Tag: Family History

Education Hangout: Self-Editing Your Work

It’s no secret that genealogists do a lot of writing—but do you know about the resources out there to help you self-edit your work to make it the best it can be? Shannon Combs Bennett and Eric Wells, the NextGen Genealogy Network’s Education Co-Coordinators, share their personal advice as well as several writing resources and workshops to help the genealogical writer in the January Education Hangout:


Don’t forget to bookmark our YouTube Channel and listen in for fantastic, friendly advice on a variety of topics relevant to the young genealogist!

Preparing For Your First Genealogy Conference

In February 2015, I attended my first genealogy conference—RootsTech and the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Salt Lake City, Utah. Living in Australia, I was somewhat nervous about flying to the US, to a state I had never set foot in before. On top of that, it was my first international trip without the parents. However, I was also really excited.

As I was traveling to the other side of the world, I started researching the conference early. I’m talking a whole year early. I wanted to know things like how the conference operates, registration costs, and what I should bring.

I have come up with a list of ideas that should help you prepare for your first genealogy conference. These have come straight from my head after reflecting on my first conference. While I may not have thought of everything, whether your first conference is RootsTech in February or another conference later in the year, I hope you will find a few helpful ideas here.

  • Research hotels and prices early

Conference dates are announced at least 12–18 months prior, if not sooner. If possible, start researching hotels and prices about a year beforehand. If it is an annual conference, have a look on the conference website for the previous year’s hotel information. This should also give you an indication of how soon to book the hotel, which is usually six months prior to the conference. Always double check if the hotel is doing special conference rates. The conference website should tell you which hotels they have partnered with.

  • Early bird registration

Keep a watch over conference announcements to discover when registration opens. Take advantage of early bird prices! In most cases, you can save $20–$50!

  • Research transportation

If you are flying in from interstate or overseas, ensure you have researched transportation to get to and from the hotel and airport, and between the conference venue and hotel. Some hotels run airport shuttles, or if you are feeling adventurous, check out what public transport options are available. It is quite rare these days to find a major airport without a train station.

  • Business cards

Business cards? What? I’m serious! Have some business cards made with your name, contact details, social media and/or blog links if applicable, and family surnames. I used VistaPrint for mine. Business cards are a fabulous way to stay connected after the conference. Sometimes you will receive a card and notice a surname that is in your family tree. Could there be a connection? It happened to me at RootsTech! Turns out we are more than likely seventh cousins one time removed!

  • What to expect at the conference

If the conference has any social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it), follow them! This is the perfect way to stay up to date with conference updates, before and during the conference. Another idea is to have a look on YouTube for any videos about previous conference experiences. These are a great help especially if it is your first time. For example, GeniAus and DearMyrtle have had Google Hangouts about RootsTech. I watched a few and I am so glad I did!

  • Hashtags

People normally live tweet from genealogy conferences, and if there is a hashtag for the conference, follow it on Twitter so you can access it on the go. This provides you with the opportunity to network and see who else is tweeting from the conference.

  • Comfortable attire

Firstly, shoes. I am very serious about this one. Yes, there is plenty of sitting down time at conferences. There is a lot of walking too! Are the sessions in different rooms? Is the venue small or big? Are there stalls or vendors to peruse? You do not want your feet hurting by 1 p.m. when you still have five hours left. Ensure you have comfortable shoes that you will be okay doing lots of walking in. Secondly, clothes. I know we all want to look nice, and we can. However, I would rather not get annoyed with a top making my skin itchy, or something being too tight. Dress for comfort too. You might not have time to whip off to your hotel to change. Think about the weather as well, inside and outside the venue. Keep a jacket/sweater with you at all times.

  • Bag

Another important aspect to think about is what you are going to carry around all your stuff in. Is your back okay to handle a backpack for the day? What about a small bag with wheels? Again, this is all about personal opinion and what YOU are comfortable with. You do not want your back to be aching halfway through the day from a heavy backpack or shoulder bag. Whatever your bag choice, be prepared to keep it with you all day.

  • Note taking

Think about what your method of note taking is going to be. Pen and paper? Tablet? Cell phone? Feather? You need to assess what is most comfortable, quick, and easy for YOU. Keep in mind that not all conference rooms have desks. A little tip—too much information on the PowerPoint slide to note down quickly? Snap a photo of it on your phone or tablet. Please note—only do this if it has been approved by the speaker.

  • Choosing sessions

Are there particular topics or speakers you definitely must see? Are there a number of classes on at the same time? Are any sessions being recorded? These are things to keep in mind when choosing classes to attend. Have a rough schedule planned. However, keep in mind that your schedule will more than likely change. Be up for deciding last minute to go to a different class, or choosing to go have a meal with someone. Your schedule will probably change, and that is perfectly okay.

I hope you have found something helpful on this list. One more piece of advice—do not be afraid to say hi! Genealogists are one of the friendliest groups of people I know. I have never met a genealogist who bites. Oh, most importantly, don’t forget to HAVE FUN!

Caitlin Gow

Caitlin Gow is the author of the blog Genealogically Speaking. Based in Australia, she has a Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice from Griffith University. She is an avid supporter of using social media for family history, and loves using her “detective skills” to solve mysteries.


Faces of NextGen: Meet Mike Quackenbush

Mike QuackenbushMike Quackenbush, 25, Canada

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Ambitious, Charismatic, Giving, Sociable, Individualistic.

Why genealogy? When you’re born with the curiosity bug, what better than directing that into an activity that really never ends! I was eleven years old when I received a family history on my mother’s family which was prepared by my great-aunt. That book most certainly got my interest piqued! After a few years of delving into further research of the lives on my maternal family, I began to get even more curious of my father’s family. My dad never really knew his father growing up, which in turn left a generational gap of information not being passed down. Almost fifteen years later—I am so excited to share what I have found in my research with family and friends and connect with cousins all around the world!

What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? Definitely finding out that my 2x great grandfather was imprisoned at HMP Wakefield in Yorkshire, England—not once, but sixteen times in twelve years – was a WOW moment for me! Following his medically unfit (nowadays referred to as PTSD) discharge from his twenty year career with the British Army, he was jailed for not providing for his family—keeping in mind that he literally just got booted from his job. After serving his first sentence, he was jailed fifteen more times in eleven years for reasons including: not providing for his family, begging for money, being homeless, and carrying unpaid civil debts. Putting the whole picture together really made me feel for this man whose life was turned upside down after putting his life on the line to fight numerous battles including the Boer Wars.

What are you working on this week? Following a presentation I made mid-November on British Home Children, I realized that I wanted to learn more about the 118 Middlemore Home Children who traveled on the same ship alongside my great-grandfather in 1913. So this week, I’ve been starting to gather the project framework to begin the multi-year process of researching all of the home children on the passenger list, so that I can then dedicate a database to these 118 children who left their families and roots behind in Great Britain to serve as indentured labour on farms in Canada.

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? Organization. We handle a lot of files, both paper and digital, and you need to develop your own system for filing and managing data. Some people get data-overload—I crave it. Names, dates, places—I feel like I have an eidetic memory for these, which helps immensely when parsing through records and making connections.

What superpower would you want to help you uncover your family history? I think every genealogist on the face of the earth would say, at some point, that time travel would be an incredible super power to have. Just imagine.

What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? When I’m not researching family history, I first love to catch up on the sleep I’ve missed from those late-night binge research sessions in new databases online! After I’ve reenergized, I love to travel, spend time with friends, try new wine selections, and maybe sneak in some movies—or binge watch Netflix!

Anything else you’d like to share? Make yourself a New Year’s resolution you can actually keep and achieve for 2016! Simply get involved. A few minutes a day can help you to become part of a larger community, and help people around the world. As the great leadership speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

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.


Facebook Groups for Genealogists

Facebook is one of the leading social media platforms that genealogists use to research their family history and find living relatives. In this post, we’re going to discuss some key ways to leverage Facebook for genealogy with a focus on Facebook Groups, including how to use them to your advantage and how to create your own.

There are thousands of Facebook Groups that include nearly every topic imaginable. In the genealogy community in particular, there are five primary types of groups that you can join to further your research:

  1. General Genealogy Groups: Ask questions about your research problems, request assistance finding a specific record, and share your discoveries.
  2. Location Specific Genealogy Groups: These are directed towards those focusing on research in a specific geographic area, perhaps a country, a state/province, or even down to a county level.
  3. Surname Registry Groups: These are centered around locating relatives who share the same surname within a region in hopes of connecting with other living descendants. Maybe you’ll find those elusive fourth cousins!
  4. Genetic Genealogy Groups: Come here if you are interested in the nitty-gritty of your DNA results, including using DNA to locate living relatives. Users are often encouraged to upload their DNA results on GEDmatch and to share kit numbers in the group to help connect members with each other.
  5. Organization/Society Groups: These allow an existing organization or genealogical society to keep in touch with members and offer a place for virtual discussion. Did you know that the NextGen Genealogy Network has a Facebook Group?

If you have pored through the wide variety of genealogy groups on Facebook and haven’t found one that suits your needs, consider starting your own. For example, if your ancestor’s county doesn’t have it’s own genealogy group, or if you want to start a small group for your extended relatives to share family photographs and stories, read on.

Facebook Groups for Genealogists (1)

Creating your own Facebook Group is simple:

  1. At the top of your Facebook homepage you will see a padlock. Click the arrow next to it and select “Create Group.”
  2. Give your new Facebook Group a name, keeping in mind it should be something descriptive to make it easy for people to find (if you want it to be open to receiving new members).
  3. Add new members, whether this may be your genealogy best friend or your cousins who are interested in participating. I recommend that you check with any prospective members first before sending an invitation to your group to ensure that your invitation is not an annoyance or simply ignored.
  4. Be aware of privacy settings that determine who can see the group and who can join the group.
    1. Public: Anyone can join and anyone can see the group’s posts (even if they’re not members). Use with caution.
    2. Closed: Members must request to join. This helps to screen out trolls, group collectors, self-promoters, etc. Depending on the volume of member requests, you may want to have a backup admin to assist you with this process. Only members can see posts.
    3. Secret: Not open to the public. Only members can see posts and refer new members to join the group by invitation.
  5. Add your Facebook Group to your favorites. This will put your group on the toolbar on the left side of your Facebook homepage so you can easily access the group to monitor posts, pose discussion questions, or approve new members. Make an effort to keep your group active and engaged for the greatest genealogical success!

How are you using Facebook Groups to further your research?

Melanie McComb, a software product analyst, volunteers as the NextGen Genealogy Network’s Social Media Assistant. She is also the creator and co-administrator of the English Surname Registry Facebook Group. She has been researching her family history for over five years and can often be found online on Facebook assisting others with their research.