Monday, August 27, 2012

Are You Going to FGS?

The Federation of Genealogical Societies is holding their annual conference this week from August 29th through September 1st, in Birmingham, Alabama. As usual it promises to be a good event, chock full of great speakers. The only hiccup so far is the weather. Hurricane Isaac is not only causing problems on land, but with people's travel plans too. The impending inclement weather has also caused the cancellation of the Thursday evening event at Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark.

I managed to figure out how to get down to the conference for just a day. I'll be driving down on Wednesday, attend the conference on Thursday and drive back that night. Why am I doing this? Well, Birmingham is only a two-and-a-half hour drive away for me. I'm really interested in the DNA track, and I really want to look at the BCG portfolios at the BCG booth. I looked at a portfolio a few years ago, was completely overwhelmed, and didn't quite understand what I was looking at. Now I understand the required elements better and would like to take some more time looking at a completed binder. There are also a few vendors I want to check out as well. It will be a very busy day and I've got my list ready so that I don't forget anything while I'm there.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Remembering Phyllis Diller

When I heard that Phyllis Diller passed away I felt sad, but I also smiled. I'll tell you why.

I lived in Los Angeles for a number of years working as a photo editor for movie studios and later as a elementary school teacher. During that time I also worked as a free lance photographer on weekends and picked up the occasional catering gig for a company to earn a little extra money. As you know teachers don't make a lot of money and neither do photo editors.

Anyway, one of these catering jobs was at Bea Arthur's house in Hollywood. When most people think of a star's house, they think of a big fancy place full of splash and glamour. Well Bea's house was pretty modest, simply furnished, and looked a little like the "Golden Girls" set. What was remarkable about her house was the backyard. Real estate is at a premium in Los Angeles, especially in Hollywood. This backyard was HUGE. It stretched very far back.

I don't remember what the purpose of the party was. Sadly, Bea seemed a bit confused and befuddled. Her companion/assistant basically ran the show, so to speak. There were a bunch of actors and industry types there, and it was our job to serve drinks, pass appetizers and work the buffet line. One of the people invited to this party was Phyllis Diller. This was exciting! She was not only somebody I watched as a kid (in reruns), but she was a Legend. She was a pioneer. I was thrilled! Phyllis was a ground breaking female comedian. The first of her kind. This was why I was so excited, not necessarily because she was a star, but for what she accomplished.

Now what makes me smile every time I think of her? Her laugh. At this party I discovered that Phyllis has one of the most distinctive laughs I have ever heard. This laugh was no dainty giggle. It was an all out startling, filled with mirth, long, reverberating, goose honk of a laugh. To hear it, made you giggle. At one point I was serving from the buffet line, when Phyllis laughed. It so happened that I was serving Alicia Silverstone right when this laugh ripped through the backyard (Phyllis was at the very back of the yard). Alicia jumped, looked utterly startled and said, "What was that?!"

"Oh, that's Phyllis Diller laughing," I replied.

Alicia looked at me confused and said, "Who's Phyllis Diller?"

It was my turn to look confused. How could she be in the industry and not know who Phyllis Diller was? I quickly gave her an explanation, she didn't seem all that impressed, and walked away. To say I was surprised is an understatement. However, other people seemed to know Phyllis and given the amount of laughing, she was having a great time.

So whenever I think of Phyllis, I think of that laugh. It makes me smile and sometimes giggle with the memory. She lived a long life that was full of achievement. I can only hope that right before Phyllis passed, she was able to have one last remarkable laugh.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ephemera of the Unrelated

The other day while my kindergartener was having his first half day of school I tackled organizing my office. I managed to get quite a bit done, but I still have a lot left to do. At least I can finally see the desk, which is an accomplishment.

Anyway, while filing papers and creating files for others I had a nagging question. What do you do with documents, newspaper articles, or general ephemera of people that share a surname of interest but seem to be unrelated? For example, I have a Civil War pension file of a George W. Fry born in Missouri and died in California. My ggg grandfather, George W. Fry, was also born in Missouri but died in Colorado. They were both born about the same time in Clinton County. So theoretically it's possible they are related somehow. After all, there was a large migration of Fry brothers that moved to this county in the early 1800's.

This same question came up during my week at NIGR in the reading room at NARA. There were a few of us that pulled records, only to find out that the person was not a relation. It seemed a little sad to send the record back to the stacks without making a copy. What if somebody could really use that record who can't make it to D.C., can't afford to order it, or doesn't know about its existence yet? One classmate said that she takes a photo of a few pertinent pages and posts information on a tree on This seemed like a nice idea, but I wasn't clear on how she manages or arranges the information on the tree.

So for the time being I've placed the pension file in a hanging file folder labelled "Unrelated Fry." I have other stuff that I've put in similar folders under different surnames. I hate to throw it out for right now, especially down the road if it turns out to be a leaf on a far flung branch.

What do you do with these items? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Gotta Hankerin' For Some Whiskey

On Saturday I attended a lecture, "Discovering the Records of Tennessee, Kentucky & Whiskey Stills" presented by J. Mark Lowe. I really didn't know what to expect before I got to this lecture, but I figured I wouldn't be disappointed... and I wasn't.

Mark discussed terminology for various different types of travelers. This could be the why's and how's of people who moved first, moved as a group, the ones that stayed behind, the mysterious outlier individual that shows up moving with a group, and women. He also briefly discussed some research principles when tracking an individual.

Various still designs were also discussed, with illustrations provided showing the distilling process. In this case the focus was on whiskey. I also learned that Tennessee sipping whiskey is filtered through charcoal before going in the barrel. Is it surprising that I was suddenly keen on having a whiskey tasting? Could that be the end of the day surprise??

Next we moved onto maps. We spent a lot of time analyzing topographic maps and soil maps. Now you may wonder what does this have to do with genealogy? Well, topographic maps can help you determine why your ancestors choose to travel to a court house a farther distance away, rather than the one that was closer. If there was swampy land between your ancestor and the closer court house, compared to dry flat land to the farther court house... which do you think they would pick? The dry flat land of course. Who wants to chance getting stuck in a marshy critter infested swamp?? Knowing soil conditions is also helpful. Let's face it, many of our ancestors were farmers or land owners, that settled on land/soil that was familiar to them, from either the home country or elsewhere.

Finally, we looked at agricultural schedules. Mark gave us some hints to figure out who may have been producing whiskey. I was really curious about the ratio of grain produced compared to animal stock. Another words, what ratio of corn/wheat/rye/other grains grown would be used to feed the animals owned, what is used to feed the family, and what is the surplus used to make whiskey or some other liquor? I grew up on a sheep farm and it has been many years since I was involved with ordering grain and hay to feed them. My  memory is a little rusty on this. I also don't know what is involved with feeding cows or pigs, i.e. pounds of feed needed per head.

Anyway, the one consuming thought at the end of the day was whiskey. I was really wanting to do a whiskey tasting. I've been to countless wine tastings and a couple of cognac tastings (yum). However, I don't think I've ever done a whiskey tasting.

So did I have whiskey that night? No. Instead I went out to a sushi dinner with my husband, saw the new Bourne movie, and ate too many Milk Dud's. Overall, it was a great day!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What's New?

I haven't blogged for a while... I know. We are winding down from a busy summer around here. Last week I was on vacation with my family. It was wonderful and the kids had a blast. This of course meant that I didn't do anything genealogy related, only checked emails once, and didn't give Facebook any attention at all.

When we arrived home, late last Friday night, I had a box of free NARA publications waiting for me, that I requested while in D.C. I'm excited to do more than just skim through them. I also discovered that the 1940 census has been completely indexed. Apparently the next project up for an indexing push is U.S. Immigration and Naturalization records. And I had a death certificate waiting for me (yay!).

This week has been consumed with getting my boys ready for school, doctor/dentist appointments, and the Olympics. What can I say? I love the Olympics, which has caught on with my boys. We've been watching it together. All of this translates to not much time being given to genealogy (sigh) or blogging (sigh again).

I'm excited to get back into my routine. I have a lot of ideas to follow up on, research plans to write, and my NARA research findings to transcribe/extract data from. However, I've decided my top goal for the month of August is to get my office under control and organized. This sounds like a simple project.... it's not. It was quasi organized before summer break started and now it has mutated into complete chaos. Not exactly an exciting genealogical project, but one that is necessary.

So what goals do you have for the month of August?