Download NGS conference recordings

ngslogo200I was really blown away by the quality of the conference sessions I attended at the National Genealogical Society conference this past May. The sessions were in depth and quite scholarly and I really felt like it was a great value. Of course, that value was enhanced by the fact that the conference was held within easy driving distance of my home. But I liked it so much I’m giving serious consideration to attending the 2016 NGS conference in Ft. Lauderdale, May 4-7.

This weekend I was spending a little time on my backlog of papers picked up at the conference this year (I didn’t manage to properly process my NGS papers) and found the order form for conference session recordings. I was delighted to see that they are available as MP3s, rather than CDs, since my 2014 MacBook doesn’t have a CD drive. I downloaded three sessions, and so far have listened to one.

At $9 each, these downloadable sessions are a great deal, in my opinion. If you’re interested, just go to the 2015 NGS conference page of Jamb Inc’s website. (And while you’re there take notice of  the fact there are many past NGS conference recordings available, as well as other genealogy conferences).

I downloaded two sessions I wasn’t able to attend, about resources in states I’m researching, as well one I did attend (Julie Miller’s excellent Anatomy of a Pension File). I wanted to hear Julie’s talk again, as I proceed in processing my own ancestors’ Civil War pension files. And I’m glad I did; it’s already been very helpful.

Whether you attended the conference or didn’t, you might find these recordings really helpful.

Visiting the National Archives in St. Louis

Here in St. Louis, we are lucky to have a branch of the National Archives, the National  Personnel Records Center (NPRC). This massive building houses military personnel records, as well as federal civilian personnel records and Selective Service records.

When I attended the National Genealogical Society’s annual meeting in St. Charles, Missouri, in May, I attended a talk by the NPRC director, Bryan McGraw, who detailed which records were available in St. Louis versus in Washington, D.C. (See this page for details on which documents are in the St. Louis holdings.) Attending that talk made me anxious to visit the St. Louis facility, if I could figure out whether I had ancestors there to research.

Then I was contacted by a friend in another states whose grandfather’s World War II military personnel records were available at the NRPC in St. Louis. She was looking to save the $70 fee to have the records photocopied and mailed to her. I offered to visit the Archival Research Room at the center and look at the records, and photocopy or photograph them for her. It was my chance to see this place in person.

I thought I’d share the experience here, because I thought it was really interesting.

So here are my Things You Should Know About Researching at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis:

  • You need an appointment. A  fire at the Center in 1973 destroyed many records. Some were damaged but not destroyed and those may require examination and conservation treatment by preservation staff. Before I could see these records, they had to be treated. When that was completed, I was notified they were ready and given an appointment to view them.
  • You have to go through security. When entering the Center, there’s a TSA-style x-ray machine for bags and metal detector The big difference is that at the Archives, they seem a bit more strict and attentive than at the airport. And  security officer was much more polite and respectful.
  • You’ll go through orientation. It was probably a half hour before I actually got into the research room because first I had to fill out some paperwork, talk with a helpful staff member, and watch a PowerPoint orientation. Then I was issued a Researcher Identification Card and sent in.
  • You’re limited as to what you can bring into the Research Room. You’re not allowed to bring in your own blank paper for note taking. (Pencils and blank paper are provided.) If you have pre-written paper to which you want to refer, it must be reviewed and stamped “NARA APPROVED.”  No pens or laptop cases. No purses. But they do have locked lockers, so you can store that stuff securely. (I had to go back to my locker to get my reading glasses, and that wasn’t a problem.) You can bring in laptops, cameras, mobile devices and certain scanners. See this Policies and Procedures page for more information.
  • You can take great pictures with your phone. They provide what they call “camera table mounts,” which are clear acrylic stands, like little tables, that straddle the document. You place your phone on top of the stand to elevate the phone and hold it steady so that you can shoot a photo of the document from above (through the stand). The stand made it really easy to take good photos of many of the documents. I used the photocopier for bound documents, so they could lie flat.
  • Security going out is stronger than going in. As a precaution against stealing, once you have paid for your photocopies, they count the documents, put them in a folder, and place them in a locked canvas bag (that’s one in the photo above), along with any papers stamped NARA APPROVED. Once you’ve gathered your things from your locker, you take the locked bag back to security, where it’s unlocked and your documents given you. There’s no way to smuggle anything out.
  • It’s free! Except for the photocopying fee (I think I spent all of $10), there was no charge, not even for parking. There is a little concession area where you can purchase food if you’re there all day.

I enjoyed my experience at the NPRC and hope that I can go back to research my own ancestors!

For information about researching at the National Archives, in Washington, D.C., see this great blog post, 5 Tips for Your First Visit to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., by genealogist D. Joshua Taylor, which details that experience. They seem similar, with some key differences.

Getting my own handwriting analyzed

Getting my handwriting analyzedAs I’ve written here, I hired Nancy Douglas of WriteMeaning to analyze the handwriting of my paternal grandfather, after I saw her at her booth at RootsTech. My grandfather had written a long letter to my grandmother before they were married and I was intrigued by what I might learn about him through having his handwriting analyzed, since I had this robust sample.

I showed the analysis to my father and his sister and they were both surprised by some of the character traits that the Nancy gleaned from the handwriting. Of course, they didn’t know their father during that period of his life, since they weren’t yet born, but the report didn’t completely jibe with their memory of him. That made me curious about whether the discrepancy was in my father and aunt’s recollection or in the analysis itself.

So I decided to have my own handwriting analyzed in what Nancy calls a Personality Profile. I figured that would put me in a position of knowing whether my grandfather’s handwriting analysis was accurate. Plus I’ve always been fascinated by graphology and it sounded just plain fun.

I filled out Nancy’s forms (by hand, of course) and paid the $50 fee.

My verdict? The analysis was spot on! I loved reading the report. She correctly identified me as efficient and productive, but “not following through on some projects you would like to” (so true!). The analysis says that I am honest, broadminded and an active listener (such important traits for a professional organizer), but that sometimes efficiency and getting things done can trump active listening for me.

The report goes on to identify that I like to talk, am extroverted, open, frank and loyal. It also said I’m analytical thinker and that I prefer quality over quantity (that’s definitely the case). Nancy (correctly) identified some areas where I might be feeling unfulfilled.

The great thing about the report is Nancy details (with snippets from my handwriting to illustrate) what it is about the handwriting that tells her these things. Reading it was truly a learning experience!

If you’re curious and have $50 to spare, I heartily recommend filling out the form and seeing what Nancy has to tell you. Not only did I find it fun, but having my handwriting analyzed helped my genealogy because it lends credence to the historical family documents analysis of my grandfather’s handwriting.

Thank you, Nancy!

Create (or download) genealogy forms with Transpose

I think many genealogists (including me) enjoy forms. We collect data and we like to have a place to put it. I have been playing with a website that allows me to create forms willy nilly and I’m having a great time.

That website is Transpose. It makes it ridiculously easy create forms that you can fill out yourself or share with others via weblink. (So you could create a form to send to cousins, for example, and the answers would form a database in your Transpose account.) You can also publish form templates for others to download and customize for their own use.

I learned about Transpose via Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, who mentioned that she used Transpose’s previous incarnation, KustomNote, for creating contact forms that help her organize the many DNA-related contacts she receives.

Since creating my (free) account on Transpose, I have created a bunch of forms, including several genealogy-related templates that I’ve been using regularly.

I’ve made three genealogy templates public:

  • Genealogy conference notes (which was really handy when I was taking notes at the Southern Illinois Genealogical Society’s conference)
  • Genealogy task list (which is wear I’m keeping track of current projects, as I blogged about last week)
  • Genealogy abstract form (which I’m using to capture data as I abstract my ancestors’ Civil War pension files)

Please feel free to download them and customize them for your use. I’m sure I’ll be adding more–they’ll all be tagged Genealogy, so they’ll be easy to find when you browse public templates at Transpose.  All my templates are quite simple, but I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of the power of Transpose. I look forward to getting into it deeper!

Oh, and of course, Transpose has an iOS app, so I can use it on my iPhone and iPad. (An Android app is in development.)

If you use Transpose and have any public templates, please let me know in the comments!