December 31, 2011

The Top Ten Stories in Genealogy for 2011

A variety of events, announcements, and developments made news in the genealogical world in 2011. With the help of contributors Thomas MacEntee, Amy Johnson Crow, and Tamura Jones, I’ve compiled a list of ten of the top genealogical stories of the year in the U.S. In roughly chronological order, they are:

1.   The first RootsTech conference, focusing on the use of technology in genealogy, was held in February 2011 in Salt Lake City. The conference made a big splash in the genealogical community with its innovative presentations.

2.   The second season of Who Do You Think You Are? aired on NBC, stimulating popular interest in family history. Later in the year, NBC renewed the show for a third season.

3.   The new Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh announced it would hold its first week-long institute of classes in summer 2012, providing another venue for genealogical education.

4.   Many new products, apps, and websites were launched for genealogy this year. Among them was Billion Graves, a mobile application for headstone photos and transcriptions designed for use in cemeteries.

5.   The launch of Google+ in July quickly attracted a large number of genealogy practitioners and enthusiasts to its circles. Meanwhile, Facebook suffered criticism for changes in the way it displays posts and handles privacy issues.

6.   The webinar saw tremendous growth as an educational medium as the year progressed. Genealogical societies, software producers, and speakers adopted the format as a way to bring content to online viewers, prompting Legacy Family Tree to declare 2011 “the year of the genealogy webinar.”

7.   NARA announced will host the 1940 U.S. Census images when it is released in April 2012. In addition, three prominent organizations—, FamilySearch International, and—announced they will join hands to produce a searchable online index to the 1940 Census as quickly as possible. Free public access to the collection will be offered on all three sites. also announced its intention to offer free access to the 1940 Census images through the end of 2013.

8.   The Social Security Administration began restricting the names of parents of applicants born less than 100 years ago, thereby blocking an important source of information for 20th century parent/child relationships.

9.   Planners for the RootsTech 2012 prompted an immediate outcry from the online genealogical community with their announcement that booksellers would be denied the vendor spaces they had applied for. In response to overwhelming social media support for books and booksellers, the decision was reversed.

10.        Pennsylvania passed a law allowing public access to death certificates after 50 years and birth certificates after 105 years, ending a long and hard-fought battle for access to vital records in the Keystone state.

Clearly, this was a busy year! And there were many, many other stories in addition to those listed above. The National Genealogical Society, Federation of Genealogical Societies, and Southern California Genealogical Society all held successful and well-attended conferences, as did many other organizations. discontinued its Expert Connect service, and upset users by restricting key features to paid subscribers. Footnote became fold3.

We could probably go on all day, but, well, the year is fast drawing to a close. Many of 2011’s news items will send ripples through 2012 and beyond. Soon enough, we’ll see the first headlines of a promising new year. It’s a good time to be doing genealogy!

(For a fuller account of the year's technological news and developments, see Tamura Jones' article Genealogy 2011 on Modern Software Experience.)

December 30, 2011

At Year's End: My 2011 Goals in Review

We’ve come to the end of another year, and it’s time to take stock and see how I’ve done with the goals I set for myself last January. Being new to blogging at the time, I was a little apprehensive about making them public. But as it turns out, I think that helped give me a push, especially in December, to wrap some things up. I made three research goals and three writing goals for 2011:

Research Goals
1. Research my Ballenger ancestors back to at least the early 1800’s, and complete an OGS Settlers & Builders of Ohio application for them.
Done. I took my great-grandfather’s line back to 1840 in Athens County, Ohio. I also branched out and researched my great-grandmother’s line back to 1830 in Delaware County. That made the application more complex, but I think I made a good case for eight Ballenger and Clark ancestors who lived in Ohio by 1860. The application went in the mail a week before Christmas (talk about squeaking by!). I won’t know if I was successful or not until I hear back from the lineage society chair.

2. Find the parents of Carrie Beum, who married John Evans and was the mother of Ruth and Leatha Evans.
Done. It took several months to find the evidence I needed to conclusively link Carrie to her father, John Franklin Beum. After that the rest of the family fell into place. I found her mother and step-mother, paternal and maternal grandparents, and several aunts and uncles. There’s more to be done here, but at least I know who the players are.

3. Research the ancestry of my husband’s grandmother, Annah Crites.
Attempted but not done. I found some additional information on people I already knew about, but didn't make any new connections.

Writing Goals
1. Write research reports for my own files as I complete segments of research on particular questions or individuals.
Partial credit. I did a couple of these at first, but as the year wore on I dropped the ball. The problem, I guess, is that they take time, and forging ahead with new research is a lot more fun than sitting down and composing a report about what I’ve completed. 

2. Complete writing assignments for remaining lessons in the NGS Home Study Course and ProGen Study Group.
Done. I completed ProGen 5 in April, and the NGS Home Study Course in August. The last few assignments for both of these were pretty intense, so I feel great about finishing them.

3. Create a narrative summary or mini-book out of the research I’ve done on the Bishop-Crites family.
Not done. Not even started. BUT what I did instead was make a family history chart for my father- and mother-in-law. The chart shows what I know at this time about their ancestors back four generations. It turned out beautifully, and I think it was the best thing I could have done to share the information with the whole family right now. I’ll be writing about my experiences in creating the chart soon (thank you, Family ChartMasters!).

So that’s my take on my progress in 2011. Overall, I’m pretty pleased. I know more about some of my and my husband’s ancestors than I did a year ago, I completed two education programs that I started in 2009, and I found a way to share my research with my husband’s family.

Time to start thinking about what I want to accomplish in 2012. But not today. We just returned from spending the Christmas holiday in Florida (I know, what a hardship), and today is my daughter’s birthday. Then I’m going to relax and enjoy New Year’s with friends and get my son ready to go back to college. I plan to take time the first week of January to gather my thoughts for the new year, so look for a post on my goals about a week from now. Thanks for sticking with me and for your support in 2011!

Related Posts:

December 28, 2011

What were the Top Ten Genealogical Stories of 2011?

As January approaches, it’s natural to be excited about the fresh, clean slate of boundless opportunities stretching before us in the new year. But I think it’s also important to take a little time to reflect on the accomplishments, changes, and challenges of the year just completed. After reading an article in the local paper on the top ten news stories of 2011, I found myself wondering: what were the top ten genealogical stories of 2011 in the United States?

Certain things came to mind almost immediately. The first-ever RootsTech rocked the genealogical world in February with a new take on conference hosting and presentation. Definitely a top ten contender, to my mind.

Pennsylvania won a long and hard-fought battle for public access to vital records that will make researching family members in that state much easier. Since I have many Pennsylvania ancestors, I welcome that news with open arms.

On the flip side, the recent restrictions placed on accessing information in the Social Security Death Index will make it harder for researchers to learn the names of parents. This is a setback in a key genealogical resource, and sets off alarm bells for potential future restrictions in other areas.

In July, a new venue for social networking rolled out to great acclaim among many in the online genealogical community. The launch of Google+ gave researchers another way to connect with each other and share tips, resources, successes, and questions. While not specifically created for genealogy, its widespread embrace probably qualifies Google+ as a top ten story.

The demand for genealogical education continues to increase, so the announcement of a new institute for in-depth study was welcome news. The Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) will offer its first classes, featuring some of the top instructors in the field, in the summer of 2012. I hope to be there.

The five developments named above take up only half of the potential spots on a top ten list. What do you feel were the top genealogical stories of 2011? Do you agree with my choices? What would you add to complete the list? Leave your thoughts in a comment below, or if you’d like to write your own list, leave a link to your post. I’ll compile the results and publish a Top Ten List on New Year’s Eve, so submit your votes and ideas soon!

December 20, 2011

Advent Calendar: Christmas Shopping at Lazarus

When I think back to Christmas shopping as a child, it’s not the actual shopping I remember—it’s the store. And, as anyone who grew up in Columbus, Ohio in the 1960’s could attest, the store for Christmas dreams was Lazarus.

The downtown F & R Lazarus store was an elegant giant—six floors of glittering merchandise, plus an annex, two basements, and a parking garage. A series of huge display windows along High St. enticed shoppers year-round, but in December they became magical animated windows. Elaborate scenes of moving characters carried a story line through each window, so you had to look at them in order. I can’t remember what the actual stories they portrayed were. What I do remember are the crowds of people around the windows, Christmas music piping through the cold air, jostling for position so I could see clearly, and the sheer enchantment of the little moving figures and animals.

Once I could finally peel myself away from the windows, we entered through revolving doors into a retail Christmas wonderland. High ceilings and brilliant chandeliers revealed an elegantly decorated shopper’s paradise. If I remember correctly, the first floor offered men’s clothing, jewelry, and makeup counters. Escalators beckoned to the floors above, which held women’s clothing, shoes, bedding and linens, housewares, and furniture. My favorite was the sixth floor, home to children’s clothing and, of course, toys. There was even a pet department.

At Christmas time, the sixth floor was transformed into Santa Land. You could be whisked up to it (relatively speaking) in an ancient-looking elevator from the first floor, where one of Santa’s Helpers operated the metal cage door and pushed the button for you. The door opened onto an awe-inspiring scene. Mr. Tree, a life-size talking tree, stood at the entrance. As a character from the local TV show Luci’s Toyshop, he was familiar to most of us and drew a big crowd. A painted red footpath led from Mr. Tree to Santa Land, where elves, penguins, snowmen, and reindeer watched as we children snaked through a winding line toward Santa. I felt both excited and nervous as we got near the front of the line and one of Santa’s Helpers waved us forward. Would I remember what I wanted to ask for?

My brother and I with Santa
After sitting on Santa’s lap, we each got a candy cane and were released into toyland. Talk about paradise! The scary part was over and now we could check out the stuff of our dreams first hand. Lazarus had the most toys I had ever seen in one place. I found even more things to add to my list—could I go back and tell Santa? Eventually my mother pried us out of there and down the escalators, passing one bustling floor after another.

During the holidays, Lazarus offered a Secret Gift Shop in one of the basements or annexes where children could enter through a special child-sized door and shop for inexpensive gifts for their parents. Friendly attendants helped us pick out things and count our money. Finally it was time to go home, clutching our little bags, our heads spinning with all we had seen. From the car windows as we drove away we could see the giant tree glistening on top of the Lazarus building, formed by lights stretched over the store’s “L” rooftop landmark.

Sweet stuff, these memories of Lazarus and Christmas past.

(The Geneabloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories encourages bloggers to share their memories of Christmas seasons past and present. To participate, see the list of daily topics. To read posts from a number of participating bloggers, click here.)

Postcard, F & R Lazarus in the 1950’s, author’s collection

December 13, 2011

Blog Caroling: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Christmas carols are a lot like potato chips: it’s hard to stop at just one. I gravitate toward different songs depending on my mood. Upbeat and festive for shopping, decorating the house, and running errands. Reflective and traditional for reading, wrapping gifts late at night, and writing cards. So choosing a favorite song for Footnote Maven’s Blog Caroling sing-a-long wasn’t easy. But in the end I settled on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” written by George Michael and immortalized by Judy Garland in the film Meet Me in St. Louis.

This instrumental version, performed by Kenny G, features a heartwarming video with clips from several Christmas movie classics. It’s a real treat.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

But if you’re in the mood for something completely different, here’s a second offering guaranteed to energize your day: "The Christmas Can-Can," written and performed by  Straight No Chaser. It's just plain fun. Enjoy!

December 8, 2011

Advent Calendar: Christmas Cookie-Making Fun

Making cookies has always been one of my favorite Christmas traditions. As a girl I loved helping my mom make cookies using the tube-shaped Mirro cookie press. It was fun to mix the food coloring into the dough, roll it into a cylinder and stuff it into the press. We used the recipes from the little booklet included in the box. Star-shaped spritz cookies. Spicy brown molasses camels. Delicate green wreaths piped in a circle and adorned with cinnamon dots. And my favorite, green almond-flavored trees, sprinkled generously with colored sugar or nonpareils. Getting the cookies to come out of the press just right was a bit of an art, and I remember lots of do-overs. But that was part of the fun of it.

I still have the Mirro press, and most years I still make the little trees. I’ve resisted getting one of the fancy electric presses or any modernized version. Why mess with tradition?

From the time my own kids were preschoolers, they’ve helped me make cookies at Christmas time. Those early years were messy affairs, with flour and sugar all over the counter and floor. Now it’s something my two daughters look forward to every year. We crank the Christmas music up, dig out the cookie cutters and rolling pin, and fire up both ovens. These days we’re a little neater, but let’s face it: you can’t have a good time making cookies and end up with a clean kitchen. And that’s okay by me.

Everyone has their favorites, and we try to make them all. Spice cut-out cookies with a light icing are the most fun (and most time-consuming) to make. It’s my mother-in-law’s recipe and now the one we can’t do without. Thumbprints, with a dab of colored frosting in the center, are my husband’s favorite. My son likes soft molasses cookies. My younger daughter likes chocolate crackles, rolled in powdered sugar. We all like Magic bars, made in a pan with a graham cracker crust, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, and coconut. Some years I make raspberry-filled bar cookies from an old recipe I got from my husband’s grandmother.

We start the cookie-making in one big day over Thanksgiving weekend, and continue off and on throughout December. It takes time, but it’s worth it. After all, what would Christmas be without cookies?  

(The Geneabloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories encourages bloggers to share their memories of Christmas seasons past and present. To participate, see the list of daily topics. To read posts from a number of participating bloggers, click here.)

December 5, 2011

Advent Calendar: Outdoor Decorations

My Dad always put lights on our house while I was growing up. They were the big red and green bulbs, colorful and cheery. He got up on the roof and outlined the whole roof of the house with them. My Mom hung wreaths with big ribbons and set out a lighted nativity set. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car, riding around the neighborhood at night looking at all the houses lit up with decorations. It’s still one of my favorite things to do, although now I’m usually in the front seat.

When we first moved into the house we live in now, my husband decorated our three pine trees in the front yard, along with the bushes close to the house, with mini colored lights. We tried the more elegant-looking white lights for a couple years but neither the kids nor I liked them as much. There’s something about colored lights that just shouts, “It’s Christmas!” Now, 14 years later, our pines have grown far too large to drape with lights. He still does the bushes and two smaller trees that frame our front porch. We’re never going to win a neighborhood decorating contest with our modest display, but the house looks cheerful and welcoming.

The most awesome Christmas light display I’ve ever seen, hands down, has to be the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios. It’s an amazing experience to walk through, surrounded by lights on all sides and overhead, pressed into a happy crowd with cameras held high. The lights dance about in synchronization to Christmas tunes as “snow” falls from the sky. These pictures don’t begin to do it justice, but I hope they bring you a smile and some holiday spirit.

(This post is part of the Geneabloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories. You can find a list of topics and read posts from many participating bloggers by clicking here.)

December 4, 2011

My Genea-Santa Wish List

From Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings:

It's Saturday Night - take some time from the Christmas shopping frenzy - and have a little Genealogy Fun!!

Come on, everybody, join in and accept the mission and execute it with precision. Here's your chance to sit on Genea-Santa's lap (virtually) and tell him your Christmas genealogy-oriented dreams:

1) Write your Genea-Santa letter. Have you been a good genealogy girl or boy? What genealogy-oriented items are on your Christmas wish list? They could be family history items, technology items, or things that you want to pursue your ancestral quest.

2) Tell us about them in your own blog post, in a comment on this post, or in a Facebook status or Google Stream post.

What fun! Here's my letter:

Dear Genea-Santa,
I know you are busy getting all your presents together, checking your list twice, and making sure your reindeer are ready for the big night. But I have been a good girl this year (I even wrote some research reports just for my own files) and there are a few things I would love to find under the tree on Christmas morning:

1. A year of Ancestry World Deluxe membership. I’ve got ancestors hiding out in Europe and the U.K., so that would be really handy.

2. An all-expense paid week at one of the genealogy institutes (SLIG, IGHR, or GRIP), so I can hone my genea-skills some more.

3. A Flip Pal scanner, to make it easy to scan the old photos I’ve been wanting to remove from those nasty magnetic albums. Oh and Santa, could you ask the Flip Pal people to please come up with a version of their stitching software for us Mac users?

4. The family Bible mentioned in Sarah Ann Barnum Bishop's obituary. Yes, I know it's been 110 years, but a girl can dream, can't she? 

I hope you enjoy the Christmas cookies I’ll leave for you. Thanks, Santa!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...