Family history month for the avid genealogist is a great reminder that we have to keep learning and there are workshops aplenty to keep us busy. Looking for some around you? Michigan researchers keep an eye on the Michigan Genealogical Council’s Community Calendar. You might also check out ConferenceKeeper.net.

Roadtripping through Michigan 2012Last weekend I tripped down to my home away from home for Western Michigan Genealogical Society‘s Annual Seminar Got Ancestors?! in Grand Rapids, Michigan and had a lot of fun… playing right into their theme for the year, “Are You Having Fun Yet?!”

This year’s featured speaker was genealogy ninja and technology curator, Thomas McEntee (of High-Definition Genealogy, GeneaBloggers.com, Hack Genealogy, among others). He offered five presentations—sessions on changing technology, cluster research, an introduction to blogging, a great look at the concept of mind mapping, and 10 ways to jumpstart your genealogy. I came away with a great list of new-to-me sites to play with—both for organizing my research and connecting with fellow researchers, more blogs than I will ever be able to keep track of (but I want to read them all!), and strategies for organizing a research problem and identifying the possible resources that may help you in solving it. And, as always, it was fabulous to see all my WMGS friends and hang out for a couple of days. It was definitely worth the trip!

Don’t forget to put the next seminar on your calendar—October 10-11, 2014! WMGS will be celebrating 60 years with a seminar featuring Dick Eastman!

Happy hunting,

Jess

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!

Jess

Organized bus trip rule #1: At least 30 minutes before the bus leaves you will find the most fabulous source that you do not have time to get through or photocopy or the person in front of you at the copier will be copying the whole book, or… You get the picture. It’s Murphy’s Law applied to genealogy.

This rule was explained to me by my fellow WMGS members on my first trip to Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne a few years ago and, in general, it rings true. But I somehow always think that if I plan well enough I won’t get caught. And come Thursday morning, I genuinely thought I had a good enough plan that I wouldn’t have a problem getting finished before the bus left. So, imagine my horror at 2 pm when I realized that the 2 volume source I really wanted to go through would not be doable in the allotted time—I did the math. I had possible family on all but maybe 10 pages in each. I could, of course, copy the entire book but the last vestiges of my time working for a copyright librarian reared its head. So, now I have another set of books on my purchase wish list and at the top of my “To Do List” for the next trip. The impatient part of me wants to order them now in the hopes that they’ll clear up every bit of confusion I have about the Dice/Theis and Koppenhöfer families (not likely…but still).

But it was a relatively successful couple of days. I have a better idea about this particular set of clustered families that moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio and then a smaller batch moved on to Will County, IL. I’m not sure I’ll ever find out why my 3rd Great Grandfather was down in Will County to meet his wife (as opposed to Rockford with the rest of his family) but I feel like I’ve taken a few strong steps to understanding this branch. And the Johnson’s should note that they’re even more German than they originally thought—as the Dice, Koppenhaver, Besore, and (I’m guessing) the Grove families are probably all Palatine Immigrants.

Happy hunting,

Jess

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