Saturday, June 30, 2018

Genealogy On the Road #2 - Researching in the Library at NEHGS

Outside of NEHGS

Welcome back to my blog series "Genealogy On The Road"!

My next trip was to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, which has an on-site library. I spent a full Saturday there from opening last weekend (literally getting there before they open) and leaving just a little bit before closing to make my train.

This wasn't my first trip to NEHGS but it was my first full day there. I have ventured off to NEHGS after a few work trips when I was travelling downtown for a client project (back when I was living in Syracuse). Those trips were tough as I came with my big bag (even dragged in the snow) and I only had maybe an hour before having to take my cab to Logan airport to catch my flight back home.
Look Familiar? This is the room where "Finding Your Roots" is filmed. I actually left as they were working on setting up for the next series filming. Sadly no Dr. Henry Louis Gates sightings. 

Here's My Tips for Working at NEHGS:

1. Make friends with the Visitor Services Representatives (staff members at the Front Desk). They graciously hold my luggage when I am travelling behind the desk and have even called me a cab before. They're very friendly people so be nice to them. You also don't need your membership # - they can look you up by name.

So many books! 
2. If you don't have a membership, you can buy a day pass for $20. I highly recommend having a membership if you plan on going to the archives or if you want to use their databases remotely. It's affordable and if you are a member of a society like Ontario Genealogical Society, you can get a discount. NEHGS computers also have access to databases like, Boston Globe archives, FindMyPast, and Fold3 to name a few.

3. Take advantage of the microfilm on 4th floor. I spent hours scanning microfilm reels of Prince Edward Island church records that came from the Charlottetown diocese. These are permanent records and may not be available online through FamilySearch's ongoing digitization program.

4. Use the NEHGS online catalog (which can be accessed from home) to make a list of books and microfilm and other files you want to review.
                     Note - Some items may be housed off-site so make sure to request anything that is stored off-site in advance of your visit.

5. Bring a flash drive. It will save you money on copies and you can transport your research with you. NEHGS sells them if you need one. These work well if you're using a microfilm scanner.

6. Bring your computer or smart phone (with charger) so you can access your family tree or research log (I swear I'm going to update it soon!). It's helped me to focus me on records I want to look at next.

7. NEHGS has more than just New England records. I found a reunion booklet for my Connolly family  in Prince Edward Island in the vertical file (another treasure trove) that was donated to their collection. They also have the Jewish Heritage Center on-site.

8. Ask questions of the staff. They're willing to help you with your research as well as the microfilm readers when you're swearing (in your head) at the microfilm reel to feed correctly (yes, this has happened).

9. Attend NEHGS sponsored events. I attended the talk by author and chef Michael Twitty, which was really entertaining, informative and thoughtful. There was also a book signing and opportunity to network with other genealogists.
Me with Author and Chef Michael Twitter

10. Immerse yourself - it's a beautiful building and there are different collections and exhibits throughout. I took a couple of brief videos and put on my Instagram page. Thank you to the staff for NEHGS to grant me permission to take video for my blog!

This isn't an exhaustive list. I'll be adding more in future posts as I'll be going back to NEHGS when I can. I have a profile on genlighten if you would like to hire me to retrieve any documents for you.

In fact, I'll be there again on July 6th when I will be giving a lecture on Prince Edward Island repositories and records. I hope to see you there if you're in the Boston area!

Have you been to NEHGS? What tips can you offer? Share them on social media with #genealogyontheroad.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Genealogy On the Road #1 - Walking Through the Cemetery in Western New York

West High Street Cemetery, Painted Post, NY
Copyright 2018: Melanie McComb, The Shamrock Genealogist

I have been travelling a lot this past year. One of the most frequent places that I go is to Western New York to assist my company on projects for a specific client in the area. It's where I started to get the inspiration for this new series "Genealogy On the Road". After a long day at work, I wanted to get a genealogy excursion in, to take in what's in the area and see if I can help someone in the process. I previously went to the local library. You can read about my experience here.  

Last week I went back to Western New York and my latest excursion was to check out a cemetery in the small town of Painted Post. I specifically went to the West High Street Cemetery. If you're looking for your family in this cemetery, the Painted Hills Genealogical Societyhas an index online. It was an interesting experience. I walked through rows and rows of headstones going back to the 1800's. It clearly was not in active use and was falling into disrepair. Stones were sinking into the ground and some headstones were so illegible to read. 

This is why it's critical to photograph each cemetery - it's preserving history. In my talk about using NextGen tools, I encourage everyone that has never visited a cemetery to at least visit once and fulfill some requests. I find that most people enjoy the experience and will do so again. I was never someone that liked cemeteries growing up - it was associated with someone passing away, which is of course very sad. I've only recently over the last few years started going to cemeteries for genealogy purposes. I wanted to give back and help share a photo of them so they can "visit" them, even if it's only a picture online. Gone but never forgotten. 

I took a small video in the cemetery that I uploaded to social media. I hope to continue to do these short videos to help document my genealogy travels. 

My tips for exploring cemeteries like these:

1. Bring water - it was 90 degrees and I was melting. I left the water in the car thankfully (but of course forgot to bring around with me), 

2. Survey the cemetery ahead of time online to see what's already been photographed. My Find a Grave app was a bit slow to catch up and was eating up some of my data. I would recommend downloading in advance the photo requests and saving in Google Drive. 

3. Back a travel bag for cemetery visits. I brought nothing with me so I didn't have much to work with. I like to bring things like extra water, a little shovel if I need to dig up around the headstone, garden shears to help trim weeds. Make sure you bag in your checked bags to avoid issues with TSA. 

4. Bring a change in clothes. Yes, I'm the one walking around the cemetery in my dress clothes melting. I know next time to bring some weather appropriate clothes. I do recommend long pants though because you never know if there are snakes in the area or bugs. 

5. Don't rely on your Internet connection to be working. My photos taken through the app all failed so I lost the coordinates and several photos. I did take a few photos on my phone camera (outside of the app) so all was not completely lost. I just don't have the coordinates.

6. Speaking of which, old cemeteries like this don't always have section numbers. Be prepared to mow rows to fulfill requests. I don't think I found a single one that was requested. I did find a few that didn't have a photo and will ad those. 

What cemeteries have you visited recently? Have you checked to see if they have been photographed and/or indexed online? Share your experiences on social media with #genealogyontheroad. 

Look out for my next blog post where I head into NEHGS for the day! 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

New Blog Series: Genealogy On the Road

I'm happy to announce a new blog series that I'm starting called Genealogy On the Road.

So why am I starting this series? I currently work full time as an IT analyst for a human resources company (it's a bit hard to explain sometimes what I do). I regularly travel to client sites as well as to offices in California during the year so I thought it would be interesting to help document some travel tips for how you can do genealogy on the road. Even when it's a work trip, I try to sneak in a little genealogy time before I go to make the best of the area. Sometimes it works out and other times I'm lucky I see something beyond a business park, a hotel, and a restaurant.

I have previously shared some posts on some of my travels to California and western New York below:

September 2017 - Local Libraries: An Undiscovered Treasure
October 2017 -  California State Archives Trip

I'm heading back to Corning, NY today and hope to squeeze in a small adventure before I leave.

I'm also interested in hearing your tips on how you fit in genealogy on a trip. Please email me at shamrockgenealogist[a] if you're interested in contributing a guest post or post on social media with #genealogyontheroad.

Happy travels!
California State Archives Front Desk and View into the Main Reading Room

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Going International

I had the honor this past weekend presenting at the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference held at the University of Guelph, Ontario. This was my first official genealogy conference I lectured at and an international one as well! I gave two lectures, Prince Edward Island Records and Repositories, and How to Incorporate NextGen Tech Into Your Research. I also talked to other genealogists about NextGen Genealogy Network. We hope to grow our Canadian presence as part of our partnership with Ontario Genealogical Society. It was a great conference and there were rides involved - golf carts were transporting us all over campus.

Overall, I received great feedback and had a number of people attend my talks. It felt wonderful to have a lecture hall filled!  Some of the highlights from the conference:

1. Connecting with my dear genealogy friends that I met on Twitter and Facebook in person
2. Helping bring two genealogists together that may share a common ancestor
3. Seeing other young genealogists interested in NextGen and telling them about our non-profit
4. Giving away a DNA kit to someone who hasn't tested before

I have more ideas that I'll be submitting for OGS 2019 as well as RootsTech and other various conferences. If you're interested in having me speak at your event, please reach out to me.

I've included some pictures from the event.
Me at my 1st lecture on PEI Records and Repositories

Me at my second lecture "How to Incorporate NextGen Tech Into Your Research"

University of Guelph Gryphon Statue 

Me in front of the Air Canada logo at Toronto Airport