Monday, December 26, 2011

Open Discussion Weekend - What's Your Guilty Pleasure?

Technically, it's still the weekend since today is the legal holiday for Christmas. I had been contemplating this topic for a few days, then I read Leah Kleylein's post, Let's Start Again, on her Random Notes blog.

Those of us in the genealogy blogging community spend much of our time writing about our own research, sharing our discoveries, reviewing new products and engage in stimulating discussion about our hobby/profession. But if you're like Leah or me, you may have taken a "walk on the dark side" - spending minutes, hours or days with other activities (or addictions) besides genealogy.

Sometimes, I just have to take a break from hanging out with the dead relatives. And those guilty pleasures have been drawing me away from genealogy the last four or five weeks. Well, let's face it, it all started with the arrival of my Kindle Fire, which I've already blogged about in my reviews of the product.

Apps and Games

The device has barely left my side since it arrived, but have I been using it primarly as an e-reader? Not quite. Rather than reading two or three books a week as I did on my old Kindle, I've only read about three books in the last month. What have I been doing instead? Checking out the Android Apps for the Kindle, downloading them, discarding many, keeping quite a few. Angry Birds was much too slow for me, but my time on Treasures of Montezuma borders on addiction.

Then there are the apps for magazine subscriptions - I've definitely been enjoying the tablet versions of Time,  Vanity Fair, Consumer Reports and the Smithsonian. I've also been receiving my issues of Family Tree Magazine in digital format (Adobe pdf), which is easy enough to read on the Kindle.

Let's Rock and Roll!

I've also spent quite a lot of time over the past month converting my hundreds of music CDs to mp3 format - to archive on an external drive as well as backed up in the Amazon cloud. And that also means that I've spent quite a bit of time this past month downloading dozens of free Christmas tunes from Amazon. And filling in some of my Sixties music collection with some Greatest Hits collections from my era. And some Rat Pack tunes, and a few modern country as well. It's nice to pull up my cloud collection either on the Kindle or computer and be able to listen to the songs that have provided the soundtrack for my life. In other words, I just finished uploading the entire Beatles catalog to the cloud. Next up is a collection of about 100 Paul McCartney CDs to convert and upload.

Roku Madness

As though playing with the Kindle wasn't enough, about a week and a half ago I bought a Roku video streamer box. Wowee - I though that the DVR had revolutionized the way I consume TV and movies, but since getting the Roku, "regular" TV has not even been on. I already had subscriptions to Netflix and Amazon Prime for live video streaming. I will admit, trying to watch a movie on the Kindle Fire isn't that exciting. A coworker mentioned he had a Roku, so I looked into them and selected one that best met my "needs". Clearly, a Kindle Fire and a Roku were not "needs" of my pioneer ancestors!

In addition to Amazon and Netflix, the Roku offers more than 400 video channels, many of which are free. One of the free channels I like is the BYU channel which includes The Generations Project genealogy show. Hmm ... it seems like I'm trying to justify my guilty pleasures by associating their use to a genealogy application. I've also become addicted to the "24" TV series starring Kiefer Sutherland. I'd never watched it when it aired, so I'm starting with Season One. It's always intrigued me that a non-violent person such as myself happens to love crime shows.


I also find myself frittering away my time with Gene Simmons Family Jewels, Celebrity Apprentice, Amazing Race and Survivor. And the alphabet crime shows such as NCIS and CSI.

So there you have it. I've come clean about my "dark side" away from genealogy. Do you have the courage to admit to your guilty pleasures? If so, please post in the comments section below.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 is Two Today!

It's really hard to believe that I've been blogging for two years! A lot has happened in my genealogy world since I made my first query-type post on My first post was certainly intended to be cousin bait to find any descendants of my mother's first cousin, Evelyn Bellinger Gibbons. It took a while, but about a year and a half later, her great granddaughter posted a comment on that blog post. I will never underestimate the power of the internet.

I've blogged a little less in 2011 than in 2010, but logging 214 posts in 2011 shows I haven't really been slacking - I've just been busy mining new online resources to aid my family history research and I've managed to get to a few genealogy conferences this year.

The year in review:

  • This year I began giving some speeches/presentations about genealogy - primarily genealogy blogging. What's interesting is that this is something that I had been wanting to do, but hadn't really intended to get started for another year or so. The speaking engagements I had this year were all from people who approached me to speak - not from my soliciting any "gigs." I got started in March by speaking to a class of University of Nebraska-Lincoln teacher's college students. They were tasked with the assignment to do their own family history and learn how to create a lesson plan for their future students once they become teachers.
  • In July, I was asked to speak about genealogy blogging at the Land Records and Genealogy Symposium at the Homestead National Monument of America in Beatrice, Nebraska. My friend and fellow blogger, Thomas MacEntee, spoke at the conference about using social media for genealogy. Don't think that I wasn't a little bit nervous talking about genealogy blogging with the genealogy blogger ninja in the audience!
  • In August, I had a blast talking about blogging with a group at the Omaha Public Library. I even got to meet a potential cousin who is researching the Pecht family from the same county in Pennsylvania where I'm researching my Pecht line.
  • In January, I submitted my DNA sample to 23andme. While I received some correspondence from potential cousins in the early weeks of using the web site, I've been more than a little disappointed with the lack of response from people I've contacted. I don't understand why someone would register for the Family Finder and then not respond to inquiries to see if and how we are related. Perhaps the "aha moment" is still in my future.
  • I attended the Spring and Fall conferences of the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society, which were great fun. I'm enjoying those even more now that I'm getting to know a few more people.
  • In October, I was a table host for the Family History Fair sponsored by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society. I shared my experiences with blogging and demonstrated the Flip-Pal mobile scanner.
  • Also in October, I attended Gail Blankenau's workshop at the Cass County Historical Museum in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. As always, I learned a lot from Gail and even found some information on my Cass County kin!
  • I recently learned that I have been named the publicity chair of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society for 2012. I'm looking forward to some new challenges with this responsibility in the coming year.
  • In March, I attended a workshop on caring for family photographs at the Nebraska State Historical Society. It was great to meet up with my genealogy and Facebook friends Judy Shutts and Kathy Wait Myers.
  • In June, I started sharing some images from a tiny photo book that belonged to my grandmother, Sina Bellinger Kelly. This is an ongoing series on
  • In July, I marked my 500th blog post.
It has definitely been quite a year; a year of new discoveries and new friendships. While others are faced with brick walls, I have been faced with the genealogy tsunami - so much information, paper and photographs that I am completely overwhelmed at assimilating, cataloging, archiving and sharing it all. But isn't that what makes genealogy great?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Around the Blogosphere - November 27

It's been a while since my last Around the Blogosphere post, but with the holiday weekend, I've had time to catch up on my blog reading. The following are my selections of some of the best genealogy blog posts of the last two or three weeks.

Genealogy's Need for Curators by Thomas MacEntee on the Geneabloggers blog.

More on Organizational Systems and Genealogy by James Tanner at Genealogy's star. Also of note is Why You Have To Pay For Free Government Documents.

Why I Want to Remain an Amateur by Greta Koehl on Greta's Genealogy Blog.

My Views on Family History Have Changed by Elyse Doerflinger on Elyse's Genealogy Blog.

Family Discovery on eBay by Deb Ruth on Adventures in Genealogy. Deb also shared some great resources for maps.

The Big Genealogy Blog Book by Amy Coffin on We Tree Genealogy - buy Amy's new book! Amy also shares her experiences in self publishing.

Kathleen Brandt writes about Mayflower research on A3 Genealogy.

Tips on Decoding Family Photos by Susan Farrell Bankhead on Susan's Genealogy Blog.

And perhaps the best news - Season 3 of Who Do You Think You Are premieres on NBC on February 3

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kindle Fire - Not Just for Books

I've been exploring my Kindle Firefor a week now and continue to be amazed, amused and entertained by what it has to offer. I was already an enthusiastic user of the Kindle Keyboardand its amazing capacity for electronic and audio books. As much as I love books, movies and music, I've been looking to the future with a desire to downsize my massive collections of books, DVDs and CDs. The Kindle Fire became an obvious choice to help me in this process.

Since 1995, I've had a great deal of brand name loyalty to The online retailer is the first place I ever visit when I am interested in a product and probably end up making my purchase from Amazon well over 90 percent of the time. I probably feel about Amazon the way other people feel about Apple. I've just never embraced Apple products, which may help explain my enthusiasm for the Kindle Fire. This post may come off sounding like a big promotion for Amazon, but it's difficult to write a review regarding the Kindle Fire without addressing the content and services available from this retailer.

Music in the Cloud

For me, as an Amazon consumer, the big selling point of the Kindle Fire is the access to my media content via the cloud. Earlier this year, Amazon introduced cloud storage for not only computer files, but for music files. Right now, I have about the equivalent of a large clothes closet crammed full of CDs and DVDs. I took advantage of the early promotions to get 20 gb of cloud storage for a year. With the promotions, I think this cost me about $5, and certainly it was no more than $10. Regular price for my plan is $20/year and music files do not count toward the 20 gb. Any mp3 music purchased from Amazon may be stored directly to the cloud drive - or downloaded to my computer at the time of purchase or later. So far, I have more than 2,000 songs stored on my Amazon cloud drive and I've barely started uploading all of my music.

Music is, and always has been, a big part of my life, so it's really nice to have my music collection available to play songs in the background on any computer, anywhere, with the Amazon Cloud Player. The Cloud Player is also available for Android devices.


For the last year, I have absolutely loved being able to carry more than 300 ebooks on my Kindle Keyboard - right in my purse. There are thousands of free ebooks available on Amazon, Google Books and other online sources. It's great for transferring PDF files of those old county history books to a portable device. The Kindle Keyboard has been promoted for having "e-Ink" display - which comes close to resembling the printed page. There is no glare in direct sunlight. I've found it very comfortable to read books on the Kindle Keyboard. The Kindle Fire has a back lit display that more closely resembles a computer screen. So far, I've found reading on the Kindle Fire just as comfortable on my eyes as the Kindle Keyboard. In fact, the Kindle Fire would be my preference in a low-light situation. You could actually read a book in an unlit room with the Kindle Fire. Even with a portable light, it's extremely difficult to read the Kindle Keyboard in a dark environment.

Movies and Other Video Content

Just to give you an idea of the type of movie fan I am, over the years, I've managed to collect every film awarded the Best Picture Oscar. But I'm not a film snob, I can enjoy something like Vegas Vacation just as much as Citizen Kane.

More than a year ago, I started a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime. Interesting marketing technique: pay $75/year to get Free shipping. Well, I purchase enough from that I liked the idea of getting my merchandise in two days as compared to 10 days when I selected the normal 'free' shipping method.

Perhaps knowing that the Kindle Fire was on its way, Amazon made an ingenious move by including online viewing of thousands of movies and television programs available at no additional charge to subscribers of Prime. I'm not saying that watching a movie on my laptop or the Kindle Fire can be compared to watching on my HD television. But for catching up on films I may have missed or re-watching some of my favorites, I find the streaming quality quite acceptable. The availability of this content for $75/year is a good selling point.  This is $6.25/month average, compared to the Netflix online viewing subscription, which is advertised at $7.99, but with tax runs about $8.50.

Last weekend, I rented Larry Crowne, the new film with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Rental from Amazon was $3.99 and streaming quality on the Kindle Fire was fine. Right now, the Beatles' first feature film, A Hard Day's Night, is playing on the Kindle Fire as I compose this blog post. This particular film is via my Netflix subscription, using the Netflix app for the Kindle Fire. Again, excellent video and audio quality. On most of the films I've sampled, the audio is much better if you use ear buds or other type of headphone device.

For most videos from Amazon, you may pay to rent a film or television show for 24 hour or 48 hour rental; some titles are available to purchase and download. Purchases may be downloaded to the Kindle Fire (or your computer), yet they remain stored in the Cloud on Amazon. You can easily move your media content back and forth between the Kindle Fire and the Cloud. I downloaded my purchased copy of All the President's Men to my Kindle Fire. Again, the quality is great. As I frequently have overnight travel for my "day job," I like this feature because much of the time, there's not much to interest me on motel room TV channels.

As mentioned in one of my earlier posts in this series, I've been able to watch Legacy Family tree webinars and other genealogy videos on the Kindle Fire. My friend, Jenna Mills of Desperately Seeking Surnames, told me that the iPad does not play any videos using Flash. So this may be one area where the Kindle Fire has a leg up on the iPad.


Applications for the Kindle Fire are designed for Android devices. There are thousands available, many for free, many for a low price. I've been playing around with these applications a lot this week (which probably explains why I've only read about 50 pages of book content!).

Being a news junkie, I've selected a few apps that access the mobile feeds from many news providers. My favorite is US Newspapers by Langtolang Inc. It comes with links to major providers already included, such as CNN, People, USA Today. I've added my local newspapers and other news providers as well. This one is Free.

A Radio app I like is called TuneIn radio. Not only does it include all of my local radio stations, but also any station in the world that has online streaming. So - I can transport myself to Nashville, L.A. London or Sydney with just a tap on my Kindle Fire. I can't imagine how giddy this would have made me when I was 13!

Many apps for social media are available. I've set up some that will notify me of incoming email in both Gmail and Yahoo Mail. With TweetCaster, I have finally embraced the power of Twitter. On a mobile device, this social networking tool finally makes sense to me in a way it never did using it online or even with Tweet Deck.

Weather, news, sports, music, games - there's dozens of apps to appeal to anyone's taste. I even tried out Angry Birds, but it just doesn't move fast enough for me!

I have also signed-up for trial subscriptions to Smithsonian and Vanity Fair magazines. The reading apps for these magazines provide the option of reading an article at a time by tapping on the table of contents, or you can scan through the pages just as if it were the printed magazine, complete with ads.

What I am hopefully optimistic about is that the genealogy companies will be developing apps for the Kindle Fire. Let's hope that will be coming out with an app similar to what they have created for the iPad.

A few words about battery life

For casual web browsing, game playing, reading and listening to music, you can expect the Kindle Fire to go about eight hours. Turning off the WiFi while reading a book will add some time. I've found that a full recharge from about 10 percent battery life to 100 percent takes about four hours. You can continue to use the Kindle Fire while the device is being recharged. The AC adapter/wall charger that comes with the Kindle Fire may not provide a long enough cord in some settings.

Please note than live streaming a movie over WiFi runs down the internal rechargeable battery very quickly. But a fully charged device should easily last through a feature length film.

The Downside - maybe, maybe not

When making a purchasing decision, someone who has the need to be connected to the internet 24/7 may feel restricted by the Kindle Fire being a WiFi only device. This is not a deterrent to me. I will primarily be using the online connection while at home, over my own WiFi network. There is more than enough reading, music and game playing on the device to occupy me during those long periods in waiting rooms and other brief times when I'm just passing time. I can easily connect once I'm back in WiFi territory. My guess is that future versions of the Kindle Fire may come with wireless connectivity.

Related posts from

Kindle Fire For Genealogy

Kindle Fire - Tablet or eReader? First Look

Kindle for Genealogy

Kindle for Genealogy Redux

Disclaimer: links to are via my affiliate relationship with the site.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kindle Fire for Genealogy

Yesterday's blog post was about my first experiences with the new Kindle Fire. Based on reader comments and the fact that this is, after all, a blog about genealogy, today's post will focus on genealogy uses for the Kindle Fire.

At this time, genealogy-specific apps do not appear to be available for the Kindle Fire. I expect that will change in the coming weeks. In the meantime, Kindle Fire users have access to all of their favorite web sites, such as,, FindAGrave (and for me, about 300 more). The sites appear just as you are used to seeing them, just on a 7" screen. However, you can turn the device to landscape mode or use your fingers to make the type on the page appear larger. This technique does not work on mobile-enhanced pages. Bottom line is that once I have become accustomed to managing my viewing space, I am able to read any web site fairly easily.

The Home Screen of the Kindle Fire
Books, documents and apps apear
on a virtual bookshelf  with most recent first.
Amazon is completely honest when they talk about ultra-fast web browsing with their "Silk" browser. Surfing the 'net is much faster than my laptop or netbook, which makes it my new device of choice for surfing and reading. As I mentioned yesterday, the mobile views allow me to scan through blog posts in Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter and check email in much less time than ever before.

Access to the internet also means that I have access to all of the files in my Dropbox folder whenever I have WiFi access.

As with the Kindle 3 that I've been using for more than a year, the Kindle Fire also serves as a large capacity USB drive. I'm able to transfer files to my Kindle Fire via drag and drop.

I recently created an Adobe PDF file of my ancestors from Family Tree Maker, so I dragged and dropped it into the documents folder of my Kindle Fire. It's nice to have some of those reports and other resources available if you're on a spur of the moment library or cemetery trip and don't have your mountain of paper with you.

You'll also see in the photo that I have the Kindle version of the Family Tree Sourcebook. More genealogy titles have become available for the Kindle in the past year, including books by Megan Smolenyak, George Morgan, and others. When I first got my Kindle 3 last year, only a handful of genealogy titles were available; now a search has more than 1,000 titles. Many of these are self-published eBooks and family histories. And just this month, Amy Coffin of the We Tree genealogy blog published her excellent resource for bloggers, The Big Genealogy Blog Book. Even if you don't own a Kindle device, you can order and read these books right on your computer.

As a teller of family history stories, I always have in the back of my mind the publishing of a family history ebook. Just get the information "out there" and available to other family historians. With electronic publishing so easily available, anyone can publish their genealogy books with little overhead.

I've also test driven the Kindle with Legacy Family Tree webinars. The sound and video quality is great. The wealth of instructional genealogy videos available on YouTube is at your fingertips. Anything you've accessed on the web is readily available for viewing on the Kindle Fire.

Catch up on your genealogy reading
PDF files transfer easily to the Kindle.
Recently, I made use of an incredible sale at Family Tree magazine, where I purchased four years of digital issues on CD. The CDs arrived this week and I've placed the PDF files on my computer. With the simple drag and drop feature, I have now moved the magazines to my Kindle. What easier way to catch up on my genealogy reading than to have all of these back issues in my purse?

As I mentioned in last year's post, you can also use the Kindle to house those 800 page county histories that you find on Google books and other web sites. At 14.6 ounces, the Kindle weighs a lot less than those dusty old books. And without that "old-book" smell!

Speaking of the weight, the Kindle Fire weighs more than my Kindle 3 at 8.5 ounces. This was an adjustment, since my older model is very lightweight. Even though under a pound, I'm finding the Kindle Fire is becoming easier to hold. It's just something to get used to.

Will I be sending my Kindle 3 to the Technology Graveyard? Not anytime soon. In a future post, I will address the differences between the two devices and how there is still room for them both in my life.

Related posts from

Kindle Fire - Tablet or eReader? First Look

Kindle for Genealogy

Kindle for Genealogy Redux

Disclaimer: links to are via my affiliate relationship with the site.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kindle Fire - Tablet or eReader? - First Look

If you've been wondering why I haven't been blogging for a few days, it's because there's a new love in my life - the Kindle Fire.Having been the owner and fan of the Kindle 3since it was introduced last year, it was with great anticipation that I counted down the days to the arrival of the new, much-hyped version of's tech baby.

My Kindle Fire arrived on Wednesday and I have experienced loss of sleep for several nights, information overload, the giddiness of a schoolgirl crush and absolutely no regrets about kicking it up a notch with my new eReader. Or is it a tablet? Or maybe an oversized smart phone without the phone?

Actually, it's all of the above. And more. Over the next few days, I will be blogging about my experiences with the Kindle Fire, making a side-by-side comparison to the Kindle 3 (now being called the Kindle Keyboard), sharing some of my favorite apps, and last, and by no means least, using the Kindle Fire for genealogy.

Out of the box, it's pretty simple. Just the device and the AC adapter. And a small piece of cardboard with an instruction on where to locate the power on button and to glide your finger across the screen to activate the device.

Tapping as fast as I can

Okay, confession time. I don't have a smart phone, don't have an iPad or iPod touch, so this touch-screen technology is all new to me. When I first had to use a mouse with a computer, I resisted, "I'm a keyboard person!" I insisted. The first days of using the Kindle Fire was adjusting to "tapping" instead of clicking. I'm still perfecting my tapping skills.

My first obstacle was to log-in to my wireless router. How DO I enter my password?? I struggled with this for at least 45 minutes until, entirely by mistake, the touch keyboard appeared at the bottom of the screen. It would have saved me a lot of time had that little cardboard instruction sheet said to tap the bottom of the screen to activate the navigation menu and keyboard. Please do not assume I know these things! And I even consider myself a gadget geek.

I had to make some password changes on my wireless router, restarted the Kindle Fire, and finally had access to my WiFi network. Here's where I should mention that the Kindle Fire accesses the internet only by WiFi, unlike a smartphone and some iPads which require a paid plan (or so I'm told). This is no different from my Kindle 3.

Books, books and more books

A few apps were preloaded on the device, so I logged in to my Facebook account. I test drove a few familiar web sites, then began downloading my Kindle books from my Amazon library (Cloud) to my Kindle Fire (Device). Over the past year I've accumulated close to 400 books for my Kindle. No, that didn't cost me a small fortune. I'm a big fan of FREE. If you like free ebooks for your Kindle or Nook, I recommend subscribing to the Free eBook Deal blog - they provide daily links to free books to feed your hunger for reading. You can also follow them on Facebook.

So, with a few taps, I began the process of downloading my existing ebook collection from my Amazon library to my device. All of my online cloud content from Amazon is at my fingertips as long as I have WiFi access, but I can download my books and music at will. I can remove my content from my device and it's still stored in the cloud on Amazon.

This morning I used an app for (now an Amazon company) to access my library of audio books. I've started downloading several of my audio books to my Kindle Fire. The app is extremely easy to use, although it took me a while to get account and password recognition - that may have just been due to my less than perfect skills on the tap-keyboard.

Social networking and blog reading

Facebook. Twitter. GooglePlus. Google Reader. All of these are part of my daily routine. And I get behind. Outrageously behind. Two days without checking the blogs I follow in Google Reader and I have 700-800 posts that have accumulated.

This is where the Kindle Fire is going to make my blog reading time much more efficient.

I maintain folders for different types of blogs that I read. My favorite "must read" bloggers are in my "A-MR Blogs" folder. When I have no time to read everything, this is the folder of blog posts that I always read.

In the mobile version of Google Reader, only 15 blog posts are displayed at a time. I can read the ones I select (I'm a headline/title reader, so if you don't grab my attention there, I move on). After perusing the 15 posts on my screen, I can mark them all as read and move on to the next 15. This has made my blog reading so much more efficient than on my PC. So, from now on, ALL of my blog reading in Google Reader will definitely be done on the Kindle Fire.

Facebook is pretty much the same as on my computer, except that I just get the news feeds and not the extraneous ads that appear on the right hand side of the screen. Nice! The icons to "tap" for notifications and messages are very small and difficult for me to "tap". This needs some refinement or perhaps the purchase of a stylus for me.

But when it comes to Twitter, this is where I see the real difference between the web and mobile. Those of you with smartphones are probably already aware of this. Using an app called TweetCaster, I now "get" why people like Twitter. Twitter is clearly intended for the mobile user and it's quick and easy to browse through tweets on the Kindle Fire. Tapping on the Kindle keyboard is still much too frustrating for me to do much tweeting from the device, but I'll certainly use it for reading tweets.

This is just a quick look at the new Kindle Fire. I'll be back with more about my experiences in the coming days.

Related posts from

Kindle for Genealogy

Kindle for Genealogy Redux

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Some days are better than others - today was a good one!

Today started out with trying to determine the date of death of the brother of my great-grandmother, George Laymon. I hadn't really looked very hard before, so I thought I would try as a long shot. Lo and behold! There was a memorial for him and it included a photograph of his and his wife's tombstone.

At last! Not only a clue, but a date and a location! They were buried in Missouri. No wonder I wasn't having much luck finding them in Nebraska or Kansas.

The Missouri Digital Heritage database has become one of my favorite sites when researching family members from the Show Me state. Of particular value is the site's collection of images of death certificates from 1910-1960. This database has helped me solve more than one family history puzzle in the past.

Bingo! I found George's death certificate and that of his wife, Hattie. The information from the certificates added a few pieces of information to my research. I found it sad that when George's widow, Hattie, provided the information on George's death certificate, she didn't know the name of her mother-in-law. Why so sad? Because his mother, Eliza Ann Olmstead Laymon, had lived with the couple in the 1930s, as per the 1930 U.S. Census records.

These discoveries would have been more than enough, even for a good day. Since I was on the hunt for the Laymons, I started looking around the 'net for some Wyoming newspapers, since I knew that the Laymons, the Pechts and assorted inlaws had gone to Wyoming in the early 1900s to work the oil fields. I had gathered very little information about the families during the Wyoming period, circa 1906 - 1915.

A Google search took me to the Wyoming Newspaper Project and I found a gold mine in those oil fields! It was purely on a lark that I typed in "Pecht" in the search engine and got more than 200 hits! And what hits they were! Every one one of these newspaper pages referenced the families of my great-grandfather, LeRoy (Roy) Pecht and his brother Albert Blair (A.B.) Pecht. I had downloaded more than 80 newspaper pages with articles about various family members before I finally called it quits for the day. I'll be back to finish up later!
Roy and Clara Pecht family
a few years after they had lived in Wyoming
Back Row: Cecile Ann, Clyde Lester, Ruby Luella
Front Row: LeRoy, Mildred Ellen, Clara Rosella
Such discoveries that I found! There was a delightful story about my great grandmother and her niece "leaving footprints in the snow" as they went for the mail. Great grandfather Roy hauled a lot of lumber. The articles told me the exact day that my family arrived in Wyoming, when Roy began building the family's house, and later when they moved into A.B.'s old house.

The stories of their daily lives are rich in detail and still leave things open to speculation. But I look forward to gathering the remainder of the newspaper articles and then begin weaving together the story of the family's years in Wyoming.

Yes, it was a good day, indeed!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My 128 Ancestors and Still Searching - Surname List

Recently I've been experimenting with some of the reports in the 2012 version of Family Tree Maker software. Something that I really like is how it synchronizes with my family tree database on I had never compiled a listing of my direct line ancestors and found this quite easy to do. From the research that I've done or gleaned from published family histories, my longest line goes back 15 generations.

Beginning with my grandparents and generation 3 (myself being generation 1), here's where I come from:

Generation 3:
Otto William Petersen and Ruby Luella Pecht
William Leroy Kelly and Sina Harriet Bellinger

Generation 4:
Jens Christian Petersen and Karoline Kristine Hansen
Leroy Pearl Pecht and Clara Rosella Laymon
Daniel Kelly and Mary Janice Welch
John William Bellinger and Harriet Emma Landon

Generation 5:
Peder Jeremiasen and Elsia Katrine Laursen
Soren Hansen and Kristine Veddum Nelson
John Crispin Pecht and Amanda Melvina Stover
John J Laymon and Eliza Ann Olmstead
William D Kelly and Mary Casey
Mark Welch and Sarah Conneally
John William Bellinger and Sarah Roughe
Daniel C Landon and Anne Jane McVoy

Generation 6:
Jeremias Poulsen and Mette Christendatter
Laust Laursen and Karen Poulsen
Nels Veddum and Marin Katrina ?
George Pecht/Peight and Rachel Hartsough
Samuel Stover and Elizabeth "Betsy" Kepler
James Laymon and Maria Sloan
Eben Andrews Olmstead and Anne Archibald
Kieran Kelly and ?
Welch and ?
John Conneally and ?
John William Bellinger and Anna Eva Clapsaddle
Samuel Landon and Margaret Schultz/Scholtz
James McVoy and Sarah Larvin

Generation 7:
Povel Madson and ?
John Hartsock and ?
Emanuel Stover and Susanna Price
Andrew Kepler and Anna Maria Kramer
Abraham Laymon and Elizabeth Goodpaster
George Sloan and Mary Storey
David Olmstead and ?
Johannes/John F Bellinger and Ernestina Harter
Andrew Clapsaddle and Maria Dygert
William Landon and Experience Cooke
Jacob Schultz/Scholtz and ?

Generation 8:
Andreas Bernhardt Kepler and Maria Elizabetha Lindamood
Daniel Kramer and Ann Maria Geise
David Olmstead and Rebecca Jackson
Frederick Peter Bellinger and Catherine Webber
Henry Harter and Catherine Piper
William Landon and Mercy Orange
Elisha Cooke and Rebecca Edgerton

Generation 9:
Silas Olmstead and Lydia Sloan
Daniel Jackson and ?
Philip Bellinger and ?
Nicholas Weber and Barbara ?
Daniel Landon and Dorothy Holdredge
William Cooke and Tabitha Hall

Generation 10:
James Olmstead and Hannah ?
Johannes Bellinger and Anna Maria Margaretha Kuhn
William Holdredge and Deborah Elliott
Jacob Cooke and Lydia Miller
Elisha Hall and Lydia ?

Generation 11:
Nathan Olmstead and Mercy ?
Deiterich Bellinger and Barbara Gessen
Hans Kuhn and Catharina ?
Jacob Cooke and Damaris Hopkins
John Hall and ?

Generation 12:
James Olmstead
Hans Bellinger and Anna ?
Michael Gessen and ?
Francis Cooke (Mayflower) and Hester Mahieu
Stephen Hopkins (Mayflower) and Elizabeth Fisher

Generation 13:
Richard Olmsted and ?
John Hopkins and Elizabeth Williams

Generation 14:
Richard Olmsted and ?

Generation 15:
James Olmsted and Jane Bristow

Generation 16:
James Olmsted and Alice Hawykins (or Sorrell)

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Pioneer Gone - William D Kelly - 2nd great grandfather

A local Nebraska obituary for my great-great grandfather, William D. Kelly, had been elusive to me until last evening. To date, all I had discovered was a death notice in the St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press, a city where he had lived thirty years before his death.

Unfortunately, the digital image leaves much to be desired, but I have transcribed it to my best ability at this time. I also referred to the St. Paul obituary as some of the language was similar. The St. Paul article gave his date of death as February 3, 1896, which, according to the Lincoln Evening News, would have been the date of his funeral.

His railroad contracting work was referred to as being west of the Mississippi in the Lincoln article. The St. Paul article stated his work was west of the Mississippi and south of Missouri.

In genealogy, one always has to keep looking.

Below is my transcription, with a few words still escaping me.


William D. Kelly Dies at His Home Near Greenwood.

William D. Kelly died this morning at his home near Greenwood at the age of sixty-two. The deceased was born in Ireland, and, coming to this country at an early age spent some of his life in the west. As a railroad contractor he was very successful and took part in the construction of some of the principal lines west of the Mississippi. Though a --- adventurous man he was devoted to his home. He was enterprising and progressive -- a typical -- Mr. Kelly’s health had been failing rapidly for several months and the end was not unexpected. He died fortified by the last rites of his church and surrounded by his children. His wife had gone before him several years since. Of his children, his daughters, Mrs. John Fitzgerald, Mrs. M. J. Langdon, Mrs. Ode Rector and his son Thomas live in this city. His sons, Daniel, Michael, John and William Jr live on their farms near Greenwood. The funeral will be from the pro-cathedral at 10:30 a.m. on Monday.

Source: Lincoln Evening News, Lincoln, Nebraska
31 Jan 1896, page 1

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Open Discussion Weekend - What Did You Do During Family History Month?

As Family History Month comes to a close, it's a good time to reflect on what we did to further our family history research or make contributions to the genealogy community. Here's a summary of some of the things that I did during October:

  • Attended a day long workshop and research opportunity at the Cass County (Nebraska) Historical Society Museum in Plattsmouth. Part 1   Part 2
  • Participated in the Family History Fair sponsored by the Lincoln-Lancaster County (Nebraska) Genealogical Society. I shared information on genealogy blogging and demonstrated the Flip-Pal scanner.
  • Attended the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society fall conference featuring Paul Milner.
  • Actively promoted the Nebraska Genea-Peeps group on Facebook. Join us!
  • Got caught up on the last few episodes of Geneabloggers Radio.
  • Continued organizing my genealogy digital files in my Dropbox folder.
  • Honored my Irish heritage by attending a concert by Celtic Thunder.
  • Renewed my subscription to
  • Purchased and installed Family Tree Maker 2012 and synched my family tree with
  • Bought a new desk chair for my genea-cave (with luck, it might get assembled this weekend!)
  • Discovered some images to go along with previously discovered records on
  • Discovered some cousins in the yearbook pages on
  • Corresponded with some people with common relatives via
  • Scanned family photos and documents
  • Visited the grave site of my 2nd great grandparents at Calvary Cemetery here in Lincoln. Sometimes I just have to go there for a few minutes to get centered and focused. It works.
  • Discovered confirmation of deaths in the newly posted Connecticut records database at
What were the highlights of YOUR family history month? Feel free to share your comments below.

Nebraska Genealogy Events - November 2011

Genealogy events - historical presentations - and other items of interest to the genealogist. Events are in Nebraska (or close by!).

Submit your Nebraska genealogy event to

For recently added events, view these blog posts.

Date & Location

On Exhibit through November 1, 2011 – January 28, 2012
Cass County Historical Society Museum
646 Main Street
Plattsmouth, Nebraska
Grandma’s China Cabinet

November 3, 2011
6:00 pm auction
7:00 pm dinner
Cass County Historical Society Museum
646 Main Street
Plattsmouth, Nebraska
Cass County Historical Society Museum annual meeting.
Program: General Ulysses S. Grant – portrayed by Dr. Tom King

November 4, 2011
7:00 p.m.
LDS Family History Center
11027 Martha St
Omaha, Nebraska
GO-PAF meeting
Program to be announced

November 8, 2011
7:15 p.m.
Lower Level Theater
Dick Admin. Bldg.
Union College Campus
3800 So. 48th St. Lincoln, Nebraska
Lincoln-Lancaster County Genealogical Society: “They Went West” Early U.S. Migration Routes by Water, Trails, and Rails. Did you ever find the ultimate book containing your family’s history – only to discover that your branch “went west” and there was no other information provided? Such is the case for many of our families that left eastern states to travel across this vast country to finally settle in the plains states. Phyllis Ericson will lead an exploration of the reasons for migration, the main routes used, and strategies for tracing the migrations of our ancestors.

November 8, 2011
12:00 noon
Cass County Historical Society Museum
646 Main Street
Plattsmouth, Nebraska
Brown Bag Series: Grandma’s China Cabinet; speaker: Douglas Duey
It is always a surprise to see what Dr. Duey will bring from his personal collection. This program will most likely include some China and Porcelain and will tie in with the museum’s exhibit “Grandma’s China Cabinet.”

November 10, 2011
6:30 p.m.
Southeast Community College Continuing Education Center
301 S. 68th St Place
Lincoln, Nebraska
Taught by Marcia Stewart
See Page 24 of course catalog

November 16, 2011
7:00 p.m.
Crown Pointe Retirement Center
2820 S. 80th St
Omaha, Nebraska
Speaker: GOGS member Brenda Smith will talk about the first Omaha Police Chief, Webber Seavey.

November 17, 2011
12:00 Noon
Nebraska History Museum
15th and P Sts
Lincoln, Nebraska
Presenter: Don Schaufelberger

November 19, 2011
1:30 p.m.
West Nebraska Family Research and History Center
1602 Avenue A
Scottsbluff, NE

Judy Leafdale ~ Immigration from Norway and the
sailing ships they used.

November 30, 2011
6:30 p.m.
Wednesdays through Dec 7.
Southeast Community College Continuing Education Center
301 S. 68th St Place
Lincoln, Nebraska
Taught by Marcia Stewart
See Page 24 of course catalog

Friday, October 28, 2011

Minnie Welch Kelly's Autograph Book

Here is a quick view of my great grandmother's autograph book, which is a glimpse of her journey from Waterbury, Connecticut to Greenwood, Nebraska. It includes scans of each page and my transcription of the document. Minnie Welch Kelly's autograph book - Subscriber Home Pages

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Open Discussion Weekend - The Name's The Same

I believe that all genealogists have experienced the frustration of discovering information about people who have the same name as our ancestors. At the time of the discovery of the document or newspaper article, we really aren't sure if this is our ancestor or cousin or not.

A couple years ago, I dismissed a huge cache of articles on because I mistakenly thought "this prominent person could not have possibly been a member of our family!" About six months later, I learned that this person was, indeed, related. I had to back track and rediscover those articles all over again. And with this particular subscription service, their contracts with the various newspaper database and image suppliers aren't always renewed. That means that a later search on this site may mean that the articles are no longer available.

Up for discussion and comment: What do you do with information you discover on someone who may or may not be related? Do you save a copy for further research? Do you dismiss it? If you keep the information, how do you track or file it? Do you use the information as a method of ruling out a possible event that is not connected to your research subject?

In a couple situations where people living in the same vicinity have the same name as one of my relatives, I have done the online census searches on Ancestry on "the other guy" as a means to rule out that it is "my guy." When some confusion may exist, I add a note to my guy's profile on Ancestry, along the lines of "My guy, the farmer, should not be confused with the other guy, who was a banker who lived in the neighboring town at the same time."

What is your research approach when the name's the same? Please share your insights in the Comments section below.

NOTE: Not two minutes after I originally posted this, I received an email from with a link to this article: Which Guy Is Mine? Creating a Profile to Identify Your Ancestor.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Coming Around Full Circle - or - Life is Like a Box of Chocolates

I always seem to be going back to my favorite source of family history information - old newspapers. I subscribe to at least four online databases that provide newspaper articles. A recent search on family surnames turned up something I haven't seen in, dare I admit it, 37 years?

What I discovered is an article that I wrote for the Omaha World Herald's Magazine of the Midlands. This Sunday supplement ceased publication several years ago, which is sad. The magazine's editor, Hollis Limprecht, was freelancer friendly and published several of my articles over the years. This was the first and was published February 24, 1974.

It should come as no surprise that the focus of the story is not only history, but history in Cass County, Nebraska, where many of my family roots are. When I visited Elmwood Public Schools on a work assignment, I was pretty excited to see the students getting excited about the history of their community. The inspirational teacher behind the local history project was Mary Skalak. Sadly, Mary died a year ago this month.

Below is what Hollis wrote about me in his preface to this issue of the magazine. Some things never change. I'm still interested in history. I'm still interested in Cass County, and I'm still writing about it.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Around the Blogosphere - October 16

Here are several of my favorite blog posts from around the blogosphere this week. While some of these are not specific to genealogy, they do offer topics of relevance to genealogists.

9 Reasons to Publish an eBook by Ben Barden on Quick Blog Tips. If you are a blogger and aren't reading Ben's blog, you need to be.

Another post that focusing on writing has to do with NaNoWriMo - on The Ginger Jewish Genealogist. Do you think you can write a book in a month's time? That's what NaNoWriMo is about - and November is the month. Maybe your book doesn't have to be a novel, but about family history. The idea is to get it in gear and write!

Paula Stuart-Warren offers a perspective on Budget Choices in Life and in Family History on Paula's Genealogical Eclectica.

Dan Curtis is a professional personal historian and has a blog that genealogists and geneabloggers should subscribe to. This week he provided links to 20 articles about interviewing techniques. I always lament the fact that my college journalism coursework focused on reporting, writing and editing, but in four years, there was no mention or instruction on how to conduct an interview. It's certainly a lot more than writing out your questions ahead of time.

Randy Seaver is my genea-angel of the week with all of his posts about the new 2012 Family Tree Maker. While I haven't read every one all the way through (yet), I will - because, for a change, I want to avoid some mistakes by just clicking through a lot of buttons and not know what I'm doing. Randy provides a compendium to all of his articles about FTM 2012 in one post.

And - another Nebraska genealogist has joined the blogging world. Please visit Marcia Stewart's blog about her Turpin family on Turpin Traces. Marcia teaches beginning and intermediate genealogy classes at Southeast Community College here in Lincoln. And as a former student, I can tell you she is very good at it!

Paul Milner was a hit at the GOGS conference in Omaha

Paul Milner
speaking in Omaha, Nebraska
Family History Month has been so jam packed with genealogy activities that I have been on the go all month - with even more coming up next weekend. Yesterday was the fall workshop sponsored by the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society (GOGS) on Scottish and British Family History Research.

The workshop presenter was Paul Milner, a professional genealogist and lecturer. He has specialized in British Isles genealogical research for more than 30 years.

I have no Scottish ancestors (that I'm aware of) and the ancestors from England go back to the Mayflower and have been pretty well researched already. As a result, I knew very little about research in these countries. Always an eager learner, I took away a lot of new information from his workshops. He did reference some Irish immigration, so that was definitely of interest and use for my research.

Milner discussed the Push-Pull influences - factors that were pushing people out of Scotland. Pull influences were what brought many Scots to America. It was no surprise that the Push influences were based on a poor economy, lack of housing and lack of food. Pull influences included the possibility of obtaining land, and letters from family encouraging the folks back home to join them in America.

Favorite "sound bites" from the workshop:

  • You cannot assume that if your emigrant was part of the migration [1725-27] that they automatically came from the north of Ireland.
  • Assumptions are fatal in genealogy.
  • Follow the minister if you can't find your ancestor - Quite often, the minister decided to move on and much of his congregation followed.
Just a few of Milner's recommended books and web sites:
It was definitely an educational - and fun - day! I enjoyed reconnecting with several of the genealogists who I've met over the last couple years. I still haven't quite adjusted to people introducing themselves and telling me that they heard me speak somewhere. But I guess I can get used to that!

I definitely give Paul Milner five stars (out of five!) as a genealogy speaker!

Visit the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society on the web

Saturday, October 15, 2011

More Nebraska Genealogy-Cemetery Events coming up!

Ashland Cemetery Tour - October 15, 2011

The Ashland Historical Society will hold a cemetery walk on Sunday afternoon, October 16 at 2:00 p.m. Participants will meet at the Ashland Cemetery directory and will tour two cemeteries.

The event is free and open to the public.

Judi Schamp, a founding member of the Ashland Cemetery Directory and Improvement Committee, will discuss the history Saunders County's largest cemetery and lead the tour.

People will then carpool to Carr Cemetery; also known as Clear Creek Cemetery, which is two miles north of Ashland. Melanie O'Brien will discuss the history of the cemetery, which is the oldest in Saunders county.

Tour of Young Cemetery near Plattsmouth - October 15 and 16, 2011

"Ghosts of a Pioneer Cemetery Tour 2011" will be given at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. October 15 and 16 at Young Cemetery near Plattsmouth, Nebraska. This rain-or-shine walking tour takes about an hour. Tickets are $10 and must be purchased in advance at Antiques Off Main in Plattsmouth or by contacting Leigh Jean Koinzan at 402-296-2942 or

To get to Young Cemetery from the Omaha area, drive southbound on US Highway 75 south of Plattsmouth to Young Road. Look for the cemetery tour directional sign. Turn East onto Young Road. Go a short distance, again watching for the cemetery tour sign. Turn left onto Young Lane. You will see another sign. Parking is limited, so carpooling is recommended. Restroom facilities are not available.

Storytellers from OOPS (Omaha Organization for the Purpose of Storytelling) and other "ghost characters" dressed in period costumes will tell stories about the residents of this 1855 cemetery.

For more information visit

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Western Nebraska Family History Month Event this Saturday

Press release from the West Nebraska Family Research and History Center via Floyd Smith III

In recognition of National Family History Month, the West Nebraska Family Research & History Center at 1602 Ave A in Scottsbluff will be having two programs with discussion sessions on Saturday, October 15th.  The first program will start at 9:30am and will be presented by Dennis Kramer of Dugan-Kramer Funeral Chapel.  Mr. Kramer will discuss the benefits of writing your own obituary and tips on how to do it.  Mr. Kramer will also address mortuary records and the information they contain.  The second program will begin at 11:00am and will be presented by Janet Gifford and Ann Herbel.  Their program will focus on DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) membership, the application process and the documentation required to apply for membership and research assistance options available for those interested in joining the DAR.  A question and answer session will follow each program.  The sessions are free and open to the public.  Staff will available all day to answer your genealogy and local history questions.  Questions about the schedule or the topics of discussion can be directed to 308-635-2400 or

Monday, October 10, 2011

Around the Blogosphere - October 10

There have been so many great and informative genealogy blog posts recently - so many, in fact, that I've really had to just skim the surface in my blog reading. Truth is, I've read three books this week, so the blog reading took a bit of a back seat. However! Here are some of the blog posts that I enjoyed recently.

I enjoy reading about and seeing how other genealogists organize their work. While done out of necessity, Greta Koehl shared her story and photos of drying out some documents after having 26 inches of water in her basement. I think I would have just run away! See A Proper Place for Sentiment on Greta's Genealogy Blog.

Another peek in a genealogist's closet as provided by Michelle Goodrum of The Turning of Generations. Her post: Progress on the Archival Closet on Sorting Saturday.

My friend, Diana Ritchie, of Random Relatives is working on her goal of 15 minutes of writing every day. Her goal was inspired by our other friend, Lisa Alzo, at the FGS conference this year. Read What I've Been Doing for 15 Minutes Every Day! Diana also wrote another great post called I Just Received a Letter From My Great-Great Grandfather.

Another of our mutual friends (thanks to the Family History Expo in Kansas City last year), Jenna Mills, has been on a long time search for her grandmother and great-grandmother, who have been elusive for quite some time. I've been following Jenna's progress and took an interest since they were in Amherst, Nebraska for a while. Jenna reports the latest update on her Desperately Seeking Surnames blog. posted an article that I enjoyed about U.S. Presidents in the Census. In the census, they were just like everybody else, except for their occupation: President of the U.S.

If you haven't seen this yet, you definitely need to check out Joan Miller's gynormous family tree on Luxegen Genealogy and Family History.

Paula Stuart-Warren has laid the groundwork for what could evolve into the next genealogy meme. With October being Family History Month, Paula makes some suggestions for activities we can all do to help further our research. Read Paula's blog post and come November 1, post on your blog what YOU did during Family History Month. I've done so much already that I had to relax and unwind a couple days before the next group of activities begin!

After seeing the photos of DearMYRTLE (Pat Richley-Erickson) wielding a pitchfork at the FGS conference, I could hardly wait to read the rest of the story. She shares it (and more photos) in Back Story: Get Off the Fence and Start Writing.

Being able to "meet" other genealogy bloggers whether in person or in the virtual world is always great fun. Barbara Poole of Life From the Roots met up with bloggers who were on the Legacy Family Tree cruise at the New England Historic Genealogical Society last week. She shared her experiences and photos in Meeting Bloggers I've Not Met Before.