Monday, January 15, 2018

Ask Louie Relaunches and Registration is Open for Winter/Spring Classes

Ask Louie Relaunches

For the past few years, StLGS has had a lookup service called Ask Louie. Originally meant for members only to ask for research strategies, Ask Louie often was flooded with requests that took hours of volunteer time to fulfill. As a result, in late fall 2017, we decided to take another look at how the service worked to see if we couldn't do a better job of helping our members.

The Ask Louie committee has now proudly relaunched the service with a few major changes.
  • Ask Louie is now open to everyone, not just StLGS members.
  • The committee will answer just one question at a time and only after the submitter has done some research on his/her own.
  • Volunteers will not do research for you; they will, however, direct you to sources, repositories, and websites, or, if necessary, suggest you try hiring a professional genealogist who can help answer your question.

On the Ask Louie page on the StLGS website, you will find specific instructions and a link to some suggestions for how to ask a good question. You will also find a link to a flyer that lists St. Louis resources for research. All of these items may prove to be helpful as you think about how Ask Louie can be of service to you.

To access the Ask Louie web page, click here.

2018 Winter/Spring Classes

One of the benefits of StLGS membership is free classes for members, and the winter/spring classes are now posted online so you can register. Please remember that you must pre-register as classes may be cancelled or filled to capacity and we need to be able to notify you.

Featured for this session are five classes:
  • Foundations of Genealogy, Part One, Sunday, 4 February
  • Foundations of Genealogy, Part Two, Sunday, 11 February
  • Intermediate Irish Research, Saturday, 10 March
  • Advanced RootsMagic, Saturday, 24 March
  • Meyers Gazetteer and Other Parish Finding Aids, Saturday, 28 April
For more details and information on how to register, click here


Monday, January 8, 2018

Society News

Happy New Year! We hope you had a wonderful holiday season and have made it through the freezing cold, snow, ice, and airport turmoil of the past few weeks. Time to turn thoughts to genealogy once again in preparation for an exciting year of new discoveries.

We'll start this new year by sharing some updates on society news and events. As you know, we suspended publication of our monthly newsletter, News 'n Notes, with the December issue. Now it's important for you to stay up to date with us via social media and our website (and, of course, this weekly blog!) If you aren't part of our Facebook or Twitter groups, please join. It's free, simple, and wonderfully interactive. You'll get the latest news in minutes and can also meet other genealogists and learn from them, if you are interested.
 
You can join us on Twitter by clicking here.



You can join us on Facebook by clicking here.



Office News
Just before the holidays, we updated the telephone system in the office. For the first time in almost two decades, we now have a modern, reliable phone network. Thanks to our technology director, Eric Wilson, and his trusty assistants, Mark Madrasz and Bob Goode, for their hard work on getting everything set up. And thanks to those of you who have called in while we were learning to use the new system for your patience. We now have the voice mail working properly and can usually transfer a call without losing it!

With the new year also came new positions for some of the office staff. Karen Goode has assumed her elected position of vice-president of programs. Viki Fagyal, who had held that position, has moved into the treasurer's seat, and Ed Dolata, former treasurer, has taken over as vice-president for membership. Both Viki and Ed have held those jobs before, so they are already up and running at their respective desks.

We had some website issues during the late fall that caused us to fall a bit behind on processing pages for St. Louis Congregations, St. Louis City/County Biographies, and back issues of the StLGS Quarterly. Again, thank you for your patience as we now begin to catch up on all of these pages. Watch the "New on This Site" page on our website during the next few weeks to see all of the exciting additions we have for you!
Reminders . . .

January Monthly Meeting
Our first monthly meeting of the new year will take place on Saturday, 13 January, at 10 a.m. in the auditorium at the Headquarters building of the St. Louis County Library, 1640 South Lindbergh Boulevard. We'll start the year with a panel discussion where you can "Ask Your Questions." We hope to see you there.

Trivia Night

This popular fundraiser will take place on Saturday, 3 March, at the Maplewood/Richmond Heights Community Center. Always a fun-filled occasion, this evening event has rounds of interesting questions, a fabulous silent auction, and bonus rounds with excellent prizes. Registration is now open, and we do hope you will invite friends or just come by yourself and make new ones. Click here for more information and/or to register on our website.

Annual Family History Conference: Genealogy . . .  Finding Your Way Online!

Please join us at this year's all-day conference: Genealogy . . .  Finding Your Way Online! Featuring nationally-known author, instructor, and lecturer, Pam Sayre; Missouri State Archivist, John Dougan, and some of our experienced local speakers, this year's conference will take place on Saturday, 7 April, at Orlando Gardens in Maryland Heights. Registration is now open. Click here for more information and/or to register on our website.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Interviewing a Relative

With the holiday season upon us and families planning to celebrate together, it seems like a good time to share some tips for conducting a successful interview with your relatives.

You may want to record the interview, so remember to start by asking permission to do so. Then, you may want to keep the following items in mind:

  1. Help the person relax and feel comfortable before you begin your questions.
  2. Keep other people from the room so your interviewee is not distracted. Turn off the TV and silence phones, too, so neither of you feel compelled to respond to texts or calls in the middle of your interview.
  3. If you are working with an older person, limit the interview to an agreed-upon time period and then stick to it so your person doesn't tire out. If needed, schedule a second interview at a later date.
  4. Always ask open-ended questions. Begin your questions with those trusty "5 W's and an H": Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Stay away from questions that can only be answered by yes or no unless that's all you want for an answer.
  5. Be careful not to put words in anyone's mouth. Phrase your questions carefully so you do not suggest the answers you want to hear.
  6. Be sensitive to your interviewee. If he/she seems reluctant to talk about certain subjects, stay away from them. Maybe try again another time, if it's important.
  7. Do not disagree with an answer that is given you, even if you know it's not correct. Arguing may shut down your interviewee.
  8. If a person wants to enlarge upon a subject, encourage them to do so.
  9. Finally, use visual aids such as old photographs, letters, and family memorabilia to stimulate memories.
Good luck and enjoy learning more about your family history!


Happy holidays to everyone. Your blogger/editor is taking time off to be with her own family and will be back with you in early January.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Upcoming StLGS Events for Your 2018 Calendar

As the holidays are rapidly approaching and you are undoubtedly setting up your 2018 calendars, we want to help you get started with some upcoming special society dates.

Office Closure
 
First, as we have announced on Facebook, Twitter, and our website, the StLGS office will be closed on Saturday, December 23rd, so our volunteers can spend time with their families that day.

January Monthly Meeting
 
Our first monthly meeting of the new year will take place on Saturday, 13 January, at 10 a.m. in the auditorium at the Headquarters building of the St. Louis County Library, 1640 South Lindbergh Boulevard. We'll start the year with a panel discussion where you can "Ask Your Questions." So if you have a genealogy question that you've been struggling with, this would be the time to see if one of our volunteers can assist you. To help us prepare better, please email your question ahead of time to programs@stlgs.org.

Trivia Night

This popular fundraiser will take place on Saturday, 3 March, at the Maplewood/Richmond Heights Community Center. Always a fun-filled occasion, this evening event has rounds of interesting questions, a fabulous silent auction, and bonus rounds with excellent prizes. Registration is now open, and we do hope you will invite friends or just come by yourself and make new ones. Click here for more information and/or to register on our website.

Annual Family History Conference: Genealogy . . .  Finding Your Way Online!

Please join us at this year's all-day conference: Genealogy . . .  Finding Your Way Online! Featuring nationally-known author, instructor, and lecturer, Pam Sayre; Missouri State Archivist, John Dougan, and some of our experienced local speakers, this year's conference will take place on Saturday, 7 April, at Orlando Gardens in Maryland Heights. Registration is now open. Click here for more information and/or to register on our website.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Holiday Gift Suggestions for Your Favorite Genealogist(s)

It's been a few years since we've published a holiday gift guide, due to space restrictions in News 'n Notes. But, now that we have unlimited space online, it seems like a good time to share some ideas on how to make your favorite family historians happy for the holidays. So, here goes . . .
Technology-related Gits
  1. Flash/thumb drives for using in libraries and sharing or moving files
  2. A portable external hard drive for extra storage or backing up files
  3. A subscription to an online/cloud backup plan such as Backblaze or Carbonite
  4. Extra supplies for digital equipment: memory cards, batteries, portable mini-tripods
  5. A subscription to Ancestry, FindMyPast, Newspapers.com or any similar service
  6. A DNA testing kit (Choose one of the major companies: FamilyTree DNA, Ancestry, or 23andMe. Select the one that has the most people in its database that are similar to your recipient. The more people with the same background in the database, the more accurate the results.)
  7. A genealogy software program or an upgrade to an existing program
  8. Gift cards to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store or to the appropriate store for their particular smart phone or tablet so they can buy additional apps.
  9. Gift certificates to local community colleges or adult education sponsors for classes and practice in using technology
Not Technological
  1. Archival quality photo storage boxes or photo albums
  2. Acid-free photo mounting supplies and/or photo marking pens
  3. Acid free, archival quality sheet protectors and/or paper
  4. Good quality three or four-inch D-ring binders for storing copies of sheets and documents
  5. Gift certificates to St. Louis Genealogical Society (or other local historical/genealogical societies) for membership, publications, and/or special events
Books!

Almost all genealogists are book lovers and you can't go wrong with adding to their collections. Try some of these . . .
  1. Any of the QuickSheets by noted genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills (or, better yet, her excellent book on source citations, Evidence Explained)
  2. The series of Genealogy at a Glance laminated booklets available in a variety of ethnicities: German, Irish, French, etc.
  3. Books on states of interest; for instance, any of the NGS Genealogy in the States series
  4. Books that are specific to areas of interest: neighborhoods, religions, occupations, or any other unique aspect of their family history
Remember, as a StLGS member, you are entitled to a discount on many of the products in our online store. Log in as a member to get your discount code before you shop. Or come by the office and see what we have available in our lobby sales area. We also have gift certificates available for any amount you choose. Have fun doing your holiday shopping or just treating yourself to a gift.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Family Stories: Is It True?

(Our guest author this week is Dr. Ted Bainbridge, who has written a series of articles on what he has learned from researching his wife's and his own family stories. We hope you pick up some good ideas for your own quests based on what Dr. Bainbridge has written.)


Many families tell and retell dramatic, strange, or funny stories about their ancestors. Some of them might even be true. Here are some examples of true, false, and partly-true stories in my family.

From the Mayflower to the Revolution

One of my mother’s cousins wrote this in a letter in 1973: “In the 1920s, Aunt Sadie . . . had the family tree done by professionals. . . . Something that may interest you from Aunt Sadie’s tree––two English [family surname] came over on the Mayflower but died the first winter in Massachusetts. When the second ship came over, two more Englishes came over. They were Geo. and William English. These two were our forbearers [sic]. . . . Another interesting thing is when Benedict Arnold gave the plans to Major André, the man who was presiding officer at the trials was our relation. He was Brevet Gen. Alexander English who ordered Major Andre hanged. He is buried in West Point cemetery. I visited his grave many times when I was stationed at the ‘Point’ in 1924 to 1928.”

During the 1970s, many relatives born around 1900 told me Aunt Sadie bragged about her tree, always carried it in her purse, and frequently brandished it to relatives while telling them they couldn’t read it because they hadn’t paid for it. The then-current owner promised Sadie she wouldn’t let anybody else see it, but she let me copy it because I lived more than 2,000 miles away. The report was done in 1930. It was not done by a professional. It went back only to Sadie’s grandfather who was born in 1803. It did not include any of the above stories.

Researching reliable historical records shows the following. The Mayflower brought one English, not two, and he died the first winter without issue. The second ship did not bring anybody named English or anything like that. No George or William English arrived in America for at least eighteen years after the Mayflower’s arrival. The presiding officer at Major André’s trial was Nathaniel Greene. The Daughters of the American Revolution Patriot Index shows no English with a rank above lieutenant. The hanging was ordered by the court martial board and confirmed by General Washington. General Alexander English, who is buried at West Point, was born seventeen years after Major André was hanged. Oh, sigh! How disappointing! [More on this family coming in the next installment.]
 
Went to Texas and Were Killed by Indians

My wife Carol researched a Masterson who married a Lanman, losing track of that family in Iowa in 1850. She asked the current Masterson genealogist of highest standing if she knew what happened to those people. She said they moved to Texas and were killed by Indians.

Carol found them in the 1860 census of Jack County, Texas. Several years later, she Googled “Texas Lanman.” She found a description of an Indian raid that took place in Jack County several weeks after the census was taken. In that raid, three members of that Lanman-Masterson family were killed.

From Portugal or the Netherlands?

A patron at the Longmont Family History Center asked for help researching her family. Some family members said they came from Portugal, others said they came from the Netherlands, and still others said they came from Portugal-Netherlands. The family name sounded Dutch rather than Portuguese.

Carol searched the Internet for an old gazetteer and found an entry for Portugaal in Zuid Holland. Her search of old maps found one, dated 1450, that showed a town named Portugaal near Rotterdam. A modern Google map shows Poortugaal among the southwestern suburbs of Rotterdam.
 
A Scottish Name in Switzerland

A friend asked me to help her start researching her family. She said the family used to be wealthy and lived in their castle on an island in a lake in Switzerland. The name sounded Scottish rather than German, French, or Italian.

Switzerland doesn’t have a lake with an island. I found that family’s association website. They are descended from the man and woman of that name who were wealthy and lived in their castle on an island in a lake near the west coast of Scotland. The association offers copies of their extensive genealogical data to anybody who can show they are descended from any family members they recognize. My friend’s great-grandfather was among them. So she had her ancestry back to 1750 in one day.
 So . . .

Stories preserved within your family might be true or false or some of each. Think of how you might prove or disprove parts of the story using authoritative sources that do not come from the family. Imagine what you would like to find if the world were an ideal place. Then hunt for such information on the Internet. If an imaginative and persistent search fails, try looking for books on relevant subjects in Worldcat at www.worldcat.org/. That site lists more than two billion items in libraries around the world. If you find something interesting, ask your local librarian to get it for you through Interlibrary Loan.

Hope that you can prove or disprove the stories you have inherited, but realize that some questions cannot be answered conclusively. For example, consider John English, who was a private in the Second Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Line and who claimed that he took an active part in the hanging of Major André. He was in that unit for two years before and three years after the André incident. That unit was close to Major André’s location the day he was hanged. No record of events close to the execution mentions John and no record says the Second attended the hanging. Was he nearby? Yes. Was he there? Maybe. Did he participate? We’ll never know. [More on John English in a subsequent installment.]

 Advice and Examples

Read Sustainable Genealogy: Separating Fact from Fiction in Family Legends by Richard Hite. This book is a collection of family traditions and explanations of how they were investigated. Some were true, some were false, and some were a little of both. If the library nearest you doesn’t have this book, ask a librarian to get it for you through Interlibrary Loan. [Or purchase a copy at the StLGS online store. Click here to go to the correct page. Remember to log in and get your discount code first, if you are an StLGS member.]


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Genealogical Musing with Fran


(Former StLGS president, Fran Behrman, is our guest blogger this week. As you gather with your family on Thanksgiving, remember that the holidays are a perfect time for encouraging stories to be told, recorded, written down, and preserved. Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at StLGS!)

Hello from StLGS to all of our fellow genealogists,

What is a genealogist? Investigator, searcher, sleuth, explorer, authenticator, fact finder, scrutinizer, thinker, writer, historian. Just some of the adjectives that you might use to explain what you do in your quest for the facts of your family’s past. There are no shortcuts. No maybes. This is serious work that requires a studious, nosy, persistent, inquisitive, discerning mind. 
 Do you remember your first great discovery? What a thrill! It is the “hook” that makes you want more.
I have a maternal great-grandfather whose name is James Vaton Smith. Thank goodness for the Vaton part as that is how, after hours and hours of perusing through microfilm, I knew I had found my man. Way back before computers and the Internet, the average researcher had to go to the source of original records. It was not always possible or practical to travel to explore those records, so many of us ordered microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. We had a local Family History Center near my home, so when a microfilm would arrive, I would go there and research. My James Vaton Smith went through Arkansas to join the land rush to claim property in Oklahoma at the turn of the century (we know this because my grandmother was born in Arkansas). Not knowing more than his name and his destination, I started with the most northern counties of Arkansas and planned to search each and every county. I could have come up empty, as he may have never been in any one location long enough to be in a census or tax or land record, but it was my duty to try. Luckily, I did indeed find my James V. Smith in a marriage record in Stone County, Arkansas. That led to knowing my great-grandmother’s maiden name and her parents. What a find! And it was Smith! But he had used his middle name!
No, I didn’t make this discovery in a day or a week or even a month, but the satisfaction and joy of the discovery is still one I remember and smile about. Researching is what we do and the sweet joy of an accurate discovery is a glorious moment.
Do you remember your first discovery? Do you do your genealogy alone or do you have a partner or team that you work with? I have always had the joy of sharing with my sisters who have been as excited and sometimes as stunned as I by the facts we found.
Genealogy has grown in popularity as a hobby (some say it is now the most popular pastime in the U.S.) and it is easy to understand why. The discovery of an ancestor is a thrill. Once you find the name then adding “meat to bone,” so to speak, by researching the person in depth, brings great satisfaction.
Are all ancestors easy to find?  Of course not. But to me the thrill of the hunt is as great as the thrill of the find. How many places have I traveled to that I would probably never have had the joy of visiting if the hunt for ancestors was not my “thing”? Small towns, large cities, and in between, from north to south and east to west across the great oceans to unknown places, following the clues and the documents found in towns that I may have never heard of before.
Genealogy takes an inquisitive mind, which the Energizer bunny ad says “ just keeps on goin!” Do you think you are finished when you have collected all the facts about everyone in your family tree? Well, I don’t think so. After collecting, you must preserve what you’ve found and hopefully write the story of your family’s past. Now that can be an even harder task, but this doesn’t have to be the great American novel. No, this is the story based on documented facts, that you will leave to generations to come who will know the contribution your family made to our world.
I am a genealogist. I am an investigator. I am an authenticator! And I am proud to be a member of StLGS, which has dedicated fifty years to assisting those who want to know about their family’s history.
             Wishing you great success in your genealogical search. Fran