Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fall Genealogy Lock-In

Genealogy Lock -In

September 18

6:30-10:30 p.m.

Call 330-722-4257  to register

Join us as the  Medina Library offers an after-hours Genealogy Lock-In, a night where library staff & resources are dedicated to helping you research your family.  Refreshments, door prizes and LOTS of learning opportunities!

This September we will be exploring:
   1.   Slovak Genealogical Research     &
   2.  Writing Your Family History

As more and more people delve into their family history, Lisa and I have been getting many requests for help with Eastern European ancestry. So we will be offering instruction on different ethnicities starting with Slovak genealogy with John Sabol.

Also, many people are overwhelmed at the thought of writing a book about their family history. They don't have to be! In the second session you will learn how You CAN Write Your Family History!

Cosponsored with Medina County Genealogical Society.

Click here to register.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Family Time

Not my family!
Family reunions are a great source of family time. Not associated with holidays or weddings, birthdays or funerals, they provide a more relaxed atmosphere to enjoy your extended family and get the real dirt! I mean... informally interview your relatives.

My family attends two family reunions each summer, the Masons and the Youngs. (I just know that you are s-o-o jealous that I get to research such illustrious, ah-hem, common names.) I love these reunions for a number of reasons:

  1. Seeing relatives that I never get to see otherwise. Many of my Young cousins come from out-of-state for the reunion. Years could go by between visits with them. Some of the older relatives aren't getting around very well anymore and don't go to other family functions. But their children make sure they get to the reunions.
  2. Meeting the "new" relatives. Whether by birth or marriage, every family adds new members all the time. It is nice to have a face to go with the name and dates in my family history database.
  3. Sharing the family stories. You get cousin Danny together with Uncle Charlie and they still come up with stories that I have never heard before!
  4. Good food, mostly cooked from scratch. There was that one year that everyone, me included, stopped at KFC on the way to the reunion...
  5. Fun time! Both reunions have auctions and play Bingo to raise money to fund next year's reunion. Mind you, we are not talking cruise ship or destination family reunions. We need to raise just enough money to pay for the shelter at the local park and maybe for the paper plates and plastic forks.  But we have fun with it. Like when cousin Rosie got into a bidding war with my brother Darrell, who is bald and notoriously cheap. Then she dropped out leaving him holding a gift bag full of shampoo!
There are also some things that I don't like about family reunions: 

  1. Weather that doesn't cooperate. This year, the park where the Mason reunion is held was under water just a week before the reunion. And it rained the day of the reunion. We've had to wear hooded sweatshirts during the Young reunion in August!
Yeh, it is pretty much just the weather.

So how do you make the most of your family reunion?
  1. Bring a camera. Or camera phone. But TAKE PICTURES. At the Young family reunion we take family group shots. These are great for getting all the little ones running around associated with the correct parents etc. I am making flash cards next year with people's faces and names on them! One year, we had a contest to see who could identify the most people in the reunion group photo from the year before! I didn't win...
  2. Videotape family members telling stories. The camera phone is perfect for this. Many people become self-conscious when you start video taping them. But you can record people with your phone without them noticing. (It isn't creepy stalkerish at all. I don't care what my daughters say!)
  3. Bring note paper to take notes. Being the genealogy geek that I am, I also bring family group and ancestor charts to fill out.
  4. Bring a reunion scrapbook. People love looking at photos of past reunions. It is particularly touching to see the photos of the family members who have died. I also have a scrapbook of the military history of my family. I get yelled at if I forget to bring it.
  5. Be prepared to share what you know about the family. Share photos. Share the history. A couple of years ago, I printed up a small booklet that told about the Young family history. I kept it short and hopefully funny. I still hear from cousins about it. Sometimes, corrections, but mostly its, "I didn't know that!"
  6. HAVE FUN! That way, you and everyone else will want to come back!
Do you have any family reunion stories you would like to share?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nature vs. Nurture

To request this book, click on the title,
above right.

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: a Black Woman Discovers Her Family's Nazi Past  by Jennifer Teege.

At the age of 38, Jennifer Teege discovered that her grandfather was the commandant of the Polish concentration camp depicted in the movie, Schindler's List. She struggles to deal with the knowledge that her grandfather perpetrated genocide and that her loving grandmother was a complicit witness to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Adopted at a young age, Jennifer was ignorant of her German family's role in World War II. After her discovery, she tracks down her birth mother to discuss the past. After her discussion with her mother and after much research, she realizes that all the children of the Nazis are stuck in the past, either trying to glorify, exonerate, or vilify their fathers' roles in the atrocities. Some go so far as to choose sterilization so that they won't pass on the "monster"gene. Jennifer feels this is wrong. This faulty thinking perpetuates the Nazi tenant that our genes determine our lives.

This dichotomy is something that all genealogists struggle with on a much smaller scale. We love researching our ancestors; uncovering, and sometimes, glorifying their lives. But how much does our genetic heritage effect our daily lives?  

Do the achievements, failures or horrors that our ancestors accomplished confer any special glow or tarnish to us, their descendants?

One of my ancestors, Samuel Tanner, was a West Virginia pioneer, pushing into uninhabited (by Europeans) territory, living in a cave with his family and earning his living by scouting for the government and hunting. His grandson, James Tanner, worked for the railroad and moved every two years. His grandson, my grandfather, John Mason was a long-distance trucker, crisscrossing the country with his loads. He also moved frequently. My sister is also a wanderer, preferring to move and change jobs frequently. Through genealogical research we have discovered a fifth cousin once removed who also exhibits this restless tendency. 

Is this a gene at work? Or is it merely an inclination that any individual might succumb to? Is it only seen as a family trait because of knowledge of the family history?

Personally, I have decided that there are family inclinations that are passed down from generation to generation, just as a recipe is passed down. But it is not predetermined by our genes.

After all, as Dumbledore tells Harry Potter...

"It is the choices we make, Harry, that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities."

As for Jennifer Teege, what does she decide? You'll have to read the book to find out!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Pet Peeves

What would a blog be, if the blogger didn't occasionally gripe about their pet peeves?

Okay, maybe it would be a happier blog. But what if the griping could improve your research experience??  That would make it worth it, right?

So take a look at the following list of genealogy librarian's pet peeves and make sure you NEVER commit any of these blunders!

Genealogy Librarian's Pet Peeves

  • Misspelling G-E-N-E-A-L-O-G-Y. It is not geneology or geneaology. It is genealogy. If you are going to do it, learn how to spell it. Or use "family history research" instead.
  • While we are on spelling... C-E-M-E-T-E-R-Y not cemetary. I have to admit that I used to misspell this one regularly until a friend kindly corrected me. Thank-you Anne!
  • Advertisements to buy your family crest or your family history.  A family doesn't have a crest.
    Not meant to be representative
     of  fake family crests.
    An individual is granted the right to use a crest. It may or may not be inherited. The purchased family histories usually consist of a phone directory of everyone with your surname and some generic history.
  • The myth: Our name was changed at Ellis Island. No. It wasn't. Immigrants had papers from their home country that they carried with them. Ellis Island had interpreters. Think about it. The place was full of people who spoke foreign languages, some of whom also spoke English. However, many immigrants chose to change their name later, to blend in and be more "American."
  • "It has to be online!"People who believe the Internet has all the family history information they need. Even when the archive's web site says you have to visit the building or tells how to order the paper copy. I have had members argue with me on this one. 
  • People who want "everything on my Smith family". Really? You want everything on the Smith family? Are you willing to pay for that? A proper request  identifies a specific family, time period, and place. Example: Jeremiah Smith who lived from 1840-1898 in Litchfield, Medina County, Ohio.
  • People who don't understand that not everything is digitized. Digitization costs time and money, both of which are in short supply in libraries. Yes, we would love to digitize our local paper and yearbooks. But we don't have the time or money.
  • People who believe everything they find online is true. Or even everything in print is true. Caveat Emptor! Just like everything else in life, you have to look at genealogy information with a critical eye. Evaluate the source.
  • No, the library does not have your house history or house blueprints on file.
  • Online genealogy without any source citation. Some of my favorite web sites have this problem. Someone posts the wrong information. It gets picked up and repeated by everyone else. Yet no one knows how it got started, because it wasn't cited.
  • I won't name any names, but I detest big commercial genealogy databases that talk individuals into voluntarily uploading all their genealogy data and then that same company selling subscriptions to that information. 
  • People who fervently believe they are related to someone famous or have Native American ancestry and resist all factual information that doesn't agree with their illusion.
  • People who won't ask for help when it is obvious that they need it. Here some one needed help with our microfilm machine. Now there is a roll of microfilm with a jagged edge somewhere in the 1000s of rolls of film that the library owns. 

Ok. I will step off of my soap box now...