Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New on the Shelf : How To Do Everything Genealogy

No matter how many how-to books published about genealogy, each additional title offers new ideas for resources, documentation tips, creative methods of organization, potential brick wall solutions, and author insight into what has become a life-long passion for us all. 

In addition to learning what you can about traditional research methodology, contemporary books on the topic have the added bonus of bringing us further into the 21st century by referencing the myriad of online & technological tools available to us today. 

How To Do Everything Genealogy, by George Morgan is one of the latest on the market, the third edition having been published earlier this year.  You may recognize George's name as one of the Genealogy Guys who co-hosts the longest running weekly family history podcast in the world.  The book is edited by his online co-host, Drew Smith.

The volume is divided into three main parts:
  1. Begin Your Family History Odyssey
  2. Expand Your Research
  3. Learn Research Methods and Strategies
Each part is broken down into smaller sections some of which include:
  • Balance Traditional and Electronic Research
  • Extend Your Research With Advanced Records Types
  • Use Alternative Research Strategies to Locate Difficult Records
  • Use the Latest Online Resources and Social Networking in your Genealogy Research
George has highlighted certain search strategies in the form of case studies where he demonstrates how he tumbled some of the brick walls in his own pedigree.  He is meticulous in listing sources that should be consulted at home, on site, and online, which supports my ongoing advice to you about creating research checklists. 

Throughout the book there are little side notes such as the "Did You Know?" snippet on page 287:  Ellis Island wasn't the first immigration processing center in New York.  Ellis Island opened on 1 January 1892 and replaced Castle Garden.

Other topics addressed are DNA, contacting living family, working with forms & charts, foreign country references, dissecting or interpreting records, and discussions about wikis, podcasts, webinars.  He also addresses online social medium such as Facebook and Twitter, and advises about the use of search engines.

I've not read the book through, but in paging through for this post, I'm inspired to propose that this may be the best handbook for genealogical research that I've seen since the The Source : a guidebook for American genealogy, by Loretto Szucs. 

This 448-page book published by McGraw-Hill Company would be a great gift for mother's day to the person in your life who may be just embarking on their family history search, or to the veteran genealogist. Treat yourself to a copy or check it out from your local a chapter an evening, and learn how to open doors to learning more about your family.  For more information about how to check this book out from the Van Buren District Library, please contact us.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 two small children
Photographer - Mitchelson, Lawton

Can you identify the children in this cabinet card?  Do you have any knowledge of the photographer?  Please contact us if you have any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Upcoming Event : Birthday Party For the 1940 Census, April 23

The genealogical community has been abuzz with the recent release of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census on April 2.  Unlike 1930 and all of the preceding returns, the 1940 is the first to emerge in digital format only, rather than microfilm.  Also unlike 1880 thru 1930, there is no benefit of WPA-generated indexes or soundex.  As a result, all of the major players in the online community have launched the images of the 1940 census, and are scrambling to be the first to make every-name indexes available.

To help acquaint users with how to best access & use the census, the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) is sponsoring "A 1940 U.S. Census Birthday Party Celebration," Monday, April 23, 6 p.m., at the Webster Memorial Library in Decatur.  The speaker for the evening will be area genealogist, James N. Jackson, who will give two lectures:
  • "Using U.S. Census Records" - 6 p.m. (Family History Essentials mini-class)
  • "The 1940 U.S. Census" - 7 p.m.
Integrated into the program will be some history of the taking of the 1940 census, a list of online access sites, and tips for locating families in the census without the availability of an index.  Everyone will also be provided with handouts including a blank 1940 census form which asked 34 different questions of each person enumerated and an additional 16 questions for those who were asked Supplementary Questions.  

At the end of the presentation will be a Question & Answer period, and those in attendance will be treated with a "birthday cake," and other refreshments.  The evening is a public program, open to members & visitors alike.  Contact the society with any questions.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 "Grandmother Fitzpatrick"
Charcoal Enhanced Photograph
Submitted by Sherry Brooks

On back of photo reads:
 "Mr. Harley 601 E. Main St. Hartford, MI"

Can you identify "Grandmother Fitzpatrick" in this charcoal print with possible connections to Hartford?  The submitter found this in her home and has no other identification than provided here.  Please contact us if you have any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Upcoming Event : Getting the Most Out of Ancestry, April 21

Bloomingdale Branch Library is sponsoring "Getting the Most Out of Ancestry", Saturday, April 21, 10:00 - 11:30 a.m. at their library in Bloomingdale.  The lecture, presented by Toni Benson (yours truly), Local History Librarian for the Van Buren District Library, is designed to teach the Ancestry user to dig deeper into the hidden layers of  

Unquestionably in the last several years the genealogical industry leader has become  In October 2011, they reported over 1,700,000 subscribers, a 24 percent increase over the same period in 2010.  The word has definitely gotten out...

Family historians of the past (such as myself) may have been somewhat reluctant to make the transition from traditional hands-on research to online research, but face it, the last few years has seen the dawn of the "genealogy internet babies" generation.  More and more of us are relying heavily, if not solely, upon online resources.  Ancestry, like any successful business, continually & creatively advertises and promotes their product, and no grass grows under their things are being added all of the time.

With any new device, the first thing we want to do is get it out of the box, rip off the packaging, connect the power and start using it.  Seldom do we take the time to actually read the instruction manual that comes with it, unless something doesn't work correctly.  Then we're looking through the Troubleshooting page for quick answers.  One good example is my cell phone...the manual is about 1/2 inch thick, but I've never cracked the pages of the manual.  Consequently, I don't know the half of what my cell can really do.

Ancestry users - Have you been plugging names into the search boxes and not getting the results you expect?  Did you know that you are missing key information because there are alternative search methods that you have yet to learn?  Unquestionably there are tools within Ancestry that would be useful if you only knew about them.

Ancestry user wannabees - Have you been seeing endless commercials on TV and been catching some of the episodes of "How Do You Think You Are?" on NBC, thinking 'someday' I should give this Ancestry thing a try, but I don't want to spend so much money...or...I'm computer illiterate so I'm afraid I won't know how to use it?  Since the VBDL subscribes to Ancestry Library Edition (ALE), anyone using a library computer can have access to a multitude of Ancestry databases & tools. 

In either case, this lecture is for you.  The presentation will include live demonstrations of search strategies, an overview of hidden tools, and handouts including online search inventory forms.  There will be a brief discussion regarding the differences between Ancestry & ALE, as well as a question & answer period.

Pre-registration is required as there is limited space.  Call the library at (269)521-7601 to reserve your seat, or contact us with any questions.