Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Danish ggg grandparents

Oddly enough, I hadn't worked much in FamilySearch.org until the past week. But I have hit the jackpot in adding new branches to the tree as well as verifying and confirming information.

Just minutes ago, I discovered my great great great grandparents from Denmark: Laust Laursen and Karen Poulsen. And it all had to do with setting aside some previously held beliefs and thinking outside the box.

Information I had from another relative researching our family indicated that my great-great grandparents were Peder Jeremiasen and Elsie Kathrine Polsdatter. They immigrated from Denmark to Waterloo, Iowa in 1888. Their immigration records had been elusive to me until I anted up and got the World subscription on Ancestry.com and I learned that they first arrived in Quebec before going on to Waterloo. Only a few weeks ago, I discovered the family in the census in the Dansk Demografisk Database.

I have been looking for Elsie in searches for Polsdatter and Plsdr (another abbreviation I discovered was used). Last week, on FamilySearch.org, I discovered the marriage information on their son (my great grandfather), Jens Petersen and my great grandmother, Caroline Hansen. The record listed the names of Jens' parents as Peder Jeremiasen and Elsie Lauridsen. Lauridsen? What happened with Polsdatter?

I continued various searches and spelling variations on FamilySearch.org and just discovered Elsie's death information in the Iowa Death and Burials database. Everything matched up and this record told me that her parent's names were Laust Laursen and Karen Poulsen - taking my Danish roots back another generation - and through a female ancestor! Danish naming tradition changes surnames with each generation, so this is no easy task! Once I saw the name Poulsen, it became clear how someone had arrived at the surname Polsdatter in the earlier research.

This is, indeed, an exciting success story as I've never really believed it was going to be possible to actually find my Danish ancestors. Now, with a new generation and new names, the search will continue!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy - Challenge # 33 - Twitter

I'm a couple weeks behind in posting my experiences on the Twitter challenge in 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy. The challenge was to monitor Twitter twice a day for seven days; examine the information being exchanged and learn how to control the incoming information.

For whatever reason, this was not that easy a challenge for me. Last month, I watched as my fellow geneabloggers tweeted from the Family History Expo in Kansas City. I tried to follow along, but just couldn't quite grasp how Twitter works.

When the 52 Weeks challenge came up, I figured that I could do this for one week. I got an account on Twitter and started to follow a few of my online genealogy friends. I downloaded Tweet Deck, which I found helped me manage the incoming information much better than on the Twitter site. After the seven days were over, I wasn't impressed and posted a comment on Facebook that said "Bye Bye Blue Birdie."

But - I didn't close out my Twitter account. I continued to check the messages a couple times a day. I still find it difficult to follow conversations - they don't appear to be threaded the way I'm used to seeing on message boards or even Facebook. But if I don't check in, I think that I might be missing something. For example, I really enjoyed reading the tweets from the people attending the Family History Expo in Salt Lake City this weekend. That's #FHexpo on Twitter in case you didn't know.

While browsing books at Barnes and Noble this week, I noticed there were a couple books on using Twitter and Facebook for marketing. These were thick books! So I thought there must be something more to this Twitter thing than 140 characters. I didn't buy the books. In fact, I didn't even look at them. But the size of them made me rethink "the Twitter thing."

Even though I am not enamored with Twitter (yet), I am a proponent of social media as a resource in aiding genealogical research. So I started to do some tweeting and retweeting. I have no idea why anyone is following me, but they are! So, just to tie LongLostRelatives.net into my Twitter account, I've added a widget to the blog that displays my most recent tweets. I've always been a believer in keeping content fresh on web sites, so having the live Twitter feed on this blog made sense.

I may have gone into this kicking and screaming and complaining, but I'm on Twitter and I'm probably going to stick around for a while. So if you want to follow me, come on over to http://twitter.com/sooznebr

Friday, August 27, 2010

Follow Friday: Ancestry.com releases 60 million yearbook images

Today's news release from Ancestry.com announced the release of more than 60 million school yearbook images available on the site. I rushed right in to Ancestry's card catalog and immediately bookmarked the yearbook search page. I began going through the browse feature, one step at a time > Nebraska > Lincoln > Lincoln Northeast.

Oh my goodness! Was it true? Yes, the 1968 edition of The Rocket was right there before my eyes. Not that I needed any reminders of the page images before me on Ancestry. I was on the staff of The Rocket and between September 1967 until May of 1968, I lived and breathed The Rocket yearbook. I was intent on a career in writing and journalism, but rather than apply to be on the staff of The Northeastern, I applied to be on the yearbook staff instead. Why? Because I figured that a yearbook would last through time, unlike the newspapers that would likely be thrown away. After finding the entire 1968 Rocket available online, I'm beginning to question the decision I made as a 17 year old! Who in their right mind really wants their high school yearbook photos available for the world to see?

Well, I am still a writer and still consider myself a journalist even though I didn't follow my original dream of going into newspaper reporting or broadcasting. And as a genealogist, I have to accept the facts, warts and all. And that is why I've decided to share some of those hideous photographs from The Rocket with my blog readers and to set the record straight about some of the images. And having reached another birthday milestone that ends in a Zero yesterday, there's just not anything that embarrasses me anymoe.

Here's my senior photo as it appeared in the yearbook. I hated it then and I hate it now. Dig those vintage cats-eye glasses!

The Back Story: I had a really nice senior photo that was much better. In 1968, we still lived by rules, dress codes and there were strict requirements on the attire that we wore in our yearbook photographs. Girls had to wear black/dark sweaters and a plain necklace. Can you believe it! The guys had to wear jackets and ties. One fellow turned in his photo wearing a plaid jacket. I thought our yearbook advisor, Mrs. Marlys Hughes (whom I loved dearly) would go through the roof. Rather than having the photo taken over, she pulled out her equivalent of what would be today's black Sharpie and marked up his jacket. Another girl didn't wear the required necklace, so Mrs. Hughes painted one on with white-out. Did ya think no one would notice these touch-ups? A friend and I got caught in this game as the studio where we had our photos taken used a backdrop that was too dark for the yearbook photos. We had to have our photos retaken with the correct backdrop. No choices to select from this time around - we got one and only one pose. I had just finished being in the school play, during which we were instructed to NOT cut our hair so it would fit with the vintage roles were were playing. I hated how long and stringy my hair had become that I immediately had it cut very short. It was just beginning to grow back in when I had this photo taken. I hated it then and I hate it now because the rules all seem so silly.

Here's a photograph that was taken for the section on the guidance counselors and home room.

The Back Story: The photographer needed six students to pose with Mr. Crosier, so the six of us shown jumped at the chance. Read the caption: "Tardy students" and "guilty persons" Ack! I had never been tardy for anything in my entire life, and right there in the yearbook, for all to see, I am labeled as tardy and guilty. Well, that look on my face makes me look guilty! It's called ACTING!

That brings me around to my short-lived acting career.

The Back Story: Here I am in the cast of Ruth and Augustus Goetz's The Heiress, which we produced in the fall of 1967. I suppose I thought I was going to get into method acting and immediately went to the original source material, Henry James' Washington Square. To learn that my character, Maria, the maid, wasn't even in the original work was more than a little disappointing. The only reason I tried out for that particular part was because it had the fewest lines to memorize. I always had visions of going into musical theater, as I knew all of the songs from West Side Story, Oklahoma, South Pacific, Bye Bye Birdie - you name it. There was one small problem - I could not carry a tune if my life depended on it. That seemed so unfair because I knew all the lyrics! The director of the play was Mr. Jim Putnam, who was my drama teacher and I really liked him a lot. Our paths crossed again ten to 15 years ago. We got reacquainted and one day I told him that he had been one of the best teachers I'd ever had. He was rather shocked and told me that when I knew him, it was his first year of teaching! He retired last year after a long career in education. I didn't do any more acting, but still feel that the speech and drama classes provided a good solid foundation for the training and public speaking that I do today.

International Club - This was a group interested in learning about other countries and languages. I'm in the front row wearing the sweater with the diamond design.

The Back Story: A lot of us joined just so we could have another activity listed next to our senior picture in the yearbook!

Here I am (sitting) as one of the activities editors of The Rocket.

The Back Story: That's the long stringy hairdo I mentioned earlier that I could hardly wait to get cut as soon as
The Heiress was over. Working on The Rocket was undoubtedly the best part of my senior year in high school. It was a project I was totally passionate about. It gave me some experience in writing, layout, printing, production of a real book - skills that transferred to my study of journalism at the University of Nebraska and skills that remain with me today. The technology has changed, but the basics were all right there all those years ago.

From Sue to Susan, The Back Story: I was never too keen on the shortened version of my name. I had always been Susan until junior high school when one of my teachers took it upon herself to begin calling me Sue. Not knowing that I could object, it stayed with me for way too many years. At least over the past 25 years, I think I've managed to get across the message that I prefer to be called Susan, although a few very old friends still know me as Sue.

Maybe this blog post is a little over indulgent, but how many times do you find yourself in a database on Ancestry.com? And besides, I wanted some of my new genealogy friends to see that I really used to be thin! LOL.

So - take a look at the new additions to the yearbook database on Ancestry.com. I'm looking forward to reading what other bloggers find buried in that treasure!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Genea-Angel Award

One of the common traits among genealogists, besides our passion for the hobby, is that we love helping out others with their family history. I know that I have several Genea-Angels who have helped me along the way.

I've noticed that many blogs carry a variety of awards and recognitions, so I thought it might be fun to provide a Genea-Angel award. It's a simple way of paying it forward - to recognize those people who have aided in your research, provided insight or otherwise given you inspiration and guidance in your family history journey. The recipient of the Genea-Angel award may display the image on their blog or web site if they choose.

It's easy to recognize someone. You can use the Genea-Angel image in this post and use it in your blog or on your web site and share information about how your Genea-Angel helped you in your quest.

I wrote about my experience with one of my Genea-Angels a few weeks ago when Barbara Poole graciously obtained copies of pages of a family history book that had eluded me. So I thought it might be fun to pay it forward so others could recognize their Genea-Angels.

I look forward to reading about everyone else's Genea-Angels - I know there are a lot of them out there!

Ancestry.com and NBC Team Up for a Second Season of Who Do You Think You Are?

Press Release from Ancestry.com

PROVO, Utah, August 25, 2010– Ancestry.com is pleased to announce it has extended its relationship with NBC for the second season of the “Who Do You Think You Are?” television series.

Ancestry.com worked with NBC on the first season of “Who Do You Think You Are?” that debuted in March 2010. The company provided important family history research for the show, including tracing the roots of the seven celebrities featured, and collaborated with NBC to promote the series. Each episode took one celebrity on an emotional, and often times soul-searching journey to discover the lives of family members who came before them.

“It is remarkable to work on this series with the leader in the online family history category, Ancestry.com,” said Paul Telegdy, Executive Vice President of Alternative Programming & Production at NBC Universal. “A show of this caliber takes a lot of research and ground work to make the celebrities stories come to life. With the valued collaboration of Ancestry.com, we’ve been able to tell seven amazing stories in the first season, and look forward to even greater family history discoveries to be uncovered in season two.”

“We are excited to continue working with NBC on this series,” said Josh Hanna, Executive Vice President and Head of Global Marketing for Ancestry.com. “The first season of the show has truly elevated awareness around the family history category and we couldn’t be more pleased to be an integral part of a television series that brings excitement to the discoveries people can make when researching their ancestral roots.”

“Who Do You Think You Are?” is produced by Wall to Wall Entertainment in collaboration with Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky for their production company, Is or Isn’t Entertainment. NBC has announced the show will air in the 2010-11 season.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems Podcast 95

Lisa Louise Cooke mentioned LongLostRelatives.net blog on her recent Genealogy Gems Podcast 95. She referred to an earlier post on this blog where I wrote about her podcast being my walking companion. That post was in response to one of the 52 Days to Better Genealogy challenge.

Thanks, Lisa! I appreciate the tip of the hat!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Finding Something When You Least Expect It

There is a certain amount of synchronicity that goes along with genealogy research. It reminds me of the Buddhist  proverb, When the student is ready, the teacher shall appear.

Last fall, a friend and I headed to Nebraska City (in Nebraska, of course) for the annual Applejack Festival. It was a very warm fall day, nice weather for a day trip. Festivities were going on all over the community and after feasting on freshly made apple pie, we decided to visit some of the historic houses. One of the sites we visited was the oldest house in Nebraska City.

The house had been through several remodelings over the years, but a couple of the original rooms remained. One of the volunteers took us from room to room, telling us about the history of the house. Near the entryway was a table with a handful of books for sale and some promotional brochures. One of the books caught my eye. The book was called From the Missouri to the Great Salt Lake: An Account of Overland Freighting, by William E. Lass, (c) 1972.

Having only recently learned that my great-great grandfather had done some overland freighting between St. Paul, Minnesota and Denver, then later between Omaha and Denver, I picked up the book to thumb through. After all, I cannot see a stack of books anywhere without picking up at least one to look through.

The book opened to page 238. It could have opened to any page, but no, it opened to page 238. On that page I read the following:

KELLY, WILLIAM D. b. Johnstown, County Kilkenny, Ireland, 1831; d. Lancaster County, Nebraska, January 31, 1896. Kelly migrated to the United States in 1850 and lived in New York and Illinois before moving to Minnesota, where he had his first freighting experience and participated in one of the Fisk expeditions. In about 1863 he moved to Omaha and, until the completion of the UPRR, freighted to Denver. After leaving freighting he moved to Council Bluffs, where he worked for some years as a construction contractor before retiring and moving to a Lancaster County farm. (Morton-Watkins, IIIC, 495).

I was not on a genealogy research trip; I was on a Sunday afternoon outing. And right there in my hands was some information I needed to know for my family history. And yes, the book fell open to the page with a biographical sketch of my great-great grandfather, W. D. Kelly.

I truly believe that there is some kind of psychic or energy source that guides us in our genealogical travels. How else can I explain the desire to go to Nebraska City that day, to visit that particular house, to pick up that book, and then for it to open exactly to the page with my ancestor's biography? I can't explain it. All I can do is believe in the synchronicity of events and allow it to happen.

And yes, I did buy the book!

Omaha Nebraska - Tombstone Tour - September 12, 2010

The Douglas County Historical Society has announced its Tombstone Tour of Forest Lawn, Prospect Hill and Holy Sepulchre cemeteries.

Source: Douglas County Historical Society

September 12, 2010
2 p.m.

“Tombstone Tour”
with local historian Joni Fogarty

Our Second Sunday Talk goes mobile in September as we visit three historic cemeteries on a motor coach tour. Local historian Joni Fogarty will provide cryptic commentary about the notables interred, and we'll toast the departed with complimentary beverages.

Cost is $40. Reservations due by Sept. 7. Send check to address below, call 455-9990 for credit card payment or use the PayPal option.

Board bus between 1:30 and 2 at General Crook House Museun, Fort Omaha. Bus leaves promptly at 2 and will return by 5:30.

5730 N. 30th St. #11B
Omaha, NE 68111

Have you visited Footnote.com lately?

Footnote.com is one of those web sites that has taken me some time to get used to. But the more I use it, the more I value it as a site than can aid my genealogy research.

Footnote is working diligently to scan and make available millions of documents from the National Archives. These are all public records. The membership fee charged by Footnote.com goes toward the cost of scanning the documents and making them available in digital format. At this writing, the site hosts nearly 68 million images.

Already, Footnote is providing one of the most extensive collections of records from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.

Here are just a few of the collections available on Footnote.com:

  • The entire collection of Matthew Brady's Civil War photographs (more than 6,000 images)
  • Civil War pension index
  • FBI case files
  • Passport applications
  • City directories
  • Newspapers
  • Texas death certificates
  • US Census records - 1860 and 1930 are complete, other years are being added
  • Civil War maps
  • Records of the Continental Congress
  • The court martial of George Custer
  • Homestead records from the Broken Bow, Nebraska land office
I can't even begin to list all of the different types of record collections available on the site - you need to take some time to browse around in your field of interest.

The site can be searched by using keywords or you can browse titles through a hierarchical structure. It is very simple to print or download documents to your computer.

An ever growing feature of Footnote is the ability of users to contribute their own content by uploading images and creating pages. If you find your ancestor in a census record, it's simple to upload a photograph of that person that is then connected to the record. You can also create Footnote pages for a person, place, event, organization or topic. I've started creating Footnote pages on my grandparents and great-grandparents. This allows me to add photographs, facts such as birth, death, marriage, military service, etc. When you find other documents on Footnote that are about your ancestor, you can connect them to your Footnote page. You also have the option of allowing other users to contribute information to the page or not.

You can also annotate documents, whether they are provided by Footnote, another user or yourself. I recently uploaded a copy of the marriage certificate of my great-grandparents. I annotated all of the names and locations that appeared on the document. This makes those annotations available immediately in the search results.

Learn more about Footnote.com:

Footnote.com is a subscription web site, although many of its collections available at no charge. The annual loyalty pricing fee is $59.95 (regular price is $79.95). When you figure that is less than $5/month, it's quite a bargain in the field of subscription sites. You can try it out with a seven-day free trial.

My "member card" below shows a summary of the items I've contributed to Footnote.

Disclaimer: I am not a member of the Footnote.com affiliate network and I did not receive any compensation for this review. Opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Genealogy & Lincoln History classes - Lincoln Nebraska

Classes for beginning and intermediate level genealogists return to the campus of Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska this fall.

Beginning Genealogy: Where To Start With Your Family History begins October 14 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Tuition is $35. The class will be taught by Cynthia Monroe and Marcia Stewart (they do a very nice job!).

Intermediate Genealogy: Research Your Family Tree builds upon the introductory class and is again taught by Marcia and Cynthia. Tuition is $25 and classes begin November 3 from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

Noted Lincoln historian Jim McKee is teaching two classes during the fall session. History of Lincoln begins October 7 from 7:30 - 9:00 p.m. Tuition is $39. Lincoln's Suburbs begins October 6 from 7:30 - 9:00 p.m. Tuition is $24.

Download course catalog - Genealogy class descriptions are on page 24 and Lincoln history class descriptions are on page 27.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Lives of Our Ancestors - John Colletta - Oct 9 - Lincoln, Nebraska

Registration is now available for The Lives of Our Ancestors: Discovering and Recovering the Personal Details, featuring John Colletta.

Topics will include:
  • Assembling and Writing a Narrative Family History
  • Turning Biographical Facts into Real-Life Events: Building Historical Context
  • Our Spectacular Library of Congress: An Overview with Research Examples
  • Understanding Archives: What They Are and How to Use Them

This Family History Month event is presented by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society and Southeast Community College.

Saturday, October 9, 2010
Southeast Community College Continuing Education Center
301 S. 68th St. Place
Lincoln, Nebraska
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Registration: $50 includes lunch

Also included in the agenda is a music recital and lecture on Woody Guthrie's place in the history of American folk music. Nebraska Humanities Scholars Mike Adams and Kathryn Benzel will present Woody Guthrie: Re-envisioning 1930s America.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Fun - Can You Solve this Genealogy Crossword?

If you think you've solved it, write your answers in the Comments section below.

To create your own crossword puzzle, visit http://www.crosswordpuzzlegames.com/

Friday, August 13, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are returns August 13

If you happened to miss any of the episodes of the NBC series Who Do You Think You Are last spring - or if you just can't get enough of anything about genealogy, repeat episodes begin airing this evening, August 13, on NBC. Check local listings for times in your area.

Tonight's episode features Lisa Kudrow's search for a missing relative, long thought to be dead and a visit to the location where one of her ancestors became a victim of the holocaust. It's an extremely moving episode.

You can view full episodes and highlights at NBC.com.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

LongLostRelatives.net is now available for Kindle ebook reader

As I am about to become a member of the constantly growing public using an ebook reader, it seemed like a good time to make LongLostRelatives.net available on the Kindle.

Subscribe to LongLostRelatives.net for Kindle - free 14 day free trial.

For the hundreds of other genealogy bloggers, have you considered making your content available to the ever-increasing ebook market? It's very simple to do. Visit Kindle Publishing for Blogs which is sponsored by Amazon.com. Consider this as another venue for making your content available to a wider audience.

Publishing for the Kindle makes your blog available in the Amazon.com store and has the potential for not only driving traffic to your site, but with paid subscriptions, you might even make a little extra cash on the side to help support your genealogy habit. It costs you nothing to make your blog available on Kindle.

Try it out and then share your experience by leaving a comment below.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Approaching the Lectern: How to Become a Genealogy Speaker - Review

Just released today is Thomas MacEntee's latest contribution to the genealogy community, a 38-page book called Approaching the Lectern: How to Become a Genealogy Speaker.

This little guidebook packs a punch. It truly has all of the tools necessary for someone who wants to add "genealogy speaker" to their resume. MacEntee covers such topics as building your speaker's resume, getting speaking gigs, compiling your presentation and syllabus, as well as addressing the legal aspects such as contracts and fees.

His recommended web site resources are just a click away in the Kindle edition.

MacEntee is well known in the genealogy blog circles as the creator of the Geneabloggers community. He's also known as the social media guru of genealogists.

I met Thomas at the Midwest Family History Expo in Kansas City a week ago and we talked briefly about the genealogy speaker's circuit. One thing that Thomas told me still stands out. He said that in genealogy speaker circles, "there's room for everyone." His second piece of advice was to "determine your niche." The specifics of doing so are discussed in this book.


  • It's a quick read.
  • It's loaded with valuable content
  • Links to web sites and other resources, templates
  • Grade: A
Disclaimer: I purchased this book in the Kindle format. No compensation was received for reviewing this product.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Midwest Family History Expo - Day 2

The Midwest Family History Expo in Kansas City is already a week behind me and I must make good on my promise to post the highlights of the sessions I attended on Saturday, July 31.

Establishing Your Own Migration Trail
Michael John Neill

You may know Michael John Neill from Casefile Clues. A very entertaining presenter, Michael John Neill provided great tips on how to create your own migration trail for your ancestor. No, this was not a session about maps, as he emphasized (several times!). He offered ideas about discovering why your ancestors moved - based on many factors such as economics, politics, family, friends and occupations. He encouraged his audience to read historical books to get an idea about what was going on at the time your ancestors changed locations. He used a term that was new to me: migration chains. This refers to the process and period of time that it may have taken a family to relocate. A few members of the family may have moved to a location and over a period of years or even decades, the remainder of the family, extended family and friends followed suit.

Finding Your Irish Ancestors
Marci Despain

Before jumping the ocean to Ireland to research your Irish ancestors, it's essential to know the county of origin. She discussed the jurisdiction hierarchy and some of the differences between civil parishes and religious parishes.

Web site recommendations included:

Library Ireland
Ireland Townland database
Roots Ireland

Finding Your Female Ancestors
Lisa Alzo

Lisa's presentation on finding your female ancestors was one of the highlights of the Expo for me. Her own inspiring search to find her roots is a remarkable tale.

Her five strategies are:

  1. Check all records for the husband
  2. Consider more than one marriage as well as multiple burial markers
  3. Naming practices and variations
  4. Spelling variations and transcription errors
  5. Create a timeline in historical context
County Histories and Your Families
Janice Schultz
Mid-Continent Public Library

The best piece of information from this session was learning that about 90 per cent of U.S. counties have published histories and most of these are available online. Google Books, here I come!

I again want to take this opportunity to thank Family History Expos for the privilege of being a Blogger of Honor for the Midwest Family History Expo. I'm hoping our paths will cross again soon.

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy - Challenge #32 - RSS Feeds

If you read a lot of genealogy blogs, it can be very time consuming to visit each one individually to see if any new items have been added. The best way to read all of your favorite blogs in one place is by using an RSS reader. What is RSS? RSS stands for "really simple syndication" and that's exactly what it is.

My RSS reader of choice is Google Reader. Earlier this summer, I wrote about my use of Google Reader for genealogy. Rather than repeat information from that post, I've decided to share some additional add-on tools that make RSS even easier.

My web browser of choice these days is Google Chrome because of its speed in loading pages. When I come across a blog that I want to subscribe to, I open Google Reader, click on the "Add a Subscription" button and paste in the web address of the blog. Presto. It's there.

RSS extenstion tool for browsers

I admit to being impatient when it comes to web browsing. I wanted something on my Chrome toolbar where I could immediately add a blog to my reader on the spot. I searched for "Add RSS Feed" and discovered this handy RSS extension tool. A quick installation and it's ready to go. This tool will identify any page that provides an RSS feed. The RSS feed logo appears right in the address bar of your browser. Want to subscribe? Just click on the logo and it's done. Anything that saves time and clicks gets points from me.

Share tool bar in Google Reader

I'm really not sure what this feature in Google Reader is called, but it has become my other new best friend. This is at the bottom of every blog post that appears in Google Reader.

Once you've read a blog post, it seems to disappear from your Google Reader. I love this tool bar because it's an easy way for me to be able to retrieve favorite posts to read again later. "Add tags" is an especially nice feature. You can categorize posts and then create a special feed to embed on your blog or web site to be able to share some of your favorites with friends or blog readers.

How can you apply this to your blogging? Since I now have two blogs, I've added the embedded html code to add the "tagged" items from my Google Reader into my blog. This way, I can (hopefully) generate interest in my Nothing But Tombstones blog by displaying a feed on my LongLostRelatives.net blog and vice-versa.

The toolbar also lets you share by email, star an item, keep it unread, and more. Try out each feature and decide which ones work for you.

Have the freedom to experiment and try all of the features of Google Reader. If you have some suggestions to add, please add a comment below.

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy is a series of weekly prompts that are a bit more challenging and are geared towards those new to the field of genealogy and family history as well as those who want to brush up on some skills which might be a bit rusty.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Follow Friday (a few hours early): The Nebraska State Historical Society

Nebraska State Historical Society
Lincoln, Nebraska
This week I am recognizing a valuable resource right here in my own home town, the Nebraska State Historical Society. Headquarters are located at 1500 R Street in Lincoln, adjacent to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. From the society entrance, there is a straight view down Centennial Mall to the Nebraska State Capitol building a few blocks away.

In addition to the headquarters and archives that are located in Lincoln, the Society also oversees the operation of other historic sites such as the Nebraska History Museum, Chimney Rock national historic site, Fort Robinson museums, Neligh Mills, and sites honoring John Neihardt, Willa Cather, Thomas Kennard, and others.

Rather than focusing on the facilities operated by NSHS, this post will feature some of the valuable information that the Society has made available online. There really is a lot to explore, and if you have Nebraska ancestors or connections, you may just find something to aid in your research.

I'll start with the Society's social network. The society has a presence on Facebook, as well as a blog that has some of the most entertaining and informative posts about the Society's collections. I encourage anyone with ties to Nebraska to visit both. Be sure to "Like" the Society on Facebook and add the blog to your favorite news reader.

The Society's web site address is: http://www.nebraskahistory.org/index.htm The site has an index of its major topics. This is really more like a browse feature, since the topics are alphabetical and cover several pages. But among the topics are: Bess Streeter Aldrich movie script, Arbor Day (which had its start in Nebraska), Atlases and Plat Books, the Solomon Butcher photograph collection, author Willa Cather, Made in Nebraska (bet you didn't know that Kool-Aid was invented in Hastings!), Quilts from the collection, among dozens of other Nebraska-related topics. Just browse the index and you can easily get lost for a couple hours.

The first stop for many genealogists on the site will be the Search page. This is broken down by different collections and databases. The search of the library and archives is one place to begin.

Search Result
Mary Kelly Fitzgerald

A search on my Kelly kin turned up this result on Mary Kelly (Mrs. John) Fitzgerald, who was the sister of my great grandfather, Dan Kelly.

Another search turned up a genealogy resource on some of the in-laws of my relatives who I am researching.

If you have some Nebraska connections, try a few searches, you may locate something.

The NSHS site also has some finding aids that may be of value to your research. Resources available in federal, state and municipal government records are included. And there's a page that features some of the more than 3,000 maps in the Society's collection.

The Society's manuscript collection can be searched for family and individual records. The manuscript holdings also include business, church, organization and political records.

The Society publishes Nebraska History magazine quarterly. Selected full-text articles from past issues are available on the site. Several of the articles have a tie-in with my family members or deal with a specific event or time period of stories that have been passed down. Browse through some of the article titles and I'm willing to wager that at least one or two will stir your interest.

Recently added to the Society's database are photographic images from the Society's William Jennings Bryan collection. I browsed through all 45 pages of images of campaign buttons, postcards, photographs and other types of paper ephemera. Bryan ran unsuccessfully for President three times. He was Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson. I'll write more about Bryan in a future blog post, as there are some family stories that indicate a connection to Bryan - I need to become a History Detective to either prove or disprove.

If you would like to receive Nebraska History magazine, as well as other benefits, consider a membership to help support the preservation of the state's history. One of the very special perks to members is the opportunity to reserve a reader/printer for research and print free copies! That's a pretty good selling point for those of us who have convenient access to the facilities.

I invite you and encourage you to explore the Society's web site. And if you find a connection to any of your Nebraska kin on the site, I'd love to hear about it! Feel free to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Helen Kelly Dulin

Helen Kelly Dulin
August 4, 1918 -
November 9, 1993

My aunt, Helen Marcella Kelly, was born on this day in 1918.
This is her senior picture from Greenwood, Nebraska High School.

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy - Challenge 31 - podcasts

This week's challenge in 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy was to listen to a podcast. A few weeks ago, I had downloaded several episodes (would you believe 384 of them?) to my new netbook, with the idea it would be nice to have them available when I wanted to listen. It's always been difficult for me to listen to something while I'm writing or doing research, so I had to change my strategy on this.

I loaded about 30 hours worth of podcasts onto one of my mp3 players in preparation for this challenge. I already have another mp3 player filled with a variety of audio books. It's amazing how many audio books you can "read" just commuting and doing errands. So now I have one player for audio books and another just for podcasts.

This morning I took off on my walk and cranked up an episode of Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems. The episode that came up was #78 from early in 2010. Lisa talked about her new grandson, shared some email from listeners, shared information about the podcast and a few other odds and ends. She's very personable and sounds like she's talking with you, not from a script. It was very enjoyable and made my walk seem to go so much faster.

Later this afternoon, I had a lot of dead time while waiting for an appointment. Rather than sit around looking at a magazine in which I had no interest, I pulled out the mp3 player and listened to some more of the podcast. Yes, just filling in those empty spaces of my day with genealogy podcasts is definitely a good plan. That little mp3 player will be with me all the time now. For the next several weeks, Lisa will be my walking companion!

Even though I was familiar with podcasts before, this challenge allowed me to better focus the way in which I listen to them.

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy is a series of weekly prompts that are a bit more challenging and are geared towards those new to the field of genealogy and family history as well as those who want to brush up on some skills which might be a bit rusty.

Wordless Wednesday: Dan Kelly's butcher shop

Dan Kelly (r)  in his butcher shop
Greenwood, Nebraska

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Obits: What Will They Say About You?

Just curious - how many genealogists who are reading this have actually written out their own obituary? Yes, I know it's hard for some to cope with our own mortality, but have you written something out?

Since my immediate family is down to two people and I will leave no descendants, I decided that I was going to get in the last word. My obituary is already written and on file with the mortuary. Creepy, yeah, I know. But not a bad idea, really.

My Dad has written his obituary as well. In fact, he just had me make some additions to it about a week ago. That must be where I get it.

As I read through some of the obituaries I find in my research, I come across so much misinformation. That is probably due to a family member trying to remember things about the deceased relative at an emotional time. The same can be said for the information provided by informants on death certificates.

The media always keep career highlights and filmed footage on celebrities ready to go at all times. How else did you think they can get the information out as fast as they do? Back in journalism school, our 'punishment' for misspellings or grammatical errors was to write obituaries on famous people. During a conversation with my Mom, she commented that some politician had died. I replied that he hadn't. She insisted she'd read it somewhere. We finally figured out she had read some of obituaries I had to write!

I'd love to find out if you've written your own obituary. If not, do you plan to? If not, who will end up writing it? Please add your two cents in the Comments section below.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Finding Your Family in Fiction

As genealogists, we seek facts, the truth. It probably never would have occurred to me to turn to a novel to discover some information about my ancestors.

Thanks to a search on Google books, I found an excerpt from Nebraska author Willa Cather's A Lost Lady (Scholarly Edition). The reference to my 2nd great grandfather is in the Notes section of this edition:

"Before the railroad reached Denver, supplies were carried across Nebraska by wagon. The wagons could carry three to five tons of freight, drawn by six to twelve yoke of oxen. . . .The father-in-law of John Fitzgerald hauled freight from Omaha to Denver."

The references to John Fitzgerald in this edition refer to the millionaire railroad contractor and banker, who was sort of the Warren Buffett of his time. Fitzgerald married my great grandfather's sister, Mary Kelly. Although not named in this book, the father-in-law of John Fitzgerald was William D. Kelly of Kilkenny, Ireland, my great-great grandfather. I've found other references to the freighting done by William D. Kelly and his brothers. Before moving to Omaha, the Kelly brothers freighted from their  home in St. Paul, Minnesota to Denver.

So in this novel, I've found just another small nugget that helps me fill in the fabric of the life of one of my ancestors.

Think outside the box; color outside the lines - you never know what you might find.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - Getting to Know My Grandmother

Sina Bellinger Kelly, age 17
I was quite moved and motivated by Lisa Alzo's presentation on "Finding Your Female Ancestors" at the Midwest Family History Expo in Kansas City this weekend. One of her comments really resonated with me:
"Give voice to the stories of the silent women from our past."
Last Sunday, my fellow blogger Barbara Poole posted a photograph of herself with her grandmother, sharing an everyday moment sitting at the kitchen table. It's a touching photograph and as I studied it, I realized that I don't have any photographs of myself with my Grandmother Sina Bellinger Kelly.

That really shouldn't be too surprising because I don't have a lot of photographs of Grandma Kelly anyway. She didn't like having her photo taken and was always taking scissors to her image and cutting herself out of photographs. To this day, I have a family photo with a big circle cut out of it.

Lisa's journey about researching and writing Three Slovak Women got me thinking about how little I really do know about Grandma Kelly. I was only five years old when she died, but I've always had good memories of my time with her. I know that she used to babysit me when my folks went out for the evening. I remember making her play "Jingles" to my "Wild Bill Hickok" (an old TV show you folks under 50 probably never heard of). My parents have told me that Grandma Kelly and I used to listen to baseball games on the radio together. I have no recollection of that, but it would be no surprise if we did. Her brother and Grandpa Kelly were both baseball players for the Greenwood, Nebraska team.

About the only other thing I know about Grandma Kelly is that she had a tendency to fall down, clearly a trait I've picked up from both sides of the family! I've heard the stories of how she'd be walking down the street and say, "Wait a minute! I'm going to fall down."

Another story was about a mean old rooster. I remember him well. I used to keep a yardstick handy so I could shoo him away when I went from our house to Grandma's house across the road. Apparently, one day she'd had enough of this old rooster, picked up a charcoal briquette and tossed it at him. Grandma Kelly could not have hit the broad side of a barn, as the story goes, but she hit the rooster right in the head and killed him outright. Chicken was on the menu that night.

Grandma Kelly always kept cookies in a bottom drawer of a cabinet in her kitchen. I always knew there would be something good waiting in that drawer for me.

I know that Grandma Kelly played piano by ear. Mom told how she and her friends would sing a popular song from the 1940s to Grandma and Grandma could sit down at the piano and play it immediately. I wish I would have inherited her musical ability!

I haven't even verified the location of her birth yet. Some sources say she was born in Greenwood, but her funeral card states she was born in Fremont, Nebraska. I know when she and Grandpa Kelly were married. I know she had five children, the first of whom died as an infant and before the surviving four were born. I know where she's buried.

These little vignettes are all I know about Grandma Kelly. I want to fill in the gaps. I want to learn more about her, about the kind of life she led. I want to pull together the pieces of her story.

The first step in the process will be a visit to the Nebraska State Historical Society's microfilm collection to begin perusing the old issues of the Greenwood Gazette. Surely, that small hometown paper will help me bring Sina's story to life.

Thank you for the inspiration, Lisa.

Midwest Family History Expo - Session Highlights - Day 1

Now that I've covered the social aspects of the Midwest Family History Expo in Kansas City, it's time to get down to the business of providing a few highlights from the sessions I attended.

The FHE folks compiled a wonderful syllabus (can you say 360 pages?) for the event. What's nice about this is that the web sites and resources the speakers referred to in their presentations are already in the book for later reference. I was able to use my net book computer for taking notes in many of the sessions, so as a speaker talked about a web site, I could access it and add it to my bookmarks right on the spot. I just scrolled through those bookmarks and I have a LOT of sites to visit and search. And that doesn't even come close to everything in the syllabus.

Day 1 - Friday

Sources and Citations: Just Do It
Carol Cooke Darrow, CG

Carol emphasized the importance of identifying your sources and compared primary information and secondary information. One of the books she talked about was Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Mills, a book I have in my personal library. It was also interesting to learn ways to document online sources.

Mapping Madness
Ron Arons, Author

Ron is a very entertaining presenter - I loved his sense of humor! He compared the differences between Google maps and Microsoft's maps (Bing).

One of the online tools he discussed was MapCruncher by Microsoft. This allows you to layer maps to emphasize or make comparisons in an area you want to show. For example, a historical map can be layered on top of a contemporary map for a comparison of then and now. Here are some examples of what this tool can do.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Footnote.com
Justin Schroepfer

One thing I learned from this session is that genealogists are forgiving people. It's a little tough to do a live presentation about an internet web site when the wireless connection isn't working. But Justin was a real pro and continued to inform and entertain the audience about his product until web connectivity was restored. As a presenter myself, I know how frustrating it can be when the technology doesn't cooperate. Justin - and the audience - handled it all very well.

That said . . . I chose this session because I've been a Footnote subscriber for more than a year and have found their search and navigation a bit cumbersome. And I am far from being a web novice. One thing Justin did was to give me a better feel for the type and breadth - and volume - of information that is on the site. The information that I'm looking for most likely is there; I just need to look deeper and refine my search methodology so I can find it.

He shared information about setting up pages about our ancestors. I'd done a few pages in the past. When I came across information on deceased relatives, I added some photographs. Most of my online genealogy activity is on Ancestry, but I can see the value of adding pages to Footnote, just to throw the net out over a wider area.

Colonial Immigration Genealogy
Beth Foulk

You know what it's like when you buy a new car, then suddenly it seems like all you see on the streets is that make of car? I'm beginning to feel that way as new (new to me, anyway) sources of genealogy resources keep showing up again and again.

One of the resources Beth mentioned is one that entered my life in the last week. That is the vast amount of information on colonial immigrants available at the New England Historic Genealogical Society library. This source is definitely becoming one of my new best friends. Another recommended web site waiting for me to explore is http://www.greatmigration.org/

Combining Historical Research with Your Genealogy
Gena Philibert Ortega

Gena's session was a great way to end the day! She is an enthusiastic and engaging presenter. And she overcame the adversity of a very loud air conditioning system in the meeting room to share a wealth of information with eager learners. Her book, Cemeteries of the Eastern Sierra (Images of America) is one I definitely want to read.

Gena focused on techniques to help us fill in the spaces between those major life events by studying the history of the times our ancestors lived in and understanding how history effected their lives. One of the books she recommended was Hidden Sources (much of which is available on Google Books).

My summary of Saturday's sessions will be in a separate post.