Tag: Genealogy

Education Hangout: Outdoor Genealogy

How can you move your genealogy research outdoors during the warm summer months? From visiting cemeteries and volunteering with FindAGrave or BillionGraves to visiting historic sites (perhaps with other local young genealogists!) or simply taking your laptop outside, Education Co-Coordinators Shannon Combs Bennett and Eric Wells share their ideas in their latest 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!


Making the Most of a Family Reunion

Last summer, thanks to some last minute flight deals, I was fortunate to be able to attend my first official family reunion! Although my mom’s immediate family gathers together frequently, this was a reunion for everyone descended from my 2x great-grandparents, so there were lots of family members attending who I had never even met before. Plus, it was held at my great-grandparents’ homestead in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Here are a few (hopefully helpful!) tips for attending a reunion to help you prepare to visit with family this summer and learn from my mistakes and successes:

1. Double-check your existing genealogical research. Before I left for the reunion, I dedicated a few days to doing a thorough review of that particular family branch. I finished up some of the “boring” updates/edits I had been putting off like scanning, attaching files, and cleaning up any duplicated facts. I also finished up some neglected descendancy work which I found very helpful in situating how the people I was meeting at the reunion fit into my tree. Because I tend to jump back and forth between lines quite a bit as I research, it was nice to have the relevant family information fresh in my mind while I was at the reunion.

2. Take a camera or scanner. If your family is anything like mine, most people will bring at least a small envelope or album of pictures to share. This was an amazing opportunity for me to have access to a lot of different picture collections all at once. My family’s reunion was hosted on my great-grandfather’s homestead in Saskatchewan, so there were lots of landmarks (the barn, schoolhouse, and general store) and scenery pictures that I wanted to take as well. Sadly, because it was a last minute arrangement, I didn’t have time to order a mobile scanner so I had to rely on my camera, but that was still much better than nothing. And of course, whatever electronics you bring, make sure to always have extra batteries/charger!

3. Suggest a family history session. If there isn’t already a formal family history session scheduled, offer to organize one. At my family’s reunion we had about an hour set aside on the first day for a presentation about the general family history. This was a really good way to get people to start talking about family stories!

4. Make sure your research is accessible for sharing. Once people realize you are interested in genealogy, they will often want to see your more of research outside of a formally organized family history session, so make sure you have a few good stories or finds prepared to share with people. This is when having the Ancestry.com app on my phone was very useful, as the home that the reunion was held at did not have Internet access so I wasn’t able to show any of my online trees and research. In retrospect, I wish I had a desktop software downloaded beforehand as it was hard to really show details on photos or documents on just my little phone screen.

5. Listen to (and record) stories. At my family’s reunion, there were many people present from the older generations, so I found it incredibly fascinating to discuss the stories that added context and color to the lives of ancestors who I didn’t have the chance to meet. I also noticed that for more delicate family stories I sometimes inferred more by staying quiet and letting people talk as if I already knew what happened, than by asking direct questions about the topic. Don’t forget to record these stories in some way, even if it seems like an unforgettable tale at the time.

6. But don’t be afraid to speak up. Sometimes I find it intimidating being the youngest person interested in genealogy,especially when I’m in a room full of older family members who actually know some of the people being talked about. But sharing research and knowledge can help establish you as the person to come to with family history questions or to share artifacts, pictures, etc. Politely correct those wild family tales if you have found evidence to the contrary. For example, at my family’s reunion someone said that our relatives who fought in WWI were twin snipers who were killed on the last day of the war, when in fact they were just two brothers who served, one as a sniper, and were killed in 1917 and 1918. Speaking up in this instance not only prevented incorrect lore from being passed on, but also resulted in a number of people starting genealogy-related conversations with me over the course of the weekend.

7. Connect with living relatives. This is the main thing that I wish I had done better. When I got home from the reunion, I realized that somehow in all my excitement about the historical photos and family stories, I had only taken exactly ONE picture of any of the living relatives present! I really wish I had arranged a group photo and just in general documented the present better. Also make sure to share your contact information with all the new family members you are meeting. Keep in mind that a lot of the older people may not be on social media (or even have e-mail!), so be sure to get phone numbers or addresses as appropriate in case you want to follow up on something that was discussed once you get home.

Hopefully these tips will be useful and help you have an enjoyable reunion that builds on connections with living family while also being beneficial for deepening your genealogical research.

Chelsea Ruiter is a twenty-three year old genealogist who is passionate about uncovering the stories in her family history. Originally from Canada’s west coast, she now lives in Ottawa and is currently working towards a Masters degree in International Affairs. Her genealogy blog can be found at Time Wanderer


Education Hangout: Family Photo Editing

Learn all about digitally preserving and editing your old family photographs from Education Co-Coordinators Shannon Combs Bennett and Eric Wells in their latest 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!


Faces of NextGen: Meet Cindy Medina

Cindy Medina, 40, Texas

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Perpetual learner, seeker, adventurer, researcher, and writer.

Why genealogy? Genealogy was instilled in me at a young age. My father would always talk about his grandparents and great-grandparents very fondly. Every chance he had he would talk about them. Fortunately, I also have a baby picture at the age of one, with five generations of women, including myself, aunt (in lieu of my dad), grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great grandmother.

On my mother’s side, an aunt and uncle would talk about my great-grandfather, James Gallardo, working for the Alton, Illinois railroad. My grandfather and his siblings were born in Alton. With all this, I knew how important it was to remember who you are.

I was always the kid or teenager that asked my friends questions about their family. If they had vintage pictures, I would run to go see them. I always connected with my friends by pictures and stories they told me about their family, always was inquisitive, and at that age I didn’t realize I was already practicing GENEALOGY. Throughout the years, I have asked my living grandmothers (maternal and paternal) questions and inquired about their life stories. They have always been open and I am thankful for that! I always kept a mental note or jotted down any name they mentioned. Uncles, aunts, cousins, first, second, third, etc. They all matter! And due to that information I have been able to knock down many brick walls. There is no doubt I have Native American and Spanish heritage. I can’t claim a tribe, because Mexico has been mixing for five hundred years and all their birth certificates till 1750 so far state “Mestizo” which means of mixed heritage. I am definitely of Spanish Colonial heritage of the 1700s, not sooner. It is my aim and goal to find out my “Missing Spanish Link” and find out who was the first Spanish ancestor to arrive in “New Spain” a.k.a Mexico.

What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? I found two months ago my sixth great grandmother, Roberta Baylon, and my sixth great-grandfather, Jose Gutierrez, married in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico in 1793, then “New Spain.” The certificate shows their parents’ names, my seventh great-grandparents. I was so excited to see this!

What are you working on this week? I am working on organizing all newfound research of the past months, which has been vast, on all lineages, maternal and paternal. Once I am ready to continue to do more research I will continue with Roberta Baylon and Jose Gutierrez.

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? PERSISTENCE! It never fails. I can take a break, but once I am ready, BOOM, I find something awesome! As a genealogist, you can take a break, but don’t let too much time pass by. It should be something continuous, something you do for a minute every day or weekly. When the minutes add up, it is a bank of knowledge and research! Last, if one website doesn’t give you anything, always try other routes and get more information, then try again and you will find something!

What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? I knit! My Facebook Page is “A Knitting Journey.” That is another passion of mine. I come from a line of “crochet ladies” on my dad’s side (five generations) and I took the road for knitting with two needles. I can crochet, I can definitely hold my own, but knitting is my FORTE!

Anything else you’d like to share? I have researched my own family, helped friends with “brick walls,” and I have also met great people in the genealogy industry in the states and abroad. I look forward to growing my network more. I would like to support others and be supported. What we do is not easy. We do it because we have a passion for it and we know the value of it. It is nice when you have other passionate people in your circle that share the same genealogy dreams and struggles. I look forward to connecting with many!

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.