Monday, April 30, 2012

The Genie Gods Must Be On Vacation

Do you ever wonder if the genealogy gods are on vacation, when things just don't seem to be going right? Lately I've been slamming into brick wall after brick wall, and I don't mean the researching a surname kind. I'm a little anxious, but mostly frustrated.

One of my goals this year was to get a website up and running. Rather than set New Year's resolutions, I make my goals around the time of my birthday in June. My deadline is fast approaching and I am finally ready to go forward with creating a website.

I recently watched a great explorinar presented by Thomas MacEntee about Weebly, a free website hosting service. After watching the explorinar I thought creating a website should be no problem and I would get it done in a jiffy. Right. Well, I have a specific idea of what I want (sort of) and it turns out Weebly doesn't offer bullet points in their tool bar, and I've had trouble with other features. Not as easy as I thought it would be. The added pressure is that I want to update my business cards with the website included. Did I mention that I need to get these cards ordered within the next week? I need them for upcoming events.

So after days and many frustrating hours of trying to figure out the website, I've made a compromise. I decided that putting together a website should not be a rushed or pressured project. Therefore, I would not include my website on the card right now. I came to terms with that and moved my focus onto the business card. Should be easy. Afterall, I've already done a card and should be able to update it without a problem. Right. I spent last night frustrated (again) over not being able to make the proper changes. Thinking it was me and my inept tech skills I asked Hubby for help. He's much more tech savvy than me. Well, he couldn't get it worked out either. (sssiigghhhh). I'll need to start from scratch.

My other hurdle? Last week I was exploring a new set of records on microfilm. I finally found the record I would need listed in the index (yay!). Sadly the discovery was made at the same time I had to leave to pick up my preschooler. Argh! I wouldn't have a free day to go to the archives again until Saturday. Well, Nashville was pretty much shut down on Saturday for the Music City Marathon. Argh (again). So now all I can think about are the possibilities of information this record might hold, and try not to let my imagination go too wild. It's a challenge.

I'm hoping the genealogy gods come back from their vacation soon. I've got goals to fulfill and deadlines to meet.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 Genealogist's Friend or Foe?

Over the years I've watched grow into the huge company it is today. Other companies have since disappeared or been acquired by In fact today there was announcement of yet another acquisition of

However, what has always been interesting to observe are the attitudes about Some view it as a monster consuming everything in its path. Others thumb their noses at it and are loyal to other sites. Myself? I treat it as a resource like anything else. There is a lot of good things to be found at, and a lot of nonsense too. One just has to know what to give credence to and what to ignore.

For example, a friend read a report of mine and suggested perhaps I shouldn't use for my census citations, that I should mix it up and use Heritage Quest too. I suppose I could, but what difference does it make? I'm not knocking Heritage Quest, it's a great site with lots to offer. However, if the digital image of the original is the same, does it matter which site I use? When viewing digital scans of original documents, is invaluable. is great, but quite frankly, many times the image is not available of the document you want to see. Instead FamilySearch provides snippets of abstracted information. I need to see the original, or at least a good quality image of the original.

Now the area that enters into murky waters are the family trees, where information is provided/created by the general public. Some of these family trees are constructed very well, and others are...(ahem)...not. The trees that are done well are fairly easy to spot. There is detail provided that is more than just "shaking leaf" hints, references to specific dates/places, and a general thoroughness. In defense of the other trees, I think people fall into that trap of "the name is the same so it must be," wishful thinking, or just not really doing the math/geography and thinking things through. This can also feed into the mentality of, "I found everything I needed on!" Really? Everything? This makes a genealogist who gets dusty/dirty in courthouse basements, or sits in repositories and views reels and reels of microfilm shudder.

So maybe is an all consuming monster, but they provide a pretty good service. Their site is easy to use and navigate. And let's face it, their business model is pretty kick butt. To survive this long and grow into the corporation they are today, while others have since been forgotten, and still others are desperately trying to get a foothold in the genealogical community is pretty impressive.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Music Monday- Men At Work

Many people have memories associated with music. A song you heard on your first date, music that your grandparents always played, a song that made you smile, or one that made you cry. Music Monday, is a time to share those memories.

Last week the music industry lost a few notable (at least to me) people. Levon Helm a drummer and singer for the Band, and of course the widely publicized passing of Dick Clark. I grew up watching American Bandstand and seeing Dick Clark on the New Year's Eve Countdown was a staple until a couple years ago. However the passing of Greg Ham from Men At Work touched me deeply.

My favorite group by far from the 80's was Men At Work and affected my life in many ways. In seventh grade I changed schools and Jennifer became my best friend. We both loved this group and obsessed over every new song, poster, and video release. Men At Work put Australia on the map for me. During my sophomore year of high school I went to Australia as an exchange student. A decision that was influenced by my love of this band. Ironically that was the year Men At Work broke up. At the time my friend Jennifer was in the car on the way to their concert that was never to be. We were heartbroken.

Fast forward many years later, I was living in L.A. and had the opportunity to see Colin Hay, the lead singer, give an acoustic performance at a very small venue that was fantastic. Twice. Around 2003 I saw both Colin Hay and Greg Ham perform as Men At Work in a club called The Key Club. It was a brilliant performance by both with a standing ovation. A very memorable night.

Greg Ham was a musician of many hats. He sang vocals, played the keyboards, saxophone, flute, clarinet, and probably some other instruments I'm not aware of. Greg was talented and seemed to have a wacky sense of humor. He was a part of a group during my teenage years that had a big influence on me. His passing, for me, was like losing a very distant member of the family.

Below is the video "Who Can It Be Now" featuring the saxophone work of Greg Ham and the general wackiness of this group that I loved.

RIP Greg Ham.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Two Ladies of Pleasure and a Minister Five Doors Down

While everybody was finding family members during the first week of the 1940 census release, I was trolling through the 1860 Henry County, Tennessee census. Page by page. My mission was to find a family that I couldn't find through a traditional search. I needed to cover my bases and see if they were listed with or under a different family name.

This search turned out to be an incredible and surprising look into the pre-Civil War South. There were people who were clearly plantation owners (the value of their real estate gives it away), and usually there were overseers either living with them or next door. There were also a lot of people whose professions were listed as Tobacconist. This of course leads me to believe that the crop of choice in the area was tobacco. One item that caught my eye were the number of twins in this county. I've never thought of twins being prevalent historically and being more of an anomaly. Well, not if you lived in Henry County. Makes one wonder what was in the water? Seriously, it did cross my mind that (if one had time) an interesting project would be to see if any of the parents of said twins were somehow related to each other in some way. Therefore sharing a twin gene.

However, my favorite discovery by far were two women living in the same house, whose occupation was listed as "Lady of Pleasure."[1] Even better, five families up from them is listed a Baptist Minister! Don't you just wish time travel was an option? I would love to know how that dynamic worked! I'm very curious about these two ladies as well. Only one is listed with a last name and there are a couple of kids living in the house too. It doesn't take much to imagine it was a tough life for them, but I do wonder how they got there.

[1] 1860 U.S. census, Henry County, Tennessee, population schedule, District 4, Paris Post Office, p. 53-54 (ink), dwelling 339, family 346, Martha; digital image, ( accessed 13 April 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1256.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Completed ProGen. Now What?

 Last week I had my final ProGen chat. All assignments are complete, along with peer reviews, and the readings. For those of you who don't know, ProGen is a 19 month program that focuses on the study of Professional Genealogy: A Manuel for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. Each month participants complete a reading assignment, a written assignment, and peer review of each other's assignments. It's a great program and I got a lot out of it. I've also made friends with the people in my group and will miss meeting with them once a month.

So what's next? Well, in some ways I'm taking this summer off..... or light. Last summer I was consumed with ProGen assignments, went to IGHR at Samford, and finished the NGS home study course. The summer before that I was immersed in the Boston University's Certificate in Genealogical Research program. This summer, I'm going to IGHR at Samford again. I'm lucky to have gotten into Elizabeth Shown Mills' class, so it will be a busy and intense week. My other summer adventure is attending the National Institute on Genealogical Research (NIGR) in Washington D.C. I'm so excited.

Other things on my "to do" for the summer would be running my kids around to one summer camp or another, taking them to the pool, and for all of us not to drive each other crazy (ha ha). I also need to take control of organizing my house, especially the office (as always). Until then, I'll spend this last month and change of the kids being in school to prep for the two institutes this summer. I have a lot of reading to accomplish before Samford, and a list to make of record look ups while I'm in D.C.

What are your plans for the summer?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Music Monday- Car Wash

Many people have memories associated with music. A song you heard on your first date, music that your grandparents always played, a song that made you smile, or one that made you cry. Music Monday, is a time to share those memories.

It's gotten pretty warm-- okay hot, here in the South. I was sitting outside at a restaurant the other day and heard the song "Car Wash" by Rose Royce. This song came out in 1976 and I remember seeing it performed on Soul Train, and being played at the roller rink (remember those?). I also remembered going through the car wash with my mom for the first time. It was so different than today's touchless car wash experience. There used to be actual people who would scrub down your car before it went through the wash. They also made sure your car antenna was down, so that it wouldn't get broken off. Then it went through the inner washing/drying assembly. I just thought this was the coolest thing! Since this was considered a luxury, at least in our house, we didn't do it that often. Maybe that is why it was such a memorable experience.

At any rate, it's classic 70's disco and I had to post the Soul Train clip. Check out the outfits and moves! I love it. A blast from the past. Besides what other song could make washing your car sound like so much fun?