Thursday, February 27, 2020

RootsTech 2020: I'm Back in Salt Lake City!

Yes, it's that time of year:  time to travel to beautiful Salt Lake City and join something like 25,000 other genealogists for that over-the-top production known as RootsTech!

I'm here because I was again fortunate enough to have the program committee accept one of my presentations for the conference.  My talk isn't until Saturday, however, so I have been attending other people's talks and learning all sorts of interesting things.

The conference started Wednesday morning, bright and early at 8:00 a.m., but I decided I couldn't face the world quite that early.  9:00 sounded much more reasonable.  That's when I went to a discussion session organized by FamilySearch.  They were talking to people who volunteer in their communities doing things related to genealogy.  The idea seems to be to find ways volunteers can help each other, both in joining forces and in sharing ideas.  It was an interesting and refreshing way to start the day.  I look forward to seeing what comes of it.

After I enjoyed a leisurely buffet lunch, I attended an informative session with Lara Diamond, who spoke on how to find relatives in Russian-language records if you don't speak (or read) Russian.  She discussed why it's helpful to learn how to recognize terms and your ancestors' names so you can identify them in records (coincidentally, some of the points I will be making in my Saturday presentation).  She also mentioned Genealogical Translations, a free translation group on Facebook that appears to have replaced one that was closed last year, which was great news.

Thursday morning at the conference once more started at 8:00, but I still couldn't make myself get going.  This time I began my day at 9:30 with Thom Reed's presentation about a FamilySearch initiative called Reclaiming Our African Roots.  One focus is preserving records and collecting oral histories in several sub-Saharan countries, many of which were the sources of people captured for the historic slave trade.  As much as I have enjoyed working with Thom over the past few years in relation to Freedmen's Bureau records, and while I hope the initiative does well, I have to admit I was frustrated at the use of marketing hype and imprecise terms used to generate enthusiasm.

An interesting and potentially very useful talk was given by Amy Williams, an academic at Cornell University, who spoke about a method to reconstruct an ancestor's genome by using the DNA of that person's children.  I'm hoping to be able to use the process to put together my mother's genome using my DNA and that of my two siblings, but I need to get conversant in Linux first.  The program used is not currently designed to conduct the process using DNA from half-siblings but might be in the future, so maybe one day I'll be able to do the same for my grandfather using the DNA from three of his children, each of whom had a different mother.  That could be extremely helpful in my search to find his biological father.

Of course, one of the best things about going to conferences is getting to see your genealogy friends face to face.  So far I've been lucky enough to run into Thomas MacEntee, Luana Darby, Sheri Fenley, Elizabeth O'Neal, Tierra Cotton-Kellow, Alice Burch of Utah AAHGS, Randy Seaver, Robinn Magid, and Nicka Smith (in addition to Lara and Thom) and finally have met Ellen Kowitt, Kim Thurman, and Rebecca Koford in person.  I can hardly wait to see who I run into during the rest of the conference!

Tierra and Janice at Wednesday's ProGen gathering

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: A "Bucket List" Meme

I was surprised at this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver.  It's the same list he asked about on March 5, 2016:

(1) A "Bucket List" meme went around Facebook several years ago where you put an "X" in the box if you have done it!  

(2) Copy and paste it into your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook and fill it out (erase my entries and insert your own).

(3) Put a comment on this blog post to tell me where I can read all about you!

It appears that in the past four years I have added one item to the list but removed another:

(X) Shot a gun
(X) Gone on a blind date
(X) Skipped school
(X) Watched someone die
(X) Visited Canada
(X) Visited Hawaii
(X) Visited Cuba
(X) Visited Europe
(X) Visited Las Vegas
(X) Visited Central America

(  ) Visited Asia
(  ) Visited Africa
(X) Visited Florida
(X) Visited Mexico
(  ) Seen the Grand Canyon in person
(X) Flown in a helicopter
(X) Served on a jury
(X) Been lost
(X) Traveled to the opposite side of the country
(X) Visited Washington, D.C.

(X) Swam in the ocean 
(X) Cried yourself to sleep
(X) Played cops and robbers
(X) Played cowboys and Indians
(  ) Recently colored with crayons
(X) Sang karaoke
(X) Sang a solo or duet in church
(  ) Paid for a meal with coins only
(X) Made prank phone calls
(X) Laughed until some beverage came out of your nose

(X) Caught a snowflake on your tongue
(  ) Had children
(X) Had a pet
(X) Been skinny-dipping
(X) Been fishing
(X) Been boating
(  ) Been downhill skiing
(X) Been water skiing
(X) Been camping in a trailer/RV
(X) Been camping in a tent

(X) Driven a motorcycle
(  ) Been bungee-jumping (ripcord jumping)
(X) Gone to a drive-in movie
(X) Done something that could have killed you
(X) Done something that you will regret for the rest of your life
(  ) Rode an elephant
(  ) Rode a camel
(X) Eaten just cookies or cake or ice cream for dinner
(X) Been on TV  
(  ) Stolen any traffic signs

(X) Been in a car accident
(  ) Been in the hospital in past 24 months [deleted since 2016]
(X) Donated blood 
(  ) Gotten a speeding or any other type of ticket in the past 12 months
(X) Gotten a piercing
(X) Gotten a tattoo 
(X) Driven a manual transmission vehicle
(X) Ever owned your dream car
(  ) Been married
(  ) Been divorced

(X) Fell in love
(X) Fell out of love
(x) Paid for a stranger's meal [added since 2016]
(  ) Driven over 100 mph
(  ) Been scuba diving
(X) Written a published book/story/poetry
(X) Eaten snails

And Randy's life is still far more sheltered than mine!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: A Day in the Life

Randy Seaver has come up with another fun exercise for this week's installment of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

Here is your assignment, should you decide to accept it (you ARE reading this, so I assume that you really want to play along; cue the Mission:  Impossible! music!):

(1) What were the newspaper headlines the day one of your grandparents or great-grandparents was born?


(2) Use any newspaper provider (Chronicling America [https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov] is FREE) to find the headlines.

(3) Tell us who your subject was, when and where the person was born, and three or four headlines on the front page of the newspaper for that date.

(4) Share your finds on your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or on your Facebook page.  Please provide a link to your work as a comment to this post.

Okay, here's mine.

My paternal grandfather, Bertram Lynn Sellers, Sr., was born April 6, 1903, in Mt. Holly, New Jersey.

I chose the Jersey City News because it was the only New Jersey newspaper published on April 6, 1903 that appeared in the Chronicling America collection.  Here is the front page:


The front page headlines were:

• HAD LONG PLANNED TO DIE
Suicide in the Hotel Washington Not the Result of Momentary Impulse

• WANTS HIS WIFE
Aged Armenian Gets a Habeus Corpus for the Custody of His Fourteen Year Old Spouse

• GAINED FIFTEEN POUNDS
Richard J. Clarke of Plymouth, Mass., Saved by Father John's Medicine
(actually an advertisement masquerading as an article)

And that's it for headlines!  They still went with "if it bleeds, it leads", as evidenced by the suicide.  But Jersey City had only two lead articles on the front page, as opposed to six in San Diego.  California must have been more exciting.

Monday, January 27, 2020

"The Masked Singer" Brings Memories of My Mother

On the Hebrew calendar, today (January 27, 2020) is 1 Shevat (in the year 5780), my mother's yahrzeit, commemorating the date of her death.  It's the day I've chosen to share stories about her on my blog.  On the Christian calendar she died January 2, 1995.  Because the Hebrew calendar is a combination solar-lunar one, its dates change in relationship to the solar Christian calendar, and the dates don't match up the same year to year.

I thought about my mother a lot while I was watching the last few episodes of the recent season of The Masked Singer.  I heard about the show when it premiered but hadn't bothered to watch it, because it looked too oriented to the competition, which is a trend I have not enjoyed in a lot of current programming.

On November 13, however, Week 6 of the second season, I somehow ended up in front of the television watching the new episode.  I had to play a little bit of catch-up, figuring out what the format was and trying to understand the altered voices of the singers (extremely difficult!) as they talked about themselves and parceled out clues to their identities.  But I realized that not only was this an interesting program, it's something my mother would have enjoyed, and it's something I could see myself watching with her, or at least talking with her about it.

My mother is the person who got me hooked on recognizing voices, both of actors and singers.  She could recognize so many voices and accents, and I'm nowhere near as good as she was.  (I still haven't figured out what a Chicago accent is, but she knew one right away.)  I think she would have been really good at picking through the clues and recognizing the singing voices of the celebrity contestants, particularly those with longer careers.

I have to admit, I did much better with the people from my and my mother's generations.  I figured out Patti LaBelle and Seal and was most of the way there with Michelle Williams.  And I did guess Wayne Brady correctly.  (And I still can't understand why everyone was so surprised to learn he's a great singer; apparently none of those people remember the awesome extemp songs he did regularly on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, with or without Brad Sherwood.  I think he's brilliant!)  I haven't heard of the others who were still competing by the time I began watching, so I don't feel bad about not figuring them out (I was particularly impressed with Ken Jeong's amazing correct ID of Victor Oladipo, though!).

I don't know if my mother would have followed newer singers and actors to be able to recognize their voices.  But I think she would have had a lot of fun trying.