Archive for October 17th, 2007

The things I miss

when I am in an exam. Someone told me that a really interesting show came on last night right before Frontline. She only caught a small part of it, but it seemed to have been about genetics and maybe some kind of ancestral genetic determination. My curiosity sent me straight to the listings. It was this week’s episode of NOVA entitled Ghost in Your Genes. I will have to try and set the vcr to tape the rerun at 3 am. I can’t remember the last time I used the vcr so it should be interesting.


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The Generations Network published a press release today regarding Spectrum Equity’s buyout. TGN CEO Tim Sullivan is quoted:

“Spectrum Equity has been an incredibly supportive and strategic-minded investor in our company for several years, so I am thrilled to have them acquire this majority interest in The Generations Network,” said Tim Sullivan, company President and CEO. “2007 has been the company’s most successful and profitable year to date, and 2008 looks even more promising as we grow our core businesses further, expand our global presence, and innovate with new products and services that help us realize our mission to connect families across distance and time. I appreciate Spectrum’s vote of confidence in our direction and vision, and I am excited to work even more closely with Vic Parker and Ben Spero to continue to transform this amazing and unique business into a truly great company.”

Buzz to follow soon I imagine.

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It has been one week since I installed Family Tree Maker 2008 from the replacement disks they sent me and things appear to be going much more smoothly. A couple of things need tweaking but my computer no longer runs like molasses on a cold day with it installed.

I was comforted to see the message installing Family Tree Maker 2008. I don’t know what all that beta stuff was about. Distant memories of former employment make me not want to ask. I know how messed up projects under deadline can get.

There was a warning about a file that failed to copy and a problem with the map in the places view. Their tech support lines were still pretty busy last week so I didn’t get the chance to ask someone about it. I’m happy, as long as things remain stable and nothing else pops up. I can get back to doing what I enjoy.

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I was tag surfing yesterday and came across this post at the weblog of Will Woods. It made me think about how enthusiastic I was when I was beginning my research and how quickly I became disappointed at my slow progress. (It was really slow.) So I wrote a little encouraging letter to the me that was myself back then and came up with what follows.


10 Things I Wish I Knew in the Beginning

1. Go to the library. I am amazed at the number of people that are unfamiliar with their local library. Go there now. Make note of their hours of operation. Get a library card if you do not have one. Find the reference desk. Ask if they have a handout that lists their holdings of use to genealogists/family historians. Ask if they participate in interlibrary loan and what is the procedure for requesting materials. Is there a fee? Find out if there is an employee that has a specific interest in the subject and make an effort to connect with them. Librarians are our best friends.

Don’t overlook specialty libraries, public and private. Our city library has a whole branch library devoted to history and genealogy materials. State and federal entities have archives with reading rooms (NARA, TSLAC). Universities have libraries and you might be surprised at what you can find in them. Churches have libraries (LDS). Fraternal and social organizations have libraries (DRT, Masons). Go now and find them.

2. Join the local genealogy society. The annual dues are dirt cheap, $20 for my local group. In exchange I get a monthly newsletter, a quarterly publication, different speakers at every monthly meeting as well as a help desk, seminars for beginners, “brick wall” seminars, a regional annual seminar and group rates on research trips. This month, the field trip was to Salt Lake City to spend a week at the Family History Center (the big one). You will find all the help you can possibly need. You also have the opportunity to meet some really nice people and give back to the community. These groups are regular contributors of materials and equipment to those aforementioned libraries.

3. Educate yourself. Learn the difference between primary and secondary sources and why it is important to know the difference. Learn the difference between proof and evidence and how to evaluate the information you find. Find a book on citing sources. I have a copy of Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian but there are others.

4. Question what you find. There are published genealogies out there, especially on the internet, with bad information. Transcriptions can have typos. The census can be very helpful and is a lot of fun but it is only a secondary source. I have found many errors in it. It is important to have primary sources and more than one source whenever possible.

5. Prepare to be humbled. What you thought you knew (or what grandma, or anyone else thought they knew) may not be the case. Your ancestors are real people. If it will bother you to find out that your great-great-grandfather was a criminal, in the poorhouse or insane, don’t go looking for him. Human beings are complex creatures. Expect to find joy and sadness.

6. Getting dirty is all the fun. My favorite part, be willing to go to courthouses, sort through dusty boxes in your relatives’ basements and walk around in cemeteries. Wear sturdy footwear and don’t forget to stop for lunch. Think about water, sunscreen and insect repellant.

7. Leave no stone unturned. When you hit the wall, ask yourself, “What am I missing? What have I overlooked?” Always be open to synchronicity, it is a big part of this endeavor. Ask anyone that has been doing it for very long. You’re liable to get an earful. Turn on your intuition.

8. Ask and you shall receive. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Most genealogists are sympathetic to the limitations of distance and time. I once emailed a USGenWeb county coordinator on the west coast to find out if she knew how I could get a copy of an obituary for a long lost relative. The microfilm of the 19th century local newspaper was at a library somewhat near her (non-circulating). I was unable to locate a circulating copy anywhere. Her response, no problem. Next time I go to the library to do my research, I will look for it for you. A couple of weeks later, I received a transcription with citation via email. I couldn’t thank her enough and offered gas money for her trouble. Her response, no thanks, just pay it forward.

9. Don’t expect a free ride. As the owner of a glass shop once told me, there is no such thing as a cheap hobby. Free sources are limited and eventually you will have to spend some money. Fortunately there are many things you can do that are much more expensive. More importantly, if you have received assistance, it is your obligation to find some way to reciprocate. Pay it forward.

10. Publish. What’s the use in doing all this work if you can’t share it with anyone? Start a family newsletter. Create a website. Write an article for your genealogy society’s publication. There are many ways to share what you have learned.


Numbers 2 and 8 came to me very late. There’s something to beginner’s mind though. If you don’t have any preconceived notions, you are open to everything that you find.

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