One of my non-travel experiences for Family History Month was my extensive prep for a genealogy for kids class to presented at work. I spent a lot of time collecting great resources and coming up with funny family stories, neat resources, artifacts they could get their hands on. I put together a “treasure box” of neat stuff—my great-grandmother’s locket that they let my grandmother use when she was teething, a variety of pictures, postcards, documents, and more. I created a high-graphic slideshow, I had craft ideas, and even resources for parents. I even tested ideas out on my oldest nephew.

The only thing I didn’t get … were attendees.

I was more than a bit disappointed. But we’ll try floating the program one more time in the summer and see what happens. In the meantime though, I found a lot of great resources that I think people need to check out. Here are a few of the websites I found interesting and helpful.

Have you seen other sites you liked?

Happy hunting,


October is Family History Month and I am celebrating with a few genealogy-related road trips and workshops. So, ideally you’ll hear a bit more from me as the month goes on. But to start the recap…

Last year was the first time in years that I hadn’t been able to attend Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s Got Ancestors?! Workshop and I really missed it. I wasn’t going to pass up this year’s event. Workshops like this are reinvigorating, great for networking, and always useful in your research—even if you don’t  immediately hit the mother lode when you run home and try out the new site someone told you about.

So, I spent the start of the weekend in the Grand Rapids area for the two day event. This year’s featured speaker was Curt B. Witcher, Senior Manager for Special Collections at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, whom I have met a number of times but I’d never heard him present.  I was delighted by Friday night’s session—a funny and practical presentation on strategies for successful internet research. Curt offered six great resources that researchers sometimes overlook—and I was thrilled to note that his list matched our top resources for our Free Genealogical Resources Online class at work.

Saturday’s first session on using ancestral origins reminded us to research the movements of ethnic groups for clues to your ancestors’ movements and circumstances. I came away with plans to find more information on Southern Migration. What caused my ancestors or their owners to move from North Carolina to Arkansas? Or Mississippi to Arkansas? For some reason I never thought of it quite that way despite definitely having done it with other lines.

Curt’s second session of the day was “Boot Camp and Roll Call” and it occurred to me pretty quickly that I hadn’t actually done any sessions on military records before. So, this was pretty informative to someone who has largely stumbled through or lucked into resources on her military relatives. He offered a number of great leads and reminded me that I haven’t done enough to track the military careers of some of my “uncles.” I’ve followed my direct line ancestors but I may find more leads by tracking their siblings and other close relatives.

The first afternoon session dealt with the non-Federal Population Schedule portions of the Census and left me very curious about what I find in the agriculture and business schedules relating to a number of my ancestors. In my notes there are a list of surnames beside each he described. I’ve used the Slave and Mortality schedules before but I hadn’t really thought about how you can fill in the color in your family history with data in the social, agriculture, and business schedules.

The using library’s and archival collections presentation didn’t hold me the way it should have but that’s largely because it’s a topic I talk about as a librarian all the time—though his comments about librarians and catalogers all but hiding material they didn’t know what to do with in vertical files was dead on. But I was definitely paying attention when he switched over to The Genealogy Center’s collections. It doesn’t matter how often I’ve gone, there is always something more to learn in that collection. It’s fabulous—this is not a library that is sitting back—they’re on the forefront digitizing, trying to broaden access and staying relevant. High on my post-workshop to do list was the idea that I want to strategize a little differently for my next trip to Fort Wayne based on some of Curt’s tips.

It was great to see everyone! I hope everyone came away with ideas and renewed energy. And for any genealogist in the area that didn’t come, give this annual workshop a try in the future. WMGS is well-organized, they get great speakers and have a fabulously helpful member-base.

Thanks all!


I have had a couple of great genealogy experiences over the past couple of weeks so I’d like to offer a quick recap and a plug for a couple of great programs.

To begin with I attended the Abrams Genealogy Seminar on July 14th featuring D. Joshua Taylor. This program is presented by the Abrams Foundation, the Archives of Michigan, and the Michigan Genealogical Council and I always come away with great suggestions research ideas—and never enough time to implement them all.  Taylor’s sessions were fabulous. He crammed in a lot of information, and is an all-around great presenter. He focused on the 1780-1830 gap, and Online New England resources. His suggestions have already been useful in helping me close in on some of my mother’s more elusive New England ancestors. But that Parmenter-Fox connection may plague me forever!

My other sessions were a look at 1812 veterans’ records with Connie Reik and German research with Richard Doherty. The 1812 session offered strategies for finding information that I haven’t tried applying yet but I am fairly certain that Mother Gilbert’s father served for New York and now I have a few more sources to look at for more information on his experiences. And the German research program was informative as well. One of the things I learned here is that I simply don’t have enough information to trace people to Germany yet—though I’m getting there.

All around it was a great day with sessions for all skill levels and time to catch up with fellow researchers. I’m looking forward to the next Archives/MGC event, a family history workshop on November 1oth.

I also finally had the chance to attend a Genealogy Lock-in at the Grand Rapids Public Main Library hosted by their Local History Department and volunteers from the West Michigan Genealogical Society. It was a lot of fun both for socializing and talking out research strategies, as well as simply having research time in a positive environment.

I would dearly love to host something like this in my own library but I don’t really feel like we have the collection or staff to support it. Though, I did mention to one of the society members that I’d be there in a heartbeat if the State Archives ever considered the idea. Are you following along dear friends at the Archives?

If you have Kent County research in particular—you have to check out the collections at GRPL and I’d strongly encourage you to join WMGS. They’re one of those fabulous overachieving societies—always in the know about what’s going on across the state (and the country) and forever building fabulous resources for researches. Check out their current databases!

Looking for more information about events around you? Check out the Michigan Genealogical Council’s Community Calendar (for people closer to me) or connect with your local genealogical societies or those around where you research!

Happy hunting!


Here’s my first follow-up post from research inspired by sessions from the Michigan Genealogical Council’s 2011 Family History Month Workshop.

As I noted in an earlier post, Pamela J. Cooper’s Homestead Act session encouraged me try requesting a selection of the Federal Land Entry files for my ancestors.  On October 30th I started out by ordering the file of Levi Hampton who was listed in the 1900 Census as my Great Grandfather’s uncle and is one of the few members of my Arkansas family to have a patent listed in the BLM database 

I searched the BLM database for Levi Hampton in Bradley County, Arkansas (one can further limit a search under the “Miscellaneous” section switching the drop down menu beside “Authority” to “Homestead Entry Original”). I took the information in that entry to fill out the NARA order form. The request is currently $40—but it should be noted that this is a flat fee regardless of the size of the file. The deliverables can be photocopies or a digital copy.  I ended up requesting a digital copy to save myself the time scanning.

I was thrilled to receive the disk within 11 days—which is a little funny because it still shows on my NARA account as waiting to be sent. Levi’s file is 44 pages and includes his testimony, as well as that of two distant relatives—Wil Newton and Wilson Terry. I will admit that I really got my hopes up because Levi initially named my 3rd great-grandfather Sam Trotter, his brother, Rial, and their stepfather James Newton all as witnesses. But when the time came for the hearing Newton and Terry were the only witnesses. But regardless, there is a lot of information that I can cull from the file and I’m looking forward to spending more time on it.

Maybe the most interesting moment for me in reading the file was when I got to the presiding Judge, W. J. Hickman’s note on the change of witnesses. He comments, “I think myself that this witness is as good as either one of the others as he has been raised in the neighborhood of the said claimant. They are all Colored and one is as good as the other not withstanding his name does not appear in the publication.” I’m not sure why but it momentarily took my breath away to see that stated so plainly in a federal document. But as my parents noted when I shared it with them… it was a different time.

These files are definitely worth the price and slowly but surely I’ll start ordering Shea, Cunningham, Wilfong, and other family files.

Happy Hunting,


I’m playing a game of catch-up as this happened two weekends ago but… I genuinely enjoy going to genealogy workshops and conferences because I get to talk to fellow researchers, bounce ideas of people and reconnect with friends. But, more than anything I pay very close attention to my sessions because even when the topic is a resource I feel comfortable using I always come out with a new way to search, a new trick or just a fresh perspective that leaves me reinvigorated and ready to research.

This year’s Michigan Genealogical Council’s Family History Month Seminar was no exception. I attended five informative sessions—two by keynote speaker Pamela J. Cooper (one on finding church records and the other on the Homestead Act of 1862); a great intro to the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library by the Coordinator fo DPL’s Special Collections, Mark Bowden; a session on search strategies for given by State Archivist Mark Harvey; and a session on (formerly known as by Kris Rzepczynski of the Library of Michigan.

I’m not going to give a rundown of the sessions other than to say they all are great presenters. In many ways everything covered was really practical but I came out of all of the sessions with plans on how to use what we discussed. At the top of my “To Do” list after the workshop was to order the Land Entry File for Levi Hampton (my great grandfather Harrison Trotter’s uncle) to see what that might include—I’ve had the patent for years but never taken the step of ordering the rest of the file. I’m also very interested in heading back to the Burton to further my Massy family research—I’m still trying to find Naturalization records for Henry or his brothers. And there’s a lot I haven’t done on and Fold3. And if you read this Kris—I have deleted Footnote  (in place of Fold3) more times than it shows up in the published blog post—but really, it hasn’t been that long since they changed their name!

Anyway, I would definitely suggest the MGC Workshops (usually held in October and July each year at the Michigan Historical Center) for beginners and veteran researchers alike. I always come home with new information and a renewed energy in my research.

Now, if I can just carve time for all of my plans!

Happy Hunting,


So, day three was a little more relaxed. If one compared my post and the conference schedule you might notice that somewhere along the way yesterday I missed a session. Well, today it was two. I was admittedly suffering a little from overload but I also spent a few hours helping to man the booth for the Michigan Genealogical Council. It gave me a chance to interact with people in the Exhibit Hall and, in my spare time, work on organizing my thoughts about all the interesting information I had been given this week.

Session-wise, I attended Tony Burroughs’ presentation on documents available from before the Chicago Fire—adding Chicago to my Roadtrip Wish List. I went to a super helpful and practical presentation by Thomas McEntee, of Geneabloggers, about creating a blog (I’m still a newbie). I caught one more excellent presentation by Thomas Jones on the Genealogical Proof Standard, and I finally made it to one of Tim Pinnick’s presentations—the one on African American Migration. They were all helpful, interesting, and… about the last bits of information I could handle for the week.

My Springfield experience has been great and I know I’d love to come back again with a more careful plan to research the Massy, Allison, Stinnett and Martin contingent of my family—including wandering around Lincoln, Latham, and Decatur. Besides, I fell in love with Andiamo, GianFranco’s Italian Restaurant & Deli, and Prairie Archives—all within a block of the Old Capitol—and I’d love come back and visit all three.

Anyway, thanks to all who have made this such a great first time experience for me at FGS including all the instructors and everyone I met—but especially to the kind ladies who let me drag them down to Illinois a day early and the rest of the wonderful and welcoming Michigan contingent!

Signing off from Springfield,


Day two started wet! I had grand plans to go for a walk and have breakfast at Andiamo in Springfield (which I very much enjoyed for lunch the day before) but it was pouring and somehow it wasn’t worth the effort. But the day, while often gray, was was still a productive one and it was dry every other time I wandered out of the Convention Center and hotels.

I attended a BCG Seminar, a very informative session by David McDonald for beginners to Wisconsin Research, a class on African American Digital Research presented by Tony Burroughs, and another great beginner’s guide to records in Ohio presented by Diane VanSkiver Gagel.

I came out of the day with another set of research destinations added to my list and the start of two more research plans and trip folders—so far still in my head. I’ve been given a number of great tools and ideas to jumpstart my research in both Wisconsin and Ohio as well as a few solid locations I want to check out like the Wisconsin Historical Society Library and Archives and the Ohio Genealogical Society’s new Research Center in Bellville, OH.

If anything my only complaint about the conference setting is that there isn’t enough time to sit back and digest—because I want to go to every session, or stay up talking to folks, or totally crash because of information overload.

Happy Hunting from Springfield!


This was my first full day at FGS2011 and I had a blast from plenary to most of the way through the Society Showcase—I did sneak out before 8 pm. My session choices for the day were:

  • The Jones Jinx: Tracing Common Surnames presented by Thomas Jones
  • Searching Your African American Roots on presented by Lisa Arnold
  • ICAPGen Application Forms Presented by Kelly Summers
  • Getting Beyond the Bare Bones presented by Thomas Jones

I enjoyed and got a great deal out of all of them, but I think my pick of the day would have to be “The Jones Jinx.” So, a very big thank you Kris R. who told me that Tom was great when I told him I’d been going between that and another presentation! The case study layout of the presentation—a walk through on finding the parents of his relative, C. R. Jones—was one that particularly clicked for me. I came out with a list of things I wanted to work on with various ancestors (common surnames or otherwise)—including looking at the set date of birth that H. R. Allison/Massy uses all over the place that doesn’t quite match up with other information I found. Or starting over completely on my Johnson women in Arkansas—a current brick wall line. If you get a chance to see a lecture by Tom…Go!

The Ancestry class wasn’t really new material for me but it was still interesting to hear and it reminded me that with all sites: you’ve got to keep checking back to see what’s going on. I’ve been so focused on what’s worked for me (ex.’s Arkansas Marriage Records) that I sometimes forget to check out the updates elsewhere that may move me along in my research.

The ICAPGen session was interesting, not because I’ve decided to get certified but, because it helped me to think about the range of resources and geographic areas I have worked with over the years—as well as the range of courses I’ve taken.

And finally, I attended Tom Jones second presentation because I loved the first one. And I wasn’t the only one, because that room was absolutely packed! This was, again, very practical advice but it was laid out with examples that I found personally useful as well as interesting to hear about.

So, I’m deeming it a successful day. I’ve met and chatted with tons of interesting people and already learned a lot… And there’s still two days to go.

Happy Hunting from Springfield!


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