its-all-relative-9781476734491_hrToday’s the release day for A. J. Jacob’s latest, It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree. This is a fun and easy read about genealogy and the notion of families in general. In it Jacobs (The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically) works on his own family tree, meditates on the nature of family, and plots to host the world’s largest family reunion culminating in the Global Family Reunion in June of 2015. It includes big topics—privacy, scandal, DNA and “non-paternal events,” tradition and tribalism, and embracing failure—all handled with humor and care. It made me laugh and groan, but it’s also very hopeful for our global family.

Happy hunting (and reading),

Jess

 

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Falling trees in the woods leading up to Grand Traverse Lighthouse, Leelanau State Park, Northport, Michigan 2017

So, I’ve been very quiet of late for a number of reasons. I’ve had the great honor to present around the state, I’ve taken time to work on my own education—attending wonderful seminars and webinars offered by the Michigan Genealogical Council, Western Michigan Genealogical Society, BCG and APG. I’ve enjoyed working with my area societies on new projects. And finally… I’ve been trying to figure out my next move after a research find that pulled the rug out from under my feet.

As I work through this new twist in my research journeys, I am reminded that whenever you find yourself skidding into a new brick wall, your best bet is to regroup and continue to do thorough and documented research. Applying the Genealogical Proof Standard (which you should be doing anyway!)—exhaustive research, thorough documentation, analyzing the evidence, resolving conflicting evidence and writing up reasoned and coherent conclusions—can help you work through almost any setback.

Conflicting evidence will sometimes knock you for a loop, what matters is getting up, dusting yourself off, and getting back to work. Yes, I’ve got sports on in the background.

So, I’m getting back to work.

Happy hunting,

Jessica

I got out bright and early Saturday morning for Tim Pinnick’s packed and very informative presentation on newspapers which introduced me to Kenneth R. Mark’s The Ancestor Hunt. Which, of course, just made me want to go back to wandering newspaper archives.

I also enjoyed presentations by Wevonneda Minis on Asylum records and one by Janice Lovelace on Railroad records. And I closed out the conference by attending Diahan Southard’s “YDNA and atDNA” program which had a case study that mirrors a possible “non-paternal event” we may have identified in my family.

Again, I learned a lot at the conference, met new people and/or finally had time to talk to people I’d barely met before. I also felt reinvigorated with ideas to take back to my home societies that I’m hoping can be worked into our long-range plans.

If you get a chance, try a national genealogy conference like NGC 2018 in Grand Rapids or FGS 2018 in Fort Wayne. Hotels for both are already open!

Happy hunting,

Jess

What do you do when your ancestors are pulling you in different directions?

Grandmothers

Sarah E. Morningstar Porter & Elnora York Trotter

On Friday, I found myself going back and forth between African American research topics and German (and German-American) research presentations attending presentations on African American Apprenticeships, Black Laws in the North, Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts, German Church records and Germanic Origins of German-speaking immigrants.  And I, of course, now want to run off in five totally different directions in my research.

 

Some of the speakers were ones I’ve seen before and enjoyed (Thank you, Michael D. Lacopo, James M. Beidler and Judy G. Russell!) and the others were new to me but had fun and knowledgeable voices. Wevonneda Minis presented the James Dent Memorial Lecture: Freedmen’s Bureau Labor Contracts—which gave me a better background in the period and new ideas of record sets to look for. Ari Wilkins delivered two fascinating presentations—on Plantation records and Apprenticeships—that were very informative with great case studies.

It was a fun day capped with a dinner gathering of the Michigan researchers and friends.

Happy hunting,

Jess

I’ll be presenting:

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“Scandalous Ancestors,” at Ionia County Genealogical Society, Saturday September 9th at 1 pm, at the Freight Station Museum in Lake Odessa.

“African American Genealogy Research,” at Lyon Township Public Library, September 14th at 6:30 pm.

 

“Scandalous Ancestors,” at Marshall District Library, September 19th at 7 pm.

“African American Genealogy Research” and “Cluster Genealogy: Are We Related to Everyone on the Block, at the Genealogical Society of Washtenaw County, October 22nd at 1:30 and 3:30 pm.

Happy hunting!

Jess

PS. I will NOT be wearing heels.

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Morning view looking out over the Alleghany from the David L. Lawrence Convention Center before the Thursday Keynote.

On Thursday, I took advantage of a full set of sessions, attending presentations as varied as the anatomy of military pension, organizing your genetic genealogy, German Church records, and a class on slave research. The standout of the day was Tony Burroughs’ dynamic session “Anatomy of a Pension.” My pension research to this point has been fairly haphazard and this class offered an organized approach to obtaining and analyzing these records. I came out with a better understanding of the process of requesting them from NARA and some ideas for my next steps in researching them—including a gut feeling that I should look up the files that I already have, if I get the chance to do so in person, just to verify I’m not missing anything from the original file. Not a knock on NARA—just a feeling that there’s something odd about the file. So… bumping DC up on my someday road trip list.

I also, managed to fall rather spectacularly while on lunch outside the convention center. Many thanks to the couple who helped me retrieve my things and checked to see that I was ok! Wrenched my ankle and was fairly bruised but I finished out the day and after some care was up and around to start again Friday morning. Note to self… next time pick the attached hotel, you are that much of a klutz.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Wednesday was mostly a travel day for me but I did manage to make it to Pitt for FGS just in time to make the last two Focus on Societies Day sessions—both phenomenal! the society day programs are meant to help society members with ideas to build and revitalize our genealogical societies—sharing ideas for programming, advocacy, best practices, etc.

I went in with a couple of my societies in mind and found myself with pages of notes and a long list of ideas to share. The sessions I attended were on rethinking society outreach—which had fabulous programming ideas from the Kentucky Historical Society as well as encouraged groups to really embed in the community, getting out and involved—and one by Blaine Bettinger on considering DIGs (DNA interest groups) as both society education and outreach/marketing tools. DNA is so popular right now and so NOT intuitive. A DIG would offer a community educational opportunities and support as well as catch the eye of potential Society members. So… how about it Greater Lansing? Do we have a local DIG yet? Anyone interested?

Happy hunting,

Jess