Sunday, December 31, 2017

It's the Final Countdown (to 2017): A Year in Review

It's hard to believe that December 31st has finally arrived and it's the last day of 2017. I don't know about all of you but I feel that 2017 was a rollercoaster of a year.

Here's some highlights for what happened in 2017 for the Shamrock Genealogist:

  1. DNA tested paternal uncle and father at AncestryDNA. Bonus was my maternal grandmother tested on her own at MyHeritage.
  2. Attended two genealogy conferences, RootsTech and NERGC, which were both firsts for me. 
  3. Had proposals chosen to give lectures at Ontario Genealogy Society (OGS) Conference and Michigan in Perspective Local History Conference in 2018. 
  4. Was accepted to be a social media ambassador for RootsTech 2018 (which resulted in free registration for RootsTech!)
  5. Assisted with social media publicity for OGS 2018 
  6. Bought the domain rights for this web site
  7. Visited the New England Genealogical History Society library (twice!) and the California State Archives
  8. Started a Facebook page for my blog
  9. Started meeting with other companies to do affiliate work
  10. Interviewed on Extreme Genes podcast
  11. Assisted my non-profit team NextGen Genealogy Network with launching new campaign "NextGenInAction"and raising $500 on Giving Tuesday to put towards new initatives
  12. Met lots of genealogy friends - can't wait to meet more and my online friends in person

Whew! That's a lot but I expect there will be more to come for 2018. Here are some of my genealogy goals for the new year:

1. Continue to blog frequently - target once a week
2. Blog more about ancestors and research techniques
3. Explore new archives 
4. Continue to submit proposals for upcoming conferences (including virtual) and webinars
5. Keep up with my research log to make my annual trip to the Family History Library and other repositories more successful
6. Keep up with email correspondence from DNA cousins (I know I'm one of the bad ones that doesn't respond as timely as I should)
7. Fulfill more requests on Find A Grave and Billion Graves 
8. Look at different avenues to teach genealogy tips (perhaps a YouTube channel)
9. Continue education through conferences, webinars, etc. 
10. Keep moving towards my goal of becoming a genealogist full time

What are your genealogy goals for 2018? 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Reclaiming Family Traditions

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah. In short it's a celebration of how the oil needed to heat the menorah of the Temple lasted eight days, when it should only have lasted one day. Growing up, I was raised to celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas. My mom was raised Jewish and my dad was raised Catholic and holidays were blended.

My mom would make the potato latkes (pancakes). The menorah would be lit, with a new candle appearing each night until the final night when the entire menorah has candles. The menorah has candles added right to left but it's lit left to right. I was usually afraid of fire so my mom would take care of lighting the menorah. In some families it was the youngest child that would do the lighting. The menorah in my family was passed down, possibly from my great grandparents. I loved the menorah, it had such a bright bronze (almost gold) look. It played "Rock of Ages", like an old jewelry box tune.

Since I moved out of my parents' house, I didn't celebrate Chanuakah. There was no menorah in the house. I think I felt disconnected from my heritage. I was raised reform Jewish so I didn't consider myself overly religious. There were no prayers uttered over the menorah growing up. I think I partially felt afraid to say to people that I was Jewish.

I grew up in community that had a heavy Christian presence, which is sometimes hard to believe given it was Long Island, NY but it wasn't the most Jewish heavy town.  Most of my peers were Roman Catholic or other Christian sect. There was only a handful of us that were Jewish. I felt like an outsider even though I celebrated Christmas as well. I was told things like "You killed my savior" or people would give the Nazi salute or talk about how Hitler had good ideas. Really awful things to hear growing up, esp, since I've heard stories that I have some distant cousins that were murdered during the Holocaust (still to be proven).

This year I decided it was time to reclaim family traditions. There is now a menorah in my household and we lit candles tonight and ate potato latkes with our dinner. I even had a challah bread. You can see some pics below of myself lighting the candles. I'm reclaiming my Jewish heritage. I am Jewish - it's one part of my identity.

I think given these dark times in our country that celebrating a miracle gives us hope for the future. Happy Chanukah my friends - may the darkness be behind us soon. And to all that don't celebrate, happy holidays! May your time with family and friends be loving and bright.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Royal Connection! Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Are Cousins

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) just issued a press release announcing the royal connection between actress Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. They are confirmed 17th cousins! The future Duchess of Sussex is a 24th generation descendant from from King Edward III. Meghan's gateway ancestor  is Rev. William Skipper, who came to New England in 1639 from England. William is Meghan's father's ancestor.

According to NEHGS, Meghan's cousins include the Queen and Princess Diana. Some of her American cousins include former U.S. presidents George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Chester Alan Arthur and James A. Garfield. I might argue that Meghan is a part of American "royalty".

Are you related to the royal couple? Who is your gateway ancestor?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Counting Down to RootsTech - Cyber Monday and Photo Story Contest

RootsTech is ramping up - it's only a few months to go! I know I can't wait to do some research, attend some great lectures and of course hang out with my genealogy friends.

It is Cyber Monday so if you haven't already registered, check out the link here for a special promotional code good until 11:59 PM MST tonight! If you miss this offer, check out Conference Keeper for a list of contests giving away a free RootsTech pass. There are a few more left so don't delay! I get so excited to see so many new people coming this year!

Key note speakers for RootsTech include Scott Hamilton, Steve Rockwood and Brandon Stanton.

RootsTech is also hosting their first photo and story competition you can enter. There are 4 categories to enter - Connect, Belong, Family, and Heritage. More details can be found here. You can win some great prizes from Canon and Dell!

Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for RootsTech 2018. I provide blog posts (in my own words), and social media coverage from now until after the conference. In return, I have free admission to RootsTech. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

My Military Ancestor - Rev. Joseph Rooney

I'm continuing the Honor My Military Ancestor Challenge started by Patricia Greber. It's Day 9 and I'm highlighting my 1st cousin 3x removed. Rev. Joseph Rooney.

Joseph Rooney was born on March 5, 1887 in Iona, Prince Edward Island, Canada. His parents were Philip Rooney and Ellen McKenna. He was the second oldest son. He had 13 siblings. His father Phililp was a shoemaker and later became a farmer. His mother Ellen was a housewife. Many of Joseph's siblings were in the clergy as priests or nuns.

Joseph would join the clergy and was ordained as a priest on June 11, 1916. He was a professor at St Dunstan's University from 1918-1919 until he enlisted in the C.E.F as an Honorary Captain in the Canadian Chaplain Services from June 17, 1918 to September 7, 1919. During this time he served overseas in England and France. His C.E.F. file is digitized by the Library and Archives of Canada if you would like to read it.

After the war ended, he returned to St. Dunstan's to resume his duties there. His tenure at the university was short lived as he left to become a parish priest at Lawrence Church in Morell, PEI from 1920-1940 and at All Saints Church in Cardigan, PEI from 1940 until his death in 1942. Joseph was buried in the parish church's cemetery. You will see that his headstone provides a life history on Joseph, which I've summarized here. His memorial page is here if you would like to pay your respects.

Rest in peace cousin Joseph.

Monday, November 6, 2017

My Military Ancestor - Reubin Schild

I'm continuing the Honor My Military Ancestor Challenge started by Patricia Greber. It's Day 6 (at least when I wrote this) and I've decided to switch to my maternal side of the family. I'm highlighting my 2nd great uncle Reubin Schild.

Reubin was born on January 19, 1896 in Manhattan, NY to Abraham Schild and Eva Bodner. His parents were born in Austria and came to the U.S. in the 1880's. Rubin was the second oldest son. He had 3 siblings. His father Abraham was a book binder and his mother Eva was a housewife.

He was inducted into the U.S. army on August 5, 1918 in NY. He was a private assigned to Battery F, 26th Field Artillery Regiment. He was honorably discharged on February 6, 1919. According to his abstract of military service, he never served overseas. I don't have any additional details of his service at this time.

Following his honorable discharge, Reubin was a shipping clerk in the cloak & suits industry (1920 census). On June 20, 1926 he married Rayner Anna Chestner Chickerofsky. According to the 1930 census, he was a stock clerk in the shoes industry. In 1940, Reubin is recorded as being a shoe liner in a shoe factory. He had 3 children with Rayner, Alan, Paula, and Judith (all deceased).

Reubin died on December 8, 1973. If you would like to pay respects, here is his memorial page.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

My Military Ancestor - Dennis Rooney

I'm continuing the Honor My Military Ancestor Challenge started by Patricia Greber. It's Day 5 so I'm highlighting my 2nd cousin 2x removed, Dennis Rooney.

Dennis was born on August 7, 1899 in Kings County, NY to John Rooney and Mary Ann Reilly. He was the oldest son. He had 6 siblings. His father was a blacksmith and owned his own shop.

When he was 18 years old Dennis enlisted on June 25, 1916 in the New York State Guard in the 71st Infantry, Supply Company. His rank was horseshoer (no surprise there given his father's occupation). You may recall that during WWI, horses were involved to transport supplies so a horseshoer was an occupation that was in need.

Dennis was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in WWI in 1935. According to a newspaper article, Dennis was wounded while serving with the 105th Infantry, 27th division on the Belgian front on August 8, 1918. He was in hospital there for seven weeks. I found a separate article that mentioned that Dennis was gassed while serving in Company G, 105th Infantry. He was gassed on October 1, 1918. His father received a letter that he was recovering in November 1918.  He was honorably discharged on April 1, 1919. According to the 1930 census, Dennis was listed as married but no wife was listed. I also haven't located him on the 1920 census yet. He died on on May 6, 1960 and was buried at the Long Island National Cemetery in East Farmingdale, NY.

I learned that Dennis' father John served in the military as well. He enlisted the same day as his son Dennis in the 71st Infantry. He also was a horseshoer in the Supply Company. He was later transferred to Company B, 12th NY Infantry. Following his military service, he returned to his shop. He died on May 19, 1934 and was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Maspeth, Long Island, NY.

If you would like to pay respects to Dennis Rooney and his father John Rooney, I have included their memorial pages:

Dennis - Find A Grave Memorial 
John - Find A Grave Memorial 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Day 4 - Honoring Michael Connolly

I'm continuing the Honor My Military Ancestor Challenge started by Patricia Greber. It's Day 4 so I'm highlighting my 1st cousin 2x removed, Michael Vincent Connolly. 

Michael was born on February 28, 1915 in Iona, Prince Edward Island, Canada to John Connolly and Catherine Daley. He was the 3rd oldest son. He had 9 siblings. He attended St Dunstan's College in Charlottetown, PEI as well as taking courses in carpentry and leadership. He was a school teacher from 1934 to 1935, leaving to go back to college. He liked to play sports in college: football, baseball, handball and softball. 

Michael enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force on June 6, 1940. His WWII service file is full of interesting tid bits about his health and training. His interview report described him as follows: "Good type. Polite, pleasant -clean cut, frank, honest, ambitious, keen-clear eye-steady nerves-strong physique, intelligent. Should absorb instruction easily". He moved up the ranks to flight sergeant (air observer). 

On September 27, 1941 he died in a flying accident overseas. I don't have the particulars on what happened. He was buried at El Alamein War Cemetery in Egypt. If you would like to pay his respects, here's his memorial page

Friday, November 3, 2017

Day 3 - Honoring My Military Ancestor - Bernard Corcoran

11/4: Update: I received information from a Corcoran cousin that confirms that I had some incorrect information on Bernard below. I have updated his biographical information below.

I'm continuing the Honor My Military Ancestor Challenge started by Patricia Greber. It's Day 3 so I'm highlighting my 2nd cousin 3x removed Bernard Corcoran.

Bernard Joseph Corcoran was born on May 31, 1891 in the small town of Dillonstown, located in County Louth, Ireland. He was the 3rd oldest son of John Corcoran and Katherine Conlon. He had 6 siblings. He sailed from Liverpool, England heading toward the U.S. in 1911. He became a house painter. He lived in Long Island City, Queens from 1911 to 1920. He became a U.S. citizen in 1919. Most of these details came from his U.S. passport application. What caught my eye was his occupation was listed as "disabled war veteran".  In his physical description, Bernard was listed as being blind in both eyes.

I started completing some research on his military service and with the assistance of my friend David Lambert and my cousin Ciaran McDonnell, I found Bernard described in Father Duffy's diary "Duffy's War". One story discussed how Bernard accidentally killed one of his own men, Oscar Ammon in March 1918. Bernard was exonerated and not charged. 

I completed some newspaper research and was able to confirm a family story about how Bernard was injured during WWI. Bernard enlisted in Company F, 165th Infantry. His rank was corporal. On July 28, 1918, he was blinded by a machine gun bullet at Chateau Thierry.  Following his injury he returned home to join his cousin and my great grandfather, Thomas James Corcoran, in Long Island City, Queens, NY. 

There was a charity event held in 1919 in Bernard's honor to raise the funds to help send him back home to his parents in Dillonstown. I learned from my aunt that he never moved back to Ireland and lived out his days in the U.S., ultimately dying in Maryland.

He was reassigned to the Evergreen Hospital for the Blind where he stayed until he was discharged and moved to Cantonsville, Maryland in 1932. At Evergreen he received musical training from the government and even led an orchestra of blinded World War I veterans in 1924. I learned that he married twice, once to Mary Komenda (who died young) and then again to Ethel Murphy and had two children, Catherine and Margaret (who are both deceased). He is buried in New Cathedral Cemetery in Baltimore, MD. I submitted a request this afternoon for a photo of his headstone. 

Here is a picture of Bernard from his U.S. passport application:

Rest in peace cousin Bernard.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My Military Ancestor - Michael Doherty

I'm a day late on posting about my ancestors My Military Ancestor challenge hosted by Patricia Greber at My Genealogy Life.

Today I will highlight my paternal grandfather, Michael Joseph Doherty. Here is a picture of Michael that was on his Declaration of Intention paperwork:

Let's start with a brief family history before I talk about his military service:

Michael was born on June 12, 1910 in Queens County, Prince Edward Island, Canada to Joseph Doherty and Rose Rooney. He was one of 6 children. He was the second oldest son. He came to the United States in September 1927 on the SS Calvin Austin to join his sister Catherine in Dedham, Massachusetts. He moved to NYC and was naturalized in 1939. He then married my grandmother, Rose Corcoran in 1941 at St Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Long Island City, Queens, NY.

He served in WWII from September 1 1943 until October 20, 1945. The story goes that he was originally going to be a cook for a general in the army but instead was handed a gun and went into the infantry. He served in the 7th Army, 45th "Thunderbird" Division of the U.S. Army. His rank on his tombstone is noted as Tec 4.

During his time in WWII, he was awarded the Silver Star award for his bravery. He was on the front in France when his group were pinned down under enemy fire by the Germans. My grandfather took out a Germany Jerry gun by shooting a rifle grenade at it and took out the gun. Also, during his service my grandfather liberated a concentration camp. I was told that he never spoke of what he saw when came back home.

If you would like pay your respects to my grandfather, here is his tombstone.

Rest in peace grandpa Michael.

Congratulations Sheri!

I am proud to announce that we have a winner of my RootsTech pass giveaway.

Please give a rounding applause to Sheri Fenley from Califonia! Can't wait to meet you Sheri at RootsTech!

Thank you to everyone that entered! I can't wait to share additional contests in the future with my readers.

Opting Out - Should You?

If you have visited your AncestryDNA settings page today, you may have noticed a new section entitled "Privacy". Below is a screen shot from my page.

At first glance it looks like standard options you would expect to see on your DNA page. However, these settings need to be examined further. The Ancestry team posted a blog post today regarding the new changes to DNA settings. One important change sticks out (emphasis mine): "Customers can now decide if they want to have access to the list of people they may be related to and be shown as a potential family member for other customers with whom they share DNA." This statement refers to the first setting in my picture "You have chosen to see and be seen by DNA matches" (which thankfully is the default for existing users). I can understand if a tester doesn't want to see their own list of matches. Perhaps they tested and a family member is managing their kit or maybe they're not interested in genealogy. Or maybe they're brand new and are just starting a tree and just aren't ready to jump in and start reviewing matches.

However, to hide yourself from others' matches list may be doing a disservice to your DNA cousins. I know this may seem like a sweeping statement but let me explain. I am involved in a number of genealogy groups and have personally worked on a few cases where I was helping an adoptee or someone with an unknown parent locate their biological family. They typically just wanted to know their roots or want to reach out for medical reasons due to the inheritance of many diseases and conditions. By opting out, you're potentially denying someone that you're related to an opportunity to know their roots.

I'll give a recent example. I was approached by a young woman who was helping an older gentleman find his biological roots. He was adopted in Canada and wants to know who  his biological family is. He has no intention of disrupting any lives, he just wants to know about the people he came from. Had I opted out as well as several other cousins he's been in touch with, he would not have any leads to pursue to find his family. I was able to provide some details on my family to help narrow down a family line that could be pursued further.

It may seem like a small act but I urge everyone to keep "opted in" to see your matches and be seen by matches. I view it similar to the public vs. private tree argument. I would rather you see everything I have and approach me with questions or even challenge me when I'm wrong (I've been wrong before and I will do my best to quickly fix my mistakes and learn from your documentation). I welcome all of my DNA cousins - I may not know how we're related but you are still family to me. You have a right to know about your roots and I will do what I can to help you.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

RootsTech Giveaway Contest

This contest is now closed. 

As most of you are aware I'm a RootsTech ambassador. This means that in exchange for blogging and promoting RootsTech before, during and after the event that I receive a free registration for the conference. I'm also provided a free registration for 4 days at RootsTech, held on February 28th - March 3rd, 2018, (a $279 value) to give to one of my readers!

The pass includes access to the following:

■ over 300 classes
■ Keynote / General sessions
■ Innovation Showcase
■ Expo hall
■ Evening events (Thursday and Saturday)

Note: The pass does NOT include transportation costs (airfare, car, etc.), hotel costs, computer labs (these are additional add-ons), meals (including banquets and luncheons), printed syllabus, paid workshops.

Contest Rules:

1. To enter to win a free registration, subscribe to my blog
               a. There is a "Follow by Email" on the right hand side. Enter your email address and Click Submit.
               b. A pop up will appear asking you to type a verification code. Enter the code and click "Complete Subscription Request"
               c. You will receive an email from "Feedburner Active Email Subscriptions". Click the link in your email to activate your subscription. Your email must be verified to have a valid contest entry.

2. Email subscriptions must be completed by October 31st at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced in a future blog post in early November.

3. One entry per person (10/18 Update: If you subscribe with more than one email, your entry will not qualify)

4. If you already booked and paid for RootsTech and are selected as the winner, you will be provided instructions on how to obtain a refund of your registration fee.

5. No purchase necessary to enter. Void where prohibited by law.

California State Archives Trip

Front doors of the California State Archives

I just returned from my annual work trip to the Sacramento, CA area for department meetings. On the
way back to the airport I scheduled a quick visit to the California State Archives in downtown Sacramento. It's located about a block away from the State Capitol (sadly I didn't stop to get a picture as I was running out of time).

The Research Room is located on the 4th floor of the building. You are asked to show government ID to the security guard before being allowed to go up.  You then need to fill out a researcher request form which asks for some basic information about who you are, address/phone #, and purpose of visit. They have a nice set up for lockers (and they're free!) to store your purse, laptop bag, etc. You're allowed to bring in your phone (just silence it and don't make/take calls), tablet, computer, paper and pencil (they have plenty of pencils and paper that they can give you). No folders, no notebooks to protect their documents from being taken out. Lockers were nice and deep so I could easily fit my laptop bag in, purse, and sweatshirt. The key is on an old microfilm reel.

Registration desk and view of collections on display 
Once you're all checked in and your belongings are put away, you present your researcher request form to the archivist in the Research room and are handed a Researcher badge to wear. I talked with one of the archivists for a few about what kinds of collections they have and asked for finding aids (these were very helpful). I was also pointed toward the Root Cellar Sacramento Genealogy Library on-site, which is a genealogists' dream. Lots of books to peruse. They have a computer set up for you to search their online catalogue. I mostly browsed until one of the volunteers came in. We had a very nice chat about genealogy and exchanged business cards. I find this setup very unique to have a genealogy society library on-site in the archives. The society helps with lookups in their library and the archives.

Research Room (not seen here is the Microfilm Viewing Room)

Lockers on-site with key on microfilm feel

Root Cellar Genealogy Library

Here are my tips to maximize your trip to any archives:

1. Review the collections ahead of time via their online catalogue (if they have one)

2. Prepare a research log of ancestors who lived in the area of the archives and what records you're looking for

3. Before you make your trip, check their rules on where to store belongings (do they have lockers or are you expected to leave in your car), bringing in imaging devices (some will not allow document scanners, only phones), wi-fi access

4. Contact the archives ahead of time for any documents you want pulled in advance of your visit

5. Research if any local genealogy societies operate in or near the archives to help assist. This will be useful when you're not near the archives and need some assistance pulling documents, assisting with research questions. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Let's Get Family History Month/Archives Month Started

It's officially October, which is also known as Family History Month and Archives Month.

There are many ways you can celebrate working on genealogy during the next 31 days. 

1. Visit a cemetery and fulfill Find A Grave and BillionGraves photo requests (bonus points if you have ancestors buried in those cemeteries)

2. Visit a local archives - it could be its own repository like NARA or the DAR Library, a local museum or even a local library that has its own historical room (much like the one I visited in Steuben County, NY)

3. Contribute to an indexing project. FamilySearch upgraded their indexing tool to be web based so you can work on it on your computer and tablet. No more having to download software and hosting on your computer. FamilySearch is hosting a worldwide indexing event October 20th - 22nd

4. Register for an upcoming conference. The conference season is finishing out over the next few months and will pick up again with RootsTech in February. The Shamrock Genealogist will be in attendance at RootsTech as well as the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference

5. Prune your family tree. Find sources where you have facts noted, research women's surnames where their married surnames are used as placeholders, look for each descendant each of your ancestor had. 

6. Keep up with your learning. Legacy hosts free and paid webinars that you can attend. You can find a large amount of genealogical webinars free online through genealogical societies. 

7. Look into submitting your DNA and/or gather family members to test. It's a great tool to use in conjunction with research. I've discovered another line of Corcorans thanks to a DNA match I got in touch with. 

8. Scan your family photographs. With the recent hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico we need to make sure we preserve our past. Scan and upload to sites like Ancestry, FamilySearch, etc. 

What are you doing to celebrate Family History Month and Archives Month?

Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for RootsTech 2018. I provide blog posts (in my own words), and social media coverage from now until after the conference. In return, I have free admission to RootsTech. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

It's the most wonderful time of year...for genealogists!

It's not time for Christmas but it sure feels like that for us genealogists! RootsTech registration opened this week on Wednesday, September 20th.

There are some exciting changes coming for RootsTech 2018. I have summarized below:

1. RootsTech will be a full four days from Wednesday, February 28th to Saturday March 3, 2018

2. The Innovation Showcase will be after FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood's keynote speech

3. You can nominate apps, products or services in the family history industry. Submissions are due 10/15. More information can be found here.

Early bird pricing on 4-day passes are available for a limited time. I recommend buying early!

You can buy the pass and go back to add/change anything for your upcoming trip (such as luncheons, computer labs, etc. These do fill up!

Here's the link to registration:

Need more reasons to attend RootsTech? Here are 8 reasons! 

I also wrote up a blog post about my experience to RootsTech last year as a first timer.

Don't forget that I'll have an upcoming giveaway for a free 4-day pass to RootsTech. Stay tuned for updates!

Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for RootsTech 2018. I provide blog posts (in my own words), and social media coverage from now until after the conference. In return, I have free admission to RootsTech. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Local Libraries: An Undiscovered Treasure

As genealogists we love to explore cemeteries, archives and libraries to dig into our research. On my most recent trip to Steuben County, NY for a business trip, I snuck in some genealogy time to explore the Southeast Steuben County Library. I started poking around the web site and discovered they have a local history room. I asked at the circulation desk and they mentioned it was locked, that a staff person had to open the room and be in the room with me. I asked at the reference desk if they could let me in and they called over one of their staff, Jessica.

Jessica opened the door to the local history room. Below is a picture of the room door. The library is very serious about keeping their collections intact. 

I started exploring the room. They have hundreds of books about local history, maps, photos about Steuben County, New York State, as well as neighboring states. Their web site has a list of some of some of their newspaper holdings and they also have volunteers that will research on your behalf for a small fee by submitting the following request. If you're interested I have a small brochure of additional information I can scan for you. 

One of the interesting things I found was the following article in the vertical files: 

And of course before I left I asked for a picture as part of the #nextgeninaction campaign we just launched at NextGen Genealogy Network

What local libraries have you explored? 

Capture Your Family History Story on Film

Are you intrigued by genealogy TV shows such as "Who Do You Think You Are"? Do you wish you could give your family member a unique family history gift for a special occasion? There is a company called Family History Films based out of Sussex, England that creates personal family history films. The film is approximately 20-30 minutes long (can be made longer upon request) and is composed of interviews with you and members of your family as well as archive footage that is researched by Family History Films crew. In return you receive 10 copies of the film on DVD and a copy is stored online (9/22 Edit: Although it is made to broadcast standard, this is a private film for you and your family only. It will not be published or shown anywhere in the world).

As a special offer to my readers, Family History Films is providing a discount of 10% if you use the referral code "Shamrock1". This offer is valid for 3 months from today (12/17/2017).

Disclosure: I do receive a referral bonus if you take advantage of this offer.

If you're interested, contact FamilyHistoryFilms at to schedule a free evaluation.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Prepping for RootsTech

It's that time of year! RootsTech is about 6 months away and the emails are going out notifying speakers and ambassadors that they've been accepted. I am happy to announce that I have been invited to be an official RootsTech ambassador! I will be blogging before, during and after the event. I will also be holding a contest where I will be giving away to a lucky reader a free 4-day pass to RootsTech. Stay tuned for details in a later blog post.

Hotels for the RootsTech block are on sale and I recommend you start booking your travel accommodations now.  Check out the RootsTech page on what hotels are participating in group conference rates. I personally had to call the Marriott this week to have them honor the conference rate and they did so. Don't give up hope if your first choice is showing unavailable online.

I have a couple of tips as you start booking your travel:

1. The Marriott, Hilton, and Radisson are the closest hotels to the Salt Palace Convention Center with the Marriott being directly across the street and the Radisson and Hilton around the corner. The Plaza Hotel is adjacent to the Family History Library. Depending on where you expect to spend most of your time.

2. Salt Lake City downtown is very easy to walk. I felt very safe walking around and spotting my fellow genealogists with their RootsTech badges and tote bags. Most places were easy to walk to so don't worry about getting a rental car.

3. Check your airline rewards accounts. I checked one of mine recently and after buying more points, I found that I was able to get my flight for half the price of a regular flight! You may need to adjust your travel times to make the flight a bit cheaper.

4. Don't forget to also check your hotel rewards accounts to see if you can get a less expensive rate than the conference rate.

5. Check rates on travel aggregator sites like Orbitz, Expedia, etc. I was able to save a few hundred dollars last year combining my hotel and airline. The only drawback was no free breakfast at the hotel (which I basically skipped to get on with my day quicker and eat a more hardy lunch).

6. If time permits, save some time for research at the Family History Library. I will have a whole day there and it's definitely worth it. Get there early when it's not as crowded. Please note that if you don't go before or during the conference, the library is closed on Sundays.

What are your favorite tips for travelling to RootsTech?

I hope to see you there!

Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for RootsTech 2018. I provide blog posts (in my own words), and social media coverage from now until after the conference. In return, I have free admission to RootsTech. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Extreme Genes Interview

I am honored to be included again on the Extreme Genes podcast. I was interviewed about the NextGen Genealogy Network and how I got involved. Welcome new readers!

My interview with Extreme Genes

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Ch-Ch-Changes in the Genealogy World

There have been two major announcements in the genealogy world over the last few weeks. First, FamilySearch will be ceasing microfilm distribution. Second, Ancestry has made the decision to not allow users to manage multiple DNA kits under their account.

FamilySearch Discontinues Microfilm Distribution

Microfilm is getting more expensive to create copies from FamilySearch' vast collection out of the Family History Library and Granite Mountain vaults. Users can rent the microfilm for $7.50 but the cost to FamilySearch is more prohibitive. Amy Johnson Crow blogged about this recently. My tips to get through the next 3 years while digitization efforts complete:

1. Request microfilm before the August 31st deadline for anything pressing
2. Talk to your local Family History Center on microfilm rented out to see if they will send back after the deadline or hold onto it indefinitely.
3. Contact other societies that have microfilm loan services. Some organizations may be able to email you or print off a copy of the pages you need on the microfilm.
4. Check the catalogue to see if the records you are looking for have been digitized and are browsable
5. Leverage social media - you may find a volunteer going to the Salt Lake City library to research something for you.
6. Be patient - it's a change but we'll get through this!

AncestryDNA Multiple Kit Changes

Per AncestryDNA's announcement above, they have made the decision to give the testers a new user role "Owner" (since it is is their DNA) and can choose how to allocate access to their DNA kits. The owner can make someone one of the following roles: Viewer, Collaborator, Manager, The exception is that minor children can remain under their parent's kit.

This change to improve privacy controls is giving more control back to the tester and how their DNA is managed. You need to be a Manager or Owner to download your raw DNA. As someone who has helped adoptees and others locate parents, this change is welcoming. I can be assigned a Collaborator role and can assist with creating mirror trees without having to see messages come in or have the ability to manage or shockingly delete raw DNA from the system.

One of the biggest concerns I have seen in the community is how to manage kits with older relatives. AncestryDNA suggests creating a free account on (they don't have to have a subscription - there is no extra money being made on the account) and work with them to assign you access (once they give you permission). We know it will be a few extra steps but at the end of the day it is the tester's genetic material. They should have the right to decide who should view the results and what can be done with it. Also, not all users test to do genealogy - some just want to know their ethnicity estimates and health risks (esp. if they test with 23andMe or upload to Promethease).

I do like this change because I won't have to necessarily see tester initials when I view their kit in match list. I should see the name of someone that tested, which can be a big help (even if no tree isattached). The Shared Matches feature will still work to show other testers that share DNA with that user.

The change is taking effect on 7/18 and I'm sure it will be a bit bumpy as we help new testers set up their accounts. However, this change should make things more streamlined. FamilyTreeDNA requires a separate account per kit.

What are your thoughts on the changes?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Francis Dougherty and Catherine Clerkin: My Early Canadian Ancestors

Yesterday was Canada Day, the 150 birthday for our northern neighbor. In honor of the occasion, I'd like to celebrate some of my earliest paternal ancestors who came to Canada and eventually to the U.S.

My 3rd great grandfather Francis Dougherty and 3rd great grandmother Catherine Clerkein/Clarkin/Clarke) (depending on which document you're reviewing) were born in County Monaghan, Ireland. They married on Valentine's Day (February 14th) 1828 in Tydavnet, County Monaghan. They had 4 sons while they lived in Ireland (Michael, Peter, Owen and Bernard). They immigrated to Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1839 and settled in Lot 58 as farmers. They then had 5 daughters (Margaret, Mary, Bridget, Catherine, and another Bridget). In 1888 Francis emigrated to Dickinson County, Kansas to join his son Peter  and his wife Margaret (Cairns) to homestead (you can read about my family homesteading here). Their daughter Margaret also left for Dickinson County, KS ahead of her parents after marrying Patrick Cairns. I'm not sure if Francis' wife Catherine travelled with them as I haven't found her on census records.

There is a newspaper article discussing a 103 year old resident being the oldest person in Dickinson County from Ireland and emigrated from Canada named Francis Dougherty. I have a strong feeling that the article is discussing him but I haven't confirmed yet. I've still yet to find out where he or his wife is buried. Maybe someone here will know.

Open Questions:
1. Where did Francis die and where was he buried?
2. Where did Catherine die and where is she buried?
3. Is there a relationship between the two Cairns spouses (Margaret Cairns and Patrick Cairns)

Source Citations:

"A Dickinsonian Aged 103." Abilene Daily Reflector, 13 June 1891 8 Mar 2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Preserving Our Past

“Let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident.”

This quote is from Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Ebenezer Hazard in 1791, where Thomas Jefferson returned two manuscript volumes about the history of the colonies. Thomas Jefferson was concerned about the original copies held in public offices and how war has impacted these papers in addition to time and accident. This holds true today across the globe where historical papers are destroyed via fire, flooding, and even war.

Across the United states (particularly in the south) we hear about courthouses burning down and records lost. The most famous example is the 1890 census. Most people think the fire that broke out in the Commerce building in Washington, DC destroyed the documents. Yes, there was a fire that broke out but it was the water damage that the firefighters flooded the basement with that destroyed the records. The archivists walked into ankle deep water - it was a nightmare.

In 1922, the Public Records Office in Ireland was destroyed during the Irish Civil War, taking with it such treasures as original wills dating back to the 16th century, parish registers which recorded baptisms, marriages, and deaths and census records from 1821-1851. There are pictures online you can see of the documents strewn on the street after the explosion, a horrible sight to see when you think of your relatives’ documents lying on the street.

What can we do about it? I’ll discuss 3 examples.

One project involves digitization. This involves the use of specialized cameras that will photograph documents. You can go to places like the National Archives in Washington, DC where they have computer labs set up that will allow you to digitize documents that are being held in their archives. I have had several genealogy friends transcribe Civil War pension records they pulled for their research. Now these documents are online for free for anyone to view. Once the documents are digitized, they can now be indexed.

What is indexing? This involves a web site or software program where volunteers review historical documents and transcribe the text. This transcribed text can then be loaded into databases and can be searched. As a genealogist this enables me to do specific research on a family member. FamilySearch, one of the leading genealogy companies, has a web based indexing program where you can select from hundreds of projects and start indexing, all from the comforts of home. Your contributions are then sent to another volunteer to arbitrate or review what you have transcribed and make any corrections (basically a second pair of eyes) before it’s sent on as the final version of that record. When the collection or a large portion of the collection is indexed, the database is published on FamilySearch for use by the public.

Another way that we can preserve our past is to get involved in newspaper archive research. The US Holocaust Museum just started a project called “History Unfolded” where they’re asking participants to research their local newspapers for stories about the Holocaust and America’s response. As of today, 1737 participants have contributed more than 10,000 articles from their local newspapers.

As we approach Independence Day next week, I ask all of you to think of ways that you can help preserve history. Join an indexing project, research newspapers for History Unfolded, digitize your family documents. Be a citizen archivist and do something to preserve our past!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Why The Shamrock?

I've been trying to attend more genealogy conferences as of late. I recently attended the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC) in SpringField, MA and RootsTech in Salt Lake City, UT.  I started giving out business cards with my blog information to help get my name out there as well as include details on my family on the back for "cousin bait".


The comment I hear the most when I give out my cards is "Oh shamrock. You do Irish genealogy". It is true that I embrace my Irish roots, which is my father's line.  I've had the most genealogy success going back to Ireland so the shamrock seemed like a good symbol to use.

The shamrock is typically associated with St Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity. It didn't become popular until the 19th century where the shamrock and Celtic harp were used as national symbols. During the Victorian Age it was viewed as an act of rebellion to participate in the "wearin o' the green".

I've never been to Ireland but I view it as another home to explore. So many of my ancestors lived in Ireland and established themselves as local farmers for generations before the Irish famine occurred and then migrated off to Prince Edward Island or to the U.S. for a new life.

The shamrock is also associated with good luck, even though it's not officially a four leaf clover (which we associate with leprechauns). In an Irish bride's bouquet you may find a sprig of shamrock to bring good luck to the couple. In genealogy there are times that we do get lucky - we find a document that should have been lost, the family bible turns up from a long lost cousin who got in touch, a DNA match that helps you break down a brick wall on a family line. I've been fortunate to have had much luck exploring my family tree. May you have luck in your genealogy research!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Road Trip to Springfield, MA: My Recap of the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium

This past week I attended the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium ( in Springfield, MA. It was my first solo road trip to Massachusetts and was overall a great conference.

Here are some highlights from each day:

Wednesday (Pre-Conference Day)
Springfield Genealogical Bus Tour - we visited the Forbes Library to see the presidential Calvin Coolidge collection, lunch at the new Irish Cultural Center, a visit to the Springfield Armory and then a quick drive by the Springfield cemetery. Very fun tour - only wish we had more time to see more.

NextGen Meetup - we had a happy hour meet and greet with a few members and discussed genealogy.

MOSH Reception - meet and greet reception at the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History and Archives. There was also a tour of the local archives and library held at the museum.


Opening session with Mary Tedesco. She discussed how genealogy research has evolved over time from the earliest genealogical society to the GEDCOM file development.

Luncheon with speaker Thomas MacEntee - he discussed how we have more privacy today than our ancestors, where so many details were captured in newspapers

Death Records as a Starting Point by F. Warren Bittner - open discussion on different questions to ask when reviewing a very small death notice record

Genealogy Do-Over: A Year of Learning from Past Mistakes by Thomas MacEntee - this course discusses how to conduct a genealogy do-over and do a "reset" on your research

The Cemetery: A Valuable Resource for Genealogists by Brenda Sullivan (The Gravestone Girls) - this course discussed the different symbols used on headstones that tell more about an ancestors life (occupation, social memberships, etc).


Jewish Names and Eastern European Locations: Who the Heck is Ida Gerskill by Meredith Hoffman - discussed how to search for records using different Yiddish variations and Soundex techniques

Locating Famine Immigrants in Griffith's Valuation by Donna Moughty - excellent course on how to read Griffith's Valuation records

Mapping Irish Locations Online by Pamela Guye Holland - discussed the different locations and jurisdictions of Ireland and how to review each of the maps available.

Jumping the Pond: Finding the Origins of Your Irish Ancestor by Donna Moughty - discussed how to use records in the U.S. to get back to Ireland

Ukrainian Genealogy by Michelle Chubenko - this course had a lot of great information for conducting Eastern European research

Banquet with speaker Kenyatta Berry - she discussed some favorite moments behind the scenes of Genealogy Road Show


NYC Municipal Archives: Undiscovered Collections & Vital Records - gave an overview of the types of records available at the NYC Municipal Archives with some samples from the NYG&B book on the NYC Municipal Archives

Using Online Resources to Find and Analyze the Law - this was an interesting approach that I haven't seen in other conferences about the different legal resources available to look at cases that involve your ancestors

Luncheon with speaker Jane Wilcox - she shared stories from her female ancestors and the types of artifacts left behind that tell more of their stories

Understanding Probate and Deed Records in New England by David Allan Lambert - a great overview of the different types of probate and land records available with most collections available at the New England Historical Genealogical Society

Family Clusters and Chain Migrations: Keys to Tracing Immigrant Ancestors by Shellee A. Morehead - discussed how to trace entire clusters of families, friends, neighbors that may come from the same area of Europe

Banquet with  speaker Thomas MacEntee - he discussed some tips on how to work with other genealogists and archivists

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tracing My Prince Edward Island Ancestors Through Newspapers:

Several generations of my father's family immigrated from Ireland to  Prince Edward Island, Canada before ultimately coming to the United States. One of my favorite web sites to research my ancestors is It's a web site managed by the Robertson Library at the University of Prince Edward Island. Newspapers are digitized back to the early 1800's through the early 1990's. My favorite newspaper to find obituaries and other articles is The Guardian. It contains a wealth of information, including information about current events going on at that time throughout the world.

Sadly the newspaper articles aren't indexed like other newspaper sites (think: and GenealogyBank). I would love to help out on an indexing project for this site to help make a database available. Optical character recognition software was used to digitize the newspapers that is used through the search function. This site can be compared to Old Fulton Post Cards. You have to use different search terms to find articles that pertain to your family and not every reference will come up if a character was read differently by the OCR software.

Some tips for using IslandNewspapers:

1. Don't rely on asterisks for wild card searches - due to the OCR you may be drastically reducing your search

2. Try different spelling variations for surnames

3. Not all women are recorded with their first name. You may have to use variations of the following "Mrs Bernard Rooney, "Mrs Rooney", "Miss Rooney" to pull up possible articles

4. Browse newspaper editions around the time of the event you're researching to see if you can find articles pertaining to that event. Obituaries were recorded weeks, sometimes months after the time of death (particularly if the person died overseas).

5. Use the year filters on the left hand side to narrow down your searches based on when your ancestor lived.

6. Search using the towns your ancestors lived in along with the surname. It will help bring up other possible ancestors living in the same area.

7. Don't discount smaller articles - there's a wealth of information about people that lived on Prince Edward Island. Newspapers were akin to our social media today for keeping in touch on what everyone is doing and where they are going.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ancestry Genetic Communities

Today Ancestry launched the genetic communities feature for current Ancestry DNA testers.

Ancestry defines genetic communities as "groups of AncestryDNA members who are connected through DNA most likely because they descend from a population of common ancestors, even if they no longer live in the area where those ancestors once lived". My current genetic communities show below, which I previously confirmed through research to be accurate.

When you click on each genetic community, a map comes up like below showing the countries and regions where you match with other AncestryDNA users for that community. When you're on the Story tab, you can see a history overview and a more detailed timeline for the area on the left hand side. I have a genetic community in Northern Ireland, where my father's line descends from.

When you click over to the Connection tab, you can drill into your DNA matches that share that same community. I can view my matches as well as see the surnames associated with the community.

When you go to your Match List, you have the option to select which Genetic Communities you want to filter by

Clicking on the surname brings up a family history snapshot, which includes items like this surname distribution map. You can click on the different country tabs to see the number of families with that surname based on census data.

Overall, the feature has some great visuals and can filter lists (which is a god send when you're working with endogamous populations).

What have you discovered with this new feature?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Irish Soda Bread: A Family Recipe Passed Down Generations

St Patrick's Day is coming up quickly this week. It's the time of year where I use the family recipe for Irish soda bread. It was passed down from my grandmother, Rose Alice Corcoran, who was passed down the recipe from her mother, Bridget Connelly. Who knows how far back this recipe has been passed down? I was taught the recipe from my aunt Rose as my grandmother passed away when I was a little girl. 

I'm reminded of Steve Rockwood's speech about family recipes at RootsTech. He shared his grandmother's rocky road fudge recipe that has become a holiday tradition. Recipes can be captured online as memories through FamilySearch at

Here is the Family Recipe: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Sift together the following ingredients:
5 cups of flour 1 cup of sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 heaping teaspoons of baking powder tip of teaspoon baking soda
Mix in 1 bar of butter with fingers (try to soften the butter prior - makes it easy to mix)
Add cup of raisins
Add approx 1.5 to 2 cups of whole milk, light or heavy cream (I personally use light cream)
Work with your hands until dough starts sticking together. Just keep adding milk or cream until it does.
My aunt taught me to make scones - they're poppable and easier to give out to friends and coworkers in the office.
Just put little balls of dough on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for approx 25-30 minutes. When toothpick comes out dry-they are done.

Depending on the size of your scones, this recipe can net anywhere from 4 to 6 dozen. Be prepared for a lot of scones!

Here is what the scones should look like before going into the oven

Here is the final result - they should be browned and be crisp on the outside but soft on the inside.


What are some of your favorite family recipes?

As heard on Extreme Genes