Friday, December 31, 2010

Create Your Own Family Heirloom - It's Easier Than You Think

This past Christmas I received a new family heirloom as a gift.

I didn't know it at the start. When I first received this present from my brother I looked at the title and thought I was in for something mushy from my brother and his girlfriend.

Upon second look I realized that they had put together something wonderful, a book full of family recipes.  And they did it on the sly.  They even got a recipe from me who was none the wiser.

Self-Publishing with

My brother and his girlfriend published this 54 page book using  They created a template in a word processor then filled it up with recipes and photos. 

There are all the usual parts of a book including a table of contents and chapters.  Each page contains one recipe and a brief summary in italics before the recipe explains why it is special to the family member who created or used it. The book is filled with recipes from my family and that of my brother's girlfriend.

The book is small and contains no color photos except for the cover. I think what impresses me the most is that they actually put this together all on their own. 

I have always thought about creating something like this but never actually tried.  I have to admit my brother is a bit of a veteran at using   I guess I'm a bit nervous about trying it and messing it up.

Next Christmas?

Perhaps next Christmas you or I might try to create a little book to give as a present and it might just turn into a family heirloom.

Here are some thoughts as to what I might include in a little book for a family gift:
  • A photo family history of our extended family right now with pictures and brief bio (along the lines of a yearbook)
  • A book presenting brief biographies of one branch of the family
  • A family photo book of our ancestors. Instead of continuing to swap them electronically on CD why not print them and put them in a book as a family keepsake?
  •  An annual edition summarizing family research of the previous year
  • A book of family heirlooms and their stories
  • Stories told by elder family members

I'm sure there are lots more ideas of what can be created with a brief 50-page book.  Share your ideas in the comments and then let's make it a New Year's resolution to get it done by Christmas 2011.

My Top 5 Roots & Rambles Posts of 2010

I suppose it's a little self-indulgent but I'm going to list my top 5 favorite Roots & Rambles posts of 2010. The posts I liked the best aren't necessarily the ones that got the most "hits."

I think these posts are very indicative of where my head was at in 2010. They demonstrate how I was evolving as a researcher and my approach to processing all that I encounter in the world.

1. Canvassing a Town for Historical Resources - A big theme of mine this year was looking for history and genealogy everywhere including unusual and oft overlooked places.  This is a method for seeing and finding resources in a new way.

2. Prove Genealogy Backwards, Read History Forward - Inspired by a lecture from Professor Gary W. Gallagher, this provides a suggestion for a different way to approach the study of history.

3. How I Got Here - The Path to Becoming a Family Historian - It's easy to be "me" centric but the more I considered it I was just a link in a much larger family chain. This also includes thoughts on nurturing children to become future family historians.

4. I Don't See Dead People but I Do See History - History is everywhere. A window into seeing it through my eyes.  A nice complement to #1 above.  Soon you'll be seeing history everywhere too.

5. How James Deetz Changed My Life - One of the catalysts that profoundly changed my research and how I approach genealogy and history.


Schedule Time for Analysis After Your Research Trip - An important reminder and tips on how to capture all the data from a research trip.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Top 10 Favorite Blogs of 2010

It's really hard for me to come up with just 10 favorite blogs. I read so many and lots of them deserve to be my favorite. For whatever reason, these 10 are the standouts.

They are listed in no particular order and leave out the "Big" bloggers and my New England Blogging Peeps.

Boston 1775 by J.L. Bell - the story of the American Revolution in Massachusetts. I'm astonished at his breadth of knowledge and am captivated by his endless curiosity.

Vast Public Indifference - the study of gravestone art. Just incredible. Beautiful art, in-depth knowledge and doesn't hold back on the opinions.

The African-Native American Genealogy Blog by Angela Walton-Raji,  - fascinating stories about stuff I know very little about in a part of the country I'm not familiar with.  I feel like an adventurer every time I read her blog.

Geder Genealogy, Evangelist for African Ancestored Genealogy by George Geder  - George calls it like he sees it. I utterly respect his honesty and willingness to risk sharing it.

Clue Wagon by Kerry Scott  - Irreverent, spot-on and genealogy too!

The Slovak Yankee by Martin Hollick  - He's so cranky but when he's not in a bitter rant he's brilliant. Hopefully he'll stop ranting soon and get back to what he's best at.

Greta's Genealogy Blog by Greta Koehl  - An all around consistently good genealogy blog.

Mnemosyne's Magic Mirror by Mel Wolfgang - this is a relatively new blog but he always has something thought provoking and worth reading.

Olive Tree Genealogy by Lorine McGinnis Schulze - Lorine is a prolific Canadian blogger. She has a deep well of genealogical knowledge.

Pollyblog by Polly Kimmitt - When I want to improve my genealogy and learn something new this is where I go. Besides being a genealogical powerhouse, her posts are simply fascinating.  Yes I admit when I grow up I want to be just like Polly.


Little Bites of Life by Elizabeth O'Neal - I can't believe I almost forgot this one. One of my most favorite blogs. I probably like this blog so much because I can identify with her so easily. I love to watch her evolve just as I am evolving myself.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Watch Out for an Overly Helpful Zotero

Zotero, a Firefox browser add-on, is a tremendous tool for researchers that helps capture internet based citations for inclusion in your reports.  It can even create bibliographies.

Today I learned that Zotero tries to be overly helpful to its users. That can throw you for a loop when you are least expecting it.

The Problem

I was logging into an electronic database at my library's website. A window popped up asking me to accept a proxy. Not knowing what a proxy was (but thinking it was helpful) I accepted the proxy. Yes, I know, I should have been practicing more safe computing. *sigh*

This is what the pop-up looks like (click image to see a larger view):

What happened as a result was that whenever I went to my library website it forced me to entered my library card number so that I could log in.  This is very frustrating especially when all you want to do it a quick look up in the card catalog.

The Solution

The simple solution is to say "No" when using Firefox and it asks you to accept a proxy.

If, like me, you said "Yes" by mistake and need to undo it here's what you need to do.

Step 1

Select Tools from your drop down menu at the top of your screen.  Then select Add-ons as you see in the image above. Do NOT be tempted to press the Zotero button just beneath it. That will simply start Zotero.

Step 2

Next, under the Extensions tab, you will see a list of the Firefox add-ons that you currently have.  In the box that says Zotero, press the Options button.

Step 3

Uncheck the box that says "Automatically remember proxied resources."  This will prevent Zotero from asking you to save proxies.

If you had accidentally accepted a proxy like me, it would appear in the white box below. (I had already removed mine before taking the snapshot) To remove existing proxies, highlight the proxy name and then press the minus button below.  When you are finished press OK.

Hopefully you will find this helpful.  Thanks to the technical support at the Minuteman Library Network for identifying the problem for me.

Reflecting on the year 2010

As I reflect on my achievements of 2010, I can’t help but think that the greatest achievement is that I achieved anything at all.

The year turned out to be the most difficult and challenging of my life or at least of my adulthood. Unforeseen events brought my family a lot of sadness and worry.

I had been optimistic as the New Year rang in and had great hopes of accomplishing quite a lot. I am a little sad that I didn’t fulfill some of my goals but I think there were other lessons for me to learn this year.

Some of the lessons that I learned firsthand this year were:

Sometimes you need to ask for help

I never like to ask for help. This year some people insisted. And I admit it did help. When the time arises accept help but don’t get attached to it. Move on and become independent again.

We have the strength to get through anything

You know the old saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I learned this year that this is true. Humans have an amazing capacity to survive.

Move Forward

And as the other saying goes “When life give you lemons, make lemonade.” Dwelling on things you can’t change is not good. It’s better to make the best of what you are dealt in life. There is always a way to put a positive spin on everything. At the very least it will show you have a sense of humor.

Life is always worse for someone else

No matter how bad you think your life is there is always someone out there who has it worse. It was easy to come up with examples this year as people locally and all around the world struggled. Yes, I had a tough year but many people had it much worse.

Despite my challenging year I still managed to accomplish a lot.

My Gold Stars for 2010:


I was honored to have a book review published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. This was really awesome.

Old House Secrets

I began a house history column in a local newspaper called Old House Secrets in March 2010. The articles provide information on how to research the history of your house or tell the history of local historic homes. By the end of the year the newspaper expanded to include a second edition in another town.


This year I really got blogging! I started Roots & Rambles in 2009 but didn’t really start actively blogging until 2010. I also started two other blogs: The Symbolic Past focusing on 17th and 18th century gravestones and The New England House Historian. Blogging has been a really wonderful activity for me and I’m greatly enjoying the relationships I’ve developed with blogging colleagues.

Speaking Engagements

This year I gave 17 talks across Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. That’s the most I’ve ever given in one year. I love to do talks because it gives me an opportunity to meet people in different areas that I might not otherwise meet. It also gives me the chance to see new places.

If I did anything else this year I’m at a loss to remember it. This list makes me feel pretty good. Despite all the challenges I continued to move forward.

I have bright hopes and lots of goals for next year but I’ll leave that for another blog post.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why I Like Twitter

I got on Twitter with hesitation. I admit it took me quite awhile to get used to Twitter and to figure out how it works. I think I'm getting the hang of it. In fact, now I really like it.

Here's why:

It's a level playing field

On Facebook there is a sense of relationship and a degree to which you know a person. You are in a constant friction managing family, close friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

Twitter, on the other hand, is a level playing field. We're all acquaintances regardless of actual (or lack there of) real relationships. The main reason for this is that Twitter is completely open to the whole internet (unless you've locked it down, but that's no fun). Anybody can "follow" you or check in to see what you are "tweeting." Facebook is in a constant state of restriction - who shall I be friends with and how much should I let them see.

Freedom to interact

Twitter has a sense of Freedom of Speech.  You can choose not to say anything to anyone you follow and that's ok.  You can also reply to people you don't know at all and who don't know you.  In fact, you can "meet" some really interesting people this way.  There's no pressure either way.  At least I don't feel any.

Less is More

On Twitter you only have 140 characters to speak your mind. It makes you get to the point really quickly. If I want to be wordy I'll switch over to my blog. I like the quick pace of Twitter.

An International Bunch

Twitter has a way of being very international because of mutual interests.  That broadens my horizons.  For some reason a number of people in the UK and Australia started following me.  Not sure what I have to offer them but I started following many of them in return.  Seeing their tweets on a daily basis gives me a greater sense of the world.  I know that Scotland and England have been getting hammered with snow this year because of their tweets.  Do I need to know it's snowing in England? No.  But I like to know it.  I like to have a better and more intimate sense of what is going on in the world.  And it's fun too.


I really began to enjoy the power of Twitter when I embraced my many passions rather than trying to brand myself just in the world of genealogy.  I tweet mostly about genealogy, history and historic houses but I am interested in many more things.  I like lots of things in life and I can follow people who tweet on those topics.  Instead of narrowing my branding, I'm broadening my connection with the world.  That's cool.  I can follow anyone just because their topics interest me. 

Genealogy and History

Many genealogists talk about how to engage historians in dialogue.  Well, you're missing the boat if you keep talking about it amongst genealogists.  Genealogists and historians get along great on Twitter and have many interactions.  I have been so enriched by discovering historians on Twitter.  Yes, we approach the world slightly differently but on Twitter we interact and share. 

Where I stand 

Mind you I still love Facebook. It's a special more secure place where I can interact with my community. I just wanted to stand up on my box and say, "I get Twitter now.  I love it.  I'm embracing it and I thought I'd let you know why."

The Dark Side of Twitter

There is of course a dark side to Twitter.  It's public.  Completely public.  Sometimes people get lulled into a false sense of security.  Don't.  Before every tweet you should ask yourself these questions:

1) Am I revealing too much information about myself?
2) Am I happy with everyone in the world (include my Granny) seeing this tweet?
3) Should I really say this or is it better left unsaid?

If you can remember to stay safe of Twitter, the world is your oyster.  I know it's mine. 

Thanks for reading but I've got to get back to my Tweeps now....... :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Humbling Week - Awards and Nominations

I have been humbled this week.

I have received two - not one - but two Ancestor Approved Awards.

The first one was from Travis LeMaster of the TJL Genes: Preserving Our Family History blog. I treasure it for the very kind words he emailed when he gave it to me.

The other was from Bill West of the West in New England blog.  Bill is one of the New England bloggers that I've come to rely on for their support and encouragement as I continue on my own blogging journey. 

Thanks to both of you for thinking of me!

And then today the shortlist for the Family Tree Magazine (yes, a real printed magazine) Top 40 Best Genealogy Blogs came out.  I checked the list out of curiosity to see who was there, not expecting to see Roots & Rambles.

I was a bit surprised to find myself there. I'm a bit of a quirky writer.  I think too much and write about all the stuff that I'm thinking.  I'm not particularly funny and I'm overly sincere.  Not the stuff that wins popularity contests.  But someone out there felt like nominating my blog and I thank you for that.  Indeed it was an honor just to be included in the nomination.

Voting is open for the Family Tree Magazine contest until December 20th.  You can vote here if you are so inclined. 

Thanks again to Travis and Bill and that anonymous person who nominated me (maybe you'll reveal yourself?!!) for appreciating my blog. I'm so glad you like it.

I Need Your Help - Give Me Just 1 Minute of Your Time

Over the past year I have witnessed many threatened closings or cutbacks to libraries and archives across the country. I've embraced them all as if they were my own. Signing petitions or writing letters or emails.

Now it's my turn. Now my research and my ancestors are threatened.

I want to reach out to you to ask you to sign an online petition to help make a difference. It will just take a minute.

And those of you from outside New York are even more important to include. We need these administrators to understand how much economic impact genealogical and family history trips have.


Thanks to Dick Eastman for alerting the genealogical community to the proposed cutbacks at the Montgomery County, New York Archives.  His post asked readers to sign the online petition.

Dick was alerted by Kelly Farquhar,  County Historian/RMO of Montgomery County, New York.  I have been personally helped through the years by both Kelly and Earlene Melious, who job they propose eliminating.

Montgomery County Board of Supervisors wants to reduce staffing at the Montgomery County which will in turn force reduced hours.  That will impact all of us who rely on this archive for important New York related materials.

My paternal lineage comes Montgomery County, New York.  My ties there start in the late 1700s.  Many of the local family names are found in my family tree - Edwards, Mount, Smith (Schmidt), Van Vechten, Vrooman, Schenck, Van Schaick, Fonda,  and Vorhees.

Reactionary Actions that are Poorly Thought Out
My feeling is that the Board of Supervisors likely does not understand the tremendous impact that historical and genealogical researchers have on archives such as these.  We turn out in droves spending money not only in the Archives but also in the local shops, restaurants, hotels etc.

By reducing access to the Archives the Board of Supervisors are in fact reducing revenue to the whole surrounding community. 


I ask for your help by taking a minute to sign the online petition. 

The petition asks for "Town" but doesn't list  a separate field for "State".  So on that one location field either list your town, state or just state if you prefer.  It's important that we send a message that the whole country is watching and is impacted by these cutbacks.



Thanks for your help!  Your support means an awful lot to me.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Do Librarians Really Do This?!!

I was chatting with a friend of mine this morning via email. We were discussing the book O' Artful Death by Sarah Stewart Taylor.

At one point in the book the lead character, Sweeney St. George, a professor of funerary art, goes to the university library to do some research.  Unfortunately the library is going to close shortly.  She begs the librarian to allow her to take home a box of original, historical manuscripts. The librarian hesitates but then acquiesces.  Being the honorable and trustworthy professor she is, Sweeney promptly returns them the next day.

My friend also pointed out to me that author Robin Lee Hatcher does something similar in her book, A Matter of Character. The main character, a woman, went to a small village and got involved in some genealogical research and then went to the library, found a diary and asked the librarian if she could take it home overnight.

So tell me, my librarians friends, is this simply a ruse of fiction authors or does it really happen sometimes? 

I don't think I would ever dare to ask!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Kids, Don't Break the Family Heirlooms!

I have a few things around my house that were passed down to me from my parents. I prefer to display them and be surrounded by them rather than protectively tucking them away in the attic.

In my house displaying family heirlooms poses some challenges with three boys under 12 years old constantly running around. Occasionally we do have mishaps. Earlier this week some wood and paint got chipped off an item. (I sigh and move on.)

I thought I would share with you my technique for keeping children from breaking the family heirlooms. Mind you this is not a fool proof technique but it works.

I say to my kids, "This is a very old thing that is important to our family. Someday it's going to belong to you. If you break it, you won't have it."

It's a very simple technique. The boys usually never say anything in response but they always leave the room and take their roughhousing somewhere else.

Please note: This does not work well with children under six years old. My youngest is only five, hence the continued occasional "chips." ** sigh **

If you have any techniques of your own for thwarting accidental youthful destruction, please share them with me!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How I Got Here - The Path to Becoming a Family Historian

[Please note this article has nothing to do with education or credentials]

In yesterday's blog post "Bridging Generations with Intent" I touched on the idea of raising and nurturing children to become family historians.  I thought that this would be good timing to follow it up with my own story.

Professional genealogists are often asked how they came to become professionals at genealogy.  It's almost as if non-genealogists are incredulous that someone could become a professional.  There is usually an anecdotal story that precedes the education and credentials.

In my case, I became interested in family history on my own, of my own initiative in 1999 when I was pregnant with my first child.  It is fairly common that major life events like the birth of children or grandchildren inspire people to seek out of a better understanding of their connection to their own family history.  By the time my third child was on the way I was completely absorbed in genealogy and family history research.  Shortly after that I decided I wanted to take it to the next level and become a professional.

I could end my story there.  That's the very "me" centered story.  It's accurate but it's not complete.  In the years since then I have pondered the question many times, "Why did I become a genealogist?"  The answer is much more involved and complex.  In all honesty, it was fairly inevitable.  Let me explain.

In order to answer this question for myself I had to look to the past.  Seems appropriate for a genealogist.  I had to recognize the incredible contribution that my mother had on shaping who I am. 

The Influential Genealogist

My mother was a genealogist, a very serious amateur, for as long as I could remember. And she was consistent.  There would never be a reunion or family gathering without my mother pulling out family group sheets, interviewing and taping the elders and generally asking questions about people who came before us.  She visited cemeteries in search of ancestors, celebrated the birthdays of dead relatives (which, as a kid, I always thought was kind of weird) and constantly talked about family heirlooms and the people who had owned them. Back in the '60s when my Mom was raising young children she would spend every Saturday researching at the Connecticut State Library. Without realizing it, my entire childhood was an apprenticeship for becoming a family historian though I didn't know it at the time.  Of course, now I have Mom to thank for all that.

Award for a Supporting Role

But if I'm going to be really honest, it wasn't all about Mom either.  How did Mom get to be like that anyway?  That answer to that is Dad.  It was only recently I learned that my Dad was also a family historian.  I'm not going to put him on the same level as my Mom because he hasn't maintained consistent activity throughout his whole life the way my Mom did.  But he has maintained his interest and curiosity throughout his life and stills drives me to solve those unanswered family questions.  The fun part is that now Dad and I can go on research trips together. 

Larger than Life Impact

But, no, that is really not the end of it either.  Mom and Dad became interested in family history under the strong influence of another family historian, Uncle Bill.  William Henry Edwards (1898 - 1976) was my grandfather's brother.  I have no living recollection of him but it is entirely possible that I met him.  Uncle Bill, from what I've been told by my parents, was a vivacious man with a passion for family history and the arts.  He so strongly influenced my parents that they developed their own interest not only in family history but also in a love of literature and poetry.  I think it is interesting that of all the potential disciples (my Dad, his brothers and their cousins (Uncle Bill's kids) it was my Dad and Mom who got bit with the genealogy bug.  No one else in the family took as quite a strong interest. (Though to be fair, I do believe Uncle Bill's son was interested in knowing and preserving the family history.)

Where it Began

And no, I'm still not quite done yet.  Uncle Bill had been influenced by his parents, Seeber Edwards and Sarah Estella Gurney.  At the end of the 19th century Seeber and Sarah were actively corresponding with relatives inquiring about family history.  They were also participating in those "mug books" and ensuring that their families were included.  Seeber was documenting his Edwards family and Sarah was researching the Gurneys.  What's interesting is that I have quite a bit of correspondence detailing their genealogical quest.  The letters still exist and have been passed down to me.

The paper trail and oral history ends with Seeber and Sarah.  Where did they get their desire to become family historians?  I'll never know if it was the fad of the times spurred on by the mug books or whether they were influenced by a previous generation to take great care of their family history.

As I evaluate how I got to this point in my life as a family historian and genealogist it is hard for me to deny the strong influence that has been passed through the generations.  I could say I became interested on my own and leave it at that.  But I think much greater forces were at work.  Because I was exposed to genealogy throughout my entire childhood I was much more inclined to take it up as an adult.

Those naysayers out there could be saying, look to your siblings as proof that exposure as a child doesn't turn people into genealogists.  Well, yes and no.  I have two brothers.  Neither of them are professional genealogists nor do they actively do research.  But both of them do have a very strong sense of family, a desire to know our family history and a real sense of tradition. And unlike many people, they are interested in listening to family stories and encouraging the preservation of family history.  So I'll say it rubbed off on them too.

My Message to You

My message to you is be an example for your children or grandchildren.  Don't force them to learn family history but consistently live your life so that you model in all your actions and interactions the importance of family history.  I would argue that that is one of the most effective ways to encourage future generations.

photo: Seeber Edwards and Sarah Estella Gurney c. 1897 with their first born son.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bridging Generations with Intent

Just before Thanksgiving the blog Mnemosyne's Magic Mirror had a wonderful post called "Forging Links in the Chain of Memory - A Thought for Thanksgiving."  It ruminates on a Thanksgiving dinner table with several generations of family.  That dinner included an age spread of 14 months to 93 years. What struck me was that the 93 year had a grandmother born 3 months after Abraham Lincoln's inauguration. What a connection to the past!

I started to think of the possibilities that occur at intergenerational meals.  My mind started whirling with all sorts of thoughts. Here they are:

Bridging Generations

For a long time now, I have considered the generational reach that each of us carries.  That reach extends at least five generations.  Ideally, we know our grandparents when we are children. We know our parents and of course our own generation (siblings, cousins).  Then we have our own children (or nieces and nephews).  Hopefully we will all get the chance to meet our grands as well.

Within the span of our lifetime we carry first hand knowledge of our grandparents that we can pass directly to our grandchildren.  If traditions and ties are strong in your family that can then be passed on as oral history to the next generation.

Sometimes I like to think about the family members that my father knew as a child.  My father lost both of his grandfathers early but his grandmothers were both alive when he was ten.  I know that he had some great aunts and uncles that lived into their 90s which he kept in touch with.  But I've never really stopped to sit down with my Dad and say, "Hey, who did you meet as a kid and what was your impression of them? What do you remember?"

Have you ever done that with your older family members?  Try to catch their living memory of that connection to previous generations.

Breaking Bread

Another thought that crossed my mind when reading the blog post was what a wonderful opportunity to sit down to a multi-generational dinner. Not everyone has this opportunity either because distance separates them or they have lost loved ones.

I thought back to my own Thanksgiving dinners.  They were not very multi-generational.  Typically my Mom and us kids and maybe some other folks.  Same thing when we went to our Dad's house.  We did have many opportunities at family reunions thankfully.

Perhaps we should all start thinking about having multi-generation meals and celebrations.  We should be more purposeful about it to ensure that the opportunities arise before the chance is gone.

Initiating the Young

My other thought about generational reach at the Thanksgiving table was about teaching children.  Genealogists often talk about how to get kids interested in family history.  They say to learn a foreign language well you need exposure to the language before age 12.  Perhaps it's sort of the same situation with family history.  Instead of forcing children to embrace family history perhaps we should simply be exposing them to family history.  By planting the seed early, it will grow and mature as they become adults.  That's how it happened with me.

We can be purposeful about creating multi-generational Thanksgiving meals or other celebrations.  After we have gathered together we must be sure to take the next step and talk with the elders about the relatives who have passed that they remember first hand.  By specifically taking the time to talk about those relatives in front of children, the children will then learn that family history is important.  Years later when they start their own family they will remember these strong traditions and continue them.

A Final Thought

I'll end this post with the final words from Mnemosyne's Magic Mirror:

"Most of all, amidst all the feasting and rejoicing, take time to do something to forge another link in the chain of memory that binds us to generations past, so that you in turn will be linked in memory to generations yet to come"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Bookshelf

I have a bookshelf reserved for books by or about (with one exception) family members. I don't look at it often but it makes me proud when I see it. On this shelf I find:

Edwards & Angell, A Firm History Including 1989 Update by Edward Winsor - I can't get away from these Edwards no matter what I do :) My farmers who turned into lawyers.

Pitt, January 1962, On the cover - Professor Peterson's Magic Lantern (with newspapers clippings inside clipped by my mother) - Uncle Petie, I never knew you but, oh, how you and Aunt Helen shaped my life.

Pittsburgh Festival OVERTURE Bicentennial Issue, 1958-59, with articles by Edwin L. Peterson and his disciples.

On Holy Ground, Reflections in a New England Town by Beverley F. Edwards (a birthday gift 2007)- Aunt Bev, you've had more impact on my life than you've ever realized.

Seeber Edwards 1869-1914, In Memorium - confronting, understanding and embracing the past has been one of my greatest gifts. To the next generation I leave a new Seeber who is likely to be just as charming as the last.

A Joyful Noise by Janet Gillespie - The essence of Westport and the Edwards connection. This one is not by family but is about a beloved family place.

Diapers Days of Dallas by Ted Dealey - I haven't read this book but so proud to embrace my Dealey heritage

No Life So Happy by Edwin L. Peterson (with a newspaper clipping about Peterson's course on fly-tying and a personal hand written note by him to my grandparents after his mother's death)

Synergy by Angie Sedwick - a much loved cousin

Holy Bible presented to Helen Rose Walleck by Grandma Walleck, Dec. 25, 1947

Thanks for the legacy!

Genealogy Videos – Part 3 - Roots Television

This is the 3rd in an ongoing series about genealogical videos that are available free on the internet.

Previous posts include:
Part 1 - APG Videos
Part 2 – Legacy Family Tree Webinars

Roots Television

One of the early adopters of video for the internet was Roots Television. Roots Television wanted to make a permanent channel for genealogy 24/7 on the internet. It is the brain child of  internationally known genealogist Megan Smolenyak and Media Producer Marcy Brown. They went live in September 2006. Roots Television has the largest collection of free genealogy videos on the internet. They continue to add at least one new video every week.

What can you expect to find?

When you arrive at the homepage for Roots Television you will find a video loaded and waiting for you. You don’t have to watch that one but it just goes to show how simple accessing videos is. To the right of that video under a “Browse Videos” header are five tabs presenting other video content.

If you don’t find those of interest, scroll down to the bottom of the page where you have the option to choose a “channel.” Each channel (or topic) is represented by a different photograph. Some of the channels include: New & Featured, Conferences, DNA, How To, Military, British Roots, African Roots, Ancestors Series and much more.

Roots Television nearly “went off the air” earlier in the year due to costs. There was such an out cry that it now accepts advertising in order to keep it going. The videos, however, are still free for viewing.

Today I watched the “Getting Started” episode from the PBS Ancestors series. Other than the out of date clothing and at times overly expressive hosts, the program was professional, enjoyable and fun to watch. It's a good place to start for people who are new to family history research.

Some of my favorite Roots Television videos include:

Down Under Florida: The Ashley Family by the Genealogy Guys - George C. Morgan and Drew Smith

Elizabeth Shown Mills being interviewed on the Wholly Genes Cruise, 2008

The conference videos are a great way to learn more about some of the national speakers you haven’t met in person.

Need an afternoon coffee break?  Why not stop by Roots Television and get some new ideas for your genealogy research.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bibliographies are So Not Boring

Bibliographies have been on my mind recently.  I don't mean like today and yesterday.  I mean more like the last few months.  I'm worried that I'm becoming obsessed with bibliographies.  I love bibliographies whether I find them in other books or when I create them myself.

One of the first things I do when I read a new historical book is to check the bibliography. I do this for two reasons: 1) to find further resources on the same subject (one of the best techniques when you are beginning research on a new topic) and 2) to judge the book by how good its bibliography is. I'm a harsh critic when an author has a weak bibliography.

When I start a new project one of the first things I do is to start a bibliography, right from the get-go.  Not only does it document the sources that I've used but it becomes a great reference to use again in the future.

As a house historian, I often create bibliographies for specific towns. It's sort of a natural progression from my canvassing a town exercise. This helps me to see everything about that town that is in publication.  I include maps in the bibliography as well. It's critical for me to try to understand what maps have been printed for an area and when.

But I also do bibliographies on specific people.  Even with house histories I will end up researching specific people, especially when they are fairly well-known.  Nothing helps more than understanding what has already been published about that person and what primary resources those authors used.  That saves me time and forces me to think creatively to unearth other possible resources.

Lately, as I've been wearing my macro glasses, I can see applying bibliographies to genealogical research as well.  Instead of just researching the specific documents related to my ancestors in Montgomery County, New York I could create a bibliography of publications related to the town they lived in.  I could also create a time specific bibliography covering say, 1800-1850, in New York generally.  By trying to learn more about the social history surrounding my ancestors at that time and perhaps learning about the associates who resided in the same town, I may finally unravel some of my unanswered questions about my own family history.  For this type of bibliography I think I would also try to hunt down as many journals and first-person accounts as possible.

I hope I've caused you to think twice about bibliographies.  They are not just an after-thought at the end of a book.  When thought out properly, a bibliography can guide your research and save you research time as well.  The next time you start a project, take the time to create a bibliography as you go and make it a dynamic part of your research experience.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Genealogy Videos, Part 2 - Legacy Family Tree Webinars

If you like to learn visually then videos are a great tool for your genealogical education. Luckily, with advances in technology, there are many free, professional videos available. I wrote previously about the tremendous videos available from the APG website.  I will work my way through the other options available.

Legacy Family Tree

One of the newer video providers on the scene is Legacy Family Tree who are now providing free webinars. The webinars are first held live and then are available for viewing at your convenience on their website. Their first webinar was held September 2010.


I've watched the recorded webinar by Dear Myrtle and I thought it was very good.  The sound, visuals and presentation were all very good quality and professionally done.  Most of the videos are around 1 hour long. The longest one is two hours.The video didn't require any special software installation and I really like that.


The webinars to date have been:

Mapping Software for Genealogists by Geoff Rasmussen

Helping Unlock the World’s Records – An Insider’s Perspective on FamilySearch Indexing by Jim Ericson

Sharing Genealogy Electronically by Geoff Rasmussen

 Blogging for Beginners with DearMYRTLE by Dear Myrtle

Evidence Analysis by Karen Clifford 

New Family History Technology by Paul Larsen 

Organize, Share, and Publish Your Digital Photos with Heritage Collector Suite by Marlo Schuldt 


There are 3 upcoming webinars that you can register for to view live.  The advantages of viewing them live are that you get to ask questions, respond to surveys and win prizes.

Share Your Family History with Legacy Charting by Geoff Rasmussen & Janet Hovorka on Dec. 1, 2010.

Helping Unlock the World's Records - FamilySearch Indexing for Power Users by Katie Gale on Dec. 8, 2010

Google for Genealogists by Thomas MacEntee on Jan. 5, 2010

If you have a little extra time this weekend, spend an hour watching a video on the Legacy Family Tree website.  You'll be amazed at what you'll learn.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Daily Dose of History - Mass Moments

As a genealogist, I am also a huge history buff. I love all kinds of history but I am particularly interested in history related to New England.

However, as many of us have experienced, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the information on the internet. For this reason I love a site called Mass Moments which provides a little taste of history every day.

As you would guess by the name, Mass Moments is about Massachusetts history. You can visit Mass Moment on their website or sign up for their email subscription.

A paragraph's worth of history is presented each day.  The paragraph itself is satisfying enough but if you feel compelled to hear the rest of the story you can click on the "more on this Moment" link and read a more in-depth treatment of the historical moment.

For those of you who live on Facebook, you can get your daily Mass Moments update there too. And for people who like to multi-task, you can listen to Moments while you are working on other things.  Each Mass Moment provides a link to an audio file.

The historical bites range from very early Massachusetts history such as King Philip’s War Breaks Out: June 24, 1675 to modern history like Red Sox Win World Series: October 27, 2004.

There are historical subjects of interest to everyone including topics on Women's History, Black History, Sports, Architecture, Religion, Maritime History, Native Americans, Technology and even the Weather.

Some of my favorite past stories have included:

Voters Deny Masaschusetsss Women the Vote

The Great Molasses Flood

David Walker Found Dead

Give it a try.  Maybe you'll find you'll like it as much as I do.

And if you know of something

More New England African American Stories Uncovered

Part of what makes African American research in New England so fascinating is that it has been hidden for so long. People don't associate New England with generations upon generations of African American history. But African Americans have been in New England since the 1600s. One of my goals is to ensure that it stays hidden no longer.

With that in mind, there are three recent stories of New England African American research that are not only interesting but provide real insight into the complexity of life for early African Americans.

The first two appear in the current issue (Fall 2010) of American Ancestors published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS).

In an article (p. 41) called "Chance Bradstreet (1762-1810), Servant of Abraham Dodge of Ipswich, Massachusetts", Christopher Challender Child remarks how he saw an exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History that mentioned the slave, Chance.  However, the exhibit only had information on Chance between 1777 and 1789.  Child took it as a personal challenge  to re-discover the remaining details of Chance's life.  The fascinating article details his discoveries.

Further on in the same issue be sure to stop and read Diane Rapaport's article "Freeing Joan Jackson: The Precarious Status of a New England Woman." (p.51)  This incredulous tale demonstrates one African American family's struggle to remain together and to retain their freedom.  The article explores the extremely complex issues surrounding emancipation in Massachusetts in the 1780s.

Lastly is an article that appeared in the New Canaan Patch (CT) entitled "Hidden History: The Last Slave of Connecticut" (17 November 2010) which you can read online.  It tells the story of Onesimus Comstock who was born into slavery in 1761 and how he became the last slave of Connecticut.  This article discusses the same time frame as the other two but touches on the disenfranchisement and limited options available to slaves once they attained their freedom.

All three articles provide important insight into the lives of early African Americans in New England.  Together they illustrate and reveal the complexities of what it meant to be African American in the 18th century.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When Life (or death) is Stranger than Fiction -Notice from the Connecticut Courant 1807

The following death notices appeared in the Connecticut Courant, February 25, 1807.


--On the Allegheny Mountain, Mr. James Pollock, son of Justice Pollock, of Westmoreland County. He was horribly murdered by two Frenchmen, who were taken.

--In Green Village, (N.J.) Mr. Isaac Miller, jun. by the upsetting of a waggon.

--In Conway, Mr. Thomas Billings, (From Springfield) aged 72 : He fell from his chair in the fire, and was shockingly burnt.

--In Stockbridge, Mr._ Leighton : he fell from a tree which he had ascended in pursuit of a squirrel.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I'm Just Home from the NEAPG Annual Meeting

Today I spent most of the day at the annual meeting for the New England Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (NEAPG).

The programs was hosted by member Connie Reik at the Tisch Library at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.

We had a one hour business meeting where we elected new officers.  They include:

Tim Firkowski - President
Kate Lowrie - Vice President
Sarah Nesnow - Secretary
Alice Kane - Treasurer

Tim is doing a great job as president.  After a year of jumping straight in with both feet I am confident he will do an even better job in the coming year.  Many thanks to Sarah and Alice for continuing on. And welcome to Kate for accepting the Vice Presidency.  I'm sure she will get many pep talks from Polly to spur her on.

During the lunch break NEAPG treasurer, Alice Kane, gave a talk on the use of Second Life in genealogy. I am not the best person to describe Second Life, but it is like a parallel universe within the internet.  A newly formed virtual chapter of APG exists and meets in Second Life. Alice demonstrated how Second Life works for those of us who haven't ventured there yet.

After our business meeting we were spoiled to have not one, but two great talks. 

The first was a talk on non-population censuses by Nora Galvin.  I was particularly interested in hearing this talk after exploring some agricultural censuses earlier in the year.  Nora gave a terrific talk and walked us through all the various non-population schedules.  I can see many uses for these censuses, including helping me with my house history research. 

Afterward, Connie Reik gave a talk on a citation tool called Zotero.  Zotero is a Firefox plugin that allows researchers to capture citations easily from websites on the internet such as,, Google Books and even  Zotero makes the process of capturing and creating citations and bibliographies easier than ever.  I was very excited by the prospects of using Zotero and can't wait to get starting exploring it.

Be sure to catch both Nora's and Connie's talks at the upcoming New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) in Springfield, Massachusetts, April 6-10, 2011.

The coming year promises to hold many opportunities for NEAPG members.  There will be more great talks, repository visits, networking opportunities and Ancestor Road Show opportunities.  Now is a great time to get involved with a dynamic group of professional genealogists.  Give a shout and check us out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Follow Friday: Two Reminders to Help Change Your Perspective

I wish I had time to read all the genealogy blog posts that are published. There is some really good stuff being written.

Here are two posts that I think are worth reading. They both take ordinary actions and try to get you to think differently about them.

Paula Stuart-Warren of Paula's Genealogical Eclectica wrote a blog post entitled "First Impressions Should be Captured." When I first read this post I thought "Yes, yes, yes!"  The research ideas that pop into your head when you first see or hear about a research challenge can be some of your best ideas.  Paula provides great ideas and an exercise to demonstrate the effect.

Melissa Mannon who writes the blog ArchivesINFO wrote "Shared Cultural Heritage: My Unlabeled History."  Her title really captured my imagination. I loved the visual concept of unlabeled history. Melissa demonstrates the importance of unlabeled history in a moving personal story.  She hopes the story will encourage you to care for (and label) your personal history.

Research Challenge: Join in a quick group consultation/research plan exercise

My Facebook friend, genealogist Caroline Gurney, has a brick wall. Caroline lives in England and what's interesting is that her difficult ancestor was a sea captain who used to sail to the Americas during the 19th century. He mysteriously never returned to England and Caroline hasn't been able to find out any more about him.

I thought it would be a fun exercise to post details of her brickwall here and see if her US and Canadian counterparts could participate in an online consultation to give her suggestions for where she should focus her research.


Here's the background on our subject:

Name: John Winn
Born: England, date unknown

Wife: Heneretta (sic - not Henrietta) Tomlin. She was the daughter of William Tomlin, a wealthy London barge owner.
Marriage: in Bow, London in 1829, when he was "of this parish"
Children: His only known child was born in 1830 when John was described as a master mariner (i.e. sea captain) in the baptismal... register.

Probate: His father-in-law's 1848 will in London he was described as: "John Winn, who some years since went to North America and whose existence is uncertain".
His wife's will (written 1856) and death certificate (1857) describe him as a deceased master mariner.

Previous Research

British Newspapers:
I can find no reference to him (such as a missing person advert) in the British Library's 19th century newspaper collection and no identification of him as captain of a ship that went down at any of the websites devoted to wrecks. 

US & Candian Censuses:
There are 46 John Winns in the 1840 US Federal Census but that doesn't give birthplace or occupation to enable me to identify him. There is no 1841 Census of Canada. There are no British born John Winns of the right age, or sea captains, in the 1850 US Federal Census or the 1851 Census of Canada. 

Merchant Marines
There are no records of merchant navy officers in the UK before 1845. I spent a day trawling through crew lists at the National Archives. There were many John Winns, all ordinary seamen, but nothing to identify my man. I've been through all available volumes of the Lloyds Register of Merchant Shipping from 1800 to 1860 and identified one ship with a master called J Winn (a domestic coastal vessel) and five with a master called Winn, for whom I cannot find a Christian name from another source and which did not carry on sailing after the 1840s. The only North American ports those ships traded with were Halifax, "New Brunswick" (presumably St John) and Montreal. There are three masters called Winn on the Ship's List website but, from the names of their ships, I have eliminated all three as being different people. My ONLY possible candidate is John Winn, a ship master, aged 35 years & 4 months, who arrived in New York from the Turks on board the schooner "Deposit" on 23 August 1836. However, he is described as US born & resident. 

Surname info:The surname Winn originated in Yorkshire and to this day is most common in north-east England. In the early 19th century there were quite a number of sea captains called Winn sailing from the north-east ports. But to complicate matters, there were also quite a few sea captains called Winn sailing from ports in New England, such as the John D Winn from Salem I mentioned in reply to Cathi on your FB posting.

PRIZE: "If anyone can find this man they will win the Genealogist of the Year award!"
Let's see if we can put our collective expertise together and give Caroline some suggestions to to help her find John Winn.

PLEASE POST YOUR RESEARCH SUGGESTIONS IN THE COMMENTS!  If you have questions for Caroline, please post those in the comments too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Article in Waiting

I finished up a house history article today for my local newspaper.

At the outset it looked like it would be a fairly straight forward project. I did my own deed research and there was also some other information from previous researchers.

But this project proved to be troublesome. Two researchers had done some previous deed research on this house. One was a valiant effort by an inexperienced researcher that contained a number of gaps. The other research was very good and I recognized that it was done by a friend of mine. But unfortunately it only addressed the very early deeds.

My own research had a similar gap that I found frustrating. Why couldn't this one deed transfer be reconciled?

I could have written the article without resolving the conflict but it was nagging me too much. I felt uncomfortable writing an article that I didn't feel 100% concrete about. I felt I needed to know that my research was solid before I could see it printed in the paper.

So I headed over to town hall and went through the original tax valuations year by year. That told me definitively who owned the property and when. That made it easier to head back to the deeds. Problem one solved.

To deal with the other issue with the same house history, I scoured maps until I was satisfied I understood who was in the property and when. But it turns out that I really resolved all my lingering doubts my broadening my scope and turning the project into a genealogical project focusing on the whole family. When I understood the dynamics of the greater family relationship I was able to finally understand the history of the house.

In this particular case, the father owned and lived the family homestead. He also owned a smaller property that is the target of my research. He sold the property I'm researching to his oldest son in 1862. I discovered that he sold his homestead property to his other younger son the same year. Knowing that the oldest son was a boot maker while the younger son was a farmer like his father made all the difference. Suddenly, the division of these properties made sense.

I feel slightly crazy for being so stubborn about not writing the article until I really felt I had resolved the problem and understood the answer. I made my deadline but I spent hours more than I should have. It's just that I'm uncomfortable putting something into print that I can't absolutely stand behind.

Hopefully at least one of you out there will be able to relate to what I'm trying to say.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bloggers and Wannabes, Listen Up!

So you have a blog. Or you want to start one. Let me let you in on a little secret. I am always surprised at how many people don't know this. So here's my own Public Service Announcement.

There's a wonderful place on the web called Geneabloggers. It's a place just for you. And when you start your blog you can announce it there. Over two thousand people could potentially learn about your blog.

I realized recently that I announced two of my blogs - Roots & Rambles and The Symbolic Past - but I forgot to announce my third blog, The New England House Historian. So I need to head over there myself.

Each week, Thomas MacEntee, who runs the blog, posts a list of all the new genealogy blogs submitted to him. This week's list has 21 new blogs that are being announced. No matter how unknown or well-known you are or with a major organization or not or an author or not, you will all get equal billing in the New Genealogy Blogs annoucement.

I was happy to see this week that I had discovered some blogs recently before they got announced.  Makes me feel like a bit of a talent scout!  I had already discovered In Black and White: Cross-Cultural Genealogy and The Journey Takers. But the rest of them, including Daily Genealogist by the New England Historic Genealogical Society were new to me.

Once you've announced your blog on the site you can return time and again for blogging help. If you get stuck on what to write you can visit the Geneabloggers section on Daily Blogging Prompts.  And when you get more advanced and you want to keep up with how to protect your content you can visit the Copyright section. 

So if you are thinking about blogging or need encouragement with your blogging head over to Geneabloggers!

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Unexepectedly Delightful Morning

This morning I headed off to my local Registry of Deeds to wrap up some research on an article I am writing. While I always enjoy a trip to the registry, I was feeling a little deadline pressure and looking forward to getting the work done.

The morning started off well, though, because the sun was shining after a number of cold, gray, rainy days. When I arrived at the registry all the metered parking spaces were gone. I looped around a few times trying to nail a spot without success. In the end I decided to take a new road in hopes of finding other meters.

How serendipitous that this road should lead me to the oldest cemetery in town. I drove slowly past, scoping out the stones. This would definitely be worth a visit. I used some self restraint and drove on, turning onto the appropriately named Court Street.

At last, there I found parking. Along with the parking I found a row of historic early 19th century homes. I was so tempted to grab my camera and take a stroll but I resisted.

It's not often that I find all facets of the work I love all within one block - genealogy research, historic houses and 18th century gravestone carvings.

I finished up at the registry quickly even having the opportunity to do some extra research. I still had a half hour of free time before my next commitment.

Coming out of the registry I was washed with unusually sunny warmth for November. As I crossed the street heading back toward my car I couldn't resist pulling out my camera (which I carry with me at all times) and capturing the historic homes.

But my real goal was the cemetery. I tossed all my bags in the car and headed over the short half block. This cemetery was full of a great variety and age of stone carvings. It nestled behind a beautiful stone Episcopal church and the quiet side street was lined with more historic homes. Even the sun was cooperating and shining fully on the face of the gravestones.

It's not often that a day trip and a location work out quite so well for me. It was truly an unexepectedly delightful morning.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Business Titles - for cash or prestige?

Over the years my business title has evolved. I think I started out as a "professional genealogist" then moved on to simply "researcher" and lately I've been calling myself  "house historian" to reflect my move into my niche market. But I don't know if I will ever be satisfied with one title.

Recently, I was visiting a library and got into a conversation with the genealogy librarian. We were talking about authors and their books. The librarian was telling me which authors came in to do the research on their own books, which ones might have sent others to do research for them and those that never set foot in the library at all. These were all books that required sources contained only in this special library.

I picked up a particular book and the librarian said "Now, she comes in to do all her own research." I flipped to the back to check out her bio and said outloud "Historical Consultant." The librarian noted that this author is one of the few independent (not connected with a university or organization) researchers/historians who makes a good living at what she does. "Intriguing,"  I thought.

It struck me that this author called herself an "historical consultant." I mused over this for a day or two. You have to admit that the word "consultant" says MONEY more than any other title out there. A consultant without doubt is someone who gets paid to provide advice or expertise.

There is a lot of debate about the title "professional genealogist." I mean, why do we have to say professional in front of genealogist? We don't say professional professor or professional historian or professional author.  Perhaps we should be saying "Genealogy Consultant." Now that would let people know that we are professional and there would be no question about being paid for the service.  In fact, many genealogists do a lot of consulting as one of their services.

On the other hand, if you were looking for prestige rather than cash, you might choose a different title.  Not everyone takes clients so prestige might be better in that case.  Perhaps "Genealogical Researcher" or simply "Genealogist" would be good choices.

Which titles do you prefer and why?  Have you given any thought to the subtle connotations of what your title says about you and your work?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Don't See Dead People but I Do See History

You know the popular phrase  "I see dead people"  said by Haley Joel Osment in the 1999 movie "The Sixth Sense".  I am happy to say that I don't see dead people, but I do see history - everywhere I go.

I particularly see history when I'm driving as there is nothing else for me to do but watch the road.  As I  drive I make note of the road.  Was it an old road or built more recently?  Would it be on an 1850 or a 1790 map?  Not sure - look at the houses.  Are the houses all new, all old or a smattering of both?  Is there a row of similar old houses or is there one old farm house in the midst of ranches and splits?

I look at trees too. How many large mature trees are standing alongside the road?  Could they have been there a hundred years ago or perhaps longer?  Is there only one large tree or is the street lined with old trees? I chastise myself for not knowing more about trees and their growth rates.  Some trees grow faster than others and I'm not sure how to tell the difference.  Note to self: determine growth rates for oaks, maples and chestnuts.

As I pass a railroad crossing I try to determine if the railroad is active or dormant.  There are many dormant or even removed railroad tracks in the area that I live.  Was there an old railroad station nearby? If so, are there old photographs of the railroad station?  Are there likely to be Sears "houses by mail" built in the area which were predominantly delivered by railroad?

When I pass by a church or an old store I wonder how old it is.  How long have people been attending service there or buying their goods there?  Is the architectural style colonial or Greek Revival or something else?

As I continue on I pass stone walls swallowed by new growth woods.  I think back to how this was all farmland at one point.  I try to imagine the landscape devoid of trees and glistening with green pastures and animals or crops.

Everywhere I go, whether countryside or city, I see history.  But don't get me wrong - I am very much in the present.  I make note of  history and try to determine how it has fared through the years and lasted until the present.   Why has it survived?  How can we help other links to the past continue to survive to the present day?

What does this have to do with genealogy? Everything.  My ancestors saw and touched those links to the past.  Those relics of history which exist in my present were in their present too.  It connects us and enriches my understanding of their lives and my own.

How is it that I started to see history everywhere?  I blame it on James Deetz.  You can read more about that in an earlier post "How James Deetz Changed My Life."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Plagiarism - It could happen to you

This week there were two cases of egregious internet plagiarism that were getting a lot of attention. In both cases, the two offenders claimed they didn't know that they were doing anything wrong. Incredulously, one was a magazine editor and the other was a university professor. You would think they would be the last professionals caught plagiarizing.

Very Messy Apple Pie

The first story involved a blogger/web writer who wrote a blog post about medieval apple pies complete with recipes and a bibliography. The editor of Cooks Source Magazine used the article without permission and reprinted the article in both Cooks Source online and in the printed version.

The author of the original internet article took to the internet to protest when she discovered the theft. Later, NPR wrote a story about the resulting internet outing phenomenon.

In this particular case, the editor of the magazine [erroneously] stated that everything on the internet is in the public domain.

Discontented Spirits

In the second case, Mindie Burgoyne on the Who Cares What I Think? blog wrote the history of how one of her blog posts was stolen and used by a Colorado university professor without permission or proper attribution. This particular blog was on the rather unusual topic of "thin places" which according to Mindie is "a place where connection to that [spiritual] world seems effortless, and ephemeral signs of its existence are almost palpable."  Definitely, a unique topic that is easily identified.

This article is particularly interesting because it details how Mindie confronted and dealt with the theft and the how the professor responded.  Most of this article revolves around lack of permission but more importantly lack of proper citation and attribution.

Genealogists on the web

Genealogical writers also need to be concerned about copyright, whether they write for print publications or the web. Writers need to be diligent that their work is appropriately credited and attributed.

The main copyright reference  for genealogists so far has been Carmack's Guide to Copyright & Contracts by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack.   This is a short, easy-to-read book that is a must read for any genealogical writer.

There is also a chapter by Val D. Greenwood, J.D. called "Copyright and Fair Use" in the book Professional Genealogy, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills.

While both of these works are excellent and will get you on the right path, the waters have gotten much murkier for those publishing on the internet.

Addressing today's online issues

The realm of publishing on the internet is confusing to say the least.  Protecting your work when it can be easily copied and pasted is much more difficult.  And there are two battlefronts here: 1) outright theft like the two examples above and 2) stealing of content by splogs that do attribute and provide links back to original sources but do so without permission on sites that earn revenue from advertising.

Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers has been at the forefront of leading the charge against sploggers and internet plagiarists for genealogists.  He calls out the theft of content against genealogical bloggers and assists with getting the stolen content removed from the offending sites. He has used "Content Theft" and "Copyright" tags to make it easy to locate his posts on those topics.

Where do we go from here?

Thomas has made a great start but it is not enough and he can not do it alone.  I believe it is time for a new publication to help genealogical writer's address the questions they have about online copyright and plagiarism.  We need to understand how to protect our work online and how to handle it when theft occurs.

I hope that a member of the genealogical community will produce a publication such as this.  Preferably it would be written by a copyright lawyer or a genealogist working in conjunction with a copyright lawyer.

What do you think?  Has the online copyright issue impacted you?  Do you want to know more about this topic so that you can protect your work?

Friday, November 5, 2010

And the most influential genealogist is....

Did you even know there was a ranking such as this? There is, at least on Twitter anyway.

Last week I wrote about the international aspect of Twitter and how much of the world's genealogists can be found there.

I had said "Unfortunately, there is no way to calculate just how many people view an individual tweet."  That's not completely true (for many different reasons). There is a website that follows and measures activity on Twitter.  It's called WeFollow.

WeFollow has two types of rankings - most influential and most followers.  You can check the rankings for any topic that is designated by a tag (ex. #genealogy).

So who is the most influential genealogist on Twitter according to WeFollow? 

Drum roll please.  It is Geneabloggers by Thomas MacEntee.  The rest of the top 10 include (in order) Megan Smolenyak, Footnote Maven, Family Tree Magazine, Roots Television, Steve Nickle, Randy Seaver, Mark Tucker, World Vital Records and Michael Hait.

But....a few qualifications of the supposed rankings are in order.  I should mention that I found no explanation about how they calculated their rankings on the WeFollow website (if anyone knows where I can get that please let me know).

My take is that the WeFollow rankings are calculated STRICTLY on WeFollow subscribers.  I base this on the fact that I was not included on the list before I joined.  So in order to be included in the rankings a Twitter user must have joined WeFollow.

Secondly, I'm presume the rankings are based on a combination of total tweet, total re-tweets and total number of followers.

Also, I can only imagine that time must factor into this somehow.  A new WeFollow member would hardly jump to number one the first day.  Does that follow that the longer one has been subscribed, the higher their rankings will be?  There is probably a threshold level when the time element fades.

There you have it - the top 10 most influential genealogists on Twitter.  What do you think?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Videos Out by APG

Once again the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) has videotaped a number of the talks from their recent Professional Management Conference.

I'm really looking forward to watching the new videos from  APG. The inaugural videos from last year by Mary Penner, Heather Henderson and Elissa Scalise Powell were wonderful. I think we are being spoiled by having so many extra to view this year. Thank you APG for posting these online thus making them available publicly.

If you are a professional genealogist, or even just considering taking a step in that direction then you will get a tremendous benefit from watching the videos.  They cover topics that address core business skills which professional genealogists need to know.

This year's lineup includes Leslie Albrecht Huber ("Get Published in Magazines"), Elissa Scalise Powell ("Choosing the Best Continuing Education Opportunities"), Paula Stuart Warren ("Niche Planning and Marketing"), Donna Moughty ("Expand Your Revenue: Produce and Sell Your Lectures in Video Format"), and D. Joshua Taylor ("A Key to Success: Your Online Presence").

The toughest decision is going to be which one to watch first!