Monday, 11 November 2013
Saturday, 20 April 2013
After today's conference sessions hosted by the Alberta Genealogical Society, I have to say that it was well-worth the time and investment to attend. I have a feeling that by tomorrow afternoon, I'll be exhausted! It was great to see people with a full spectrum of abilities and interests. There were complete beginners, all the way to advanced professionals and with research interests spanning every corner of the world!
The morning started off with a plenary session presented by Stephen Young who came from Utah to talk about the new changes to the FamilySearch website in a talk titled Family Search: Genealogy at Your Fingertips. The Family Search collection already contains several billion records and Stephen showed us how much of the site's content, including what one must usually pay for to access in other repositories, is available for free in Family Search. According to him, ~1.3 million records are being added daily--which is an amazing feat by anyone's standard--especially considering that a lot of this work is being done by volunteers. After his plenary speech, I was left with a new-found appreciation for Family Search.
I had the opportunity to meet Dave Obee and attend two of his presentations. The first one was titled Mythbusters - Challenging Some Common Beliefs, which addressed common misconceptions such as name spellings and their pronunciations over long periods of time. The final session of the day was the 7 Habits of Highly Successful Genealogists. By that session, the final one of the day for me, I was getting pretty worn out and had trouble focusing on what he was discussing, but thankfully, I have the talk recorded and can listen to it once life settles down a little.
I recorded almost all of the sessions I attended and will make available shortly, as long as I can secure permission from the presenters .
Pat Ryan headed up a session titled EXTRA! EXTRA! Family Secrets Exposed in Newspapers! Pat offered great explanations of the vast quantities of family history which can be obtained through reading through old newspapers of yonder. They aren't only useful to find an obituary or birth/marriage notice, but to also get an idea about how our ancestor's lived and what they were doing both personally and as a society, at the time. Since many of these older papers covered much smaller territories and populations than they do today, much of the content also focused on more positive aspects of current affairs (such as who was visiting whom or who recently returned from a tour of duty during the "war-du-jour"), rather then the negative (unless there really was something remarkable that happened, such as a robbery or a murder to report).
"La crème de la crème" of the day (for me) was the Flip Pal scanner I was finally able to acquire. Now that I have it and am using it, I'm quickly discovering how powerful it really is for scanning older books or documents which you would never be allowed to scan or copy otherwise. According to several people whom I spoke with at the conference, its portability and ability to scan without a computer attached to it make it the ideal tool to bring along to research trips and libraries.
The supper banquet was delicious and tremendously enjoyed. It gave people an opportunity to get to know each other better, to network and discover others with similar research interests. The entertainment of the evening was hosted by Louise Cooke who hosted a Genealogy Game Show using Google Earth to demonstrate to those of us whom didn't sign up for her classes how great a tool it can be for presenting family histories. As for myself, I ended up buying some of her books online because I think that it's such a wonderful way of creating a visual presentation of a family's activities and movements throughout time.
Sadly, I was too wiped out to attend Sunday's events, but I'm sure that a great time was had by all and that the planned sessions were just as good. I hope that Edmonton also hosts this event next year and if so, I definitely plan on being a part of it.
Monday, 15 April 2013
ACanadianFamily.com is a site operated by Evelyn Theriault, which is overflowing with genealogical information of interest to anyone researching French Canadian, Acadian, eastern Native American and certain select Europeean roots, such as the DaSilva line originating in Portugal.
Evelyn has put in tremendous effort and energy into her blog over the years to both research into her own family, as well as generously assist her readers in finding answers to their own brick walls.
A few months ago, I was quite upset when I went to her site only to discover that her URL (acanadianfamily.com) had lapsed and Evelyn's site was nowhere to be found. With a little digging, I found that her site was originally hosted on wordpress.com, but my attempt at accessing it was in vain.
I wrote an email to Evelyn out of concern and asked her if there was anyway I could help; after all, if it weren't for her, several of my own family-lines-in-progress wouldn't be anywhere near where they are now. She answered back, telling me that for personal reasons, she didn't have time or energy to dedicate to her blog at this time and felt that because of this, she didn't think her site was worth maintaining.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? Of all the personal genealogy blogs I've read, hers was the most valuable I've ever discovered! I'm sad that she is going through a rough time and I know how life continually sends us curve-balls (heck, I'm the queen of curve-balls). I hope that despite this, she realises the value in her contributions to the genealogical community-at-large and even if she were to never post again, I hope she understands that as long as what she has already created is available to the online public, she will continue to render a huge service to those of us researching our families with roots in Quebec and Acadia (among many others).
For those wanting find the contents of A Canadian Family (formerly acanadianfamily.com), its archives (and hopefully, future posts) can be viewed at http://acanadianfamily.wordpress.com/. It seems that the original domain has already been purchased, but since it is merely parked and still no-longer associated with Evelyn's site, my guess is that it was snatched up by a third party. This is why I highly encourage you to update your bookmarks and feed readers to her address at WordPress.com.
Chin up, Evelyn--take the time you need in order to rest up and when you are ready, we will still be here to hear about your latest discovery. If you've burned-out and wish to set your writing aside for a while, remember that there will always be people searching for genealogical gold nuggets, so let's make sure they can be found.
Sunday, 31 March 2013
I was aimlessly surfing around on the Internet yesterday when I came across a site listing what was planned in terms of genealogy conferences in North America this year. Given issues with my disability, I wasn't expecting to find anything that I could actually attend; I'd have to bring a mini rehab-centre to go anywhere that requiresan overnight stay. Imagine my double-take when I quickly scrolled by the letters AB (abbreviation for Alberta) and discovered that not only is there a large conference coming up, but that it's hosted in my very own city of Edmonton!
I quickly clicked on the appropriate links and discovered that it's happening near the end of April at a hotel I can easily access! From what I've been able to find out, the Alberta Genealogical Society's annual conference apparently has the reputation of being the best genealogical conference in Canada.
This is my first genealogy conference and I can't wait! In my early genealogy years, I was living in Egypt, then Saudi Arabia; hardly places known for hosting massive genealogy conventions. This one isn't in Salt-Lake City but for now, I'll take anything I can access! The opportunity to meet other fellow genealogy aficionados along with the chance to network with each other is an opportunity I rarely get and I plan on taking full advantage of what this event has to offer.
This year's speaker line-up include David Obee, Stephen Young, Lyn Meehan, Deanna Bullock, among several others. The list of topics are diverse and not focused uniquely on people researching families whom now live in the prairie provinces. This is wonderful for someone as myself, who usually focuses on Acadian and French-Canadian genealogy; areas that originate more towards Eastern and part of Central Canada.
I'm hoping that the fact that since I have my own portable seating arrangement and improvised desk (my wheelchair and its tray), that those sorting out the individual schedules can see this as my not needing to take up someone else's spot. From what I can see on the conference webpage, they've been taking registrations since early-on in the year, meaning my friend and I are latecomers; which is why I pray I can get into my lectures of choice.
These are the sessions I'm hoping to attend:
- Mythbusters - Challenging Some Common Beliefs with David Obee
"Many family historians have been lead astray because of common misconceptions. This talk tackles some of those beliefs, with examples of why they are not always correct."
- EXTRA! EXTRA! Family Secrets Exposed in Newspapers with Pat Ryan
"Thousands of historical newspapers are online, some free, some not. All are chock full of family history you may never find anywhere else, once you learn how to find them."
- 7 Habits of Highly Successful Genealogists with David Obee
"It doesn't matter where you are researching, certain practices will help increase your chances of success -- and the quality of the information that you collect. Keep these seven points in mind as you work, and you will be less likely to be led astray."
- Country Cousins: Ancestors on the Land with Lyn Meehan
"Many genealogists discover ancestors who were homesteaders, stockmen, laborers or tradesman living and working in the countryside. Exploring rural ancestors and the world in which they lived requires pinpointing small communities and legal land descriptions. Join Lyn as she shows you how to combine federal, provincial and municipal records to trace your kinfolk."
- Cobblestone Genealogy: Venturing Off the Paper Trail with Lyn Meehan
"Finding your ancestors in census and vital records lays the cornerstones for building your family history. But what if the trail stops there with little or no conventional records researchers hope to find ? Learn as we step off the paper trail and onto the street, looking for signposts you won’t find in books or files."
- Family Histories / Family Stories with Vernon R. Wishart
This presentation will speak on what is involved in drawing from our family history, family stories which can be treasured and passed on to children and grandchildren The presenter will use as an example his own family stories enticed from his genealogy.
If you happen to live around Edmonton and are interested in attending this conference as a way of learning a new hobby or to expand your pool of proverbial knowledge, details are available by clicking the conference tab on the AGS webpage or downloading their pdf file which contains all the necessary details, including the registration form. I hope to see you there!
Sunday, 10 March 2013
I'm happy to say that I was able to draft many personal and family stories which I feel will be worth sharing with others. This is also, I'm afraid to say, why you didn't hear much from me in February. Between the challenge, my genealogy courses, my children and being rather ill, I didn't have much time for anything else.
Instead of a word count, my goal was to write out a family story every day. Did I accomplish this? For the most part, yes. There were days when I was unable to put finger-to-keyboard and nothing came of it, but I'm proud to say that I have about 20 family stories and personal memories which, with a little editing, will be ready to share with my family and anyone else interested in reading them. I hope to start sharing them with you shortly!
What about you? How did you do during February's Family History Writing Challenge? Share your story in the comments below, or write your own blog post and leave the link in the comments. Did you miss this year's challenge? Subscribe via email or add this link to your favourite feed reader, in order to be notified when new posts become available , including next year's Family History Writing Challenge!
I will share my best family history stories with you throughout the year, including the story of how both my parents were born at the same place and at the same time, but never met until 20 years later in a city four hours away. Stay tuned!
I will share my best family history stories with you throughout the year, including the story of how both my parents were born at the same place and at the same time, but never met until 20 years later in a city four hours away. Stay tuned!
Thursday, 7 February 2013
Here is a reminder about how we, in the Western Nations, take our history and past for granted. To those who consider genealogy as a mere "hobby," read the following article, then reflect on the vast amount of history, including stories and family histories were burned, or invariably saved by an old illiterate man who knew that the past is the key to our future.
TIMBUKTU, Mali (AP) — For eight days after the Islamists set fire to one of the world's most precious collections of ancient manuscripts, the alarm inside the building blared. It was an eerie, repetitive beeping, a cry from the innards of the injured library that echoed around the world.
The al-Qaida-linked extremists who ransacked the institute wanted to deal a final blow to Mali, whose northern half they had held for 10 months before retreating in the face of a French-led military advance. They also wanted to deal a blow to the world, especially France, whose capital houses the headquarters of UNESCO, the organization which recognized and elevated Timbuktu's monuments to its list of World Heritage sites.
So as they left, they torched the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research, aiming to destroy a heritage of 30,000 manuscripts that date back to the 13th century.
"These manuscripts are our identity," said Abdoulaye Cisse, the library's acting director. "It's through these manuscripts that we have been able to reconstruct our own history, the history of Africa. People think that our history is only oral, not written. What proves that we had a written history are these documents."
The first people who spotted the column of black smoke on Jan. 23 were the residents whose homes surround the library, and they ran to tell the center's employees. The bookbinders, manuscript restorers and security guards who work for the institute broke down and cried.
Just about the only person who didn't was Cisse, the acting director, who for months had harbored a secret. Starting last year, he and a handful of associates had conspired to save the documents so crucial to this 1,000-year-old town.
In April, when the rebels preaching a radical version of Islam first rolled into this city swirling with sand, the institute was in the process of moving its collection into a new, state-of-the-art building. The fighters commandeered the new center, turning it into a dormitory for one of their units of foreign fighters, Cisse said. They didn't realize only about 2,000 manuscripts had been moved there, the bulk of the collection remaining at the old library, he said.
The Islamists came in, as they did in Afghanistan, with their own, severe interpretation of Islam, intent on rooting out what they saw as the veneration of idols instead of the pure worship of Allah. During their 10-month-rule, they eviscerated much of the identity of this storied city, starting with the mausoleums of their saints, which were reduced to rubble.
The turbaned fighters made women hide their faces and blotted out their images on billboards. They closed hair salons, banned makeup and forbade the music for which Mali is known.
Their final act before leaving was to go through the exhibition room in the institute, as well as the whitewashed laboratory used to restore the age-old parchments. They grabbed the books they found and burned them.
However, they didn't bother searching the old building, where an elderly man named Abba Alhadi has spent 40 of his 72 years on earth taking care of rare manuscripts. The illiterate old man, who walks with a cane and looks like a character from the Bible, was the perfect foil for the Islamists. They wrongly assumed that the city's European-educated elite would be the ones trying to save the manuscripts, he said.
So last August, Alhadi began stuffing the thousands of books into empty rice and millet sacks.
At night, he loaded the millet sacks onto the type of trolley used to cart boxes of vegetables to the market. He pushed them across town and piled them into a lorry and onto the backs of motorcycles, which drove them to the banks of the Niger River.
From there, they floated down to the central Malian town of Mopti in a pinasse, a narrow, canoe-like boat. Then cars drove them from Mopti, the first government-controlled town, to Mali's capital, Bamako, over 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from here.
"I have spent my life protecting these manuscripts. This has been my life's work. And I had to come to terms with the fact that I could no longer protect them here," said Alhadi. "It hurt me deeply to see them go, but I took strength knowing that they were being sent to a safe place."
It took two weeks in all to spirit out the bulk of the collection, around 28,000 texts housed in the old building covering the subjects of theology, astronomy, geography and more.
There was nothing they could do, however, for the 2,000 documents that had already been transferred to the new library, to its exhibition and restoration rooms, and to a basement vault. Cisse took solace knowing that most of the texts in the new library had been digitized.
Even so, when his staff came to tell him about the fire, he felt a constriction in his chest.
The new library is housed inside a modern building, whose sheer walls are made to resemble the mud-walled homes of Timbuktu. Cisse braved his fear to slip through the back gate on the morning of Jan. 24.
The alarm was still screaming. The empty manuscript boxes were strewn on the ground outside in the brick courtyard. All that was left of the books was a soft, feathery ash.
Cisse then entered the library. The glass cases in the exhibit room were empty. So was the manuscript restoration lab, its white tables blanketed in dust. The manuscripts left out were gone.
But the librarian knew the bulk of the books was in a storage room in the basement. With the alarm still screaming, he walked down the flight of pitch-black stairs.
The room had been locked shut. And he was too afraid to open it, because the mayor of Timbuktu had warned residents that the retreating rebels had mined the town and booby-trapped strategic buildings.
So he waited.
On Jan. 28, a column of more than 600 French troops rolled into the city.
The same day, they came to inspect the institute. They spraypainted in pink the word "OK" in front of each room they cleared, working their way to the basement. They pummeled the locked door. When the door slapped open, Cisse felt as if his chest was about to explode.
They beamed a flashlight into the darkness. In the pools of light, he made out the little bundles of parchments sitting on the rafters. They were where they had left them nearly a year ago, in a room the Islamists had never discovered.
The director-general of UNESCO toured the damaged library this weekend, alongside French President Francois Hollande, who made a triumphant visit to Timbuktu. She described the manuscripts as a global treasure. "They are part of our world heritage," said Irina Bokova. "They are important for all of Africa, as well as for all of the world."
Cisse estimates that what was lost in the end is less than 5 percent of the Ahmed Baba collection. Which texts were burned is not yet known.
He stresses that all the manuscripts, which date back over 700 years, are irreplaceable. They are hand-written in a variety of scripts, and include ornate illustrations embedded within the text.
The collection is itself only a portion of the estimated 101,820 manuscripts stored in private libraries here, the product of the confluence of caravan routes which passed through Timbuktu and fostered an extensive trading network, including in books. Among the most valuable are the Tarikh al-Sudan and the Tarikh al-Fattash, chronicles which describe life in Timbuktu during the Songhai empire in the 16th century.
"We lost a lot of our riches. But we were also able to save a great deal of our riches, and for that I am overcome with joy," Cisse said. "These manuscripts represent who we are.... I saved these books in the name of Timbuktu first, because I am from Timbuktu. . Then I did it for my country. And also for all of humanity. Because knowledge is for all of humanity."
Rukmini Callimachi can be reached at www.twitter.com/rcallimachi.
Sunday, 20 January 2013
Are you new to genealogy and eager to find a site where you can access quality family records for free? If so, Rootsonomy is coming to the rescue!
Starting January 24, Rootsonomy is offering a series of online courses for people interested in learning how to navigate FamilySearch.org; the Family History Library's online catalogue and online resources. Having taken a similar course as part of my own studies, I know how navigating this site is not as easy and straightforward as it first appears.
These courses are open to the first 25 who register and for the cost (FREE), there are no excuses to not start educating (or continuing to educate) yourself about genealogical resources. Please register only for the classes you feel you can really benefit from and are able to attend so that others may also sign up for lessons specific to their needs.
Here is the course information from the Rootsonomy Facebook Page-the link at the end of each class description will bring you to the course-specific sign-up page (these courses run year-round, btw).
Training for January and February: Register Today
Rootsonomy is pleased to offer research training to the public. All classes will be held on Thursday evenings, from 6 pm to 7 pm (Pacific). Registration is limited to the first 25 students, so sign up today!
January 24 2013 FamilySearch Overview [Jan Edwards]
Learn what resources are available in FamilySearch and where to find them. This includes accessing FamilySearch training, wiki, and resource books.
Register at: http://conta.cc/Y9J2Rd
January 31 2013 Using Historical Record Collections on Familysearch.org [Jan] Learn how to find records in FamilySearch. Includes how to do parent searches, search browse only collections, wildcards, keywords, names, dates, places. Will log into various collections and navigate within them.
Register at: http://conta.cc/Xj3ol1
February 7 2013 Leveraging the Power of the FamilySearch Wiki [Jan]
Learn important features on FamilySearch wiki and how to use the wiki to research your ancestors.
Register at: http://conta.cc/UUwyqg
February 14 2013 Using FamilySearch.org to Find Military Records [Kate]
Learn how to use the free resources found at FamilySearch to find your ancestor’s military service records as well as pension applications. Includes Revolutionary War through Vietnam War online records and how to deal with collections that are only available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
Register at: http://conta.cc/Wlza1F
February 21 2013 How to Date Your Family Photographs [Kate]
We all have photographs with no names or with cryptic notes such as “Paul” or “Grandmother,” and no idea who this person is in our family. Learn how to recognize key features of clothing and other details in your old photographs that will help you date them. We will be discussing the time period between 1850 and 1900.
Register at: http://conta.cc/XIrFTO
February 28 2013: Discovering Your Civil War Ancestor: A Case Study [Kate]
Over 10% of the American population fought in the Civil War. Chances are that if your family was in the United States between 1861 and 1865 you have at least one Civil War ancestor. Learn how to determine if your ancestor fought in the Civil War, where to look for his military service records, how to find the battles and engagement in which he fought, if he was hospitalized and/or taken prisoner, and how to locate his pension records.
Register at: http://conta.cc/WcFNDB
If you do decide to take one of these courses, let us know which one/s you chose in the comment section and share with us why you're interested in this course/s.