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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Creating new memories

This year will be the first time in a decade that we will not be spending the holidays with family. 
My kids are in a bit of a whirl wind with the unknown that comes with “what do we do at home for 2 weeks?”  The hubs and I on the other hand have it all planned out and it includes clearing out closets and steam cleaning rugs.

However, creating new family memories and possibly traditions are on my mind.  The kids don’t remember having a Christmas without their grandparents.  Which is good, but it comes with complications, explanations, and confusion. 

First there is the fact that we are only having 1 holiday dinner with presents and not 4.  There is confusion among the ranks on which day do we want/should/need to open presents and have family time.  There shouldn’t be, but it’s a consequence of traveling and meeting with multiple parts of the family over our annual pilgrimage to the grandparents. 

Now I am planning out the dinner.  How do I cook for just 4?  I am not sure I know how to cook a holiday spread for just 4 people.  Hubs and I are trying to watch what we eat but we have 2 kids going through growth spurts.  There is a fine line between enough leftovers and the thought of if I ever see [insert food here] again I will kill you.  Seriously, I just cleaned out the fridge and pitched the Thanksgiving leftovers last weekend.

We were able to continue our tree trimming tradition which, while frustrating and amusing, is always a crowd pleaser around here.  The kids are intrigued by the amount of presents that are coming in (they have never seen everything from 4 sets of grandparents all at one time) and at one point my youngest asked if there were too many.  The oldest looked at him like he had lost his mind.

But I still want to make this a memorable holiday for them.  It’s not about the presents, or the food, or which day we choose to celebrate.  Really it is all about us, our family and our memories.  Playing games, laughing, watching a bad holiday movie, and just being together.

Maybe, just maybe I can squeeze in some family history research with my kids.  Maybe, just maybe they will remember one moment from this December and share it with their family.  Maybe, just maybe…

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Yates family research time: or what you can find in a newspaper with only an hour

"The Lighthouse" from Palo Duro Canyon
State Park. Canyon City, TX borders this
park. Image from the Library of Congress.

A 2nd cousin twice removed to my husband contacted me a few months ago looking for information, and I was a bad, bad genealogist friend.  I forgot to write her back, but I thought I had.  Yeah, let the flogging begin!  So to make amends I did some quick research into a family story and whoa did I get a good surprise.

In the early days of my genealogy research I did what we are all told to do, I interviewed the family. Even if it was like pulling nails at times I tried to extract information from them in any way possible. My father in law knew some, but not a lot about his family beyond dates and names.  One statement he made to me that stuck was that someone in his maternal grandmother's side of the family owned a hotel in Canyon City, Texas. He wasn't sure if it was her father or someone else though.

Eventually I found my husband’s 2nd great grandfather along with his wife and son living in Canyon City on the 1910 US Federal Census.  Eureka!  A Canyon City connection.  At that time however, that was all I could find. 

Through the Census records I learned he was still in Missouri during the 1900 census and then returned by 1920.  However, my skills weren’t the best in the beginning so this mystery sat while I worked on lines that needed more immediate attention.  Then the email came, and I felt awful.  So I sat out last night to see what I could find in a limited amount of time. 

In the 1900 US Census[1] Eugene, Missouri, and two of their children are living in the same household in Grand Pass, Saline County, Missouri.  I have located most of his children in the general area as well.  But what happened to get him to Canyon City in 1910[2] and then back to Saline County in 1920[3]?

This is when last night I stumbled on The Portal to Texas History from the University of North Texas Libraries.  They have digitized and searchable records from all over the state of Texas.  I was able to locate 4 newspaper entries for Eugene moving to Canyon City plus then owning and selling a hotel there.

Notice in paper[4]:
“Eugene Yates, of Mt. Leonard, Missouri, moved here last week and on Monday opened up the Rogerson Hotel business.”
Review of Hotel:[5]
“Hotel Rogerson,
Eugene Yates & Son, Proprietors.
  One of the popular hotels in Canyon is the one run by Eugene Yates & Son- Here every guest is made to feel at home and no pains are spared to make everything comfortable.  The dining service at this hotel is hard to excel.
  The writer has traveled in almost every state in the union and can heartily say that at no hotel has he received more courteous treatment.
  All the rooms are nice and clean and the full register each day shows that the traveling public fully appreciate the excellent service the management is extending to all.  When in Canyon do not fail to register at the Rogerson.”

“Eugene Yates has quit the hotel business and will more to his residence, now occupied by Mr. Hatchell.”

“Change in Management
E. Yates, a former hotel man of this city, announces that he has leased the Rogerson Hotel in this city and will take charge next Monday.  He invites his former patrons and other to call and see him.”

Now I have a larger line of inquiry to search out which might take longer than an hour on the internet!  I will be the first to admit that my Texas research skills are not strong so if you have any suggestions on what my next steps are I would love to hear from you.

[1] 1900 U.S. Census, Saline County, Missouri, population schedule, Grand Pass Township, p 159 A (stamped), dwelling 210, family 212, Eugene Yates family; digital image, ( : accessed January 2012);  citing NARA microfilm publication T623.
[2] 1910 U.S. Census, Randall County, Texas, population schedule, Canyon Ward 3, p 10 11B (written), dwelling number 193, family 207, Eugene Yates family; digital image, ( : accessed January 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1584.
[3] 1920 U.S. Census, Saline County, Missouri, population schedule, Grand Pass Township, p 9A (written), dwelling 184, family 200, Eugene Yates family; ( : accessed January 2012); citing NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 962.
[4] Canyon City News. (Canyon City, Tex.), Vol. 9, No. 33, Ed. 1 Friday, October 27, 1905, Newspaper, October 27, 1905; ( : accessed December 10, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting UNT Libraries, Denton, Texas.
[5] Canyon City News. (Canyon City, Tex.), Vol. 10, No. 16, Ed. 1 Friday, June 29, 1906, Newspaper, June 29, 1906; ( : accessed December 10, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting UNT Libraries, Denton, Texas.
[6] Canyon City News. (Canyon City, Tex.), Vol. 10, No. 49, Ed. 1 Friday, March 1, 1907, Newspaper, March 1, 1907; ( : accessed December 10, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting UNT Libraries, Denton, Texas.
[7] Terrill, R. A., editor. The Randall County News. (Canyon City, Tex.), Vol. 12, No. 27, Ed. 1 Friday, October 2, 1908, Newspaper, October 2, 1908; ( : accessed December 10, 2014), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting UNT Libraries, Denton, Texas.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Continuing Education: ProGen Study Group

Last month I started the ProGen 24 study group.  ProGen is one of those items on my list of courses, seminars and other things I thought I should try and complete for my ongoing genealogical education.  So far I am enjoying it immensely.

Of course many people are looking at me like I have grown 3 heads.  It is an 18 month commitment which sounds daunting and a bit terrifying.  I am in ProGen 24 which started last month and goes until April 2016. There is never really a perfect time to jump into a commitment like that since no one knows what the future holds for them.  You just have to jump in, hold on, and do your best.  To me this was as good of a time as any and I honestly think I can make it work.

I do best in small group learning sessions which is why I wanted to give this study group a try.  When I was in the BU program we read sections of Professional Genealogy but not the whole thing.  Over the last year I have looked at the book time and again on my shelf and said “I really need to finish that.”  It’s been a great reference guide though and I use it frequently when I need a template (even if it needs to be updated in some places).

Having interaction with a small group is great.  We come from varied backgrounds and have a wide range of skill sets. This makes the discussions thought provoking and the views varied.  Most importantly, even though we are chatting through the computer, I get that small group interaction which helps me retain and process information better.

To learn more about the ProGen study groups visit their website at  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How direct sales helped me with genealogy

OK, so you are probably wondering what in the world I am going to tell you that could link direct sales to genealogy.  Well, believe me, I can.  Plus I think the lessons I learned could be helpful to many of you too no matter what your goals are. You may never take a paying client, but even hobby genealogists can hold themselves to professional standards and professionalism.

But first, a little back story.

When my oldest was getting ready to start preschool I found myself in a bit of a crisis.  All the sudden I would have time to MYSELF!  After 3 years of caring for him as a stay at home mom I literally was in a panic about what I would do alone for 4 hours a day.  Now, my circumstances were different from a lot of stay-at-home mom’s.  My eldest was born at 25 weeks gestation and spent 72 days in the NICU.  We were very lucky by the way, it could have been a lot worse.  In his first year of life I was not only mom but I was his medical caregiver 24 hours a day seven days a week.

He came home on oxygen, a feeding tube, and multiple medications.  There were near weekly doctor visits plus 3 days after he came home he had his first physical therapy visit.  We had 4 therapists come to the house every week until his 3rd birthday (PT, OT, Developmental, and later speech).  Life was regulated.  I like regulated.  I can deal with regulated.

3 weeks old with my husband's wedding
ring for scale
One day in May before his 3rd birthday I got a phone call.  A friend had put my name down on a list of people who may want to have a makeover at one of these at home party things.  “Sure, why not” I replied to the bubbly woman on the other end of the receiver, “I don’t have anything going on tomorrow afternoon.”  That was when Mary Kay Cosmetics walked into my life.

I won’t bore you with the details of what my life was like the next 3 years until I moved to Virginia.  What I did discover was that I have a knack for talking to, helping, and managing people.  Before I left Mary Kay I was a Director in Training, had earned a car, was responsible at the highest point for 15 team members and actually was closing in on becoming a Sales Director.  Moving and having another preemie baby derailed those plans.

It wasn’t a waste though.  Those skills helped me to the path I am on today.  That is what I wanted to share with you, the skills that I learned which have helped me in my genealogy business and with my personal research.  Maybe you will find some inspiration somewhere in my rambling thoughts below.

Suit-up and show-up
I attended weekly team meetings and as many workshops as I could the entire time I was in Mary Kay.  Making the commitment to myself, my team, and my director to suit-up and show-up was one of the things that I decided to do early on.  If you have ever been to a Mary Kay meeting, well, you know how interesting they are.  Part rah-rah go team and part recruitment plan.  However, I always learned something new and something that I could take away for my own business.  Making that commitment to my business kept me accountable to my success.

Education in genealogy is the same way.  We are primarily a self-taught community since there are only a few (when compared to other professions) degree programs or professional outlets.  Genealogists have to make the commitment to themselves to suit-up and show-up to advance their knowledge in the field.  Making yourself accountable to participating in whatever way possible will only help you be a better researcher and professional.

Cold calls aren’t so hard with a script
To be successful in sales you have to be comfortable with cold calls.  I was petrified the first time I made a cold call to someone on my client referral list.  The what if’s were everywhere.  What if they say no, what if they hang up, what if they don’t like me?  Cold calls were easier when I learned and stuck to a script.  Writing everything down and then practicing it or saying it into a mirror when I talked made the process much easier.  Eventually I didn’t need the script to make those common phone calls.

What do you do if you are going to call an archive, court house, library, potential client, distant family member, or to look for paid / volunteer work somewhere?  Those calls can be nerve wracking if you are the least bit unsure of yourself.  In the beginning have a script handy for any phone calls that you need to make.  By having what you want to say written out ahead of time it will help you calm down, get it all out, and sound professional.  After you say it a few times it will be old hat and no problem.

Being well dressed and well-mannered can only help your image
We had a dress code for appointments: skirts or dresses, business suits preferably, dress shoes preferably with a heel, pantyhose preferred not required, nice jewelry, hair done, make up on, and lightly perfumed.  The thought was if you dressed for success and represented your brand then people would take you seriously.  Why would they want to buy beauty products from someone who didn’t wear their own product and was not put together?

It is the same in genealogy.  Especially if you are going to be a professional.  While there is a time for jeans and grubby clothes (like in a cemetery) if you want to be taken seriously as a professional you should dress the part.    If you are lecturing wear a suit or something appropriate for the venue.  If you are attending a conference, seminar, or society meeting consider wearing business casual.  You do not want people distracted by your appearance.  You want them to think “yeah, they have it together.”

If you have a business remember that wherever you go you represent it.  Are your business cards professionally done?  Do you have a letter head designed?  These things are quick and easy ways to come off as a put together professional.

Manners and professionalism comes in here too.  As a consultant I always wore a smile, even when on the phone.  Did you know that smiling on the phone, even when the person can't see you, still comes across in your tone?  Being friendly, approachable, and easy going are traits that people respond to.  No one wants to be around a sour-puss so even on my grumpiest days I put on that smile and saved my smart-Alec comments for my close friends and family.

Frequently I see many self styled genealogists with very bad manners and habits. Number one infraction, rudeness. Talking down to people only makes you look bad.  Being abusive to staff (no matter where you are or the circumstances) is simply uncalled for.  You can be polite and yet firm if you are upset just like you can patiently sit through someone's family brick wall without looking bored.  Trust me, even if you are having a bad day and an outburst is justifiable, that will be what people remember.  If you slip, apologize.  Saying "I am sorry, that was uncalled for.  It's been a rough day" can go a long way to making you look better.

No one will manage you, but you
While you may have someone you report to in a direct sales system they will not be there for the day-to-day rigmarole that goes on.  As a self-employed person it is up to you to pay your bills, manage your money, keep your appointment book filled, stock your inventory and so one and so forth.  If you are going to be a success you have to do it all yourself.

It is the exact same way in genealogy.  If I don’t go out there and respond to calls for papers, write articles, market myself, pay my bills, make contacts (and then nurture them), plus a whole host of other items I will never be able to pull in an income to help support my family.  Spread sheets and calendars are my friends.  My smartphone is glued to my hip and I am constantly working on something.

You have to hold yourself accountable.  It’s the hardest thing to do but the only one who can keep it all going is the person you see in the mirror every morning. Your success will not be handed to you.  Work hard everyday.  Accomplish something (even if it is as simple as writing an email) everyday and success will follow.

Goal planning is constant
On my very first night of training as a consultant we made a dream poster.  We were supposed to think about goals we wanted to accomplish with our life, business, family, or whatever we wanted.  Then we talked about what it would take to make those happen.  I can’t remember mine for the life of me but I do remember one of the other girl’s posters.  She wanted to take her whole family on a Disney cruise and wanted to earn enough money through being a consultant to do that.  It took her 2 years of steady work but she did it.

As a consultant I goal planned on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis.  Each big goal was broken down into smaller chunks.  Those chunks broken down into even smaller more manageable pieces.  I was never afraid to dream big.  In fact we were encouraged to do that.  This is where I learned two of my favorite sayings.  “You can eat an elephant one bite at a time” and “Shoot for the moon because if you miss at least you will land in the stars.”

In genealogy I have continued this habit.  I have yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals.  Every 6 months I reevaluate the annual and the upcoming quarterly goals and adjust as needed.  It may sound complicated but remember you need to dream big and reach for those stars and if you don’t make it's alright.  Just re-group and do it again.  If you don’t have a vision for yourself or your business you are bound to flounder and success will be difficult.

Failure is ok
When I went into DIQ (Director In-Qualification) it was the toughest thing I had ever done.  I tried twice to qualify to become a director and both times failed because I was unable meet all the requirements.  Yes, it was heartbreaking.  Yes, I had to get over the shame I felt inside for being what I considered a failure.  However, it was pointed out to me that because I had dared to strive for that next level I had other successes. Those success were even more important than failing to achieve the goal I wanted.  I had raised the bar on myself and now I knew what I could do if I put myself out there and went for it.

It is very hard for me to put myself out there.  Many times I do not feel confident in my abilities and worry that I may make a total idiot of myself. You know what?  It's true.  I have made mistakes and there are things that now I would have done differently.  Working through the set-backs and learning from those mistakes, especially when I started my genealogy career, only make me better.  If you can kick aside the failure when it happens and see what the accomplishments were along the way you will find that the world really isn’t that bad.  Your successes should be touted and your failures learned from.

I have more I could say, but I think that is good for now.  If you want to hear more, let me know.  I am happy to tell you my little thoughts any time!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

DNA Differences and Siblings

Mom with her brother's DNA in yellow
If you have read any amount of blog posts or articles on genetic testing for genealogy you have encountered over and over again the concept that you should test as many people as possible. Particularly when doing an autosomal DNA tests.  I like to say go broad or go home which causes eye rolls around my house. 

The basic idea, for those of you not sure, is that you ideally want to test as many people who are willing, from as many different lines and generations as possible, enabling you to get the most coverage of your known family available to you through DNA.  Mainly, because family members may not have the exact same DNA passed on to them from their ancestors.  This is true to cousins especially the more distant you are.

Cousins, yes! Makes sense right?  Your most recent common ancestor was several generations away from you so of course there would be big gaps in shared DNA.  What I never, ever, dreamed of seeing was how important it is to test siblings.  Needless to say I am now scrambling to convince my husband’s siblings to test.  Which I think will happen about the same time they start serving ice water in hades.  I won’t bore you here with the large number of relatives who think I have lost my mind on this subject, but I bet you all can commiserate on some level.

In August I convinced my dad’s sister and brother as well as one of my mother’s brothers to give DNA testing a try. They dutifully took the tests when they showed up a month later from FTDNA.  I was optimistic that these tests would help break down a few walls and shed new light on some genealogy path overgrown with brush.  While I was at it I had my uncles do Y-DNA tests too.  Might as well right?  I am still waiting on those results which should be here any day.

dad with his sister in yellow
and brother in blue
My mom and her brother were what I expected from siblings, and then some.  They shared nearly equal amounts of DNA across all chromosomes.  Pretty typical right, when you assume that they had the same father and mother they should share a significant amount of DNA.  All I could think of was “wow, those are some strong genes."

Now, my dad and his siblings were completely different.  While they did fall within the suspected sibling percentage range there were large segments that my father did not share with his siblings.  What made that exciting was when their results hit the pages I was able to connect with lines that would not have been possible with just my dad’s results. (Plus if you look closely you can see where likely common cross overs took place during recombination on some chromosomes.)

To make it even more fascinating I compared my dad’s ethnic charts to his siblings.  Neither of them have ANY of the British Isle markers that my dad has.  They both are heavy on what I know through the paper trail is the Northern and Western European (aka German and Swiss) lines of the family.

Yep, this is going to lead to some interesting debates in the family about who takes after who I am sure.  Now I am waiting impatiently for my great aunts results.  She is the last living sibling of my paternal grandmother.  At 94 I am just thankful she agreed to do a test, and even more thankful that my dad’s sister facilitated it.  When I have her DNA I will be one step closer to my Irish and German immigrant families.  Plus maybe even more relatives…

Dad's ethnic breakdown

His brother's and sister's
ethnic breakdown

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thinking about a PLCGS? Then read this blog!

A year ago I began the 3 year process of obtaining my Professional Learning Certificate in Genealogical Studies, or PLCGS, from The National Institute for Genealogical Studies.  40 courses seems huge, but a year in I am on my way and learning a lot!  

In case you didn’t already know I am writing about my experience as a student on The Institute’s blog (which you should check out here).  The blog is a great way for you to get the inside scoop on what each course entails.  Plus the blog has a lot of other information about The Institute including announcements, other student posts and general information a prospective (or current) student would be interested in.

Currently I am working on a certificate in American Records.  Which makes sense because I, well, live in the US.  The Institute offers certificates in 9 other areas though: Australian Records, Canadian Records, English records, German Records, Irish Records, Librarianship, Methodology, Professional Development, and Scottish Records.  I understand that there are more programs being considered too, but you have to admit that is a pretty good selection right now.

It is not necessary to work on a full certificate, you can take classes al ’a carte if you choose.  There are several hundred classes offered from methodology to history all of which aide the student in developing their genealogical knowledge base.  You can see a complete listing of courses offered on The Institute’s website.

If you are interested in my progress then go on out there are read about it! You can read the whole blog or you can select a posted course from the “themed blogs” listed on the right hand menu.  For each course I do an introduction post, 2-3 posts on the modules and then a conclusion post.  After all of the posts are up Gena Philibert-Ortega and I host a chat where anyone (students or not) can ask me questions about the course and my opinions. Even better, if you attend the chat you can get a discount on that course when you register! Live chats are announced on The Institutes blog and twitter accounts as well as via student emails.

As of today these are the courses I have completed and each one is labeled if the posts are up or coming:

Lecturing Skills Including Preparation (posted)
Methodology Parts 1 and 2 (posted)
Electronic Resources: Using the Internet (coming soon)
Demystifying Culture and Folklore (posted)
Skills: Transcribing, Abstracting, and Extracting (posted)
US: Census Records (posted)
English: Occupations – Professions and Trades (posted)
US: Vital Records (posted)
Writing for Genealogy: Articles, Blogs, Research Reports and so much more (posted)
Google for the Wise Genealogist (coming soon) *this is one of the free courses you can register for*
US: Religious Records Part 1 (coming soon)

11 down, taking 2 and 27 left.  I can do this and so can you!

Disclaimer: As a student blogger for The Institute I am taking courses gratis in return for writing about each one.  I personally don’t feel this influences my opinions on the courses as  I am very honest and up front with my thoughts on each which I hope you will see on the blog.

Monday, November 17, 2014

My second book release!

November 17, 2014 | Utica, OH
Email Terri O’Connell for contact details, review copies, photos, and an author bio.


The second in a series of guides to popular research destinations

Shannon Combs-Bennett, author of A Genealogist’s Guide to Richmond, Virginia, has released her second book with The In-Depth Genealogist. The guide describes little known, and well known, research facilities in the D.C. metro area in addition to leisure and family activities. 

These guides are designed as resources for genealogists when traveling away from home.  Included are maps, dining options near research facilities, places to see or visit, in addition to information on archives, libraries, and research facilities.  It is a convenient pocket sized, 5” x 8”, so it will easily fit in your bag or jacket.

A Genealogist’s Guide to the Washington, D.C. Area is available now as a PDF download ($4.99) from The In-Depth Genealogist Store ( Subscribers to the website receive a 10% discount on purchase of the book.  The paperback version ($9.99) is slated for release November 20th.  Nook and Kindle versions will be released before the end of the month.

Shannon has been a contributor to The In-Depth Genealogist since January 2013.  She wrote the column The Social Pages on lineage societies in the United States.  In addition to her business, T2 Family History, Shannon enjoys speaking and writing on a variety of topics from DNA to methodology.  Learn more about Shannon at