Library of Congress Visit

This weekend I traveled to Washington D.C. for a professional conference. My trip was short, but I did get to spend most of the day Friday at the Library of Congress (LOC). I’ve been to LOC before as a visitor/tourist, so I didn’t feel compelled to take many pictures. I’d not been as a user of their collection however.

I’d not prepared for the trip, other than spending a few minutes reading the website, so, I did not have clear cut goals. Because of this, I decided to focus more on seeing what I could find of value for the NCGenWeb project rather than my own personal research.

Upon getting to the library, I went first to get my Reader Identification Card. Good for two years, the card is used to gain entry into the numerous reading rooms and request books from the closed library stacks.

The process for obtaining the card was straightfoward and easy so I was done in less than half an hour. After getting the card I then took the underground tunnel from the Madison Building over to the Jefferson Building to go to the Local History & Genealogy Room.

This is the view from my position in the research room looking towards the front.  The reference desk is hidden behind the atlas. You see those TV screens? They have cameras so they can see what’s going on in all parts of the room.  There is free wireless access which I loved having available!

My first order of business was to request books from the closed stacks.  I knew that this would take approximately 50 minutes for them to be retrieved so I jumped online, identified some books of interest, and then made the request using the paper slips they make available in the room. There is no limit to the number of books you can request to have pulled at one time.

After filling out many of these slips, when I handed them in, I asked the staff person if there were any plans to allow requests to be submitted electronically.  At that time, he gave me instructions on how to do just that! I only wished the staff person who gave me the room orientation had told me this beforehand.

The room has 7,000+ items present so I was able to extract information from some of the North Carolina holdings while I waited for my books to be delivered.   I then spent the next few hours going through the books, taking digital pictures of pages of interest.  I took over 300 pictures with my cell phone of information that I plan to use throughout various NCGenWeb sites for other researchers.   Sweet.  Maybe next time, I can look for particular sources that may help my own individual research.

Following the Local History & Genealogy Room, I then went to the Newspapers & Current Periodicals Room.  My visit here was not as nearly productive.   First of all, the staff person didn’t seem to quite understand my vague request for a newspaper reel from the 1880s that included various NC newspapers.  I guess they are used to people seeking specific titles, but I tried to explain that from the library catalog record I knew that the reel contained multiple newspapers and I just wanted the reel.  He kept insisting that I put a specific title on the request form, but the reel contained about 20 different titles.  Eventually I jotted down one of the titles on the reel and sure enough when the reel was delivered the title was not on there but instead it read “Misc. NC newspapers”.  Yeah.

Now, I was looking forward to using their digital machines.  It is advertised on their homepage that you can bring your USB drive and download images to the microfilm reader.   In addition to all the standard types of microform readers, they have 4 ST-200 machines.

While I was initially excited, my excitement quickly waned.  I do not like this machine.  :-(

It seemed that there was not an easy way to view a readable image of an entire newspaper page nor capture a high-resolution image of an entire page.  Without being able to see the whole page at a sufficient zoom level, it was difficult to know what was on each page.   I was able to zoom in on the page, but then I’d spend a lot of time moving the plate around in order to see different parts of each page.  Cumbersome is not even the word.

I then tried the digital capture and tried to download it to my external harddrive.  Turns out, when they say download to your USB drive, they mean USB drive – it wasn’t compatible with my external harddrive.  Oh well. Not a biggie.  I used a workaround and snapped some more pictures with my phone’s camera.  I guess I could have asked for help, but I was trying to figure it out on my own.

Overall though, if I’d had more time, I’d definitely have requested more rolls of film and relied on the traditional microfilm machines.  I did spend the afternoon regretting that I’d not been interested in genealogy when I lived in DC! I lived there for a year in 1999-2000 and if I’d only have been interested I could have been spending a LOT of time at the Library of Congress.

And you know what else? I found out that the cemetery I lived next to when I did live in DC was the cemetery where F. Scott Fitzgerald was originally buried.  I remember passing that cemetery often too!

All in all, I had a great day though and am very glad I had the opportunity to go visit LOC and see friends.   For more tips on visiting LOC, check out Missy’s blog post.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

How can you can resist reading a fiction mystery book that begins with a family tree?  Last week on a trip to Target I was browsing the paperbacks for a book to read and saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I’ve been keeping my eye on the run of the movie ever since reading Eastman’s blog post about the movie back in March.   In his post, Eastman mentions that there is a genealogy subtext to the book – a fact very much evident from the first few pages -specifically with the fact that a family tree is displayed.

As Eastman mentions, to solve the mystery the main characters do much research — including spending time researching the ancestors, researching photo & newspaper archives, analyzing old photos, and interviewing the Vanger family members and friends.  For us genealogists, this is sure to be a book you’ll enjoy.

The book is the first in a trilogy; the second book is The Girl Who Played With Fire, and the third, soon-to-be-released book is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  I plan on reading both of the remaining books.   The movie is playing at one of our local theaters so I hope I can get to it soon.

I put a video of the trailer on my blog right sidebar.

A Graduation Timeline: Making My Own History

On Friday,  May 14th,  I received my Masters of Public Health degree from Vanderbilt University.  I blogged about it on my family blog if you’re interested in reading the details, but I was prompted by this recent milestone to tell my stories about my previous graduations.   ‘Tis the season for graduations after all right?  Forgive the poor quality of the pictures; they are pictures of pictures and I will do better next time.

HIGH SCHOOL:  I graduated high school in 1993 from the North Carolina School of Science & Math in Durham, NC.  NCSSM is a residential high school for North Carolina 11th & 12th grade students. Nowadays, many school systems have graduations at younger grade levels, but this was my first graduation ceremony.  Oh goodness – here’s a picture of my oh so much younger self with my now deceased grandmother Cora, and my father.

Grandma Cora, me & daddy

walking off the podium

I still remember the procession for the ceremony; we exited the buildings near the old Watts Hospital side of the complex.  The first family member I saw when we walked outside was my uncle Al.   After the ceremony,  I rushed back to my room to begin packing up to head home.  I think we were packed and ready to go within an hour.  My father doesn’t play!

BACHELORS DEGREES: On Sunday May 11, 1997 I graduated from Emory University (Atlanta, GA) with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Religion.   It was Mother’s Day that year and above mentioned Uncle Al wasn’t able to attend as he and his wife welcomed their youngest into the world that same day.    My friends and I were all very excited and CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour was our commencement speaker.   I had no idea who she was then, but I’ve been following her career ever since then and feel connected to her in some way.  I have a VHS tape of the commencement ceremony that I guess I really should get transferred to DVD huh?

me in the center of the group

mommy, me and daddy

MASTERS OF SCIENCE IN LIBRARY SCIENCE:  In August 1999 I graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with my MLS degree.   In college,  I decided my junior year to become a librarian and went directly into the UNC program.  At that time, the path I envisioned was quite different from what I actually do now, but learning how to organize & critique information is a skill set that is highly transferable! If only most people understood what it is I actually do :-).

I don’t have any graduation photos from my MLS degree b/c I did not have a planned participation in the May ceremony.  I was an August graduate and we’d been told that we would walk in the University’s December ceremony.  However, methinks some communication paths were crossed for while my fellow August graduates and I were at the May event in the audience merely to support our May graduate classmates,  they ended up asking the August group to come on the stage anyway! No gown, no hat, no tassel for me that day.  I’m cool with that though, for I really do still remember the experience.  Overall, I felt happy that we had some acknowledgment that day.

And now,  in 2010,  11 years after my last degree,  I have degree #3 (if you don’t count high school)!  This time around was so challenging. I do not think I’ll be going to school again but they say “Never Say Never” right?

Me,the happy graduate

Now, on a more genealogical note within the next few weeks I’ll be announcing a graduation-related genealogy project I’ve been working on for the NCGenWeb Project. Details to come soon!

I’m Honored

I’ve discovered that my genealogy blog was featured on MyHeritage.com’s Top 100 Genealogy Sites.  How very cool! They purposely sought to highlight lesser known blogs.  Their criteria were

1) high quality content

2) originality in topic choice, approach and design; and

3) frequently updated

I’m honored to be on the list and I look forward to exploring many of the others they highlight.  Thanks MyHeritage.com!

Browse papers in Google News Archive

I posted this on the NCGenWeb blog, but I wanted to do a quick mention here too.  I recently learned  that back in March, Google implemented a browse feature in Google News Archive that now makes it much easier to determine what issues of a specific paper have been digitized.

So far, I’ve made a list of 73 US Newspapers included in the Archive and the date ranges covered. More details over on the NCGenWeb blog, including a spreadsheet that lists them all.  Keep in mind, this may not be exhaustive of the US papers as finding out what’s there is not the easiest task.  I’m hopeful that Google continues to make improvements such as this!

Miriam, I fully expect to see these links added to your Online Historical Newspaper Website! :-)

Genealogical Societies and I

This afternoon,  one of my genea-buddies posted a blog post about the benefits of joining a genealogy society.  She notes that membership of gen societies are down and ponders how more genealogists can be recruited to join & she offers great examples of how mutually beneficial the relationship can be.

As I read her post, a lot of thoughts came to mind because this is a topic that I’ve been thinking about the past couple of years myself.   I have often been personally frustrated with the gen societies I’ve interacted with for various reasons.  Not that I don’t see the benefit, but I need to see more in light of what works for me.  As of today, I am a member of only one gen society.  Here are sample reasons why they have not worked out well for me…

a) Payment – this may seem a trivial point for most, but if I have to pull out my checkbook to pay for something, it’s not likely I’m going to do it.  I do not like the hassle of having to write a check, mail it and wait for my membership to be processed.  Signing up to accept money by services such as PayPal is easy enough to do and IMHO, not enough gen societies take advantage of online payments.  I was ecstatic when I learned that the North Carolina Genealogical Society accepted online payments and that made it very convenient for me to join – my membership was processed within a few days.

b) Community - I have joined four societies over the past few years. I appreciate the talent and expertise of people in the society, but I’ve found it difficult to get to know of each members’ expertise.  I have not felt as strong a sense of community as I think could be made possible.  Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by my extensive social networking experiences and the fabulous geneablogger community! I find that what I crave are the online conversations among members.  Here are examples:

- Society A – I’ve been a member of this society the longest so I do feel I have a better awareness of who belongs to the group, but there is no member list made available anywhere.  I know a couple of the officers and a couple of other researchers who do not live in that area, but other than that, I can’t tell you any more about who is in the society besides the names I see in the newsletter.

Society B – I’m no longer a paying member of this society, but when I joined, I did learn there was an email list, which I thought was great! However, when I asked for the email list I was told I was not allowed to have access to it for member protection.  Well, how I am I supposed to get to know who the other members are, especially when I live in another state? What is the point of being a gen society member if you don’t want it known that you are a member? Again, I know a couple of the officers, but beyond that, I don’t know who the members are or how many members there are.  The newsletter of this society is quite well-done I must say and has won awards, but that in and of itself was not enough for me to sustain membership.  I do still contribute information to the newsletter though.

Society C – this society is local to me and I was a member for one year.  Though this society is local, I was not able to go to any of the meetings due to my own personal schedule.  They offer good programming at the meetings and there are some I’d like to go to this year now that my schedule is opening up, but again, I don’t know who the members are, nor how many there are.  That could change if I could attend meetings, but I’d like to see an online community too.

Society D – this is a larger society that I joined but when I asked at the beginning how people get to know each other, the response was through meetings & volunteering and through the newsletter.  Well, again, I don’t live in the state, so I can’t go to the meetings.  There is no strong online community presence, & no email list for members.  They do have a Facebook page, but it is not used much.  And honestly, I don’t find Facebook to be the best avenue for a “group” presence.  Messages, discussions, & wall posts for any particular group get lost among all your friends’ activity.  The newsletter and journals are well done but I would like to interact more with the membership.  I do plan to write an article for the next newsletter so maybe that will help.  I eventually wish to contribute to the journal.  This society blogs infrequently, but you can’t post comments on the posts.  This is a missed opportunity; especially for non-members checking the site who may be potential new members.

Society E – this is a society to which I’ve never been a paid member, but I like what I see of their online presence.  They have a blog to which I’ve contributed content to many times.  I have met a couple of the members and they too have good programming.  They work extremely well in tandem with the local genealogy library and do great things.  I don’t live in the area but this is the society I’m most likely to join next.   If they offered online payment to join, I’d sign up tomorrow. :-)

With each of these societies though, if they blogged to  summarize what occurs at the meetings, as Randy does for the Chula Vista Genealogical Society, I’d feel at least like I had a clue.  If the member roster were made more accessible and I had a way to see online profiles of members and interact with them, I’d feel more like I belonged.   I of course understand that not everyone wants to have an online presence, but I would like to see more online interactivity; more of an online community established for members.   Facebook, GenealogyWise, BuddyPress — so many options exist and you can make a community private if people are concerned about their postings being public.

I’ve posted before my desires to see more video-conferencing technology enabled for those that aren’t able to attend here and here.  The combined expertise and know-how of the members of these groups are probably massive, but if I tonight had a research question and needed help, there is only one of the 5 mentioned above that I would feel like I had a good & fast way (sending it in to the newsletter is not suffice for me) to solicit input from the group members.  And, even in that case, it would have to be sent out for me; I’d not be able to send it out myself.  This really is not acceptable IMHO.  At the minimum a society could publicize the use of the Ancestry/Rootsweb county email groups?  Make a badge/widget for display on those members’ sites that do have an online presence to help with promotion.

c) Publishing — I’m not a fan of the current publishing model of most genealogical societies.

– Newsletters and journals should be done electronically – it would save money on publishing costs; or at the minimum, only send the print version to those who specifically request it.  Print versions could also be sent to libraries (I’m a librarian – so yes, we need preservation copies and for indexing in PERSI).  But, e-publishing needs to happen more consistently.

–  Only one of the gen societies I reference above publish electronically — and in that case, I just a couple of days ago received the journal in the mail when I’d much rather have just received it electronically.   Genealogy societies often do stellar jobs at publishing data and making it more accessible, but again – move towards e-publishing rather than mass book production.

d)  Services — ever since I first learned of the Genlighten service, I immediately thought of how genealogy societies could leverage it.  Join Genlighten and promote your ability to offer lookups of local county & state resources and earn income for it!  I recognize that many libraries do this as well, but again for me personally, I can’t order an obit online (remember my *issue* with writing checks?) from most of the libraries I’ve ever interacted with.  If a gen society connected with Genlighten, I know that I could order the obit and get it in my email and I’d love it! Yes, I can order vital records for less than a $1 from most of the counties in NC, but if the gen society were willing to photocopy the record from the courthouse and send it to me electronically, I’d gladly pay more for it rather than deal with the hassle of sending a written request to the courthouse and then wait a week or more to receive it in the mail if I knew I could get it electronically in a few days.  Best of all, I can pay w/ my credit card online.   Or, index the local newspaper, put the index online (maybe on a USGenWeb county site?), and then charge for the full-text of the obit.  Again, with something like Genlighten, I could make requests online.  It’s a win-win situation.

Okay, I’ve rambled quite a bit, but I honestly am not as willing to pay the annual fee for a gen society if I can’t get or be involved in these kinds of efforts.  You could argue that I should be more involved and try to change it and that is exactly what I plan to do.  I’ve been limited the past two years because I am in a degree program, but that is coming to an end and I’m strategizing on how to make more of a difference.  I am planning to attend FGS this August, so maybe I’ll see more of these types of issues discussed there.  I know I may be the atypical demographic for a gen society, but others have expressed similar thoughts (e.g. Elyse, Dick Eastman – here, here and here).

There are several societies who do some of these and do it well, so I don’t mean to indicate no one is;  I simply crave more.  :-)  I’m not trying to be harsh, but I’m trying to offer my perspective.  As mentioned by Miriam in comment to Elyse’s blog post I just mentioned, I may have to start offering to trade my skills for free membership!

This is actually a blog post I’ve been wanting to write for a long time now, so I thank Brenda for the prompt. :-)   In the words of Madonna in Evita “Have I said too much? There’s nothing more I can think of to say to you.” (shout out to the recent Glee Madonna episode!)

Anyone have thoughts to share?

Rufus McNair Cemetery

Thanks to the generosity of another researcher with family ties to Washington County, NC, I now have pictures of one of the most important cemeteries in my family research.  The cemetery is the Rufus McNair Cemetery of Plymouth, North Carolina.  I first learned of this cemetery in 2006 and was thrilled then to know of it.   Rufus Tannahill McNair is my 3rd great-grandfather and I’ve posted about him several times.

I received the pictures this evening after getting home and I cried.  I cried because I’ve been looking at the names of those buried here on a piece of paper for 4 years (the local gen society county cemetery transcription book).  From that record, I knew that almost everyone in the cemetery is related to me.  But, it was a moving experience to now see their headstones.

Rufus McNair & Mariah Wimberly McNair monument

While I was happy to see the headstone for my ancestor, Rufus & Mariah,  the one that made me cry the most was that of John Lee Boone.  He is a cousin of mine who passed away in January and I do regret that I was not able to meet him before he passed.  I did have an at-length phone conversation with him once about the McNair family history.  He was the last of the five McNair family members who started the annual McNair Family Reunion that is held during Memorial Day Weekend.

This year is the 40th year of the reunion, dedicated to John Lee’s memory,  and I am planning to attend.  I’ve been to Plymouth one time, I was 9 months old, and a visit to my grandmother’s hometown is long overdue.  Especially after getting these photos; I need to physically visit these grounds.  And, I’m eager to meet my extended McNair Family.

You can view all the cemetery photos in the NCGenWeb Cemetery Gallery.

Internet Archive RSS Feeds

Today on her AnceStories blog, Miriam gave me a shout-out in reference to sharing directories added to the Internet Archive (IA).   Thanks Miriam for the mention.  It prompted me to write this post to share the fact that I’ve been subscribing to IA feeds for several months now and I find it an easy way to keep track of new items.  The IA is such a vast repository of information (they recently hit the 2 million book mark), that every family history researcher should explore it.

Let me share with you some of the feeds I follow (each header is a link to their feed)

And there are so many more!  If you don’t subscribe, you will definitely want to pick at least a couple to follow.  Who knows what you’ll stumble across?

Family Stories Result in Healthier Kids

While browsing the news feed from my alma mater, Emory University,  I happened upon a blog post about recent research from their  Dept. of Psychology.

The news release describes research demonstrating that youth who know stories about their relatives show higher levels of emotional well-being. The study was conducted with  66 14-16 year olds who completed the “Do You Know” scale,  a 20-item yes/no survey in which kids were asked example questions of how their parents met, or where they grew up and went to school.  Higher DYK scale scores were related to more internal locus of control, higher self-esteem, higher reported family functioning, higher reported family traditions, lower child anxiety and lower internalizing and externalizing behaviors.

“Family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world,”

The full research article is here.

Of course there’s the usual caveat that more research needs to be done, but how cool is that?   :-)