It’s that time of the year again; the dreaded question of what do I get my ancestor-hunting family member for the holidays? Here are 10 gift ideas:
1. Clear Research Bag – I love mine as I can keep everything I need for boots-on-the-ground research in one place. Guards like it, too, as they can readily see you are not bringing in a dreaded ink pen, red especially, into their precious collections. Available on Amazon.
2. Genealogists like to take notes, make lists, research plans, and remember hints that are discovered that don’t quite fit with what they’re currently working on. These notebooks, available in two sizes, are perfect for jotting down ideas and odd finds. Available on Amazon and in a larger format.
4. I’m really trying to save trees but sometimes you just have to print. A ream of acid-free paper, print cartridges, and a packet of sheet protectors are definitely useful. Throw in a binder and your gift is complete.
5. I love my Dymo label maker. I can print out an address quickly for snail mail connections. I’ve labeled binders and file folders so everything can be found easily. In the past, I even used them for citations, then placed the label on a notebook page so when I went to the library, I could take notes under the citation. I use tech now but if your genealogist is old school, a Dymo is a good way to get them started using tech as it’s simple to install and use.
7. Boots-on-the-ground research is still necessary. Get family members together to chip in cash to contribute to the genealogist’s dream archive visit site. In the U.S., it may be Salt Lake City, Utah, Fort Wayne, Indiana, the National Archives in various locations, or perhaps an in-person conference. This gift will just blow them away.
8. Techie, are you? Then use your skills to video record an interview with your genealogist. Flip the tables – they’re always asking you and now it’s time for you to ask them. You can refer to my blog article here for question ideas or make it more personal – ask them “When did you begin your interest in family history?” “What has been the most difficult line you’ve researched?” “If you could meet one deceased ancestor you’ve discovered, who would it be and why?” “What ancestral home location would you love to visit?” “What ancestor just confounds you?”
9. If you’re artsy, then make a gift. My oldest decorated a mug so I can enjoy a cup of tea while I research. I’ve also been gifted over the years with t-shirts and my business logo on the bag noted in item 1. I’d even appreciate a gift basket of healthy snacks. Get creative!
10. Your time – the cost is nothing but the gift is priceless! Sure, you could care less about Great Uncle Waldo who discovered gold in them there hills but your genealogist family member would just love to tell you all about what they discovered. Humor them and schedule an hour or two after the holidays to listen and learn about your ancestors. You might surprise yourself and realize that this gift of heart was also meaningful for you.
Next week, tips on writing a short ancestor biography. Stay tuned!
After building your family tree you most likely have lines that you haven’t researched in a while. With every research hour you put in, you gain expertise. It’s time to go back to the far-flung branches and recheck your initial work.
Sounds like a pain, right?! Nope, I have a fun way to do it.
Since relocating to Indiana I’ve discovered that my state’s genealogical society supports a biography project. It’s called Once A Hoosier. I was surprised to see that not one of my husband or my pioneering ancestors had been included. How did that occur? Well, no one submitted a biography. If you check the location of your pioneering ancestors you’ll probably discover what I did. That means it’s time to get busy!
First, make sure your ancestor qualifies. In Indiana, the ancestor must have been born before 1950, is deceased, and lived in Indiana for part of his/her life or been buried there.
The society makes entry simple as they have a form filler to add the pioneer’s name, vitals, children/their spouses, and a space to type in a biography. You aren’t writing a book here so it’s not intimidating which makes this fun. It’s also a wonderful way to memorialize your ancestors. Most importantly, it’s a great way for you to check your records.
The form filler has no place to add citations. This could be problematic but I’m looking at it positively. We should always check out sources so, if you find an ancestor listed and you’re not able to find a source for the “fact” that was written, you can always contact the submitter for more information. This should be our best practice anyway. Not adding citations to your bio is also saving you time from having to type in a citation. As long as you can support the fact with your personal records, you’re good to go.
As I enter bios I’m fact-checking each of my citations. My husband, obviously by our surname, has a lot of Swedish ancestors. As I was writing a bio for his second great-grandmother Anna Elisabet “Lisa” Torstensdotter Erickson I questioned several pieces of information I had found for her. I had a Swedish baptism certificate and census records that never listed Elisabet as one of her names. Instead, Lisa was recorded. I checked with a Swedish genealogist to make sure I was understanding the records and discovered a lot about Swedish names. You can read more about Swedish names here. Unless you read Swedish, click Google Translate in the upper right-hand corner of the screen for English. Thank you, Annika Höstmad of Find A Swede Genealogy, for translating Lisa’s baptismal certificate and sharing this site.
We really don’t know what family called each other. After careful analysis I discovered where the name Elisabet came from – one immigration document that originated in the U.S. Elisabet was a well-used name in the family so I suspect that she may have formally been named Anna Elisabet but went by Lisa so the parish minister recorded Anna Lisa on the baptism record. Perhaps when she came to America she felt obligated to provide her formal given name. I can identify with that as it’s happened to me; I use my family’s pet name but after September 11th, I had to have many governmental records changed to reflect my formal given name on my birth certificate. So, I have an aka on most of my records now. In Anna Lisa’s case, in 1797 there were no formal governmental records so we’ll never know for sure what her given name was. I included that info in her bio.
If you’re wondering how you can get started on a bio project, simply do an internet search of the location where your pioneer ancestors resided. If a program isn’t offered or charges you and you don’t want to pay for that, then search for a larger regional society that may offer the program. I’ve discovered besides at the state level, that several Indiana counties also accept bios, too.
If you discover that your ancestor resided in a location that does not currently take bios, no worries. You can still write one up. Use any format you like or take one from a society that does offer the program. Then, .pdf it and save it with your ancestor’s records. Easy Peasy!
As I write, we’re experiencing our first snowfall of the season. Grab a cup of cocoa and enjoy reading blogs this weekend.
In late September my husband was contacted via Facebook by his first cousin who he had not seen in 50 years. We were not Facebook friends with this line so the message wasn’t expected. In August, after relocating, I wrote on Facebook explaining why we had suddenly pulled up roots in Florida and relocated to Indiana. Another cousin who is a Facebook friend told the cousin which is how my husband got the message. You know family, always playing telephone!
The cousin asked us to let her know when we had settled in our new home so we could come for a visit; the family lives about an hour and a half from us. We made that visit the first weekend in October which was timely, as the family was relocating to Florida for the winter the following week. We had lived in Florida for almost 50 years and never knew that they were coming down for 6 months each year for the past 13 years.
It certainly could be awkward to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in years, even if there had been no falling out. In our case, we simply moved away from where the majority of the family lived and raised a family, working, and maintaining a home, life just got in the way of keeping up a long-distance relationship. When my husband’s parents were alive they would keep us updated on family events but since they passed we just lost the connections. By the time Facebook came to be, it had been over 10 years since we had any information on the extended lines.
Yes, Facebook and other social media are very good tools to keep in touch with relatives but I’m just not into it. I don’t enjoy learning vicariously about friends and family. I go on it maybe twice a year to catch up. I much prefer text, phone, and face-to-face contact, even if that means Zoom or another service. If you want to reconnect, a message on a social media site is a great way to do that, however. After the initial few messages going back and forth and the exchange of emails and/or phone numbers, someone needs to be brave and make the phone call.
The call doesn’t need to be long, in fact, it’s better if it’s not. After exchanging pleasantries, get down to basic updates, such as we are fine and love (fill in the blank). Being positive is a good way to begin. I’m not saying don’t share bad news. If you’ve just been given a terminal diagnosis and want to reconnect quickly, by all means, share that.
In my case, I asked what a good time for our visit would be and was told any time after 10 AM. I said 11:30 AM would work for us and so the meeting was set. We arrive a few minutes early. I knew that lunch would be prepared for us but I wanted to bring a little something. If you don’t know the family well enough bringing a gift could have been problematic. I decided on a box of chocolates made by a local company. Alcohol, flowers, a desert, or memorabilia that belonged to that line could all work.
Let the person you’re visiting take the lead in the initial hellos. Some families are huggers and others aren’t. Some may still need you to mask up. Whatever the host family requires makes you a good guest.
We started with a handshake and smile that evolved quickly into hugs. Then we got a tour of their beautiful home on a lake. My husband has spoken of this lake for our entire relationship but I’ve never been there. He spent his preschool summers there. It was where he first fell in love with a nameless older girl who was about age 6; he tried to catch a perch with his bare hands for her birthday present. He loved climbing up on a chair to play on an old pinball machine in the family-owned store. The beach house had an upstairs with mattresses strewn on the floor for the children and he loved hopping from one to the other. There was an older man who made funny faces when he thought; my husband imitates him to this day.
Like most visits as an adult, hubby was surprised the lake was as small as it was. It seemed like an ocean to him at age 3.
After the outside/inside house tour, we grabbed a plate and sat at the table for some eating and reminiscing. You can ask if anyone objects to the conversation being recorded or not. I did not record. I also did not take photos. You could also take notes. Since we are living nearby we agreed we’d meet in the spring when I returned to their area to research. Perhaps then I may record and photograph.
The family knows I’m a genealogist so it wasn’t surprising that the talk turned to ancestors early on. I had to laugh when a second cousin remarked that one of his cousins who were not present had done a fantastic amount of research. Yep, I agreed, I sent it to him.
I should have brought my laptop to have my tree readily available but I didn’t. I promised to send two of the second cousins’ info about the Civil War and various other lines we discussed. Keep your promise!
We also caught up on what everyone had done in the time since we last met. Photo albums were passed around.
We were in for a surprise as one of the second cousins was going to take us out on his pontoon for a ride around the lake. We learned that there had been three stores during my husband’s time there; his aunt owned the one he recalled. I asked how the family came to the lake and was informed that the first cousin’s uncle on an unrelated line to us had discovered a cottage there and decided it was a wonderful place in the 1950s to spend the summer, away from the heat and congestion of the Chicago area. Other families came to visit and as property became available, more families made purchases. I learned my father-in-law encouraged his sister, a widower with two young children, to purchase a cottage and then one of the stores. Both sides agreed to help her out which is how my husband came to spend his summers there.
My husband and his older male first cousin laughed at how my husband loved Alley Oops and being held high by the cousin so my husband could dive off him into the lake. Good times! By the time my husband was 6 the cottage and store had been sold. So, how did these first cousins have property there now?
We were told that for 15 years after the sale the family frequently recalled the wonderful times they had there and wanted the same experience for their young children. It took them a year but finally, a cabin came up for sale. They’ve owned a place on the lake since 1976; as other lots/cabins became available they made additional purchases so now they and two of their children have a summer place. The daughter of the aunt who originally bought there also owns a place, along with one of her children. But there was more. . .
As we toured the lake I learned that they hadn’t been aware that there was even more distant kin that was neighbors. Right before the pandemic, a neighbor was having a garage sale. The female first cousin went to check it out and somehow, the conversation turned to funny family names. She remarked that she didn’t think they could top her husband’s cousins’ names – Milnut and Elzine. The garage sale folks were stunned and replied that they, too, had cousins with those names. They also had a number of other cousins who owned cabins around the lake. I’d say, a quarter of the lake cabins are owned by two lines who had become united through a marriage in 1941. And none of them knew they were related until one cousin met another at a garage sale. Weird!
When we returned home I immediately checked to make sure I had the garage sale man’s name in my tree and I did so I was able to let all of them know how they are related. I also was able to explain how Milnut (really Milnett Rosinda Emelia) and Elzine (really Edna Gladie Elzene) were related to all of them.
By reconnecting with a known line, we were able to connect with three other lines that had been disconnected probably prior to the 1960s. It is indeed a small world and finding all of this family in one location was a pleasant surprise.
Now comes the hard part, staying in touch! Make it a point to reconnect every so often. You’ll be glad you did.
Genealogy At Heart’s second blog article today is a book review of More Psychic Roots: Further Adventures in Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997). You can read here about my first blog today which covered Henry Z. Jones, Jr.’s Psychic Roots: Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993).
Again, here’s my disclaimer – I’ve read both books several years ago but not for the purpose of a book review. After my October 1st blog, October Genealogical Coincidences Part 1, was posted, I was contacted by a reader who requested I write the book reviews. I thought that was a wonderful way to end my series. I received no monetary compensation for these reviews, however, I did receive a free copy of both books.
Although Further Adventures is the sequel, the books may be read in any order. There are nearly 300 more uncanny genealogical experiences highlighted. Unlike Psychic Roots, the stories in Further Adventures were obtained from family historians who had either read the prior work or seen an episode of Unsolved Mysteries that featured Jones and several genealogists whose stories had been highlighted in the first book. Jones refers to the self-reporters as “grassroots” genealogists who bravely shared their odd experiences. He acknowledges that there are those who mock others who have had strange incidences occur, likely because the events happen unexpectedly and can’t be reproduced at will. He reminds the reader that many unexplained phenomena were once considered supernatural but as science progressed, are now understood.
Further Adventures is subdivided into different types of occurrences, such as dreams, researching at the archives, visiting a bookstore/cemetery/ancestral locale, mistakenly ordering the wrong material, or looking in an unlikely location, such as reading the first book, recognizing a surname, and finding a distant family contact with whom to connect. In the back of both books is a surname index. One of the surnames that I research, Harbaugh, was found in the sequel; I was familiar with the ancestor but not the contributor who has a different last name. I also recognized two stories included by one of my blog readers, Linda Stufflebean. Perhaps, you too will recognize a connection.
Further Adventures contains more than just odd reports, there are solid genealogical practices noted. My favorite is a story of a father and daughter’s attempt to find a remote cemetery location of an ancestor. They were thrilled to report to a family member that they accomplished their goal only to be asked by the relative, “Why didn’t you ask me?” Clearly, the importance of doing family interviews could save us time and travel.
The book also reminds us of the need to examine records in the counties surrounding where our ancestors once lived. This is definitely a sound practice. The value of documenting sources, staying abreast of current practices, and double-checking all evidence is emphasized.
Another recommendation is to trust our intuition. That little voice that nudges you to examine a hunch just might be correct. Flexibility in our research plan, a positive attitude and a sense of humor can lead to discovering the unexpected. As Jones points out, our immigrant ancestors gambled “their lives on the unknown” and took a great risk. Getting out of our comfort zone by picking a book at random might just lead us to a new discovery.
I especially like the idea “that when you help someone else, the favor is always repaid in full measure – maybe not by the recipient, but from somewhere a bonanza falls into your eager hands!” p. 186. I can attest to that.
This work does focus more on ghostly encounters and unconventional techniques, such as automatic writing, than the prior book. It was emphasized by a contributor, however, that serendipity does not come without research.
Although DNA was not as prevalent at the time the book was written, there is a broad mention of it. The work of philosopher Emmanuel Kant regarding gaining a priori knowledge is attributed to perhaps genetic programming we do not yet fully understand. LaVonne Harper Stiffler’s work on genetic connections of adoptees to their birth parents was also explored.
Jones’ final chapter is a mini-memoir of his relationships gained through his careers as an entertainer and a genealogist. It is here where the reader learns the root of Jones’ personal philosophy and genealogical practices. A touching tribute to his longtime collaborator, Carla Mittelstaedt Kubaseck, concludes the book.
I think it is fitting to house both of Jones’ works on my bookshelf next to Mills’ Evidence Explained. How does one cite the illogical occurrences that led us through a brick wall? I will ponder that on another day. For now, I appreciate all of the contributors, and especially, Jones, for revealing their strange encounters. I am also very thankful to have experienced many of my own coincidences and synchronicities. Personally, I don’t particularly care how they occur, I just hope they keep on coming!
With the extra hour you gain from this weekend’s time change, Genealogy At Heart has a 2-for-1 special today! As I conclude my synchronicity series I’ll be reviewing two books that are filled with genealogical coincidences. The first blog will cover Henry “Hank” Z. Jones, Jr.’s Psychic Roots: Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993). The second blog today is Jones’ follow-up, More Psychic Roots: Further Adventures in Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997).
Here’s my disclaimer – I’ve read both books several years ago but not for the purpose of a book review. After my October 1st blog, October Genealogical Coincidences Part 1, was posted, I was contacted by a reader who requested I write the book reviews. I thought that was a wonderful way to end my series. I received no monetary compensation for these reviews, however, I did receive a free copy of both books.
Psychic Roots is a compilation of professional genealogists’ stories of their odd experiences while performing research. Most occurrences happened when the ancestor was a family member, however, some transpired while research was being performed for clients. One of the book’s strengths is its reliance on input from professional genealogists, many renowned such as current or former fellows of the American Society of Genealogists, such as Henry Lines Jacobus, Helen F. M. Leary, John Insley Coddington, and Francis “Jim” Dallett. GRIP co-founder Elissa Scalise Powell is also included. Jones contacted 300 genealogists requesting they share any unusual experiences encountered while researching. Over 200 replied and many of their responses are contained in the book, including a few who had no strange occurrences at all.
The book begins with a tale of how Jones got bitten by the genealogy bug as a youth. Like many of us, genealogy was Jones’ second career. Some of you may recall seeing him on the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, in Disney’s Blackbeard’s Ghost, or on various television situation comedies before he left entertainment for family history.
Jones is a fellow of the American Society of Genealogists. Psychic Roots was not his first authored work. He is well-known for The Palatine Families of Ireland (1965) and the two-volume The Palatine Families of New York – 1710 (1985) for which he received the prestigious Jacobus Award. It was a result of those works that Psychic Roots came about; Jones could not let go of his passion for the emigrating Palatinates and he desired to explore why he was called to spend much of his life investigating them. Upon reflection, he recalled the many strange occurrences that led him to research findings.
Jones stresses “scientific methods” or as today, we would follow the guidelines in the Genealogy Standards. He delved into other disciplines to better understand the unexplainable events he had experienced. His research took him to the works of author Horace Walpole, who purportedly coined the word serendipity, psychologist Carl Jung’s collective unconscious, chemist Dr. Louis Pasteur’s view of chance, physician Dr. Jonas Salk’s intuitive thinking, physicist Wolfgang Pauli’s study of non-physical and non-causal events in nature, physicist Albert Einstein’s belief in intuition, and NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s ESP studies. He attended lectures by individuals, such as Ramond Bayless and Dr. Elizabeth McAdams, who investigated psychics. Jones examined Dr. Raymond Moody and Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ works on near-death experiences. He also looked for precedence in the field of genealogy and found it in “Randall-Pease-Hutchinson-Warner: A Study in Serendipity,” an article published in The American Genealogist by Winifred Lovering Holman in 1957. He includes a bibliography for further reading.
The types of nonrational experiences are explored in depth by chapters, divided by synchronicity, numeracy, intuition, and genetic memory.
The title, Psychic Roots, is a bit deceiving. If you’re expecting woo-woo, spine-tingling creepiness you aren’t going to find it here. You are more apt to have a belly laugh. This is one area that I think makes the book so successful; when dealing with sensitive situations, appropriate laughter can be useful and some of the stories are hilarious.
I found this book is much more than just the uncanny experiences of genealogists. There are many other discoveries to be made in Psychic Roots. For example, I found it interesting how Helen Leary researched; she did not use Write as You Go. No spoiler alert here; you’ll have to get a copy to find out her method.
Henry Jones reinforces other tips that genealogists can find helpful, such as researching the FAN Club, although that term wasn’t used at the time the book was published, collaborating with colleagues, and boots-on-the-ground research. If you attended Thomas Jones’ 2023 National Genealogical Society lecture, “It Gets Even Better Offline,” he stated in one of his examples that “This incident also illustrates how serendipity can play a role in genealogical research and in my experience there are more serendipitous findings in genealogical research offline than there are online.” The tales in Psychic Roots support that belief.
I could relate to many of the stories as I’ve found myself in similar frustrating situations when hitting a brick wall. One memorable account related how a researcher, in desperation, began speaking to a photo of the son of the man she was unable to find information about. Her family thought she was losing touch with reality until a few months later, after repeated requests directed at the photo, the information she sought was found. If only I had a photo of my Thomas Duer! Jones believes that both thinking and feeling about your ancestor, along with immersing yourself in their customs and societal norms is what leads to successful finds.
The book is a quick read and difficult to put down. While reading it I did have one strange occurrence. Somehow, my new smartphone decided to change my keyboard to Deutsch. I have no idea how that happened. It could have been a fluke or, it could have been Jones’ Palatine families wanting to communicate. Who knows what odd situation will happen to you when you pick up a copy! Let me know, I’d love to hear from you.