Getting Back in the Swing of It – 2017 NGS Conference: Family Lives Here

My blog has suffered a bit since I began ProGen 18 months ago but I’m happy to say that I completed ProGen last month and it was absolutely worth all the work! Just in time too because I was, once again, fortunate enough to attend the NGS conference this year.

The ability to attend national conferences such as NGS is always an eye-opening and educational experience. The conference host city was Raleigh, North Carolina and the theme was “Family Lives Here”. Attendance was close to 2,500 this year and eleven hotels reserved room blocks for conference attendees. Most of those room blocks were sold out early last year! Normally I opt to stay in one of the room blocks, but this year the spousal unit came to North Carolina with me. So we chose to find lodging through AirBNB. I love AirBNB, you meet some of the most interesting people and many times the places you stay are far more comfortable than a hotel room!

The spousal unit and I decided to make a mini-vacation out of the trip to the conference so we left home a few days before the conference started. We had a great time making visits to Gettysburg and Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia and the American Civil War MuseumTredegar Iron WorksHollywood Cemetery and the site where Libby Prison once stood in Richmond, Virginia. While I was attending the conference, the spousal unit was able to visit with friends and made trips to a few battlefields. I wish I’d been able to clone myself and go with him!

NGS did a great job of getting presenters for a wide variety of topics. There conference had a heavy emphasis on North Carolina and southern states research, which wasn’t surprising considering the conference’s location. Since I don’t have any (currently) known North Carolina or southern ancestors, I opted to attend more methodology and organizational education sessions. Choosing education sessions are sometimes hit-and-miss so some of them were less applicable to my current level of knowledge than others, but I was able to take at least one item away from every session.

Some of the more notable sessions I attended this year were:

  • Scots-Irish Research Methodology and Case Study (speaker: David Rencher)
  • Your Portable, Sortable Research Log (speaker: Jennifer Dondero)
  • Using Third-Party Tools to Analyze Your Autosomal DNA (speaker: Blaine Bettinger)
  • From Record Group to Community: Analyzing Data Sets (speaker: Amy Giroux)
  • Clueless? Maybe Not (speaker: Jennifer Dondero)
  • The Genealogical Proof Summary: What It Is and Is Not (speaker: Gail Miller)
  • City Directories: The Solution to Finding Family Members In-Between Federal Census Ten-Year Gaps (Terry Koch-Bostic)

Out of this list of most notable sessions, I would say the top three (in order) were:

  1. “The Genealogical Proof Summary: What It Is and Is Not” with Gail Miller
  2. “Your Portable, Sortable Research Log” with Jennifer Dondero
  3. “From Record Group to Community: Analyzing Data Sets” with Amy Giroux
Unfortunately, the meal lectures were all sold out by the time I registered for the conference so I wasn’t able to hear any of those topics. However, the trade-off for that was more time on the exhibit floor. The exhibit floor was as busy as ever and it was fun visiting with all the vendors. Thomas Jones released a new book this year at the conference which NGS was selling at their booth called “Mastering Genealogical Documentation” and I decided to purchase it. I haven’t started reading it yet, but I’ll let the genea-hood know when I finish it.

I also decided to jump on the Evidentia bandwagon. I’m excited to learn how to use Evidentia; it looks like it will be a great help in my research!

New discoveries this year included a new app for mobile devices called JoyFLIPS and Atlas Preservation, Inc.

JoyFLIPS

JoyFLIPS is promoted as an unlimited scanning and cloud storage app. The interface looked really good on what I saw at the booth display. App functionality includes:
  • Automatic scan and save
  • Organize and share albums
  • Download copies anytime
  • “Tap and talk” (tell stories and create slideshows)
  • Ability for friends and family to comment by voice or text
  • FamilySearch direct upload
  • Optional physical memory stick storage
Their website indicates that they’ll be releasing an in-home photo scanning service soon, which is an interesting thought and I’m curious to see the specifics on that. JoyFLIPS is available via the web and mobile devices. I downloaded the app to my iPhone and I’m excited to try it out.

Atlas Preservation, Inc.

Atlas Preservation, Inc. is a monument and restoration supply vendor. It’s possible they may have exhibited in past years and I just missed them, but Atlas Preservation was a new discovery for me this year. I’ve been considering purchasing some D/2 cleaner for some family tombstones that have been blackened by tree sap but hadn’t really looked into it much. Having the opportunity to speak with someone knowledgeable in the use of D/2 was helpful. While the only thing I inquired about was D/2 cleaner, I did notice that Atlas Preservation had a large selection of supplies available for purchase.

Again this year I stopped at the BCG booth a couple of times to try and get a look at some of the portfolios they bring along for attendees to look at but, once again, the booth was always too busy for me to get a look at anything.

It was great to have the opportunity to greet current friends and make some new ones. I’m looking forward to attending NGS 2018 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Oh, and I almost forgot! NGS announced that the 2019 conference would be back in St. Charles, Missouri! YAY, I can’t wait for 2019!

And because I couldn’t pass up the chance to stop and view it in person, the spousal unit and I stopped at the Indiana Military Museum in Vincennes, Indiana on the way home to see my second great-grandfather’s Civil War letter that’s on display there.

Civil War era letter from Chester E. McCabe to parents Doddridge McCabe and Olive Knapp McCabe
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Remembering Pearl Harbor

Today is the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The event shocked the population of a nation who had been enjoying a typical American Sunday…until they received news of the attack that damaged or sank the entire U.S. fleet which resided in Pearl Harbor.  The devastation that occurred wasn’t contained to property or the immediate aftermath of the attack.  Many military personnel were injured or died and collateral damage was widespread, stretching from the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans to the tragedy of years of war.

Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view (Wikipedia)
Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view1

Among those military personnel serving in Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack was my husband’s grand uncle, James M. Newell.  Uncle Jimmy served as a “lookout man in the crow’s nest on one of the American warships.”2  He was on board one of the fleet ships when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred.  Soon after news of the attack was published, his death was reported on 12 December 1941 in The Wichita Eagle3 and also in The Emporia Gazette.4  But unlike many military personnel, Jimmy’s story doesn’t end there.  He was not one of the many casualties of Pearl Harbor, though for at least five days his family thought he was.  On 3 January 1942, The Emporia Gazette reported: “Mr. and Mrs. Harry Newell, Wichita, have official word their son, James M. Newell, 18, was not killed in the Pearl Harbor attack as they previously had been notified.  Five days after being notified the soldier had been killed, the Newells received a card from him.”5

What an emotional roller coaster that must have been for the family.  It must have been devastating to receive the news of his death.  And how joyous it must have been to receive Jimmy’s subsequent card.  And what an experience for young Jimmy.  Newspapers say he was 18 when Pearl Harbor occurred.  He couldn’t have been in the Navy for very long and must have just finished his training not long before December 1941.

An original copy of the newspaper containing the front page article announcing young Jimmy’s death hangs, framed, in the hallway of my in-laws’ house.  It was quite an eye-catching piece for a confirmed genealogy-addict like myself and I couldn’t resist asking for details about it.  My most-wonderful-father-in-law very much enjoys telling a good story and was happy to share Jimmy’s tale with me.  What perseverance it took for the men and women of that time period to gather the shattered pieces of the world they knew and move forward.

“The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application, and perseverance under the promptings of a brave, determined spirit.” Mark Twain6

“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Christopher Reeve7

Please take a moment to remember all military personnel today.  If you see one, thank them for their service.  “All gave some and some gave all.”8

American Flag from Unsplash by Jake Ingle
Photo by Jake Ingle9


1 “Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view” by Unknown – Official U.S. Navy photograph NH 50930.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Attack_on_Pearl_Harbor_Japanese_planes_view.jpg#/media/File:Attack_on_Pearl_Harbor_Japanese_planes_view.jpg

2 “James M. Newell Is First Reported Casualty of City,” The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, KS),  [12 December 1941], p. 1: col. 1; microfilm image.

3 “James M. Newell Is First Reported Casualty of City,” The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, KS),  [12 December 1941], p. 1: col. 1; microfilm image.

4 Unknown Author, “Wichita Sailor Killed at Sea,” The Emporia Gazette (Emporia, KS), electronic newspaper, archived, (https://www.newspapers.com/image/10245496/?terms=james%2Bm.%2Bnewell: accessed 7 December 2015), p.8, col. 5.

5 Unknown Author, “Good News,” The Emporia Gazette (Emporia, KS), electronic newspaper, archived, (https://www.newspapers.com/image/10248545/?terms=james%2Bm.%2Bnewell: accessed 7 December 2015), p.1, col. 2, para. 1.

6 Mark Twain, William Dean Howells and Albert Bigelow Paine, The Mark Twain Autobiography + 3 Biographies (e-Art Now Editions, 2014); digital images, Google Books, https://books.google.com (https://books.google.com/books?id=fmlCBAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=isbn:8026804643&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjA6Jag38vJAhVHtoMKHcyIBO8Q6AEIHTAA#v=onepage&q&f=false: acccessed 7 December 2015).

7 Christopher Reeve, Still Me, (New York, The Random House Publishing Group, 1999), p. 267.

8 Cyrus, Billy Ray. Some Gave All. S.n, 1992. CD.

9 Untitled Photo of American Flag, Unsplash, digital images, https://unsplash.com (https://unsplash.com/photos/-rTqa1F_FaU: accessed 7 December 2015).

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Busy, busy, (genealogically) busy!

Time flies when you’re having fun!  I realized this weekend how long it’s been since I posted on my blog.  But just because this blog has lacked activity, doesn’t mean yours truly hasn’t been busy.  On the contrary, I’ve been hopping on my genealogy since attending NGS in May.  Here are a few things I’ve been working on:

  • Contacting cousins from Ancestry and GedMatch – I’ve made some new cousin contacts!  Now that’s some exciting stuff right there 🙂
  • Trying to match the name transition from Mackay to McKee – I’ve not been successful in this yet but I’m hoping a journey to the ancestors homeland will shed some light on the subject.
  • Planning a research trip – This is actually going to happen soon.  And I couldn’t be more excited!
  • Education – This is so important.  Since I’m currently in a transition period from hobby genealogist to genealogist-pursuing-certification I’ve been working hard on this part of my research.  And I absolutely consider this to be part of research because I’m learning better ways to research as well as learning appropriate sourcing and citation.  I’ve completed the beginning GenProof course and am working on the advanced GenProof course.  This past week I was informed that I had been accepted into one of the upcoming ProGen courses.  I almost jumped up and down at work because I was so excited about my acceptance.
  • Digitizing family paperwork – I am still scanning family documents as I have time.  It’s a very slow process.

I made a trip to the Midwest Genealogical Center last week hoping to find some information on the Mackay to McKee name transition.  While I located some information on the family which was very exciting it was not what I was hoping to find.  I won’t complain too much though since I was able to find this bonus material.  I’ve also been waiting on Alien file paperwork and Naturalization file paperwork for D1’s grandmother from the USCIS.  I realize I’m an impatient person but it seems like it’s taking forever to receive the paperwork.  Patience is a virtue, but one I don’t readily possess.

In July I had the chance to attend the reunion of some family members we hadn’t seen in almost 20 years.  I can’t tell you dear readers what a joy that was.  I sincerely hope we’re able to remain in contact with the extended family that attended.  D1 was such a trooper, driving the parental unit and me around to several different cemeteries in North Dakota.

Cemeteries visited in North Dakota

Cemeteries visited in North Dakota

At one of the cemeteries we visited we arrived while the caretaker was doing lawn upkeep.  We weren’t sure whether we had relation in the cemetery but there were Kruegers in the cemetery and we were in the area so we decided to stop.  We checked in with the caretaker to make sure we weren’t going to interrupt his work and discovered that no only had he lived in the area for his entire life (born and raised) but he was related to the Kruegers in the cemetery.  Very closely related.  In the neighborhood of brothers, parents, grandparents, etc.  We talked for a good deal of time and heard the refrain of “not related” but we recorded our visit anyway on the off chance of just in case of relation.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church

Holy Trinity Catholic Church

As part of the reunion festivities we visited the church which that side of the family had attended for years and where many family members were baptized.  It was beautiful inside.  Gorgeous stained glass windows and beautiful architecture.  Despite the bugs and heat it was a good trip.  Honestly, I’ve yet to have a bad trip to North Dakota.  I’ve always received a very warm welcome from family and new friends when visiting and you can’t ask for more than that.

What’s been keeping you busy lately?

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Saving the Squalus

In May 2014 the spousal unit and I paid a visit to the Iowa kin en route from Nebraska back home.  I was working a conference in Nebraska and it was a great opportunity to stop in, see family, and talk some genealogy.  They were gracious enough to let me photograph and scan some items in their care that belonged to my Uncle Frank.  I haven’t had a chance to write much about the Conwell side of my family because I’ve been concentrating my efforts on lesser-researched branches of my family and the spousal unit’s family.

I think the Universe is trying to tell me to start writing about them.

Rewinding to March 2014, I briefly wrote about Uncle Frank (who is technically my great-uncle) in Christmas Came Early in Genealogy-land when a gentleman from Oklahoma contacted me about some Conwell family items that had come into his possession.  Several of these items belonged to Frank.  So I devoted part of a blog post to the excitement of first contact but didn’t pursue writing about the Conwell side.

During our visit the Iowa kin mentioned they planned to take some of Frank’s items to Bismarck, North Dakota where Antiques Roadshow was going to be filming.  We thought that was pretty cool and shared their excitement about the trip but it didn’t really enter our mind that they would really make it on the show.  But they did.  So what did they take?  They took items from Frank’s Naval career.  A very basic explanation of a salvage diver is a Naval diver who assists with any type of salvage operation.  They also have other job duties like construction and demolition but Frank’s 10 minutes of fame related to his work in salvage.

On May 23, 1939 the submarine U.S.S. Squalus set out on her final test dive.  Her final dive began well but ended in disaster when she sunk with her crew aboard.  In an unprecedented rescue, 33 of the crew who survived the initial disaster were rescued from the Squalus, which rested 240 feet below the surface.  As with any heroic effort, there was a great deal of publicity about the rescue of the Squalus crew and the divers involved in the rescue operation.  It was an effort worth the recognition it received.  Much less publicized was the salvage of the Squalus after the crew’s rescue.  This is the part of the diving operation Frank participated in.  Diving in 1939 was a very dangerous activity.  The environment was unpredictable and the equipment was cumbersome.  Ascending to the surface too quickly meant serious medical complications for the diver.  An incorrect move or calculation by a diver or sailors assisting the diver could mean an untimely end.

Diving Suit
                 Diving Suit (Pixabay)

So what does any of this have to do with Antiques Roadshow?  Frank was awarded the Navy Cross for his participation in the salvage dive.  His Navy Cross and citation along with a photo album of the salvage of the Squalus, a wooden carving of a diver (hand carved by Frank while on ship), and Good Conduct Medal were pieces of the collection which the Iowa kin took to the Antiques Roadshow taping.

Frank never talked about his medals that I can remember.  I don’t recall him mentioning the Squalus, nor do I remember him ever talking about having saved the life of a bystander watching the Squalus salvage operation but he made the newspaper for both of those acts.  I heard about all of it from my grandfather.  I also heard about the medical issues Frank had because of his diving activities from my grandfather.  My uncle was a man who enjoyed the company of family and thought the world of my son, nicknaming him “The Boss” when he was just a toddler.  I always equated him with the carvings which held real estate in my grandparents’, and then my parents’ homes.  They’re absolutely gorgeous carvings and each one was hand carved by Frank while he was ship-bound.

Conwell Frank Russell Deep Sea Diving Suit Carving
Deep Sea Diver carving by
Frank R. Conwell

The episode of Antiques Roadshow featuring Frank’s items aired on February 16, 2015 and can be viewed here for you dear readers who are interested.  A follow up article entitled “Saving the Squalus” was posted after the episode aired.

The Universe’s final knock on the door came recently.  A fellow researcher contacted me through Find A Grave asking if I was related to Frank.  When she found out how I was related she generously offered to send me copies of the diving log from the Squalus rescue and salvage operations, which not only had entries made by Frank, but also contained his signature and an entry regarding his treatment in a decompression chamber.

Frank was born 1 August 1912 in Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri to Edward Bell Conwell, Sr. and Zella May McCabe.  He joined the Navy in 1931.  During his time in the Navy he completed training for Carpenter’s Mate Second Class, Carpenter’s Mate First Class, Deep Sea Diving (attaining a dive depth of 300 feet in 1939), was awarded numerous swimming medals, a Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Navy America Defense Service Medal and Naval Cross.  He re-enlisted several times and obtained apprenticeship training as a plumber.  Frank married Maybelle Victoria “Mabel” Boileau on the 19 November 1940 in Norwich, New London, Connecticut.  They didn’t have any children together but Mabel brought one child into the marriage.  Mabel died on the 27 May 1988 in Jamul, San Diego, California.  Frank lived several more years and died on the 13 April 2001 in El Cahon, San Diego, California and is buried in Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, California.

On my lengthy list of genealogical documents to obtain is Frank’s military service record.  I’ve seen some of the photos he took while in service and am very curious where he sailed and what ships he served on.

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Google It!

How many times have we heard that from someone?  What was the score for that baseball game?  Google it!  How do you take care of an orchid?  Google it!  How do I locate my ancestors?  Google it!  Okay, no, it’s really NOT that easy (don’t all genealogists wish it was?) but Google can definitely be a friend in genealogy.

Obviously Google has become a tool which many, many people utilize.  That much can be determined by the use of the word Google as a verb and the fact that Google (as a verb) has made it into the online version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Which, I might add, is pretty funny to me since I’m of that age group that remembers when people used to tell you to look in the card catalog.

card-catalog-prehistoric-googling
From The Dork Side (FaceBook)

You can use Google to help you research how to do just about anything, find just about any place or understand just about anything.  But have you, as a genealogist, Googled your ancestor’s name?  I’ve previously Googled a couple of ancestor’s names and had no luck finding anything so usually what I use Google for is your standard internet look up.  But the other night, on a whim, I decided to try Googling another name of one of my ancestors.  I wasn’t expecting to find anything but I needed a break from my research so I figured “what the heck!” and typed my ancestor’s name and last known location, Guian McKee Kentucky, into the search box and hit the search button.

The first few entries were some pretty standard items: a WikiTree entry, some old emails someone had posted to the internet and some Ancestry forum entries.  It was rather interesting to read the old emails and see that others had been searching for this same ancestor but it was one of the Ancestry forum messages that really intrigued me.  A user was asking anyone if they knew of a source for a book “Descendants of Guian McKee, Sr. & Abigail Lane” other than the Family History Library in Salt Lake.  And there was a reply to the question.  How exciting!  Even more exciting was the fact that the reply contained a link to a current blog that was supposed to have a synopsis of the book on it!  A quick perusal of the first few blog posts revealed nothing about the book or my ancestors but blogger KevinW had both a search box and list of labels on the right side of his blog.  Fantastic!  And what to my searching eyes should appear in the labels section but the name of “McKee”.  Even better!

Queue a click of the McKee label and perusal of the blog posts lists under it.  This led to an immediate add of the blog to my Feedly genealogy feed because it was quite obvious KevinW was researching another branch of Guian’s descendants.  Now I was wondering why in the world I hadn’t done this sooner?

I always try and contact potential cousins on the off chance that they might want to exchange information.  Most of the time I strike out, but lately, I’ve been getting lucky and finding cousins who are happy to exchange information.  KevinW was one who was glad to share his knowledge.  I now have some new reading material thanks to his willingness to share what he knew about Guian.  I hope one day I can return the favor.

There are some tricks to Googling your genealogy.  Find My Past posted a good article here by Daniel M. Lynch which discusses some tips and tricks to Googling your family tree and Kimberly Powell wrote a good article on About.com which provides 25 Google search tips for genealogists.  Lisa Louise Cooke has some fantastic resources on using Google in your genealogy, both paid and free.  You should take a minute to check out her website here.  Typing “Google” into her website search box will provide you links to past blog posts about Google and it’s tools (if you haven’t seen her webinar on Google Earth you are absolutely missing out!) and she’s got several Google-related items which have received really good reviews in her online store.

Googling your ancestor can be hit or miss but, as with any tool, learn how to use it and it can provide you with successful results.  And remember: “If at first you don’t succeed, call it Version 1.0.” (Author Unknown)

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