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?