Go to an Archive!

I had the absolute pleasure and surprise of being invited to visit the Special Collections at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. The archivist, Megan Firestone, found my name on a list of researchers and invited me up…and of course I accepted! She is an absolute gem and I’m so glad I visited.

I received a lovely tour of the reading room and a peek into some of the backrooms!


This week I visited again with a goal in mind. I asked if they had any old scrapbooks or autograph books. I was not disappointed. After looking at the finding aids and emailing with Megan to decide on what I’d like to see, I made another visit to the archive where they had a large cart of items waiting for me.

I will share a few exciting things here:

Natha Pritchett Scrapbook
Inside Natha’s scrapbook
Lunch pail

I saw so many cool and interesting items. More than I can really share in one post. I will likely highlight some other items in future posts.

I really want to encourage genealogists to visit an archive near you. You do not need to have a research project in mind. Check their website for a catalog or finding aid. Find a topic of interest to you, whatever it might be. Communicate with the archivist, as they might know of items that haven’t been cataloged yet. But go and look at these lovely original treasures.

There is nothing like looking at old letters, scrapbooks, and ephemera that delves into a person’s life in much more detail than a vital record or census enumeration. You get a sense of people’s personalities and some really specific details about their lives. Of course, the trick is finding the items, boxes, and papers that apply to your family, but I believe your research experience can be enhanced by looking at any item in the archive. Rather than looking for a person, search by topic, such as scrapbooks, farming, women’s issues, and so on. Give it a try.

Get out there!

FGS Conference Events, Register by Friday!

I am so excited to attend the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) Conference in Washington DC, August 21-24. Registration ends this Friday, August 2nd so get registered!

There is still room at the conference hotel (Omni Shoreham) for an incredible $169 (a steal for D.C.) which is good for a few days before and after the conference (see the conference website for complete details). If you want to do some research at the Library of Congress, the Daughters of the American Revolution library, or the National Archives, this is a fantastic opportunity! If you have never been to one of these repositories, there are several guided tours that still have space available, as well as a tour of the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Check this page for more information.

In addition, this conference is different from previous FGS conferences. The society management topics are woven throughout the entire 4-day conference allowing you more choices in each time slot.

The Friday night event sounds fantastic, “Swing Back to the 30s with Your Ancestors” where you can represent one of your 1930s ancestors with live jazz playing in the background! Personally, I am excited for some of the luncheon speakers! There are still a few tickets left for those as well.

I will be speaking on Thursday, once on the society management topic “Create an Attractive Education Plan for Your Society” (T-217), once on research methodology “Unfamiliar Territory: Researching in a New (to you) Geographic Area” (T-232), and I’ll be participating in “Ask FGS! Panel with FGS Leaders” (T-247) with other members of FGS leadership.

This incredible opportunity is coming up quickly and I hope to see you there!

This post is not so much about genealogy…

I am reading the new book Advanced Genetic Genealogy edited by Debbie Parker Wayne. So far, excellent book, full of challenging methodology, case studies, and much more detailed information on how and why DNA works for genealogy than any other books on the market so far.

I was just reading the chapter by Kathryn J. Johnston, MD on X-DNA in which there is a section titled “The Fibonacci sequence is what makes the X unique.” The Fibonacci sequence is a really cool phenomenon that happens in nature quite regularly. The numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and so on. The sequence starts with the number one and the number that follows is a sum of the previous two numbers (1+1=2, 1+2 = 3, 2+3=5, etc.). The numbers of X-DNA ancestors in each generation follows the Fibonacci sequence!1

First of all, I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art. I am not a math person. But I know about the Fibonacci sequence by watching these YouTube videos by Vihart called “Doodling in Math Class.”2 I love how math and nature interact.

While this does not really have much to do with genealogy, I thought it was a really cool point that reminded me of some fun videos and I just wanted to share. Fibonacci is everywhere in nature, even in our DNA!

     1. Debbie Parker Wayne, editor, Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies (Cushing, Tx.: Wayne Research, 2019), 76.
     2. There is a series of three videos having to do with the spirals in plants. Very cool!

My Lineage Society Goals

I know you’ve probably heard about DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) (I’ve joined under my ancestor Samuel Dimmick #A032219) and the Mayflower Society (General Society of Mayflower Descendants) (as far as I can tell, I didn’t have any ancestors on the Mayflower, but I’m still looking).

There are a wide variety of lineage societies, however. You probably qualify for several. Many are state or regional such as the many “First Families of _____ ” (insert a state) or “Descendants of _____” (insert a military action or special group). Regardless of which society, they all have something in common: “A lineage society is an organization created to honor a specific heritage or event. Members of lineage societies must prove their descent of that heritage or event through industry approved genealogical proof standards.”1 We like to honor our ancestors and our heritage in many ways.

I recently mailed in an application to the National Society Descendants of American Farmers (NSDOAF). This is a relatively new society, who is at the time of this writing, still accepting charter lifetime members (through 30 November 2019). The qualifications:

Membership is open to Men and Women 18 years of age or older who are lineal descendants of a “farmer” living within the present boundaries of the United States between July 4, 1776 – December 31, 1900.

Miller_William and Carrie
William and Carrie (Limmer) Miller, date unknown.

I am applying under my great-grandfather, William John Miller. I am named after his wife Carrie Ann (though mine is spelled differently). They helped raise my grandpa after his mother died shortly after his younger brother was born. I never had the chance to meet them but my grandpa always spoke very highly of them. He wanted to be a farmer and when he could afford it, bought 80 acres near his grandparents in Perrysburg Township, Wood County, Ohio.

So many times as a genealogical speaker, I hear people say something along the lines of “my ancestors were just farmers, they didn’t do much.” To that I say “baloney.”2 They worked to feed their community and their nation. They deserve as much recognition as anyone and I hope if you have farmers in your family tree (most of us do), that you consider honoring their unsung service to America by joining NSDOAF. The qualifications are pretty easy!

If you want an interactive group while you are preparing your application, they have a Facebook group where you can ask questions, get the forms, and generally be supported. (I received word via the group that my application was received and approved!)

(Now to finish my Daughters of 1812 application…)

1. From “Quick List of Lineage Societies” on Lineage Society of America (viewed 10 July 2019).

2. Or is that “bologna”?

CG Renewal Time!

I recently received a helpful packet in the mail from the Board of Certification of Genealogists that my renewal application would be coming due soon. Where did five years go? (Well, four and a half, but still.) It seems like just yesterday I was putting the final spit and polish on my first portfolio!

Luckily, the renewal application process is not as rigorous as the initial application. You only have to submit one to three items as long as one meets the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). The main goal is to make sure you are continuing to grow in your journey as a Certified Genealogist, that you are keeping up your education, and that you are applying the standards to your work.

I have been working steadily to improve everything from my first portfolio and am not too worried, except for the lack of time I have to work on it! So I’ve been working hard to finish up and clear out some responsibilities I’ve had and to block time out in my schedule to work on it. Time management is such a trick sometimes!

I will keep you posted. In the meantime wish me luck and few interruptions!

Mid-Summer Catch-Up

I returned from a fantastic week at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) where I had the pleasure of taking “Advanced DNA” from Blaine Bettinger, Angie Bush, and Karen Stanbury, CG. I learned a lot and I learned I already knew a lot which is almost just as important when you are trying to build your confidence in your DNA analysis skills! GRIP has a fantastic line-up for July as well as their 2020 courses published. It’s one of my favorite institutes!

I have some exciting things planned for the rest of my year that I wanted to share:

Phew! I’m tired just thinking about it. I hope to see you at at least one of these events. Be sure to say hi if you see me about.

It’s National Genealogical Society Conference Week!

This week I am attending the NGS Conference and am so excited to participate! My schedule is quite full this time! First, I am attending the BCG Education Fund’s “Putting Skills to Work” day to refresh and update my skills.

During the conference I am presenting three lectures:

  • Session W154, Wednesday, 4PM, “Breaking New Ground: Creating a Locality Guide for New Research Areas”
  • Session F328, Friday, 11AM, “How’d You Find That?!? Tips for Locating Obscure or Hidden Records”
  • Session S421, Saturday, 11AM, “Family History Piecework: An Approach to Writing” (BCG Skillbuilding Lecture)

Working at the booths for the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), the Association of Professional Genealogists, and the Board for Certification of Genealogists is also on my agenda.

Beyond this, I am looking forward to new and exciting “things” in the exhibit hall, learning new techniques at lectures, and catching up with old friends and making new.

Getting the Most Out of Your Membership: Your Local Society

This is the final blog post in my series on getting the most out of your memberships by taking personal responsibility. To read the original post, click here.

The local (or state or regional) society is where most of the genealogical action is. This is your local cohort of people who all have the same passion: genealogy. Not everyone is at the same experience level. Not everyone wants to be a “professional.” And not everyone wants to take part at a national level. And that is OK. I believe genealogy is a ground-up, grassroots kind of a structure. As a system, we “grow” and “harvest” our best genealogists from small local societies before introducing them to the wider world. It is at the local level that some of our best friends are made and our most reliable colleagues are found.

So what does it mean to be a member of a small (or even a large-ish) local society? It is a little bit different than being a member of a national organization, in that you can have personal, face-to-face interaction with the members and leaders often, whether monthly or even more often, with very little effort. Having said that it is relatively easy, it still requires some effort on your part to get the most out of that membership! You have to decide to leave your house to go to a meeting, which may be difficult on snowy, cold evenings. Or you may decide to volunteer in some way to benefit your society (by bringing snacks, putting together the newsletter, writing articles for their publications, helping organize an annual seminar, and so on). Every volunteer helps the society run more efficiently and effectively. We’ve all seen what happens when something goes wrong. Someone forgets the snacks. Someone doesn’t get the newsletter out on time. Someone forgets to confirm the speaker. REMEMBER that all of the society’s benefits are run on volunteer efforts. But when one of those cogs in the wheel breaks down, it can be somewhat disastrous for the member’s experience, but with enough hands helping these mishaps are more easily mitigated.

I am currently a member of the Williamson County Genealogical Society (Round Rock, TX) and their website proclaims:

“We would love to have you join us! We hold ten regular meetings each year, host an annual day-long seminar, hold genealogy classes and are involved in special projects, such as FamilySearch Indexing. We sponsor a Brick Wall Special Interest Group and a DNA Special Interest Group that meet throughout the year. We electronically publish ten issues of our newsletter, “The Roundup,” and four issues of our quarterly publication, “The Chisholm Trail,” each year.”

When I lived in Colorado I was a member of the Boulder Genealogical Society. Their website describes the benefits:

“Benefits of membership in the BGS include — but are not limited to! — interesting monthly programs, periodic “You Asked For It” educational sessions, a monthly digital newsletter, access to members-only material online (in particular, several years of back issues of the Quarterly), genealogy classes, special interest study groups, research assistance (non-local members), occasional field trips and last but not least, camaraderie with folks who share a passion for family history research.”

A common theme among these benefits are the opportunities for genealogical education, publications, and networking with other local genealogists. Many local societies offer research services or assistance. Again, you will get out of it what you put into it. If you want a good membership experience, at the very least you need to attend classes, and if you want more, become a volunteer and help provide a good membership experience for yourself and others.

That is the end of my series on getting the most out of YOUR memberships. They are YOURS and will require some effort on YOUR part. Be mindful of what you are really saying when you are tempted to say “I’m not getting anything out of that membership.” Take some personal ownership over that statement, and see if a little more effort on your part could get you more out of your memberships.

**Of course these statements may not reflect everyone’s experience. If you have had a different experience and/or a legitimate complaint, PLEASE take it up with the proper direct channels for that organization. I’m sure they want to know their members’ views and to try to make it right. This blog is only expressing my personal opinions and is not the place to vent your frustrations with a given society or organization.

Getting the Most Out of Your Memberships: APG

This is the next blog post in my series on getting the most out of your memberships by taking personal responsibility. To read the original post, click here.

The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) focuses on supporting genealogists who are working at a professional level, whether that work is through taking client research projects, as a genealogical educator, as a genealogy librarian, as an editor/proofreader, as a webmaster, and so on. The APG also supports those striving to become professional genealogists. From their website, “APG is an independent organization whose principal purpose is to support professional genealogists in all phases of their work: from the amateur genealogist wishing to turn knowledge and skill into a vocation, to the experienced professional seeking to exchange ideas with colleagues and to upgrade the profession as a whole. The association also seeks to protect the interest of those engaging in the services of the professional.”

If you don’t consider yourself to be a professional, to be working at a professional level (perhaps you are only a hobbyist), then this society may not be right for you. However, if you are, then there are many benefits to being a member of APG. If you are already a member and find yourself saying “I don’t know what I get out of this membership” then double check this list of the APG benefits from their website, somewhat edited for space (to see the full list, visit the website):

  1. APG Quarterly
    • APG Quarterly, a journal for those interested in professionalism:
    • Articles on communicating with clients, preparing lineage society applications, training research assistants, business record keeping, and home office tax concerns
    • Articles in associated fields (preparing lecture slides, teaching family history to children, preparing manuscripts for printing)
    • Back issues (2004-2011) available for download in pdf format, in the “Members Only Area of the website (back issues beyond 2004 are still being scanned)
  2. APG Directory of Members
    • Directory, an online publication, available worldwide to members, libraries, societies, and consumers, with:
    • members’ biographies, services, research and geographic specialties
    • various search criteria to assist readers in finding researchers
  3. Activities at National Conferences
    • Conferences
    • APG-sponsored lectures on professional ethics, client billing, business software, vital records access, and other timely topics
    • Roundtable discussions for members, like time management, advertising, taxes, certification/accreditation
    • Luncheons and receptions where members meet and network with colleagues
  4. Discounts for APG Members
    • Available in the Members Only Area
      • Boston University Online Certificate Program for Genealogical Research
      • The Genealogical Books Super Store
      • Genealogy Today
      • Heritage Books
      • Legacy Family Tree
      • Print My Genealogy
      • Progeny Genealogy
      • Salt Lake Plaza Hotel
      • and many others
  5. Educational Brochures
  6. Members-Only Mailing List
    • Available in the Members Only Area
        • APG members may subscribe to the APG Members-Only List. This unmoderated mailing list is used to discuss topics of interest to the members of the Association of Professional Genealogists.
  7. Professional Development
    • Recordings of past Webinars
    • Sample Contracts, Forms, Reports
  8. Professional Review of client complaints
    • Resolving differences. If you have a question or complaint, tell the professional first. Misunderstandings can occur on either side but can usually be resolved quickly. In the unlikely event a difficulty between you and your genealogist is not resolved, notify the organization or person who referred the professional to you and tell your genealogist you have done so.
    • APG takes very seriously its responsibility to serve both the genealogical client community and its diverse membership. If a complaint involving a member is alleged to violate APG’s Code of Ethics, the Professional Review Committee (PRC) shall review and investigate the complaint if it meets criteria for such action. Please see Code of Ethics and Professional Practices.
    • The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) offers an arbitration service when a certified professional is involved. See http://www.bcgcertification.org/.

There are eight major headings here, many of them with sub-headings. Those are a lot of benefits targeted for the professional genealogist. The discounts to various websites alone could make your membership worthwhile, IF you choose to put in a small amount of effort. One of the best benefits, in my opinion, is the members-only mailing list. This is a VERY active mailing list where you can post about a particular issue or question and get a lot of advice from people across the globe. You will undoubtedly get an answer to your questions. It is so accessible, it is like having your own mentor(s) in your back pocket!

Of course, as is the theme of this series of blog posts, you have to put some energy and effort into your membership to get the most out of it. In order for the directory to work for you, you have to create your profile and keep it updated. To learn from the articles and webinars you have to read and attend. To get the most of the networking opportunities, you have to attend the annual conferences.

If you are a member of APG and find yourself saying “I don’t know what I get out of that membership” I encourage you to take a realistic view of what you’ve been putting into it. There are a lot of fantastic benefits to be had, given a little time and energy.

**Of course these statements may not reflect everyone’s experience. If you have had a different experience and/or a legitimate complaint, PLEASE take it up with the proper direct channels for that organization. I’m sure they want to know their members’ views and to try to make it right. This blog is only expressing my personal opinions and is not the place to vent your frustrations with a given society or organization.

Getting the Most Out of Your Membership: FGS

This is the next blog post in my series on getting the most out of your memberships by taking personal responsibility. To read the original post, click here.

The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is a bit different from other societies in that its main purpose is to serve members at the society level, rather than the individual level, focusing on society management and issues with records access and preservation. The website proclaims it to be “a gathering point for genealogical societies with resources to grow & thrive.” Also, “representing the members of hundreds of genealogical societies across the United States and other nations, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is here to link the genealogical community by helping genealogical societies strengthen and grow.” So you may not look at this group the same as you would National Genealogical Society (NGS) or the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) or your local or state society. However, the principle of getting what you give is the same.

Is your local, state, or regional society a member of FGS? If you don’t know, you can check on the “Find a Society” directory page. If they are, do you ever hear any announcements or read any FGS news in your local society’s newsletter, at their monthly meetings, on their Facebook page, blog, or other form of society communication? If not, I would guess that your society’s leadership is not taking advantage of their membership and may even be saying “We aren’t getting anything out of this membership.” Here are the FGS society member benefits (from their website):

  • Be listed in the Find a Society directory
  • Access to the FGS Members-only Area
  • Reviews of your society’s Bylaws, Newsletter, and Website
  • Access for your Board of Directors to FORUM (Anyone can subscribe to the FORUM, so even if you aren’t on the board of a member society, you can still get this valuable magazine)
  • Have your submitted events and webinars listed in Society Events.
  • Access for your Board of Directors to the FGS Webinar Archives and available Focus On Societies audio recordings from past FGS conferences
  • Access to the FGS Reach Out series of white papers, which cover topics related to creating partnerships with other organizations in your community or region
  • Access to the archive of issues of FGS FORUM from 1989 to present
  • Access to details of Partner Benefit Program discounts with companies such as MyHeritage, Genealogy Gems, Vivid-Pix, and Dell Computers
  • Access to the FGS Member Society Leadership Forum Facebook Group
  • 10 free FORUM subscriptions/year to give as door prizes at society events

All of these member benefits take a little bit of effort from the FGS Delegate (or President) of the member society. You have to submit your society’s events if you want them to be included in the calendar, you have to send an email to request those free FORUM subscriptions for door prizes, you have to log-in to your account to access the partner discounts, you have to submit your bylaws, newsletter, or website to get a review. And so on.

And if you haven’t heard anything about FGS from your society’s leaders, despite being a member society, maybe they need a delegate. Consider volunteering for this position and be a great delegate, bringing valuable member benefits to your society!

**Of course these statements may not reflect everyone’s experience. If you have had a different experience and/or a legitimate complaint, PLEASE take it up with the proper direct channels for that organization. I’m sure they want to know their members’ views and to try to make it right. This blog is only expressing my personal opinions and is not the place to vent your frustrations with a given society or organization.