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Faces of NextGen: Meet Brandy Fulton

Brandy Fulton, 19, Canada

Why genealogy? Well, I grew up around my dad being a part of a couple different genealogy groups, eventually my mom got into it as well, and I guess it just kind of took over our family. I have always liked history and learning about weird things in my family is always interesting.

What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? My dad was trying to find some background on some land behind a church downtown. They were trying to build there but found human bones. My dad and I, alongside Mark Cripps, spent the afternoon in the library. I was reading through a book that said the workers from the Welland Canal would often spill out of the church and into the cemetery to listen to the service on Sundays. This helped my dad prove that there was a gravesite there and that they couldn’t build.

What are you working on this week? Right now I am working on a lot of stuff that isn’t genealogy. I do a lot of work for people who are swamped with work for their organizations. But I am working on a video that will show people they might be missing messages sent to them on Facebook. It will be sent to people within the genealogical world because I have had a personal experience where my dad has missed a lot of messages from people asking about family information.

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? I don’t quite know if I have a huge reason for success in genealogy. I write the articles for the Welland Canal and a lot of that information is given to me. My dad helps me a lot with those articles as well. I’m not sure if it would sound weird if I said the fact that I am driven makes me more stubborn and thus I end up finding what I need and getting the job done.

What superpower would you want to help you uncover your family history? I feel like the obvious answer here is time travel. You would be able to talk to your ancestors, see what they did, and experience life. It would make family history so much easier.

What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? I am a journalism student at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario, so a lot of my life consists of writing and photography. I listen to a lot of music as well. Luckily I am able to do those generally all at the same time.

The NextGen Genealogy Network is made up of young genealogists with diverse backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Faces of NextGen showcases a different member of our community each month. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming feature, simply complete our questionnaire and submit a selfie.


How to Achieve Genealogy Success with Archival Research

While the next generation of genealogists may not have to travel to archives, libraries, or courthouses as often to do research as in previous decades, visiting repositories for genealogy is far from outdated. No one has been able to actually measure the percentage of records that are accessible online, but it’s clear that for those who focus simply on researching from their computer, they are missing a lot of information. While I personally have an affinity for researching with original records and spend a good amount of time volunteering at the National Archives, I know that when I walk through the stacks and gaze upon miles of endless shelving that it is far from being all online.

If you are thinking that you want to do some genealogical research at a local repository, you should look forward to the opportunity. There are a few steps you can take to prepare for your visit. Ultimately, you want to structure your visit around your research goals. Is there a specific record or file you want to retrieve and have reproduced? Are you looking for sources that will allow you to go deeper with your research questions? Having a plan is key and the best way to follow a plan is to spend some time doing reconnaissance work about the repository.

Archival Research

There are several methods for scouting out the holdings and collections of a particular repository. Be sure to always check out the website. Most repositories will have a catalog or a variety of guides (finding aids) to their specific collections that will help in becoming familiar with their holdings. The website is also likely to have a page dedicated to policies and procedures, so you can plan what you need to bring or leave behind. A great way to survey materials throughout multiple repositories would be to use large catalogs like WorldCat and ArchiveGrid. You can enter in different subjects, family names, and keywords to locate possible resources. Other resources include genealogy guides that are in print and online for different jurisdictions including counties, states, and countries, even as specific as large cities or college towns where a lot of repositories are in one place. Whatever you find that is of interest, write it down and make it a part of your research plan. You will greatly increase your chance for research success if you go in knowing what you want to look at.

Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the staff ahead of time. Even if an appointment is not required, it’s good to make contact before your visit. You can explain your research interests to them and they might have some knowledge that will shed light on your query. I think it’s important to prepare how you present your questions. Tell the staff exactly how you are stuck in your research and what you are looking to find out from their collections. They can save you some time and pull files for you, so you’re ready to go right from the minute you walk in.

You might be asking, “Can I save myself a trip and have the archivist carry out research for me?” Yes, but only in a limited number of circumstances. If you have a specific reference to a document and need it reproduced or if there is a name index associated with that collection, then yes, the archivist can do a look-up for you. But I’d say for anything that would take more than fifteen or twenty minutes, you are probably going to be politely let down in that regard.

You are more likely to get extra help and tips for your genealogy work if you carry a good demeanor. You will not be treated differently based on your expertise with archives or microfilm readers, but your overall attitude. Being courteous to the staff goes a long way and it’s important to understand that they have to serve the needs of a variety of patrons who are using the archives for different purposes. It wouldn’t hurt to dress with some class when you go to visit, as it’s good to make the impression that you care about you do. The facility and it’s staff care very much and take pride in their collections, so they want to feel that their files are in good hands when they leave the shelves.

Most of all, enjoy your time there and the fact that you are on a research trip. You experience your research differently because you’re not working on genealogy at home. A bonus of spending time at the archives is you become acquainted with so many different types of documents and sources. This knowledge allows you to think beyond the standard array of must-use genealogical sources and perhaps will encourage you to approach a brickwall problem in a creative way.

Jake FletcherJake Fletcher is a professional genealogist, educator, and blogger. He has been researching and writing about his ancestors since 2008 on his research blog. Jake currently volunteers as a research assistant at the National Archives in Waltham, Massachusetts and is Vice President of the New England Association of Professional Genealogists (NEAPG).


Faces of NextGen: Meet Dustin Austin

Dustin Austin, Ohio

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Enthusiastic, funny, energetic, friendly, outgoing.

Why genealogy? It’s just a lot of fun! I live in a small and rural farming community, and almost everyone in the area is related in some way. It is a lot of fun learning about the families around you, and what they contributed to make the world what it is today. Since this hobby/addiction started I have realized I am never bored, or looking for something to do, as there is always something to do, someone to visit, or something to research.

 What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? So far one of the coolest, and one of my favorites, was one of my first cousins (four times removed). He invented and manufactured the ice cream cabinet. In the process, he was able to amass great wealth and drive for success in his descendants, who have been a great joy to work with and get to know.

What are you working on this week? I am putting the final details together for our Northwest Ohio Genealogy Seminar in June 2016, which is a one day seminar with two big name speakers coming.  I have been organizing this seminar to be hosted by seven local genealogy chapters.  

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? Source, source, source!!! After this important item, I would say personal interviews, which have helped immensely.

What superpower would you want to help you uncover your family history? I would love to be able to have a time machine to where I could travel back in time to meet all these awesome people, and while I am back in time of course asking for help with those brick walls!

What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? I am usually volunteering with a project, family history related or within my community. I can also be found attending a local genealogy class or teaching one!

Anything else you’d like to share? I love connecting with other young genealogists and sharing ideas, plans, research, and traveling. I am taking a trip this fall to Salt Lake City, and am very excited to learn what all this wonderful library has to offer. If you are in Ohio or close by and want to meet up, give me a shout out!

The NextGen Genealogy Network is made up of young genealogists with diverse backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Faces of NextGen showcases a different member of our community each month. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming feature, simply complete our questionnaire and submit a selfie.


Young Genealogists and Your Society

How can you engage the next generation of genealogists in your society?

Young Genealogists and Your Society (3)

7 Strategies for Success

1. Be respectful. Never assume that young genealogists are inexperienced; while they might be new to the field, it’s also entirely possible that they are not. Always treat your fellow genealogists as the peers they are, regardless of age. Not sure how to strike up a conversation with a young genealogist? Ask about his or her favorite area of research!

2. Be welcoming. Many people may find it daunting to go to a society meeting or event for the first time. Take a positive first impression to the next level by assigning a designated greeter to welcome visitors at the door, make them feel at home, and answer any questions. Without this effort, a young genealogist in particular might feel out of place or even unwanted among a group of individuals who have known each other for years. Hosting a NextGen Genealogy Network Meetup is another excellent way to reach out to and welcome young genealogists.

3. Recognize their strengths. Give young genealogists a reason to invest their time and energy in your society. All members bring talent to the table, but at times, young genealogists may be overlooked. Offer them a chance to chair a committee, volunteer at a conference, design marketing materials, write a blog post, manage a social media account, or lead a presentation—or simply ask how they would like to be involved.

4. Reduce fees. More and more genealogical societies are welcoming young genealogists by offering membership discounts to students or young professionals. Does your society host conferences or workshops? This is another area where reduced fees can increase attendance. If printing costs are holding you back, offer digital versions of your news materials to young genealogists and other members who choose to opt-in.

5. Mix up your meeting times. Whether young genealogists work, study, or have children at home, meetings held in the daytime during the week may be impossible to attend. Does your society routinely offer meetings and other events in the evenings or on weekends? Do your meetings and events have clear start and end times so that attendees can make childcare arrangements or otherwise as needed?

6. Put yourself out there. Your society won’t gain members if they don’t know it’s there. Keep your website, e-mail contact information, and social media accounts up-to-date, and if you’re not already online, know that there are many free platforms available. In addition, volunteer with local events to raise awareness of your society within your community. Has your society offered to lead genealogy classes or activities for local schools, guilds, churches, clubs, and youth organizations such as Scouts or 4-H?

7. Embrace long-distance members. Young genealogists may live far from the homes of their ancestors, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be involved in societies based in other cities, counties, states, or even countries. Offer live-streamed meetings or webinars, online databases of exclusive local records, local research assistance, and a dynamic social media presence to welcome active, tech-savvy members from around the world.

Download “Young Genealogists and Your Society” as a resource to share!

Melanie Frick, MLS, holds a Certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University and is Editor of the APG eNews and Content Coordinator for the NextGen Genealogy Network. A genealogist, writer, editor, antique photograph aficionado, and Midwestern transplant, Melanie lives in Southern California. She blogs at Homestead Genealogical Research.

Shannon Combs BennetShannon Combs-Bennett is a Genealogist with the National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century, Director of The In-Depth Genealogist, and Education Co-Coordinator for the NextGen Genealogy Network. An Indiana native based in Virginia, Shannon frequently writes and lectures on a variety of topics from genetics to methodology. She blogs at T2 Family History.