Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MGS Day at MSA

Saturday I attended "MGS Day at MSA".  Maryland Genealogical Society members were invited to register for a session on accessing records at the Maryland State Archives and taking a behind the scenes tour of the library.

Although I have done research at MSA many times, I still decided to register.  The fee was nominal and you never know when you can pick up some new tips.  I also had a few general questions about some records and hoped for an opportunity to get those questions answered.

Michael McCormick, the Director of Reference Services for MSA (I hope I got that right) led the session.  Time was short (an hour) but I managed to get my questions answered and pick up a few hints about specific record series.  Yay!

Then it came time for the tour.  It is hard to visualize the amount of records the Archives houses while you are searching the website, or even when you are there requesting records to be pulled.  You fill out your pull slip and the staff goes back to that mysterious room in the back and comes out with a book, a box, etc. for you.  Saturday I got a peek at that mysterious room.  Rows and rows of shelves of materials, it was awesome!  Especially when we were told that the room we were in was one of four floors of records with even more stored off-site at another facility.

I still have lots of ancestors to find in all those stacks!!

We also got a look at the areas where digitization and conservation takes place.  Very interesting but sad as well to see types of destruction that has happened to some of the records.
Insect damage to a Colonial Patent book
After the tour I had some lunch and then did a little research.  I had done my pre-visit research and had a list of records to take a look at.  Although I didn't get through everything I had on my list I got copies of several items on my list.

All in all, a successful day at the Archives!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Genealogy Geeks Unite

Tonight a genealogy discussion group I belong to had a "Lock-In".  About 50 of us were locked in a local public library for 6 hours this evening to do research.  It was my first lock-in so I wasn't quite sure what to expect.
The night was long, but enjoyable.  Several people, including me, volunteered as "experts".  I was able to help a couple people with their research, which was great!
People were able to collaborate on research, share ideas and use library resources. 

I decided that I would take the evening scanning many of my random notes into Evernote in my effort to "go paperless". I got everything I took scanned and ready to index much quicker than I thought.
I scanned all the random notes in these notebooks using the CamScanner app on my iPhone. It worked great!

I very much look forward to the next lock-in event. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Will American Genealogy Change?

Last Saturday I attended the Baltimore County Genealogical Society's Spring Seminar.  The speaker was Dick Eastman, who if you don't know, is the author of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter (http://www.eogn.com).

Dick presented 4 topics; "Going Nearly Paperless – How to Get Started", "The Organized Genealogist", "Using MyHeritage.com Effectively" and "The Family History World in 10 Years’ Time".

Although I enjoyed all of his presentations, I found his last session ("The Family History World in 10 Years’ Time") fascinating.  The session was kind of geared more toward societies, but he presented thoughts and opinions that, honestly, made me think "Wow!"

The highlights:
Dick summarized his view of the "versions" of genealogy.

  1. Genealogy 0.5 existed up to about 1920.  It was an expensive hobby as the records available were mostly original records and compiled sources (which rarely included source citations). Most genealogists were elitists whose main goal was to connect themselves to a royal family. There were a few genealogy societies, again, mostly for elitists.
  2. Genealogy 1.0 was the period from about 1920 to 1980.  The invention of microfilming meant records were starting to become more readily available, along with reference books and better source citations.  The release of popular books, particularly Alex Haley's "Roots" caused a more wide-spread interest in genealogy.  More genealogy societies appeared.
  3. Genealogy 2.0 was the next "version", from 1980 to 2015.  The emerging availability of digital records, social networking and the myriad of genealogy focused television programming has captured not only traditional genealogists, but a whole new audience.
  4. Genealogy 3.0 is where we are now.  There are a tremendous amount of on-line records as well as genealogy information, resources and education found on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Wikis, Blogs, Google Books, etc.
So, what does that mean for the future of genealogy in Dick's opinion?
  1. "More records on-line."  We are already seeing this.  The amount of records available on-line is staggering.  Digitizing and transcribing original records will help with record preservation.  Everything from present-day microfilm, books and paper records from small local repositories are being digitized.  The ability to archive email and websites is powerful.  Not only will future genealogists will have access to a huge amount of records, but there will be archival copies for government offices.
  2. "Online, everywhere, all the time."  Cloud services are expanding and genealogists have access to records anytime, anywhere from traditional computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones and whatever else comes down the pike.
  3. "New and better software." New cloud-based software will allow better collaboration and works on all platforms.
  4. "A changing audience."  Genealogists are getting younger.  Because genealogy is "mobile" and TV shows and other media dedicated to genealogy are more popular, genealogy is now cool!  However, the younger genealogists do not have the same interests.  They are more interested in the stories of a handful of ancestors, not the names and dates of all ancestors.  They probably will not care about pedigree charts and family group sheets.  They also may not join societies.
Why would future genealogists not join societies?  I LOVE the societies that I am a part of.  I am lucky in that a large majority of my ancestors lived very close to where I live.  I have broken through some brick walls because of information at local societies.  I always recommend to people that they join societies, not only for the records available, but also for the people.

However, a recent group of college aged historians who were taking a family history elective were polled about their family backgrounds.
  • 40% were not born in the US
  • 90% had at least one grandparent born outside the US
Pick up any "how to do genealogy" book, ask any genealogist, "how do I begin researching my family?"  The answer is to first talk to family members and gather information from home and second, look at census records.
Based on the group above, census records are essentially useless to 90% of them.

More on this sample group:
  1. 50% classified themselves as non-white
  2. 50% did not share a surname with their fathers
What does this mean?  We need more available global resources for these next generation researchers.  They aren't going to find the same set of records useful as many, if not most genealogist do now.

Dick offered no answers to these questions/potential problems but he certainly gave me something to think about.  Hopefully libraries and societies can find a way to still be "relevant" down the road.  And hopefully we can expand the resources we use so that the next wave of genealogists can find the stories of their ancestors.

Please visit Dick's website at http://www.eogn.com.