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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Press Release: NGS Ticketed Event Registration Ends April 22nd

Registration for the NGS Conferenceand All Ticketed EventsCloses 22 April 2014

Arlington, va, 16 APRIL 2014: Have you registered for the NGS Family History Conference in Richmond? The deadline for pre-conference registration is 22 April 2014. Registration will be available on-site beginning at 12:00 noon, 6 May 2014, in the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

Registration for all meals, social events, and workshops closes on 22 April 2014. No ticket purchases will be available on-site at the conference for meals, social events, or workshops. Likewise, registration for Librarians’ Day also closes on 22 April 2014. For conference information and to register, go to

Breakfast, Luncheons, and the NGS Banquet
Participating organizations sponsor several luncheons during the conference. Seats are still available for several of the luncheons, the NGS First-Timers Breakfast, and the NGS Banquet. Make your reservations now at The NGS First-Timers Breakfast is $24, luncheons are $32, and the banquet is $51. Menus are in the registration brochure at

Live Streaming
If you are unable to attend the NGS 2014 Family History Conference, ten lectures featuring some of the most popular topics and nationally known speakers will be available to you via live streaming.  Details about viewing the live streaming program and the costs can be found at Registration for the live streaming program closes on 30 April 2014.

Society Night
On Wednesday evening 7 May 2014, many Virginia genealogical and historical societies will be available in the Richmond Marriott from5:15 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. to answer questions about local repositories and resources, discuss their group’s activities, and sell their publications.

Richmond Area Tours
There are a few seats left on the historical tours prior to the NGS 2014 Family History Conference through Richmond Discoveries’ Tours onTuesday, 6 May 2014. To register go to  The password is NGS2014 and is case sensitive.

Add Items to an Existing Registration
To add meals to your current registration, log on at, click on My Account, select My Events, and then click to Add Sessions. To add pre-conference events, click on My Account and then select Upcoming Events.

You really don’t want to miss this year’s exciting conference program from 7–10 May at the Greater Richmond Convention Center and Richmond Marriott.

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.  Please visit the NGS Pressroom for further information.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NGS: Are you ready to research at the Library of Virginia?

View of Downtown Richmond over the falls of the James,
taken from the Manchester Floodwall. By Morgan Riley
Whew!  We are in the final countdown to the NGS conference and I am growing more excited each day.  My next few posts are going to be focused on repositories in the city and my tips, hints, and tricks to navigating them.  Trust me, all locals know something that you aren’t going to learn about anywhere else!

Today, I want to talk about the Library of Virginia (LVA) of course.  Who doesn’t want to visit the library while they are in Richmond?  If you said yes it is only because you don’t know the amazing stuff you can find there!  Most importantly, make sure you do some pre-research.  The website for the LVA can be a bit confusing, but here are some things to keep in mind while hunting around on there.

For anyone who wants to do research at LVA, please be aware you will have to get a library card.  Without it you cannot request books or make copies (more on these below).  I suggest you read and understand the Library of Virginia Visitors Guide and Library Cards and Circulation Procedures before you come.  The visitors guide gives you a great general overview of the library, where it is, and its services.  However, pay particular attention to the one on library cards.

In state residents may request a library card via mail or email, but be sure to leave 2 weeks for processing.  Out of state residents must do it in person, and in state resident can choose this option too.  Thankfully you can prefill out your application and bring it along with ID to the circulation desk.  Virginia residents must provide proof of residency.  These cards are for people 18 and older, so if you have a child coming with you to do research they will need a parental permission form filled out as well if they want their own card.  Note: if you lose your card there is a $5 replacement fee.

While you are at LVA I am sure you will want to make copies and here are a few things to keep in mind.  Like I mentioned above, you will need a library card to do this, even if you are going to copy it to a thumb drive! Unless they are bringing in more copiers for NGS, expect long lines.  There are only a handful in the library and 2 book scanners.  You can put money on your library card for copies ($0.25 per copy) but note that the machine which puts money on your card will only take Visa or Mastercard and NOT debit cards.  Yeah, that threw me the first time when it wouldn’t take my bank card. 

The search box on the home page is your friend!  Type in your keywords here to pull up information on collections, records, and finding aids.  When you type in GENEALOGY your results will be full of finding aids and articles about genealogical research there.  One article of note is Published Materials for Genealogists.  Make sure you read this, you will thank me later!

Search the LVA catalog is a link under the “For The Public” section.  This is the LVA catalog.  Search it from the comfort of your own home, the terminals at the library, or over the library Wi-Fi when you get there from the LVA page.  Via keyword search you can look for books, records, manuscripts, images, and more.

When you receive results from your searches take note of the format and location for each item.  This will be important when you arrive on site, particularly the location.  Much of the LVA collection is not accessible by the public.  Unless it tells you which reading room, or section of the 2nd floor the item is located, you will need to request the item. This will take a library card.

The books you will need to request will be labeled as located in the “Closed Stacks.”  This is upstairs only accessible to staff.  If you would like to look at a book from the closed stacks you will need to request the book, or books, from one of the two reference desks.  The librarians will send the request upstairs, and depending on how busy the library is, you will have a 10+ minute wait.  How do you know your books are ready to be picked up?  Glad you asked!  There are TV screens around the 2nd floor that show the queue for requested books.  When your books are ready, your name will appear, and you can go to the circulation desk to pick them up. 

You may check out 15 books at one time and you must present your library card to pick up the materials.  Out of state residents may only look at books in the library, but in-state residents will actually have circulating books check out to them for 28 days at the time of pick up.  Just return them to the circulation desk when you are finished.

If your item is a manuscript in the “Archives and Manuscript Room” you will need to go there and request the time from the archivist on duty.  The item may not leave that room, so be prepared to stay.  You can read about the policies for the archives and map research rooms in this PDF from the LVA website.

Microfilm and Microfiche are located on the west side of the library next to the archives reference desk. There are banks and banks of film.  They are very well labeled and the staff is always friendly so don’t be afraid to ask for help.  They have about 30 readers and you will have to register to use one (clock in and clock out).  The readers are digital thankfully so no hand cranking!  You can record images directly to a thumb drive on these as well.

Finding a listing for “Online Material” however is very good.  That is information you can research at home and not have to worry about doing it there.  By simply clicking on the title link for the item it will take you to its details page.  This page contains the link to viewing the image online.

Virginia Memory is an online collection of digital images you should check out before you get to Richmond.  Not only are there some amazing exhibits and historical items there, but A LOT of useful ones too.  This would be a blog post by itself, but here are a few collections you might find interesting:
·         Broadside collection
·         Chancery records
·         Civil War map project
·         Cohabitation registers
·         Confederate Pension Rolls
·         Dunmore’s War Payroll/Claims
·         Legislative Petitions
·         And so on….

If you need a break or a quick snack, there is a small cafĂ© on the first floor.  The food always smells so good when you are upstairs, it really is unfair at times.  Also, the Virginia Shop is on the west side of the main entrance to the library.  Here you can pick up some great Virginia specific publications (and others) that the LVA has produced.  Check them out online too so you don’t have to cart a whole bunch of stuff home!

Like I said, there is a lot to do there, and a lot you can do at home to prepare for your trip!  I would start now if I was you.  Good luck!

Map to the 2nd floor of the Library of Virginia.
Floor plans are available at the library from the 1st floor information desk.

Monday, April 7, 2014

NGS: Volunteer opportunities for you and the youth in your life

One of the best ways that you can support the genealogical community is through volunteering. Volunteering my time, energy, and know how is something I love to do and I know many of you do too.  Often I am accused of giving too much, and I am sure many of you can relate to that statement.  However, NGS needs us this May, so I am going to ignore those little birdies and raise my hand anyway. 

In fact, do you have a responsible teenager who is an aspiring genealogist?  If so they can volunteer too!  The conference is looking for teenagers who would be willing to stuff bags on Monday morning, work registration, or be room monitors.  This would be a great way for them to get a feel for the community and not feel awkward since they are helping out and staying busy.

I was sent the following information about volunteering at NGS in May.  Hopefully you see something on here that catches your attention and will make you want to assist in the event!  I will see you there since I am off to volunteer right now.  Read all about volunteering below or check out the Virginia Genealogical Society website for further information.


Call for Volunteers
NGS 2014 Family History Conference
Virginia: The First Frontier
5-10 May in Richmond

Sign up today to volunteer for the National Genealogical Society 2014 Family History Conference held 7-10 May 2014. Anyone volunteering for this conference will be given training on Monday, 5 May 2014. You will work at the Greater Richmond Convention Center (405 North 3rd Street) or the Richmond Marriott (500 East Broad St.).

Sign up for a morning or afternoon or for the whole week in Richmond at the NGS 2014 Family History Conference. It’s easy to sign up.

Go to to read more. There you can pick your job and indicate your interest to be a 2014 NGS volunteer. First come, first served.

If you have questions, contact Don Moore at

See you all at the conference in May!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Packing List: NGS 2014

In just over a month NGS will be held in Richmond, Virginia.  I just can’t express how excited I am to attend my second large conference and be able to come home at night to sleep in my own bed.  Ah, the luxury!

As the perpetual planner and itinerary maker a month is just about perfect to start my packing lists.  Yes, lists.  There are always more than one and sometimes I even have to organize those.  Does that make me overly efficient or slightly loony?  

The one main difference about this conference is that I won’t have to worry about competing for the copiers at the library.  I am there to enjoy the conference, and I can come back another time to do the research.  Lucky me huh?  However, I have a feeling that I will be still be found lurking around the library helping out of town/state friends.

Unfortunately I will be solo this time around.  Well, except for Saturday.  My kids will be attending the NGS Youth Camp on Saturday and are very excited about it.  Even more so when they learned that mom doesn’t have to stick around.  It’s like I have the plague or something.  I included a Saturday packing list for them too. 

I have spent the last few hours trying to figure out how much I should stuff into my bag.  Over packing, um excuse me, being prepared, is the key.  So…let’s dive into what I think I should bring.  I will rely on you all to tell me if I am being a little too ambitious or to let me know if I forgot something.  Of course, you all could just see if I can pull this packing list off and then laugh at me when I look like a human pack mule.

General Needs:
Sturdy large bag: Bigger than a purse but smaller than a duffel bag is what I like to bring.  Something sturdy enough to put shopping in as well as carry everything I think I will need to have a happy conference.  I also bring a smaller bag that it squishy and can be used as an extra bag in a pinch.

Comfy shoes:  I am all for being stylish but now that I have entered the world of foot problem sufferers I can appreciate comfortable footwear.  Some sort of comfy loafer or sneakers will be in my bag for the trip. 

Layers: Dressing in layers is always a must.  While the weather maybe confused outside (Richmond could be anywhere from 50-80 degrees in May) you can bet that there will be at least one room that is a freezer inside the conference.  A light sweater or jacket will be with me. Preferably one that can be tied around the waist or squished into a bag.

Snacks: Having a few snacks on hand when you can’t get out for a real meal is a must have. Protein bar, some nuts, a piece of fruit, or anything that will give a boost of energy, but is small, is great to have.  I also tend to carry some hard candy or gum just in case I need it after lunch. 

Water:  While my morning caffeine is critical I carry a water bottle with me everywhere.  Now that you can get bottles with built in filters I will have one of these in my bag as well.  I can have water with me at any time and no worries about where the recycling bin is.

Electronics: Cords, cables, iPod, head phones, chargers, and etc.  A techie girl has to have her gadgets in tow!

First-aid kit: Can you tell that I am a mom.  My mobile band-aid station goes with me everywhere.  Bandages, tums, pain killers, hand sanitizer, and a small sewing kit.  It’s just one of those things that is always in my purse.

Conference Needs:
Schedule:  I have already analyzed the conference schedule that I picked up from my local society meeting months ago.  However, my organization streak has not stopped there because now I am transferring all that information to the app.  The mobile conference app is awesome and I am loving it!  I will have as much of my time planed out and arranged as possible before I get there, even if there are several blocks where I have multiple classes scheduled. 

Business Cards:  Make your own or take advantage of the various cheap business card makers out there.  You can hand them out to new friends or old friends.  Put them in door prize drawing boxes.  Or anything else you can think of.  My favorite printer is but I hear Vista Print is good too.

iPad: Do I need to say more?

Notebook/Binder:  Yes, sometimes old fashioned paper and a notebook/binder is the answer.  I can keep important papers, contact numbers, itineraries, maps, and what not in one place. Plus, sometimes passing notes to friends is an actual thing.  Not everyone has text messaging believe it or not.

Writing tools: Stylus for the iPad, pens, pencils, highlighters, colored pencils, you name it I will have at least one of it on me for making the written word happen. 

Mailing labels:  I use filled out mailing labels to save my hands and time in filling out things at conferences.   They can be used to label your handouts, enter a contest, in a pinch as a business card, and many other things.  It would surprise you what you can use a mailing label for.  I put my full contact information on it as well as my social media contacts. 
Research Needs (I may give into the temptation):
Laptop:  I am trying to decide if I can do just the iPad or if I should bring my laptop too.  Something to think about…

Thumb drives: For those lucky times when you can copy files directly onto drives instead of having to cart loads of paper home.  Many of the research facilities around Richmond will let you copy directly to thumb drives.  The microfilm readers and copy machines at the Library of Virginia do this.

Folders: For those papers that I pick up.  I can keep them separate by topic, family, or whatever I need.

Cash: for the copy cards in case I really do need to make photocopies and I can’t use my thumb drive.

Camera: I never go anywhere, particularly a research opportunity, without my camera.  Included in my bag are the cords to transfer images, extra batteries, and camera lens cleaner.  

Kids Day Packing List:
Notebook and pen: No, they do not have tablets.  Bad mom I know, but paper and pen will be just fine.

If lost return tag: Yes, I label the inside their stuff when we go to large places.  My cell phone and email will taped, tacked, or tied to all their belongings. 

Water bottle: Hydration is important!

Small snack: An energy boost for them if they get cranky or need something before we can actually sit down for a meal. 

Notebook with printouts: The oldest will get to carry the notebook with the maps, itinerary, and how to find mom stuff.  The youngest is responsible for making sure the oldest doesn’t lose it.  Between the two we should be good to go.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Publication of my first book

I am very excited to announce the publication of my first book.  The first of many I hope!



An In-Depth Guide to Richmond Virginia book release announced by The In-Depth Genealogist

March 30, 2014; Utica, OH:

This Guide to Richmond, Virginia was created in honor of The National Genealogical Society’s 2014 Family History Conference "Virginia: The First Frontier" held May 7-10, 2014.  Within the guide, Shannon Combs-Bennett shares her familiarity with Richmond and the surrounding area to assist genealogists and family in making their trip an enjoyable one.

The book includes: a Packing Checklist, Downtown Richmond City Safety Guide, Public Transportation, Shopping (ATM’s & Banks, Convenience Stores, Restaurants), Richmond Area Genealogy and other Attractions, and Genealogy and other Attractions that are short Day –Trips (within 2 hours drive) of Richmond.

The book is being offered as a PDF for just $4.99 or get a paperback version that is black & white 8.5” x 11” for $9.99.  Simply go to to get your copy!

For more information, please contact Terri O’Connell


Terri O'Connell
Executive Director

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Youth Workshop at NGS Richmond

NGS in Richmond is just around the corner, and boy am I and my kids really excited about it.  Yep, they will be attending their 2nd national conference with me.  Well, just for the Saturday Youth Workshop this time and not the whole shebang.  Unfortunately May is statewide testing for Virginia which means no missing school to attend an awesome event with your mom.

Did you know that there is a youth workshop planned?  How about a student rate of $50 for the conference?  Well… there are!  The Saturday program sounds amazing and I know my kids have already said it looks good to them too.  However, that may because it is a chance to hang out with other kids and not their mom.  You know how embarrassing moms can be right?

It is a free event to those who sign up before April 22nd.  Space is limited though so make sure that you sign up soon!  Still need more information?  The schedule was released on the website and I copied parts of it below.  You can see the full schedule here along with who you should contact about signing up your kids, grand-kids, nieces, nephews, or other youth in your life.

10 May 2014 Youth Workshop Program:

8:15 a.m. Check-in
8:30 a.m. Welcome and brief family history video.
8:50 a.m. Learn about the Rubincam Youth Award. Details can be found here
9:00 a.m. Scout leaders briefly explain the Genealogy Badge
9:30 a.m. Attend lecture, “Tools to Help You Share Family Stories” by Tammy A. Hepps, owner of Treelines.
10:30 a.m. Visit the Exhibit Hall with more than 100 vendors including subscription genealogy database providers, software developers, booksellers, genealogy societies, genetic testing, and much more.
11:00 a.m. Exhibitors and FamilySearch will provide computers and assistance in exploring their family history research data bases.
12:00 p.m. End of program

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Free Lecture Series This Saturday in Fredericksburg, VA

This is a friendly reminder that if you are in the area the Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society and the Central Rappahannock Regional Library will be hosting 2 lectures this Saturday.  Hope to see you there!

Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society
Spring Lecture Series
In Conjunction with the Central Rappahannock Regional Library

Come join us and learn how to collect and share your family stories!

Photo by Susan Larson

Fredericksburg, VA 22401
 Saturday March 22, 2014

 Lectures will be held in the Auditorium 
 of the CRRL
 1201 Caroline Street

Doors open at 8:30 am
Program is from 9 am – 1 pm
Light refreshments will be provided by FRGS

For more information please call the CRRL at 540-372-1144 
Or email FRGS at |

Lecture 1: Writing Genealogy: Using the Elements of Narrative to Tell Your Family's Story
Genealogy is more than just names and dates in a lineage-linked database or on a pedigree chart . . . it's about people, places, and events in historical context. The building blocks of genealogy are similar to the narrative elements that writers use to craft memorable stories: character, plot, setting, and motivation. Learn how to make your family's story unforgettable!

Presenter: Madaleine J. Laird
Madaleine spent last summer pulling records at the National Archives for the Genealogy Roadshow research team. She serves as copy editor for Casefile Clues, an electronic publication written by Michael John Neill. She has attended Samford University's Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research several times, even earning her survival badge for the Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis course taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills. In 2012 Madaleine was awarded the Kansas Historical Society's Edward N. Tihen Historical Research Grant. She used the funds to record 360 names inscribed on a quilt in the Society's Kansas Memory collection.

Lecture 2: Gathering Family Stories: Conducting an Interview
Documents and records only tell part of the family story.  Family members can tell the rest of the story that is not in the documents and records.  What is the best method to obtain that information and what should be done with it once it has been gathered?

Presenter: Charles S. “Chuck” Mason, Jr., CG

Charles S. “Chuck” Mason, Jr. is a Certified Genealogist, specializing in Southern New Jersey and 19th and 20th Century Death Records.  He is a Past President of both the Fairfax and the Mount Vernon Genealogical Societies and the NIGR Alumni Association.  Chuck is a grader for the National Genealogical Society's home study course and serves as the NGS Awards Chair.  In addition to his many volunteer activities, he teaches genealogy classes for the Fairfax County Parks and Recreation. Chuck is a co-host of Tracing Your Family Roots at Fairfax Cable Television Channel 10.  Rebroadcasts of the show can be viewed at their website at