Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Birthday, RootsTelevision!

RootsTelevision is three years old today; can you believe it? To celebrate, they've listed their top 10 videos here! Stop by and wish them many happy returns of the day in the comments section and enjoy the videos!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

September Scanfest 2009 - Part 2

September 2009 Scanfest

Saturday, September 26, 2009

WSGS State Conference: Day Three

EWGS members enjoy breakfast in the Elizabethan room at the WSGS state conference

On Sunday, I was able to sleep in a bit before heading back to the Davenport for breakfast and the last presentation by Megan. Breakfast was held in the Elizabethan Room, so called because of its beautifully ornate medieval-style wood carvings all around the room. The meal was a delicious buffet of freshly-baked muffins and sweet breads, fresh fruits, oatmeal, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, quiche, yogurt, coffee, tea, milk, and fruit juices. Megan and I had been meaning to get a photo taken together all weekend, but had both been too busy to do so. I had bought fresh batteries for my camera the previous afternoon, so was able to get a photo taken. Megan took one on her iPhone and posted it on Facebook and Twitter with a caption, "Guess who?", hoping one of the many geneabloggers would respond.

Miriam Robbins Midkiff and Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak
(Megan is very tall and was wearing heels, and I am very short and was wearing flats!

We held the last drawing for door, table, and raffle prizes, and then listened to Megan speak on "Newspaper Research Online." She highlighted some of the best known and largest collections, but also mentioned some of the smaller and specialized ones. She also spoke about obituary websites, since they tie in so well to newspaper sites, but cautioned that while many of our ancestors may not have had a regular obituary, it may be possible to find out about their deaths from regular newspaper articles written about them, especially if they died in an accident. The main thing I learned is that many of the large subscription websites, such as Ancestry, have contracts with newspaper sites that provide digitized issues for certain time periods that fluctuate instead of remain static. So if you find an article about an ancestor or relative, copy or download it while you can. Six months down the road, the coverage for those years may no longer be available through that subscription website. The advantage is, if you can't find articles for your family now, you may be able to find them at a later date when different years of issues are made available.

Megan takes questions from the audience after her presentation

All too soon, the conference had come to a close. But the day wasn't over yet! I met with some of my fellow conference committee members for coffee at a nearby mall to kill some time before lunch. We mulled over our successes and challenges at the conference, and even started planning for an event for Family History Month in October! Then we walked across the Spokane River to Anthony's Home Port restaurant to confirm our reservations. The others remained while Donna Potter Phillips and I returned to the Davenport, visiting the whole way and then met Megan, asking if she would rather walk or ride to the restaurant. She preferred walking, so the three of us had a pleasant stroll and chat back to the restaurant, while Donna pointed out historical points of interest along the way.

At Anthony's, we had a nice luncheon (I picked my favorite dish, a crab salad) with Megan and about ten of us who had served on the conference committee present. It was nice to just relax and "let our hair down." We wondered why none of the geneabloggers had commented on the photo Megan had posted to Facebook; Megan asked if maybe Thomas had organized the bloggers for some event that had kept them away! Finally, Bill Hire, EWGS president, got out his iPhone and posted a caption identifying Megan and myself. :-)

After lunch, Donna, Megan, and I strolled back to the Davenport and then said our farewells. After all our hard work, I think we all felt like the conference had been a roaring success! In many ways, it was hard to return to work the next day; transitioning from my genealogy life to my family and work life was a challenge! I am very proud of the work our committee did and look forward to attending future state conferences. The 2010 Washington State Genealogical Society's state conference will be hosted by the Lewis County Genealogical Society. Stay tuned to their website to keep updated on this event!

WSGS State Conference: Day One
WSGS State Conference: Day Two

Sunday, September 20, 2009

WSGS State Conference: Day Two

After four-and-a-half hours of sleep(!), I arrived at the Davenport at 7:00 AM to meet vendors who still needed to set up for the day. We had quite a well-rounded selection of vendors, all of whom were featured in posts on the EWGS blog: the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Archives in Seattle, the Washington State Digital Archives/Eastern Regional Archives of Washington State, MaKaNcy (the retro card ladies!), the DAR and SAR, the Northwest Chapter of the Oregon-California Trails Association, Creative Memories, Susan Faulkner (author of Finding Pasco), the Puget Sound Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists, RootsMagic, Generation Maps, Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, and the Washington State Genealogical Society. Megan sold her books in the dining rooms after the meals and sold out all she brought. Unfortunately, with my responsibilities to the vendors and at our own EWGS vendor table, I didn't get an opportunity to purchase any of her books. :-(

A continental breakfast was set up buffet-style in the Marie Antoinette Room, and like dinner the night before, we had more attendees than expected. I ended up sitting in the balcony because all the tables on the main floor were full (I hadn't been able to get in at the start of breakfast to get a "good seat" since I was working with the vendors to get set up). The meal consisted of croissants and a variety of sweet breads and muffins (including gluten-free ones), as well as fruit platters of melon, berries, and grapes. Fruit juices, coffee, and tea were also available. Since I had a great view of the room from the balcony, I took out my camera with the newly-charged batteries...and it didn't work. I quickly figured out that my charger was the culprit and realized I would have to snag photos from other EWGS members to share on my blog. I didn't have long to sit and stew about the matter, because there were door and raffle prizes to hand out (another one of my duties at each meal) and then Megan began her presentation on "Reverse Genealogy: Finding Your Lost Loved Ones."

Megan explained how she uses reverse genealogy to track down living relatives of the military deceased in her job with the U.S. Army, and how these steps can be used to find missing relatives or friends, find other genealogy "playmates", attract reunion attendees, find DNA study participants, locate--or return--family heirlooms, photos and Bibles, and save lives by finding donors or warning relatives about disease predispositions. The sound system was working better in this room and we didn't have the hearing difficulties we did the evening before.

After a 15 minute break, Session A began. I chose Pat Bayonne-Johnson's African American Genealogy presentation. I had heard her presentation to EWGS in the past about her search for her roots in Louisiana, but I enjoyed being in a smaller group where we had more opportunities for Q & A. She has some great resources in the syllabus, and I was sorry more people didn't attend this session. Too many European Americans out there don't realize that in order to get past your brick walls, you must study the research strategies of those who have huge challenges from the get-go in their searches due to a dearth or the destruction of records: African-American, Jewish, Eastern European, and Native American. People with these roots are constantly having to think outside the box, use alternate sources, find unusual repositories, wade through oral histories to find nuggets of truth, learn genealogical terms in foreign languages and alphabets, and use DNA in their research; and those of us without these ethnic roots can learn so much from them!

After Session A, I had to answer some questions for some vendors. I was running late for Session B anyway, and was still pretty tired from the lack of sleep the night before. Also, not being a morning person and always needing some time to get my bearings together over a cup of coffee, I felt it would be to my advantage to just sit out that session instead of feeling frazzled all day. Originally, I had planned to attend the session on NEHGS Databases, because at that time, I did not have a membership, was curious about the website, and felt the presentation might be a good introduction. Between signing up for the session last spring and the conference opening, I had joined NEHGS on a summer special deal and am now familiar with their online databases, so I felt I could safely skip that session. I asked a couple of people afterward about it and they both said it was a fine presentation and that the syllabus had a good outline. Meanwhile, I chatted with vendors, including Carol Buswell of the National Archives in Seattle, who told me about free classes NARA offers on their virtual academy (I'll write a post on this later)!

Following Session B, we had lunch, again in the Marie Antoinette Room. This meal was also done buffet-style, and I had to admit, I was a little disappointed by the selection. It featured the same chicken, salad, and rolls we had had the evening before, with orzo instead of sticky rice. There was also some nice salmon, but since a lot of attendees probably felt the same way I did about the chicken, most of it was gone by the time I came along at the end. I was able to snag a seat near the front of the room this time, which made it much easier for me to get up to hand out prizes. Before Megan's next presentation, we had the WSGS Annual Meeting, with the appropriate society representatives standing to be acknowledged, as well as various reports being read. Then each society honored one or two volunteers, and I was honored, along with Cecily Cone Kelly, Conference Committee Chairperson, as a EWGS Volunteer of the Year.

Megan's mid-day presentation was "Trace Your Roots with DNA". She explained the different kinds of tests (Y-DNA, mtDNA, SNP, ethnic, etc.), and also shared the story of figuring out whether she was related to her husband (both her maiden and married names are Smolenyak). She also talked about the various companies that provide DNA testing, the best-known, the lesser known, and some of the "new kids on the block."

After lunch were two more sessions. I attended Bruce Buzbee's "RootsMagic Genealogy Program", and even though I'm a long-time user of RootsMagic and am familiar with the newest version (RootsMagic 4), I am glad I attended, since I learned some new things. I think it's great when you can sit down and listen to a presentation of software by the developer, because you get some real insight into the nitty-gritty of the details. RootsMagic is such a user-friendly program, and I was able to obtain a copy of the brand-new user's manual.

For Session D, I chose Steve Baylor's "Drawing and Keeping Society Members in an Internet Environment." Rather than being presented in lecture-style, it was held in a group-setting, with contributions expected from each participant! We had to introduce ourselves, tell what society we belonged to, and describe our roles within that society. Steve drew heavily on the book Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, a sociologist, explaining how genealogy societies are not alone in loss of members. Nearly every social group out there, from lodges to bowling leagues to civic organizations has seen a loss of membership since their peak during the post-World War II years. We learned how society as a whole has become less civic-minded over the years and how the media (television, internet, etc.) has also left its impact. We discussed how as societies, we must learn to use social media in order to stay viable. We must also understand the personality types of individuals (machers [go-getters] vs. schmoozers [social butterflies]) who join our societies--and their strengths and weaknesses. By avoiding personal agendas, encouraging respectful dialogue, using common group wisdom, having clear goals and a common consensus on projects, societies can remain viable and even have growth. I was very impressed by this presentation.

By the end of the day, I was very weary and my mind was quite full! Dinner was to be "on your own" and although I was invited to out to dinner with the WSGS Board and EWGS Conference Committee, I declined and opted to go home and get some rest after making sure the vendors had been able to break down and clear up.

So ended Day Two!

WSGS State Conference: Day One
WSGS State Conference: Day Three

Scanfest is Coming!

After a summer hiatus, the September 2009 Scanfest will take place here at AnceStories next Sunday, September 27th, from 11 AM to 2 PM, Pacific Daylight Time.

Scanfest may be a new term for some of my new readers. What is Scanfest? It's a time when geneabloggers, family historians, and family archivists meet online here at this blog to chat while they scan their precious family document and photos. Why? Because, quite honestly, scanning is time-consuming and boring!

Scanfest is a great time to "meet" other genealogists, ask questions about scanning and preservation, and get the kick in the pants we all need on starting those massive scanning projects that just seem to overwhelming to begin.

To get started, you need to know the basics about scanning:

1. Don't use commercial glass cleaners (i.e. Windex) or paper towels to clean your scanner's glass plate. Use a soft, clean cloth. If you must use a liquid, use water sprayed directly onto the cloth (or for stubborn spots, use a little eyeglass cleaner, again, sprayed onto the cloth, not the glass), and make sure to let the plate dry thoroughly before placing photos or documents on it.

2. Wear cotton gloves (available at many art and/or photography supply shops) when handling photos and old documents.

3. Don't slide the photos around on the glass plate. Place them exactly where you want them. Photos should NEVER be scanned by a scanner that feeds the document through the machine, but ALWAYS on a flat-bed scanner.

4. Set your scanner to scan at no smaller than 300 dpi (dots per inch). Many experts recommend 600 dpi for photographs.

5. Photographs should ALWAYS be scanned and saved as .tif files. Use "Save As" to reformat the .tif file to a .jpg file for restoration and touchups, emailing, or uploading to an online photo album. ALWAYS retain the original scan as a .tif file.

6. Documents can be scanned as .pdf files or .tif files.

7. When you are done scanning your photos, don't put them back in those nasty "magnetic" photo albums. Place them in archival safe albums or boxes found at websites such as Archival Products or Archival Suppliers. Do NOT store any newsprint (articles, obituaries, etc.) with the photos. The acid from the newspaper will eventually destroy the photograph.

Now about the chatting part of Scanfest:

We will be using Cover It Live, a live blogging format that you access right here at AnceStories.

On Sunday at 11 AM, PDT, come right here to AnceStories and you'll see the CoverItLive live blog/forum in the top post. It's not really a "chat room," per se, it's more like a live forum and anyone visiting this site can read and see what is happening in the forum.

You will not need to download any software.

Up to 25 individuals can be invited to be Producers. Producers are participants who have the extra capability of sharing photos, links, and other media within the forum (great for sharing the photos you're scanning!). You must have Internet Explorer 6.0+ or Firefox 2.0+ to be a Producer.

We can also have up to 25 other Participants who can comment freely in our conversation, but will not be able to share media. You can have any kind of browser to be a Participant.

In addition, any other readers of this blog drop on by and view/read what is happening at Scanfest. If the 25 Participant spaces are full, those readers will not be able to comment, unless someone else drops out.

Confused? Have questions? Go to CoverItLive and check out 6. Try It Now to see live blogs in action or 7. Demos to see videos demonstrating how to use CIT (especially the ones titled "How do my readers watch my Live Blog?" and "Adding Panelists and Producers").

If you would like to be a Producer, please e-mail me no later than Saturday, June 27th at 4 PM, PDT and I'll send you an invitation. Preference will given to previous Scanfesters. You must set up an account (free!) ahead of time to be a Producer. This account will be good for all future Scanfests. You can do some practices ahead of time by going to My Account and clicking on the link under Practice your live blogging. Again, you must have IE 6.0+ or Firefox 2.0+ to be a Panelist.

As a Producer, Participant or simply a reader, if you would like an e-mail reminder for Scanfest, fill out the form below and choose the time frame for which you would like to be reminded (if you're reading this through Google Reader, Bloglines, or some other RSS feed reader, you will need to go to my blog and view this post there to see and utilize the form).

It really is easier than it sounds, and I'm looking forward to seeing you all there and getting some scanning done!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

WSGS State Conference: Day One

This is a duplicate of a post I've written for the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society blog.

I arrived at the Davenport Friday afternoon around 12:30. People had already been picking up their registration packets on the mezzanine, and the tours were leaving from the lobby at one. Like Charles Hansen (my fellow EWGS blog team blogger), I had chosen the Eastern Regional Branch of the Washington State Archives tour, mainly because every time I've seen a tour organized for it, it's been during the work day. I don't have ancestors from this area, but knowing how an archive "works" and what it contains is knowledge that can be applied to any ancestral location. We left with Dick Jensen of Inland Empire Tours on a tour bus for a 20-minute ride southwest to Cheney where the archives is located on the campus of Eastern Washington University.

Inside the tour bus

The lobby at the archives

One view of the reading room

Another view of the reading room

When we arrived at the archives, we were met by Jeff Creighton who took us first into the
reading room, where patrons wait to have records brought out to them. (For those who are unaware of the differences between libraries and archives, the main one is that in a library, you can access the holdings yourself, whereas in an archive, you request items from the collection and they are brought out for you to examine). Then he took us back to the stacks, something patrons would not normally have access to. Here, the paper records of the 11 eastern counties of Washington are kept, records the county clerks need to archive. Each county decides what it wants to store at the regional archives, so what is available varies. At this point, my batteries went out on my camera, and I replaced them only to discover my backup ones hadn't charged up. I was frustrated, but figured I would just charge everything up at home that night.

The group heading from the reading room back to the stacks

Jeff Creighton (facing camera) explaining the records in the stacks

Next, we went upstairs, where we were met by a Ms. Kaiser [sorry, I didn't catch her first name] who took us through the Digital Archives area. This is where paper archives and photographs are scanned and put into digital format to be placed online at the Digital Archives website. Also, the electronic records of the state--everything from the data that's on the digital archives website to the archived former governors' websites--is stored, backed up, and protected at this location. They also back up many local governments' data, such as police and fire departments' electronic data from around the state, as a protective measure. Additionally, they keep backups offsite. We got to look at their numerous computers which are huge, both physically and in storage capacity. Their newest computer can store up to 200 TB of data!

Washington has pioneered the state digital archives program not only in the U.S., but globally as well. Representatives of state and national governments have visited the archives and some have found that it would be more economical to have our digital archives digitize their records for them. There are already twelve states contracted to have the WSDA digitize their documents through a Library of Congress grant: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas.

Last, we watched a video about the Digital Archives that was made several years ago. Then we returned to our tour bus, where Dick Jensen told us about his book, Set in Stone. It's about the monuments in and around Spokane County, and sounds very interesting. On the way back to Spokane, Dick stopped at the Battle of Four Lakes historical marker and told about the history it represented. The inscription is incorrect; the number of Native Americans who participated in this battle was actually about 500; there probably wasn't 5,000 total in the area.

After we returned to the Davenport, I ran into Barbara Brazington, society librarian, who told me that the free beginning genealogy classes by Shirley Penna-Oakes (filling in for Susan DeChant) that had been held earlier in the day at the downtown branch of Spokane Public Library had been a roaring success. Forty-five turned out for the morning session and 30 attended the afternoon one! Barbara and Juanita McBride had been kept very busy after the classes helping the attendees with their research in EWGS's genealogy collection on the third floor. Several people signed up to attend the conference after the classes, and others signed up to become society members!

I returned to the mezzanine to prepare for the vendors that were supposed to be arriving soon and setting up, and noticed two women chatting. One I recognized immediately as Janet Hovorka (a.k.a. The Chart Chick) of Generation Maps and the other turned out to be Laurie Buzbee, wife of Bruce Buzbee of RootsMagic. I soon met Bruce, and Janet's husband Kim. It was so nice to meet everyone that I "knew" from the blogs and Facebook, and I was sorry my camera wasn't working and that I was so busy we never had a chance to get some photos together.

After getting the vendors organized, it was time for dinner in the Isabella Room, with Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak as our speaker. I was at the back of the room, which was a boon, because after the head table was served, the servers started from the back and worked their way to the front. There was a delicious salad which included dried cranberries, lemon pepper chicken with soy bean garnish, sticky rice, rolls, and apple torte for dessert. Besides water, tea, and coffee being served by our waitstaff, there was also a no-host bar.

After dinner, Megan spoke on the topic "Cases that Made My Brain Hurt." The acoustics in the room were not very good (this was an uncarpeted ballroom, remember), and it was difficult to hear her at the back of the room; nevertheless, the cases she presented were interesting and were delivered with humor. When the presentation was over, many attendees went to their luxurious rooms in the floors above, but I went home to be greeted by a houseful of company. My husband's sister and brother-in-law were traveling through and had stopped by to visit. My husband's brother and nephew who live here in town had also dropped in, and so did my daughter after her work shift. After everyone left, it took me quite a while to wind down and it was around 1:00 AM before I was able to fall asleep...with a planned wake up time of 5:30 AM!

WSGS State Conference: Day Two
WSGS State Conference: Day Three

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Local Paper Higlights WSGS State Conference and Whitman Massacre Survivor

Our local newspaper, the Spokesman-Review, today features two articles of interest to genealogists. The first is a lengthy one highlighting the Washington State Genealogical Society's 2009 State Conference to be held September 11-13 at The Davenport Hotel, featuring principal speaker, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak.

The second one is about Catherine Sager Pringle, author of Across the Plains in 1844, who as a young girl was orphaned twice, the second time during the infamous Whitman Massacre. Her simple grave lies at Fairmount Memorial Cemetery in Spokane, quietly belying her place in American history.

The Spokesman-Review archives its articles to its subscription area after only a couple of days, so you'll want to read these as soon as possible. Also, it's not too late to register for the conference. Click on the link below:

Online Registration
(need help with the online registration? read our tutorial here)

Brochure and Saturday Schedule
(to help you choose your classes and activities)

Mail-in Registration Form
(for those who prefer registering offline)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September 2009 Calendar of Events

Warm September brings the fruit;
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.

--from "The Garden Year" by Sara Coleridge

Holidays, History, and Heritage

...Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15)

September 1: Independence Day (Uzbekistan)

September 2: Independence Day (Vietnam)

September 6: Father's Day (Australia and New Zealand)
Independence Day (Swaziland)

September 7: Labor Day (United States)
Labour Day (Canada)
("Labor Day and Ancestral Occupations" by Carolyn L. Barkley)
Independence Day (Brazil)

September 8: Independence Day (Macedonia)

September 9: Independence Day (North Korea, Tajikistan)

September 13: National Grandparents' Day (U.S. and Canada)

September 11: Patriot Day (United States)

September 15: Independence Day
(Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua)

September 16: Independence Day (Mexico, Papua New Guinea)

September 18, sunset: Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)

September 19: Independence Day (Saint Kitts and Nevis)

September 21: Independence Day (Armenia, Belize, Malta)
Eid Al-Fitr (Islam: End of Ramadan)

September 22: Autumnal Equinox (Northern Hemisphere)
Vernal Equinox (Southern Hemisphere)
Independence Day (Bulgaria, Mali)

September 27th, sunset: Yom Kippur (Judaism: Day of Atonement)

September 30: Independence Day (Botswana)

Do any of the above events feature in or affect your heritage, culture, or family history?

Carnivals and Other Events:

Posted September 1 - the 7th Edition of the Graveyard Rabbits Carnival - Carousel theme

Posted September 4- the 79th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy - Reunions

Posted September 16 - the 17th Edition of the "I Smile for the Camera" Carnival - School Days

Posted September 16 - the 6th Edition of the Canadian Genealogy Carnival - Home Sweet Home

Posted September 18 - the 80th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy - Family Fun

Posted September 21 - the 23rd Edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy - Carousel (pick your own) theme

Heads up! The Festival of Postcards is switching to an every-other-month publication.

September 1 - Data Backup Day

Read the latest Data Backup Day post by Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers.

Scanfest: Sunday, September 27th, 11 AM - 2 PM, Pacific Daylight Time

Go here to learn how to join Scanfest and our group of chatting, scanning family archivists, historians, and bloggers!

Go here to add the above deadlines and dates to your Google Calendar,
courtesy of Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers.

The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel--

Ripe fruit,
old footballs,
Drying grass,
New books and blackboard
Chalk in class.

The bee, his hive
Well-honeyed, hums
While Mother cuts

Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

--"September," by John Updike