The truth is that I have been too busy with the rest of my life to do any genealogy research or writing, so I am reposting an older piece.

I am using this post because, for some unknown reason, I have been involved in a lot of conversations lately about why people find different things funny–or not.

I thought this was funny.  I thought I was funny, but on reflection, maybe not.

Feel free to let me know what you think.




It was late one night; I should have been in bed.  Instead I struggled with my disappearing ancestors. There in 1900, there in 1920, apparently abducted by space aliens in 1910.  I searched by last name, I searched by first name, I searched by location, I searched and searched and searched.  I banged my head against the desk in frustration.

Suddenly, out of the mists of time or perhaps the humidifier in the corner of the room, a figure appeared, dressed in cape, mask and tights, and eating a double fudge brownie.

” Who are you?” I gasped, a little disturbed by a late night visit from a man in tights.

“Fear not, Judith,” he said, as the room was filled with an otherworldly music, Tchaikovsky with a hint of Steely Dan. Words were heard over the music, “It’s Captain Genealogy, protector of our precious family heritage, able to sort photos with a single glance while restoring them to their original state of grace, able to file piles of documents with a flick of his wrist, able to smash brick walls with a single blow.”

“Whoa!” said I.

“We’ll have you sorted out shortly,” he answered. “Would you care for a brownie?”

“Why not? ” I’ve always felt that genealogy goes well with chocolate.

A few moments passed as I munched contentedly.

“Look here,” he said. “The indexers thought that second “b” was an “l”, making it Bullick, not Bublick.”

“What kind of a moron could think that was an “l”?” I said.

“Now Judith,” he replied, “Everyone makes mistakes.  Genealogists are kind and helpful people, who never speak an ill of those to whom they pay ridiculous sums of money to provide the services they so badly need.”

My head hung in shame, well not really. We do pay these people. “Sorry,” I said.  While you’re here can you help me with these Bloods?”

He cocked his head to the left.  “Gotta go”, he said, “a cemetery is being vandalized in Cleveland.”

With that he was gone in a puff of smoke leaving behind a faint odor of warm chocolate.

Then the otherworldly music started again and the voice over.  “Do not despair.  In your darkest hour of genealogical need, a hero will appear, his tights a little snug from the double fudge brownies, able to solve even the most arcane of genealogical problems.”

As dawn broke, I sorted through my notes and began to convince myself that it had all been a dream.  But as I gathered my things, there in the middle of the desk, I saw a tiny piece of double fudge brownie.



Since it is two weeks before Christmas and ten days before Hanukkah and I am still working at my paying job I have decided to take the easy way out and post something that does not require research or the manipulation of many photos in the cranky WordPress interface.  So, I add my voice to the books at RootsTech controversy.

I wasn’t at RootsTech last year and I won’t be there this year.  I have never been an official blogger for anything and I have no expectations of ever being one.  I doubt the people at RootsTech care at all about what I think. Yet I still manage to have an opinion or two.

No books.  Are you kidding me?  This reminds me of last year’s nonsense after RootsTech.  The alleged divide between old and young genealogists, the who gets to participate controversy, and endless stuff about sourcing.

Now it seems that the folks at RootsTech have decided that books don’t fit the young, hip image they wish to project.  Fine, do what you want, but it seems like a stupid business decision to me.  The majority of genealogists and most RootsTech attendees are still an older demographic.  We want to keep up with things techie, save forests by going paperless, and certainly have access to printed material online; but we love real, physical books too.

The book vendors still bring things that can’t be found online.  They also bring knowledge of what else is out there and where to find it.  I find them to be consistently the most interesting vendors to talk with at a meeting.

I haven’t seen RootsTech’s explanation for banning books, so perhaps it is a bit unfair to berate them about it.  Does anyone know the rationale behind this decision? Is their vendor space that limited?  Surely you could squeeze a little space for books in somewhere. I really hope this is not a “paper is dead” movement.  It won’t work because people rarely buy into stupid ideas for very long.


Credit for the photo:

A few weeks ago Randy Seaver asked in Saturday Night Fun, “If I knew then what I know now, I would have…”  As I was searching for an answer the question became tangled up in my mind with the controversy following Roots Tech about how to welcome young people into the world of genealogy.  The answer came pretty quickly.

Are you kidding Randy?  What would I have done differently?  I would have RUN.  Yes, run, on legs that moved a lot faster before they spent all their time sitting in dusty archives or in front of a computer screen.  What is wrong with you all?  Who are these young people that you hate so much?  What have they done to you to deserve this?  Is it the way they dress?  Is their music too loud?  Have they threatened your social security benefits or worse, moved back into the house?

If you possess any shred of decency you should be telling them to RUN AWAY as quickly as possible, before they are ensnared in the evil web of family history.

I was just a young foolish thing when I was snared.  A friend had a story.  It was a great story.  I wish I could tell it to you, but I must leave that to her.  She showed me how to get started.  She failed to mention how many months, nay years, it had taken her to ferret out the story.

And then there is Pat.  I love Pat dearly.  If I had a sister I’m sure she would not be as dear to me as Pat, but Pat is EVIL.

“Hey, Jude, there’s a workshop at this place in Boston, the New England Historical Genealogical Society.  Why don’t we go?  You can stay at my house and we’ll drive in for the day.  It’ll be fun.”

And so it began: the missed meals, the children who barely recognize me, the family who run when I enter the room, the life savings gone to fund my habit.  Pat is responsible for all of it.












Here we are on the left before family history and here, on the right is a picture taken last week by our friend Ann.  Not only have we become immobile, but apparently the sadness of our story kills  surrounding vegetation.  Okay, that’s not really us on the left, but it could have been.

“Let’s do a blog together.  It’ll be fun.”  Do you see a pattern here? So now I sit in front of my computer desperate for something to say that won’t actually repel people or make my family hate me, wishing I could get back to searching for dead people.


The credit for the Boston Marathon picture is here.

The picture of not Judy and Pat can be viewed here.

There are a number of free genealogy webinars offered, and in the spirit of my goal of doing more education I have been watching some of them. GeneaWebinars and the Legacy Family Tree Webinars have been particularly useful. I have learned about labeling digital pictures on the front from Dear Myrtle as well as about using Facebook from her, preserving old photos from Maureen Taylor and several things about using RootsMagic from their roster of presentations. The nice thing about many of these is that they are available after the original presentation free, for at least a period of time, so if you can’t catch it the first time you can still watch it later.

Recently I had a particularly eye-opening experience. Ok, I admit it. I just learned something that I’m ashamed to say had never occurred to me. At the moment, I am feeling like I need to turn in my “credentials” as a genealogist. You all knew this information already of course and no one ever told me.

I was watching a Legacy Family Tree webinar of Geoff Rasmussen adding a death certificate he had recently gotten into his database. This was, I thought, not likely to teach me much but maybe I’d pick up a tidbit or two. Sounds pretty basic, right? The webinar was a last minute idea at Legacy Family Tree and not advertised very far ahead of time. I did not get to watch the live one, but it was still available free on the website (only listed as available free until the end of 5/16/2011 but it looked like it was still up this morning). Geoff is doing another one, on entering a marriage certificate, this week.

Of course, Geoff is using the Legacy Family Tree software, so none of the specifics of how he does things will apply to me. I use RootsMagic. However, I found that watching and listening to him made me think about other ways to use my software, and possibilities to look for in my software. Two specifics come to mind. The first is his use of something called the source clipboard. What that allows him to do is completely fill out all the sourcing information including a note that contains the actual information from the certificate, before he started adding to the person in his database. With the source information on the clipboard, he could add the source to every piece of information he already had as well as use it to add information that was new. The second was his use of “alt birth” or “alt death” as an event to record information that varied from the information he already had (or to decide that the new information was better supported and to make the old information “alt”). This seems like a useful way to put conflicting information into the database and make it easily visible. I have been using Notes to do this and think I may have to change how I do it, since the information in Notes isn’t fully visible on the screen. Likewise, Geoff also adds every variation on names from each source, as AKAs. These show up differently in his software than in mine, but it reminds me that close isn’t the same as identical. I don’t think I need to do AKA for a spelling difference like Fanny v Fannie, but finding an initial or a nickname or a slightly different name (e.g., my grandmother Carrie shows up as Delia C., Carrie D., Dellie, and Dillie, so far in different sources) does seem like it should be recorded.

The biggie for me, though, was Geoff discussing using a death certificate as a source for the parents of the individual. In his example names were given for both father and mother (including a maiden name) and places of birth. It had never occurred to me to use information from one individual for another in that way. I must be really dense!! Now, presumably this information is rarely primary since the informant for a death certificate is not one of the parents of the deceased. Nevertheless, it provides one more source of that information, and if I don’t know the parents’ names it might be a very useful suggestion of who to be looking for.

So, the bottom line is that watching or listening to, a webinar or podcast or YouTube may advance my thinking about how I do the research and about how I analyze it. I guess I really learned something.

I wasn’t at Rootstech. I did follow Curt Witcher’s inspiring and entertaining talk. I’ve been reading some of the blogs of those who attended. So for anyone who’s still paying attention here are my thoughts.

Everyone who attended the conference and everyone who reads blogs, tweets or searches online is pretty serious about genealogy. Most of what we do is preaching to the choir. Now we talk about letting the new kids in; I don’t feel this is much of a problem

Yes, in the days before readily available widely used Internet sources getting in meant going to an archive or a genealogical society. This is intimidating for many of us because it carries the wonderful and, in my case, often used option of making a fool out of yourself. The first time I went to the NARA facility in New York I tried holding the microfilm up to the light to read it. The staff there was so wonderful and helpful I was soon OH Wowing like crazy and having a great time. The second time I went I was helping other people. And so it goes.

I do not know anyone including the newest genealogist to the oldest who does not use the internet for genealogy. Every person who started out going to NARA for census data now revels in pulling it up on the Internet. Believe me those of us who schlepped an hour and a half on the train each way only to return home saying, “I wish I had…” are more thrilled than anyone who had that information at his typing, texting, tweeting fingertips from the beginning.

I do not see the dichotomy between old folks and young folks. The dichotomy I see is between the pleasant and helpful and the unpleasant and unhelpful. In my experience about 95% of genealogists are helpful to a fault. I’ve heard endless talk about the comma people. I have never met one of these people. Yes, there are a few of them out there insisting that every source be perfect. Almost every genealogist agrees on the need for sourcing. Kerry Scott wrote recently about the cult of sourcing. Honestly, I think the cult has very few members. If Elizabeth Shown Mills doesn’t belong, who does?

If you are a devout techie and are worried about encouraging newbies and old folks to appreciate and use that technology, BE NICE.

When Pat and I first ventured into blogging we got just about everything wrong. There’s that potential for making a fool out of yourself. We were trying this not so new technology, but we didn’t know what the H… we were doing. We got slammed a bit for not linking to other people’s posts and not accepting comments. Well, we didn’t know the etiquette and we didn’t know how to turn the comments on. Happily,  Granny Pam an others came along and pointed us in the right direction and we hardly ever piss anyone off anymore. You find the picky and the criticizing in the facebook and tweeting worlds just like you do anywhere else. Fortunately, they are a minority.

Tech, archives, societies, whatever, if you are kind and helpful people want to be there.

As for myself, I am now learning about meta data and georeferencing. Give me a little while and I’ll be glad to help you with it.