Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nebraska Genealogy Events for August 2011

Many events are coming up for genealogists in Nebraska during August. If you have an event to add, please email me..

Date & Location

August 6, 2011
7:00 p.m.
Homestead National Monument
Education Center
Beatrice, Nebraska
Campfire Program Series
Learn about the first mass migration of Czechs to Nebraska and other Great Plains states in the late 19th century at Homestead National Monument of America's Education Center on Saturday, August 6th, 2011 at 7 p.m. Historian Bruce Garver will explain the causes for immigration and describe the experience of dislocation and consequences of demographic changes in American towns and cities- with emphasis on the years after World War I and the more recent waves of immigration in 1948 and 1968.

August 9, 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: An LLCGS "Family Reunion" 35 Years
Let's celebrate our heritage. We'll review the genealogy of LLCGS and its membership since 1976. Then we'll do what our "LLCGS ancestors" did in 1976 and take time to find out what genealogical interests and goals everyone has and learn more about our current LLCGS family.

August 13, 2011
11:00 a.m.
W. Dale Clark Library
215 S. 15th St.
Omaha, Nebraska
Sharing Family History by Blogging presented by Susan Petersen, author of the blog The genealogy blog is becoming the fastest and most popular method of sharing the stories and photographs of your ancestors' lives. Learn how to create your own blog.

August 18, 2011
12:00 Noon
Nebraska History Museum
15th and P Sts
Lincoln, Nebraska
Nebraska State Historical Society Brown Bag Lecture Series: 50 Years of History from the Archives of Nebraska Educational Television
Presenter: Ron Hull

August 20, 2011
1:30 p.m.
West Nebraska Family Research and History Center
1602 Avenue A
Scottsbluff, NE

Don Ringle - a discussion about the Homesteader Museum
in Torrington and the Goshen Co., Wyoming rural schools

August 20, 2011
2:00 p.m.
W. Dale Clark Library
215 S. 15th St.
Omaha, Nebraska
Exploring Family Search
Get an overview of the leading free site for genealogists! The class will focus on using the catalog to locate and order resources and finding digitized records and indexes using Record Search.

August 27, 2011
2:00 p.m.
W. Dale Clark Library
215 S. 15th St.
Omaha, Nebraska
Look Before You Leap! Preparing for a Productive Research Trip
 Whether you're traveling to your ancestral home or visiting a research library, this professional genealogist's tips will help you get organized in order to make the most of your research time.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Capturing Family Stories on Video

Have you been doing all you can do in capturing your family's stories? So many of us genealogists spend so much of our time looking through historical papers, digging through our personal archives or Googling our ancestor's names. Have you taken the time to make use of today's technology to capture your family stories?

As I've been cleaning out a lot of family ephemera from my personal archives, I feel like I'm uncovering a gold mine. So many of the documents, photographs, yearbooks have been stashed away for so long, I'd forgotten all about them. One of the items I discovered recently was an 8 x 10 photograph of my father working at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber plant in Lincoln, Nebraska in the 1950s. Before I let him reminisce and tell me about the photo, I grabbed my Flip video camera.

My camera work is a little shaky at first.


With video cameras built-in to many of today's smartphones, anyone can capture little snippets like this. It's nice to do these in short segments and have some kind of an idea what questions you want to ask. Photographs are a great way to allow your interview subject a chance to tell you about the photo.

As you can tell from the video, Dad thought the interview was over, but as soon as I turned off the video, he talked for another five minutes about the machine, what it did, and pointed out to me that he always went to work with a shine on his shoes!

So, when you do this - keep that camera rolling. You can always edit later.

Czech-Americans in Nebraska at Homestead National Monument

From the National Park Service:

Learn about the first mass migration of Czechs to Nebraska and other Great Plains states in the late 19th century at Homestead National Monument of America's Education Center on Saturday, August 6th, 2011 at 7 p.m. Historian Bruce Garver will explain the causes for immigration and describe the experience of dislocation and consequences of demographic changes in American towns and cities - with emphasis on the years after World War I and the more recent waves of immigration in 1948 and 1968.

Campfire programs start at 7 p.m. and last approximately 1 hour. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and insect repellant for comfort. All programs are hosted at the monument's Education Center. In case of inclement weather the programs will be held inside.

Homestead National Monument of America

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nebraska Genealogy Events Updated

The calendar of genealogy events in Nebraska has been updated. The new list includes upcoming Saturday workshops at the Omaha Public Library. I will be speaking about genealogy blogging on Saturday, August 13. Today's Omaha World Herald included a nice article about the upcoming workshops.

Events also include the fall workshop sponsored by the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society. The fall workshop features Paul Milner who will be speaking on Scottish and English ancestors.

Click here for the full list.

If you have an event to add, please email me.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Social Networking at the Land Records and Genealogy Symposium - Part 3

Nebraska State
Genealogical Society Display
Land Records Symposium
July 2011
Sometimes I think that I spend so much time in the virtual genealogy world that I forget how much fun it is to hang out with my fellow genealogists IRL (in real life).

This weekend's Land Records and Genealogy Symposium in Beatrice, Nebraska was an outstanding conference that attracted nearly 100 people from Nebraska and surrounding states and from as far away as California and Massachusetts.

First of all, I want to acknowledge the Homestead National Monument of America and Southeast Community College for the sponsorship of this event. It was obvious how much work went on behind the scenes to present a well organized and informative genealogy education experience.

Kudos to Blake and Kelly

Specifically, I want to thank Blake Bell of the National Park Service and Kelly Morgan of Southeast Community College as well as all of their workers behind the scene. From the perspective of a presenter at a conference, they did everything right - from the initial contact, to keeping me informed, and especially, making sure that the needs of the presenters were met prior to and during the conference. You folks were fantastic to work with and I hope we can work together again in the future.

Networking and Socializing

Upon arriving at the Symposium, I was warmly greeted by Floyd Smith III, president of the Nebraska State Genealogical Society (NSGS). Floyd and I have enjoyed email correspondence over the past few months and I hope that this was the beginning of another genealogy friendship. Floyd is one enthusiastic genealogist and supporter of other genealogists.

I got a kick out of Floyd because he had told several people that I had the Flip-Pal scanner, so I had to bring it with me yesterday. Before I knew it, at one of the breaks yesterday, I had several people gathered around to see it in action. After my demo, one of the ladies told me she thought I was a company representative. I found that to be pretty amusing! But I think that a couple of these are probably going to be purchased in the coming days.

Several people came over and said they read this blog. I also got a kick out of that. As I mentioned in my presentation, many of us bloggers never really know if anyone is reading our blogs or not. So I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet some blog readers in the flesh. Thank you to all readers of this blog for your interest and support. It really does mean a lot.

I loved the opportunity to get to know my fellow presenters - they are amazing people with a vast amount of knowledge to share. I'm really looking forward to continued contact with them.

And perhaps the biggest surprise of the day came as I finished my presentation and a woman approached me and asked, "Are you the same Susan Petersen I knew in my former life?" I looked up, checked her name tag and realized she was one of my Kansas counterparts from my "day-job"! We first met 25 years ago and had some great times at many a regional and national conference over the years. The last time I saw Sandi was in Omaha in 1999. She retired a few years ago and I'd heard through the grapevine that she was doing genealogy. Now I have to do my best to talk her into attending the Family History Expo in Overland Park, Kansas in two weeks! Seeing her again was just icing on the cake.

Homestead Records

Plan on seeing a lot about homestead records on this blog in the coming months, as the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act of 1862 approaches. The digitization project is extremely significant for those genealogists whose families moved west. I will do my best to keep blog readers informed about activities at the Homestead National Monument of America and resources that are available regarding this significant era of American history.

Land Records and Genealogy Conference - Day 2

Day 2 - July 16, 2011

Yesterday began with me picking up Thomas MacEntee at his hotel and taking the "scenic route" to Beatrice. My perceived "shortcut" through my home town hit a roadblock when I realized the street I had selected did NOT go directly through to the highway we needed to be on! Thank goodness for the GPS, although she made us go in a circle, but we arrived in Beatrice fairly close to our original ETA. And thank goodness that Thomas is a good sport.

Thomas MacEntee
Genealogy Ninja
Once sustained with some hot coffee, the second day of the Land Records and Genealogy Symposium was off to a good start. It was a day with an emphasis on the use of online technology for genealogists.

Thomas MacEntee gave two excellent presentations: Social Networking: New Horizons for Genealogists and Google for Genealogists. Even though I've known Thomas for about a year and have attended many of his webinars and listened to his weekly Geneabloggers radio show, this was the first time I'd heard him speak in person.

Both sessions were excellent and I picked up several new tips that I intend to use.

Thomas is, of course, the force behind Geneabloggers, a member of the Genealogical Speaker's Guild, His business is High Definition Genealogy and one of his many blogs is Destination Austin Family. Thomas' sessions were very well received by the audience and it seemed like a lot of folks had a new insight for using social media for genealogy.

Gail Blankenau gave an outstanding session on Dating and Identifying Your 19th Century Photos. She took us on a trip through fashion history with great ideas on how to narrow down the time frame when photographs were probably taken. Her photo examples were great illustrations of what to look for in our own photographs.

Our luncheon entertainment was provided by Marla Matkin, who reenacted the stories of strong pioneer women. She is available for presentations via the Nebraska Humanities Council.

I was the final speaker of the conference and my session was about Blogging Your Family History: Sharing What You Know. I gave an overview of how blogging can be advantageous to furthering your family history research and making connections with "cousins" who are researching others lines of the family. The second half of my talk was about the technical aspects of creating and designing a blog.

If you heard my presentation and liked what I had to say or learned something new, please write a review and leave feedback for me on the SpeakerMix web site (link below). I would appreciate your comments!

Have you heard me speak?

Giving Back to the Blogging Community

As I stated in my remarks at the conference, I am willing to help beginning genealogy bloggers get started by answering your questions and giving advice, if asked. You can email me at

Read about Day 1 of the conference

Social Networking at the Conference

2011 Land Records and Genealogy Symposium Rocked!

Day 1 - Friday, July 15, 2011

What better timing to participate in the Land Records and Genealogy Symposium in Beatrice, Nebraska than on the eve of the Homestead Act of 1862.The 150th anniversary of this legislation is coming up next year. Millions of homestead record images are being digitized that will eventually be made available to the public. With my roots firmly set in Nebraska soil, I feel extremely fortunate that the Nebraska homestead records are the first to be digitized and will be completed before the project moves on to other states. This is definitely going to be a landmark research base for genealogists who are tracking ancestors through their westward move.

Homestead National Monument of America
display at the Land Records and Genealogy Symposium
July 2011
The past two days have been a whirlwind of activities in conjunction with the Land Records and Genealogy Symposium. I've been looking forward to the symposium for months - not only as an attendee, but because I was one of the speakers at the event. This was my first presentation at a major genealogy conference, so I was extremely honored and humbled that the organizers asked me to participate.
This symposium is held every two years and this year's event attracted nearly 100 people from Nebraska, several surrounding states and as far away as Massachusetts and California.

Friday began with me meeting the Genealogy Ninja, Thomas MacEntee, at the Lincoln airport. Those of you who know Thomas know that it's always great to get together with him. We arrived in Beatrice in time for lunch. Unfortunately, that meant that we were not able to hear the first two presentations by Sylvia Murray on Genealogy: You Can Do This and Carla Anders on Introduction to Land Platting.

Fortunately for me, I sat next to Carla during the conference and I'm certain that a new genealogy friendship was born. A lot of business cards and email addresses were exchanged! Carla operates Collecting Missing Ancestors and is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists. She has a wealth of experience in Midwest research.

During lunch, we were entertained by Chris Sayre, a native Lincolnite known for his dedication to traditional and contemporary folk music. Chris' CDs are available here.

After lunch, we were treated to two fantastic sessions on Land Records presented by Gail Blankenau. Gail and I live in the same city, have been Facebook friends for a while, but this was the first time we met in person. Gail really knows her stuff when it comes to land records! She is an outstanding and knowledgeable presenter. Gail is also a member of APG  and the Genealogical Speaker's Guild. I enjoyed getting acquainted with Gail and hope we can "do coffee" every once in a while.

The afternoon ended with an excellent session on Finding Women Homesteaders by Sylvia Murray. Her stories and photographs of these exceptional women were very interesting and inspirational. It makes you wonder if you could have done the same thing under those circumstances. Sylvia is also a member of APG and the Genealogical Speaker's Guild.

Homestead National Monument of America

After the close of the presentations, Thomas and I went in search of the coolest place in Beatrice. I don't mean "cool" as in "hip" - but literally, cool. The Nebraska temperature exceeded 100 degrees this weekend. We went to the visitor center at the Homestead National Monument of America. [Photo] The monument is operated by the National Park Service. The land is exactly the size of the original homesteads - 160 acres. We explored the museum and decided we needed to find an even cooler spot in Beatrice!

It was on to the Education Center down the road. This was the coolest place in Beatrice, so Thomas and I found a couple chairs and talked shop until it was time for the special dinner event. We were treated to a nice dinner, more music from Chris Sayre and learned more about the Homestead Act and the homestead records digitization project.

Learn more about the Land Records Project.

Other useful Homestead Records links:

Read about Day 2 of the Symposium >

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My 500th Blog Post - Thank you, Thomas MacEntee!

It was back in December 2009 when I started blogging on I had only intended to use the blog for queries in hopes of finding some long lost relatives. It didn't take long for the blog to take on a life of its own.

I really hadn't thought about Post Number 500 being anything special until earlier this week. I read on Bill West's West in New England blog that he had achieved his 1,000th blog post. Then Derek Jeter hit his 3,000th hit - and a home run, at that! Number 500 took on a significant meaning.

So, it seems rather fitting that I pay tribute to my blogging mentor, my friend, the head Geneablogger himself, Thomas MacEntee.

Midwest Family History Expo, July 2010
Diana Ritchie, Thomas MacEntee, yours truly, Jenna Mills
photo copyright Jenna Mills 2010
used with permission
When I first discovered early in 2010, Thomas welcomed me to the geneablogging community with open arms, support and advice. When I think of how Thomas gives of himself to the blogger community, it's easy to see that he is one busy man.

When I met Thomas at the Midwest Family History Expo in Kansas City last summer, I really felt as though I already knew him. If you've not met Thomas, he's just the same in person as he is on the 'net.

I mentioned to Thomas that I was interested in doing some public speaking on genealogy at some time in the future. Thomas was very encouraging and I'll never forget his words, "There's room at the table for everyone."

That simple piece of advice has guided me as I've started to dip my toes in the water of genealogy speaking. I have done hundreds of workshops and training sessions for my day-job, but I admit I was a wee bit nervous the first time I spoke in front of a group about genealogy. It went fine and I really enjoyed myself.

This coming weekend, I have the privilege of speaking at the Land Records and Genealogy Symposium in Beatrice, Nebraska. The symposium is sponsored by the Homestead National Monument and Southeast Community College. I'm going to be sharing the podium with several noted speakers, including the one and only Thomas MacEntee. Since my presentation topic is genealogy blogging, do you think I'm a wee bit nervous about Thomas being in the audience? Maybe a little bit, but not really - because I know that Thomas will be there to support me and encourage me, as he always has.

And I am REALLY looking forward to being Thomas' chauffeur and personal Nebraska tour guide next weekend. I know we'll have a great time, visiting about genealogy and blogging.

If Thomas has provided some inspiration, encouragement or support to your blogging activities or if you have attended one of the many free webinars he has conducted, I encourage you to show your support by visiting the Geneabloggers web site and make a donation as a way of saying "thank you" to Thomas for all he does for geneabloggers and genealogists around the world. And, no, Thomas did NOT ask me to make this pitch!

Can't wait until next weekend, my friend!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Born on July 7 - William Leroy Kelly

William Leroy Kelly
1892 - 1968
My grandfather, William Leroy Kelly was born on July 7, 1891. Or maybe it was 1892.

His tombstone, located in Greenwood Cemetery in Greenwood, Nebraska, gives 1891 as his year of birth. But my research into public records indicate that 1892 is probably the actual year of his birth.

I use this as an example to show that not even tombstones always provide accurate information. At the time of Grandpa Kelly's death in 1968 and when the tombstone was purchased, I'm sure my mother and her siblings listed his birth year as 1891 because he always stated that he was "nine years older than the year it is."

That would have been true - for one half of the year. The second half of the year, he would have been eight years older than the year it was.

I have two pieces of research information that indicate he was born in 1892. The first is his World War I draft registration card. It shows his date of birth as July 1, 1892. He signed the card in June of 1917, the month before his 25th birthday.

The other documentation is the Social Security Death Index which also indicates 1892 as the year of his birth.

This serves as a reminder that you cannot always rely on family lore in determining dates.

One thing for sure, we always knew that Grandpa Kelly was born on July 7. In the 1960s, he seemed to be quite amused that he shared his birthday with Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. Ringo turns 71 years old today, and Grandpa Kelly was born on this day 119 years ago, in 1892.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Genealogy Events in Nebraska - July 2011

July is going to be a hot month, not only in temperature, but in the genealogy and history conferences and presentations made available in Nebraska and nearby. Among the highlights will be the Civil War conference sponsored by the Knight Museum and Sandhills Center in Alliance, Nebraska on July 8 - 9, 2011; the Land Records and Genealogy Symposium at the SCC Truman Center in Beatrice, Nebraska on July 15 - 16, 2011. Make plans to visit the Homestead National Monument while in Beatrice.

While not in Nebraska, just down the road will be the Midwest Family History Expo in Overland Park, Kansas, closing out the month on July 29 - 30, 2011. If you plan to attend this one, check your travel route since many of the usual roads leading to the Kansas City area may be closed due to flooding from the Missouri River.

On a personal note

I will be speaking at the Land Records and Genealogy Symposium on Saturday, July 16, 2011. My topic will be sharing family history stories by blogging. If you've never blogged before, I'll be sharing some tips about starting your genealogy blog and sharing some success stories that come from the result of sharing your ancestry online. I will also be in attendance at the Friday evening dinner at the Homestead National Monument on July 15, 2011. In addition to dinner, there will be entertainment and an opportunity to visit with the symposium presenters. Please stop by and introduce yourself! For a full conference brochure, click here.

At the end of the month, I will be speaking at the Midwest Family History Expo in Overland Park, Kansas. On July 29, 2011, my topic will focus on newspaper research, a subject near and dear to my heart. Newspapers provide an excellent source of information about your ancestors and living relatives. While not always accurate, newspapers provide clues and information that help tell the story of how your ancestors lived. Participants will learn about research strategies and the use of resources including microfilm, archives, free and fee-based online sites.

On Saturday, July 30, 2011, my Expo topic will again be Sharing Family History Stories by Blogging. If you are attending the Family History Expo, please introduce yourself! Be sure to include the Friday evening dinner event featuring M. Bridget Cook as part of your Expo experience.

The full calendar of Nebraska events is located here. If you have an event to add, please email me with the details.

Date & Location

July 8 – 9, 2011
Knight Museum and Sandhills Center
908 Yellowstone
Alliance, Nebraska

Becci Thomas,  director
Remembering The Civil War. . .150 Years Later
Two day conference to celebrate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
There will be two days of classes, lectures and programs. Twenty four learning events will take place with professional genealogy and history speakers. This will be a great opportunity for family genealogists with Civil War ancestors as well as for those interested in the history of the Civil War.

Early registration cost for the two days will be $45/both days. This will include lunch on both days to be served on site at the museum. There will also be two free Humanities programs, one offered at the end of each day.

Speakers will include:
James Potter, Nebraska State Historical Society
David Wells, independent civil war historian
Dr. Daniel Holtz, professor-historian-musician
Ruby Coleman, Association of Professional Genealogists
Susan Weber, Nebraska Quilters Association. 
Museum staff
Guy Hielscher, historian/collector
Maurine Roller, independent scholar
Wally A, Seiler, independent scholar

More information:  Cheri Hopkins

Thanks to Cheri Hopkins for this information.

July 8 – 10, 2011
John C Fremont Days
25th Anniversary
Fremont , Nebraska
Historical re-enactments and tours, including tours of the Ridge Cemetery in Fremont, and many other events.

July 12, 2011
7:15 p.m.
Lower Level Theater
Dick Admin. Bldg.
Union College Campus
3800 So. 48th St. Lincoln, Nebraska
Ed Zimmer, PhD, returns to present a view of the Civil War through the lens of Wyuka Cemetery. We'll also have materials and resources about the Civil War that will assist in researching ancestors involved in the Civil War.

July 15 - 16, 2011
Truman Center
Southeast Community College
4771 W Scott Rd
Beatrice, Nebraska
Genealogy and Land Records Symposium

Speakers include:

Gail Blankenau - Gail is an experienced genealogist and photo historian who shares her research and ideas in through engaging interactive presentations.

Thomas MacEntee - Thomas is a genealogist specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community.  

Sylvia Murray - Sylvia has been the Director, consultant, and trainer at various Family History Centers since 1982 and she specializes in Midwestern United States research, researching female lines, on-site research, and locating homesteads.

Carla Anders - Carla has more than 30 years of experience as a genealogist in the Midwest region and she specializes in Land Platting.  Since 2009, Carla has been the Educational Director for the Missouri State Genealogical Society

Susan Petersen - Susan is a genealogist, writer and journalist.  Susan manages several web sites and blogs. She specializes in helping people bring their information to the internet to share with other genealogists.

Please contact Blake Bell, Homestead National Monument of America’s Historian, with any programming questions at 402-223-1715 or at  Those wanting to register for the event should contact Kelly Morgan, Assistant Director of Continuing Education, Southeast Community College-Beatrice, at 402-228-8244 or

July 16, 2011
1:30 p.m.
West Nebraska Family Research and History Center
1602 Avenue A
Scottsbluff, NE

Brown Bag Lunch & Book Sharing Day ~ Bring your lunch and one or several of your favorite research books to share with everyone.

July 21, 2011
12:00 Noon
Nebraska History Museum
15th and P Sts
Lincoln, Nebraska
Nebraska State Historical Society Brown Bag Lecture Series: Nebraska and the Civil War: Why the Story Matters
Presenter: Jim Potter

July 23, 2011
11:00 a.m.
W. Dale Clark Library
215 S. 15th St.
Omaha, Nebraska
Digging Up Family History in the Cemetery
An overview of cemetery research, with examples of tombstone artwork and symbolism. See what a “cemetery kit” looks like and learn what tools you need for cemetery reading.

July 29 – 30, 2011
Overland Park Convention Center
6000 College Blvd
Overland Park, Kansas

List compiled and maintained by Susan Petersen, To add or update your listing, please email me