Friday, November 13, 2009

Coming up for heir ...

Just surfacing after a week in Salt Lake City, where I was embedded with books, films, and many many other genealogy obsessives. There is something so comforting about being around people who are as overboard about a subject as you are. And every time I go, there is something new to discover, not only genealogically, but also about the Family History Library’s own physical setup.

I was fortunate to connect with a group from the upper midwest a couple of years ago, and now I schedule my Utah trips for the time when they will be there -- a pleasantly companionable arrangement. Having ancestors who arrived in North America well before the Revolution, I spend my time on the second and third floors (US books and films), while my Minnesota pals are in the lower levels digging into Scandinavian history, but there are plenty of fellow researchers everywhere, ready to share a thumbs up when they hear someone exclaim over a Big Discovery.

The Library is set up for laptop owners, with plenty of power outlets and free wireless access not only to its own catalog, but also to its many database subscriptions, like Ancestry, World Vital Records, Footnote, etc. Of course it is also quite feasible to use the Library’s own computers -- there are banks of them now, and plenty of volunteer staff more than willing to help with technical and/or genealogical assistance. The only cost is for the printer, and at a nickel a page, you can’t beat that.

I particularly appreciated the new scanning equipment, which allowed me to make paper copies of individual microfilm shots, after cropping, straightening, adjusting constrast, etc. Another option is to copy these filmed images directly onto a flash drive. (I did both.) And being able to buy a 2G flash drive for $9 isn’t bad, either.

My own research results reinforced the standard advice -- work back in time, from the known to the unknown, and don’t limit the scope of your search to a single place. I have long wanted to prove, or rule out, a connection between one particular ancestor and another, earlier, person, with little success. So instead of concentrating on that earlier guy, a Revolutionary War pensioner, I decided to learn more about the known ancester. I found his death date and burial place in an Ohio county I had not tried before, which was a big step forward. Now, if only I can find an obituary ...

In Georgia, I was trying to discover what happened to a relative’s first husband and four young children when she remarried. Again, the problem was partly solved when I did a state-wide census search for the first husband and found the family in a county I had not tried before. That led me to newspaper accounts of his illness and death, and the fact -- albeit negative -- that it was not an epidemic that wiped out everyone. So, although I still don’t know what became of the children, I have a better idea of where to look.

You know what they say -- location, location, location. If you are looking in the wrong place, you won’t get far.

Now for the fun part -- working these and other FHL finds into my family history files -- adding newly discovered names, dates, places, and events. And of course making sure I have permanent lists of the sources I searched, whether they yielded anything or not.

And, by the way, how is YOUR research going?

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