Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review of Cold Cases via Skype by Megan Smolenyak

March 29, 2011

Last evening we hosted Megan Smolenyak live via Skype. We had about 27 people in attendance, and we think the weather may have discouraged some from attending. Who knew we'd have snow at the end of March in Nebraska? We thought we'd probably be okay weather wise.

Megan's topic was Cold Cases: Unclaimed Persons and the FBI. She talked about how she got started with Unclaimed Persons. For those of you who don't know, an unclaimed person is a deceased person who has an identity but the family cannot be located. She started using reverse genealogy to find living family members of a few cases. At first coroners were hesitant to work with amateur genealogists, but after about 5 years they now consider them a valuable tool. She described three particular cases to us and techniques she used. Unclaimed Persons is now a group of over 500 volunteers all over the country who have solved about 240 of the 310 cases they have received (77%). If you are interested in Unclaimed Persons, you may search for the Unclaimed Persons--Private group on Facebook. There is also more information on the web site http://www.unclaimedpersons.org/.

Megan pointed out that most of the family members are grateful and relieved to know what happened to their family. Some family members have just lost track of their unclaimed person because of a small dispute. So the moral of this story seemed to be to keep in contact with your family. Send a Christmas letter each year, or give someone a call each Thanksgiving, etc. There are many ways to stay in touch especially now with cell phones, email, social networking sites, etc. (I know some of my family has dismissed other family members because they "aren't interested" but I make an effort to keep in contact at least once a year.)

Megan mentioned now she works with the FBI, NCIS and the military locating family members of their unclaimed. She even has an FBI code name! Did you know there are over 8000 Korean soldiers who are unclaimed persons? She also mentioned several TV shows she has worked with, including Who Do You Think You Are? and more recently Top Chef. About 300-500 hours of research are done for each 42-minute segment of WDYTYA? Sometimes she traces celebrities for these television shows, which she says is harder than your "average Joe".

After her talk which lasted approximately an hour, we had a question and answer period which was very valuable. We learned more about her and about genealogy and research techniques. Someone asked about her favorite web sites, so she then told us several. She mentioned she keeps 15-20 internet tabs/windows open at once! I thought only my husband (a network administrator) had that many. Someone asked how a newbie to genealogy should get started; she recommended starting at home and talking to your living relatives. She mentioned one of the best web sites for International records is http://www.familysearch.org/.

Overall, we were very pleased with the presentation. I heard many good comments after her presentation and a few people asked when we could do it again or who else we could get to speak. I would highly recommend Megan Smolenyak as a speaker. For more information about having her speak, visit her web site http://www.honoringourancestors.com/. I know I'd love to go to Denver tomorrow to see her, but it's just not going to work this time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another mystery gravestone

Need suggestions on this one. Lillie May died as an infant, but I don't have dates or a last name. I think the info might be on here; it's just very hard to read. Anyone have suggestions of how to clean the moss SAFELY. Or a suggestion for a SAFE rubbing. Thanks. I have a directory for this cemetery, but all they have is Lillie May (infant).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm Irish, Are You?

March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day! It seems like this day always has me thinking of my Irish ancestors. I am 1/8 Irish, as my great-grandmother was full Irish. My great-great-grandparents came over from Ireland, although not together it seems.

My great-great-grandparents James Dacy and Bridget (Crahan/Crane) Dacy are one of my brickwalls. I have photos of their gravestones, although James' was erected by a grandchild many years later and not where he was buried. James Dacy was born about 1839 in Ireland (Clare County?) and immigrated to the States some time later. One source has he immigrated with his parents and brothers in 1841 when he was just a toddler. I wonder if the potato famine from 1845-1852 didn't have something to do with their emigration. Lucy Bridget Crahan/Crane was born about 1838 in Ireland. They were married about 1860 probably in Missouri. They had many children, ten I think. I descend from one of their younger daughters, Katherine. James died in March 1891 in New Mexico; his gravestone says he was a "pioneer railroad grade builder at Clayton, NM 1885". Bridget died in 1890 in either New Mexico or Oklahoma.

If you are able to help me with these people, I would appreciate it. If you are related to them, please contact me. If you can help with records in Missouri or New Mexico, I would appreciate that.

This photo is of Bridget Dacy and I don't know when it was taken, but it looks like it was taken in Kingman, Kansas.
Thanks for reading! Hope everyone has a safe and happy St. Patrick's Day (whether you're Irish or not)!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The -ologies: Genealogy & Technology that is

In my circle of genealogy friends, I am the one people turn to about their technology questions. Maybe it's because I'm almost always the youngest, being under 40 years old, or maybe it's because my husband is a network administrator (a fancy word for computer tech although he focuses on networking). At any rate, here is my 2 cents worth a genealogist should know and do. Most of you probably already know this and try to do it.

1. Have an adequate computer with internet access, a decent digital camera, printer and probably a scanner. You decide what is adequate for you; I prefer a laptop (we recommend a business line). I like Canon PowerShot cameras. Plan to replace your computer and camera every 4-5 years. Printers and scanners usually last longer, maybe 7-10 years.

2. BACK UP, BACK UP, BACK UP! Back up your files every month if you're an avid genealogist to thumb drive, external drive, CD/DVD or online. If you are less dedicated to genealogy, you can probably back up once a quarter (Jan, Apr, July and Sept.).

3. Use a genealogy program. There are several from which to choose. I use The Master Genealogist (available from whollygenes.com); the most popular and readily available is probably Family Tree Maker. Others include Roots Magic, Brothers Keeper, Legacy Family Tree, etc. I am sure I forgot some. Some have free downloads either for a set amount of a time or just with a few options. Get comfortable with your program. Know how to import and export a gedcom.

4. Put your tree(s) online. I have had my tree(s) online almost since I started in genealogy. I've been doing this a mere 10 years so the internet has always been available to me. There are a couple sites you can use. I first put my tree on World Connect (worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com) and more recently on Ancestry.com. I have had many distant relatives contact me this way. It is one of the best ways to meet your distant (or even not so) distant cousins. I found my SECOND cousin this way, realized we lived a mere 2 hours away from each other and we met in person a while later.

5. Use social media, find some genealogy friends. Use Facebook or Twitter to find genealogy friends and follow more "famous" genealogists. Genealogists are very helpful by nature. Check your local library or newspaper to see if there are local meetings you can attend. Attend a state or regional conference if your budget and schedule allows. Start a blog!

6. ORGANIZE! This is the one where I'm probably the worst. Use file folders to organize your genealogy files. I have pictures organized by cemetery or family, and most other files by family. Then it's much easier to back up, just copy that file and paste it over each time.

7. Have at least 2 email addresses. You may want to use a separate email address for genealogy, or you may want to organize your emails into folders. There are several sites that have free email, such as Yahoo, Gmail, etc. Make sure to check your spam folder regularly.

8. Use bookmarks/favorites to save sites. You can also make a genealogy folder in your favorites to separate these. Some of my general favorites are Ancestry.com, Findagrave.com, and Rootsweb.com (especially the SSDI part).

That's all I can think of for now. I'm sure others will think of more. Feel free to comment.
Happy searching!