22 December 2014

Setting the stage for success

In February, 2015, I will be traveling to Salt Lake City, Utah for the combined FGS and Rootstech conference. I am thrilled to have the chance at a bit of research at the Family History Library along with the conference activities. This is my version of pre-planning for this research adventure. 

#FGS2015 is right around the corner.

Believe it or not, February will be here before most of us can blink. There is much to do before this once in a lifetime event, and many attendees will be making sure that they get quality research time in at the Family History Library. I'm one of those folks. 

Admittedly, the library will be crowded. Like no-room-to-sit, 15-people-in-every-aisle, staff-run-ragged busy. Imagine this incredible library filled with people, and then realize that every one of them have computers, binders, notebooks, bags, and all the other "stuff" most of us take into a research facility. Then pile on heavy winter jackets, hats, mittens, and scarves. A lot of people, a lot of stuff. This equates, in my mind, to preparation. In order for me to be successful, I need to be ready as soon as I walk in the door. 

Last year when I attended, I was able to stay after the conference and spend two full days in the Library. That was fantastic... but I don't think I'm going to have that luxury this year. I also learned last year that although I felt very prepared with my research goals in hand, I was simply not prepared enough. I was still successful - I found some great material that has helped me considerably in my research. However, I could have done more. 

Changing Tactics

In 2014, I used Evernote to log my research at the library. It worked, to a point. I needed a better set up for inputting search results, and tracking my progress. I would have benefited a great deal from reading through Cyndi Ingle's Evernote for Every Genealogist blog, and using her advice to create a better template. Evernote is a great tool, and I use it daily, but the other realization I had was that it didn't work for me in that environment (at least, not in the way I had it set up). 

Moving to Excel

I have found that Excel is such an amazing tool for genealogy, and I have used it in several other research projects and in a variety of ways to organize my data. I decided that for 2015, I needed to go back to what I was comfortable with, instead of trying to learn enough about Evernote to make it work. I'm creating a template specifically for research in the FHL, so I can pull it out for any project, any time. 

The template will include the following:
  • Tabs for each primary surname I am researching. 
  • Columns for key elements.
  • A column for prioritization, so that I can quickly sort and organize my data based on what is most important for me. 
Some of the other benefits of using Excel in this way include the fact that I can sort by location, or by ancestor. 

Excel, genealogy, family history, research plan, research log, FGS2015, Rootstech, Family History Library, research trip, spreadsheet
Screenshot of my Excel research log. 

As of right now (and always subject to change) the column headings include: 
  1. Priority
  2. Film #
  3. Item #
  4. Collection Title
  5. Objective
  6. Individual
  7. Location
  8. Year (if known)
  9. Other Parties
  10. Objective Met? (Y/N)
  11. Notes
  12. Citation
  13. FamilySearch Link

Putting together my list is actually fairly simple, thanks to a tip I picked up from D. Joshua Taylor a few months ago. His suggestion was to maintain a running list of resources I want or need to pursue at any of the major genealogy libraries around the country. You never know when you might have the opportunity to research at the DAR library in Washington DC, or the Allen County Public LIbrary Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, for example. Life happens fast, so these unexpected research trips may not leave you with a great deal of time to prep. If you have the running list handy, you can take advantage of these random moments of genealogy heaven. I took this advice to heart; and since I travel a lot more these days due to my work with Findmypast, I thought it was a great idea. Therefore, I have a running list of film's to look at the Family History Library (ironically, I keep this list in Evernote!). All of this means that all I need to do is transfer the information to my spreadsheet, and I'm good to go. 

One thing I will be missing this year, more than anything else, is my research partner. Last year, my daughter was able to spend a day at the Library with me, and we had a marvelous day together exploring our history. She was only four years old at the time, and really got excited exploring the microfilm, the stacks, using the reader's, and seeing the museum style displays around the library. Unfortunately, she won't be joining me in Salt Lake City again this year. 

My daughter, selecting film at the Family History
Library, February, 2014. 

11 December 2014

The only thing on my list...

This year, my wish list for the holiday is pretty short. 

Every year around this time, the internet fills up with articles and stories about the "best gifts for genealogists." All of those shiny tech toys, subscriptions to pay sites, trips to distant courthouses, education programs and attendance at various events are appealing to me, and to many of you. But this year, there is only one thing I want. 

This year for Christmas, I want to preserve history. 

That's it. Simple. Straight forward. And actually very easy to do. 

The best part is, we can all be a part of it. We can all contribute to this great effort, we can all take pride in the fact that we helped to save page after page of these original records. 

Asking for donations to the War of 1812 Preserve the Pensions effort is easy; and I'm not above begging. Really. Making a donation is easy too; I've got it set up to make a monthly donation automatically on a day, and for an amount, that works for me. 

So what's stopping you? Make a donation today. Save history. Save it for researcher's everywhere now, and for future generations. Save it for historians and military enthusiasts. Save it for teachers and educators that rely on historic records to bring history to life. Save it for every one of us, forever. 

$45 saves 200 pages

That's it. Pretty simple. Make a donation, take part in this historic effort, and give the gift of history for generations to come. 

04 December 2014

Rolling Resources

During a recent family excursion to the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, I stumbled across this genealogy resource on wheels. How would you write the citation? 

The Fort Collins Museum of Discover is a wonderful facility that we have just recently explored. We enjoyed our first day there so much, in fact, that my parents decided to gift us with a family pass for the coming year. My daughter and I were thrilled, as there is much yet to explore.

One of the displays that caught my eye was this historic wagon.

Neat piece, isn't it? 

As I looked closer, I began to realize that there are names and dates scribbled all over the side panels. The genealogist in me got real excited, real quick. 

I did not have a great deal of time that day to ask around, but I did email the archives this week to ask about the signatures, and if they had ever been transcribed. I received the following response back from the curator at the museum:

I received your inquiry... "about signatures on the Museum's Frank Miller Mud Wagon. What an interesting notion, to follow up on the names signed on the wagon! I don't know of, and was unable to find any record of anyone transcribing them. The wagon underwent a fairly intensive conservation/restoration in 1995, and we have the report here at the Museum. The report mentions that the conservation work retained the penciled signatures, but doesn't describe them. It included several photos, but none that specifically focus on the signatures. 
From what I can tell, the signatures date from two periods. In the days before WWII, Frank Miller entertained a steady stream of guests, including many Western performers and celebrities, at his guest ranch and exotic animal zoo, Trail's End. Several sources mention that many of these visitors signed the body of the wagon. Will Rogers is said to have added his signature in pencil at this time (though I haven't found it yet). Miller gave the wagon to the City of Fort Collins in 1948 as a memorial to his son, who had died in Germany during WWII. The wagon was displayed downtown in an open-windowed brick building and many passerby added their signatures to it then. In 1978 the wagon, deteriorating from exposure to the weather in this semi-enclosed shelter, was moved into storage at the Fort Collins Museum. The wagon came back out on exhibit in 1990 in the Museum's gallery.
So the signatures would date from about 1917 to the mid-1940s, and from 1948 to 1978." 

There you have it. No transcription currently exists. A project for the local genealogical society, perhaps?

I have to share one last photograph, which is a close up of the section above one of the rear wheels. The date is 1878: