RootsTech Has Begun!

Don’t miss the FREE lectures, Expo Hall, and connections you can make. Starting this AM, RootsTech is available for free from your home. Just register here and start participating.

Here’s some handy hints to get the most out of the conference:

Look over the lectures by clicking “See Full Schedule” and save those you want to view to the Schedule tool. You can go directly to your class from your schedule, (MySchedule), saving time by having to find it on the main page.

More classes you want to attend then time? No worries! Just open Word and copy and paste those you can’t attend. They will be available on YouTube later.

Refer back to my AI Notes blog so you can save the info from the chatbox and/or lecture in summary format.

Don’t forget to download the syllabus from the viewing site!

Definitely spend time on other events (RootsTech Event>Expo Hall). Lots of discounts on genealogy stuff! Take advantage of it this weekend.

Want to connect with far flung relatives you didn’t know existed?! Easy – just go to RootsTech Event>Relatives at RootsTech. Had to laugh as there were five fifth cousins of mine attending in Indianapolis. I know you’re wondering how in the world did RootsTech know that? Well, if you have yourself on a family tree at it matches all the registrants to their tree and then connect you if you have a common ancestor.

Finding Family at Genealogy Conferences

My “New” Cousin and I

It’s definitely a small world and I have to blog about my newfound cousin, Gerhard. I didn’t even realize that the man in the background in the photo, Roland, was in this shot until I uploaded seconds ago. He’s a part of this story, too. Warning you, this is one of my weird genealogy encounters. . .

Last December I was applying to the Society of Indiana Pioneers (SIP) and needed a German translation of a newspaper record I found for my Leininger family. Husband was stumped by the script used and some of the words; the translation wasn’t making sense and online translation programs weren’t helping, either. I posted a request for help on a Facebook page and the Transitional Genealogy Forum (TGF). Roland responded and saved the day. A few weeks later, I was accepted into the SIP and Roland posted about the upcoming International German Genealogy Partnership (IGGP) that was to be held in Ft. Wayne June 9-11.

I have German ethnicity on my paternal side and have never attended a conference specifically for ethnicity. Since I now live in the greater Ft. Wayne area, I was saving time and money on travel, hotel, and meals. I decided the price, date, and location were perfect for me so I signed up with no expectations.

The conference used the WHOVA app which I used for the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) conference last year. I wasn’t too active on the app last year as I was in the process of moving and had limited time. I highly recommend using whatever social media is available pre and during a conference to get the most out of the experience. Go back after the conference and save links/chats from the app as it is usually only available for a limited time period.

I set up pre-meetings virtually (the conference was hybrid) based on family surnames – Leininger, Kettering, Kable, and Kuhn. Gerhard recognized the surname Kuhn and messaged me that he had information he wanted to share with me in person. We agreed to meet between conference presentations. The message arrived a few minutes after I left Kessler Cemetery where I had just cleaned graves for these ancestors. Weird, I thought.

We met up on Saturday and he brought with him a transcription of military records and a copy of my 4th great-grandparent’s marriage registration. The 4gg’s were the immigrants and are buried in Kessler. I’m a member of the Daughters of Union Vets of the Civil War based on one of their son, Henry’s, service. For my long-time readers, Henry married Maria Duer, daughter of John who is buried in Kessler with no surviving marker.

Gerhard looked up from the table we were at and recognized one of my cousins, who I had never met, passing by. He called her over:

Renee and I

We had messaged each other on the app earlier but her immigrants settled in a different part of Ohio and we weren’t sure we were related. Gerhard knew that we were and explained how.  I brought up my family tree and she recognized another line we share, the Anstatts. 

Gerhard also informed me that another one of my German families that I hadn’t even thought to include in my surname post was having a 200-year immigration reunion in Brazil next summer. Evidently, my Bollenbacher ancestors left Germany, my line settled in Ohio and a brother went to South America. Who knew? Gerhard, thankfully!

This brings me to point out the value of doing surname studies and/or chasing all of your lines’ immigration routes, including their siblings. I have done that with many of my Great Britain families and my Croatian lines but not my French/German. That’s now on my to-do list.

Excluding my three first cousins, I have never met anyone related to most of my French-German lines. Although Gerhard and Renee are not close genetically, we do share a common 4-5th great-grandparent.

I have connected with relatives through DNA matches, online family trees, and the Roots Tech app but I never met with anyone face-to-face at a conference. It is an extra special occasion. My husband and I are now planning a trip next year to tour the region my ancestors and his came from on our way to Sweden to follow in his family’s footsteps. BTW, my husband’s Harbaughs are from a village close to where my Leininger family originated – probably even knew each other back in the 1600s. Yep, small world!

As if that wasn’t enough, here’s another reason to attend an ethnic-oriented genealogy conference – I found information on my British and Croatian lines, too. My Daniel Hollingshead purportedly served in the British military and fought in the Battle of Blenheim where one of his brothers was killed. No info anywhere in Great Britain because neither brother was an officer. I asked for help and was given several sources in Germany to research. Hoping I find a Hollingshead buried there.

I had no expectations I would find any information on my Croatia relatives at a German conference. It didn’t dawn on me that dear old Napolean would have made that connection. Croatia was once part of Austria-Hungary and we all know what Napolean did to that area and what is now Germany. My biggest mystery after researching in Croatia remained to find my great grandfather Josip Kos’ military records. Croatia says they were sent to Vienna; the Austrian State Archives says they are all on FamilySearch. I can’t find them there and haven’t gotten an answer from FamilySearch on where they reside or if they are ever going to be available online. A researcher who attended the conference and is familiar with the records is checking for me in Vienna. Hopefully, I will one day discover the truth behind the family story of why Josip separated from the Calvary.

By attending IGGP and using the Whova app, I was able to get hints for further research on all of my ethnic origins and meet relatives I didn’t know existed. The reasonable fee to attend was priceless!

IGGP has a conference every two years and I plan to attend in Columbus, Ohio in 2015. Perhaps you’ll join me. At the last conference, Hank Z. Jones was honored and I’ve blogged about his books previously. Yes, this was definitely a Psychic Roots encounter.

Tombstone Preservation Products Reviews

D/2 Tombstone Cleaner and Bl Carboff Rubbing Paper 26″ x 100′

Memorial Day weekend I set off to Kessler Cemetery to clean tombstones for a few small memorials that were missing from Findagrave. I had blogged recently about my search and find of John Duer’s stone in Kessler, however, the entirety of the stone could not be read when we visited on a cold March day. Since then, my husband and I researched products that would help us see more information on the stone.

Several years ago, a minister in Pennsylvania who was a cemetery trustee recommended I use a bleach and water solution on a stone I could not read. I drove to the nearest Walmart, and bought a spray bottle, water, brush, and bleach tablets as I was in a rental car and being a klutz, was afraid I’d spill liquid bleach.

That mix worked beautifully, however, I’ve since read that you shouldn’t use bleach on stones as it causes damage. A recommendation online was to purchase a product called D/2 Biological Solution. The product claims it is non-toxic and no scrubbing is necessary.

There were several methods for use outlined on the back of the spray bottle. I selected Immediate Resuz Method as I didn’t have the option of going back in a week. Immediate it simply spray, wait 5-10 minutes, spray again if needed, and scrub thoroughly with a non-metallic brush. Wait?! Didn’t it say that no scrubbing was necessary? !

Followed the directions – the stone had green lichen and black mold on the marble. The stone was from 1885 and faced south on a windy, rural cemetery in northwestern Ohio. Although, with scrubbing, we could remove the lichen, the black mold did not come off. We tried this method with seven other stones, some facing south and others facing north. Same results.

In fairness, the stones were badly worn. Turns out they had been memorialized on when the cemetery was added about 15 years ago but we couldn’t read names to check. As a backup plan, I decided to purchase blue Carboff Rubbing Paper. The directions were simple – just cut from the paper roll the size you need and rub with a whiteboard eraser over the stone. My family and I tried rubbing vertically and then on a new sheet, horizontally, thinking that maybe we just had to find the right grain. Nope, some letters and numbers were visible but none of the stones were entirely readable.

I had also brought aluminum foil as that had been recommended. Same technique as with the rubbing paper, basically, the same result though it was much more cost-effective.

I will be writing next week about my research on the stones that we worked to preserve. More information was obtained using these products but for the cost, I was not impressed and wouldn’t recommend them.

Allen County, Indiana Courthouse

Rotunda ceiling, Allen County, Indiana Courthouse

It’s time to travel! Since we’ve returned to live in Indiana, hubby and I have decided to get reacquainted historically with our region. We have planned to visit historical sites throughout the Midwest this summer and I’ll be blogging about our amazing finds.

Wanted to start this series off with a courthouse because, as genealogists, we’re used to digging around there. Most people, however, get the willies just thinking of a courthouse visit. I get it – you’re either in trouble or you’ve been selected for jury duty. If your local courthouse was anywhere close to what the historic Allen County courthouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana looked like though, you’d get over the dread quickly.

Listed as a National Historic Landmark, the Beaux-Arts style building was dedicated in 1902. The architecture is breathtaking – from the rotunda to the numerous Italian marble columns, stained glass, and basreliefs in every courtroom. The murals have been repainted as total fools in the 1930s painted over them. (All I kept thinking was that old song “Folks are dumb where I come from” when I heard about the modernization to paint over them.) Unfortunately, the paint used could not be removed but the original drawings were thankfully stored in the Louvre and France graciously shared the design so they have been replicated.

We were lucky to have gotten a tour from a knowledgeable docent arranged through AARP. The Society of Indiana Pioneers to which we belong is planning another tour later this summer and we loved the visit so much that we plan on returning and bringing family with us.

Visiting this courthouse is like going to a fine arts museum. Most courthouses at the time cost about $80,000 to construct; this one cost $817,000!

We were just stunned at how much thought went into the basreliefs, which vary depending on your role in the room. For example, jurists face Lady Liberty to keep in mind their important task of being fair. The defendant faces honesty, and the judge faces justice. Some rooms are themed around Indiana history and highlight famous northeastern Indiana historical figures, like Anthony Wayne and Native American Chiefs.

Interested in taking a tour? Check out the courthouse website to arrange one.

Generation by Generation – A Genealogical Book Review

Photo of book cover by Lori Samuelson

Ahh, beach season is upon us. Most of you might put aside your family history research while you hit the sand at the lake or seashore. I say it’s the time to rest, relax, and plan your colder-weather genealogical research.

I found the perfect book to accompany you in a comfy lounge chair – Generation by Generation:  A Modern Approach to the Basics of Genealogy by Drew Smith (Baltimore, MD:  Genealogical Publishing Company, 2023). Drew is a librarian at the University of South Florida and who better to help you with your family research than an expert in books?

Generation by Generation was designed as the book that Drew wished he had when he began his family history journey. Unlike other beginner genealogy books, this one starts with the basics to prepare you to begin your research and then moves to what primary record sets are available for you to use to find sources from your generation backward in time. I do appreciate the emphasis on beginning with oneself which newbies so often skip in their search for far-flung ancestors. Too often, they realize that they were mistaken and that the folks they had researched aren’t their forebears. Drew’s approach is straightforward and helps to ensure accurate results and organized records.

Throughout the text, the importance of record analysis is stressed without the worry that one is not doing genealogy correctly. Personally, I have met too many beginners who were so concerned about not recording a citation perfectly that they omitted the information entirely. Drew removes the anxiety while encouraging the reader to be cautious regarding spelling variations, different people with the same name in the same place/time, and inconsistency in records. The explanation of the basics of DNA is so well written that I shared it with family members whose eyes often glaze over when I’m talking about autosomal. Now they understand!

I agree that “the best thing that a genealogical researcher can do is to be comfortable with change. You’ll always be learning something new.” This is exactly how this advanced researcher views the information found in this beginner book. I learned that the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN), which standardizes the place names within our country, has schools as one of their categories on their searchable site. I never thought of looking there and will include that information in an upcoming presentation I will be giving this month.

No spoiler alert here but I also learned a more efficient technique when using WorldCat to search for family genealogies. Who knew? Apparently Drew and if you purchase the book, you will, too.

For a beginner book, there is very little I would have added as the work is concise and nonintimidating for a novice. One item I would have added is regarding PERSI; I highly recommend contacting the publisher of a journal, magazine, or newsletter if you cannot find a local copy and before you request a copy for pay through the Allen County Public Library (ACPL). I research often at ACPL and those folks are wonderful and overworked. I know they would appreciate it if you exhausted all avenues first to find a copy before contacting them.

I highly recommend obtaining a copy of Generation by Generation, regardless of your skill level. As Drew stated, “Your role, as a genealogist, is to tell the real story about your ancestors, and by following these research steps, you’ll have the best chance of discovering the real facts of their lives.” Amen!

Researching at FamilySearch Library

Photo by Lori Samuelson

It’s been several years since I’ve gone to Salt Lake City to research at the library, formerly known as Family History Library. My previous blog on what to do can be found here, however, much has changed so here are my recommendations if you plan to go.

Due to Rootstech, there were no classes offered the week I went but typically, there are classes available for free. Check out the calendar on their website.

The library has had a makeover. Gone are the genealogies on the first floor – they have all been scanned and are available online. In their space is a large area for newbies to learn about their relationship to the famous and where you can bring up your FamilySearch tree to have printed in poster size. I was told by two employees that I could print from a tree other than FamilySearch but when I handed over my thumb drive they couldn’t get my downloaded tree to work with their system. I didn’t want my FamilySearch tree printed as my mom’s side is incomplete on there and my dad’s side is constantly changing, not always correctly. I keep removing a source for a man who died in the 1700s, someone keeps adding he served in the Civil War. Makes me crazy!

Also on the first floor is a very large break room with lots of vending machines. The contents range from water, milk, and soda to burritos, breakfast sandwiches, and typical snacks like granola bars and chips. Problem is that the machines don’t always work. I had bought a bottle of water (reasonably priced at .85) one day and the next day it wouldn’t take my charge card or coins. I was super thirsty so I had to go out in the rain to the mall as the restaurant on the corner is closed. The volunteer at the desk told me that the machines often don’t work. Wish they had posted a sign as I wasted time.

Photo by Lori Samuelson

The international floors have been flipped. I had several books I couldn’t find and neither could the assistants at the research desk. I don’t know if they were lost, misfiled, or taken to be scanned. I looked for the same books every day for the 5 days I was there so it wasn’t like someone was using them for the day. There is also a reference section (shown above) adjacent to the wall of the new Medieval section so look there, too, if you can’t find the book in the stacks. The books are out of order so look carefully.

Photo by Lori Samuelson

It’s also wise to check the Library Catalog and not the General Catalog before you leave home – they are not the same. The General Catalog lists all resources available; don’t waste your time looking at items you can view from home. The Library Catalog provides resources that are available in the library. Some of the books on the shelves have been scanned and are available online now but many have not. Found the note above at one of the scanners. I didn’t need a book from storage but know not everything is readily available. The catalogs will help you determine if you have to put in a special request. Keep in mind, though, that the catalogs aren’t updated. I found the reference below and was surprised that there were still CDs being used. I went to the 2nd floor to inquire about it and was told the item was no longer available, even though it is showing that it is.

Photo by Lori Samuelson

The best upgrade is on the 3rd floor – the scanners are a dream! They have several and I used one every day I was there. No more taking pics with my phone and having to then clean out Google Photos. Bring a thumb drive and if you forget, they will give you one for free on the first floor. The thumb drive connects to an adaptor and not directly into the computer. You can see it in the picture below on the left top of the keyboard.

Photo by Lori Samuelson

Another upgrade I’m not so wild about is that I previously recommended not bringing your laptop because they have so many desktops available. I counted only 19 on the 3rd floor. I don’t know how many they previously had but I believe it was more as by mid-day, there are none available. Now the desktop situation has changed. You don’t just have a desktop, you also have two monitors for each desktop (see top photo). That’s wonderful and my setup at home but I really don’t need three screens in the library. Two would have been adequate; one for your tree and one for whatever you’re looking up online. Really, why would you need to look at the microfilm, too, that’s available at home? I make a list of just what is not available – books that aren’t scanned and aren’t close to my home and film that I can’t access at home. So still, be prepared and know what you need before you go.

My biggest disappointment was what I thought would be a great idea – the online help request. The specialist that comes is not always a specialist or there isn’t one available and they don’t tell you that. On Monday I was told to ask late Tuesday afternoon for an Ohio specialist. On Tuesday afternoon I placed a request at 4 pm. At 4:10 a specialist came and told me she was signing out but someone would be with me in 15 minutes. By 4:45 when no one arrived I put in another request, thinking that she must have taken me out of the system. Five minutes later a person from the desk asked me why I had made 2 requests and I explained. I only realized that both requests were open once I hit enter for the 2nd request (see below). Once you make a request you can’t cancel it. I had wasted 45 minutes sitting in one location as I feared if I got up to look for books the specialist would think I left and cross me off the list. I told the desk lady I would be finding books and to please tell the specialist if I’m away from the desk to wait a minute. By 6 PM no one had arrived so I went to the desk and was then told that there were no specialists and wouldn’t be so go to another floor. I went to the 2nd floor and signed in for help again. About 15 minutes later a woman came to tell me the specialists were busy and it would be another 15 minutes. I remarked I’d been waiting since 4. She said she’d find someone for me. A few minutes later she returned and said I had only been signed in for 15 minutes. Yes, I had, on that floor, but it had been 2 hours plus on floor 3. About 15 minutes later the specialist arrived who was supposed to know all about Ohio. She asked me why I wanted to prove the relationship and I told her it was for a DAR ap. She replied that she had quit DAR 3 times and I shouldn’t bother. A woman sitting at the next computer overheard and joined the conversation. She asked me for what proof I had and when I gave it to her, she said she would contact her AG friend for me. Never heard from the friend. After my return, as I blogged about last week, I found the info on my own.

Photo by Lori Samuelson

My last suggestion is to get there at opening (9 AM) as people seemed to be more helpful in the morning. You’ll also be one of the first to find your needed books and you’ll get a computer. Take a break at about 1 as the lines are down in the food court in the mall and then return to the library. Happy Hunting!

Evaluating’s ThruLines

I want to pass on this tip if you find yourself stuck with a brick wall ancestor. While I was writing my John-Thomas Duer relationship analysis I used Ancestry’s ThruLines and created a chart to place in the paper as additional proof.

If you have DNA tested with then ThruLines is available to you. To access, sign on and then click DNA on the ribbon. Click ThruLines.

Here’s where it’s advantageous to have a tree on Ancestry – for all the individuals that you’ve included in your tree for several generations, their information will appear on ThruLines in a white box by their relationship to you.

I know that I’m genetically related to both of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents from my DNA Matches on Ancestry and other sites so I scroll down the page and begin to investigate people I have placed in my tree but need further proof of lineage. Perhaps records are just not available or sketchy. Perhaps they are a brick wall.

For my example, I’m using a line I haven’t thoroughly researched. I have a hypothesis that Mary Whitlock and John Cole were my 5th great-grandparents. The ThruLine boxes for them appear at the bottom of the page: ThruLines Option to Investigate

Interestingly, I have NO DNA Matches for John Cole but 3 for who I thought his wife was, Mary Whitlock.

This means I need to check out Mary Whitlock further. Click on the name box and you will see a descending tree chart. I have a pic of my connection to one of the three DNA matches:

ThruLines Page 2

The above chart has been clipped – I’m not showing you the entire chart that Ancestry presents because I’m only going to look at one match at a time and start with the one that is closest to me. My  Mary “Polly” Dennis married 5 times and had children with 3 of her husbands. I recognized in the chart above that Sarah Elder is my half 2nd great-grandaunt because Sarah’s dad was Owen Elder; my line descends from Edward Adams. Two other DNA Matches I didn’t clip Show descent from husband John Hodge. My relationship shows as half because both Catharine Adams and Sarah E Elder got half their DNA from Polly and the other half from their dads, who were not the same individual.

I’m not sure why Ancestry needs me to EVALUATE the information as I had that in my tree already and I thought they would recognize it. If you come across that, here’s how to get the chart looking complete:

Step 1. Click on the individual to EVALUATE. You must start at the top, with the oldest generation first. Once you click EVALUATE this page will appear:

Evaluate Page 2

As you can see in the picture, My Main Tree is an option and that’s my personal family tree. Why Ancestry didn’t automatically connect to it I don’t understand. You don’t need to make any decision on this page, just click Next at the bottom.

The next page looks like this:

Evaluate Page 2

Obviously, I’m going to click the button in front of Sarah A Elizabeth Elder in My Main Tree as that’s my tree. Once the button is clicked, on the bottom “Add” to the tree is shown. Click that.

You now need to make a decision as to who the spouse will be. This is important for the DNA process. Here are my options and it automatically defaults to the first marriage. I will be clicking the button in front of Mary Polly Dennis and Owen Elder:

Evaluate Page 3

You’ll get a message from Ancestry that looks like this if it worked correctly:

For a brief second a message displays stating “We’re adding (individual) to your (tree name).” When it’s processed it will display this message:

Evaluate Page 4

When you click “View Profile,”  the individual will pop up as a page in your tree. But this is a problem as I already had the woman in my tree!

Next, you are going to have to merge the new information with your old information.

Top of Newly Added Page

Click “Merge with duplicate” which is displayed right under 2nd great-grandaunt.

This page will display:

Merge Page 1

Ancestry recognizes I already had the same person in the tree so I just need to click ”Select.” If Ancestry doesn’t recognize the individual, type the individual exactly as you named them in your tree. For example, perhaps you entered Sarah as Sarah E. Elder instead of Sarah A. Elizabeth Elder. Type what you originally had and it will display the name, birth and death information for the person you typed. Compare and if you are sure you have selected the correct individual, click “Merge” as seen below:

Merge Page 2

Now, the new info is connected to the old and the person is one on your tree.

Within 24 hours, when you back to ThruLines, the individuals will be displayed just like your own data was so you can clip and use the chart as you like. Here’s what it will look like but you’ll have to go through and evaluate all of the individuals in descending order to get the chart complete.


More Psychic Roots Book Review

Photo by Lori Samuelson

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!

Psychic Roots Book Review

Photo by Lori Samuelson

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.

APG PMC 2022 Has Begun!

The annual Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Management Conference has opened. Yours truly will be speaking on Friday at 11:30 AM EDT. If you are ready to turn your genealogy hobby into a business I highly recommend you attend next year or better yet, watch the recordings of this year’s conference. The lecture topics are timely and the breakout sessions are a wonderful way to connect with other genealogists from around the world. Click here for more info on this year’s recordings. Become a member of APG to receive details about next year’s conference.