Sunday, October 28, 2012

When Willow Calls......We Dance!

Ah, 'tis the one night of the year when my blogging takes a wondrous detour into the land of timeless temptations. What could be more perfect than entering a space that bows to no negative forces? No time, no age, no lack or grief, no politics, no pending storms.....only a space that allows all dreams to come true for one day. For those of you curious about how such a place still have 24 hours to choose your fantasy attire and escort to join the THE blogging event of the year: The Willow Manor Ball!

With each passing year the pre-ball choices become harder, yet more exciting. It always seems perfectly impossible to trump the previous year's gown, and each former date holds a special place in my what is a girl to do? Oh wait....this year...we have Pinterest! With this thought, I practically skipped to the PC to create my Willow Manor Ball Board!! This new way of organizing my fantasy shopping did NOT disappoint!
After my previous years of silver/moonlight blue and sapphire, I was ready to move towards the burning flames and chose red as my theme color this year. And then our dear host threw us the best possible curve ball she could muster: it was to be a masked ball! With my red dresses, shoes and jewelry pinned I was delighted with this new addition, yet firmly ready to ditch all my previous plans if I found a mask that could not be denied!

This is where delicate planning and extensive travel came to my rescue. One of my lifelong secret fantasies has been to attend Carnivale in Venice....complete with uber extravagant masks and costumes....which meant there was only one place to aim the private jet this year for final plans: Venezia of course!

In all of my excitement, and as I strolled the shops of Venice, I suddenly had this shadowy date will also need to wear a mask. But my date is none other than the charming and deliciously handsome Dennis Morgan....who wants to cover up that adorable mug on such an enchanted evening? So.....since the ball is so long....and since there are no rules.....I decided to select two different masks for our evening. One each for our grand entrance and early hours....and another each as the night wore long and exhilarating. So, with my selections made and my date busy purchasing flowers.....I jetted home to get ready!
For this evening, my gown of choice is this flame colored Versace gown that can't seem to make up its mind if it is red or burnt orange....chameleon gossamer layers that seem to gently dance along the smoothly fitted hips, almost as much as I will be doing along the dance floor!
Underneath this sheer layered confection of a gown is this pair of diamond and ruby heels.....with silk straps that twirl up my calves in a way that mimics the straps of my dress.
Of course, no ensemble would be complete without my jewelry......sigh.....and tonight, nothing would satisfy me but Liz's Taj-Mahal diamond. The combination of gold, diamonds and rubies is a perfect fit for not only my dress, but my chosen masks. Besides, this necklace was given to her on her 40th birthday.....which is fitting as this too is my 40th year....Liz has been gracious enough to give me charge of this precious jewel for one evening!
And for the mask entrance with feathers that match my dress perfectly....
But what about my delicious date? For his entrance mask, I wanted something that would contour and compliment his bone structure beautifully....not hiding that boyish grin and gorgeousness.....silver seems to go with his black tux perfectly....
Although, as soon as I had his silver mask delivered to him a few days before the ball, he exceeded all charm and thoughtfulness by choosing a car he knew would complete his debonair entrance, and set off the red of my dress in the most dramatic of fashions.....his 1959 Porche convertible....what color? Silver of course!
As I anxiously awaited the arrival of my date and fidgeted with my hair and handbag, I heard that purring of the engine as it approached and knew Cinderella's night was going to be perfect once again! As he got out of the car to open my side, he grinned and bowed gallantly....taking my breath away. Don't forget everyone, not only is Dennis Morgan simply gorgeous, charming and a genuinely nice person, but he can also sing.....and sing he did on our way to the manor...."Fly me to the Moon" as we drove under the stars with the light breeze dancing around us reminding us of the dancing that is soon to come....
Upon arrival, I had the hardest time deciding what to feast my eyes upon....the enchanting decor of the manor this year, or the adorable date on my arm.....I soon felt as though I were watching a tennis match! Not long after thanking our gracious and elegant host (how does she manage to be the belle of the ball every year while planning such a grand triumph?) and admiring the two men on her arm this year, I heard a soft chuckle in my ear as we had apparently made it close to the dance floor and my date was not about to hold off any longer! As I turned to take in the full impact of that adorable chuckle I felt myself whisked off into one direction and then twirled abruptly in many directions as we had made it to the center of the ball room! Dear Dennis then managed to whisk me off my feet literally for several hours.

Around the mid-point of our 24 hour revelry, the masks and elation were getting a bit to us and I decided to give our faces a bit of a break. Which meant switching out to the hand-held pieces of artistry I managed to pick up on my way back the airport. You see, not only was I concerned with comfort....but I did not want to go an entire ball without seeing that devilishly handsome face in all of its glory! Plus....with the masks aside at just the right moment.....perhaps out on a balcony...or in a quiet corner....I might be so fortunate as to receive a kiss from my 24 hour Prince Charming. A girl MUST prepare for all possibilities you know!
This year, I already feel a bit tipsy, but only from the we all continue to enjoy the ball, I still have a lot on my enjoyment to-do list: sip lots of champagne, sample the delectable delicacies, and savor the savories.....let this night never end!

Pssst....there was one moment on the balcony, when he started whispering....
      "At last a soft and solemn breathing sound
Rose like a steam of rich distill'd Perfumes,
And stole upon the Air, that even Silence
Was took e're she was ware, and wish't she might
Deny her nature, and be never more
Still to be so displac't."
...........followed by.....can you guess?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Heirloom Trails and Tales

 Our family has been blessed with a treasure trove of sentimentalities that reside in nooks and crannies throughout our homes. When we view one, even out of the corner of our eye, the story or memory associated with the object is immediately recalled - or in some cases, vaguely recalled. Beyond items, there have also been unfortunate stories passed down that tell of a lost family heirloom and how it was of great family import. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of this subject by a dear woman who understood not only the importance of family heirlooms, but also the delicate family relationship balance that always threatens to tear families apart if this subject is ignored until a will is read.

The woman I speak of is Alisonia B. Todd of Franklin County Kentucky. Isn't that just the coolest name ever? Her husband, James H. Todd passed away in 1897 and left a very brief will, passing the whole of his possessions to his wife Alisonia. Within a couple months of the filing of his will in the Franklin County Court system, Alisonia took the wise measure of creating her own will to prepare for that certain eventuality, which unfortunately, took place within the next year, 1898.

The most amazing element of Alisonia's will is an addendum section called "Schedule A". This section takes up about 3 full ledger sized pages and details not only how she wants her belongings to be divided amongst her children, but also the origin of each piece. In some cases she explains the family importance of the item, and in others, she gives a justification of why a certain person should have the item she is bestowing upon them. I will not post the entire three pages here, but am including some transcribed snippets below:

"To Letty and Jim I want you to distribute my old traps which have served their purpose for forty five years and became so worn that they only serve as Momentres of the old Home in which our children and Grandchildren have passed so many happy hours."

"Alex asked me years ago to give him his Grandfather and Grandmother Todds portraits by Janett. We looked upon them as his own and was proud of them.....if he dies without heirs or Lilian dies without heirs they must go back into the Todd family."

"[to Johnston]...also I give him my Grandfather Lee's writing desk and his sword that he used in the War of '12' being Major of his regiment."

"....also the fish desk presented to Mrs. Gov. Garrard by my uncle Elija Graig while she was occupying the Governors Mansion."

"We gave Jim the Liquor set inherited from his Grandfather Todd, also two napkin rings of the 25th anniversary 1 plated tea pot 1 molasses pitcher 1 spoon holder and soup turene the only value in these things are that we used them on our table so far back as he can remember."

"The big haircloth rocker is for Arthur and the sewing machine I give to Nettie to help make her stout boy James clothes...I want to furnish one of Nettie's attic rooms also one of Lettys. Into Netties I want the bedroom set that I found in my room when I entered it as a bride consisting bedstead wash stand dressing table and wardrobe the feather mattress bolster and cases pillows and cases the large looking glass in the room..."

As you can see, Alisonia also interjected little family memories and personal comments among her acts of distribution. It also appears that she details when some things were given away prior to her death, to whom she gave them and why. Towards the end of Schedule A she also details who has borrowed some of her furniture and whose furniture she has borrowed which must be returned at her death.

I find Alisonia's will addition to be priceless - not only for her family - but for those of us interested in 19th century Kentucky life. The entire document has reminded me that the stories behind heirlooms hold great keys to our research. After all, just by reading Alisonia's heirloom distribution, we learn which ancestor was in the War of 1812 and his rank....we learn that her uncle was an acquaintance of Governor Garrard.....we learn about her life as a young bride.....we learn about the gifts the couple was given at their 25th wedding anniversary.....we learn about upholstery and fabrics, even color (yellow)....we learn about paintings.....and we learn about warm family memories.

As we document and organize our genealogy research for the next generation, I look upon this task of heirloom distribution and story documentation to be a vitally important makes me wonder if the majority of items for sale in antique stores are not always there because of financial hardship or apathy, but rather because the previous generations forgot about their importance....the story trail ended and so did the family's legacy. There is also one other motivation for me....don't you just love the idea of filing this kind of heirloom heavy will with the courts and imagining an excited descendant finding it generations later? Oh yeah, one more thing....any attorney today will tell you that more family rifts happen because of estate dispersals, or a lack of planning in this your family the grief and strife - include your own "Schedule A" today!
Happy Heirloom hunting & sharing!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Returning "Home" to Paintsville

This past weekend turned out to be a special treat as a colleague and I attended the Eastern Kentucky Genealogy and History Conference in Paintsville Kentucky! We not only manned the Kentucky Historical Society information table, but were doubly honored with invitations to speak. This event was already special in a personal way as my Grandmother's roots are very strong in this part of Kentucky. Since I had not been to the area since I was about 13, the excitement of going back was exhilarating. Within my presentation I had already planned on including a couple of slides outlining my family connections to the area in the hopes of finding some Pace, Connelly, Salyers, Musick, Caudill cousins. What I had not planned on was the cousin encounters that took place!

As I have explored previously in older posts, our family left the Magoffin, Floyd and Johnson County areas of Kentucky to re-settle in the Portsmouth Ohio area during the 1920s. The patriarch of the family, Albert Pace, had just died and our family seriously had a lot of mouths to feed. This,of course,would require more opportunities for work,which were just not available at the time. So, my great Grandmother, Fannie Connelly Pace took the family up north to create a new life. The group embraced Ohio and settled there permanently, but we never forgot our Kentucky connections.
Many of the Pace/Connelly descendants still reside in the Portsmouth Ohio area and to my surprise, I had some dear cousin connections beginning Saturday morning! As my colleague and I were setting up our KHS table on Friday evening, I noticed a table that was reserved for the Scioto County Genealogical Society. This piqued my interest immediately, and was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the folks who would be manning this table for the weekend. Ironically, the sweet ladies who arrived to perform this task on Saturday were none other than my close Pace cousins! Carolyn and her daughter Jodi are also descendants of Albert Pace and Fannie and have been our champions for the Pace/Connelly family reunions over the past several decades! In fact, if it was not for Carlolyn's dedication over the years, I'm sure this reunion would have faded away many years ago. These two also continue their faithful work in regards to the family by making several trips to the Paintsville area each year to help with cemetery maintenance and fostering family connections.
After our lovely surprise of being able to see each other and catch up with family gossip, we had the honor of meeting another Connelly cousin for the first time! Edward Hazelett was in attendance and related that he too was a descendant of our mutual ancestor, Captain Henry Connelly! At 86, he is quite the charmer and a wealth of information!

For anyone with Eastern Kentucky roots, you should really put this event on your yearly calendars! The folks responsible for this event are wonderful to work with and the attendees are so welcoming.....always hoping to make new cousin connections. Probably the most rewarding aspect of this conference: listening to the stories passed down through the varied generations. Kentucky is known for its strong oral traditions, and this conference is one of those places that allows you to bask in that tradition - transporting you back in time and celebrating our proud heritage!

BTW, as promised to my audience, here is the snap I took of your lovely faces!

For more information, visit their official website:
or...."like" them on Facebook to view the very latest comments and announcements:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

NGS2012 Reflections: Part 2 "Review"

I am going to use the word "Review" a bit loosely here as I've only been to a handful of genealogy conferences, and NGS2012 was only my second NGS conference. However, once everyone returns home, there are always moments or features/events that stick out in your mind - both good and bad. Here are some of my observations about this year's NGS:
1. Syllabus on a Stick! Yes please! Love this current trend/move in a future direction! CDs are nice, but flash drives are just more practical these days, especially with so many people traveling the conference circuit with their tablets. Most smaller devices, either tablets or netbooks don't come with CD-ROM drives, so this move to the flash drive concept is very attendee friendly! As you can see from my photo above, I did actually opt for buying the print syllabus as an additional perk, but there was really only one reason I did this - ok, maybe two - First, it was my first conference as a speaker, and I wanted something to pass down in tangible form to remember the event by - and Second, Cincinnati is within driving distance of my home, so I DID NOT have to get it home on a plane! This is probably the only time I will ever opt for the print version. As for syllabus access prior to the start of the conference, I did hear some complaints from my tech-savy friends who were wanting to download the syllabus and open it up to take notes while sitting in the session. Since everything came as pdf, this was not possible - but I think they found some work-arounds. Personally, this was not a problem for me as I am a stream of consciousness note taker. I open a new note on the tablet (in Evernote), title it to match the session I'm in and jot down what I want to remember. Sadly, I am not organized enough to later match my notes to the syllabus page, but someday....

2. 1940 Census - I finally got one of those darned t-shirts!! Ever since RootsTech, the Family Search folks have been walking around, wearing these cute advertisements for the census release - just taunting us and not offering the ability to actually get one! They had even said they might offer us the opportunity to purchase one from their web site, but they never got around to that option....Grrrrr! So, finally, the t-shirts were free for the taking at NGS2012 - one catch though, you had to sit and index TWO batches of the census! Two was a great idea in theory, but after watching the backlog of people trying to use one of the computer terminals, ONE batch per t-shirt would have been a much better arrangement! Oh - one other amazing memory - I got to meet the 1940 Census lady from NARA - Connie Potter - she is one of my genealogy heroes, and she was just as sweet in person!

3. Overall session offerings - Very nicely done! I liked the local track that was implemented (otherwise I would not have spoken this year) which catered to those who might research in the area further. The hardcore certification and citation sessions were here plus a very nice technology track to balance everything out.

4. Exhibit Hall - The space itself was a bit dated with the enormous concrete arena from the 1970s, but the offerings seemed pretty well balanced. I did notice a strong representation from the local groups which was awesome! I also noticed some major vendor players who were missing this year. The freebie swag was greatly lacking, but with this economy, I'm not at all surprised. The demo areas seemed to have an abundance of space, but the acoustics were terrible, and almost everyone was drowned out by the microphone on that side of the hall. I did like the upper deck view from the second floor which allowed you to stand at a window and gaze upon the exhibit hall floor. Pretty neat and a great reminder to those hopping between sessions, that the floor of fun was just waiting below!

5. Yep, There's an App for That! - Ever since RootsTech's introduction of the conference app, folks have been a bit giddy over the convenience something like that provided! For the NGS2012, they opted to use a company that was already in existence instead of creating one from scratch. They chose "Guidebook", which is free to download via smartphones and tablets. Once you have this app downloaded, you just search for the applicable conference that is coming up and save it to your list. While no one considered the RootsTech app to be perfect, we suddenly appreciated it more after using Guidebook. The NGS2012 app was decent and easy to use, but it was not inclusive. For the "my schedule" portion, I was only allowed to add things that were from the official schedule. Sadly, the official schedule did not include any extra events, such as evening events or pre-conference events. I was disappointed in the lack of this feature. Especially since the extra events were listed in the conference literature as NGS organized events. The luncheons were also paid options, but they were included in the app schedules. Even if they didn't want to include these evening events, the option to manually add events in my schedule would have made up for the oversight. The conference experience is fluid. You may know which sessions you want to attend before you get there, but break-out sessions or special, small group events pop up, and the ability to change with the event flow is a must for conference apps. Also, I was not getting any notifications from this app about upcoming events on my schedule. I eventually just switched to using my calendar on the iPhone to keep up with what was coming up.

6. Ribbons/Pins - Confession time - I am a blingy girly girl. I like colorful and shiny things, and I confess to liking the whole ribbon ensemble that goes with conference attendance. Not only is it fun to add more ribbons as you connect with your memberships and groups, but if you watch closely, you can make new friends within the groups you belong to! Plus, I confess to being just plain curious. I watch for the most recurrent ribbons to get a mental snapshot of some of the most popular member groups. There is even a ribbon for "librarians" and this made for a great connection on the professional level that I used more than once during the conference! As a side note, the pins are quite fun to watch as well! I usually buy the official pin for each conference that I attend, but alas, I have not been brave enough to wear any, nor have I really figured out how to wear them. I see all sorts of applications for this fashion perk, but, not yet ready to go out on that limb. Tip: Waiting in line for something? Use someone's ribbon as a conversation starter!
7. Complimentary wi-fi, provided by Family Search! This was such an amazing gift to conference goers! I remember the pain of the Charleston Conference when signals were blocked and even some cell phone services were blocked to the point of having to step outside to make a phone call! This 2012 change was wonderful and served to promote the whole idea of the social experience. Folks were able to tweet and blog to their hearts content without a stutter! I had heard the capacity was a bit small, but the connection issues were not that problematic, and most people were getting online in their turn. Bravo Family Search!

8. Wrap Up - Favorite Memories of NGS2012: Sharing the Barton Papers with my fellow researchers - and the wonderful Pendleton County Historical Society ladies that helped out with my lecture! (I hope to post about this lecture topic as it is a vital resource for Northern Kentucky researchers!) Meeting up with more bloggers - I seriously love this group of people, and am already excited about the next time we get to meet up! Getting to meet the 1940 census queen, Connie Potter (see #2). Having so many local groups as booth neighbors especially the fun Kentucky folks (KHS, KGS, KDLA, AAGGKY)! Meat and potatoes of sessions this year - lots to sink my teeth into, and still absorbing my notes! Having the whole family working the Pastology booth with Chris and I this year - and the moment my Dad was unceremoniously introduced to the "Cloud" - I had to explain it to him after someone asked him about our relation to said "Cloud" - priceless! Having some old friends make the trip and help out with the booth (and wander around buying cupcakes)- Thanks Peggy! Getting a glimpse into where some of the major vendor players are heading in our field! Sharing some of my hometown with the national community!
Toodles from the Queen City!

Monday, May 14, 2012

NGS2012 Reflections: Part 1 "Firsts"

It goes without saying that last week's National Genealogical Society Conference in Cincinnati was filled to the brim with exhausting fun. Most of us are trying to recover from the sheer exhaustion it produced, but while we rest and recover, our minds are still processing the wonderful experiences we will be sharing over the next several months. I plan on interspersing my regular posting with several parts of conference analysis as a way to convey my impressions and review of the proceedings. For this first part, I will cover my impression of "firsts": things I encountered for the first time with this particular conference, and how they influenced my overall conference experience. While this was not my first NGS conference, there were many new experiences for me that I have decided to share.

First time as an "official blogger": We have heard that anyone who "registered" or asked to be an official blogger was awarded the designation, but I kind of liked that open door selection. I think it was a great way to give more exposure to up and coming bloggers out there - who naturally have different views and opinions. Let me clarify that anyone awarded this designation was only given three things: an official blogger logo for their web site, an official blogger ribbon for their attendee badge, and use of the Media Center inside the exhibit hall. For some other conferences, official bloggers can be given complimentary registration, among other perks. I was delighted over all the little perks with this designation and used the Media Center on more than one occasion, but I was surprised over the lack of activity at this Media Center. At RootsTech, this center is in the middle of the room with lots of activity and a bit of fanfare. With this year's NGS, the Media Center was empty except for the tables with power strips. There was no one to monitor who went in to use it. In fact, I was using it heavily one morning when I was interrupted by a couple of people who walked in the side and just sat around chatting very loudly, and then eating their lunch, instead of using the Center for its true purpose. I gathered from the comment, "oh, so this is where you apparently get to do stuff", that they had no idea what purpose was behind the existence of this space. I am thinking the "official blogger" designation may not have been well thought-out, and maybe was a last minute addition. But, as I walked around talking to other "official bloggers", we all agreed that taking time to post anything while attending is extremely difficult - especially if you attend all of the extra evening events. You would literally have to skip sessions, or an evening event, or stay up incredibly late in order to finish one post per day. I managed one post as I was arriving, and one post while I was there. The rest will follow in the coming weeks!

First time as a speaker:
I have spoken at other conferences/venues, but not at a national conference, until now. This was interesting. I found the process to be very clean and straightforward. Syllabus was turned in months ahead of time, and preparation was not very different from other presentations I have had to give. I did have a bit of extra stress to contend with, but once I started talking, things went pretty smoothly. By the end, I had talked to so many wonderful people, and made so many new connections that I quickly declared this a hugely rewarding experience! One improvement I would suggest, proving projectors for the speakers. I found the task of bringing my own projector to be awkward and difficult. Especially when there was a set group of cords and cart already in place, assuming you had a projector that would fit these connections. Yes, I did, but I knew others with older and newer equipment who did not fare as well in this area. On the other hand, I understand how costly it would be for the NGS to ship in laptops or projectors to supply all of the sessions - perhaps this is an element that the venue could provide?

First time as an insider, or in some cases, VIP:
Prior to the conference, I was invited to many extra events/dinners and sessions that were often labeled "VIP". I was a bit uncomfortable with this label, but the information shared at these events was invaluable. They were very future focused, and I felt like I was privileged to hear in what future directions some of the major vendors were heading. It was also a wonderful place to meet new people!

First time attending the paid lunches:
I went ahead and splurged for some of the paid lunches, and besides some really lovely meals, the conversations and interactions with those at the table were priceless experiences! I loved this, and will try to pay for more in the future. I highly recommend these as ways to meet new genealogists and learn new insights!

First time at Librarians Day:
This day-long, pre-conference event was nicely tailored to librarians who serve genealogists. I loved this focus and learned so much from the speakers. I also met so many librarians who encountered the same challenges everyday. Although, a couple of the speaking topics chosen were a bit too broad on the historical level, and even a repeat of what was going to be covered in the main conference. I would have liked to have heard more library focused material.

First time close to home:
This was the first time I attended a national conference in my backyard, and indeed, in my home town. I grew up in Cincinnati, yet despite having left there almost 20 years ago, it was still familiar enough to take a layer off of the stress levels normally felt when travelling to a foreign city. I still live close enough to drive back and forth from my home for many of the nights - reducing even more stress.

Although, I will be blunt about Cincinnati. I have a love/hate relationship with the Queen City and this conference did not alter that relationship at all. A few reasons why my opinion of Cincinnati did not change:

Dirty - After travelling to other cities for different conferences, I was even more aware of Cincinnati's lack of overall cleanliness and state of disintegration - which was an impression I heard from outside visitors as well. Everything seemed to be such a hodgepodge of disrepair and faded, old elements interspersed with some new attempts at change. The convention center was nice, spacious, and somewhat up-to-date on the inside, but I heard more than one person complaining about the lack of elevators in convenient places, ice cold session rooms and parking nightmares.

Garages from hell: I started this conference by parking in the sixth street garage that can be seen from the windows of the conference room concourse. The garage was old and narrow, but the skywalk seemed ok. However, once I could see the outside state of the garage from the windows which revealed almost completely rusted out joints, I was embarrassed. The thing looked like it could crumble at any moment - what an ugly view from the convention hall windows! So, then I moved to the Hyatt garage on fifth street after the sixth had filled up - boy did things get even worse! The outside looked fine, but the inside - wow - only one out of the two elevators would actually go to all of the floors! I felt like I was in a carnival/ twilight zone elevator - if I pressed 4, I landed at 5. If I pressed 3, I landed at 6. I finally gave up, got out, and used the other elevator. Oh - and if you try to leave the  garage after a certain time, you are trapped! No automated way to pay when leaving, and the attendants are gone.

Skywalks: One of my favorite parts of downtown Cincinnati, but these have deteriorated to the point of wondering whether the rusted parts will sustain the weight of the people. Oh, and these too shut down at 10PM unless you are a guest at one of the hotels. I thought part of the skywalk concept was to have a safe mode of walking in the evening - not so if you walk after 10. To get where I needed to go, I had to walk out on the sidewalk and dodge the aggressive homeless that were waiting just outside the door - aggressive, as in, chasing after you! Seriously? Police anyone?

Good things: I still LOVE the Netherland Plaza. That thing is still incredibly stunning and dripping in historical atmosphere. The food is stellar as well! Arts are strong in Cincy, and easily accessible. Things to do along the river, baseball and shopping/eating (even if the best eating/shopping is on the Kentucky side). Airport is nicely done and easy to use. And of course: Skyline, Graeter's and LaRosa's!

Well, that's it for Part I.....stay tuned for the next segment....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Notes from the Media Center

Well, as of today, I have been  at the NGS Conference for two days . We came in early Tuesday morning to attend one of the pre-conferences (Librarians Day) and then plunged right into the main conference the next day. If you have never been to a national conference, be prepared to make time for a lot of extra activity beyond the scheduled sessions! Each major company has been conducting focus groups, dinners and product sessions either the day before the conference, or each evening/lunch that is available. In fact, we were just approached a few minutes ago to attend another group discussion that will cover one specific feature of a genealogy program. As hectic as all of this makes the conference, I actually love this new trend of impromptu or rapidly scheduled break-out sessions to encourage dialogue and sharing of ideas. It's very reminiscent of RootsTech. And don't forget your new genealogy friends! Some of your dance card will just be filled with dinner invites and group meetings at the nearest pub!            

As I finish up this brief update, I was excited to find a nice place behind the literal "green" curtain for the official bloggers. This is my first gig as an official blogger and was intrigued by the "media center" option. I didn't think I would use this kind of space, but I found it priceless as a quiet place with very little distraction and tables with power strips! I could work and charge multiple devices at once! Which meant I could type and worry about draining my batteries as I worked. That actually reduces the stress level when navigating this kind of environment. Well, I must head out again.....this place never stops! Favorite memory so far: getting to sing Happy Birthday to Mr. Myrt - Dear Myrtle's counterpart. That was memorably followed by Graeter's ice cream for dessert! Ready for more fun - two more days to go!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Laurel Court Welcomes NGS Attendees!

For those of you in Cincinnati for the NGS Conference next week, there is a special historical treat waiting for you on Friday night should you need another fun evening activity! Laurel Court, the palatial gilded age mansion of North College Hill will open its doors for NGS attendees at a special reduced rate. Built in 1907 by Paper Mill owner Peter G. Thomson, this amazing home has had a long and varied history yet retained its original decor and turn of the century grandeur. For over a century this estate, modelled after Marie Antoinette's country house, Le Petit Trianon, has remained a private residence in North College Hill, just a few miles north of downtown. However, under the current ownership, this historic treasure is occasionally opened up to the public for fundraisers, special events and a handful of tours throughout the year. In honor of the NGS Conference and the love of history flowing through its attendees, the gracious owners have agreed to open their home for a two hour stroll through the house and grounds on Friday evening!

From 7:00-8:00 PM, there will be a guided tour of the inside of the house - with self-guided strolls through the garden one half hour before and after the tour. Admission is at a discounted rate of $10 per person for NGS attendees - payable at the door. However, space is limited, so if you or a group would like to come out, please send an RSVP e-mail to: Getting there and parking are both easy. For more information, please visit their website:

If you are wanting to come away with a really special historic memory from Cincinnati - or if you are having serious Donwton Abbey withdrawal - come travel back in time and immerse yourself in the splendor that is Laurel Court. "The home features a grand staircase imported from Europe, inlaid marble floors, and a music room finished in gold leaf. The dining room is adorned with sterling silver light fixtures and ornate carved trim. The library is paneled in rare African rosewood, and the billiard room is paneled with figured African mahogany. In the center of the home is an atrium with a removable glass dome. Complementing the property are French Ch√Ęteau-style cottages, a French country-style carriage house, and expansive gardens. The grounds include a formal French garden with marble statuary and carved stone balustrades, perennial gardens, a Japanese garden with Koi ponds, and a pool lying just beyond a wisteria-covered pergola."

Hope to see a lot of you there!
Oh! And for all you gardeners out there, this is usually the time of year when the grand pergola's wisteria is in bloom - which is a must see! I have only seen it once, but it was breathtaking!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Serendipity Strikes Again!

Despite the many years of genealogy research under my belt, it did not take long before I quickly dubbed serendipity as my full partner in crime. There are just too many instances of important discoveries that seem to randomly fall into our laps from the oddest places - too many to ignore the Big 'S' and its importance. Years ago, I purchased a small, rectangular gold frame at an estate auction that seemingly housed a calendar print glued to a piece of cardboard. I was happy with the purchase, since all I wanted was the beautiful frame, but once I got it home, I discovered a gorgeous panoramic photograph of an unnamed church congregation from roughly the 1930s or 40s hidden behind the front print.
I really only had a few clues to go on when trying to figure out which church this group was sitting in front of: purchased in central Kentucky, "Lafayette Studios, Lexington Kentucky" embossed in the lower right corner, and a building cornerstone that read "Christian Church, 1894". Based on the size of the congregation, the location of Lafayette Studios and even the type of house sitting next to it, I arrogantly assumed this was a Lexington Christian Church. While I never conducted full scale research on the photo, it was always something I looked for when driving downtown. When leaving work, I would sometimes just take some extra side roads to view a different brick church that might fit the architectural mold. Over the years, it was definitely a church whose outer details were very committed to my memory.
Earlier this week, I was conducting some research for a patron, and was only having marginal success finding their family. Since church records and histories can have additional snippets of local history, I took a chance and picked up this book about the First Disciples-Christian Church in Georgetown Kentucky by Ann Bevins, 1981. I looked through the book and wasn't really having any luck, but when I went to put it back, it fell a bit out of my hands and onto the book shelf with the back cover flipping open as it came to rest. Since I hadn't looked at my panoramic shot in a year or two, I was having what I thought was an extreme deja vu moment - but apparently, my brain was pulling out this memory, and I was suddenly reminded about the photo and missing church. This is what met my eyes:
In an instant the mystery was completely solved. I had not only found my group and building in question, but also a full history of the congregation. Since I have lived in Georgetown for the past 10 years, the mere fact that this Church was in my town completely shocked me.....but then I read enough to realize that this beautiful building, built in 1894 and photographed here in 1939, had tragically burnt in 1947. The current structure was built in 1955, and did not resemble the 19th century brick in any way. So, Serendipity solves another mystery. I did not happen to have family members in Scott County in the 1930s, so for those of you who might be wondering about the identity of the peeps featured, here is a partial list as printed in the back of the book. I will confess that the 1939 image made me think of the 1940 census.....matching a name to a face in 1940 would be quite a treat! I think I'll wait until the index is finished to tackle that one!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Time to Party Like it's 1940!!

Ok, so that doesn't have the same ring to it as 1999, but still, I think I've partied harder for the 1940 Census than I ever did to ring in the new millennium! (Geek confession #57) For those of us who are die-hard Kentucky fans, that was certainly true as the Census was released in the morning, followed by the Wildcats winning the championship that night! Despite us being almost three weeks into the Census fun, I don't see the partying slowing down very much! Just last Saturday we had a wonderful celebration at the Kentucky Historical Society. For the KGS/KHS 2nd Saturday Program we explored the Census in all of its glory: Introduction, Instruction & Celebration. The party atmosphere was heightened as we had over 120 folks pre-register for the event - one of the largest crowds we've had in a while!

Much of our content focused on how to view and browse the images across the various web sites, followed by how to find your needed Enumeration Districts. In the afternoon, we covered a few case studies to demonstrate how to put the learned morning information to use. We wrapped things up with a small session on indexing. Folks had some really good questions and we had a moment of trivia speed bump: When were Enumeration District numbers first used? The answer from the audience was 1880 - Thanks Jim! Several people had already dove headlong into the Census browsing prior to the event, but they were encountering enough of a continued challenge to really understand the importance of an index! As of right now, Kentucky has 14 official Societies or Groups that are administrating indexing efforts in their areas. I am an administrator for the KHS group. If you would like to join a group for your state, just visit and look at the societies map. Hovering over the states will pop up a window listing the groups and their web information to get hooked up.

So, what did we do once we were buzzed on all that Census info? We loaded up on some sugary sweet cake that had the 1940 Census Community Project logo in the center. No one seemed to mind that the place looked a bit like the 4th of July in April....we all had a great time....and since Kentucky had just been released for indexing the day before, people were ready to get out there and start some turbo indexing! So far, our little KHS group of about 50 people is averaging 15,000 names per week! Before I head out for some more indexing (which btw, has made me a terrible blogger these days), I would like to give a shout out to They were kind enough to send us some lovely free memberships for door prizes!
Bye for now, and happy indexing!

Monday, April 2, 2012

1940 Census - News From the Trenches

As we approach the noon hour on this historic morning of the official 1940 Census release by the National Archives, I wanted to document my experiences so far.....and share the one image I was able to download.

The morning began with anticipation tweets, a half hour press conference, and then tweets of frustration as very few people were able to download anything. It was clear the servers were just not up to the momentous task, and we all continue to wait for bigger servers, or at least for the rush to slow down for improved search results.

Having your enumeration numbers ready was a clear headstart since all portions of the NARA site were painfully slow. I had thought of another enumeration district I could look up while waiting, but even the maps and descriptions would not load for me.

By using the enumeration district you can search much quicker, and as you can see from the image below, they have the option of searching by either 1930 or 1940 ED. This can be very helpful if you have not done your homework ahead of time. has opened up their 1940 related documents until April 10th, which includes the 1930 Census. Since their servers are running much faster, just pop over there to get your 1930 ED while you wait!
Once I put in the search for my 1940 ED, I was taken to a results page that listed Map images, Description Images and Census Schedules. The Census Schedule is the NEW Census image which is the one we have been waiting for!
But alas, clicking on that link this morning is where people have been shut out almost completely. It times out, shows a broken link or an error. Hovering your mouse over the spinning wheel that appears to be loading something will give you a menu of "Quick View, View Full Screen or Download". As many have reported, going to full screen and then choosing "Download" seems to yield the best results. I opted for "Quick View" then "Full Screen" while in the Quick View, and then chose "Download" the one page only. After many tries at various combinations, I finally had my first real image at about 11:30AM. The winner for today was the first page of the ED 96-6 from Pendleton County Kentucky!
The surnames on this page are: Kidwell, Brooks, Record, Pribble, Shoemaker, Woodyard, Gilham, VanLandingham, Jett, McClanahan, Parr, Norris, Flaugher, Moore and Miller. Unfortunately, there are 18 pages for the 96-6 ED alone, so I will be taking a break from the action before I try for more pages. I had tried right away after this success, but was encountering the same problems as earlier - and a girl can only take so much spinning!

Some other news regarding access as of noon April 2nd: has won the access race so far. They received the images at 12:01AM and have been loading images for browsing since then. As of noon today, they had 11 states/territories available for browsing - and I must say, the images loaded very fast. I didn't even need an ED as there were drop-downs to let me choose state, county, community which then took me to an ED area for browsing. Very fast, and as they add more states, I will be using them for browsing unless the NARA system improves considerably. I think Ancestry is the dark horse today as most people will be flooding NARA and not bothering with Ancestry access - which means their less traffic will make for smoother sailing.
FamilySearch only has one state up for browsing as of noon: Delaware. Nice page for searching and progress, plus the images loaded very fast.....but with only one state by noon, Ancestry is winning!
MyHeritage has a lovely 1940 Census page exploring the culture and times, and announces that they will have content from the 1940 Census that no one else will: "See new unpublished records first - We'll be uploading data for US States that aren't yet available anywhere else, so you'll be the first to explore them!" However, as of noon, they have not posted any images from the 1940 Census.
Well that's it for now....I'm taking a break. Hopefully others will too and as the intensity slows down, so will the traffic, and things might get a chance to stabilize. This not a failure folks but a wonderful learning opportunity for everyone - from the server side to the user side! Can't wait for 2022 when the 1950 Census comes out! We will all have a good laugh about our 2012 access struggles :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates