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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Let’s Talk Goals

The end of each year always brings with it a whirlwind of activity and with all that activity comes the realization that the list of things you meant to complete continues to grow in length. Then come the New Year’s Resolutions, those items you want to see happen or get done in the coming year. In 2013 Forbes posted an article titled Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It. which stated “But for all the good intentions, only a tiny fraction of us keep our resolutions; University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.” Wow, just single digit successes. And, sadly, I’m among the double digits who did not succeed with New Year’s Resolutions. Thus, I stopped making resolutions years ago because of this. A few years ago I began to realize that maybe it was simply time for a reorganization of my resolutions. Instead of resolutions, I would set goals to be completed throughout the year. Well, it’s taken a couple of years but I think I’m finally beginning to understand how to create goals that I can complete successfully. And now I feel like I can go back to creating a list of goals at the beginning of the year for completion during the year.

And it seems to be that type of year. Amy Johnson Crow recently posted about setting SMART genealogy goals in her post How to Set a Smart Genealogy Goal. Family Sleuther also referenced the SMART goals system in his post Genealogy Goals in 2016. These posts were a great reminder about the structure I should be using for my goals for the upcoming year. The concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals has been around for many years. One of the earliest references to S.M.A.R.T. goals is found in a November 1981 issue of Management Review. According to Wikipedia “The November 1981 issue of Management Review contained a paper by George T. Doran called There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management’s goals and objectives. It discussed the importance of objectives and the difficulty of setting them.” The S.M.A.R.T. goal system has stood the test of time and still provides a good structure for goal setting. So I decided to use the S.M.A.R.T. system along with the information from Five Golden Rules for Successful Goal Setting which was posted on MindTools.com to set my goals for 2016. Here’s what I came up with for my 2016 genealogy goals:

1. Submit assignments/homework for my ProGen class on-time or early each month.

2. Watch or participate in at least 3 genealogy education events each month. This would include things like webinars, online discussions, society meetings, etc.

3. Genealogy Do-OverFully participate in and complete the 2016 Genealogy Do-Over. I’ve been playing with getting my genealogy file cleaned up for the last year. Since the announcement of the discontinuation of Family Tree Maker I’ve been considering whether to change to a different software program for my family tree information. I downloaded and played with several programs and finally made the decision to change to Legacy Family Tree software. It was a difficult decision between RootsMagic and Legacy but Legacy seemed to fit my needs better. And since I was switching software and it seemed like a good time to go all in on the Genealogy Do-Over. Plus the new timeline of the Genealogy Do-Over suited my current work load much better than the previous timeline.

4. Get OrganizedActively participate in and complete DearMyrtle’s FINALLY Get Organized challenge. I struggle with organization anyway so interests or hobbies that require storage of anything really tax my few organizational skills. DearMyrtle has created a weekly checklist challenge to help those struggling with organization to finally get organized. I’m interested to see what DearMyrtle has in store for this challenge. It sounds promising and I can use all the help I can get!

These are the goals I’ll be starting out with in 2016. Since I’m participating in ProGen, the Genealogy Do-Over and FINALLY Get Organized I’m not setting any goals specifically for researching. I may set these types of goals after seeing where my time falls between family, work and the goals set out above but I want to set myself up for success on my goals this year instead of failure. And my wish for you, dear reader, is success as well. Success in whatever goals you may choose to set for yourself.

Here’s to all those that I love.
Here’s to all those that love me.
And here’s to all those that love those that I love,
And all those that love those that love me!
Author Unknown

Photo by Glen Carrie (Unsplash)

Photo by Glen Carrie (Unsplash)

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The Sky Is (Not) Falling

Ancestry succeeded in rocking the world of a large number of genealogists today with their surprise announcement that they would be retiring Family Tree Maker genealogy software at the end of 2015.  Cue Chicken Little and hoards of unhappy genealogists bearing pitchforks and flaming torches.

Angry Mob (clipartsheep.com)

Angry Mob (clipartsheep.com)

But hold fair citizens of Genealogy-land!  All is not lost and, nay, the sky dost not fall today!

First dear reader, I strongly encourage you to go read Ancestry’s blog post here.  Knowledge is power and Ancestry spells out exactly what their short-term plans are for Family Tree Maker software.  If you didn’t run off to read their much-discussed blog post and are still with me, dear reader, here’s a short recap of what Ancestry said:

  • Ancestry will stop selling Family Tree Maker software as of 31 December 2015.
  • Ancestry will continue to support the Family Tree Maker software at least through 1 January 2017.
  • All software features (including TreeSyncTM) will continue to function and Ancestry will offer support, bug fixes and compatibility updates at least through 1 January 2017.

So take a breath, dear reader, your Family Tree Maker software will not turn into a pumpkin at the end of December.  As a user of Family Tree Maker myself I freely admit that losing FTM sucks.  A few years ago I reconsidered whether I wanted to continue using FTM, tried out some other programs and discovered I was still happy with FTM so I dove into learning to utilize all available features in FTM.  I recently had started going through and making sure I had all my sources attached and properly cited (a project that I’m still currently working on).  Having put all that effort into my FTM file I was initially devastated when I read about Ancestry’s intention to discontinue FTM.  Genealogy isn’t just a hobby for many of us.  It’s a very personal crusade to find and remember our ancestors.  When we partner with organizations and allow them to be a part of our genealogical passion it becomes the ultimate betrayal when said organization doesn’t behave as genealogists feel it should.  But no matter how personal of a relationship we believe we have, these organizations are still businesses in the end and must do what they can to survive and thrive.  And there’s always another side to every story, though we may never know what it is.

At this point you may be grabbing your pitchfork or flaming torch and asking yourself what the point of this post is.  Quite simply the post is merely my opinions and intentions as a user of Family Tree Maker.  Change is never easy, but sometimes it’s for the best.  There are several other programs and apps on the market to try and choose between.  And here we arrive at my first opinion: there is plenty of time to research, review and choose new software.  There’s no need to dive headfirst into purchasing new software right away.  Many of the companies that are still offering genealogical software provide a free trial of their software.  Go download the trial versions and use them to the fullest capacity allowed by the trial version.  Heather Wilkinson Rojo of Nutfield Genealogy is writing an ongoing series called “Plan ahead for genealogy research without Family Tree Maker ~ Part 1 of an ongoing series” that I highly recommend following along with.  She lists several good resources that have already been posted on the WWW.

Which brings us to my second opinion: look at this as an opportunity…an opportunity to wrangle those loose ends and clean up your genealogy.  Thomas MacEntee started a great, free program called the Genealogy Do-Over.  There are different ways to participate in this program and it’s an excellent way to check your research, make sure everything fits the way it’s supposed to, cite your sources and (in general) clean up your genealogy.  Besides the Do-Over website, Thomas has created a Genealogy Do-Over Facebook Group which is a great location for discussion and resources (even if you don’t plan to participate in the Do-Over!)

And for the trifecta, my third opinion: continue learning and trying new things.  Sometimes as genealogists we get stuck in a rut.  Running the same searches, looking at the same databases, checking the same sources over and over hoping to find some new information.  We must be careful to avoid becoming stagnant and try hard to remain flexible.

Also keep in mind, Ancestry hasn’t really made mention of long-term plans.  While they may be choosing to discontinue FTM at this point in time, there may be another idea currently in development.  Or they may choose to focus on other things instead.  New technology isn’t an overnight creation.  It takes time, effort and manpower.

So, dear reader, take a breath and look to the future.  It has a bright and beautiful sky.

Untitled Photo by Reymark Franke (Unsplash)

Untitled Photo by Reymark Franke (Unsplash)

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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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Questioning My Sanity

Currently, the prevailing thought in my head is “What did I get myself into?”  I couldn’t help it though, the timing was perfect and it seemed like a good thing to do at the time.  I’m sure you’re wondering what I got myself into this time.  Well, I signed up for ProGen.  For those who don’t know what ProGen is, the ProGen Study Group is a book study group that focuses on the book Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians (edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills).

progen_book

Each month course attendees are given reading and written assignments related to the material.  They also participate in online discussion groups to talk about the current topic and offer constructive feedback to their peers.  This study group is not for the faint-of-heart, however.  It’s an 19-month commitment and formatted for genealogists who have professional level research experience.  Hence me currently questioning my own sanity.  I’m not a professional genealogist by any means.  But after attending NGS and speaking to a number of ProGen alumni I began to realize that ProGen would be a great opportunity to learn to be a better genealogist.  I have no doubt that it will be hard.  Probably one of the hardest courses I’ve ever taken.  But in addition to being intimidated and completely overwhelmed by the thought of spending 19 months taxing my brain and my skills, I’m also extremely excited.  I’m pushing myself to learn more, be better and gain experience in a field that has become a great love for me.  I heard a TED speaker the other day that I think really said it best: “I think the thing that stops people from doing it [being creative] is always exactly the same thing, which is fear. And what I’ve discovered over the years is not that you have to be fearless…I think instead what you have to do is recognize that fear and creativity are conjoined twins.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, “Where Does Creativity Come From?” http://www.npr.org/2014/10/03/351554044/where-does-creativity-come-from).

Alright then, let’s do this.  Fear, your twin Creativity and I are going for a ride.  We know you’re coming along so hop in back but you’re not allowed to make any decisions on this trip, you’re only allowed to come along for the ride.

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