Going beyond online resources

Going beyond online resources

The National Personnel Records Center

Like many beginning genealogy researchers, my first inclination is to go online to look for a fact or find a resource. If I don’t find what I’m looking for, more often than not I move on to the next thing to research online. But as I’m listening to veteran genealogists share their knowledge and expertise at the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference, I’m learning that online resources are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg.

The first break-out session I attended was “But I’ve Looked Everywhere,” presented by Barbara Vines Little, CG, FNGS, FVGS. It was a tremendous session and a great way for me to kick off the conference. She went over an amazing array of resources where you might find the information you’re looking for. And guess what? Many of those resources aren’t easily available online.

After two days (so far) of the conference, I’ve come to realize that I need (and want) to get out of the house and explore the amazing repositories of information available in my own community. I’m fortunate to live where there are not one, but two, large public library headquarters (St. Louis City and County), both of which have genealogy departments. There is also the Missouri History Museum Library as well as the National Personnel Records Center of the  National Archives at St. Louis (the largest federal archive outside of Washington, D.C.). Also, the Missouri State Archives is just a couple of hours away in Jefferson City. They provide a great deal of information online through Missouri Digital Heritage, but I learned at the conference that there is much more information available that is not digitized. There is much for me to discover by researching in person.

One thing I’ve learned when I have gone out of town to research at various libraries is that it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed and not take full advantage of what the repository has to offer. That’s because, I think, I’ve gone in thinking that I wanted to cast a wide net and learn as much as possible. Now I’m thinking I’m better off with a single focus, particularly if I’m using these local libraries where I can return again and again without effort.

In her talk, Barbara Vines Little said something that keeps echoing in my brain:

“You have to know what the question is before you can look for the answer.”

 –Barbara Vines Little

I need to go into to these libraries and archives with a very specific question in mind. That will help me stay focused and help me use my time well. I’m excited to figure out those specific questions and get started!

Getting ready for a conference

ngslogo200Tomorrow, the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference begins. It’s being held in St. Charles, Missouri, about 30 minutes from my home, so I am not staying at the conference hotel. Since no travel is required, I’ve barely given the conference much advance thought.

But today’s the day for me to focus on it and I’m getting really excited! I love attending conferences (I go to both genealogy and organizing conferences regularly) and I know that some pre-planning can be really beneficial. So today, I’m going to do the following:

  • Pick up the conference registration materials
  • Go through the syllabus and select the classes I’ll plan to attend
  • Familiarize myself with the conference app, which I downloaded a month or two ago
  • Mark the classes I select in the conference app
  • Go through the list of exhibitors and note the ones I want to make sure I see
  • Write down my goals for the conference
  • Think about the people I want to try to meet
  • Reach out to the blog readers who have told me they’ll be at the conference

Taking a few moments to think about and write down my goals for the conference is time well spent. Keeping my goals top of mind will inform my decisions about how to spend my conference time. In my case, I have goals for both my genealogy research and for this blog.

This is my first NGS conference and I’m really excited it’s finally here. I look forward to digging in to the conference materials this afternoon. I know I have four days of great learning and great interactions ahead of me.

If you’re attending the conference, please make sure you say hi!

Free genealogy resources!

free genealogy resources!Who doesn’t like to save money on genealogy research? Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers, of whom I’m unabashed fan, sent out his free e-newsletter yesterday. It’s always a treasure trove, but this issue had a little something special: a link to a list of free genealogy education resources. He compiled the list for a talk he gave to the American Library Association Mid-Winter Conference and he’s kind enough to make it available to everyone.

You can download the 25-item list here. But please, do yourself a favor and go to the Geneabloggers website and sign up for his newsletter that you can receive notifications like these. He’s always coming up with a great free resource or an offer or discount for genealogists. (And there’s even a Genealogy Bargains tag on the Geneabloggers website!)

Get your ancestor’s handwriting analyzed

page 1 dave's letter to bea testWhen I was at the RootsTech conference, one of the exhibitors in the Expo hall was Nancy Douglas of Write Meaning, a certified handwriting analyst. I’ve always been fascinated by graphology and didn’t understand immediately what it had to do with genealogy.

I picked up her postcard and, after I got home from the conference, I checked out her website.  I was intrigued when I learned that she can take handwriting samples from an ancestor and provide an analysis, giving you insights into your ancestor’s personality.

I have a long, handwritten letter that my grandfather wrote my grandmother a month before they wed. It’s a treasure, because it outlines his father’s work history, his own work and education history, as well as touches on his parents’ unconventional marriage. And, at 36 pages, it provides a wonderful opportunity to try out this handwriting analysis.

Using my Fujitsu ScanSnap SV600 scanner, I scanned the entire delicate letter and sent it via Dropbox to Nancy, along with payment of $100. I eagerly anticipate the analysis, which I hope to receive in a month or so. You can bet that I’ll be reporting the results here!

If you’re as intrigued as me and you have access to an ancestor’s handwriting, check out the Historical Family Documents tab on Nancy’s website. And stay tuned for a future blog post on my results!