New York, County Naturalization Records, 1791-1980,

It was a nice moment of synchronicity to go from services for Aunt June into the Michigan Genealogical Council’s Fall Seminar this past weekend featuring Paul Milner who spoke on British Isles Research. Inspired by Uncle Bob’s question, “Am I an O’Shea?” (Short answer: Yes), I spent the Friday night Lock-in at the Archives of Michigan focusing on Michael and Patrick O’Shea (probably related, but definitely brother-in-laws by way of sisters, Amy Alvina Conchessa McUmber and Melissa Teresa McUmber). I didn’t find a lot of new information but I do have a line on naturalization records in Jefferson County, New York that might shed more light on their move to the United States. Many thanks to the Archives staff for hosting us all!

Saturday’s seminar was great as well. I would highly suggest Paul Milner as a speaker. I spent my day in the Michigan Historical Center’s Forum for his presentations: Finding Your English Ancestors, A New Location, Finding your Scottish Ancestors, and Irish Immigrants to North America. The talks were chalk full of information to apply to our Packer, Massy, Alison, and Shea lines. It was a particular treat to realize most of his Scottish examples were from Perthshire, Scotland in the same parishes that the Alison, Inglis, and Maxton families called home.

So, I’ve added to my (never-ending) to do list:

  • Making sure I’ve gone through the available BMD indexes
  • Start using Scotlands People
  • Try to figure out where in Ireland Patrick & Michael O’Shea came from in Ireland
  • Confirm where the Byrnes and Cunninghams came from in Ireland
  • Explore more information about the parts of Limerick, Ireland that the Massy family hails from.

So much searching to do and so little time!

Happy hunting,


Family History Month has turned out to be an eventful and fun one for me. I never followed up on my experiences at Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s Got Ancestors?! program but it was yet another success for WMGS with great presentations by D. Joshua Taylor. I’d recommend any of his talks but the Friday night presentation “Genealogy in Prime Time,” while giving a lot of fun and interesting information about Josh’s work on Who Do You think You Are? and Genealogy Roadshow, really resonated with me when it came to the message of providing the story—that’s what gets people hooked on, not the long lists of names and dates. Saturday’s presentations were equally informative and entertaining. As an Archivist I wanted to get up and cheer when Josh presented on researching in archives. And in his presentation, “Census, Vital Records and Locality Searching,” I was reminded that I haven’t spent nearly enough time exploring the census non-population schedules.

Additionally, I had a lot of fun at Family Tree Talk at Capital Area District Libraries South Lansing Branch. The group had great questions and I’m really hoping to visit again as more of a participant.  They meet on the third Saturday of the month at 2 pm.

I also had a great experience presenting for the Mid-Michigan Genealogical Society last night. They normally meet on the fourth Wednesdays, February-June and September-November (with November’s date bumped earlier to stay away from the Thanksgiving holiday).  Their next meeting will be November 18th featuring a speaker on Scottish Ancestry.

I have also learned from another project that I really wish I had French Canadian Catholic ancestry! What beautifully detailed records in the Drouin Collection! In baptismal record alone you get: Name, parents name with mother’s maiden name, father’s job, birth date, baptism, godparents, godfather’s occupation, and sometimes explanations of how they are related to the child. Combine that and the marriage records and if you’re careful (and the handwriting is legible) you actually may be able to go back in a straight line on your ancestors.

SampleDrouinThe sample document is a baptismal records for Rose Anna Herminise Plamondon, naming her the legitimate child of Louis Plamondon, shoemaker, and Adelina Lapierre of St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Montréal, Quebec Canada. It also names her godparents as Jean Baptiste and Rose Anna Plamondon, brother and sister of the infant.

Happy hunting,


It’s Family History Month and I’m trying to fit in all sorts of fun to celebrate. Including an annual trek to Grand Rapids for Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s Got Ancestors! Seminar (tonight and tomorrow)—this year featuring D. Joshua Taylor (more about that later), a couple of talks, and whole lot of research.  This post is mostly me checking in with you all and highlighting some of the things I am planning and looking forward to.

TreeTalkOct2015I have a couple of presentations I’m prepping for in the Lansing area this month:

  • I’ll be speaking at Tree Talk, CADL South Lansing’s new monthly genealogy discussion group on October 17th at 2 pm, about my experiences with DNA testing for genealogy research. Future topics for the group include: Census Quirks & Hidden Surprises on Nov 21st and Genealogy Toys for Your Holidays on Dec 19th.
  • PitfallsI’ll also be presenting, “Pitfalls, Mistakes, and Strokes of Insight”—in which I expose some of my biggest research mistakes in the hopes that you won’t have to make them too—for the Mid-Michigan Genealogical Society on Wednesday, October 28th at 7 pm, for their monthly meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lansing.

I’m also focusing pretty solidly on my Bradley County, Arkansas families while waiting for the arrival of a new photo book from MacArthur and Princella Davis (Thanks for the heads up, Kelly!!!). I’m also taking the time to go back through the first book Afro American’s of Bradley County Arkansas 1800-1930, simply because I’ve made so much progress on these lines—not so much backwards in time, but unraveling the various connections throughout the community—that I think that more will make sense this time around.  Additionally, I had a lovely conversation with Mr. Davis after I ordered my book, who wanted to figure out how I fit into the family—he is my 3rd cousin once removed by way of Sam Trotter’s brother Matt and Mrs. Davis is the grand-niece of the husband of my 2nd great-aunt Cora Trotter Steppes.

I have a new fun project that I might be able to talk about later, plus at CADL Downtown Lansing we’re plotting and planning for our National Genealogy Day Family History Open House in March! Oh, and yes, I’m also eyeing a list of roadtrips and trying to decide how many are feasible in the next year. There’s so much I want to do!

Happy hunting,


So the summer has been a bit overwhelming and I am embarrassed to say I missed my own blog anniversary… but I’m back!

I’ve spent a lot of the summer jumping around in my research. And I’ll be covering a few of my experiences in the next few posts but first and foremost I’d like to give a very late shout out regarding the annual Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar hosted by the Archives of Michigan and the Michigan Genealogical Council last month. For those not in the know, it’s an annual Friday-Saturday event in July featuring  great speakers—generally one nationally recognized presenter (this year, Michael Lacopo) and a number of regional presenters—and a Lock-In at the Archives on Friday evening.

Jill Arnold’s session on World War I records at the Archives of Michigan was my Friday highlight. It was a great rundown of the collections suggested in a new research guide available at the Archives. It gave me a lot of ideas for researching my Shea uncles and cousin who served. My great grandfather was turned away from serving when they realized he had TB but he had three brothers and one cousin serve out of Michigan.

Cornelius Earl Shea's World War I Navy Veteran's BonusI was able to immediately follow up by using my time at the Lock-in to pull cards in the Veterans’ Bonus Files for Uncles Earl, George, Glen, and Cousin Roy Shea. I was particularly fascinated by the Navy cards which listed each posting (ship or base) where my uncles Glen and Earl were stationed including enrolling a day apart in Philadelphia and each serving their first 6 months together on the U.S.S. Massachusetts before splitting up. They served throughout the war leaving the service in March of 1919 having attained the same rank of Electrician 3rd Class Radio.

I was actually able to go back to work the next week and follow up with the book U. S. Warships of World War I by Paul H. Silverstone (available at the Archives) which offers pictures of either actual ships or a sample of their class along with statistics and information. It’s a nice piece of color to add to your understanding of your ancestors and those times.

My Saturday highlight was Michael Lacopo’s presentation “Deconstructing Your Family Tree,” which has undoubtedly become a very popular and needed theme of late. Lacopo reminded us that there are any number of errors within our research or others’—sometimes innocent, sometimes intentional—and we need to effectively evaluate sources getting back to original documents, tracking down the sources of published genealogies, and being mindful of why a document was created in the first place. The line that stayed with me, “If you’re going to give yourself a concussion do it properly,” by banging your head against the correct brick wall versus someone else’s.

In the two days I also attended sessions on genetic genealogy, using Facebook groups for genealogy research, and Michael Lacopo’s presentation on records between the Census. And I presented on my black sheep ancestors (such as Henry Massy)—from my point of view you have to find the humor in the situations and remember their actions  shouldn’t reflect on current generations.

I am fairly certain a good time was had by all. It definitely worked that way for me!

Happy hunting,


PackerAlbum12A colleague and I took a road trip over to Howell Carnegie Library last week to attend their program “A Healing Place” – Memories of the Michigan State Sanatorium, Howell State Hospital, and Hillcrest Center. The turnout was tremendous (as in we were standing in a hall way for the duration and many were turned away) emphasizing the importance of the “Hill” or the “San” to the history of both Livingston County and the state. I was interested because of my great-grandparents experiences in between 1916 and 1920 while my colleague had more recent ties. It was a fascinating night that included a short dvd created for the program on the history of the site and ample time for stories and reminiscing. I really hope that they manage to offer an encore of the program because I think they only scratched the surface and could easily fill a large venue.

Thanks for a fabulous program!

Happy hunting,


Photo: I don’t know who these ladies are but the picture is likely taken by my Great Grandmother, Cora Packer, during her stay in at the “San” in 1916.

Shrine Chapel of Our Lady of the Lake at Orchard LakeIt’s been a bit over a week since I finished my stay at St. Mary’s Preparatory at Orchard Lake, Michigan. And while I discovered that I don’t really miss dormitory life (to the left of the Shrine  Chapel in the picture), I also learned a bit more about what kind of genealogist I want to be. It’s one thing to be collecting names and dates (and that’s fine in as far as it goes), but I want to make an informed and documented argument about the relationships I find and I want solid research to pass on to whoever might take up this hunt after me. So a week spent in the Determining Kinship track under Thomas W. Jones was enlightening and very challenging—but exactly what I needed.

I’m pretty sure I’ve gushed about Jones before (both here and here) but may I add that he is a total gentleman and great instructor even when his students are totally wandering off in the wrong direction—which we did a few times. The presentations were great. The in-class assignments were very helpful.  And each day I came out with a better understanding of the Genealogical Proof Standard and its importance.  We worked mainly out of his Mastering Genealogical Proof, but this is a case where it made much more sense to me when we could ask questions of the author.

And I had a great time with my co-students both in and out of my cohort—which included researchers from all over the country. It was fun to trade research stories, infamous ancestors, and great resources. GRIP’s format was perfect for me with time for study and socializing, including informative optional evening programs, and in this case a hilarious group viewing of WDYTYA.

It’s an experience I would encourage people to try.



P.S. Beware of Maia’s Books! Martha is a fabulous and attentive bookseller. You may leave GRIP with considerably more than you planned on (plus a wishlist).

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

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,, 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,


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