Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cemeteries and Their Secrets by Gena Philibert Ortega

How many different types of cemeteries are there?

According to Gena, there are seven different types
and this type dictates who owns it and who has the records.
  • Church
  • Public
  • Customary (neighborhood, rural)
  • Private
  • Lodge
  • Ethnic
  • Family
  • Mass

Where can you locate a death? Land records, Military records, Journals, fraternal organization records, orphan court records are just a few ideas where to look outside of the traditional death certificates. For more information, visit Gena's blog at or her web site at

Gena also cited many online resources to locate cemeteries and graves, plus symbolism on headstone artwork, sculptures and insignias.

I loved this presentation, yet we are running out of time as the grand prize winners are being drawn now. This was such a great expo and I will follow up with more details tomorrow.

Personal Historian: Bringing Life to Your Life Stories by Michael Booth

I love being early enough to a session to get an aisle seat. I already like his PowerPoint background. Michael's site is so I am linking to it as everyone settles into the room.

Personal Historian was born out of Michael's own need. As you know, there are many obstacles to writing your own story such as:

  • Lack of motivation

  • Lack of time

  • Overwhelming

  • Poor memory

  • Lack of writing skills

Of course, none of these apply to anyone in this room. But even when you do decide to try, how do you start? The prospect of staring at a computer screen can scare off the bravest historian.

Michael recommends breaking the story down into bite-size pieces. The nickel tour of his software shows how you can create a timeline, mini-stories, and photos which are added one by one and then ultimately pulled into a master publication.

This software is a great option to help one organize their story. It is particularly handy for individuals who do not know where to start and need support to keep their story on track. It also works if you want to write someone else's life story. Your GED-COM file is used to help build the timeline along with the relatives you select to be a part of the story. You can also add options to the timeline from music, movies, politics, etc. to help flesh out your story.

If you are interested in learning more, go to and you can download a free trial copy and use it for thirty days.

Solving Family Tree Mysteries with Google Earth by Lisa Louise Cooke

I have the most comfortable seat in the back of the room for Lisa's debut of her new workshop. I am excited to finally see her in action since I had to leave the banquet early last night.

I am also happy to learn that this is free application since I spent my mad money on t-shirts and stamps at the Family History Expo booth.

Lisa just showed us how easy it is to navigate through the Search Panel, Places Panel, and Layers Panel (where tools are buried in tools). Lisa just took us to Disneyland!

You can collect geographic points of interest around the world. Lisa walked us through the toolbars and panels with helpful tips and insights to make it easy for us to use.

You can do a family history tour on Google Earth by plotting migration patterns. Take one ancestor with key events and locations such as Birth, Christening, Graduation, Marriage, Birth of Children, Death, etc. Through Google you can find the location of the event, name the placemaker in the pop up window, and you have tracked migration patterns. Lisa makes it just that easy!
You can create video! You can also explore your ancestors lives with historic maps. Addresses on census lists offer you a goldmine of information. Here are some other sites she uses to enhance the tracking ancestors.
When I think I have learned so much from this one session, Lisa says we can use this to solve photographic mysteries. If you have some basic information, you can start to deduce potential locations through business backgrounds, people in photo, stories you have heard. Between searches in the city directory and voter registrations, a number of addresses can be deduced as possibilities. Check out more of Lisa's great information at This is truly taking us to Genealogy Utopia!

Family History Expo Banquet and Blogging

What a wonderful way to end a day of learning! We "beacon of bloggers" attended the banquet last night and talked "blogging" with those at our tables.

It was fun to share our thoughts, make new friends, and learn of other's experiences with blogging. And, I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of our table! I was happy to be joined by A.C., Tim, Kathy, Sunny and John.

Onto day two! More workshops, a few more exhibits, and. of course, the grand prize winner later today.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Beginning Polish Research...

Dee Semon has vast credentials on Polish genealogical research, so when I arrived at the Cholla meeting room I shouldn't have been surprised, it was standing room only. I managed to grab one seat left in the front row and settled in to learn.

Although my last name is Bartkowski, my interest in Polish genealogy is for my children. Thank goodness I asked my father-in-law as much as I did before 1985. He did not have a lot of information but I have saved it. I need to start my Polish research from scratch with these notes from twenty-seven years ago. Here are same quick things I heard from Dee to get me started:

  • Castle Garden is the place to google for entries prior to 1870
  • Contact the Polish genealogical societies such as FEEFHS and EES, review their newsletters for relevant background and history
  • Research Polish gazetteers such as Slownik Geograficzny, Meyers Orts under Verkehrs Lexikon lists West and East Prussia, and Najnowszy Skorowidz via Google
  • Google town name and .pl (for Poland) and use other abbreviations for Austria, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, etc.

  • Polish words use diacritic marks and the alphabetic order of the marks must be taken into consideration when searching records

Additional web sites to visit are:

I'm taking a short break from the workshops. Looking forward to the banquet tonight.

Avoiding Mistakes in German Research....

I decided to stay put for Baerbel's second session. The first one was so good and I managed to maneuver my way to a front row seat right next to the projector. My view and elbow room has improved significantly.

To truly avoid mistakes, in German or any other genealogical research, be sure to realize:

  • You need to research the whole family, no shortcuts, no generation jumping

  • Document, record, cite, document, record, cite, document, record, cite....

  • Other people's written and Internet information can be wrong because people submit what they have, can be duplicates, and submissions are not verified, use with discretion.

  • Same name never means same person

  • Age is flexible and spelling doesn't count

  • Wild card search functions can be lifesavers

Baerbel shared a number of examples of people with conflicting dates, names and places yet were the same person. And, another example of four different man who share the same name in similar locations with at least two wives. Check twice, at a minimum. Use the "Thomas" principle. Evaluate the quality of the source. Just because someone is not listed in a book, does not mean they were not there. Review introductions and explanations of what each book offers.

If there are several sets of records, be sure to review each one. Mistakes can be picked up and someone may have read Maria when the real name was Catharina. Who says penmanship doesn't count?

Always work with a good map as jurisdictions in the Germanic states changed often. Be sure to complement your research by studying geography and local history. Also, read the notes in the margin, it could lead you to other church records. Extract all records with the same surname.

Baerbel shared humorous anecdotes about research and how easy it is to be led astray.

  • Did you know in Mecklenburg, people are given two or three birth names and often use them interchangeably throughout their life. And, if an uncle dies and the individual liked his name, he might well go by his uncle's name for the rest of his life!
  • Patronymics, where the son is given the father's first name as his last name, was used until the mid 1800s.
  • In Westfalen, farm names were used as surnames and if someone moves to another farm, they change their last name.

"Technical difficulties" include:

  • Books can be scanned and put back together out of order
  • If there are several children in the same family with the same name and that does not mean the older ones died.
  • If an ancestor is not in a book they should be in, verify it with the original document

There are lots of false assumptions out there, so be careful, verify, check and double check. Just because it is written down, doesn't mean it is correct.

#fhexpos, #fhexpo, #genealogy, #familyhistory

What's New in German Research on the Internet by Baerbel K. Johnson, A.G.

I am sitting squished between two wonderful people who are bearing with me as I type. My friend Vern Mathern is here and we are happy to hear more about German genealogy. It is standing room only here!

Baerbel thinks the Internet is like eating an elephant. You can only bite off small pieces at a time.

Her ancestry is German yet she comes from four different countries, including the Czech Republic. While she reads German, Czech is another matter. Her personal miracle came after thirty-four years of research, she found her grandfather's birth record in Czech at. http.// And, interestingly enough, the baptismal records include the marriage documentation with it.

New records are coming online every day and the Internet is a treasure trove! Topical link lists are found on and go to "Germany-digital resources." German town genealogies and parish register inventories are available.

Other sites include:

  • (beta version site) has 180 parishes with 2767 volumes from Austria and Germany

  • Northeastern Bavaria was the first to put info online and in order to provide it, they created a genealogical society. You need to join the society, pay the membership fee and a user fee to access. A bit cumbersome but worth the hassle if your family is from this area. Cost is 35 euro per year, 10 euros per month per parish.

  • Jewish registers for Baden Wuerttenberg, Hohenzollern are at (I will verify web site and edit if I missed a letter)

Town genealogies, societies,family genealogies and indexes include:

Printed sources --indexes and images

Baerbel says there is software in development which will translate the old Gothic handwriting into modern language for us. Incredible! Just with what I heard in the last hour will keep me busy for months, maybe years!

Day One...Rain, a great turnout and Genealogy Utopia

I've arrived, have internet access and despite what Tim Sullivan said, I might already be in Genealogy Utopia.

Utopia for me means winning great genealogy stuff and Holly Hansen made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. All I have to do is fill out a crossword puzzle and I have a chance to win a new Acer notebook from Also, an opportunity to win more grand prizes just by visiting booths I would go to anyway, I can win more things. Sounds like genealogical heaven to me.

The first speaker of the day, Tim Sullivan, CEO of took us back to the early days of genealogy to tell us "the marriage of technology and genealogical method is ripe..." little did we realize as he read this quote, it was written in 1985.

Suppose it is five years from now…where will we be? Now technology is going as fast as ever, even faster than when individuals in 1985 were looking forward to 1990.

Tim updated us on new trends in archival records preservation. All of the computers, scanners and digital cameras in the world are wonderful, but without the records preservation from archives such as National Archives, DAR, Library and Archieves Canada, we have nothing to research. These organizations are the recordkeepers and family historians of our times.

To demonstrate the high speed capability of saving information digitally, brought planetary scanners here. He also shared pictures of Kirtas scanners made up of 2 high resolution cameras and sunction cups to flip pages of a book and scan 2400 pages per hour.
This device is obviously not intended for old, damaged or faded documents such as old census, water or mold damaged. But they developed the Ancestry Document Restoration camera which applies different kinds of light (ultraviolet light, infrared light, etc.) to get a better image of text. With this new equipment, will be able to add 251 names previously unreadable names to 1851 UK census.

We all know misspellings occur in any transcriptions or editing so also offers edit-ability to users. Has it been a success? Well, 900,000 user edits were made in last month.

On, 12 million family trees uploaded or created, 1.2 billion profiles added to family trees, 300 million records attached, 26 million photos uploaded. These are basically public records. How many personal records are there? offers you the chance to scan your stuff here and now to add to the digital database. Could anyone have imagined it like this in 1985?

There a lot of social networks out there, however collaborative networking has emerged as one of the great values of their service. This networks offers you the chance to connect with others who may have had the same great- great grandfather as you. Facinating, isnt' it?

Genealogy Utopia? Tim thinks we haven't reached it yet, and we are still striving for it. Perhaps we will be there in ten years at the Arizona Expo 2020…imagine where we will be. I can only tell you I am awfully impressed with where we are right now.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mesa Family History Expo starts tomorrow!

Happy Mesa Family History Expo Eve!

I've printed the schedule of all of the workshops, and I have lots of decisions to make. I know I will see Tim Sullivan's keynote address at 8 a.m., but my choices after that are up for grabs.

"Family History on the Mobile Phone" by Curtis Tirrell sounds too intriguing to pass up, yet my German heritage pulls me toward Baerbel K. Johnson's "German Genealogy on the Internet-An Overview ^ German Town Genealogies and Parish Register Indexes on the Internet." I also need to catch Lisa Louise Cooke's take on "Google: A Goldmine of Genealogy Gems." And these selections are just the morning sessions.

The weather forecast says RAIN for Arizona tomorrow, so it is perfect weather to come inside the Expo and have all of the resources you could dream of at your fingertips. Stay tuned for my updates tomorrow and join me at one of the blogger banquet tables tomorrow night.

For more details, see

Saturday, January 16, 2010

And the winner is.....

The entries for the Family History Expo ticket contest were so fantastic, it has been difficult to select a winner! Each story chronicled unique and important part of family history research.

But, we promised a winner and the final results are in. Congratulations to Kent Phillips who discovered his true grandfather due to a composite photograph. Kent wins two tickets to the Family History Expo in Mesa next Friday and Saturday.

I hope to see all of you at the expo next week. I would love to meet each of you in person. I know I will be there both days spending time in workshops, exhibitor area, blogger's table and at a special blogger's table at the Friday night banquet.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

True Story of Grandfather revealed in photograph

The latest historic photo entry comes from Kent Phillips. Kent uncovered a mystery he didn't know existed due to this photograph.

Kent wrote, "I received a copy of this photo from my Aunt Grace not long before she died. This photo is unusual and special because it is a composite that was made after my grandfather, Clem Phillips, died leaving my grandmother Isabelle with two children, Grace and my father, Sam. The images of my grandparents were from their marriage photo. The added images of young Grace and Sam were taken and added to the center of the photo after Clem’s death since a family photo had never been taken.

Add another twist to the story, Clem’s brother Sam married the widowed Isabelle and they had four more children. I didn’t know until I first saw this photo in 1989 at a family reunion at Aunt Grace’s that Sam, the grandfather I grew up with, was not my grandfather but my step-grandfather and great uncle. This news was long after Grandpa Sam and my father young Sam had died. If not for the composite photo that brought out the story I might never have known the true identity of my grandfather."

Thank goodness for photos and the stories they tell to provide us with a window to the past. And special thanks to Kent for sharing it with us. Sometimes it's the simple conversations which give us the most unexpected discoveries. Many "family secrets" were never discussed by my grandparents, and I imagine it was the same in other families. Ask more and more questions and don't assume the obvious answer. Keep asking.

Only two more days left to enter your favorite historical family photo. Friday is the deadline and the winner will be announced on January 16. Enter today!

For more details on the Mesa Family History Expoand the schedule of events, visit

Monday, January 11, 2010

Rare family photo is latest entry for free tickets to the Mesa Family History Expo

Photographs capture just a brief moment in time yet the memories and image can last a lifetme. Our latest entry from Nancy Hill is a photograph that evokes specific memories of a point in time.

Nancy wrote this background about the picture.

"This photo is of my grandmother Marion Pearle VanTine (the little girl in front) and her brother and sisters. It was taken in either 1892 or 1893. Her brother Charles who was 16 had just died and within the next year her older brother (pictured here) would die also at the age of 20. Not many photos of the family were taken and I'm so glad I have this one. I was their only grandaughter so I received a lot of pictures from both of my grandparents."
Nancy's story reminds me of how important it is to take pictures to help us remember the moments. We don't need to wait for a special occasion especially since photography is much easier for us today.
Hurry, only three days left to enter the contest. Winner receives two free tickets to the Mesa Family History Expo on January 22 and 23. Deadline for the contest is January 15. For more details and the schedule of events, visit Next week is the expo and there is so much to look forward to!

Another great entry for the Family History Expo Contest!

Our latest photo entry comes from Frank Sortelli who shares the following story.

"Here is one of my favorite family photos. It is a picture of my Great-Great-Great Uncle, Dr. Marie Antonin Campdoras. This picture was taken in Topeka , Kansas, around 1880, four years before his death in 1884. He was very ill and just getting ready to travel back to France for the first time since 1851. Why did he leave France? He was exiled upon pain of death for taking part in a coup d'etat against Napolean III who had ended the republic and declared himself emperor.

Antonin was a man who didn't compromise in his belief of equality and freedom for all men. He gave up everything to fight for freedom in France and was exiled. He was an early settler in Topeka, Kansas and fought as an abolitionist in the battles against the pro-slavery Kansans. He fought as a major in the civil war on the Northern side to preserve the Union in which he so greatly believed. You can still see the passion and fire in his eyes as he looks into the camera. "

An incredible story to match a distinguished photograph from 1880. Thanks, Frank, for sharing a great part of your family history.

Share your favorite historic photo with us by emailing your picture to with a brief description of how you received the photo and why this photo is such a special part of your family. Deadline for the contest is January 15. Winner receives two free tickets to the Mesa Family History Expo on January 22 and 23. For more details and the schedule of events, visit

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Check out this great entry for the Family History Expo contest!

I received two entries for the "Value Meals on the Volga" blog contest yesterday and am happy to share the first one with you.

This photograph is from Pat Tiefenbach who writes, "My grandmother and her sisters lived in an old farmhouse in Ohio. Eighty years after they moved away, a tenant was cleaning the attic and found a cardboard box that had been left behind. This picture was among the family treasures inside. The box also contained old school books with signatures and a family Bible. Jackpot!"

Imagine finding this treasure eighty years after a move. I particularly enjoy the expression on their faces...the look in their eyes...I wonder what they saw or who was standing next to the photographer. The style of their dresses and the ribbons in their hair fascinate me. The girl's names are Mary, Bert and Grace. Thanks, Pat, for sharing your story.

Deadline for the contest is January 15. Winner receives two free tickets to the Mesa Family History Expo on January 22 and 23. For more details and the schedule of events, visit

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Intentions vs. Resolutions...Only a few days left to send in your family photo to win tickets.

In my previous blog, I mentioned my preference for intentions over resolutions. I still believe in intentions, but wanted to share some great family history ideas from the Genealogy Insider.

Diane Haddad and the Family Tree staff have created some new variations worthwhile for all family historians. Be sure to check out their ideas at

Also, there is only a week left to send your entry to win two tickets to the Family History Expo in Mesa on January 22 and 23. I think everyone must be waiting for the last minute, but early entries give the judges extra time to review. What better way to resolve your "intention" for family history in 2010!

Monday, January 04, 2010

2010 Intentions beat Resolutions every day

Resolutions? No way. Resolutions are for wimps. If you really want changes, you need to put the intention out in the universe and let the universe respond. That is, envision yourself as having already achieved your aim, whatever it is, and the world and opportunities will come to your doorstep. The opportunity may not come as you think it should and you still need to act on it, but you set the stage to create your new world through intentions.

I have a few new intentions for 2010...and I find the more specific I am on a couple of items, the quicker it comes true.

For example, I told my family I wanted to make a tuna casserole today. So, what did I observe? Every show on the Food Network used tuna! It's true. Try it yourself with some easy intentions and work your way up to the big changes.

Here are my intentions for 2010:

1) Say yes to projects only after some reflection about what is the best way to spend my time. If time is money, I want to invest wisely.

2) Say yes to people who share the vision of a brighter future for the entire world.

3) Say yes to tracking back my family history at least one more generation. My inspiration for this research will come from the Mesa Family History Expo. I just know it will.

Three is more than enough for January. And, once these are standard operating procedure for me, I will add a few more and in a year, my intentions will be a habitual way of life. One step at a time. I wish the same for you in 2010.