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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

200 years later and the flag was still there: The Star Spangled Spectacular

mustering of the troops
My oldest is a history nut.  I am pretty sure that I have mentioned this on the blog before.  For months we heard over and over again about the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.  So as a surprise for him my husband and I took the kids to Baltimore for the weekend.  You have never seen two kids over the moon about a road trip in their lives!  The Star Spangled Spectacular was amazing.

We got up bright and early Saturday September 13th and drove the 3 hours to our hotel.  The idea being we would get there early, park at the hotel (there were warnings about parking being at a premium all weekend), and then see the sights.  We also noticed the weather before we left.  A 50% chance of rain and high in the low 70s.  Cold wet kids can be grumpy so my husband and I steeled ourselves for the whining that was sure to come.

It was an amazing day though and an experience that I will not soon forget.  Even though I don’t know of any direct line ancestors who were there for the battle, I do have ancestors who volunteered for the militias during the War of 1812.  Also, as a member of the National Society United States Daughters of 1812 it was a moving site of patriotism and remembrance.
Flag obscured by cannon smoke

Believe it or not my family walked from the inner harbor out to Ft. McHenry, nearly 3 miles.  It was a warm up for the marching around the site we would be put through by the boys.  We lucked out and arrived in time for the last firing of the cannons by the reenactors.  Standing about 25 feet from 6 cannons as they are set off simultaneously was quite spectacular.  Oh, and loud. Very loud.

However, the weather that day (as the Park Superintendent Tina Capetta reminded us in her welcome speech) was very similar to what the soldiers experience on 13 September 1814.  200 years before it rained on and off all day then there were torrential downpours that evening.  Last Saturday was chilly with gray clouds and intermittent showers.  As I stood in the misty morning, cannon smoke billowing over me and showering us with bits of burned wadding, I looked up into the sky.  There I stood transfixed for a moment as I saw the 15 star flag billowing in the breeze obscured by the dissipating smoke.  I thought to myself that this must have been what those men saw 200 years before.

First Day of Issue Ceremony
As the crowd melted away we went into the star fort to watch the first day of issue ceremony for the new Ft. McHenry stamp, now in circulation from the United States Post Office.  We listened to men dressed at Francis Scott Key and Dr. William Beanes speak about their experience on board the treaty ship. It was moving and interesting to hear the accounts read aloud.

We left near dinner time and searched for somewhere to eat that was not “fair food.”  It was nearly unanimous (I was the sole holdout) that we needed to go back to our hotel 3 blocks away and put our feet up after dinner.  It seemed the kids were tired or something.  There we turned on PBS to the live coverage of the concert happing at the 6th Street Pier.  We sat in our room on the 28th floor of our hotel and watched the bombs bursting in air from our bedroom.  Billed as the largest fireworks display in Baltimore in 200 years we were not disappointed.

The next morning the kids were still tuckered out.  Seriously, they never sleep past 6am and I had to 
force them up at 8 for breakfast.  I was up at 6 though, and stood with my morning beverage in my hand on the window side of the drawn curtains.  Through the gap in the buildings on the harbor I could make out Ft. McHenry.  Once again I found myself staring at that large 15 star flag, now a mere speck on the horizon, and thought to myself our flag was still there.  200 years before the residents of Baltimore were up, looking out their windows and seeing the same thing on a glorious September 14th morning.

Like I said.  An experience I will not forget.

15 Star flag flying over the ramparts at Ft. McHenry

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Join me at The Genealogy Event in New York City

I will be presenting 2 lectures at The Genealogy Event in New York City next month.  In addition to presenting I will also be sitting in the expert lounge helping people with various genealogy questions. Come by, check it out, and have a great time learning.

You can see a detailed schedule for Friday and Saturday on the website.  In addition, there will be a 3rd day dedicated to genetic genealogy, DNA Day.  Tickets are now on sale on the website and there are a variety of ticket options available.

My sessions are shown below and will be presented on Friday October 17th. Make sure to say hi if you will be there!

3:15PM – 4:00PM
Tips for a Successful Lineage Society Application
It is the goal of many people to prove they were descended from a truly unique individual. They
may have fought in a war, been a pioneer, or part of an elite group. Whatever their connection
to history, membership in a lineage society is a great way to show off your research as well as
your hard work and dedication to finding that family line. Learn ways to successfully pull
together a society application that will be accepted!

4:15PM – 5:00PM
A Genealogist’s Guide to Heraldry
The thought of heraldry conjures images of noble ancestors from long ago, dashing knights and 
grand banners but what is it really? In this presentation learn about heraldry, its historical uses, 
who can display heraldic arms (as well as why many genealogists shouldn’t) and how it can help 
your research.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research Press Release


Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research to Offer Unique Opportunities in Genealogical Education

RALEIGH, North Carolina, 9 September 2014. Professional genealogists Catherine W. Desmarais, CG, Michael Hait, CG, and Melanie D. Holtz, CG, are pleased to announce the formation of the Virtual Institute of Genealogical Research (VIGR). VIGR is a unique educational opportunity for genealogists of all skill levels.

The Institute will offer courses on a wide variety of genealogical subjects, providing “Vigorous” year-round education for the genealogical community using a virtual platform. Each course will consist of a total of four 90-minute lectures, two each presented on consecutive Saturdays, extensive syllabus material, and practical exercises. Limited class sizes of only one hundred registrants per course allows for a higher level of class participation and instructor feedback than typically offered by genealogy webinars.

Courses are currently planned around the topics of genealogical writing, advanced methodology, DNA testing and analysis, and cultural, regional, or record-based research strategies.

Many of these subject matters—as well as the depth of instruction—have never before been offered in a virtual format and are ideal for genealogists around the world. “VIGR will allow genealogists who work a full-time job or have limited travel budgets to more easily advance their genealogical skills,” Institute co-administrator Melanie D. Holtz stated.

Registration for each course will cost $69.99 and includes digital video recordings of all four lectures, available within two weeks of the close of each course.

For more information on the Institute and to register for upcoming courses, visit and subscribe to the mailing list for updates on future courses.


Michael Hait, CG, “Writing Logical Proof Arguments,” 1 November–8 November 2014
J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA, “Preparing the Field: Understanding the Agricultural Records of our Ancestors,” 24 January– 31 January 2015
Maureen Taylor, “Family Photographs: Identifying, Preserving, and Sharing Your Visual Heritage,” 21 February–28 February 2015
Donna Moughty, “Strategies for Finding Your Irish Ancestors,” 7 March–14 March 2015
Blaine Bettinger, “(Finally!) Understanding Autosomal DNA,” 21 March–28 March 2015
Billie Stone Fogarty and Rick Fogarty, “Verifying the Family Legend of Native American Ancestry,” 18 April–25 April 2015
Melanie D. Holtz, CG, and Melissa Johnson, “Genealogical Applications of Dual Citizenship by Descent,” 2 May-9 May 2015
Paul Milner, “An In-Depth Look at the Big Four Records of English Research,” 30 May - 6 June 2015
Angela McGhie, “Digging in Federal Land Records,” 19 September-26 September 2015

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are Service Marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluations by the Board and the board name is a trademark registered in the US Patent and Trademark Office.

2015 Forensic Genealogy Institute Registration Information

2015 Forensic Genealogy Institute Registration Opens September 9, 2014, at 1 pm EST

FGI 2015 Set to Be the Largest Offering of Forensic Genealogy Training to Date

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Dallas, Texas – September 8, 2014 – Registration for the fourth annual Forensic Genealogy Institute (FGI) opens tomorrow, September 9, 2014, at 1 pm EST online at With 100 seats available to registrants, FGI 2015 will be the largest-ever offering of forensic genealogy for intermediate and advanced genealogists.

The educational arm of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (CAFG), FGI will be held March 26-28, 2015, at the Wyndham Love Field Hotel in Dallas, Texas. Registration for each course is $445, which includes 20 hours of instruction by expert forensic and genetic genealogists in just three days, minimizing travels costs and time away from family and work.

The 2015 FGI features two brand-new, concurrent courses designed for intermediate and advanced forensic genealogists:
·         Advanced Genetic Genealogy and Unknown-Parentage Cases
·         Forensic Genealogy Master Practicum

The “Advanced Genetic Genealogy and Unknown-Parentage Cases” course applies DNA and traditional genealogical research to uncovering the genetic heritage of individuals with unknown parentage. This area of forensic research is expanding rapidly, and genealogists who can use DNA to successfully address unknown-parentage cases are in great demand. Enrollment is limited to 60 students.
The “Forensic Genealogy Master Practicum” offers hands-on experience in researching various types of forensic cases, working with clients (including interviews and contracts), writing forensic reports or affidavits (students will write three reports), and participating in or observing a mock trial to defend a forensic report. Enrollment is limited to 40 students.

Courses are expected to fill, so early registration is encouraged at beginning at 1 pm EST on Tuesday, September 9, 2014. The website also includes full details of each course’s curriculum as well as faculty biographies.

About CAFG
Established in 2011, the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (CAFG) is a business league with a professional membership dedicated to the advancement of forensic genealogy, which is research, analysis, and reporting in cases with legal implications. CAFG promotes high standards of professional and ethical conduct, provides education and training opportunities, and assists in professional development though mentorship, full membership, credentialing, and awarding of fellowships. Learn more at

Anastasia Harman

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My Heritage: progress and minor frustration

Okay, the new tree is going really well for the most part.  My biggest excitement came when I was able to find records for my husband’s great grandmother in Wales and England.  Frustration came quickly after since I have not figured out how to page through the images.  So, where do I begin?  How about with finding new a new document?

Last month I received the death certificate I ordered from the state of New York for Thomas Pittard.
He was my husband’s 2nd great grandfather who immigrated to the US in the early 1880s with his children and 2nd wife.  On it there were clues to who his parents were, which made me giddy beyond all belief.  You see Pittard is a very common name in the area he was from on the border of Wales and England.  Plus, throw in Thomas, which is not a very distinctive name, and you have dozens upon dozens of hits.  However, becasue of the new record now I know that his parents were Thomas Pittard and Elizabeth Palmer and the whole family was born in Martock, Somerset, England.

I know, death certificates cannot be trusted 100% of the time.  Yes, the person may be giving information they think is correct but may be all wrong.  Yep, got it, but I am inclined to believe it for a couple of reasons.  First, they were married in England before coming over and the wife may have known them. Second, the family lore that his 2nd wife and 1st wife were sisters.  If that is correct I am pretty sure she would know their names.

Last week a record hint appeared for the 1851 England Census.  Thomas was born in 1850 which made him 1 on this census.  Lucky for me it looks like I found the family.  Whoot!  He was there with his parents and a slew of siblings.  Plus, an uncle named Thomas Jeans who was 51 and deaf.  I copied the image of the census record below:

Needless to say there are now lots of little clues coming up very frequently.  It is hard to spend only my allotted time working on this (I do have other things I have to get done after all) but it is very nice to come and see actual record hits every time I open the page.  Yes, it is the beginning and in the beginning there are a lot of hits, I wonder how long I can keep building the tree out from these records alone before I have to go to my files.

The thing that I am extremely frustrated about is that I can’t browse the images.  I like to look forward and back from my family of interest to see what else I can learn about the community and to see if there are other potential relatives there.  I still can’t figure out how to do that with the website and it is bugging me.  I mean, the image is awesome, but for good research I need to be able to research and that means looking forward and backwards in the record pages. 

If you know the hint to solving this problem let me know.  I’d really love to hear it!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Congratulations to all the winners!

Last night I received word that my article “Getting You Pointed in the Right Direction" which was published in the “Society Pages” December 2013 edition won an honorable mention from the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors (ISFHWE).  The Society Pages is the regular column I write for the Going In-Depth magazine about lineage societies. 

This is the 2nd honorable mention I have received from the ISFHWE.  Last year I was awarded an honorable mentionfor my article published in the December 2012 issue of Family Tree Magazine titled “Testing The DNA Waters: How to Get Started With Genetic Genealogy And DNA Research.”

I am thrilled to have been recognized by the ISFHWE as there is always stiff competition each year.  Can’t wait to see what happens next year!

Congratulations again to all the winners.  You are amazing writers!

The following announcement was written by the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors (ISFHWE):

The International Society of Family History Writers and Editors is proud to announce the winners of the 2014 Excellence-in-Writing Competition. The winners are:

Category 1 – Columns
1st Place – Shelley K. Bishop “The Legacy of Mary Comfort Eberhard”
2nd Place – Nancy Ann Calhoun “People can ‘flesh out’ genealogy at library”
3rd Place – Maureen K. Wlodarczyk “Precious Paper in the Digital World”
Honorable Mention – Shannon Combs-Bennett “Getting You Pointed in the Right Direction”
Honorable Mention – Michelle Roos Goodrum “Using Social Media to Enrich Stories of the Family Home”
Honorable Mention – Carolyn Schotts “Fading Family Roots”

Category 2 – Articles
1st Place – Schelly Talalay Dardashti “The Other Side of Jewish Genealogy: Learn how to get started exploring your Sephardic roots”
2nd Place – Shelley K. Bishop “Turning Forests into Farms: the George Clark Family of Licking and Delaware Counties, Ohio
3rd Place – Mari Margaret McLean, PhD “Finding Maxa Ann Hadden and Mr. McLean: Serendipity and the Brick Wall”
Honorable Mention – Smiljka Kitanovic “Appreciating Genealogy Angels”
Honorable Mention – Carolyn B. Leonard “Early Settlement Leaves Quiet Legacy”
Honorable Mention – Chip Rowe “Who Was Joel Holcomb of Wallingford, Connecticut”

Category 3 – Genealogy Newsletters
1st Place – Patricia Mansfield Phelan “Irish Family History Forum”
2nd Place – James M. Beidler “Der Kurier” – newsletter of the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society
3rd Place – Kay Waterloo “Goodrich Family Association Quarterly”
Honorable Mention – Carolyn B. Leonard “Dutch Cousins”

Category 4 – Unpublished Authors
1st Place – Shirley McKenzie “Sylvira Said ‘They burned My House’- June 1864, Silver Springs, MS”
2nd Place – Robbi J. Ryan “A Strong Will to Live”

Category 5 – Unpublished Material by Published Authors
1st Place – Rondie Yancey “Murder at the Post Office: One Family’s Tragedy”
2nd Place – Leslie Tichenor Mason “Create a Colorful Picture of Your Ancestors from a Grey Palette of Facts”
3rd Place – Marie Navarro “Fighting on Both Sides of the Alamo”
Honorable Mention – Kenneth R. Castle, PhD “Eden Booth, a Tale of Westward Migration”
Honorable Mention – Sherri Hessick “Al Allan Alton William Wade Wendergren Westman”
Honorable Mention – Barbara Lee “Carolyn 1947-1947 – Hanford Nuclear Site and a Baby’s Death”
Honorable Mention – Chip Rowe “What Happened to Boyd?”
Honorable Mention – Jodie Lynn Strait “William Henry Hunt: An Original Texter”

Category 6 – Poetry
1st Place – Smiljka Kitanovic “River Journey”
2nd Place – Marie Navarro “Another Day, Another Time”
3rd Place – Andrea Ramsey “Young Girl”
Honorable Mention – Kenneth R. Castle, PhD “There Once Was a Man…”
Honorable Mention – Paul K. Graham, CG, AG “Genealogy Standards: A Poem”
Honorable Mention – Nicole Gilkison LaRue “To My Isa…”
Honorable Mention – Darcie Hind Posz, CG “Generations”

Address questions to

Details on the 2015 Competition will be released shortly. The competition will open on 1 October. Details may be obtained on the website at

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fredericksburg, VA Fall Workshop / Consultations

If you are in the Fredericksburg, VA area on October 11 consider coming to this FREE presentation by the Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society. I will be presenting along with Ray Maki and Ann Amadori (Director of the Fredericksburg, VA Family History Center).  

Register early to have a session with a volunteer genealogist to help you with a brick wall question.  See details at the bottom of this post.

It should be a great time as always and I hope to see you there!

Fall Genealogy Program

Helpful Search Techniques
FamilySearch, U.S. Census, and Find My Past


One on one consults with volunteer

Brick Wall Busters*

9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

11 October 2014

Central Rappahannock Regional Library

1201 Caroline Street
Fredericksburg, VA

Sponsored by:

The Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society


The Central Rappahannock Regional Library

* Registration required for one-on-one consultations. Appointments will be scheduled in half hour increments. Please visit the FRGS website for details, email or call 540 621 7732 for an appointment.