Saturday, July 31, 2010

Midwest Family History Expo - Blogger Paparazzi!

Tami Glatz and Diana Ritchie

Midwest Family History Expo - Focus on the National Archives in Kansas City

When you do a Google search on NARA - Kansas City, the top hit is a sushi restaurant. But for genealogists, NARA in Kansas City means the National Archives and Records Administration.

Lori Cox-Paul, Director of Archival Operations at NARA Kansas City, opened the Midwest Family History Expo with a keynote address sharing information about many of the services NARA makes available to genealogists.

Start by exploring the NARA web site for the central plains states. The Kansas City location houses records from Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. There are also a few records from North Dakota and South Dakota. This repository of the National Archives moved to a new location about a year ago and is now located near Union Station in downtown Kansas City.

Records available at the Kansas City location are all Federal government records. They house homestead records, military records, naturalization records, tax records - these are just a few of the many record groups available through online indexes.

Begin exploring the web site on the Research Tools page. The quickest way to find information on your ancestor is to type a surname in the Search box at the top of any page. After the Midwest Family History Expo, I plan to explore this site further for my ancestors who, fortunately, lived in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. I'm hoping to locate some information on those elusive Long Lost Relatives right here in Kansas City!

Midwest Family History Expo - Beacon of Bloggers

Here are a few more photographs of the Geneabloggers attending the Midwest Family History Expo in Kansas City this weekend.

Nebraska was represented at the Beacon of Bloggers by myself (left) and
Cheri Hopkins of Alliance, half of the You Go Genealogy Girls team.

Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers, Susan Petersen, Lisa Alzo
of the Accidental Genealogist, Cheri Hopkins

Dr. Bill Smith tells an ancestor story!

Diana Ritchie of Random Relatives doing some blogging.

Jenna Mills from Desperately Seeking Surnames and Susan.

I've met several of the other bloggers at the conference - just haven't gotten photos of everyone yet! One thing is for certain: I am leaving my 300+ page syllabus in the hotel room today. My bag is getting too heavy with all of the goodies I'm accumulating!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Midwest Family History Expo - Day 1

Wow! What can I say? Wow! What a day. My day began at 4 a.m., so don't expect either a long or coherent post this evening!

This was my first major genealogy conference and the Family History Expo folks really know how to do things up right! The conference facility offers great exhibition space and the session rooms are comfortable. Having planned some conferences myself, I know that the #1 thing people will complain about is the facilities - too hot, too cold, blah blah blah.

I did find myself opting for sessions that had tables in the rooms because I can actually type my notes into the computer a lot faster than I can write. And because of that, my typed notes tend to be in complete sentences. My handwritten notes are usually much more cryptic. This was also my first time taking a laptop to a conference. What I enjoyed about that was when a speaker was discussing a web site, I could go right to it and add it to my bookmarks immediately. Oh yeah,  my bookmarked pages grew a lot today! And I'll be sharing some of those recommend resources on this blog over the next few days.

The speakers are top-notch. Kudos to Gena Philibert Ortega who ended the day on a high note - she's an energetic speaker who did a fantastic job on her session about infusing American history into your family history. She presented some great ideas and resources.

While I really enjoyed all of the sessions, the best part, by far, was meeting in-person many of my Facebook and Geneablogger friends. Now we are real-life friends! I kept telling them it was so nice to see them somewhere other than in a 1" by 1" photo! None of these people seemed like strangers who I'd never met before. It was like seeing old friends. And what fun to be able to share the passion we all have about our hobby. Everyone has stories to tell - and they are all interesting. I'm not sure I want to go back to "real life."

Sweet dreams - of blogs, beads and barbeque.

Midwest Family History Expo - We're Here!

The Midwest Family History Expo is already off to a fantastic start! Folks from all over the Midwest are here to spend two full days learning about dozens of topics to help us hone our genealogy research skills.

The keynote speaker was Lori Cox-Paul, Director of Archival Operations at the National Archives in Kansas city. She shared a lot of information about the kinds of records that are available in Kansas City and the research assistance that can be provided by their volunteers. There are many online indexes on these record groups and I can hardly wait to check out my Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri ancestors and relatives!

The bloggers are also finding one another and gathering at the Beacon of Bloggers table in the exhibition hall. What fun to finally meet in person all of these great people whose blogs I've been reading and corresponding with for the last few months.

Lisa Alzo and Thomas MacEntee welcome Geneabloggers to the Midwest Family History Expo.

Dr. Bill Smith and Jenna Mills get together at the Bloggers table.

Diana Ritchie and yours truly - Born to Blog!

It's time to hit the exhibit hall! More to come. Wish some of the rest of our Geneablogger group was here, too!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Midwest Family History Expo - the 24 hour countdown

At this time tomorrow morning, I will be cranking up the car stereo to the sounds of Willie Nelson singing "On the Road Again" and making my way down the Interstate to Kansas City for the Midwest Family History Expo.

I will be joining a group of Genealogy Bloggers (Geneabloggers) to relay information direct from the Expo on this blog and on Facebook. I can hardly wait to meet many of the fellow researchers I've come to know through their blogs.

One of those bloggers who will be at the Midwest Family History Expo is Lisa Alzo. Below, she is being interviewed by Lisa Louise Cooke at the 2009 Expo in Salt Lake City.

If you are anywhere near Kansas City and haven't registered for the Expo, do try to add attendance at the conference to your weekend plans. There are dozens of great sessions and great speakers to choose from. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Midwest Family History Expo - Sessions to Attend

Today, Dr. Bill Smith of the Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories blog wrote about the sessions he plans to attend at this weekend's Midwest Family History Expo.

I have narrowed my choices down, but still have 2 or 3 sessions to select from before I make my final decision (which probably won't happen until after I walk in the door Friday morning).

But here's what my attendance options look like. The * indicates the most likely choice as of today.


9:00 a.m.

  • Finding Your English/Welsh Ancestors
  • Sources and Citations: Just Do It!
  • Census Techniques and Strategies
  • Midwest Research *
11:00 a.m. - I think this is where I win a door prize! :-)

11:30 a.m.
  • Family History Books: Editing, Design and Publishing
  • Civil War Provost Marshal Records
  • Mapping Madness *
  • The Last Muster: Photographs and Stories from the American Revolution
1:30 p.m.
  • FamilySearch's Research Wiki, Forums and Blogs
  • Trail of Tears *
  • Hairsteria: Hair in the Family
3:00 p.m.
  • Colonial Immigration
  • Powerful Tips and Tricks for Family Search Record Search
  • Best Resources for Civil War Research
  • Have You Really Looked Everywhere? A survey of internet resources for genealogical research *
4:00 p.m.
  • Genealogical Organization in the 21st Century *
  • Virtual Tour of the Midwest Genealogy Center
  • US Vital Records Overview
  • Ready, Set, G.O.!

8:00 a.m.
  • Putting the Flesh on the Bones
  • Read All About It
  • Researching Historic Occupations *
9:00 a.m. - I win another door prize

9:30 a.m.
  • Establishing Your Own Migration Trail *
  • Maps Give Directions to Your Genealogical Research
  • Finding and Obtaining Information from Military Records
11:00 a.m.
  • Finding Your Irish Ancestors
  • Ten Things to Do With Your Digital Camera *
  • The Largest Genealogy Library in the World at Your Fingertips
1:00 p.m.
  • Researching Back Before 1850 *
  • Finding Your Female Ancestors
2:30 p.m.
  • County Histories and Your Family
  • Finding UFO Ancestors: Unidentified Family of Origin *
4:00 p.m.
  • 100 Acres, A Mortgage and Three Sisters
  • Using Timelines and Historic Maps in Genealogy Research *
Do any of those pique your interest? There are about nine concurrent sessions during each time period, so there has to be something there you would like. It's not too late to make plans to be in Kansas City this Friday and Saturday!

I will be blogging and posting to Facebook throughout the conference, so be sure to check in for my on-the-spot reports!

Interlibrary Loan and my Genea-Angel, Barbara Poole

The story of my first experience with inter-library loan has a new chapter. There's good news and there's bad news. The bad news is that the local library was not able to obtain a copy of the book I wanted. The good news is that the Geneablogger Gods looked kindly on me and sent a guardian angel to help me with my quest.

After some exchanges via this blog and Facebook, my blogger buddy, Barbara Poole from Life From the Roots, asked me if the New England Historic Genealogical Society had the book in its library because she was planning to go there Tuesday (today). I searched and sure enough, they have it! I reported back to Barbara with the author, title, the call number and location of the book as well as the pages I was interested in reading.

When I arrived home from work this evening, there was a message from Barbara stating that she had obtained copies of the pages I was looking for. And the copies were attached! WOW.

As I started to download the images, I realized how much information I now have to assimilate about this branch of my family tree.

But even more importantly, it reaffirmed my belief that genealogists are the best group of people in the world.

Thank you, my friend. I hope I will be able to return the favor some day.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Genealogy in the news

Genealogy seems to be all over the news these days. Here are some of the latest news articles dealing with our favorite hobby.

Library Holds Oklahoma Genealogy Treasures - Muskogee Phoenix - this article discusses the Oklahoma Confederate Civil War Pensions, the Indian Pioneer History Collection Papers, Oklahoma homestead records, and the 1890 Oklahoma Territory census.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports about a new publication about the Hardy Pace Family, Pioneers of Vinings in Georgia.

Graveyards Where History Lives On is from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The article discusses the need for historical preservation of cemeteries and focuses on two cemeteries in Washington county: Atkinson Cemetery in Cottage Grove and Mount Hope Cemetery in Afton.

The News Leader of Springfield, Missouri writes about collecting your family history information, interviewing relatives and using the Family History Library.

Flood damaged historical records at the Milwaukee County Historical Society. Wet records are being dried out according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Interlibrary Loan - Is This How It's Supposed to Work?

I went outside my comfort zone this week with a research tool I had never tried before - interlibrary loan. I'd found a 40 year old family history book on one of lines of my family on Google books several months ago. It was available only in snippet view. My keyword searches showed some limited information about the family I'm researching, but I really needed to see the book in its entirety.

It's not available anywhere online, but I found several libraries across the country that have it. I found the request for Interlibrary Loan on my local library's web site, filled out all of the information, sat back and waited.

The response I received said that one of the libraries that my library contacted would photocopy the table of contents and index for me for $20. Then, if I were to pick out some names, they would photocopy those pages only for $20. The fees aren't my concern with the process. The request form asked how much I'd be willing to pay to get the book and I said $35, and if it was more than that to let me know.

I guess I thought that Interlibrary Loan meant that this other library would send their copy of the book to my library and I could go to the library to read the entire book. I would understand if I wouldn't be able to check the book out and only be able to use it within the library.

What bothers me about not being able to review the entire book is because the research I've discovered refutes quite a bit of the information in this original family history. And that is based only on the snippets I've been able to access on Google books. Very few of the "facts" in this book about my great grandparents are accurate. Names and locations are incorrect. In fact, there is a documented incident of one of my ancestors killing his daughter and then committing suicide. The family history book I'm trying to locate tells the story differently - that the father drowned while trying to save his daughter from drowning while she was swimming. The newspaper accounts of the day confirm that he drowned - by suicide - after killing his daughter with an axe. How many people do you know who go swimming in Pennsylvania in February?

Ever since locating this family history on Google books, I've wanted to look at the entire book. I'm not sure how much of it is accurate after the differences I've discovered between it and my own research. But I want to read the whole thing! Even if there are errors in it, there are still probably some clues that I could follow. What's interesting is that the book was never published until after the author was dead.

I would appreciate input from my fellow genealogists regarding their experiences with Interlibrary Loan. Is my experience typical or do you usually actually get the book sent to your local library? I suppose that if I really want to read the book, I'm going to have to plan a trip to St. Louis (8 hour drive) to read it in their library. That's the closest library I've found that has it.

Please leave your Comments below - I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Modern Mystery

As genealogists, we all have those elusive ancestors or other family members who create brick walls and cause us much frustration.

Today, another user posted a comment on my family tree with information about one branch of the family tree. What caught my eye was information that my Dad's first cousin died only two months ago. This was news to me. But - most of the living family members don't stay in touch now that their parents have passed away, so it was not unusual for us not to have been notified of his death.

While on Ancestry, I searched on this cousin and found his death information in the Social Security Death Index. My next step was to visit, a web site I use for locating obituaries from the past decade. I typed in the cousin's last name and there were no matches. I next turned to Google to see if I could locate an obituary, but with no luck. I also tried the Google News Archives search with no luck. I located the online newspaper from the city where I knew he had lived in recent years and there were no results for an obituary.

Then I changed my search strategy and changed to the shortened version of his first name and found two references to online obituaries. I went to both sites. The first one only listed his date of death. There was no obituary, no guest book entries, no photos, nothing on a funeral or memorial service.

It was what I found on the next site that left me with a modern mystery. It only listed his dates of birth and death and one more sentence. "He was last known to be living in ____" (name of city omitted here). How many times I have come across similar words in those old newspapers from 100, 120 years ago when family members seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth. How often I've read, "He was last known to have been residing in Mexico," or "When last heard from, he was living in Canada."

Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that a present day obituary would be so elusive on the internet. Not having a published obituary available online for such a recent death is certainly not something that I would have expected.

I've contacted the person who posted the comment on my family tree, inquiring if he has an obituary for this cousin. And I will continue my online exploration. Since I know the general area where he last lived, there's always the option of contacting the newspapers in the area. I just found it intriguing that the kind of information that we take for granted in the internet age is elusive . . . so far.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Countdown: Midwest Family History Expo - Kansas City

The countdown to the Midwest Family History Expo in Kansas City has begun! One week from today, the conference begins.

The preparations leading up to the conference have begun as I've been gathering up all the bits and pieces of Blogger Technology to take on the trip.

Blogger Checklist:
  • Net book computer for blogging
  • Spiral notebooks for note taking
  • Markers and pens and post-it flags for marking up my syllabus
  • Digital camera
  • Flip video camera
  • Digital voice recorder (not to worry - I know we're not allowed to record the sessions!)
  • Garmin nuvi GPS system so I can get to and around in Kansas City (free maps from AAA are so passe! haha) - I just hope I figure out how to work the thing before next Friday.
Looking at what all of this will weigh, my guess is that I'll pare down the technology to the net book and camera. Just the thought of carrying around the 363 page syllabus is a bit overwhelming. Well, my doctor said she wants me to start lifting weights, so maybe I'll just split the syllabus in half and build up my muscles.

I'm really looking forward to meeting the other Bloggers and other Facebook friends at the Family History Expo. I have no doubt that a pleasant time will be had for all. The Geneabloggers really seems to be a great group of people and I'm looking forward to making some lasting friendships.

If you can make it, please join us. If you're already planning on attending, I hope we'll get to say Hello.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Only Two Weeks Until the Midwest Family History Expo - Kansas City

It's only two weeks until the Midwest Family History Expo that will be held in Kansas City, Missouri on July 30 - 31!

Check out the agenda here. If that is not enough to tempt you, take a look at the syllabus for the conference. It's 363 pages, so be patient for the download to complete!

Sign up today!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Update on Danish American Archive and Library

The following email was sent today by the Danish Immigrant Museum:

On Monday, July 12th, the Board of Regents voted to suspend operations of Dana College, which will mean the college will not open for its 127th academic year. The closure was necessitated by action of the Higher Learning Commission that voted to deny the college's request to transfer accreditation to a "for-profit" educational corporation.

The Danish American Archive and Library, located on the Dana College campus, has been moved to a document storage facility in Blair. Nearly a hundred volunteers accomplished this task between Friday morning, July 9th and Sunday afternoon, July 11th!   First Lutheran Church in Blair is providing temporary office space for DAAL so that archival activities can continue during the transition period. Arrangements are being made to relocate the archive to a suitable space in Blair. The intent is that this will be concluded by the end of July.

The Danish Immigrant Museum is assisting the Danish American Archive and Library and Dana College in two ways. Following action by the Board of Regents, the museum has taken temporary custody of historical artifacts that belonged to the college until such time as final ownership is resolved. Among these is the entire Lauritz Melchior Collection (the world famous heroic tenor), numerous paintings, and other artifacts that were displayed in the college's Heritage Room and around the campus.

The museum is also receiving tax-deductable donations to assist the Danish American Archive and Library during the interim period until it can organize as a separate, not-for-profit corporation with 501.c3 status. This is necessary, since the archive lost its entire endowment of almost $300,000 and its operating funds. Gifts will be used to pay storage costs, rent and utilities in the new location and the wages of one part-time employee. Checks may be made out to The Danish Immigrant Museum, with "archive preservation" or "DAAL support" on the memo line. The museum will deduct 10% to cover expenses of processing, tracking and receipting gifts.

This emergency presents The Danish Immigrant Museum with two challenges.   Storage space at the museum is at capacity even without taking on this responsibility, requiring the museum to expand into existing gallery space.  While donor numbers have increased, gift amounts are less due to the economic environment.  Even as we invite you to support the Danish American Archive and Library, we ask you to remember The Danish Immigrant Museum.


Debra Christensen Larsen
Development Associate/
Membership Coordinator
The Danish Immigrant Museum
2212 Washington Street
Elk Horn, IA  51531
(712) 764-7001

Saturday, July 10, 2010

New Blog: Nothing But Tombstones

When one blog just isn't enough, what do you do? Create a new one!

I invite my genealogy friends and followers to visit my new blog, Nothing But Tombstones. I have enough tombstone photographs to last for about ten years worth of Geneabloggers' Tombstone Tuesdays that I decided to create a new blog just for tombstone and cemetery photographs that I've taken over the years.

Since many of the tombstone photographs are kin and other relation, I will post some brief biographical information to accompany the tombstone photo.

I'm just getting started with the blog, but would appreciate it it my blogger colleagues will take a couple minutes to check it out and perhaps sign up to follow the blog.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy - Challenge #28 - Patents and Trademarks

Do you have Patience for Patents?

This week's challenge in 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy is to spend some time with patents and trademarks. The two sites recommended for use were the U.S. Patent and Trademark office and Google Patent Search.

I had little patience for the U.S. Patent Office web site. There were just too many links to wade through, so I returned to my good friend Google and tried its patent search for the first time. I typed in a couple family names with no results, then remembered that the brother-in-law of my great-grandmother was an inventor. I typed in the surname "Garrigus" and got a result that I will gladly add to my genealogy research.

Clarence Garrigus was, indeed, an inventor. Earlier this year, I learned that he had developed the Universal Breadmixer in 1903. He and his wife, Agnes Welch Garrigus, used their kitchen as a laboratory to develop the product. His obituary stated that during the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904, Garrigus passed out samples of bread made with the mixer from his wife's recipe.

A quick search and there on the computer screen in front of me was the drawing for Clarence's Dough Mixer, No. 736,956 patented August 25, 1903.

I found several more of Clarence Garrigus' patents. Another one that interested me was his Vibration Eliminator for Phonograph Turntables in 1929.

That patent application begins "The invention relates to sound translating apparatus as utilized in the recording and reproduction of sound, more especially a turntable for supporting and rotating a suitable disk record or blank and to which table rotational movement is communicated through an intermediate shaft from a suitable driving member, as a spring or electric motor."

That makes me wonder what Clarence would have thought about CDs and mp3s!

Midwest Family History Expo - Kansas City - July 30-31, 2010

My fellow genealogists in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and points beyond! Please join me at the first ever Family History Expo to be held in Kansas City, Missouri. Mark your calendar NOW for July 30-31, 2010 and plan to attend. I've been invited to be a Blogger of Honor at the conference and will be blogging from the Expo!

Here's a press release about the event from Family History Expos:

Info at a Glance:
What: Midwest Family History Expo
LDS Feature Tour: July 29, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Free Keynote Address: July 30, 8:30 a.m.
Family History Classes: July 30-31 all day
Screening of “The Forgotten Ellis Island”: July 30, 8:30 p.m.
Where: KCI Expo Center 11730 N. Ambassador Drive, Kansas City, Missouri.
Register: Online at or call 801-829-3295

Family History Expos Debuts in Kansas City

Nationally acclaimed Family History Expos will make its debut Midwest appearance in Kansas City, Missouri, July 30-31 with a special feature tour on July 29. The Expo will feature more than 100 family history-related classes taught by national experts at KCI Expo Center 11730 N. Ambassador Drive, Kansas City, Missouri.

Keynote speaker Lori Cox-Paul, director of Archival Operations for the National Archives at Kansas City (serving the Central Plains Region) will address family history enthusiasts from throughout the nation on July 30, 8 a.m., at the Exhibit Hall Classroom. The keynote address is free to the public and will be based on the theme, “Finding Your Family: Turning the Spotlight on Resources from the National Archives at Kansas City.” The opening session is free and opened to the public.

“We’re so excited to bring our services to family historians and genealogists throughout the Midwest,” Family History Expos Founder and President Holly T. Hansen said. “This event is a dream come true. We’ve had so many requests to hold a Family History Expo in the Midwest and now watch out, here we come!”

Family History Expos has held events to teach patrons techniques and technology to trace their roots throughout Western states for seven years. Hansen said this event is a result of natural growth and progression. “Family history research is so exciting, healing, and enlightening. We want to help everyone become more successful in their research quests,” Hansen said. The Expo promises more than 100 classes for beginning through professional genealogists.

This event is sponsored by Family History Expos, FamilySearch,, AGES-Online,RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, Generation Maps, and Mid-continent Public Library.

LDS Tour Precedes Expo

For the first time ever the Family History Expo will be preceded by a LDS Historic Sites Tour featuring tour guide Glen Rawson, Thursday, July 29, 8:30 a.m.—4:30 p.m.

This eight-hour tour will take participants back in time to experience history at historically significant sites like:

  • Mormon Church in Independence Missouri’s newly remodeled center honoring the past and the present, with exhibits depicting experiences of Mormon settlers in Missouri between 1831 and 1839.
  • Community of Christ Temple 
  • Liberty Jail 
  • Far West 
  • Haun’s Mill 
  • Adam-ondi-Ahman 
The cost of the tour, $65, is in addition to registration for the Expo. Please register separately for the tour at our website,

Enjoy a Moving Movie with Family History Expos
Forgotten Ellis Island: The Extraordinary Story of America’s Immigrant Hospital by Lori Conway will be the feature film Saturday afternoon in the Exhibit Hall.

Professional consultations are free for registered attendees only. Register Early and Save
Register online at or call 801-829-3295.

Pre-registration (by Thursday, July 29, 6 p.m.): $65.00
At the door: $75
One day: $40
Single class: $12
Opening session and exhibits are FREE to the public
LDS Historic Sites Tour, Thursday, July 29: $65 (in addition to the general cost of registration)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Follow Friday: Danish Immigrant Museum and International Cultural Center

After having some success in locating my ancestors in the Danish Demographic Database yesterday, I decided to explore a bit more into Danish genealogy resources. I discovered the Danish Immigrant Museum and International Cultural Center in Elk Horn, Iowa. The museum is now definitely on my "to do" list for a day trip to do some research.

The web site explains that the museum was founded in 1983 to preserve the history of Danish immigration to America. The museum houses more than 35,000 artifacts, including many family treasures.

The following is a list of resources available at the museum's Family History and Genealogy Center:

  • The Danish Immigrant Museum Wall of Honor files
  • Danish immigrant biographical files
  • Danish-American obituary collections
  • More than 600 family histories, biographies and memoirs of Danish immigrants
  • Copenhagen Police Emigration index
  • Danish Brotherhood in America lodge records
  • Danish maps, gazetteers and local histories
  • Bien newspaper (1893-present)
  • Scandinaviens Stjeren newspaper (1851-1900)
  • Danish-American organizational newsletters
And much, much more! This museum and family history center looks like a fantastic resource for anyone doing research on their Danish ancestors in America.

Related News: It was recently announced that Dana College in Blair, Nebraska would be closing its doors prior to the 2010-11 academic year. The Danish America Library and Archive has been housed at Dana College. Talks are in progress regarding moving that collection to the Danish Immigrant Museum.

Enjoy a tour of the Danish Immigration Museum and what it has to offer below:

Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society presents John Philip Colletta on October 9, 2010

The Lives of Our Ancestors: Discovering and Recovering the Details will be the topic of John Philip Colletta's presentation at the October 9, 2010 gathering of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society. The event will take place at the Southeast Community College Continuing Education Center, 301 S. 68th St, in Lincoln, Nebraska from 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. More details will be available soon at

John Philip Colletta

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Follow Friday: Review of 5 of Family Tree Magazine's Best FREE web sites

 I love doing my genealogy research on line. I love reading about genealogy online. But I also look forward with anticipation to my print copy of Family Tree Magazine in the mail each month. And this month's issue has some real treasures. And where do the treasures lead me? Online, of course!

Family Tree Magazine published its list of 101 Best FREE Genealogy Web sites. Yep, browse and search to your heart's content and don't shell out a penny. Many are ones you already know about, but there are still some I haven't seen before.

I decided to select five of the sites I'd never visited before to see what they have to offer.

Being a newspaper junkie, the first site I visited was It is organized differently than I would expect. A search on abstracts from Lancaster county, Nebraska yielded 11 hits, none of which were from Nebraska newspapers. The subjects of the articles refer to Nebraska place names or people from Nebraska. In that regard, the organization of the site allows one to think outside the box and not restrict oneself to newspapers of a specific locale. The site has a search feature, but a surname search gives results that only list the newspaper name. I had better luck using a standard Google site search string "kelly site: http//" Seeing the results in Google allowed me to see summaries of the article. The site has a yahoo discussion group where you can sign up for their e-newsletter. Overall rating: C.

Toot, toot, Tootsie! : Goo’ by... Digital ID: g98c136_001. New York Public LibraryNext up was the New York Public Library digital collection. The site states that it is partnering with Google to have a portion of its pre-1923 books scanned for Google books. I found that some manuscripts that relate to some of my Bellinger line from the Mohawk Valley are in the collection, but I could not review a digital copy. Now, once you visit the Digital Library, you will find much more interesting and accessible fare. In the History and Geography section, I found some of George Catlin's beautiful images of Native Americans. I found a collection of cabinet card photographs. Once I found the collection of old sheet music, I knew that I would have to make a return trip to this web site!

The site also includes a collection of Ellis Island photographs, postcards, cartoons. I know that my return trip to this site will undoubtedly last an hour or two. Overall rating: A+.

I collect cookbooks. I don't actually use them, I just read them. So my next site was Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project. There are cookbooks featuring French cuisine, Creole cooking; another called The Frugal Housewife (some things never change), a manual for Army cooks, and a White House cookbook from 1897. It's a very interesting site which I hope to return to - even though I'm not quite sure how it made a list of the top 101 genealogy sites. The Library of Congress has chosen to include this site in its collection. Interest Rating: A; Genealogy Rating: D; Overall Rating for Genealogists: C+.

Next stop was a techie product site called This allows you to make notes, do screen captures, and organize various bits and pieces of information and store it all on the web. Rather than tell you any more about this site, I'll let you watch this video:

As I'm already sold on Microsoft OneNote and use it almost daily, I'm probably not going to switch, but for those looking for a free product that does something similar, this might meet your needs. Overall use for a genealogist: B+

My last stop on the tour was the Danish Demographic Database. I wondered if I could find anything on my Danish ancestors. WOW! Within seconds of initiating a search on Danish immigrants, I discovered this record on my great grandfather, Jens Petersen, then using the surname Jeremiasen. He was from Terndrup, Denmark, and with his parents and siblings, on their way to Waterloo, Iowa. His parents and siblings also showed up in the search results. Jens' father's occupation was Arbejder, which I guess means he was a laborer. Jens' occupation was a Barn? Say what? Thanks to my friend, Google Translate, I discovered that is Danish for Child. Whew!

One more search while I'm on this site - let's see what the Census search comes up with. I entered great-great grandfather's name, Peder Jeremiasen:

It just doesn't get any better than this! There's my family! My great-great grandparents: Peder and Else. The Larsen surname is new information. Other family members had given me her last name as Polsdatter. And here, the children have the surname Pedersen, as with Danish naming tradition. They did change the spelling to Petersen once settled in the U.S. "Hans Hustru" by Else's name is translated as "His Wife." Peder's occupation of husfader jordbruger og pottemager translates as "The father a farmer and potter." And from this record, I now have birthplaces for these members of the family.

Was it sheer luck or divine intervention that I saved this web site until last? Based on ease of use and my personal discoveries, I've got to give this one an Overall Rating of A++ !

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

iGoogle for Genealogy

Recently I wrote about the Joy of Blogging and using Google Reader. Another Google tool that may be of interest to genealogists is iGoogle. iGoogle allows you to customize your Google home pages based on your interests. Depending upon how you customize iGoogle, you can catch up on the news, see the latest posts from your favorite blogs, check out the weather and even do some quick family history searches - all from one page!

To begin customizing your page(s), visit From there, you can begin setting up your customized pages, colors, themes, and most importantly, your personalized content. Below is a screen capture of one of my pages. You can click on the image to see a larger view.

Where does all of this content come from? In the lower right portion of the header, you'll see "Add Stuff." Click on that. You next see a screen that shows all the different gadgets you can add to your page. In the search box, type "Genealogy."

There you will see a variety of genealogy related topics and gadgets to add to your page. The RSS feeds from some bloggers we're all familiar with are among your options. You want it on your page? Just click on the "Add It Now" button.

As you add gadgets, you'll be prompted to see similar items, such as you see on this screen:

Something I enjoy about using iGoogle, is that I can have a condensed version of Google Reader as one of my gadgets. That's more like viewing the crawler across the bottom of a television news channel for quick headlines. I can click on the article to read it, or just see all of the articles that await me in Google Reader. Among the gadgets you can add are searches on and USGenWeb. Sirius Genealogy offers a couple different age/date calculators.

Now a tip for my fellow bloggers. How would you like to make your blog content available for other people to add to their pages on iGoogle? That is very simple! Visit this page for Publishers and by following the simple directions, in less than a minute you have the html code to add to your blog. Your readers can click on the "Add to Google" button and have the option of adding your feed to iGoogle or to Google Reader. Google states that one in five Google homepage views goes to iGoogle. So would you like to have your blog show up every time one of your readers opens her or his iGoogle home page? It's an excellent option to help drive traffic to your blog.

My recommendation is Just Do It! Get into iGoogle and look around. Change your theme, create pages for different interests. Start adding Genealogy Gadgets and content. Try things out. Have fun with it. Once you've tried it out, come back and leave a comment below. Let us know what other genealogy related gadgets you found to add  to your iGoogle! I'm eager to hear about your discoveries!

Wordless Wednesday - Bill Kelly's Birthday

William L. Kelly
Greenwood, Nebraska
July 7, 1892 - December 31, 1968
My grandfather
circa 1957
Oh, how I loved that little Brownie camera!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Jens Tinus Christensen

This week, I'm featuring two entries for Tombstone Tuesday. The quest to locate the tombstone shown here began with a mysterious photograph in an album that belonged to my grandmother in the early 1920s. There were a few photographs taken in a cemetery and I had no idea where the cemeteries were located, or if the tombstones had any connection to our family.

This photograph caught my eye, as you might imagine, because of the airplane propeller perched atop the stone. I couldn't even read the inscription on the stone in the photograph with the naked eye. I scanned the photo at 600 dpi so I could view it on my computer. I was then able to ascertain that it was a monument for someone named Tinus Christensen.

My first stop was Fortunately, there was a memorial for this person. The memorial on that site states that Tinus Christensen was an air mail pilot who was killed in 1921. I needed to learn more and turned to Google. From that search, I discovered the Blair Historic Preservation Alliance web site which tells the story of how this brave pilot sacrificed his own life rather than risk the lives of others in an emergency landing in a street in Cleveland. Reports state that thousands of people attended his funeral in Blair, Nebraska.

Another recent photograph of his grave site my be viewed here. The propeller atop the stone in this more recent photograph is not the same one as in the photograph in my grandmother's album.

I know that members of the Petersen family lived in Blair. I am speculating that my grandparents went to visit sometime after the funeral once the monument was set and they took the photographs at that time. The pilot's mother's maiden name was Pedersen, but I'm not aware of any relation to my family.

Still, I think it turned out to be an interesting discovery, one based only on a photograph in an album. Hey, does that make me a History Detective!?! Not quite, but it was fun to look into this.

Tombstone Tuesday - Asa Loder

This week, Tombstone Tuesday returns to Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery, between Greenwood and Ashland, Nebraska.

Buried here is Asa Loder, who lived only five months and one day. Asa was born November 29, 1870 and died April 30, 1871. Asa was the son of Samuel Humes Loder and Mary Elizabeth Laughlin. His mother is also buried in Sheffer Pioneer Cemetery.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Midwest Family History Expo - Blogger of Honor

I am very pleased to report that I have been invited to participate as a Blogger of Honor at the Midwest Family History Expo in Kansas City on July 30-31. The event will be held at the KCI Expo Center, 11730 North Ambassador Drive in Kansas City.

I'm making my list and checking it twice - items I need to pack for Kansas City:

  • New net book computer for blogging
  • Digital voice recorder for those spontaneous interviews (bought it four or five years ago and decided today that I'd better read the instruction manual)
  • My FlipVideo camera to capture all of the Live Action! (so long as I can remember the difference between pause and record)
  • Batteries for the aforementioned gadgets
  • Notebooks and pens
This is starting to sound like an awfully heavy bag to tote around. And of all those items, what will I end up using the most? Probably the notebooks and pens!

Anyway, I am most pleased and honored to be invited to participate as a Blogger of Honor at the Expo - my first. I'm really looking forward to meeting the Rock Stars of the geneablogging world and many of the folks I've networked with through Geneabloggers and Facebook. Won't you join me in Kansas City?

08:13 PM UPDATE:

Family History Expos has announced the list of Bloggers of  Honor as well as other bloggers who will be in attendance at the event:

Our Midwest Bloggers of Honor are:
Thomas MacEntee, Destination: Austin Family
Susan Petersen, Long Lost Relatives
William L. Smith, Ph.D., Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories

Other Bloggers in Attendance at the Midwest Family History Expo include:
Tami Glatz, Relatively Curious
Leland Meitzler, GenealogyBlog
Michael John Neill, Casefile Clues 
Gena Philibert Ortega, Gena’s Genealogy

These really ARE some of the Rock Stars of the Geneablogger world. I'm excited and humbled to be in your company!

Madness Monday - The case of the Missing Mary Kelly

I keep staring at the 1880 United States Census for District 235 in the Mill Precinct of Lancaster county, Nebraska. Many members of my Kelly family are listed. There's my great grandfather, Daniel Kelly, shown at age 22 as the head of the household. Shown next is brother Willie - or William as I know him from other records. Johnie (John), Thomas, Nellie and Maggie (Margaret) are all there. Then another William shows up. Based on the age and the fact that his birthplace is shown as Illinois, this is most likely Michael C. Kelly, not another William.

Here comes the more perplexing aspect of this record. The last person shown in the household is W. D. (William) Kelly, who is my great great grandfather and the father of all of these siblings. His age is shown as 45, which is probably close to being accurate. But a housekeeper? Somehow, I just don't think he would have given up farming at that age to care for the house, especially since daughter Maggie is also shown to to keeping house.

The other two "facts" about W. D. Kelly is that he is reported as a Female and Widowed! I'm 100% certain that he was male, and his wife, Mary Casey, did not die until 1886. That is confirmed on her tombstone and in newspaper accounts.

The bottom line - where is his wife, Mary Casey Kelly, in 1880? I'm stumped. She was not living with her daughter and son-in-law (Mary Kelly and John Fitzgerald) in 1880. However, she and daughter Nellie were shown living with the Fitzgeralds at their Lincoln mansion, Mount Emerald, in the 1885 Nebraska State Census.

My only explanation is that the census enumerator got the information wrong - or it was given to him wrong. Whatever the case may be, it drives me Mad - Monday or any other day of the week!

Success Story! Dr William D Kelly Obituary

Never underestimate the power of the Internet and the generosity of fellow genealogists.

On January 10, 2010, I posted a request for an obituary of Dr. William D. Kelly of St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition to posting on this blog, I also posted a query on a message board on Thanks to the Minnesota death index search of the Minnesota State Historical Society I had narrowed down my search to two William Kellys in Ramsey county. One died in 1940 and the other died in 1943.

Not long ago, I received a special surprise in my email. A generous volunteer sent me not only a copy of the obituary from the newspaper, but also a copy of William's death certificate. Thanks to both, I now know that he is buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Before I received this information, I continued my search for Dr. Kelly's obituary. A Google books search resulted in a reference in the journal of the Minnesota Medical Association, Minnesota Medicine. Unfortunately, it was only a limited preview and the entire obituary was not available online. I found the website for the Minnesota Medical Association and sent an email to the contact listed. He referred my request to the editor of the publication, who immediately responded with a scanned copy of the page from the journal. It had helped that the Google book search indicated exactly the volume and page number I was looking for so I could provide that with my request. As Dr. Kelly's brother was also a physician in St. Paul, I obtained a copy of his obituary from Minnesota Medicine in the same manner. Kudos to the Minnesota Medical Association for their willingness to help and their prompt response on both occasions!

And, of course, my thanks to the gracious volunteer who took the time to lookup the newspaper obituary and the copy of the death certificate.

Thanks to people like this, our work as family historians is a little easier.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth of July Birthday - Mildred Ellen Pecht Mittan

Mildred Ellen Pecht was born on July 4, 1915 in Hardy, Nebraska. She died February 23, 2001 in Lubbock, Texas.

Daughter of Leroy Pearl Pecht and Clara Rosella Laymon.

Married to Clifton D. Mittan on August 12, 1936.

She was the sister of my grandmother, Ruby Luella Pecht.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy - Challenge # 27 - The Inventors of Greenwood, Nebraska

This week's challenge in "52 weeks to Better Genealogy" was to try our skills using Google Scholar. I was aware of this search tool but had not yet used it. When my search turned up titles such as "Reaction of Benzocyclobutnoxides With Nitrates: Synthesis of Hypecumine and Other 3-Substituted Isoquinolines" I wasn't sure if I was up to this challenge!

A few surname searches didn't turn up any of my ancestors, so I thought I'd try searching on Greenwood, Nebraska, the little village northeast of Lincoln where many of my ancestors settled.

To my surprise, I discovered that Greenwood had spawned some inventors. 

On May 1, 1883, Walter Trumbull received a patent for his improvement to windmills.

On June 11, 1889, William Carr received a patent on his ironing table.

On June 4, 1901, John Stradley of Greenwood received a patent for his corn sheller.

On June 11, 1907, W. Dean received a patent on his dropping device - which is a system for planting corn at regular intervals.

And on December 27, 1910, Sterling McDonald received a patent on his cuspidor. I don't know if that one ever took off because 40 years later, my grandfather Bill Kelly was still using a Hills Brothers coffee can for his spitoon!

While I doubt if I make as much use of Google Scholar as I do of Google Books, it's nice to know that it's there if I need to know about the taphonomy and population dynamics of an early Pliocene vertebrate fauna.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Revolutionary War Ancestor - Johannes/John Belllinger

Tracking down the John Bellinger name in my family history can be quite mind-numbing at times. Going back to my great-grandfather, John William Bellinger, his father was John Bellinger; his grandfather was John Bellinger; and his great-grandfather was John (or Johannes) Bellinger.

My Bellinger ancestry takes me to the area of Herkimer, New York, where it seems every Bellinger in the country must have lived at the time.

The first story I found about my Revolutionary War Johannes/John F. Bellinger was a tale written by my great grandfather, John Bellinger, in 1934. I don't have the original, but it was recopied by my grandmother, Sina Bellinger Kelly, many years later. His account was shared by Joy Deal Lehmann in her book, The Bellingers of Greenwood, Nebraska (2001).

Great-grandfather Bellinger's story read as follows:

"As told by my grandmother, she came to Nebraska with us. She was 97 years old when she died in 1874. So you see she was born at the close of the Revolutionary War. I was 20 years old. She told how the John Bellingers fought. We had two war vessels laying in Sockets Harbor. Wasn't finished yet when three English war vessels came across from Canada. Ours wasn't moured yet when they seen them coming. They rushed on our boats with a John Bellinger leading with hat in hand yelling like an Indian. Giving orders and sunk two of them and the other one got away and went back to Canada."

Great Grandpa Bellinger's story seems to have become embellished over time. William V.H. Barker reports in the book, Early Families of Herkimer County, New York (1986) that my ancestor was killed by Indians while mowing hay. Barker goes on to report that my ancestor "refused to run for his gun when stalking Indians approached and was thus slain while Harter brother-in-law got away." The incident occurred on July 24, 1780.

At the time of his death, Johannes/John was about 25 years of age and married to Ernestina Harter, daughter of Captain Henry Harter (variations in spelling: Herther, Harther, Harder). They had only been married for two months when he died. Ernestina Harter had been married to Lt. John Meyer and later to Adam Staring. She was pregnant with Johannes/John's son, John Bellinger, when Johannes/John died. The son was born March 8, 1781 and was my great great great grandfather. He married Anna Eva Clapsaddle.

In Lyle Frederick Bellinger's Genealogy of the Mohawk Valley Bellingers and Allied Families (1976), Ernestina is referred to as the "It Girl" of the Revolution! What descendant wouldn't want to know more about that!

I have discovered some pension records and correspondence regarding Johannes/John on And while being killed when mowing hay is not quite what Great Grandpa Bellinger had told of his ancestor's death, we do know that Johannes/John did serve during the Revolutionary War. 

UPDATE: More details about the death of John Bellinger in the Revolutionary War (26 Jan 2011)