“Mom, it’s Conflict on the phone, again. It’s saying it’s created something…”

There are essentially six types of “information” in my book.  Now I am not a lawyer, I do not pretend to be a lawyer, I am not a graduate of a law school, I am not licensed to give legal evidence.  You would look to Judy Russell’s blog, The Legal Genealogist, for that information.

My take on these rules, simplified, fall into the following definitions:

  1. True information. And there is sound evidence that it is true. Verified primary source material.
  2. Partially true. There is evidence that it is true, but sometimes that evidence needs to be verified for its own sake.
  3. Mostly true.  This is the type of information that is based on fact, but the details are modified by adjectives of aggrandizement. John Smith was a farmer, TRUE, according to census records, contemporary news accounts, court records and his journal. BUT ” John Smith had the bestest farm in Columbia County, Pennsylvania?”  Well, how do we define bestest?  You can’t.  It may have been a “nice” farm, but even that is a value judgement.  And value judgements aren’t evidence unless there is an established way to measure them.  So this “bestest” is nice, but it isn’t proof of anything.
  4. Mostly untrue. Most family legends have a thread of truth.  It can be a be a loose thread, but there is a thread, never the less, that can be either be cut out, or followed to the real story.  Think about cutting through whale blubber with embroidery scissors to get to the point.  There may be something there, but if its hiding under all that fat…?
  5. Patently false.  Not a bit of truth about it (“Lord Smitherines was born in 1650 and died at the end of the 16the Century) – and –
  6. Oh, Hell, no way.  Something so far off the charts that only the stupid, the uninformed the crazy will believe it. Like my great aunt who used to insist that my Grandmother’s family descended from “the great Kings of Roman Lithuania.”  Or the woman who stood up at one of my sessions I taught in Ohio and announced that “I have my family tree all the way to Adam and Eve.” Really?  Really?  Really.  If your common sense alarm goes off, call bullshit if you must.

Now some people confused “contemporary” information, that is to say information from the time period that the person or person(s) lived in to be “True Information” because looks like “primary source information”.

Only one thing is true about information that is contemporary to the subject – and that is that it is, at face value, contemporary to the subject.  Contemporary information, such as “established” magazines and “esteemed” journals (non-professional) can fall into to that “Mostly true” category.  Let us look at this example, from The American Monthly Magazine, published by the  Daughters of the American Revolution, January – June, 1909.


Lets look at the article with the highlighting, which is an announcement on Mrs. Elizabeth Dey Clark Little, the surviving daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Sargent Israel Clark.  Israel Clark’s line is well documented in the 17th century, and Israel Clark did his best to ensure that his line would continue, marrying four times, widowed three, and fathering fourteen children during his life.  The Youngest, Elizabeth, being born when her father was approximately 62.  Elizabeth’s middle name “Dey” is her mother Margaret’s middle name.  Elizabeth died on October 27, 1908.  There is no standardized Ohio Death Certificate for Elizabeth because the county didn’t start recording the form, which was mandatory beginning in 1909 in all 88 counties until December, 1908.  We are pretty sure that she died in Marion, Marion County, Ohio because the local paper, The Marion Star, ran her death notice stating that she  died at the home of her daughter Mary Little McPherson, on Leader Street in Marion.  And we know that in 1908, the McPherson’s lived on Leader Street, near West Fairground Street, then the Garden City Pike, in Marion, Ohio, based on city directories.  So we have no real evidence of her birth, or her death other than what we can get off of her death notice.  We can send away for a copy of her DAR paperwork to see what it tells us as well.

In her dotage


But there is the another problem with this article, which was probably submitted by the Findlay (Ohio) Chapter to the DAR for its magazine.  And it contains one sentence that no one seemed to catch that contradicts one of the article’s main assertions.  Go back and see if you can find it.

Did you find it?

Yes? No? Huh?

Well here it is:  “Mrs. Little came to Ohio at the age of eight years.”

Did you just have a “Hello?  Mom, it’s Conflict on the telephone, and it says it has done something…” moment, right?

The conflict is that somewhere after she was born in Ohio (“…and was born in Delaware County, Ohio, March 16, 1819.”) this article would lead you to believe that she came to Ohio in 1827 for the first time.

How can this be?  It’s can’t. People simply didn’t capriciously travel in 1819. And if it were true, where did she go, and why?

And I should note that Marion County, Ohio, where Israel settled for the remainder of his life, was “erected” (Yes, that is the proper term) from Delaware County, Ohio in 1821.  So she quite possibly could have been born in what is now Marion County, instead of what is now Delaware County proper.

But it does tell us that we can’t build a conclusive case with this article alone, even though it comes from a respected source, and just because it is a contemporary source to the subject.

What we need to find is either a definitive document – for 1819 that would be a letter, or a family bible entry, or a journal entry or some other type of sworn instrument that could resolve this conflict.

So when Conflict arises, it means rather than just ignoring it, it wants to be recognized, and resolved.



Lick um’ and stick um’, or Getting down your memories before they fade.

Regrets.  I have had a few. But then again, don’t we all? 6043071e3814dd44a682ab805f0ee30b

You regret that 1980’s hair-do that today looks like a hair-don’t.

You regret selling you first car.

You regret watching Dr. Oz, and then wondering “how did I get sucked into this?” and  “There is an hour I will never get back.”

Even though you and I haven’t met, I know that it has happened to you. No, shhh, really, it’s our little secret.

Really, I won’t say a word to anyone.  Who would I tell?

What I really regret though is that I never sat down with my mother and had a tape recorder of her telling me the stories that she knew from he childhood.

And once your parents are dead and gone, there is this terrible silence that you cannot shake.

Now my mother was a talker.  There is the story about how she almost blew off her hands trying to make a homemade fire cracker when she was a kid, or how she figured out how to start her older brothers car and drove it around and around the farm yard with him chasing after her so he could save the car and wring her neck.  And there was the one about the night in the late 1930s of the Kirkpatrick, Ohio, girls basketball game which started with a packed gym, only to see the people there for the game leave, little by little, until the only people left were the players and the ref.  The gym at the country school was in a wooden building behind the brick school building.  So the ref called a time out and both teams wandered outside to find that a house across the road – and the home of one of the players, a girl named Pearl Deitch, –  was burning down and that the crowd was trying salvage whatever they could for the family so it wasn’t a total loss.

I was about nine at the time she told me this and I asked “Why weren’t they fighting the fire?”

“Because it was 1937 and Kirkpatrick didn’t have a pressurized water system.  People had wells and pumps, that’s why.”

“What did you do? What did Pearl do?” I asked.

“What do you think we did?  We finished the game. We were playing Martel!  Kirk was not

Yes, she made this face.

going to forfeit to them.”  When my mother said “Martel” she squished up her face like a bad smell, indicating that even after 30 years and a world war there was little love lost between Kirkpatrick, and Martel, Ohio.

Now the basketball game is one kind of story.  She could have just told the story.  But what I got out of it was that while all hell was breaking loose, the girls of Kirkpatrick had a job to do and they weren’t going to lose to Martel.  Pleasant, maybe.  Martel, never.

When I work with people and clients and groups, one of the things that I try to emphasize is that part of the legacy that we leave behind are the stories about the every day minutia – that “little stuff” that we do, or see of pass every day, means something.  And for people living in the future, that little stuff means a great deal, because most people don’t write down those memories or explain how it all worked.

Let me give you an example.  About 13 (2004) years ago I wrote a book for Arcadia Publishing (under my birth surname) about my hometown, and in it I had a picture of the S&H Green Stamp redemption center.  At a gathering, after the book was released someone who came for an autographed copy was in the group around me, with her teenage granddaughter.

“…and I loved how you included pictures of the places uptown that I remember.  Like Isaly’s and the S&H Green Stamp center.  I still have the toaster that I got there after my husband an me was married.”

Her granddaughter, who would have rather been anywhere but there, and thus quite put out by her chatty grandma, rolled her eyes and said, with great exasperation “What is a green stamp?”

There was a gaggle of responses, all at once and the girl seemed confused.  So I said: “Green stamps were given by merchants, to customer who bought things, as a reward for shopping in the store. It was a value added.  You collected the stamps, licked them, pasted them in books, and collected the books until you had enough to buy what you needed from the catalog, or from the redemption center.”

This was a totally foreign concept to her.  But her confusion morphed to disgust after I said that “you collected the stamps, licked them, pasted them in books, blah, blah, blah…”  In fact I don’t think that she got beyond the word licked.

“Wait a minute,” she said with a look like I just hacked up a hairball.

“A stranger hands you something and you licked it?”

Grandma jumped in “Well, honey, those stamps were just like cash.  So you had to paste them in a book, or you could have missed out on lots of things that you needed and didn’t have the money for.”

At this point, you would have thought that the teen had witnessed a crime, but couldn’t believe anyone around her was bothered by it.

“You wouldn’t let me eat unwrapped Halloween candy, but you let my mother lick those stamps when she was my age?  What if those people had dirty hands?”

“Darling,” said another woman, “it was a different time.  And those stamps could get you a color TV so we could watch the Wonderful World of Disney.  Now I never licked them – I used a sponge and a little bit of water.  But that ruined the sponge af-ter a while, but you could even get wall to wall carpet through S&H.”

So there you had it. Ruin a dime store sponge or glue tongue. Life was a simpler.

And it went on for a little while, all the time the teenager seemed amazed that anyone would do anything so gross as to lick a stamp.

And who amongst would think to even write down a memory of trading stamps?  But they were part of every day life.  In greater Cleveland, where I spent the first 14 years of my life, Pick & Pay Super Market stores handed out Eagle Stamps, which were green too, and we licked those things because you could redeem them at The May Company.  Each book equaled three dollars – and you could get stuff with three dollars in the 1960s.

I bring this up because during RootsTech my husband and I dined with two presenters, and one of the presenters teenage daughters.  And up came the topic of trading stamps.  And guess what?  The same reaction as the girl in Marion years ago.

“You licked them? Ugh! No, really – a stranger gave you something and you licked it?”

But she listened and she learned, and she was able to make a connection to her grandmothers, to her mother, to women who had to make do with less.  In part because it was such a foreign idea, but on some level – the “gross” factor, that was the hook.  alliance-tenna-rotor-antenna-rotor-controller-1_21

We also talked about other things from our childhood.  TV’s with wooden cases.  A house having a rotary dial phone. Party-lines.  And remote control TV’s that had the remote tethered by a cable.  And last be not least, tube TV’s and the Alliance Tenna-Rotor – a device that moved the television antenna around for the best possible reception.  The in-house controller is on the right, and you turned the dial and waited as the unit made a noise that went “ker-CHUNK” for each degree that the antenna on the top of the house, or the tall pole if you lived in a rural area.  Oh, yes – this really existed.

So when you are considering what it is that want to leave behind, or record for a day, always consider the big life changing events.  But don’t forget to get down on paper, or on audio the little stuff that you remember.

I promise you, that little stuff will pay big dividends in the future.




Surviving RootsTech: Once it opens



I know that this is a bit far in advance, but better to get this down while the memory is fresh in my mind.  In previous RootsTech blog posts, we’ve covered how great it is.  And we’ve covered issues of cost of travel.  We’ve also covered how to get the most done at the FHL by planning.

Today the topic is how to get the most out of courses and the Expo Hall.

Getting off to a good start means

  1. Getting your online registration done early – usually in the September to October range;
  2. Getting through the ONSITE registration early;
  3. Understanding the Salt Palace;
  4. Planning your schedule;
  5. Understanding what you get and won’t get in the ed sessions
  6. What about food? – and –
  7. How to work the expo floor


ONLINE Registration

Cardinal rule for going to any big event like RootsTech, or even the Ohio Genealogical Society’s Annual Conference is early registration.  First, getting in early means you get the EARLY BIRD discounts.  Conferences want you to commit, and commit early.  Get’s it out of the way and it helps them get early $$$$ for their expenses, plus it helps them gauge the potential turn out.  So get it done early and save some money.

Getting to ONSITE Registration Early

Once you have made it to Salt Lake City – you want to check to see when the REGISTRATION booths open in the Salt Palace Convention Center.  This is the place that you pick up your “credentials” as a paying attendee.  Your need to wear this credential to get into the EXPO Hall, and in to any RootsTech event.  If you get to Salt Lake on Wednesday, get the credentials as soon as you can.  If you can’t get to the convention center until Thursday, be there when the doors open.  I am not kidding.  Wait any longer and you will be dreadfully sorry.  The lines move, but the lines will be very, very, very long.  And long lines, standing and waiting on concrete, even in the most comfortable shoes is always uncomfortable.   You have been warned.

Understanding the Salt Palace

Simply put, the Salt Palace is a multi level, modern, convention facility and it is enormous.  There are two main levels, the ground level which has access from the south and along South Temple, and the street level, which has access from the north and along the South Temple.  There is a gentle rise that kind of cuts the building in two.  If you are staying at the Hilton, then the South entrance is closer.  If you are staying at the Radisson or the Marriot, then the mid point doors and north entrances are closer.  Most of the ed sessions will be on either of these levels.  HOWEVER they also use a place called “Room 255” which is in the building, but its a hike. The hike is well marked, but be aware that a class in 255 (which can be subdivided into any number of rooms, is a walk that will help you get to 10,000 steps.

Planning your schedule

When we get closer to RootsTech, the RootsTech folk will release the schedules, telling you the EXPO Hall schedule, class schedules and speakers.  Look through that web posting, which should appear after Thanksgiving but by the first of the year.  Planning means you can prioritize your time.  One hint: Do not over schedule.  If you book you time too tight, you’ll spend more time worrying about what time you got someplace, you’ll watch the clock and you’ll enjoy none of it.

What you will, and will not get in an “ed session”

There are lots of great speakers who will be at RootsTech.  You cannot see them all.  And in most cases, they only have an hour.  RootsTech is not an in-depth institute.  It is designed to give you a topic, material, and some answers to general questions on the matter at hand.  Your ed sessions will give you “Ah-ha!” moments, but if you sign up for a topic that particularly difficult – let’s say Jewish Genelaogy – you are not going to any real in-depth, one on one help from a speaker who has 100-200 people in a room.  So you are going to learn, what is new, what to watch for, what you need to be reminded of, learn about some new tools, etc.   If you need in-depth help, once we get closer to the live date, you can sign up for an appointment with a one on one coaching session on your general topic.  RootsTech is the best way that you can get the broadest exposure to a variety of topics with nationally known speakers.

What about food?

There is food available on site.  When you get your registration packet, you will have an option of attending Luncheons tied to special events.  These luncheons serve a preset meal served by cater waiters, which can be of the Chicken or Beef, California Medley or Green Beans, Rice pilaf or roasted potatoes, and cake or pie.  YOUR OTHER ONSITE OPTION is to eat what the onsite vendors are selling at the back of the EXPO hall, for a nominal charge.  You get a bit more flexibility this way.  OR you can patronize the “fair food” people in the corridors.  So you have options, you’ll need to eat, don’t panic.  It’s not haute cuisine, but you won’t starve, either.

And that leaves us with the Expo Floor, which I will save for the final post in this series next week.  Knowing how to effectively work an Expo Hall, will help you get through everything, and “BUDGET” both your time and money so you get the most out of your time there.














On the Ides of March, go through your files…


It’s March. Spring cleaning time. SOURCE: SUPERSTOCK


…because you never know what is lurking there.

My suggestion is that you take a half hour to go through some old genealogical files.  Old fashioned PAPER files.

“But,” you say, “I have all electronic files!”

You can choose a couple of those on your computer, or a storage device, and look through them as well.

Did you find anything of interest?

In the olden days, we kept paper files because we used paper and typewriters and copy machines.  Hand written notes?  Remember those? Family sheets written out by hand?   OY!

But email?  Never heard of it in the 1970s and 1980s.  I didn’t see my first fax machine until I was an intern in Congressman Mike DeWine’s office in 1983, and even that wasn’t a modern fax machine.  NO!  We had a machine with a drum  and a telephone.  The home offices in Dayton and Marion (and you know what town is between Dayton, Ohio, and Marion, Ohio, don’t you?  Why its Engagement, Ohio!) had like machines.  Every day that would paste news clippings to a piece of paper, Xerox them (back when “Xerox” was a verb and a proper noun) and mount the page on their machine’s drum.  They would call us on the special phone, we’d answer, put a piece of silver paper on our drum, then they would push a SEND button, we would push a RECEIVE button and the drums would start turning.  The stylist on each button would start to move across the pages, copying one page in Ohio to the other in Washington, D.C.  Once it was finished with the whole page, then we would take the silver paper to the Xerox, copy it, and it was a copy of what they had sent for us to see.  All that for one page, each day.

THEN in the 1990s, we had email, which we would print off so we kept a record of it.

THEN in the 2000s we just started keeping everything on the computer, which was great until the machines wore out, crashed or were taken over by extortionists.

And now today we have people who insist that they have no files “Everything is stored on electronic media,” or, more ominously, “In the cloud!”

Which I doubt, very much.  They’ll insist, but no person is that organized.

And as my mother used to say, “Never trust a cook whose stove is spotless.”  I feel that way about people who have spotless desks, everything filed.

But if you have been working with family trees, and roots and genealogy for longer than five years, you probably have paper files.  And it more than like that you have been filing away.  Maybe you make piles.  Perhaps your desk is six feet under paper.

Either way, you have files, and periodically, you need to chose one and open it up and see what you have.

I did this just this morning when I opened the basement filing cabinet looking for something on another family line and came across a file that we moved from Ohio to Maryland four years ago.  I found amazing stuff that I had been collecting on my paternal grandmother’s family that I thought I’d get to one day.

And today, I am getting to it.  I am sorting, starting to review it, reorganizing it, and happily now, the online resources mean that TODAY I can do the research in Lithuania and Latvia that I couldn’t do five years ago.

Now, I have to say that I also love my electronic files, but I do keep both.

If you only keep electronic files, then chose a folder in your genealogy folder, open it up and click on everything.  Open it up and read it.  Ask yourself “have I used this?  Can I use this? Why haven’t I used this?”  If you are storing these files, ask yourself, what is the real value from this copy, this document, this picture?

You don’t need to get rid of it if you can’t imagine why you have it.  But with social media, you can start a basic family research page, post the stuff and invite cousins and kin to look at it and help you make sense of it.  At least this way, you files can work for you, or someone else.

So for today, go through a file and see if you learn something from something hidden in it.

Part II, An example of a Chancery Court Suit.

These chaps could have been researching in Chancery Court records if they weren’t busy doing other things.


So, yesterday we talked about what a Chancery Court is – a court of Equality.   And we know that many courthouse employees may not know what a Chancery Court is because they have other things to worry about.

The example that I pulled up is a partition of sale brought in Marion County, Ohio’s Chancery Court by one Ruel Skinner, of Wood County, Ohio, who is married to Mariah (Sometimes Maria, Mary) Skinner, nee Fickle, in 1846.

Why is this case so important?  It shows us both how a Chancery Court was used at the time, and how it provides clear evidence of Isaac Fickle’s children from two marriages.

In 1838, one Isaac Fickle of Marion County, Ohio died intestate, meaning no will was filed, meaning in those days nothing was really entered into the courts.  At the time he died, he left behind a wife and young children.  This was Isaac’s second wife, the first having died after the birth of their second child.  So we have children from two different mothers, and there is an age gap.  The eldest child, Mariah was born in 1817, her brother Stewart was born in 1818 in Fairfield County, Ohio.

In 1821, Marion County, Ohio, was erected from Delaware County, Ohio.  Isaac received a land grant and moved from east central Ohio to north central Ohio – a distance today of about 2 hours by car.   The land grant gave him the land, free and clear, with no encumbrances.

Following the death of the first wife, Isaac Fickle married again, in 1825 to Eliza Tipton, and had six more children.  The eldest was Mary, born in 1825, and the youngest was either a daughter named Cordelia, or a son named Elliot.  We know that Cordelia was born in 1837, because we have her death record.  But with Elliot, all we have is his tombstone stating his death date.

Because Eliza was a widow with minor children, she was allowed to live on the land, which was free an clear, and benefit from its farming income until such time as her youngest child reach majority, or she died.  If she died leaving minor children, then the proceeds from the sale of the land would go in equal shares to all of Isaac Fickle’s children.

Seems fair enough.

But Eliza died, and we have no record or burial location for her.  There is a dressed stone next to Isaac’s grave marker, but no stone for Eliza.  And because she didn’t leave an estate when she died, and there is no will, there is no probate record on file.

Dead end, right?


We have the suit in the Chancery Court records!

And in the suit brought by Ruel Skinner, on behalf of his wife, he was suing his wife’s half siblings for the land.  Why?  Because evidently, no one thought to tell the half siblings about Eliza’s death.  Stewart Fickle had pushed onto Indiana, and Mariah married Ruel Skinner and they were living in Wood County to the north.  Given that this was Ohio, in 1836, news didn’t travel fast, and neither did people.

By 1838, Mary Fickle, the eldest, had married one William Franklin Harvey, and William was farming not only his land next to the Fickle land, but he was also providing his wife’s sisters and brother with shelter.

So to get his wife’s fair share for her, under Ohio law, the land needs to be partitioned and placed for sale.

So from this Chancery Court case, what we found proof of was:

  1. Isaac Fickle died intestate.
  2. That Eliza Fickle died “in or about 1846”
  3. That children of Isaac Fickle were Mariah, Stewart, Mary, Margaret Ann, Louisa, Sarah, Elliot and Cordelia.
  4. That each child was entitled to one eighth of proceeds.
  5. That Mariah had to sue all of her siblings for partition, including the “infant” (under the age majority) siblings of Elliot and Cordelia.
  6. The proceeds of the sale of 87 acres of land (more or less) netted each heir $133.87, a princely sum in 1838, considering you could actually buy something of value for a couple pennies.

The extra nugget that we get is that Mariah was married to Ruel Skinner, that Mary was married to William Harvey, that Margaret was unmarried and that Louisa was married to Hezekiah Johnson.  And because we cannot find Louisa’s death date we know that she was alive when the partition was filed.

Now the outcome of all of this is that William Harvey, Mary’s husband, bought the land outright in partnership with his brother David Henderson Harvey.

So what this partition action, in the Chancery Court tells us is who is related to whom, what the relationships were, and it ties these children to their birth mothers, and gives a date of death for Eliza Fickle.  At the same time, it tells us that Louisa Johnson, nee Fickle was alive at partition.

Chancery records – worth looking into .


What were Chancery Courts in Ohio? And why should I care?

another story
No, really.  This is good stuff to know!


If you have researched in a courthouse in Ohio, and have ever come across something called “Chancery Court Records”, and have asked a county clerk’s assistant “what are these?”, the response is “I have no idea.”  Or they will say “They’re really old.”

Seriously?  Oh, yeah.  Many County Clerk employees are simply too busy to browse through old indexes and languidly peruse old case files.  You they simply don’t bother knowing anything about Chancery Courts.

Between the 1850s and 1968, Ohio counties had two very distinct court channels, Probate Court, and the Court of Common Pleas.  Following an amendment to the Ohio Constitution in 1968, the states eighty-eight Probate Court’s became a division of their county’s Court of Common Pleas.   To do this, the State Constitution was amended by the “Modern Courts” amendment.   Now Common Pleas has a general division, a juvenile division, a probate division.

BUT PRIOR to the early 1850’s, there were such things as Chancery Court’s in each of the counties.

Simply put, a Chancery Court in Ohio was a court of equality, a place where non-criminal cases were heard where both parties on each side of a case were more or less equal before the eyes of the law.

In Chancery Court records we see suits where one party sues another party over something.  This includes:

  • Siblings who sue one and other for land partition.
  • Gentleman A buys a horse from Gentleman B and discovers that the horse has non-disclosed issues (health, inability to do work that the seller claimed said horse performed for the seller, etc.)
  • Failure to pay a dowry after the wedding.
  • Failure to return a dowry after said daughter leaves her newlywed husband who is “unable or unwilling to perform the duties of a husband, aside from providing food, shelter and normal commercial provisions of life and livelihood.”  Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
  • Barking dogs.  (No.  seriously – people complained about barking dogs in the 1830’s.)   And the like.

What we find in Chancery Court suits are some pretty good stuff that didn’t qualify for criminal action, or the immediate settlement of the an estate.

So why should you care?

Well, considering that Ohio did not mandate birth or death records prior to 1867, a Chancery court can prove relationships.

Chancery Courts were pretty much the “People’s Court” of their era.  Chancery Courts can tell you who sued who (over a chicken, or over acreage), why they were suing, and in some cases let me repeat, the actions can document and prove relationships.

But wouldn’t a will do that?  What if the person you are looking for died without a will prior to 1850?  Then you go to the Chancery Court Records.

See?  A-ha!

Tomorrow we’ll take a quick look at such a case between siblings needed to resolve a closed estate.

RootsTech Update: Making the FHL work for you

Two weeks ago I discussed the things you need to consider if you plan on attending RootsTech for the first time.

Today, we tackle the preparation for the Family History Library, which I will abbreviate as FHL.   And accessing the FHL and its vast collection of records, films and knowledges is one of the great side benefits of going to RootsTech!

They even have neato bazeato technology on the first floor!

The FHL is an outgrowth of one of the tenants of the Church Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which encourages its membership to undertake genealogy as way of honoring their ancestors and ensuring their inclusion in the eternal afterlife.  But genealogy is also way that Mormons help to build community.  It’s a commonality that is shared amongst its believers.

Good thing for all of us, because LDS Church has been a tireless collector of records and promoters of genealogy as a vocation and an advocation.

If you show up at the FHL with no game plan, frankly, you are going to get lost in your thoughts and overwhelmed. So, these are my hints for preparing for your visit are, in a nutshell to get organized, focus on records you cannot easily access in person or online, keep a record of the documents you are seeking, write out the brick walls you need to break down, understand how the FHL works and pay attention to sources during online searches:

  1. Get organized. For left brain people, this is easy.  For right brain people, not so much. Over the next eleven months, create a big picture for your research.  What do you want to get done, what do you need to get done and what haven’t you been able to get done.  Brick walls?  Add that to your list.
  2. Focus on records from places not easily accessed online, or in person.  Identify the areas of the nation, or the world,  where you just can’t get.  Try not to direct your time at the FHL on locally available records to where you live.  So, if you live in St. Louis, Missouri, and the historical society there has a set of records that may meet your needs, do that research in St. Louis.  If, you live in St. Louis and you are looking for New Mexico records that are not available online, shift that search to the FHL.  OR if you live in a place, and the local archives or library only has a poor quality copy, then shift that to the FHL.
  3. In addition to keeping a research log (which may seem like a pain if you are not a professional genealogist), add in a “Documents Sought” log.  This log should include any information that you find online that is in a transcript form when you need a copy of the actual original.
  4. Keep a log of “Brick Walls”.  We all “know” where we get stuck, but writing down a fact sheet for each brick wall, and all of the sources you have checked and not found what you are looking for will help you rethink the problem in a clearer fashion.  In other words, get the Brick Wall out of your head and onto paper.
  5. Read up on how the Family History Library works, how it is organized, what they keep on site, and what will need to be “paged” to the library floor from the LDS storage at Granite Mountain.  Depending on how that record is managed within the storage facility, that could impact how many days it takes to get to the FHL for your use.
  6. When you use online research sites, when an index comes up, or a transcription, look at the source information. The use FamilySearch’s website to see if the records are available through the library.

And remember, you can’t get everything done at once.  When you are planning your time at the library, remember to have fun, visit the first floor display, there is a vend-o-cafe in the building for breaks.   Right now, the key to getting the most out of the visit is to plan, prioritize and print (as in writing it down) out as much prep work as possible.

Below are a number of links, in one place, that I have collected to help you get the most out of your stay.  Don’t wait until the last minute, plan now and succeed next February!

Video on what Granite Mountain is, and the purpose it serves.

Family Search Wiki – numerous helpful topics, including information on the FHL.

FamilySearch’s broad overview of tips for how to get the most out of the library.

Of Graveyards and Things (Blog) tips.  More in depth, and other ideas that I haven’t covered.

See you Monday Morning!