Small, Small World

Disney is right – it’s a small world after all! Just back from my travels through the jungles of Central America with a family member and the similarities I’ve encountered were quite interesting.

First stop was Grand Cayman; our driver gave us historical insights as he took us around the island. The cemeteries, above ground, reminded my of New Orleans. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out if you can’t go down you go up! The colorful island flowers left on graves was a custom that I’ve found everywhere. It’s nice to see the commonality of remembering our ancestors.

Next we visited Honduras which reminded me of the West Tampa neighborhood. At the beach we met a local who told us about his educational journey from the island to the mainland for high school. He received a technical degree in air conditioning but was unable to find work so he returned to his birth island. Sure, wars, religious persecution, natural disasters and limited marriage opportunity influence migration but I’ve found with my own ancestors, it was mostly the desire to find work that created wanderlust. I truly believe that Maslow should have put work as a basic need on his hierarchy. We, as genealogists, need to keep in mind occupation as an important factor for movement.

I love Belize! Any country that only has 5 working stoplights and people with a warm and funny attitude is my kind of place. It was in the jungle, however, where I met 3 guides that shared their love of genealogy. All had had their DNA done. Two were 100% Mayan and one was 1/3 Mayan, Spanish and African. In a remote jungle would be the last place on earth I think I would be talking DNA with someone I met but well, it happened. Their genealogy is oral which is probably wise since we all know what happens when computers crash. In their case, there isn’t electricity close. I wish I could have the capacity to remember my maternal and paternal lines as well as they do.

Our last stop was an adventure at Tulum, Mexico and spending half a day on Mayan land. We had authentic lunches in both Belize and in Mexico and I had to laugh at the staple similarities – chicken, beans, rice, and fruit with slight variations in preparation – different seasonings. When I came back and spoke with family, friends and colleagues I got similar comments which applies to my own family. If your grandmother was known for a specific dish and your mom and you tried repeatedly to replicate it with no success, well, that seems to be a worldwide commonality. I cannot for the life of me make my mother’s flaky apple turnovers. She came up with her recipe because she couldn’t make her mother’s to die for apple strudel. A friend told me she has given up making her mom’s fruit iced tea because she can’t get it right, even with her mom standing over her. The patient guide in Belize gave me the recipe but I bet when I make it, it will not taste as delicious. Guess I’m just going to have to go back!

Genealogical Kindness Needed

Seriously, folks, I’ve had my fill this week of dealing with difficult people. IMHO, life’s too short for bad manners.

I have a very large online public tree on several sites. The reason it’s large is because I’ve done surname studies over the last 20+ years for several lines with unique names – Duer, Harbaugh and Leininger. Taking the last family history book published, that would be 1947 for the Harbaughs and 1973 for the Leiningers, I’ve add all the info into the tree from those sources and then tried to prove the info was correct by adding additional citations. I then tried to update the original works going forward so that family could reconnect. The Duer information was unpublished; I received it from a family historian about 2010.

The gateway ancestor’s for all of these lines died in the 19th century or earlier so some of those included in the tree are far removed from my direct line. I don’t personally know these people. I made the tree public to help reconnect and aid in correcting any errors.

Three times this week I have heard from distant relatives and the comments/emails were rude. One woman told me my tree was confusing her. I offered to help but needed to know what was confusing about it. She said I had no pictures for a person she was interested in. Huh? I understand visual learning but really, you’re complaining because there was no picture.

Later that day, someone posted a comment that they were sure I was wrong about a gateway ancestor because they had their Y-DNA done. I responded to please share and I’d be happy to look further. No response. I wouldn’t have been concerned if the individual had emailed me privately but to post a comment and then not respond when someone is willing to check further is wrong.

That evening, I hit the trifecta when someone commented on another line that he was certain “you must have made this up.” I was taken aback. Did you not look at the citations? Did you not see my comment that mentioned I concurred with other researchers that it was possible two brothers were confused so I included both names as the possible father?

The old adage we can choose our friends but not our relatives applies here! That last comment ticked me off so much that I considered making my tree private. I haven’t done so because I think the good outweighs the few thoughtless individuals.

Thanks, dear readers, for reading my rant. Please help me spread genealogical kindness this week. It’s sorely needed.

I will be taking a much needed vacation so will not have a blog post until I return the end of July.

Artifacts on eBay – A Must Read


I recently read a fascinating story in The Weekly Genealogist, the online edition published by AmericanAncestors.org about stolen artifacts being sold on eBay. The blog, Rare Colonial Documents Found on eBay, originally published by the Smithsonian, is a must read if you search for documents on eBay as I do.

Although I knew that each state has laws regarding record retention, it never occurred to me to search them when I discovered something that just wasn’t quite right. I assumed (ahem, wrongly!) that the document must not be an original or had been disposed by the government and some nice person saved it from a dumpster.

I discovered my several times great grandfather’s indenture records on eBay a few years ago. There were other individuals listed on what appeared to be a court ledger page. The price was steep and I didn’t buy it. I did cite where and when I found it and using the snipping tool, saved a picture of it. The seller was overseas and it never dawned on me to report him/her. Now I know better.

Goodbye, FHL Microfilm Rental!


If you haven’t seen the latest news about renting microfilm for use at local Family History Libraries, then you need to check out this link NOW.

I don’t rent as much as I used to because the records for the areas where I do the most research are online at FamilySearch or it just never will be and I’ve had to rely on methods other than microfilm. My last film request was in March and I’ve been going through my pending projects to see if there’s any films I’ll need soon. Of course, I can’t predict the need of the next Client. Genealogy Murphy’s Law will result in a new Client meeting on September 1st for a microfilm need that I wouldn’t be able to obtain.

My advice if you’re planning to rent is don’t delay – you’ve only got 2 months left and most likely will be a flurry of activity on the shipping side. After you get the email from Salt Lake that your films have shipped, make a note to call your local library a few days later to verify the films have been received.

A colleague has concerns that not everything will be available online due to legal agreements previously made with the record holders. That means, waiting patiently until 2020 will still not allow you to view the films online. In those cases, you’ll have to either travel to Salt Lake or hire someone local to do a look up for you because those films will not be shipped locally any longer. If your research is extensive and you’re on a budget, it would probably be best for you to do the research in person. My favorite time to go is late winter into early spring as it’s not so busy. I’m thinking I may skip the NGS Conference next year and travel to Salt Lake instead.

If you can’t make a trip and need to hire someone, I’d highly recommend asking your local genealogical society for referrals. If they haven’t used anyone, then check out the Association of Professional Genealogist’s site. APG members sign an ethics agreement and in the unlikely event your have a problem, you can reach out to APG for assistance.

I have such mixed emotions about the end of microfilm. I’m not sure what my attachment is; I sure didn’t shed a tear when the world moved from Beta, 8 tracks, my Garmond GPS, or hardwired phones. Maybe it’s because I have so many memories of so many places and so many finds that make me a tad sad about the demise. Perhaps it’s becoming one with the record in a dimly lit room and the comforting whirring sound of the machine as I rewind it speedily. I’ll miss sharing in a happy dance when the stranger sitting next to me makes a phenomenal find.

Of course, there’s so many reasons why this move is a good thing. It’s just, well, like the old song says, “Breaking up is hard to do…” RIP Microfilm Distribution. 1859* – 31 Aug 2017.

*Based on the first patent issued to Rene Dagron

Ancestry.com and RootsMagic Synch Now Available!


RootsMagic has just announced that their new version 7.5 has been released. I’m so excited to again be able to synch my large tree from Ancestry to my desktop. I know it works because I’ve been one of the Beta Testers and I tried synching my 70k+ tree, along with smaller trees I’ve done over the years, in the past two months. Kudos to the RootsMagic staff – awesome job!

Beta testers were sworn to secrecy as the hardworking IT staff at RootsMagic toiled away to remove bugs we found. I’ve been very satisfied with the company’s response to comments and their diligence in getting it right before releasing it to the general public. Not like the other company that shall not be named.

It does take a good 12 hours to synch my largest tree so be forewarned it’s not going to be instantaneous. When I say synch, I mean truly synch – as in all of my people, over 21,000 photos, 2000 stories and 248,000 records will be accessible to me on my desktop. When I change anything online at Ancestry or on my desktop, the trees will match.

What’s really cool is that RootsMagic also provides hints with FamilySearch, MyHeritage and FindMyPast. It is simple to use, too. If you already are a part of RootsMagic, simply update to the newest version by clicking the link they provide at Help – Check for Updates. Then, click the Ancestry.com icon on the ribbon (it’s between Family Search logo and the open book on the right). Sign into Ancestry with your sign on and password. I clicked “remember” so that I don’t have to redo it each time I log on to RootsMagic. You’ll have two options – upload your RootsMagic tree to Ancestry of download an Ancestry tree to RootsMagic. Although I have a gedcom of my Ancestry tree saved on RootsMagic, it did not have all the goodies I wanted – meaning the media (photo, stories, audio) so I selected the option on the right – Download an Ancestry tree. I began that process as I started writing this blog and it’s already 21% complete. Keep in mind, this is a HUGE tree so that’s to be expected.

I’m walking away from my tree now and knowing it’ll be all synched and ready to go tomorrow morning. Oh, joy!

Genealogy Finds in Your Own Home


With our interior home renovations just about finished, it was time for hubby and I to clean the garage. Yuck! Everything we didn’t know what to do with, weren’t sure if we wanted to keep or it really belongs there got left in any available space. We were going to start working on it last month but we were just too busy. Last Friday was D-Day and we’re still plugging away. The heat, mosquitoes and never ending rain have made progress slow, not to mention the Craig’s List postings and removals that helped us feel better about tossing stuff.

I never thought cleaning the garage would unveil genealogy tidbits but it has. Our first “find” was an ancient mahogany chair that we’ve been dragging around from house to house for close to 40 years. My husband stripped it but never finished it as we never knew where to put it. I’ve got space now in the living room and told him I wanted to have it professionally refinished. He reminded me we have a mate in the attic. Completely forgot about that! That will go into the entry as it’s smaller. And this will be the only item we’re bringing back into the house (famous last words).

The chairs belonged to an unknown Harbaugh family member and we’re guessing it would be his great grandparents, George Frederick.and Margaret “Maggie” Long. I was hoping whoever I found to refinish them would be able to give me a rough age estimate, however, the price I got was $900.00 so it looks like I’ll be doing them myself. One chair hubby stripped 45 years ago so that’ll be a quick finish; the other, not so much.

For Father’s Day I bought my husband a large tool chest. He’s got a zillion tools, many that have been handed down. As he cleans and places them in his new chest, I’m hearing recollections of their original owners. He comes from a family of builders so there were lots of tales. It’s funny how objects – dusty, rusty and stained – can stir old memories from the brain. His dad’s WWII ammunition box held his extra trowels which reminded him of his dad’s attempt at securing bricks to build a fireplace right after the war. Dad enlisted the help of his youngest sister who helped him carry bricks nightly until they had enough to complete the job. Stuck to the ammo box was a magnet. I was surprised to learn that Uncle Carl once worked for a magnet factory and gave some to my husband to play with when he was a child. That was the first time I ever heard that story!

As the family historian, I thought I knew just about all of the stories but I was wrong. Next time you’re trying to learn more about your family I highly recommend cleaning the garage.

History Unfolded – A Newspaper Project


Last week, I blogged about a summer volunteer opportunity through the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. A new challenge was just posted so I added my guess and the reason why. If deciphering transcriptions aren’t your style, here’s a new project that needs your help…

History Unfolded is creating a searchable newspaper database to measure the pulse of regional newspapers during the 1930’s and ’40’s regarding news about 30 Holocaust events. If you love to read old papers, then this is for you! You may use Newspapers.com or a local paper in which you have access. For more details – check out their website.

DNA Father’s Day Specials


Unless you plan on waiting until Black Friday, which I’m going to do, there are two special offers available for DNA kits in honor of Father’s Day:

1. Ancestry DNA is $79.00, however, if you order it via Amazon.com and are a prime member, you don’t have to pay shipping. Sale ends June 18th.

2. MyHeritage DNA is $69.00 – ends June 19th.

The Transcription Challenge


The Transcription Challenge is a unique way to volunteer. As AmericanAncestors.org transcribes the Massachusetts: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Records, 1798-1900, they have discovered some very difficult words to transcribe. Knowing the old saying “Many hands make light work” and “Two heads are better than one” are true, weekly during the summer, a new transcription challenge will be posted with the undecipherable area circled in red. So far, 4 challenges are available. All you need to do is take a look and make a comment of what you think is written for the appropriate number of the problem’s name. This is a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon! Give it a try…