Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How to Incorporate NextGen Technologies Into Your Genealogy Research

Below is a modified version of my speech I delivered tonight at my local Toastmasters club (Toastmasters is an organization that helps people develop and improve their public speaking skills).

According to, next-generation (or next gen for short) pertains to the next generation in a family. It also refers to the next stage of development or version of a product, service, or technology. I am a member and volunteer of The NextGen Genealogy Network, which is a non-profit group whose mission is to foster the next generation’s interest in in family history by building connections between generations. I will provide a few examples of how we use NextGen technologies to enhance genealogy research.

One of the primary tools we use to communicate with young genealogists is social media. I help manage the Twitter page and will activities like retweet and follow other NextGen genealogists who will share blog posts, video streams, photographs, etc. We frequently have social media events. One example is a tweet-up. This is when members will gather on Twitter at a designated time and use a designated hashtag and respond to questions on a particular topic. Another example of a social media tool is joining groups on Facebook. I can join hundreds of genealogy topics that range from general groups to region specific groups. I can ask questions as well as help answer questions. I have located several cousins that I had yet proven were related to me and was able to break a few “brick walls”.

Another tool that NextGen users use is blogging. A blog is a frequently updated web site that consists of diary style entries. Many of my friends will blog about their interests (ex. Canning, couponing, collecting). Blogging is a very useful NextGen tool. I can create a blog entry and write up about my most recent ancestor find. By using key words and surnames in my family, I am putting out “cousin bait. Others can use a major search engine like Google to research their family and end up on my blog. They may find that I’m researching I’m the same line and leave a comment or a message. Maybe they have the family bible or photographs of an ancestor that I couldn’t locate.

The final tool that I will discuss is mobile applications. When using your smartphone on the go, a mobile application (or app for short) can be a great way to conduct research and keep in touch when you’re not at home. For example, one of my favorite activities is driving to the local cemetery. I will open my Find a Grave mobile app and review the open requests for headstone photos. I will then walk the cemetery and try to locate the headstone and take a picture. I can then upload the picture, including GPS coordinates on my cell phone, before I leave the cemetery. The Find a Grave tool allows families to “visit” their families by seeing a picture of their headstone and leave “virtual flowers”. Also, the information on the headstone may provide valuable clues to your research. Another mobile application I use is FaceBook. When I am at the cemetery completing headstone transcriptions, I will typically go “live” on Facebook and post video of myself doing the work and providing tips. This allows others to see what research I’m working on and how to complete headstone transcription by viewing the video.

NextGen technologies allow you to think outside the box of traditional means of communication of genealogical research. It does not replace writing letters or conducting research at the library but rather provides another approach to reaching your goal of finding more information and connect with other peers along the way. The next time that you are running into a challenge, I encourage all of you to try one of the NextGen methods I outlined (social media, blogging or mobile applications and see if you can advance your goal.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Homesteading in Kansas

I have been intrigued by my 3rd great uncle, Peter Dougherty. He moved from County Monaghan, Ireland to Prince Edward Island, Canada and then married Margaret Cairns. They had 4 children and then picked up and moved to Dickinson County, Kansas. The majority of my ancestors travelled from Ireland to Prince Edward Island and then on to New York, Boston or another Northeastern city.

A few years back I just located his census details and attached to my tree, not really digesting the information found inside. I was more concerned with making sure I had the right "Peter Dougherty" and his family.

When I was at the NYS Family History Conference, I mentioned to my friend Jen that I wanted to see if I could find out more information on the land but didn't know where to search. Maps are a bit overwhelming for me. Jen suggested that I check on the Bureau of Land Management web site. Jen pulled up her computer and we checked to see if we could find him. We went to "Search Documents", filtered for Kansas, and then searched his name "Peter Dougherty". The following result popped up.

Figure 1: Bureau of Land Management search result ( accessed 9/27/2016

That result looked intriguing. Jen clicked on the accession link to see what information could be accessed.

Figure 2: Bureau of Land Management accession record KS2710_.402 ( accessed 9/27/2016

It gets better.

Jen clicks on the Patent Image.

I have a physical description of where the land is located.

Figure 3: Except from Peter Dougherty homestead certificate 5467. Bureau of Land Management ( accessed 9/27/2016
I went home and went online to see if I could find any information from the land management tract book. Using the information from the BLM web site, I was able to locate the following entry.

Figure 4: Record from United States Bureau of Land Management Tract Books, 1800-c. 1955; pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-32486-8553-33 accessed on FamilySearch on 9/27/2016

Before I put on my "To Do" list to request a copy of the application and deed paperwork for Dickinson County, I wanted to see if this information matched up with the Schedule 2 census I already pulled for Peter Dougherty.

Figure 5 : Line 5- Peter Dougherty - shows that he was farming 80 acres of land in Dickin County, KS. Census Year: 1880: Census Place: Banner, Dickinson, Kansas; Kansas; Archive Collection Number T1130; Roll: 19; Page: 11; Line 5; Schedule Type: Agriculture accessed on 9/27/2016

Bingo - The Schedule 2 confirms that a Peter Dougherty owned 80 acres of land in Dickinson County, KS, which matches up with the patent record and land tract entry. 

I do have questions on why the Dougherty family moved from PEI, Canada to Kansas to farm. Hopefully, the deed application may fill in some gaps on what spurred my ancestors to migrate out West. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

New York State Family History Conference Recap

I attended the NY State Family History conference in Syracuse, NY. This is my second time attending this local event. I truly enjoy hearing the diversity of speakers and meeting up with genealogy friends that I met online. 

I recapped the sessions I attended and included some helpful tips. To see the entire program, please click here

Success Tips for Using - presented by Jim Ison
Jim emphasized some helpful tips when using FamilySearch web site such as the use of wildcards (? to stand in for a single letter, * for multiple letters), varying up how you search (ex. search with no name and with parent names filled out to pull up all of the possible children), and how to browse unindexed collections by using the waypoints. 

New York City & State Governmental Vital Records and Alternates by Jane Wilcox
Finding NYC records is complicated to say the least. Jane did an excellent job reviewing the history of NY laws that impacted vital record collections. NYC has documents housed separately from the rest of the state. In the absence of vital records, census records, church records, and city directories are just a few of the alternates that can be used to fill in some of the gaps. 

Strategy for a Sound Beginning in Irish Research by David Rencher
This session was not exclusive to Irish research. David emphasized working backwards from known facts about your ancestors and to keep an accurate research log with cited sources to keep track where you have been looking. And some of us may have genealogy ADD need to remember to focus on one line at a time. It's very easy to get distracted! Also, review each document and pull out all of the information you can and compare to other documents (ex. past census documents). 

New York State Census and U.S. Census by Lindsay Fulton
Lindsay went into great detail explaining the different census documents and the accompanying schedules (yes there is more info!). Schedule II - V review marriages, deaths, and occupational data about your ancestors. 

Church and Religious Records in New York State: 17th-20th Centuries by Terry Koch-Bostic
Terry summarized the religious history of NYS from colonial times through the early 1900's. She also offered some great tips on how to obtain information about ancestor' religious affiliation by reviewing family artifacts and certificates, where the ancestor was from (that may have influenced what religious they practiced). 

What's New at the NYG&B by D. Joshua Taylor
The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society has so many exciting programs coming, including research tours to Albany and NYC (State Archives, Municipal Archives) as well as having lectures and workshops. I recommend you follow them on their Facebook page to keep up to date on their new programs. 

The Jones Jinx: Tracing Common Surnames by Thomas Jones
This lecture offered tips on tracing ancestors with common surnames (the Smith, Jones, etc.). Dr. Jones recommends to start with the unambiguous facts about the known ancestor and use the family, associates and neighbors (FAN) when searching through records. By completing a surname in a fixed location, you can help narrow down the family line. 

Land Records in New York State by James Folts
James discussed the different types of land documents available. The NYS Archives holds many documents but does not have all documents which may be spread at over the county clerk office or NYC Register's Office. 

Panel Discussion - Historian, Librarian, Genealogist - moderated by Sue Miller
The panel discussed how historians, librarians and genealogists can work together. Some takeaways to understand is that historians and librarians are looking for a clear question on where to find specific records, including dates, locations, and surname. Email also may be the best way to start a query to give that person time to research and see what's available to help you with your search. 

Ethics in Genealogy by David Rencher
David reviewed some helpful but necessary tips: 

1. Respect copyright and don't plagiarize 

2. Source citations so the research can be reproduced 

3. Info about living individuals should be handled legally and ethically 

Using Autosomal DNA to Solve a Family Mystery: A NY Case Study by Thomas Jones
Dr. Jones reviewed a case study to determine the father of an ancestor by using autosomal DNA. Through a detailed paper trail to back up the DNA, brick walls can be busted.

Third Party Tools for DNA by Blaine Bettinger
Blaine reviewed GEDMatch and Promethease, GEDMatch can be a bit overwhelming at first so please check out their wiki page for assistance. The 1:many tool will be your best friend to generate your match list across the major testing companies. GEDMatch has great tools like a chromosome browser to conduct detailed research. 

Out of the Ashes: Irish Genealogical Collections by David Rencher
After providing a very detailed recount of the explosion at the Public Records Office, David detailed the multiple Irish research genealogy collections that survive today (many microfilmed at the FHL). These collections involved data copied down from public records and compiled across counties. 

It Gets Even Better Offline by Thomas Jones
Dr. Jones recounted a few examples where he conducted on-site genealogical researching, including walking the land of his ancestors after researching online. By conducting more field research, it makes your ancestors come alive and discover information that may not be digitized. 

Genealogy as Science by Blaine Bettinger
Blaine discussed how the scientific method could be applied to genealogy to create a stronger case. For example, if you did a search on a particular name on a census record with certain details and can narrow down to one record with no other possibilities, that provides a strong statistical case that you have identified the correct ancestor. I thought this was a really interesting theory to apply to research. 

Mapping Your Family History by Jen Baldwin
Jen showed us all kinds of maps during this lecture and how they can be used for your genealogy research. For example, she described a story of how she used maps to find a cemetery located off a private road in Colorado (wow!). One of her tips helped me to locate documentation on my ancestor's record in Kansas by using the Bureau of Land Management web site (another blog post for another day)

All in all it was a great conference and I can't wait for the next genealogy conference, RootsTech! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


My name is Melanie and I live in Syracuse, NY with my wonderful husband. I've been researching my family history for over 10 years. I have finally decided to blog my adventures. My ancestry is half Irish from my father's side and my mother's side is Jewish. My father's side is more well researched so you will see more stories here and hence why my blog name is the Shamrock Genealogist.

Here are some of the surnames I'm researching:


I hope you enjoy this journey with me and we can both learn along the way!