Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Many bloggers have the comment field turned on their blog so that others can comment on their postings. This is great for learning more on a topic and getting other's insights. As you may have noticed, I don't have that field turned on. It isn't because I don't want to hear other's comments, it's because there are times unfortunately when non-genealogists post risque comments or advertisements on blogs.

When I first started my blog I did have the comments turned on. Right away I was getting comments from non-genealogists that were basically spam. So I turned that feature off. Because I want my blog to be free of inappropriate comments I have kept it off.

But that doesn't mean that I don't want to hear from others. Please feel free to email me at I love hearing from other genealogists and even adding to information or links I have given. If you would like me to post your comment let me know.

Getting the Most out of your Genealogy Society Speaker

One of the perks of belonging to and attending a genealogy society is the education you receive through the monthly programs. Many times this may mean bringing in an outside speaker. That speaker can benefit you in many ways, besides that 1 hour talk. Here are some of my thoughts.

Prior to the meeting, check out the speaker' website or blog, if they have one. See what other resources they may provide on it. For those who have blogs, you may want to consider checking them out after the meeting. I have been known to post answers to questions that people asked me at presentations. I have also posted additional information that came to me after the talk.

Some other societies might have members who blog about speakers they have seen. Randy Seaver from the Chula Vista Society,, usually blogs about the speaker that his society is having, prior to their presenting and right after. That can give you a good idea about what others learned from the speaker and what information the speaker provides in other talks they have given.

Don't be afraid to ask the speaker a question prior to or after their talk. I have had people ask me research questions before and after the talk and I am always willing to answer and provide some ideas. I usually ask people to email me and I will give them additional ideas that way. Now, it can be difficult to do this because, in many cases, the speaker is bombarded after the presentation. You may want to consider emailing the speaker prior to the date you will see them.

Take the handout the speaker has provided and read it and check out the links. See what will help in your research. Try some new websites that you didn't know about.

Even if the topic is not one that pertains to you, think about how it can help in your research. Not every topic is going to be one that necessarily pertains to you. Maybe it's on Irish research and you don't have any Irish ancestors. Or maybe it's a beginner topic and you are more advanced in your research. But that doesn't mean you won't get something from the talk. An Irish talk may yield websites that would pertain to your English ancestors. The presenter may give you ideas for a different research tactic that can help you. Don't write off speakers or topics before you have heard them.

All speakers are different, some you are going to like a lot because of their presentation style or area of knowledge. Others you may not be as enamored with but it's so important to go to the presentation anyway and see what you can get from what is shared.

Roger Mount, from the Whittier society has a new blog where he talks about his procedure for getting speakers and how he tracks the presentations and speakers he has had. His blog is at

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

History of New Year's Celebrations

2009 is almost upon us. What are your plans? Every New Years finds us staying home and watching TV. But did you ever wonder about New Year's traditions and maybe how your ancestor celebrated it? Then check out the following websites: website provides some information about the change in the calender. (from the Julian to the Gregorian).

A history of New Year's Eve at Times Square can be found at

If you would like to check out New Year's Eve in Times Square you can watch it on TV or you can watch a live webcam at You could also check out New Years at various world locations from a live webcam at

Monday, December 29, 2008

NARA Military Records

I noticed that the NARA has a new form for requesting military records. Standard From 180 is used for requesting military records for those who served in the military from about the late 1800's to present. You can order earlier military records online through NARA.

The new form, click on the above title for the link, looks like it includes more options for what kind of military records you want including: DD214, all documents in the official military personnel file, medical records, and/or other.

It also provides a space with reasons why you may want the information, including medical, medals, employment, benefits, VA loan program, correction, personal, genealogy or other.

The 3 page document, only 1 page needs to be filled out, explains who can request records. It also states that if you are not the veteran, you must provide proof of death which can be a death certificate, funeral home record or obituary.

Now is a good time to look at your genealogy database and see what ancestors you may need to request records for.

What I am Reading this Week

I thought I would start a new feature each week and share what I am reading, which is normally some sort of genealogy/history book. This week, I am reading Google your Family Tree by Daniel M. Lynch. Last night I read the first 3 chapters. Now let me say that I give a presentation on using Google so I know a few things about what Google can do for your genealogy.

That said, this is an excellent book. Very clear and comprehensive. I've learned things that I wasn't aware of. I think this book can help you go from being a good researcher to being able to be a more comprehensive researcher. This is a must for all genealogists. I would even recommend it for anyone, not just genealogists, who regularly does any kind of research on Google. (And no, the author isn't paying me-I don't know him-and I didn't get a preview copy;). The first few chapters alone should help you better your overall searching for an ancestor's name. The other thing I like is that it is not a highly technical book but it is highly informational. I would rather drive a nail through my hand than read a computer book but this is easy to read and understand.

So I would recommend you get this book, it might help you slam through a few brick walls.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cemetery Postcards

I recently had someone email me about her collection of cemetery postcards. She wanted to add to her collection and was asking for donations. I happened to have a postcard of one of the cemeteries at Bodie (now a ghost town in the Eastern Sierra) that I gave her. It got me thinking about websites with digital images of cemetery postcards.

The International Cemetery Postcard Museum,, is not a large collection, there is currently only about 18 images, but it does includes some images of cemetery postcards from various states.

If you want to know more about collecting cemetery postcards, you can check out the website Cemetery Postcards: A Guide to Collecting at

The Cemetery Club website also includes some digital images of cemetery postcards at This is a great website devoted to cemeteries and the webmistress also puts out a great digital magazine.

Vintage Postcards,, has all kinds of old postcards and they are for sale so that you can acquire your favorites.

Well these are just a few ideas. You can also find cemetery postcards at genealogy sites, city history sites and retailers on ebay that have digital copies of cemetery postcards.

It’s funny how time changes people’s view of things. In the early 1900’s it was common to have postcards of cemeteries of state hospitals. Now, people would think you were weird if you sent them a postcard with a cemetery on it. It just shows that you can’t assume of ancestors were just like us-they were a product of their environment just like we are.

Friday, December 26, 2008

More on Christmas

I know Christmas is over but there were two articles I saw today that I thought might be worth passing along.

Family Tree Magazine's Newsletter had a small article on taking care of old Christmas decorations. You can find the article at If you go to their website, you can sign up for their newsletter.

Dick Eastman wrote about an article that discusses the genealogical value of Christmas cards. You can read that posting at

Live Roots

Live Roots, from Genealogy Today founder Illya D'Addezio, is a new genealogy search engine specifically for use by genealogists. According to its about page, "Live Roots is an information resource that assists you with locating genealogical resources, including both those that are accessible online and other which may require assistance from another researcher." You can read about Live Roots at it's about page at You can also read what other bloggers have to say about it at,, and

One of the things I love about Live Roots is it provides a daily update of what new databases are available from various genealogy websites like Ancestry and World Vital Records. An icon to the left of the title tells you if the record is a newspaper or transcription. Then you are provided the title name, whether there is a fee for that database and where it is available.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

As a genealogist I am always interested in how our ancestors celebrated holidays and how they were different in other times in history. This graphic is from a collection of vintage and wartime Christmas clip art found at

You can watch some videos about the history of Christmas and Santa Claus at the website for the History Channel at

If you are interested in how different countries celebrate Christmas, check out and

Food is a big part of our Holiday traditions. Here's a website that provides some information about food associated with Christmas,

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Well, the other day I went to the dentist for a deep cleaning. Now, I haven’t been to the dentist in at least a few years so one could probably say that I deserved such torture. Let’s just say anything involving the word “deep” like deep tissue massage or deep cleaning is going to hurt. In my case, it still hurts in a few places.

So I started wondering about our ancestors and the dentist. It took 10 shots of pain killer in my mouth to be able to sit through the deep cleaning, just imagine our poor ancestors that went to the dentist without painkiller-yikes!

The ADA,, has a historical timeline of dentistry covering ancient origins, middle ages, 18th through 20th century. There is a National Museum of Dentistry (imagine that!) that you can check out at where you can check out a model of George Washington’s false teeth. The website Collect Medical Antiques,, includes some pictures of old dentistry instruments and some historical background.

Yes, if those websites won't give you an appreication for your ancestors...well I don't know what to say!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Biography Wiki

I saw a posting about a Biography Wiki,, on one of the lists I belong to. This Wiki is for posting biographies of ancestors, not living people. It's a great idea and because it is a wiki, anyone can post to it.

What I like about this idea is that it is so important to share our genealogy so that it doesn't disappear when we die. I have heard so many stories of kids throwing away genealogy because they aren't interested in it that I am convinced that you need to share your genealogy with as many people in as many formats as possible. (ok, I'm done preaching to the choir now!)

Holiday Cards

One of the things I like the best about Christmas is the cards and letters we receive from people we care about but don’t see as much as we’d like. I wrote an article for GenWeekly this month on creating gifts for non-genealogists. One of the ideas I wrote about had to do with making table placemats out of laminated Christmas Cards. You can read the article with a subscription to GenWeekly, I blogged about the place mat idea here last December. The url is, This placemat idea could be expanded to include copies of pictures or documents about your ancestors. What I liked about this place mat idea is that it allows you to remember those people who have since passed. You can remember the notes they wrote and even how they signed their cards. I had an aunt who always signed her family's names in the form of a Christmas tree. I always looked forward to her cards. When she died, that was one of the things that I missed that next Christmas. With the placemat idea, you can remember those people and what they meant to your Holiday season.

While it may not seem to be a genealogical topic, I think recycling and reusing is a topic that was of interest to our ancestors. So it you don't mind, I will list some other ideas here for reusing/recycling your Holiday cards, or for that matter any greeting card.

There are quite a few craft ideas that use old greeting cards. One year, a co-worker of mine told me that she used the picture part of the card to make gift tags for Christmas presents. For some other craft ideas using your old Christmas cards look at the January 1, 2009 issue of Women’s Day. On page 16 they have a small article on 3 ways to reuse old cards. Ideas include making ornaments and using the backside of the picture part of the card as a recipe card for Holiday recipes. Another website with some ideas for reusing old Christmas cards is at

For those who just want to get rid of the cards, you could throw them in your recycle bin or stop by the grocery market Fresh and Easy. This new to America grocery store has drop off containers in their stores with proceeds from the sale of those recycled cards to benefit the non-profit American Forests. To learn more about Fresh and Easy, see their website at To learn more about American Forests, see their website at Other charities may also take old greeting cards for projects. I once sent some of mine to a Los Angeles based charity that used them for art projects for kids. One national project that uses old cards is St. Judes Ranch for Children. I looked up their website and they do have information for donating cards this year. Check them out at