NGS 2015: “Take-Aways”

I like to ask each attendee at my presentations to identify one of their “take-aways”–those ideas or thoughts which resonated strongly with them.  These “take-aways” (TA) are often just a couple of comments related to each presentation. By writing them down, the attendee will better remember something about the presentation and I can tell what portion of the presentation was important to that particular attendee.  Those thoughts give me ideas about the parts I should emphasize the next time I give it.

2015 NGS crowdSo here are some of the sessions I attended at NGS and my “take-aways.”  The non-genealogists who read this blog might find the variety of the titles interesting.  The genealogist who attended NGS this year might compare their TAs with mine. And, the genealogists who didn’t attend might want to put the NGS conference on their “bucket list” for next year (Fort Lauderdale FL, 4-7 May 2016)

“Iowa: Fields of Genealogical Opportunity” (Marieta Grissom):  a general overview of the resources of the state of Iowa presented by the writer of the NGS Series on the States.

TA: there are numerous small repositories in the state but I feel that I have exhausted most of the relevant ones; the author missed the Ostfriesen collection in Wellsburg, Iowa. And you have to love the Iowa censuses.

“Analyzing Deeds and Wills: I See What It “Says” But What Does it “Mean”?” (Elizabeth Shown Mills):

TA: One of the best presentations i attended; she wrings information out of a deed.  It gave me lots of hints about how to systematically review a deed for my portfolio.

Transcriptions, Abstraction & the Records” (David McDonald).  Transcription and abstraction is a critical skill for a genealogist.

TA: Narrow the focus of the research question associated with the document, e.g “why is the grantor selling the land?” As you do a research plan, make sure you indicate where (repository) you would probably find the information.  A “gold star” presentation.

“So You Think You Want to Get Married: Marriage Records, Laws and German Customs” (Baerbel K. Johnson):

TA: Unfortunately what I remember is that the speaker was not feeling well and coughed through the entire presentation.  The presentation was on customs of Bavaria, a much different area than Ostfriesland.  Ostfriesland’s freedoms, tho’ limited in this same time period (1800s), were more liberal than Bavaria’s, e.g. individuals had a greater ability to move around and had lesser stigma associated with illegitimacy.

“Overcoming Surprising Research Barriers: A Case Study” (Tom Jones)

TA:  another memorable session on research plans and their development; this will also be applicable to my BCG portfolio.

“Introduction to Tracing your Czech Roots” (Amy Wachs)

TA: Hubby’s background on his maternal side is Czech.  This gave me a great background of some readily available records. Unfortunately, the presenter felt compelled to treat the audience like they had never done any genealogical research and spent the first 45 min. discussing US records.  I would have appreciated a little different balance but there were probably others in the audience who felt it was very appropriate.

“A Methodology for Irish Emigration to North America” (David Rencher): Head of FamilySearch and an excellent presenter.

TA: David presented a very interesting statistical approach to determining the most likely parish within a County to investigate to find your ancestor.   I am hoping this may help my friend who does not know the parish of birth of her ancestor but knows he came from County Roscomman.

That was the first two days.  There were still two days to go!  No wonder I came back energized and exhausted.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I have worked with about 6 or the 8 authors for the next SGS Bulletin to get documents to the editor for proofing.  I also set up the template for the Bulletin, changing what I could for this issue, etc. I want to publish before I go to a conference the end of June.  Also, realized I had forgotten to send a contract to Cape Cod/Falmouth so worked on that and I submitted my 6 proposals to Ohio Genealogical society for their 2016 conference.  Getting excited for Jamboree.

Photo: taken by the author prior to the live streaming session of Alison Hare, “A Time of Cholera: A Case Study about Context,” another gold star presentation.  Read the book about the topic: The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson.

Potpourri: 22 May 2015

Wilder PassThis is a collection of a variety of comments, observations and thoughts about genealogy. I promise not to do this too often (Left and in the spirit of miscellany: I just like the picture of Wilder Pass (CO).  It has nothing to do with the post!)

1.  I was recently named one of the top five Social Media Reps for the NGS 2015 conference!  And to think, just a few years ago Mary Tedesco gave me the twitter tutorial.  (I am still learning how to retweet and like other people’s tweets!) :-)

2. Debbie Meiszala blogged about genealogical regrets.  I have many.  There are the usual ones—“Why didn’t I ask gramma __________?”   Or, “I should have taken that photo when I had the chance.”  Or, “I forgot to pick up that record at the courthouse.”  My prime regret, however, is that I didn’t share the information I had gathered on my mother’s family–with my mother!  Of course, I also would have liked to have shared with my Swede/Dane father that he was 6.25% Norwegian. (My aunt didn’t know.)

3. The program for the Northwest Genealogical Conference 2015 is out.  Whew!  I am not opposite Judy Russell, a very popular speaker on issues related to genealogy and the law who is making four presentations that day.   Not that the other speakers aren’t formidable–Janice Lovelace, Jean Hibben, CG, Sara Scribner, CG, etc.  I will be presenting on “House Histories! Hooray for the Tax Man”.  You are either interested in House History or not.  I am sure that however many attendees come, they will be enthusiastic.

4.I have fallen into the trap of other genealogists when I watch “Who Do You Think You Are?”  I yelled at the TV the other day “Why don’t you look for an obituary to find the siblings? You do not need to travel to _______.”  Is WDYTYA becoming my “reality TV?”

5.  At the NGS conference I went through the exhibitor area and picked up material on 3 or 4 companies.  One booth I stopped at was ArkivDigital, a pay website of photographed original Swedish records.  These records are beautiful.  There are multiple locations to obtain the Swedish records, including SVAR, FamilySearch and Ancestry but all of these records were digitized from microfilm and so they are in b&w.  ArkivDigital images are in color and they are gorgeous.  Problem:  they do not have the tax records I am looking for.

6. The other product I am seriously investigating is RootsMagic, a genealogy software product  The developer of my software which I have used since 2002 has stopped supporting the product, so I needed to get a new software that will accept the information from my old program.  I hope it works.  I am worried about losing all or part of my data.

7. I was asked to write an article for the Federation of Genealogical Societies magazine on organizing a Family History Writing Contest.  I had to beg off because in the next 6 weeks I will be attending three conferences, taking 1 vacation, assembling 1 SGS Bulletin and entertaining 3 guests for a week.  I will be pretty busy for the next seven weeks! Don’t be surprised if 1.) I post no blogs or 2.) I post more blogs than usual to get away from the mayhem!  Either option is possible.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: I am starting to work on the next (and my last) SGS Bulletin, submitted my SGS monthly reports and tweaked my Jamboree presentation based on my presentation on the same topic to the Fiske Genealogical Library on Wednesday.

NGS Withdrawal; Thank You, Volunteers!

Got home late last night and have spent the day “cleaning up” the detritus of my genealogical life!  I cannot imagine what the volunteers at the conference are feeling today!  I hope the entire St. Louis GS, the host society, is celebrating a job well done! They were superb and conducted a terrific conference.

This is how I spent my day and I hope theirs was more relaxing than mine.1

  • I did some research on the hotels in Ft. Lauderdale to prep for the opening of the 2016 conference slots.  It appears that no hotel is directly connected to the convention center but the conference hotel can be reached by walking under A1A, a busy thoroughfare. (Note: I lived in southern Florida for 3 years in the early ’90’s.)
  • I emailed a potential roommate abut my interest in sharing a room at Jamboree.
  • As coordinator of the ProGen alums at Jamboree, I emailed them about the arrangements to get together.
  • Discussed on line the plenary speaker for the OGSA 2016 conference with the OGSA board members and then contacted a recent employer of that potential plenary speaker about their experience.
  • Completed my annual report and my monthly report for SGS.
  • Reread for the 4th time the “Goggons and Gaggins” article for the NGSQ Study Group (Congrats to Lahnice, the author of the article.  She won the 2014 NGSQ Award of Excellence for the top article.  This was announced at the NGS Conference banquet.)  Since I am the discussion leader for our monthly scheduled chat, I also had to post questions for the attendees.
  • I researched RootsMagic.  My software program is no longer supported and so I must change.  RootsMagic, a vendor at the Conference, has a bridge for MAC that accepts TMG, my software. At the conference, I also talked to ArkivDigital, a Swedish documents website I will be subscribing to.  Obviously, I thought the exhibit area was especially good this time.
  • Cleaned out my “dumping ground,” aka my purse.  Found that I had taken my roommate’s Instruction book for the Meyer’s Orts and I now had two.  Whoops! Packaged it up to send to her tomorrow.
  • I went to yoga!
  • I developed a DNA testing plan with the goal of finding a match that will identify my husband’s grandfather; his mother was born out of wedlock.  So, I contacted by husband’s family asking them if they are willing to be tested by two companies.  He has 4 brothers and sisters and they each need to be checked by two companies…the cost will not be small.

Being at the conference is tiring and exhilarating at the same time.  I received a lot of support to work and submit my portfolio for certification.  It was greatly appreciated.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  See above.
1 I just realized I forgot to send Gretchen my syllabus for the presentation on Wednesday and to prep the website for them. Ouch!


NGS 2015: Day 2, Survival

NGS 2015 RencherNGS is such an intense conference–friends to catch up with, archives to visit, classes to attend, receptions to attend…and it goes on.  But, four or five days of genealogy immersion is absolutely fun for me.  So, I thought I would “dribble a bit” about how I pace myself to get through the day and the night and avoid total burn out. (Photo: just prior to David Rencher’s presentation on finding your Irish Ancestor)

First of all, I am very intense about genealogy–but, you probably have figured out–so I probably have a higher tolerance of intensity than most.  I also suspect that each of you, the readers, have probably figured out that you have a passion as well which can over take you at times.

So, here are my top Five Survival Tips (actually more) for NGS conference.

1.a. Do your conference schedule pre-planning.  It’s a lot quieter at home to do your homework than it is on the fly at the conference.  For me this means, downloading the app, reviewing the syllabus and picking the classes I would like to attend (often multiple ones held at the same time) is critically important.

Ann Bauer1.b. Do your geographic pre-planning:  Every conference takes you (usually) to places you do not normally travel to.  Who do you know who lives in the area? Arrange for dinner with friends who live in the area who you never see but for this conference.  This might include high school classmates, sorority sisters, and/or friends who have moved away etc.Nothing worse than giving a friend a “cold call” and finding out that they have tickets that night for the play and they cannot meet.

1.c. Do your research pre-planning:  Check your genealogy database for any ancestors who might have lived in the area.  Identify the information you are missing and develop a research plan built around the archives and libraries in the areas.

2. Eat well and drink lots of liquids–and not alcohol! Air-conditioning can make the air incredibly dry so you will want to make sure that you keep hydrated.  I always eat a good breakfast. Pass up on the pastries and have some good protein instead.

3. Always take some courses every day about some topic you think you do not need to know about.  I attended Introduction to Czech Genealogy.  It was a terrific overview of a topic I knew nothing about.

4. Take time to go to the exhibit area and engage in conversation with the people behind the desks about their products.  There are many competing search/document repositories and check into each one to make sure you still have no interest.  If you do have an interest, indicate so and perhaps even try out their conference specials.

5. Have fun!  You can have fun in all sorts of ways.  I make sure that in eveny class I introduce my self to whomever I am sitting next to.  I meet the mot fascinating people–the woman from Audubon, Iowa who is going to help me with my Danish butter maker, a librarian from Florida who is just starting ProGen, and another woman from Nebraska.  Do not hesitate to include the first timers with your dinner plans as they will add to the conversation.  but, save time for “old friends” as well.  They are too precious to not pay close attention to.

Having a good time in Missouri,

Happy Hunting!


What i have done since my last post:  attended the following classes: transcription skill-building, Introduction to Czech genealogy, problem solving class by the Master, Tom Jones, Finding your Irish village of birth.  Attended the BCG sponsored lunch. Had dinner with the ProGen alumni and then had a drink with my friend Theresa from Boston.  Karen walked me through her Day 2 presentation on DNA.  So far I am not too stupid about the concepts but there is still time! :-)


NGS: German Day!

NGS 2015 computerEven lunch was schnitzel and German chocolate cake!

I signed up for a special class at National Genealogy Society 2015 conference: “German Studies: Understanding German Records and Methodology.”  It was taught by Warren Bittner, CG, Baerbel Johnson, AG and Carol Whitton, CG.  All were excellent and all were very different in their approach but consistent in their love and passion for German records and research. (my class “station” in photo left.)

Since so many of the US citizens claim Germany as their ethnic heritage, I thought I would identify some of my big “takeaways,” as there were many.

My German Problem ‘child” is Fredrick Eilers, who must be an alien as he seems to drop from the earth, marry my Eda (van Hoorn) Berg and then must have been called back to his planet, as he then disappears from the area.  Eda used his surname on one document but within 7 years Eda reverts to her previous name of Berg and Friedrick is never mentioned again in any record found.

I do know Fredrick’s birth parish, something that others search years for and may never find.

Since I already had “Fred’s birth parish, I didn’t think that Baerbel’s session on “Finding a German Town of Origin” would be a particular interest.  I was wrong! Here are some of the interesting items Baerbel Johnson presented, all of whcih may help me with my problem.

  1. Read the FamilySearch Wiki first.  This has become a go-to site for me and I was glad to hear that she felt that way too. There is a long description of search strategies in Germany on the wiki; just look for “Tracing Immigrant Origins.”
  2. cCeck out for German Emigration Records.
  3. Emigration before 1820 was often clusters of individuals from single areas.  After 1820, individuals became more dominant.  Don’t know how this can help me yet.  I have already traced all the families named Eilers/Eilerts/Ahlers/Ihlers in the Stephenson County (IL) area and I cannot find where they intersect.
  4. Check out the “Fuzzy Gazetteer” if you have names of places you cannot find and suspect that the spelling is incorrect.  This works for all areas of Germany.

Warren Bittner also spoke in the AM about German maps.  When you see how much the boundaries changed you can understand how hard German research is.

Between the two lectures, I have several new places to look for help.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  conducted four lectures at British Columbia Genealogical Society just south of Vancouver on Saturday, 9 May.  It was a wonderful day and I had a great time. Pat and I spent Mother’s Day touring Vancouver.  Went to Granville Island, University of BC, Museum of Anthropology and walked along the seawall in Stanley Park! Had 12 hours to  prepare to leave for NGS 2015!



NGS conference is right around the corner!

On Monday I am off to the NGS (National Genealogical Society) 2015 conference in St. Charles, Missouri.  I am excited about it for three great reasons:

  • I will have dinner with my college friend, Anne, and her husband who I haven’t seen for a couple of decades and I have never met him.
  • I will room with my good friend Karen from Chicago.  We are both “on the clock” and so we can commiserate together (Is the root word of commiserate “misery?”)
  • but, best of all, I will be attending a terrific conference.

I was planning to share some great tech tools with you to make your conference experience more enjoyable, but then I was usurped by Beth Ziesenis, writer of the blog, “My Nerdy Best Friend,” when she posted “The Best Tools for an Upcoming Event!” I decided instead build on what she suggested and give you my impressions of some of her recommendations.

1. Tripit!  I downloaded Tripit a year ago but I do not use it.  However, for a certain type of person–like my daughter Anne– this might be an invaluable tool.  It allows you to enter all your data about a particular trip in a single location–your flight information, receipts, hotel, speaking engagement times, etc. etc.  It is the virtual equivalent of my envelopes–each trip has an envelope and I have all information for each of my trips, whether for business 1 (School of Medicine) or business 2 (genealogy).  (see photo left–once I get to wifi where my emails come through!)

2. Yelp.  I am using Yelp more and more.  Just used it the other day to check out a venue for a banquet for a conference we are planning at the UW.  Use this app to find all the restaurants in the area that may be a bit off the beaten track so you won’t run into 150 other genealogists standing in line at the most obvious restaurants!

3. Zoom.  I want to check this out but haven’t.  Beth (My Nerdy Best Friend) says it is a great site for videoconferencing back to the office or with friends. on your digital devices

4.  LastPass.  Too many passwords?  If you don’t use this app/site you should!  This keeps all your passwords together and secure.  I love this site.  You have one password to access Lastpass and then you can see all your others that you have.  This is a terrific site.

5. NGS App.  Again, if you don’t use this you should!  The big advantage?  It is constantly updated!  I there is a problem or a change in the room, the app will be the first to get the new information.

“My Nerdy Best Friend” had a few other apps/programs that are useful for event goers (Evernote, for one).  You might want to check them out as well.

See you in 4 days!  I will be in the German all day class on Tuesday.  Looking forward to that class.  Maybe I can get a step closer to solving my Frederick Eilers issue–they guy who levitated into my great grandmother’s life, married her and then levitated out.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I published and prepared for mailing the SGS newsletter (my last as Publications Director), worked on my BCG Case Study, wrote all the response letters to the submitters of the SGS Family History Writing Contest (also designed and issued the certificates), got ready for the British Columbia Genealogical Society Spring Seminar–4 presentations on 9 May.

NGS Livestreaming: Decision Time!

microphoneThe deadline for Livestreaming the NGS conference is fast approaching and I have to decide whether to sign up or let it go. NGS encourages those who aren’t able to attend the conference to sign up so you can attend ten of the top lectures without leaving the comfort of your home. But I defied that logic because I signed up last year for the Livestreaming even tho’ I attended the NGS Richmond conference.

My thought process was then and is now:

  • The conference experience would not be enhanced by being in the room at the time the lecture is being broadcast, as these sessions would be in the big rooms;
  • The most popular speakers would have a crowd and I might not get a seat anyway (I don’t like to fight for a seat.);
  • I could then attend other sessions and gain by NOT attending the ones being livestreamed (My “Lost Opportunity Costs” to those of you who remember your Econ 101);
  • I could still watch the lectures at home after the conference for 3 months;
  • I could watch them multiple times at home (which I did do);
  • A Jamba CD (the most usual way for getting a copy of the lecture) just doesn’t do it for me and may not be available anyway, and
  • The cost is not a killer.

Those reasons are a LOT of good ones to sign up again.  But, this time I am going to be a bit more strategic.  I am most interested in the Immigration and Naturalization track.  I will (using my app) see if I have one or five sessions that I would like to attend, which conflict with those lectures in this track.  If I just have one conflict, I will see if I am OK with skipping that one and attending the livestreamed session in person–that would constitute a vote “no” to buy the Livestreaming option.  If I have five sessions competing for my time I will consider that a vote “yes” to sign up for Livestreaming.

I can report that the experience last year was good.  The clarity was fine.  I wish that there would have been a little box with the speaker’s head on the livestream because it looked a bit like a Legacy Software Webinar once it got going. But, I was very satisfied with my experience last year.

It is still a good deal for those who cannot make it to St. Charles as you get besides access to the lectures until the end of August, you also receive a copy of the syllabus (electronic).

I re-reviewed the speakers and I might just go ahead and sign up for both ($115 member rate)!  There is always something good on the program I can attend. I’ll keep you posted as to what I decide to do.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: Been busy!  Worked more on my Case Study and read some Q articles to identify the “rhythm of writing” proof arguments.  Mine draft is still choppy. Evaluated all the submissions to the SGS Family History Writing Contest (13!) and built a spreadsheet to aggregate the scores of all four readers. I turned down a speaking engagement near Tacoma (during the week) and accepted a return engagement to Whatcom County for next fall for another all day seminar.  I worked on the the cover and the content of the syllabus for the SGS Spring Seminar with C. Lynn Andersen, AG on the mid-south states. I also updated my lecture list, something that has to be done regularly, I have discovered.  I also did my monthly report for SGS.  Next week? Put the SGS newsletter together.


Harris & Ewing, photographer, “Inventor of Microphone [Emile Berliner] to Receive Franklin Gold Medal,” 1929. Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-hec-35387 (digital file from original negative); Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA