Step away from the desk

Leaving the house can make you a better genealogist

Thomas MacEntee and me

When I started doing genealogy research, I did all my research online, from the comfort (and isolation) of my desk. I was able to find a huge amount of information. Twenty-first century genealogy researchers are truly fortunate.

But I’ve learned that getting away from the desk and researching at other repositories can be really beneficial. When I was researching at the Midwest Genealogy Center, I was reminded of the benefits of scanning a section of books. Titles jump out that I wouldn’t have thought to search for. Friendly librarians pointed out resources I didn’t know existed. At the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, a professional genealogist on staff gave me a mini research lesson as she helped me confirm that a person I’d found was actually my great great grandfather.

There’s another way to learn by stepping away from the desk: Going to conferences. Last Saturday, I attended a one-day conference sponsored by the Genealogy Society of Southern Illinois. It was in Carterville, Illinois, two hours from my home in St. Louis. I learned about it from a blog reader, Vickie Sheridan, who commented after I expressed my disappointment over not being able to attend the Midwestern Roots Family History and Genealogy Conference in Indianapolis as planned.

The conference was terrific! I am so grateful to Vickie for telling me about it. There were at least four ways it benefited that made it well worth the time and (somewhat minimal) expense:

  • I learned a huge amount of information that will help me in my research
  • I got ideas for blog posts
  • I met Vickie
  • I met Thomas MacEntee, the conference speaker (he did four talks!), whom I’d been looking forward to meeting in Indianapolis

I’ll write more in a future post about some of the great research tips and tricks Thomas presented, but I’ll whet your appetite with this one. Tom has created what he calls a Genealogy Research Toolbox in which he has organized a huge collection of over 150 valuable genealogy links. He encourages people to use it and share it. Here it is: Genealogy Research Toolbox.

In discussing the value of curating links such as these, Tom made a very cogent point.

Why should I spend 30 minutes looking for a link when I could spend that 30 minutes looking for my ancestors?

That’s just another way that being organized can help us be more productive researchers. I’m so glad I left my house in an effort to become a better genealogy researcher!

 

 

When life gets in the way of genealogy plans

frowneyfaceI was so excited to go to the Midwestern Roots Family History and Genealogy conference this weekend. I’d heard from several blog readers who were going to be there and I’d arranged to meet some fellow genealogy bloggers. All that, plus the opportunity to soak in the knowledge of a two-day conference and a pre-conference workshop. That’s my idea of a great time.

But today I made the decision to cancel my plans to go. I have a long-time, beloved organizing client who has moved back to St. Louis and her belongings are arriving tomorrow, the day I was planning to leave for the conference. I’m committed to getting her moved in and settled as quickly as possible, so my team and I will be spending the rest of the week making that happen. I just wish the moving company had delivered her belongings sooner–they arrived in St. Louis over a week ago. But it can’t be helped.

I figured out a consolation prize, though. I’m going to devote Saturday and Sunday to genealogy education. I had purchased ten lectures worth of streaming content of the National Genealogical Society’s 2014 conference, and the opportunity to watch it is expiring in just a couple of weeks. So I’ll watch that and get a bit of the conference experience. I also plan to spend time reading some of the copious information I’ve gathered about preserving original family documents (the subject of the pre-conference workshop I was planning to attend). And I hope to spend some time with my  ancestor map and maybe do a little research on my Rasco line while I’m at it.

Committing to doing that work this weekend has made me feel better about having to miss the conference. I’m also buoyed by the prospect of the National Genealogical Society’s 2015 conference in St. Charles, Missouri, a mere 30 minutes from my house.

Want to meet up at the Midwestern Roots conference?

Midwestern Roots 2014 conferenceI can’t believe it’s almost August already. Next week I travel to Indianapolis for the Midwestern Roots Family History and Genealogy conference. I’m very excited. I love conferences in general and I’ve really enjoyed the genealogy conferences I’ve attended so far. RootsTech 2014 was especially valuable for me.

Before I went to RootsTech in February, I posted here and was so happy to hear from a reader, Lori Krause, who was attending. She’s a fellow Missourian (though she lives on the other side of the state) and we spent a lot of time together at the conference and have also visited the Midwest Genealogy Center together subsequently.

So I thought I’d see if anyone is going to the Indiana conference. If so, maybe we can get together for coffee or sit together at a session. (I promise not to pressure you to become my BFF.) Just leave a comment and I’ll contact you via email or just email me through the Contact form.

I’m heading up early for the pre-conference session on preserving original family documents on Thursday morning.

I’m very excited about this learning opportunity. And I hope to multiply the benefit by meeting one or more readers of this blog!

Genealogy = connections

From left: Me, Penny, Sue, Mary (seated)

From left: me, Penny, Sue, Mary (seated)

Thanks to my family history research (and this blog, really), I had an extraordinary day this past Friday, meeting my mother’s cousins and aunt. My mother was born in Missouri but her family moved to Spokane, Washington, in 1936 (looking for a better climate for my grandfather, who was recovering from tuberculosis). They left behind my grandfather’s parents and siblings, a close-knit family.

As a result, I didn’t grow up knowing this branch of the family and we sort of disappeared off the family radar. But that changed when my mother’s cousin, Jerry Brown, found this blog and introduced me to the Brown cousins, a wonderfully welcoming group. So when I saw there was a genealogy conference in western Missouri, I registered and arranged to come in a day early and meet my family.

It was an incredible day. These people are hilarious and fun and we laughed and laughed and laughed. It started with lunch in Nevada, Missouri, with cousin Penny. After that, we met cousin Sue at the old-folks’ home where Penny’s mother, Mary, lives. Mary is the sole surviving sibling of my grandfather, Crawford Brown. (Crawford died in 1996, two weeks shy of his 90th birthday.) She is 99 years old and has a twinkle in her eye and is quick to laugh. That’s us in the picture up top.

Then we went to Milo, Missouri, where my great grandparents (Crawford’s parents), who are Penny and Sue’s grandparents, had lived. I saw the site of their in-town house, where they moved from the farm in 1959, when they were in their 70s. And we went to Milo cemetery, where they are buried. We also saw the site of their farm (and I heard many hilarious stories about Sue’s antics at the farm when she was little).

The graves of my great grandparents, A.J. and Rhoda Brown

The graves of my great grandparents, A.J. and Rhoda Brown

Then these lovely women took me on a quest to find the cemetery where my great grandfather Jeffries (my grandmother Sue’s father and father-in-law to Crawford) was buried, along with his parents and grandparents. Mind you, these Jeffries are no relation to Penny and Sue, but they were up for helping me find the cemetery. It wasn’t easy. We had some directions from an old book, but they didn’t turn out to be entirely accurate. To make matters more complicated, there are two cemeteries within a few miles with homophonic names (Meyer’s and Myer’s), so asking directions wasn’t terribly fruitful. But then I got my husband, Barry, on the case from home and Google maps saved the day. Once there, Sue and Penny helped me find the actual graves. Here’s the grave marker for my great grandfather’s grandparents.

The grave marker for my 3rd great grandparents, R.A. and Harriett Jeffries

The grave marker for my 3rd great grandparents, R.A. and Harriett Jeffries

Luckily the day was beautiful, sunny and in the upper 70s or low 80s. It wouldn’t have seen like such a fun adventure the next day, when it was cold and windy.

After our grave-hopping (we went to both Meyer’s and Myer’s, as well as Milo cemeteries), we went by the site of the original homestead near Rockville, Missouri, that my great grandparents established when they moved to Missouri from Nebraska in about 1914. And after that we met more cousins at a Mexican restaurant in Nevada for dinner, as well as Sue’s 90-year-old father (widower of Crawford’s sister, Nancy). A family reunion date was selected for 2014. I am eager to attend!

By the time I headed up to my hotel in Blue Springs, Missouri, I was exhausted. But so tickled to have had such a wonderful day.

When I started doing family history research, it was all about a solitary detective hunt with feelings of triumph when vital records were obtained. What I didn’t realize it would be about was connecting with family, sharing stories and memories, and uncovering life-enhancing relationships.

I am so grateful for the time spent with this new-found family. And I am so grateful for my interest in genealogy!