearrange your schedule. 

Make a list of questions you need answered. If these points are not covered in the lecture, ask questions. Remember not to go into detail about Aunt Minnie's husband's three times removed first cousin. If the speaker wants to know that information, she will ask. 

Lecture Etiquette.
There are a few simple rules you need to be aware of. First of all, you may not tape a speaker or take pictures (not even with your cell phone). JAMB, Inc. will record many of the sessions and the CD's will be available to buy. Also, make sure you turn off your cell phone. I always turn mine off when I enter the building and just check my phone for calls occasionally. Having a cell phone go off in a large room of people can be extremely embarrassing!

Some speakers are very popular and their sessions fill up early, so make sure you know exactly where each room is located and be there ten to fifteen minutes early. Sit up front if you have difficulty hearing and you are in the grand ballroom! After the lecture begins, do not leave unless it is an emergency. Do not bring your lunch with you. Please do not save seats for others. It is irritating to walk all the way to the back of a room because there seems to be a seat available, only to find that it is being saved! Always sit next to strangers; they could be your cousins!

(While we are on the subject of strangers. If you are waiting for a table in the hotel restaurant and you are alone, offer to share your table with other conference attendees. Aside from the fact that you won't be guilty of hogging a table all by your self, you will meet new friends with a common interest and exchange research tips.)

Wear comfortable shoes! I have found that all conferences attract different people. Some will wear their finest outfits; others will show up in jeans and a t-shirt. At one conference I was heading for the hotel when a woman in jeans, boots, western shirt and a cowboy hat started walking with me. We talked all the way back to the hotel. Of course, the next day I picked up the newspaper and found out she was a country music star in town for a concert! Normally that doesn't happen. I would say if you stick to nice casual clothing, you will fit right in with the crowd. For the special events in the evening, you will want something a little dressier. Also, some people who are being inducted into lineage societies will dress up as their favorite ancestor. 

Exhibit Hall. 
Always make time for the exhibit hall and make sure you packed that extra tote bag. Use this time to compare new products you are thinking of buying. Look for freebies and sign up for raffles. Sometimes that book you must have is being offered as a door prize or an organization is giving away excess books after cleaning out its library. Make up self-adhesive address labels with your name and contact information. These can be quickly stuck to raffle tickets, saving a lot of writing time. Also make up business cards with your name, contact information, and a list of the surnames you are researching. Most exhibit halls have a bulletin board where you can post your cards.  

Rest, pace yourself.
There is an awful lot of walking involved in attending a conference. If at all possible, I like to stay at the conference hotel. That way I always have a place to retreat and relax. Also, it gives me a place to store all my freebies, handouts, and samples during the day. Conferences are exciting, fun, and at times exhausting. And, usually you do not realize how tired you are until you stop moving!


It's Conference Season. . .on a budget!

Spring is finally here and with it, April showers, May flowers and genealogy conferences. This past weekend the Ohio Genealogical Society held its annual conference in Cleveland, Ohio. I wish I could have been there, but this year I have decided to attend the NGS conference in Cincinnati. The reason -- conferences are expensive and since my family is from Southwest Ohio, I can combine a research trip with the conference.

This year the National Genealogical Conference is being held on May 9-12 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The cost of attending the entire conference is $210. A single day is $100. I have opted for one day of conference and one day of research in nearby Clermont County. I will be spending my research time in Batavia, Ohio, so I chose to stay at the Ameristay hotel which with my husband's veteran discount will be $86 a night (plus tax). Since I shop at Kroger's, I will be able to take advantage of their fuel perks which will give me up to $1 per gallon discount on my gas. Altogether I am looking at around $350 for conference, motel, and gas plus a day of local research.

Since my motel does not have a breakfast bar, I will have to find a quick inexpensive breakfast. Fortunately there is a Frisch's and several fast food restaurants adjacent to the motel. On the plus side the motel is 2 miles from Batavia and only a few miles from the nearest golf course (for my husband). I can walk anywhere I need to in Batavia and I will take my lunch with me. 

When you consider all of the things you can take advantage of at a genealogy conference, it is definitely money well spent. In addition to the lectures, there is the opportunity to meet other genealogists, compare notes, and perhaps find a relative or two. In the exhibit hall you will find vendors for everything from onesies for the grandkids to genealogy programs for your computer. Many national and local organizations are represented and there are books, charts, maps, back copies of magazines, DNA Tests, and many freebies! One perk of the exhibit hall is being able to try out new products such as software programs and many times the vendors will have conference special pricing.

Here is the Exhibitor list for the NGS Conference:

Before entering the Exhibit Hall I have found, over the years, that it helps to have a plan. This will prevent what I refer to as Conference overload. That is when one or more genealogists get on an elevator with too many books in their suitcases. This will cause the elevator to stop between floors. I have been on elevators when this has happened. I have been the one with the books! Trust me, this experience will influence your shopping habits unless you like making multiple trips to your car on the morning of your departure.

I suggest that your first trip to the exhibit hall be for browsing only, not buying. Reserve enough time to visit every vendor and make mental notes of items that interest you. This eliminates a lot of impulse buying. You'd be surprised at how much stuff you can pick up at a conference. This will hit you when you get home and unpack everything. I know this seems impossible, especially if it is your first conference, but you can drop an awful lot of money without realizing it. 

A great way to lower expenses is by sharing the cost with others. The most obvious is to put as many people as will comfortably fit in your car and split the cost of gas. It is not unusual for people to contact local societies and offer to help pay for gas in exchange for a ride to a conference. Many of the events provide the opportunity to connect with others who wish to share a room. The FGS Conference in Birmingham offers a quad room that is $39.50 per person per night. Not a bad deal if you think you could share a room with total strangers! 

As you can see it is possible to cut your conference expenses. I always take my own pop and lunch items (which I buy on sale with coupons). I will also look for restaurants with specials. Applebees has the 2 for $20 special where you get an appetizer to share and 2 entrees. Bob Evans has their senior menu for people 55 and older. If there is a nearby Drury Inn, you have the breakfast and dinner buffets. (See the March 5, 2012, post on conference hotels). Be sure to do a little bit of research ahead of time to find out what is close and affordable.

Next: Genealogy Conferences, 101!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Notorious Mr. Brown!

I loved the latest episode of Who Do You Think You Are because I can really relate to notorious ancestors. Edie Falco's mysterious "Mr. Brown" turned out to be her great-great-grandfather and a bit of a rogue. Eventually we all find  skeletons in our closets and they make family history so much more fun! For example, for every person I know who wants to trace his family back to the Mayflower, I know two others who want to join the Associated Daughters of Early American Witches. Which, by the way, is by invitation only and honors those women who were falsely accused of witchcraft.

You probably noticed that C.C.Brown was not all that hard to find. This is one of the main reasons to love your notorious ancestors. They seem to make a lot of records, and for this reason, you don't have to go looking for these skeletons; they will find you.  It's the prim and proper relatives that are so difficult to locate. Perhaps they should have made a few waves in their day!

First of all let me say that I am in no way advocating digging up skeletons that will cause embarrassment or grief to people living today. No where does it say that you have to publish every single piece of information you find. And, never publish any information about any living person without his or her permission.

So how do you know these rascals are lurking in the shadows of your research notes? There are tell tale signs. I have yet to find one single bad apple in my father's family and I probably never will. Even if I did, I would absolutely keep it to myself and deposit a well placed note within that family's files for future generations. That is known as genealogically passing the buck! My mother's family, on the other hand, is delightfully loaded!! And, even better, the whole family knows it and talks about it. As a result I  always pay attention to these little signs when researching my mom's family: rumors, family feuds, disappearance of a relative, and untimely death, to name just a few.

Rumors, family folklore, and legends almost always have have a base that contains a sliver of truth. I have noticed that many times one person will get labeled with a story when it actually describes more than one person. For example, family folklore says that my great-grandfather grew up in an orphanage in Alsace Lorraine. His mother was a nun and his father was a priest. He had fiery red hair! He left the Catholic Church because the priest stole his inheritance. How's that for embellishment? Now let's take this apart.

First of all, my mom and all my aunts had red hair, so I would say it is safe to assume that someone in the family was a redhead. Next, several censuses confirm that Alsace could be my great-grandfather's birth place, with a couple of Baden-Baden's thrown in. Records in Wood County, Ohio, indicate that my he belonged to a Catholic church in Custer, Ohio, so apparently he did not leave the church and the priest did not steal his inheritance. However, after my great-grandmother died, he distributed his children among friends, neighbors and an orphanage. There's your orphanage! As for the inheritance, I have a feeling that my grandfather's inheritance went with him when he was given to another family. That is yet to be proven. That leaves the priest and nun as parents. My educated guess is that was an embellishment that resulted from my mom's family being Lutheran and not having a lot of love for Catholics. (Remember this was the 1940' and 1950's when these tales were woven.) According to my mom's sisters, all children who lived in orphanages had at least a nun or a priest for a parent. How far we have come today! As you can see there were several people involved in this great old family legend. By the way, I never told my aunts they were wrong!

The death of a parent can bring out the worst in siblings. If you are going to have a family feud, this is where it probably originated. This was the case in my mom's family and it caused a life long split between her sisters and brothers. Sadly, I have recently discovered the reason for this battle and I have to admit it was cruel. All evidence of what happened has been destroyed and there will be no well-placed note in a family file.

Do you have an ancestor who just dropped off the face of the earth? Blame history or the weather report. Although some people just wandered around, the rest were probably driven to move by an event beyond their control. War, drought, floods result in destruction of lives. Others may have been lured by the promise of owning their own land. Make a timeline for people who have come up missing in the census. It is a great way to see what was going on locally and nationally that might have uprooted your ancestor.

In the case of your Cousin Susannah who ran a boarding house, take a really long good look at the boarders. You will eventually figure it out! It's not a boarding house nor is it a girl's school!

Edie Falco has amazing  ancestors with great stories from C. C. Brown, the notorious newspaper editor, to his mother, Sister Catherine Brown, who was born at sea. And, did you notice how comfortable Edie looked on that ship -- must be in her blood.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

It's all Greek to me!

On March 30, 2012, we got a look at the some of the conditions that drove many immigrants to America. Rita Wilson traced her father's family back to Greece and Bulgaria on the recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are. Her father was born  Hassan Halil Ibrahimoff in the northern part of Greece and later moved with his brothers to Bulgaria. In 1941 he was drafted into the Bulgarian army and later sent to prison. After the USSR invaded Bulgaria in 1944, he was sent to a labor camp. The notoriously harsh conditions in the camp drove him to escape to Turkey and eventually make his way to America where he became a citizen in 1960 and changed his name to Allan Wilson.

Allan never talked about his life in Bulgaria, perhaps in an effort to forget what he went through in Europe. America was the promise of a new life for many immigrants who crossed the ocean to get here. You have to admire these brave people who came to America for a chance at a new life. The letter from Allan Wilson to his brother told of great opportunities, free education, and high paid jobs, something he apparently had never experienced before.

Whenever you have a group of family researchers together and the discussion turns to Who Do You Think You Are, someone will inevitably bring up the fact that the celebrities on the show do not do their own research. In the case of Rita Wilson, I think it would have been extremely difficult for her to do her own research.  Eastern European research can be difficult due to the history of the region. Basically it is a bunch of countries that fight a lot! Power grabs, wars, invasions all contribute to the question of who actually has the records you are looking for. And that is assuming the records survived the destruction associated with these conflicts. Rita Wilson learned that the area where her father's family lived endured 5 wars between 1912 and 1944 resulting in many documents being destroyed. So it is understandable the Rita would need a translator, guide and local historian to help her find her family. Otherwise this episode would have been much longer and not quite as interesting.

If the European situation seems difficult to understand, think of the United States. It started out as 13 colonies with a common enemy and, as I always have said, nothing brings people together like a common enemy. After the Revolutionary War America began to expand and new states were created from the original thirteen. As pioneers moved westward new territories were formed, some changing shape several times until the forty-eight states were formed. At the same time, within the states, counties were formed. As time passed these counties were divided into smaller counties. So the United States has some of the same genealogy problems as Europe -- only without the invasions and power grabs. Fortunately most of the U. S. state and county records are written in English and it is relatively easy to locate the parent county. (Red Book: American State, County & Town Sources, from Ancestry Publishing, is a great source for this information.)

If you are thinking of returning to the mother country in hopes of finding long lost relatives, I would recommend that you brush up on local history, learn to speak the language, and do as much preparatory research as possible before you purchase your plane ticket. A great free source for European research is Family Search.(  Another free source is The WorldGenWeb Project although the information available can vary according to the country. ( also has a World Explorer Membership, but it is definitely a little pricey.Most importantly, as with any genealogy research trip, you need to know who you are looking for, where to find them, and when they were there.

 Don't forget, Friday, April 6, 2012, 8/7central. Who Do You Think You Are. Edie Falco traces her family and a mysterious Mr. Brown.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Finding Great Grandma

Sometimes women can be very hard to find, creating a lot of brick walls for their descendants. This does not mean that it is impossible. It just means you have to be resourceful and creative. In the March 23, 2012 episode of Who Do You Think You Are, Helen Hunt was lucky. Her great-great-grandmother, Augusta Barstow, left a lot of records. That was because she was actively involved in a lot of causes and organizations. Augusta was president of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, an organization that eventually resulted in the passage of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote.

My mother was born in 1905 when women were not allowed to vote. In 1920 at the age of 15 she was given the right to some day cast her vote along side of her brothers. I was born in 1940 when women were housewives and men ruled the roost. By the time I was in my 30"s women were gaining equal rights with men. Today my daughters take for granted the opportunities that are available to them. I only hope they realize how much their ancestors had to do with making that possible.

In the censuses taken before 1850, very few women were recorded by name. I think it would be safe to assume that many of these women were widows, especially if children were noted. And, they probably remarried before the 1850 census, thus changing surnames one more time, but not always. So, you need to do a little bit of detective work involving the census. If you have children listed with the same surname as the parents and one or more older children with a different surname, that is a clue that the mother might have been married before. However, it could be a sibling of the mother, which would indicate a maiden name. It was possible for a women to have several surnames in her lifetime beginning with her maiden name and ending with the surname of her last husband.

Other clues found in the census could also help determine a woman's maiden name. A person with a different surname living with the family and close in age to the mother might be a brother or sister. Possibly even a cousin. This gives you a name to look for in an earlier census. Take a look at the neighbors. Are they old enough to be the wife's parents. Could it be a sibling of the wife? Maybe the oldest son in a family has the same name as a neighbor old enough to be Grandpa! If you are lucky enough to have a family that stayed in the same place for a long period of time, you can go back and forth between the censuses and find the entire extended family. And don't forget that beginning with the 1880 census, in-laws were identified if they were living with a family.

Maiden names can be found on marriage licenses, birth certificates, and death certificates. On the first two, the information should be accurate since it is provided by the woman. On a death certificate, if the informant is the husband, you can be pretty confident that the information is correct. Anyone else, and you should verify the name with a little more research. 

Wedding announcements, gossip columns, and obituaries in newspapers are excellent places to find information about women. Of course wedding announcements can provide parents' names, plus names of siblings and cousins. Obituaries usually give siblings names and sometimes parents' names. Gossip columns from early newspapers of the 1900's are notorious for telling who had a party and who was there -- especially in small communities! Newspapers also contain information about local women's organizations, church groups, and ethnic organizations. 

Helen Hunt's great-great-grandmother not only generated many records for herself, she also was instrumental in creating situations that provided more records where we can find our female ancestors. You should be able to find membership records, minutes of  meetings, correspondence, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and photographs at local libraries and repositories. And, after women gained the right to vote, a whole new set of voting records was created. It seems to me that we owe Great-Great-Grandmother Barstow a great big thank you!

Don't forget, Friday, April 6, 2012, 8/7central. Who Do You Think You Are. Edie Falco traces her family and a mysterious Mr. Brown.