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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

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NGS Conference: Press Release

National Genealogical Society Announces Full Program for the 2015 Family History Conference
St. Charles, Missouri, 1316 May 2015
Crossroads of America

ARLINGTON, VA, 12 November 2014: The National Genealogical Society (NGS) is pleased to announce the 2015 Family History Conference program is now available in a sixteen-page registration brochure, which is downloadable at The online version of the St. Charles NGS Family History Conference program is also available on the conference website at Registration opens on 1 December 2014.

The conference offers a number of workshops, tours, and social events that have limited seating. To secure tickets to these events, register on opening day,1 December 2014, or very soon thereafter at

The St. Charles, Missouri Convention Center is the site of the 1316 May 2015 conference. The Conference features nationally known speakers and subject matter experts for more than 150 lectures given on a broad array of topics. Topics include records that highlight research in Midwestern states; national and regional migration paths; land, military, immigration, and naturalization records; and ethnic and religious groups including African Americans, Czech, German, Irish, Jewish, Native American, Polish, and Scots-Irish. Also covered is methodology, analysis, and problem solving; the use of DNA testing and genetic genealogy; the use of technology including mobile devices for genealogy, and websites useful in genealogical research.

The registration brochure provides details about conference logistics, describes the social events, tours, workshops, and includes the daily conference program with the name of each speaker, the lecture title, and a brief description of the presentation. For additional information about what you might experience at the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, visit

The sold out exhibit hall will be free and open to the public Wednesday through Saturday at the St. Charles Conference Center. Exhibitors include genealogy database companies, software offerings, online providers, booksellers, genealogical societies, research and educational institutions, genetic testing providers, and much more.

For up-to-date information about conference hotels, including the availability, amenities, and rates, visit

Sign up for the NGS Conference Blog at to receive the latest conference news and announcements.

Founded in 1903, the National Genealogical Society is dedicated to genealogy education, high research standards, and the preservation of genealogical records. The Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit is the premier national society for everyone, from the beginner to the most advanced family historian seeking excellence in publications, educational offerings, research guidance, and opportunities to interact with other genealogists.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's all about the sharing: Veteran's day 2014

Writing about the living is harder than writing about the dead.  You know it's true! I worry about writing articles on my living family members.  What if I get it wrong, they will never let me live it down.  What if they don't like it, well then they really won't let me live it down!  It makes me all queasy inside and I break out into cold sweats.  Now, imagine having to give a speech about your mom.

Last Wednesday my local DAR chapter hosted a luncheon for veterans.  My mother was supposed to speak at it but due to circumstances beyond her control she was unable to make it.  I was asked to take her place because who knows her better than her daughter, right?

Drawing by F. Dadd; red cross soldiers and wounded, 
1916 Wellcome L0009179. From Wikimedia
In 2 days I wrote a 40 minute speech, without the use of slides or a power point presentation.  This was a new experience for me and I never realized how much I relied on the slides before.  I tend to know my presentations well enough to not read from a script and use the slides as a visual clue to what information comes next.  Well, there was no way I was going to memorize 16 pages in that amount of time!

My speech was on my mother's experience as a woman combat doctor in Iraqi and how she got there. I got some laughs (even though no one cracked a smile at my Tim Gunn "make it work" comment), there were even a few tears, but most of all I was humbled by the women who came up to me afterwards.  There was a line and I talked for 40 minutes after the event was over to anyone who wanted to speak with me.  I wished my mom was there the whole time.

Each one had a story. Some cried. Some told funny stores. Some just wanted to tell me about their sons who had died and how they hoped they were cared for by someone like my mom.  Others told me to tell her how she is a resilient and strong woman.  It was hard not to tear up myself.

Then the last one was pure genealogical serendipity.  A small elegantly dressed elderly woman leaning on her cane walked out the door I was holding for the attendees.  She looked up at me, put her hand on my arm and told me how these types of presentations always make her cry.  "They remind me of my Uncle, he never made it home from Corregidor."  My jaw hit the ground.

As soon as I regained my composure I told her that my grandfather was also there and was taken as a POW.  She was 8 when WWII began and her mother's youngest brother was just 18 when he went to war.  He was captured as a POW at the same battle my grandfather was but unfortunately he died in a camp.

I wanted to know more as I escorted her to the car which was waiting for her.  As I assisted her into it I asked if she new anything about his unit.  She clearly didn't want to talk any more and I was not going to press it.  Then, before I could shut the door, she looked at me with a single tear and said "60th Coast Artillery."  She closed the door and left me standing there in shock again.  My grandfather and her uncle served together.

I don't know who she was and I have no way to contact her.  Maybe this was a way our soldier ancestors could speak to us, connecting us, in this one moment.  I don't know, but it sure was a "small world" situation.

On this Veteran's Day my thoughts are with not only my family, living and dead, who served but to all of those who never made it home.  Not all of them made it to a medical unit, but if they did I know someone like my mom did their best to give them another day in this world.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

DNA testing for everyone!

My Grandfather Arvin and Siblings
This morning I woke up to 28 emails most with the subject “potential cousin DNA match” or something to that effect.  Yes, the results for the 2014 great testing escapade are coming in. 

To be frank not only am I excited but I am bit terrified as well.  There’s a lot of information coming in all at once. My little brain has to get it all organized, sorted, and analyzed.  Quickly too it seems if the emails coming in are any indication.

DNA is DNA no matter who it comes from.  It doesn’t matter that this time I am actually looking at the results of people I grew up knowing.  Well, that just makes it novel and more interesting.  These results are not a name and a result on a page that has really no true meaning to me.  The names staring back at me are cousins, aunts, and uncles faces that I have known my whole life.

Now I get to see which of those little familial traits that we share are really in our DNA too.  Then which of those traits are shared with strangers too.  This morning 5 of those strangers were added to my tree thanks to DNA and paper genealogy.  The others are still pending.  I and the other genealogists are combing through common surnames trying to determine if we can find the link.

The one result I am really looking forward to has not come in yet.  My maternal uncle’s yDNA test.  I really want that one, it’s kind of an obsession.  Mainly since I want to try and put to rest where in the world the surname came from and see who else matches.  My family has had speculations for years on the origin of the name and where we came from but the paper trail goes cold in the mid-1700s in Maryland. 

Alright, back to the grindstone.  So. Many. Numbers!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Weekend in New York: a family history pilgrimage

Alexander Hamilton Custom House, site of the conference 
Last weekend I had a great time in New York City.  It was really the first time I have ever been on my own, for multiple days, in a large metropolis.  No kids, I kept looking for them but they really weren’t there.  Nerve wracking at first but an absolute delight once I got the first minor anxiety attack out of the way.

I was there for a conference but secretly I had a plan.  A family heritage plan.  I unfortunately was not able to make it to the NYC Archives (drat you for not being open on the weekend) but I did make a family history pilgrimage of sorts to a very small green space in the middle of the concrete jungle.

Soldier's Monument, Trinity Church
In a previous post I talked briefly about Anneke Jans and her 62 acres on Manhattan Island.  She and her husband, Roelof Jansen, were originally granted the land in 1636.  After the English government came into power she and her heirs continued to own the land through a grant from the Governorof New York, Col. Francis Lovelace.  Unfortunately, due to a technicality (missing signatures on the deed) the family lost the land after 1671.

New York City and Trinity Church purchased parts of the land at that time but it was not the end of the story.  For over 150 years, in 16 lawsuits, the heirs of Anneke Jans sued the city for their land.  Then in 1847 the final decision was made that the land was purchased legally.

The last remaining remnant of the Jans farm is now a small park that if you didn’t know was there you would miss.  On my last day in NYC I was determined to find it.  Heck it was only a mile walk from my hotel!  What’s a mile when you are on a mission?

Plaque at Duane Park
My route took me past Trinity Church, which, of course, I had to stop at.  Sunday services were occurring so I didn’t go inside but I spent a good 20 minutes looking around the graveyard.  There  were quite a few beautiful tombstones that I stopped to admire.  I also discovered the Soldier’s Monument, which was quite moving and a piece of history I did not know about.

I continued up Broadway from there eventually crossing over to West Broadway until I came to the little diagonal street I was looking for, Hudson.  The small triangle piece of land that lies on Duane and Hudson Streets lies in the middle of one of the Tribecca neighborhoods.  Row houses with red bricks and brown stones lined the streets.  The local market was putting out fresh flowers and arranging pumpkins on the front steps.  Families were out for a stroll and joggers ran by with their headphones in oblivious to the wonder I was experiencing.
Duane Park

Standing there reading the plaques at Duane Park I got that familiar sensation again. You know the one you get when you develop a connection to something that had an impact on your past.  My family once walked here.  They farmed here.  They lived and they died here.  I just sat and took in the late blooming flowers for a minute trying to feel them.

I started back south and crossed over at Church Street.   This route took me past the new World Trade Center.  Stopping on a corner I looked up and appreciated the beauty of the new tower, but unlike the mass of tourists heading to the memorial I had no desire to go.  I am not ready yet, and if you don’t know why, go back and read this post.  Thankfully, I know I am not alone.

Across the street from all of the construction was St. Paul’s Chapel.  Of course it was another attempt to feed my growing addiction to cemetery research so I stopped in.  I did not go in the building and look at the exhibits on 9/11 and the church, but I once again spent a good 20-30 minutes meandering on the path around the church craning my neck to see the markers from the flagstones.  However, my searching was not in vein.  I did find heraldry marking one of the graves and I am now researching who this person was.

The Immigrants, Battery Park
From there I did the “touristy thing” and wandered around the area of my hotel.  Took a nice stroll through Battery Park, discovered the NY Stock Exchange was 2 blocks from my hotel, saw the steps where George Washington was inaugurated out first president, and watched silly foreign tourists try to feed the squirrels acorns.  Yeah, can’t make up that last one.

By the time I was done I walked 7 ½ miles in downtown.  No wonder I was so tired on the 5 hour train ride home.  However, sleeping is nearly impossible on a train I’ve decided.  It’s not like an airplane where the constant hum of the engines lulls you to sleep.  Instead I finished my new book (The Juggler’s Children) and did some work.  Ah, the life of a train commuter. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Genealogy Event is this weekend! Will you be there?

This weekend I am presenting 2 lectures on Friday the 17th at The Genealogy Event in New York City. There is still time to purchase tickets and attend.  This is TGE's 3rd year and it looks like it is going to be at least as big as the last two.  Which means, if you do come, I hope you come say hi to me at some point!  I will be around all weekend, somewhere.

Tickets can be purchased through the website and are very pocket book friendly.  General Sessions are $35, or you can purchases tickets for only the sessions you want to attend.  There are VIP Tickets as well which allow you to sign up for consultations from the experts.  Make sure you purchase tickets for each day you want to attend!

The list of presenters is below and I am sure you will learn a lot from them.  This year they are having a third day of activities too.  The DNA Day will be held on Sunday, and as indicated by the title, will be 100% dedicated to genetic genealogy.

Presenter names from the website:

Ron Arons * Nancy & Biff Barnes * Joe Buggy * Shellee Morehead * Maureen Taylor * Pamela Weisberger 
James M Beidler * Shannon Combs Bennett *Blaine T Bettinger * Janeen Bjork * Angie Bush * Elaine Collins* Laura H Congleton * Phyllis Kramer * Michael Leclerc * Denise Levenick * Dr Rhoda Miller * CeCe Moore * Trevor Plant

A recent addition to The Genealogy Event! DNA Day will feature the following speakers:

Blaine T Bettinger * Angie Bush * Bennett Greenspan * CeCe Moore *

Quite a few speakers are new this year, but some are returning to TGE.  Many of the names on this list are local, but others are national speakers giving a great variety of topics and experiences.