Sunday, February 26, 2012

Giving Back to the Genealogy Community

For the past seven years, the majority of my genealogy research has been done online using sites such as,,,,, just to name a few. I have been fortunate in finding hundreds of my ancestors and allied families because of the work of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of volunteers who have indexed billions of images.

With the upcoming release of the 1940 census, an excellent opportunity exists to give back to the genealogy community by doing some indexing of my own. I had done some indexing of records a few years ago, but the release of the census has created a new motivation to help out.

I started by becoming an Ambassador for the 1940 census by sharing my information and discoveries here on The first stop is That's where you, too, can sign up to help index the census. To get ready, you can get some practice by indexing other images. I chose an easy batch to work on, the World War I registrations. I selected five batches of 25 records each.

Image from FamilySearch Indexing Software
World War I Registration Database
I was already familiar with the information in this database since I've added a lot of these images to my trees on Each image appears and the indexer types in information such as Given Name, Surname, Date of Birth, Location of Birth, and Native country.

Interpreting handwriting is essential to the project. I know how frustrated I have been when someone has not entered information correctly on an image I'm looking at. In this regard, I've found both Wikipedia and Google to help me index. If I am unable to interpret the name of a city or town, I search for it on Wikipedia. For example, I search for "cities in Kansas." I can peruse or search the page listing all cities, looking for something similar to the handwriting on the document. This technique has worked for all of the images I have indexed so far.

Surnames aren't quite so easy. This is where Google comes in. I type in my best interpretation of the surname and add the word "surname" to my search. This nearly always gives me the option that matches the image. It's certainly better than just guessing at the handwriting.

I've really found this to be a rewarding activity, and I really feel as though I am able to give a little back to the genealogy community.

Back to that indexing!

The Making of the Great Plains Symposium

On March 28 - 30, 2012 researchers from across the country will make their way to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for a three day symposium focused on exploring the impact of our landmark pieces of legislation passed by Congress in 1862 that fundamentally shaped the Great Plains. Perhaps most significant is the Homestead Act of 1862, which is being observed for its 150th anniversary this year.

For more information, read the press release from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

1862-2012 is focus of symposium hosted by UNL, Homestead Monument:

Genealogy Events in Nebraska - March 2012

Can you say GENEALOGY! If you are looking for meetings, presentations and conferences to learn more about genealogy and mingle with other family historians, those opportunities are plentiful in Nebraska this year. Below is a schedule of what is coming up in March 2012.

If you are with a society in northeast, central or western Nebraska, please email me with details of your events to include on this calendar. For a full listing of events for the rest of the year, click on Genealogy Events in Nebraska. Coming up are the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society's Spring Conference in April, the Nebraska State Genealogical Society conference in Grand Island in May, the Family History Expo in Kearney in September and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society conference in October.

Date & Location

March 2, 2012
7:00 p.m.
LDS Family History Center
11027 Martha St
Omaha, NE
GO-PAF Meeting
Program to be announced

March 3, 2012
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Family History Library
3000 Old Cheney Road
Lincoln, NE
Genealogy Fair and Spring Conference
Blake Bell, Homestead National Monument of America: Claiming Nebraska Territory in the 1850s
Chris Sayre, Musician
Tina Wells: What’s New at FamilySearch.Org
Carrie Pierson: The 1940 Census

March 11, 2012
1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Walt Branch Library
6701 S. 14th St
Lincoln, NE
Lincoln Lancaster County Genealogical Society Monthly program: Blogs as a Genealogical Tool
by Susan Petersen
Learn how blogging can help with genealogical research.

March 13, 2012
8:30 p.m.
Family History Library
3000 Old Cheney Road
Lincoln, NE
Beginning Genealogy Class

March 17, 2012
9:00 a.m. – Noon
Mormon Trail Center
3215 State St
Omaha, NE
Greater Omaha Genealogical Society free class: Making Sense of the Census.

March 18, 2012
1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Walt Branch Library
6701 S. 14th St
Lincoln, NE
Lincoln Lancaster County Genealogical Society Education Program: Blogs as a Genealogical Tool
by Susan Petersen
One on one help in setting up your genealogy blog.

March 20, 2012
8:30 p.m.
Family History Library
3000 Old Cheney Road
Lincoln, NE
What Is the Family History Center

March 20, 2012
10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Room 111
Love Library
UNL City Campus
Lincoln, Nebraska
Love Library Resources for Genealogical and Historical Research
Presented by Tom McFarland

March 21, 2012
7:00 p.m.
Crown Pointe Retirement Center
2820 S. 80th St
Omaha, NE
Greater Omaha Genealogical Society meeting: Kevin Cassidy will be talking about Irish research.

March 27, 2012
8:30 p.m.
Family History Library
3000 Old Cheney Road
Lincoln, NE
Genealogy Correspondence and Networking

Nebraska State Genealogical Society Conference May 4-5 in Grand Island

The Nebraska State Genealogical Society has announced the speakers for the state conference to be held May 4-5, 2012 in Grand Island.

Featured speaker is Laura Prescott. She is a professional researcher, writer and speaker. She worked for the New England Historic Genealogical Society for seven years before starting her own research business.

Her topics will be:

  • Diaries and Journals: Finding and Using These Valuable Resources
  • Turning Fiction Into Fact
  • The Rest of the Story: Using Manuscripts to Create a Family History
  • Spinsters and Widows: Gender Loyalty Within Families
  • Timelines: Placing Your Heritage in Historical Perspective

Other guest speakers for the conference are

Susan Nordstrum - assistant professor at Wayne State College. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 2011 about the ensembles of life that 11 Nebraska family history genealogists created in their work with documents, photographs and other artifacts. She will discuss her dissertation and explain how she became interested in studying family history, genealogy and the ensemble of life.

Catherine Renschler - In 2010, workmen dismantling a house in Hastings discovered several boxes of glass plates with images on them. The owner donated the collection, 420 negatives, to the Adams County Historical Society. The time period of the images ranges from 1890 to 1920. Catherine Renschler will show selected images from the collection and share how some of them were identified through research. She will present information on the history of glass negatives, how to digitize them and how to properly store them.

Gary "Mitch" Zabokrtsky - His topic will be "Genealogy: A Trip Back Through Time" and includes chronicles, census records, land records, immigration, naturalization and ship records, church records, death records and the rewarding experience.

The cost for the two-day conferences is $85 and includes lunch and the syllabus. One day registration is $50 and includes lunch and the syllabus. Registrations are now being accepted online with PayPal.

The conference will be held at the Midtown Holiday Inn, 2503 South Locust St, Grand Island.

content summarized from information posted on the NESGS web site.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Family History Center Spring Conference is March 3 2012

Saturday, March 3, 2012 is the Spring Conference/Genealogy Fair sponsored by the Family History Center.

9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

LDS Church
3000 Old Cheney Road
Lincoln, Nebraska

Presentations by:

Blake Bell, Homestead National Monument of America
"Claiming Nebraska Territory in the 1850s"

Chris Sayre, Musician

Tina Wells, Family History Center
"What's New at"

Carrie Pierson, Family History Center
"The 1940 Census"

The event is free, but RSVP to so enough photocopies will be available.

Finding Family in the 1940 Census

It is only 37 days until the release of the images from the 1940 Census. This census will mark the second appearance of my parents in census records. Both were under five years of age in the 1930 census, so by 1940 they were in their early teen years, just starting high school.

Patricia Landon Kelly
circa 1940
Clara Laymon Pecht, Shirley Jean Petersen
Kenneth Leroy Petersen
circa 1940
While I can't tie down these images specifically to 1940, they are certainly within about a year of when the census was taken.

I will be looking for my Mom in the census for Greenwood, Cass county, Nebraska and Dad will be in Lincoln, Lancaster, Nebraska.

Since the 1940 census images will not be indexed on the day they are released to the public, the first step in planning to find images is to determine the potential enumeration districts where your family members lived.

The search for this information begins at The National Archives. On the search page, I typed in "1940 census greenwood nebraska" (without quotes). The results gave me the following information:



I've now narrowed down the images where I need to look for Mom's family in the 1940 census. As I learn more about the process and locating my kin, I'll share it here on I've also started "Spring Training" for indexing census records by indexing several batches of World War II draft registration documents. I'll write more about that in another blog post.

Thanks to Randy Seaver of the Genea-Musings blog - I followed his instructions for locating this information.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Become a 1940 Census Ambassador - or Indexing Volunteer!

The countdown to the release of the 1940 census has begun! On April 2, 2012, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will provide public access to the images of the 1940 United States Federal Census. This is the first time that the images of the 1940 census will be made available as free digital images.

Upon its release, the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project, a joint initiative between, FamilySearch, and other leading genealogy organizations, will coordinate efforts to provide quick access to these digital images and immediately start indexing these records to make them searchable online with free and open access.

You can help make history! You can sign up to be an indexing volunteer and designate the volunteer group you wish to be affiliated with - if you have one. The next step is to download the indexing software. And get started making the index available free and to the public!

Genealogy bloggers can also play a role by becoming a 1940 Blog Ambassador! You can sign up, as I have, and you can get badges for your site or blog. There is exclusive content, blog post and contest ideas, blogger events, project updates and more. I can't think of a better way to spread the word and be a part of this community to help make the index of these images available to the public as quickly as possible.

Genealogists are a generous and giving group of people. Show your support by becoming an indexing volunteer and/or Ambassador today!

Let us know your intent to participate. Please leave a comment below if you will be joining the 1940 Census community!

content adapted from

Monday, February 20, 2012

Military Monday - John Glenn

John Glenn
Marine, Astronaut, Senator
public domain photograph
It really has been 50 years ago today since I sneaked my transistor radio and earphone into school to listen to the news broadcasts of John Glenn's historic launch into space to become the first American to orbit the earth. As a youngster, I remember having fleeting thoughts of wanting to be an astronaut, which is rather ironic since I won't even get on an airplane these days.

Read the Life magazine article from February 2, 1962

Astronauts were the heroic cowboys of our generation. I savored all of the photographs in Life magazine. John Glenn quickly became my favorite of the original seven Mercury astronauts. Maybe it was because many people told my Dad that he looked like Glenn. Maybe that was because of their smiles and lack of hair. I adored his wife, Annie. Our other family connection to the Mercury astronauts was that the USS Intrepid was the recovery ship that picked up Scott Carpenter after his space flight. Dad served on the Intrepid during World War II.

John Glenn
Wilber, Nebraska
May, 1968
copyright Susan Petersen
So, it was quite a thrill for me on that Sunday in May, 1968 when Senator Robert F. Kennedy was campaigning in Nebraska. On the stage with him were John and Annie Glenn.  My photographs from that day are not very good quality, but I did capture the image of one of my heroes. Glenn went on to be a United States Senator from Ohio.

Glenn had a brief run for the Presidency in 1984. When the announcement was made, I was in New Orleans on business (I was still flying then). I grabbed a sheet of hotel stationery and wrote him a letter of support. I received a reply and even though it was addressed to me in Lincoln, LOUISIANA, the zip code was correct and I got the letter. His signature was probably an autopen, but even so, it meant something to me at the time.

I still enjoy watching the film, The Right Stuff, from time to time. One of my favorite actors, Ed Harris, did an amazing job with his portrayal of John Glenn.

John Glenn
Oldest Person in Space
public domain photo, NASA
Glenn wasn't done making history. In 1998, at the age of 77, he became the oldest person to fly in space.

So, on this day, February 20, 2012, I look back with very fond memories of the early years of space exploration and my favorite astronaut of them all, John Glenn.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Kindle Fire for Genealogy Podcasts

It's no secret that I'm a fan of the Kindle Fire. I also enjoy listening to genealogy podcasts and internet radio shows about genealogy. I've had a lot of hit and miss success and failures in finding a Kindle app that successfully manages podcast listening. After using the BeyondPod app for several weeks, I can wholeheartedly endorse this for genealogists, blog readers and news junkies (all groups of which I am a member!). The unlock key for the app is $6.99 and, in my opinion, well worth it.

The app is very intuitive (which is good since I'm not big on reading instruction manuals). Users can create unlimited categories for the podcast or RSS feeds. For example, some of mine are Genealogy (duh!), News, Entertainment, Science and Technology, Business and Finance, among others. In the News feeds, I especially like that I can view a network evening newscast in excellent quality in 20 minutes with no commercial interruptions.

The app already has some pre-determined feeds. If you don't care for their selection, it is easy to delete them. The app also has a search feature that helps you locate podcast feeds and blog feeds. Especially nice is that you can locate a podcast on the internet, locate the URL of the RSS feed, paste that into the BeyondPod app and the podcast or blog will feed directly into the app.

In addition to audio content, this app also manages video feeds.

I still prefer Google Reader for the majority of my blog subscriptions, but I've duplicated a few of them in the BeyondPod app.

With most of the feeds, you have an option of downloading or streaming and you can decide how many episodes to keep on your device at a time. Unlike a lot of apps, you really do have total control on how you manage your content.

The following genealogy podcasts and radio shows are those that I have successfully added to BeyondPod:

Some of these podcasts are updated more regularly than others. But if I haven't heard them, they are still new to me!

I'm sure there are other genealogy podcasts to choose from. If you have some to recommend, please list them in the Comments section below.

Update: Here are some instructions on using this app.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kindle for Genealogy Facebook Group

Are you passionate about genealogy? Are you passionate about your Kindle? If so, the Kindle for Genealogy Facebook group is for you! In only a week, we have more than 50 genea-kindle-aholics participating in the discussion. We are sharing recommendations on ebooks for genealogy, apps we use for genealogy, troubleshooting tips and more. Come share in the fun!

Kindle for Genealogy Facebook group

and check out our

Kindle for Genealogy Links (pdf file)

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

In March, I will be doing two sessions for the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society (LLCGS)

On March 11, 2012 I will be giving a presentation on Using Blogs as a Genealogical Tool. I'll be giving an overview of genealogy blogging, using a blog as "cousin bait" to find living relatives and how to get started blogging. This will be followed by a one-on-one education session on March 18 where I will help new bloggers create their very own genealogy blog.

The March 11 program will also feature Susan Cook from the Homestead National Monument of America who will share information about events celebrating the upcoming 150th anniversary of the signing of the Homestead Act.

March 11, 2012
Using Blogs as a Genealogy Tool
Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Walt Branch Library
6701 South 14th Street
Lincoln, Nebraska

March 18, 2012
Get Started Blogging!

Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Walt Branch Library
6701 South 14th Street
Lincoln, Nebraska

If you plan to attend the March 18 session, you will need to bring your own laptop, netbook or tablet.

Sessions are free and open to the public.

Disclosure statement: I am publicity chair for LLCGS for 2012.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Take Your Pick: Irish in Omaha or Ethnic Folk Dance

For genealogists in Lincoln and Omaha, there are two great programs to choose from this Sunday, February 12, 2012.

Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society Monthly Meeting
Ethnic Dances and Clues to Ancestry

Sunday, February 12, 2012
2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Walt Branch Library
6701 South 14th St
Lincoln, NE

Presented by Eva Bachman and Folk Dancers

Enjoy the fun and tradition of folk dances as you learn about clues to ethnic ancestry in music, lyrics, colors, clothing designs, flags and portrayals of historic events.

Invite friends, neighbors and relatives to enjoy the dancing as we learn more about our heritage.

Come early at 1:00 and get acquainted with folks of various heritages. Consider joining a group to exchange research ideas for your countries of origin.

Visit the web site of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society.

Disclosure statement: I am publicity chair for LLCGS for 2012.

The Irish in Omaha

The following is from the e-newsletter of the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society.

The Irish played a key role in the settlement and growth of Omaha and Douglas County. Join Omaha attorney Jim Cavanaugh as he traces the major players and the supporting cast that shaped early Omaha - from the Creightons, Gallaghers and Boyds to Father Flanagan and beyond. He'll also tell of Tom Riley, the county's first Irish sheriff, Father John Cavanaugh, a relative who was the first parish priest in Omaha, and other lesser-known immigrants from the land of Eire. Mr. Cavanaugh is a fifth generation Nebraskan and a member of the Irish American Cultural Institute of Nebraska.

This talk is presented through the auspices of the Nebraska Humanities Council by the Douglas County Historical Society, with funding provided by the Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Memorial Foundation.

Reservations for this talk are required. Please call 402.455.9990 or email if you plan to attend.

February 12, 2012
2:00 p.m.

General Crook House Museum
5730 North 30th St., # 118
Omaha, NE

Free and open to the public; reservations required.

Link to this post

Saturday, February 4, 2012

West Nebraska Family Research and History Center is now a Family Search affiliate library

This press release was provided by Floyd Smith III

Scottsbluff – The West Nebraska Family Research & History Center is proud to announce today that after a seven year application and waiting process, it is the newest Family Search affiliate library. The new designation means library patrons will have greater and more convenient access to the wealth of genealogical resources available through Family Search.

Family Search is the world’s largest repository of genealogical records and manages the famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It has amassed billions of birth, marriage, death, census, land, and court records of genealogical significance from over 130 counties.

Family Search is extending access to its collections by circulating microfilms of the historic records through select libraries that were able to meet strict criteria. The West Nebraska Family Research & History Center is now one of those libraries.  It is a priceless resource for local residents interested in discovering their family tree.

There is a nominal fee to order microfilm, but once the film arrives, patrons use the microfilm readers at the West Nebraska Family Research & History Center to peruse it. The library staff can help patrons see what films are available, place film orders, and answer research questions. Patrons can also search the Family History Library Catalog online at to see what records are available to order and have them delivered to the West Nebraska Family Research & History Center.

For questions about Family, microfilm or the ordering process, please contact:

West Nebraska Family Research & History Center