Genealogy

I Should Be Driving to Sandusky

Back in late November during a Black Friday Sale I purchased my registration for all 3 days of classes at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference that was taking place at the Kalahari Resort in Sandusky, Ohio.

But of course, like so many other events, it was cancelled so here I sit, with my children, working from home instead of driving to Sandusky for a few days of family history fun.

So I’ve been thinking about what I can do to still give myself a conference experience.

Watch Webinars

I happen to have a subscription to Family Tree Webinars so I am able to watch as many webinars I want.  But throughout this past April they’ve had a free webinar each day, and the Webinar Wednesdays are normally available for a week after it first airs for everyone to watch for free so you can utilize it for one of the days as well.

Check Out Some Podcasts

Podcasts are something I need to listen to more often.  There are a variety of podcasts out there for you to enjoy for free. Here are some I’ve listened to and enjoy:

  • Generations Café by Amy Johnson Crow – these are fun to listen to and they tend to be on the shorter side, which I sometimes like.  I don’t always have 90 minutes to spare to listen to a to longer ones in their entirety and these are just right.
  • The Genealogy Guys – I met George Morgan and Drew Smith at least year’s OGS Conference (and they were to be a part of the Meet & Greet last evening as part of the Genealogy Squad).  They have lots of great information on their podcast.
  • Genealogy Gems – Lisa Louise Cooke always has an informative podcast on her website that is always filled with a variety of topics.
  • Extreme Genes – it’s America’s family history show!  Hosted by Scott Fisher and David Allen Lambert, this successful podcast has topics pertaining to all sorts of areas to help you on your genealogical journey.

These are just a few that I’ve listed. If you Google “genealogy podcasts” you will get about 30 links that you can click on to see if anything flips your trigger, plus there are a bunch of articles that give you the “20 best genealogy podcasts” as well.  I just gave you ones I knew existed and had checked out that were off the top of my head.

Read Some Books

Read! And it doesn’t have to be just genealogy based books (I’m presently reading the How to Do Everything Genealogy Fourth Edition by George G. Morgan – yes, same as mentioned above from the Genealogy Guys. It’s 480 pages and I’m loving it as it just gives me common sense suggestions that I may have overlooked as I have never read an intro book before). You can read books that relate to your relatives.

For example, I recently finished a book by John Fitzgerald called Dirty Mines and it went job by job on what coal miners did, beginning in the breakers for the young kids who could have been starting between the ages of 8 and 10 years old, to being an independent contractor as an actual full-fledge coal miner (they had to pay their helpers with the money they earned for each cart of coal). It was extremely enlightening as I really didn’t know much about what positions there were as you moved up the ladder. It also went into detail about the creation of the United Mine Workers and the Molly Maguires court cases where several men were executed for no other reason other than they were framed because everyone was in cahoots with the other – government, coal companies, judges. Several of my ancestors were coal miners, so this book was exactly what I was looking for to educate me a little more about this industry.

You can also read about the towns your family lived in, books relating to the historical happenings at a specific time of your ancestor, be it on a city, state, or country level.  Sometimes international happenings can effect our people, too.

The same can be said for Civil War diaries.  It may not be the diary of your ancestor, but it would still have similar details of what may have been going on with your relative.

Hang Out in Genealogy Facebook Groups

Lastly, to give me that true conference feel, going and posting questions or helping others with their family history journey will be the icing on the cake.  By visiting some of the many family history groups I belong too on Facebook I should be able to get that wonderful vibe that I got last year about just communicating with others who have a love of this wonderful hobby (well, maybe obsession is a better word). If you have a Facebook account but haven’t checked out any of the genealogy group offerings, you are really missing out.  It is so much fun to read of others’ tales of triumph and woe (well, maybe not fun for this, but there are some stories that definitely bring a tear to your eye).

A person’s family history journey is so special and unique, and being able to share it with others is wonderful.  Not to mention the people in these groups are outstanding, I honestly we feel overall we are the friendliest of all the hobbies as we are always willing to lend a helping hand.

Power Through

I will power through this and I’m sure I will find ways to successfully pass the time while I research my family members.  Yesterday happened to be the 235th birthday of my 4th-great-grandfather and I realized I’d found and saved his information but hadn’t put any of it into my software program.  So we are going to delve into Baltzer Morgart.  He was born in 1785 and I know he ran the Morgart Tavern in Everett, Pennsylvania.  I was able to see the building last summer (sadly, we knocked but no one was home to see if I could have gone inside). He died at the age of 68 in December 1853.

 

Genealogy, My Family Tree

Preparing for a Research Trip

Have you ever gone on a research trip for your family history?  Next week I am going on my first trip.  I am so excited.  I knew my children wouldn’t be so my dad has been nice enough to care for them and the dog while my husband and I head to Bedford County, Pennsylvania (about 4 hours from our home) so I can do a cemetery search and hopefully find original land and probate records from my relatives who passed away over a hundred years ago.

Having never gone on a trip like this before, I am sure there are lots of mistakes that I am making, so I decided to watch a very informative webinar by Family Tree Webinars that was given by Nicka Smith entitled “Get Set, GO! Planning and Executing a Successful Research Trip”.  I was amazed at how many things I hadn’t really thought of doing, so that’s when I started getting my ducks in a row.

I then turned to the book I purchased about a month ago, “Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher” by Drew Smith (after listening to the Genealogy Guys Podcast I realized how knowledgeable he is, AND he sat next to me at the Meet and Greet at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference in early May).  In his book, Drew has an entire chapter dedicated to getting organized for a research trip.

Stay Focused

Both Nicka and Drew have various details in common:  stay focused on what you are going there to research, have a plan, call ahead – make sure the places you are going to research are open the day that you are planning on going, AND find out if what you want to research is on site for you to look through, space can be limited for historical documents and it’s entirely possible that the land records from 1873 are off-property but if you call a few days in advance, they could have them waiting there for you when you plan on being there.

“Focus” was the word.  Bright, shiny objects are always a threat when you are researching but can especially happen when you are on a research trip.  This is where apps like Evernote or OneNote can come in handy – note your find, mark down the book you found your information in and either come back to it if you found everything you were looking for – or look for it on another trip.

I know I am presently still figuring out all that I need to look at.  I have so many empty holes for specific people at various points in my tree that I am a bit overwhelmed at what exactly I am going to be looking for.  Besides visiting the Bedford County Courthouse (which is my second visit) it has been highly recommended to me to visit the Bedford County Historical Society.  I have a feeling that I may end up finding a bunch of information at the Historical Society, but I am not 100% certain what all they have (I keep getting snippets of information in my Facebook Group that they have a lot. The Historical Society also acts as the Genealogical Society as well).

Questions to Ask

  • What hours are they open (you can’t always go by what their website states)?
  • Am I able to take photos of what I find with my phone?
  • If I can’t, how much does it cost to make copies?
  • Is everything I may want to research available, or are there items I need to request in advance?

You want to be as prepared as you can possibly be for your trip, as you don’t want to have driven a long way and be disappointed.

Another tip that I read in a Genealogy Gems blog by Lisa Louise Cooke is to be patient.  Things may not go as smoothly as you envisioned in your head (things seldom do) but if you keep a good mindset and roll with the punches, it will allow you to have a wonderful trip.

Below is a very simplistic page I created (reminiscent of one in the webinar by Nicka Smith) as a way to keep me focused on my cemetery search that is going to take place on Monday.  I’ve listed the cemeteries, who is buried there, and then I can come up with a few others who I am not sure where they are buried (for example, my great-great-grandmother Susan Jane Foster is buried at South Fork Cemetery, but I’m uncertain if her husband is buried there too.  He died before death certificates were mandatory (in 1899) so I don’t have a slip of paper telling me where he is buried (yet – can you say that’s part of why I’m visiting the Bedford County Historical Society) but I’m hoping that maybe I will find him buried with her (or possibly with his children as Susan Jane didn’t pass until 1943).  The purpose is to keep myself focused and I think this will do the job (like the little checkboxes?). The blank space to the right is for notes.

PA Research Trip

Most of those I have listed are direct line relatives.  I’m sure if I see others I’ll photograph them.  Those with an asterisk have special importance to me, so they are the exception to the direct line rule (I have essentially 3 days, I’m trying to acquire as much as I can but distant aunts, uncles, and cousins can wait).

I’ll update you on my progress next week.  My husband thought I’d be able to visit everything in just a few days.  I have relatives from Bedford, Fulton, Somerset, Cambria and Huntingdon counties in Pennsylvania, unless I am the world’s fastest and most efficient researcher, I don’t see conquering 4 counties in 2 days, not with both sides on my paternal side of my family to seek information on.

Do you have any tips or suggestions – I feel like in all I’ve read and watched I’m missing something critical to share with you.  I’m sure I’ll think of it as soon as I hit “send”. I’d love to hear about anyone’s experience on their own visits to their families homeland. I am super excited to see mine and I’m meeting with a distant cousin and will get copies of photos of family members I’ve not seen.

Wish me luck!