Saturday, March 30, 2019

On a Long, Long Break

I did not realize that my last post was more than a year ago. 

Fact is that I just burned out. For years my enthusiasm had me treating my research like a full-time job but I'm too old to have a full-time job. On top of that I spent 3 years in a fairly demanding position in my local genealogy society (I should have quit after 2 years). Then add the kinds of things that tend to lead researchers into a slump.

It was as though someone had pushed my “off” button.

I was in the middle of creating Google earth family history tours of my immigrant ancestors from their arrival in the US to the cities where they eventually settled. With photos along the way. I stopped dead. Now my interest is beginning to reawaken after ignoring genealogy for many months. I’ll probably get back to it before long.

In the meantime, I’ve begun a new hobby that is engaging and stimulating – amateur microscopy. It is a huge learning experience and fun. I even started a blog mostly as a summary of my progress Microscopy:Confessions of a Newbie  I’m hoping that this will provide a distraction that will keep me from obsessing on genealogy while still making progress.

I’ll be back.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

I Now Have a Research Disciplinarian

No whips. No threats of harm to me or my family.  It’s software that forces me (sort of) to do step-by-step research planning and gives me a place to put research notes. This is necessary because I have no self-discipline.

I mentioned Research Ties in my 4 Feb 2018 post Getting my Act Together…
I learned about it in Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy  4th Edition by Val D. Greenwood. He implies that he uses it. It is a cloud based program specifically designed for family history.  I signed up for a 2-week trial.

It was a rocky start in spite of having a Beginner’s Guide and a series of tutorials. Even with that help, it was non-intuitive to me. Could have been crystal clear to other folks, but not to me. I stuck it out and now think I’ve mostly got the hang of it. Mostly.

Research Ties leads you through your research step-by-step.  You can upload a Gedcom file or enter individual names manually.

You first state an objective.
Then one or more searches to accomplish that objectives.
Then the results of each search.

The discipline comes in defining each step and then carrying it out. The sequence is very logical. Left to my own devices, I tend to jump all over the place and have vague plans, if any. I go down rabbit holes and lose track of what I was looking for. I write (often abbreviated) results in a notebook - some of the times.  I am poor at citations. When I go back later, I can barely read my own handwriting let alone figure out my abbreviations.

There are two great benefits: a) because it’s in the cloud, I can use it with my tablet when away from home; b) it has excellent report capability.  Reports can be downloaded in either MS Excel or PDF format.

I have now signed up for a $30 annual subscription.

DISCLAIMER: This works for me mostly because I use 2 displays. When doing online research, I have Research Ties on one screen and do my searches on the other.  I am not certain this I would be so enthusiastic using only one screen and having to switch back and forth between applications

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Aunt Martha - a Role Model

 Aunt Martha was unique in my family. As a child, I didn’t understand what a role model she was. Martha was born in St Paul Minnesota in1907; the 7th child of my maternal grandparents Ignatz and Stella Ganas. 

She was the only one of my mother’s 10 siblings who moved away from St. Paul as a single person. I’ll never know why she left, but the most common of the family lore says that she fell in love with a Jewish man. Religious conversion was not in the cards for either of them. So, she got on a train with a couple of friends and headed west sometime in the 1930’s.

After visiting towns in North Dakota and Montana she spent a season working in. Yellowstone National Park. She took a lot of photos, but not one has a date on it.  By 1938 she was in Pasadena, California taking snapshots of the Rose Parade. She finally settled in Oakland, California. She travelled the west coast and made regular trips back to St. Paul.

My first real memories of Aunt Martha were her visits to us in Chicago.  She was a superstar to me because of her travels but mostly because she traveled by air. What luxury that seemed to me! We’d go to Chicago’s Midway airport (this was way before O’Hare), go out on the observation deck and watch the planes arrive and depart.

Martha would arrive on a TWA Constellation.  (Here's another article.)  What a beautiful plane! I fell in love with it and still love it to this day. The sleek and graceful curves truly set her apart from other planes of the time.

I loved Aunt Martha because she was a loving, kind, gentle woman, and also because she was never condescending to a little kid like me.

I grew up in a time when girls were still expcted to grow up, become secretaries, get married and have babies. I grew up appreciating Martha her for her spirit, her poise, her wanderlust and her independence. All were an inspiration to a young girl. Thank you Aunt Martha.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Getting My Act Together Version (too many to count)

I’m pretty much a “big picture” person, preferring to look at the larger scope of things. That means that many of my i’s are left undotted and not all of my t’s are crossed.  Over the years, I’ve made several attempts at keeping a research log. Some lasted longer than others. I get distracted and then cannot remember exactly what I did about whom. Well, here I go again.

 Inspired by Val D. Greenwood’s 4th edition of The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy I will again try to keep (get) things organized. In chapter 7: Organizing and Evaluating Your Research Findings,  p.143.   He makes very specific recommendations for paper based forms and methods using a Research Log in conjunction with Research Notes, and how to synchronize them.

But what got my attention was his discussion of a software program called Research Ties. Apparently, Mr. Greenwood uses it.  It was developed by Jill Crandall specifically for genealogy research.  There’s no need to download anything, it is all in the cloud.  I’ve signed up for a free two-week trial.

On the first pass, it doesn’t seem very intuitive to me even though I’ve printed the Beginner’s Guide, so I guess I’ll actually watch the tutorials.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

It Is More Than Recording Names and Dates

What do you know about your ancestors? You may have documented births, marriages and deaths, but do you know who they were? Where they lived? Where they came from? What were the economics and demographics of their time and place?

These are questions that often could not be easily answered in years gone by. Today’s technology helps us find those answers.

In James Tanner’s recent blog post Where is Genealogy Technologically-wise?, he begins by discussing the history of genealogy and the limitations imposed by the technology of the times. Early researchers often were lucky if they could find names and dates. But the evolution of technology is giving us access to unprecedented amounts of information.


What excites me and inspired this post was having such a revered genealogist remind us all that our ancestors were real people about whom we can learn more than just names and dates. He encourages us to take full advantage of technology. With his permission, I present the second part of that post. (See the link above to read the entire post.)


Genealogy involves several skills that draw on several areas of academic expertise. If you look at the common divisions of academia as reflected in university catalogs, you would see that genealogy involves many different areas. These include some of the following disciplines:

·                     History
·                     Languages
·                     Library Science
·                     Geography
·                     Economics

If we break away from thinking of genealogy as a trivial hobby of filling out forms, we begin to see the limitations of constraining our records to electronic representations of paper forms. Rather than "attaching a source or memory" about a person, what if we begin with a narrative? Rather than being presented by a program with a series of blank fields, what if we were guided by a series of questions about the person's life? Let's suppose the computer program started out like this:

What do you know about your father (mother, aunt, uncle, etc.)? Where was your (relative) born? Who were the members of his or her family? Do you have any photos or stories you can remember about this relative? We have found a U.S. Census record that seems to have information about your (ancestor). What do you see in this record that might help add information about this person or family? Here is a timeline of the time when your ancestor lived? Do you know where the ancestor lived?

In other words, we break out of the shackles of the paper-based view of genealogy and start putting the information into a historical context and do this by begging (sic) a narrative. What do we end up with? Essentially a website dedicated to a family with links and photos and stories.

At the same time, we could add in some artificial intelligence that could begin to correct the information entered. For example, an extensive expansion of the error messages now generated by some programs.

The interesting thing is that all this is now available. Rather than providing a confusing pile of information, how about using the computers to organize, help evaluate and record the information in a way that leads us through the process rather than requiring years of experience to get

Thank you, James for encouraging us to expand our scope.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Genealogy as a Political Tool

Let me state from the beginning that I will not express an opinion on this topic.  I do find it interesting that Jennifer Mendelsohn has combined two of her passions; one fueling the other.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Research Shape-up for 2018

How am I going to get my research and goals shaped-up for 2018? I am joining Elizabeth O’Neal’s January Genealogy Blog Party to try to set some goals for this year.

My list of long-term projects has gotten a lot of revision and adjusted priorities.  There are some video stories I hope to do but they’ve been lowered in priority.  Other projects got bumped up on the list.

My main focus, for now, will concentrate on the US. Via Mondays With Myrt, I learned of Val Greenwood’s latest edition of The Researcher’sGuide to American Genealogy. Santa Claus (my daughter) gave me a copy; and now I’m ready to start learning more about the few ancestors who’ve been in the US since before the mid-nineteenth century. 

There are also recently discovered distant relatives who immigrated from Poland in the 19th century and settled in parts of the US that I know nothing about. Its time to learn more about resources in Buffalo and in Pittsburgh.

The list never gets shorter, does it?