Sunday, February 26, 2017

RootsTech: The WrestleMania of Genealogy Conventions

I recently attended my first RootsTech in Salt Lake City, UT. It was one of the most amazing experiences I ever did. It was my first solo trip to travel across the country that wasn't for work reasons. I'm very thankful and appreciative to my family and friends for pitching in for me to go this year. I had the privilege to come in a day early to research at the Family History Library and then attend the entire conference, including some of the innovator summit sessions.

 RootsTech was held in the Salt Palace Convention Center. This place was pretty huge - you had multiple ballrooms on the main level, and then classrooms going on and on for another two floors. Depending on when your next session was, you needed to hustle a little bit to make sure you found the correct room and were able to get a good seat. The featured lunches were all the way across the convention center on the 3rd floor. You definitely worked up an appetite by the time you got there. The Expo Hall housed hundreds of vendors. I've never seen so many genealogy related companies! It's very easy to get overwhelmed. I took time during when a lecture was being held to walk through and check out what was there. Of course I found my way to Maia's Books and perused the latest book selections while it wasn't so crowded.

I highly recommend that each genealogist go to RootsTech at least once in their lifetime. Get out there and network. So many great people in the industry as well as doing it for fun. There's always something new to learn.

Here's a Recap of Each Day including the Sessions I Attended and the Links to the Sessions if Available:

Wednesday (2/8)

Innovator Summit General Session: Liz Wiseman was the key note speaker. Liz Wiseman spoke about her rookie moment and how to embrace it to succeed in business.


Industry Trends and Outlook: Panel Discussion with Ben Bennett; Craig Bott; Heather Holmes; Nick Jones; Robert Kehrer

Innovation: Best Practices and Applications - Cyndi Tetro

NextGen Genealogy Network Meetup - I co-coordinated the meetup for NextGen genealogy members for a casual lunch. We had a great turnout!

3D Printing the Past - Joey Skinner

Deciphering Foreign Language Record - Randy Whited

Jewish Genealogy Resources on the Internet - Daniel Horowitz

Welcome Party: We Don't Need Roads - this was the kickoff party and was a lot of fun. The theme was 80's so 80's dance music, 80's video games, candy bar. This was so much fun!

Thursday (2/9)

General Session: The Scott Brothers (Jonathan and Drew) keynoted the presentation. The Scott Brothers' presentation was fabulous! They also took photos with RootsTech attendees afterwards.

How to Use DNA Triangulation to Confirm Ancestors - Kitty Cooper

FamilySearch Sponsored Lunch: Who Moved My Microfilm?

Tips for Tracing Your Jewish Roots - Schelly Talalay Dardashti

Organizing Evidence to Reveal Lineages - Thomas Jones

RootsTech Opening Event: Music It Runs in the Family - Fabulous performances by the Mormon Tablernacle Choir and guest soloist Dallyn Vail Bayles. It was touching to hear stories from Oscar "Andy" Hammerstein about his family.

Friday (2/10):

General Session: LeVar Burton was the key note speaker. His speech was very emotional and there was not a dry tear in the house when he was presented with his ancestry.

Innovator Showdown Final: One of my favorite parts at RootsTech is learning about some of the latest start-up companies and the products they developed. Congrats to the winners!

FindMyPast Sponsored Lunch. A Narrative Worth Telling: The Family History Journey - Jen Baldwin

Finding Books, Books, Glorious Books - Helen Smith

How Do I Find That? Secrets to Find Unique Sources - Joshua Taylor

MyHeritage RootsTech After Party - This is an invite-only party I had the privilege of going as a guest. Great food, fun games, and karaoke.

Saturday (2/11):

General Session: Buddy Valastro was the key note speaker. I always love hearing stories about his family. And of course there was a cake decorating contest that was being judged.

Finding My Irish Story: Going Beyond the Free Stuff  - Brian Donovan

Creating Google Alerts for Your Genealogy - Katherine Wilson

RootsTech Closing Event: Celebrating Life with Music and Cake: Great performances by all of the dancers!

Monday, February 20, 2017

I am honored for the shoutout on this week's Extreme Genes episode. I highly recommend this genealogy podcast to all of my genealogy friends.
As heard on Extreme Genes

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My First Trip to the Family History Library (A Genealogist's Disneyland)

Last week was my first trip to RootsTech, the annual genealogy conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was truly a trip of a lifetime. I came in a day early to get some research done at the Family History Library before I started attending classes.

Steve Rockwood, CEO for FamilySearch, was right when he calls the Family History Library "Disneyland". There were so many floors to pick from - U.S. & Canada Books. U.S. & Canada Microfilm, British Isle, and International records. I spent time on each floor as I started going through my family tree. When I first signed onto my computer, I did have the conundrum of which ancestor to start with. I decided to start on the British Isles floor to research my Irish ancestors.

My first few minutes on the British Isles floor wasn't uneventful. I needed to purchase a flash drive as I forgot mine at home. Luckily the library has one on each floor. I purchased the flash drive with no issue after inserting a $20 and receiving the change. I then inserted the change into the machine to get a copy card and nothing would vend. I though this isn't looking good. I broke the machine. Luckily there is an engineer on-site that came and fixed the machine and refunded my money. Lesson learned - use the bill change machine for big bills.

I was a bad genealogist and didn't prepare a list of records that I needed. I used the library's catalogue to start looking up some records for Northern Ireland. I figured I would start with the books since until digitized they are going to be the hardest to get a hold of. There were a number of books published by genealogical societies, the most helpful being the cemetery headstone transcriptions. I found a few references I was missing.  The scanners set up on each floor were very helpful. I was able to save my records to the flash drive and then pull up on my laptop to rename and attach to my Ancestry tree.  These scanners had a lot of helpful features including emailing the files to yourself so you could save on cost and double check your files are clear before leaving the library. I highly recommend you rename the files on your flash drive when you pull on your laptop to something descriptive of the source and ancestor. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to backtrack months later.

I proceeded up to the U.S. & Canada floor to see if I can make some headway on my Prince Edward Island (PEI) ancestors. I found a few references to my Rooney cousins in the book "The History of Vernon River Parish 1877-1977", where my ancestors served as sisters in the local church. I went through some of the indexes to cemetery headstones which referenced their immigration from Ireland as well as some indexes to obituaries from various newspapers. I found a reference to an obituary I'm trying to obtain for my 3rd great grandfather Philip Rooney who came to PEI from County Fermanagh. I'm hoping that it will have more leads to trace his family further back. I found a Patrick Clarkin, a native of the parish of Tydavnet, County Monaghan. That sounded familiar. My 3rd great grandmother Catherine "Kitty" Clerkin married my 3rd great grandfather Francis Dougherty in Tydavnet, County Monaghan. I definitely need to investigate more to find out about Patrick and see how he may fit in my family.

After lunch, I decided to try the International records floor. I've been having a hard time finding information on my Eastern European ancestors. I can get back to the country and sometimes the town based on naturalization records but then the trail starts to go cold. Unfortunately, I didn't find anything new but I was able to help a friend review microfilm record for a German marriage record dating back to 1688. I'm so jealous that she could go that far back! I can only go back to early 1800's/late 1700's if I'm lucky on any line.

Using the microfilm machines was an experience. I read a few blogs beforehand and was advised to try the electric microfilm reader to avoid having to crank as hard to scroll through the film. I found one that wasn't in use but there was barely any instructions. Luckily I was able to get a hold of an elder to help me with the machine. He was learning with me and we used the diagram on the machine to figure it out. I was able to pull up the record easily but it was very difficult to read - a lot of ink spots. My friend was happy that I was able to pull the record. I wanted to try to get a better image of the record so I used one of the manual microfilm readers. I was really struggling with loading the microfilm on the spool - thankfully there was another researcher willing to help me out. I was able to pull up the record after a few cranks (which you can really get arms like Popeye after a while) and it was easier to read.

My head was spinning at the end of the day with all of the different things I was researching all day. It's certainly easy to be overwhelmed when you first go to the library, esp. during a busy time like RootsTech week. I recommend that if you're going to go to the library, you use these tips:

1. Prepare a list of microfilm records/books you want to research (side note - you may not be able to see the catalogue description unless you're in the FHL or another Family History Center).

2. Bring a flash drive (or cash in small bills to purchase one at the library)

3. Use the catalogue to research books on-site

4. Ask questions if you don't know where something is. There are so many people willing to help.

5. Explore - it's an experience just going to a library like this. You never know what you will find.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Finding Ancestors in Cemeteries

I know it's been forever since my last post. Life got in the way and then the holidays. I am going to try to be more punctual with my posts. My apologies for the wait. 

Today I am going to talk about headstones and cemetery records. I have made a lot of progress in my family tree using sites like Find A Grave and Billion Graves to fill in some gaps. 

Over the last few months, I recently upgraded to Billion Graves Plus and renew on a monthly basis. I have not regretted this decision. I was able to use the nearby family plots feature (where people with the same surname are buried) to find other possible ancestors in the same cemetery. I had the greatest amount of luck in Prince Edward Island, Canada where my father's ancestors are buried. I easily found an additional 20 plots that I didn't have in my tree. 

Through the help of some of my cousins, volunteers on Billion Graves (as well as Find a Grave), and obituary records I was able to pinpoint most of my ancestors' final resting places. For those ancestors I couldn't find in PEI, I was able to use the obituary records to locate the cemetery they were buried in and then contact the cemetery to get the plot number. Each person I contacted has been incredibly helpful (helpful fact: list the name, date of death and other possible family members related to them in your email to ask for the plot #'s). 

Headstones can also be used as cousin bait. I contacted a user on about a headstone I found through a search that was possibly related to one of my Corcoran ancestors and included my email address. He contacted me back and included the headstone photo, and provided some information on the family. One story he recounted was how my 2nd great uncle Bernard Corcoran became blind.  Apparently he fought for the famous Irish "Fighting 69th" in WWI and was shot by a sniper in 1918. The injury caused him to lose his sight. Here's where it really gets good. He included the cemeteries in County Louth where some of the headstones can be found. I now have some more research to do! And yes I confirmed we are indeed cousins. 

How have you used cemeteries to assist records?