Young People Aren’t Interested in Genealogy?

There is a myth going around and I want to clear it up right now to avoid any further confusion.  So everyone gather in tight and listen here:

Yes, young people (however you may define that) are indeed interested in genealogy and family history.

You’re probably thinking I’m crazy right about now because every time you go to a library, archive, courthouse, society meeting, or conference you mostly see people that aren’t in the “young people” category.  Most people at these places are old enough to be retired.  That’s fine.  Nothing wrong with it.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in family history or genealogy.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Photo taken by Elyse Doerflinger in 2012.

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo taken by Elyse Doerflinger in 2012.

Recently, James Tanner of the Genealogy’s Star blog wrote, “The Genealogy Age Gap  - How do we expand to include the youth?“.  I want to take this opportunity to politely disagree with James and lay out my argument that young people really are interested in genealogy and family history.

Family Isn’t a Priority to Young People.  Wrong.  Family and my fiance are my number one priority in life.  Actually, let me clarify: My living family and my fiance are my number one priority in life.  I want to spend time with them.  Don’t misunderstand me: I love me some dead people, but my first priority is the living.

But aside from that, at this stage in my life, my main priority is finishing my education, getting my career on a solid foot, planning my wedding, and then thinking about starting a family on my own.  The next ten years of my life are going to be pretty jam packed and I think people around my age (20-somethings) are in a similar boat.

Seeing as other things are higher up on my priority list than genealogy, it means that my money and time goes towards other things.  For example, my local genealogy society holds their monthly meetings on Wednesday evenings and while I would love to attend, I have teaching credential classes on Wednesday evenings.  I would love to go to RootsTech this year but I have classes that I can’t miss and the travel expenses are high.  NGS is only a 4 hour drive away from me this year, but it is right before my finals week.  Jamboree will be the one conference that I go to because it is close by and since I’ve become addicted to Jamboree about 4 years ago, I’m determined to go.  Like, I’ll eat ramen noodles for months if it means I get to go and see my friends and see my favorite speakers and have a great time!

But all of this doesn’t mean I am not interested in my family and their stories.  It just means I have less time and money to spend in the hobby.

We’re Not Educated Enough to Research.  I can’t speak for every person under 35, but I can say that most of the people I know have the reading, writing, and analyzing skills to do research.

As most of you know, I have a Bachelors of Arts in a Liberal Studies for Early Teaching and Learning and I am currently in a teaching credential program to teach elementary school.  My life is all about education these days and while I definitely feel like there are some issues with our education system, I certainly don’t feel that we are creating a generation that is too dumb to do research.

Even at the age of 12, I could conduct basic research skills like reading census documents and doing online searches.  I could do look ups in books.  I walked through and photographed cemeteries.

I’ve created family history units and I can tell you that *all ages* can do family history research in some form.  A 5 year old can ask their parents, grandparents, or another older adult about what life was like when they were little.  A 10 year old can analyze a map and research travel routes.  A 15 year old can analyze documents and pull information.  Seriously.  It’s *all* research but just different types of research.  You gotta have all of these skills and kids learn these skills as they get older.

As for computer skills, I think most people in the younger set are pretty good with technology.  I grew up with a computer in my house.  I went to high school with a cell phone.  I take my laptop to class every day.  Technology is something that almost always comes naturally to me.  I have no problem exploring a new tech tool without reading the instructions and I like to have things portable (ie: on my phone).

Most of the people my age that I interact with can do the basic computer stuff necessary for research.  They can search Google with ease.  Within a few minutes, they can figure out how to best use a search engine on a site like Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org.  It might take a few minutes to get used to a genealogy program like RootsMagic or Legacy, but it wouldn’t be something crippling or difficult.

Those are just my experiences.

The End Goal May Be Different.  Each person does genealogy and family history research for a different reason.  Some people love the chase.  Some people want to gain membership into a lineage society.  Some people want to see how far back they can go.  Some people want to learn about the story.

And each person has a different thing they want to do with their genealogy and family history stuff.  Some people proudly display family artifacts around their home.  Some people publish blogs or books.  Some people create videos.  Some people pass it down to their descendants.

All of these different reasons and end goals are valid.  In general, most people from my generation want to discover a family story and tell it – whether that be in a blog, in a book, in a video, whatever.  Because most people feel the best connection to their past when the names and dates become more meaningful with story.

There Are Lots of Young Genealogists Out There.  I used to believe that I was a major rarity in the genealogy world.  But in the years that I’ve been running this blog, I’ve been contacted by so many young people that are interested in genealogy.  Like tons.  They exist.  And we chat via email or follow each other on social networks.  They are just busy with 1,000 other things (like me!) and don’t have time to do genealogy all the time.

So there you have it… Young people *are* interested in genealogy and I promise, the hobby isn’t going to disappear any time soon!

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RootsMagic Treasure Hunt 2013

RootsMagic Treasure Hunt Image

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Going Back to the Start

When I first started with genealogy, I mainly researched my dad’s side of the family.  These ancestors are from the Smoky Mountain region of the United States in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina (and just a little bit in Virginia).  The families intermarried a lot and it quickly gets difficult to sort everyone out.  Therefore, incorrect and unsourced information for these lines is EVERYWHERE!

Headstone for Julius Dugger, Samuel Dugger, and Hannah Potter.  Photo from FindAGrave and taken by Aleta Stafford - used here with permission.

Headstone for Julius Dugger, Samuel Dugger, and Hannah Potter. Photo from FindAGrave and taken by Aleta Stafford – used here with permission.

Admittedly, when I first started researching, I just copy and pasted information into PAF, started printing reports, and sat back in the glory of having my ancestry go back to the 1700s.  The problem?  None (or very little) of it was sourced.  A lot of it (read: 95%) was incorrect.  In short – it was a mess.

In the last 2 years or so, I’ve been mainly focusing on my other family lines.  In some sense, I think I just needed a break from trying to sort my Smoky Mountain ancestors out.  I craved something different and began focusing on my  Indiana, Washington, Ohio, and New England lines.

Recently, however, I’ve become inspired to tackle my Smoky Mountain ancestors again.  I want to start getting these ancestors organized – sorting out who is who, what documents are available, and knowing where every bit of information comes from.  I want it all sourced and documented.  To tackle this project, I’ve decided to use WikiTree – having a collaborative tool will hopefully attract cousins and others with interests in the area to pitch in.  I can use all the help I can get for sorting and sourcing these ancestors!

So it seems after all these years, I’m going back to the start.

What’s your latest genealogy project?

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Busting Down Brick Walls: Organize Your Project (Part 2)

Here is part two in the blog post series all about busting down your brick walls by organizing your project.  If you missed part one, you can read it here.

Busting Down Brick Walls Part 2

3.) List Your Hypotheses.  What are your educated guesses to answer your research question?  What do you think may have happened?  What is your reasoning behind your guess?

4.) Create the F.A.N. List: When researching your ancestors, it is super important to keep a list of the people your ancestors interacted with throughout their lives.  These people are called F.A.N.s – friends, associates, and neighbors.  These are the people your ancestors did business with, sat next to in church, and signed documents as witnesses.  When you get really stuck with an ancestor, it is often the friends, associates, and neighbors that will have more information – research the F.A.N.s and you might find the missing piece of the puzzle to your research question.

5.) Create a To-Do List: Now that you have all information about your ancestor and the research problem laid out in a clear and organized manner, it is time to create a research to-do list.  Carefully look at the information and begin to brainstorm the records and resources you want to check.  Maybe you need to employ a new search strategy – like trying different naming spellings or checking the surrounding counties – to a resource you’ve already checked to find your ancestor.

6.) Collaborate: Collaborating with other researchers is a great way to find new perspective and get new research ideas.  Whenever I have a research problem, I share the problem with others – two heads (or more!) are always better than one!   I love to write blog posts about my brick wall ancestors – this will hopefully attract unknown cousins that might have information to share, and other researchers can have a chance to make recommendations or share resources I hadn’t thought of yet.  Someone else might look at your research and have a fresh perspective to offer – like maybe you read a word incorrectly or didn’t know that geographic boundaries had changed and you should be looking in a different jurisdiction for that record.

If blog posts are you’re style, use a message board to share your problem.  Like a blog post, other people can comment with ideas and fresh perspective – and you might just find a cousin!

Also look into using collaborative websites like WikiTree (my fav – and not just cause I work there!) or WeRelate.  Both of these options allow for multiple researchers to collaborate on one ancestor profile.

7.) Re-Evaluate & Repeat: As you finish steps 1-6, you’ve hopefully gathered some new information.  Now repeat the entire process, entering in all new information, until you have successfully answered your question.

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So that’s it for this blog series – have you busted down any brick walls lately?  Tell me about it in the comments below!

[Photo: Flickr User Jayel Aheram, text added by Elyse Doerflinger]

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Busting Down Brick Walls: Organize Your Project (Part 1)

Every genealogist has a brick wall ancestor – that ancestor with the record trail that seems to just stop.  One of the keys to busting down that brick wall is to organize your project in a way that lays out what you already know about the ancestor, your research problem, and a research to-do list.  Having this summary and plan written up, will make it super easy to follow through and bust down those brick walls.

Busting Down Brick Walls: Organize Your Project

There are 7 steps to organizing your brick wall project:

1.) Write Down Everything You Know and How You Know It.  I prefer to do this in a timeline format – starting from birth and listing every event I have my ancestor until their death and/or burial.  Under each event, I list the source from where the information came from.  I also like to write a summary sentence or two about the weight of each piece of information.

A source is where you got the information from.  Original sources provide information that is not derived by another source.  Derivative sources, just as the name suggests, is a source that has been abstracted, transcribed, summarized, or in some way derived from another source.  It is usually best to see the original source whenever possible to be sure exactly what it says.  Derived sources like transcriptions and abstractions can sometimes contain errors.

There are two types of information that can be found within a source.  Primary information comes from records created at or near the time of the event with information by an person with close knowledge of the event.  For example, a birth record (unless it is delayed) will contain primary information about the birth of a child.  This information was probably provided by the parents that were present or the midwife/doctor that was present during the birth.  Secondary information is information found in records created after a long period of time has passed from the event or was contributed by a person who was not present at the event.

The complicated part is that one source may have multiple types of information within it.  For example, a death certificate is an original source with primary information regarding the death date and place, but secondary information regarding the names of parents and date of birth.  The secondary information will need to be assessed and it will probably be best to search for more records created closer to the time of the event.

2.) Identify the Problem: Now that you have a clear picture of what you know about your ancestor, it’s time to identify exactly what question you want to answer.  If there are multiple questions, list each one separately and clearly.

Examples: Where was George Monroe Rogers born?  What was the name of his parents?  Where was John N. Morris living during the 1900 census?  Did Adolph Doerflinger become a naturalized citizen?  Where was Julia Morris Rogers buried?
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Stay tuned for the next post in this series of blog posts about busting down your brick walls!

[Photo: Flickr User Jayel Aheram, text added by Elyse Doerflinger]

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Treasure Chest Thursday: Grandma & Grandpa Doerflinger’s 50th Wedding Anniversary Album

As many of you know, I’ve been slowly working on organizing my family history closet.  I’ve bought a few nice boxes for storage and been scanning lots of pictures with my Flip-Pal.  I’ve been categorizing the different pictures and taking assessment of what materials I still need to buy to complete the project.  It is slow, but I am making progress.

Family History Closet

This is my family history closet in my house. It looks pretty disorganized, but I promise you that it is better than it was a month ago. It is just a *slow* process.

I bought a large flat box to store Grandma and Grandpa Doerflinger’s 50th wedding anniversary album.  The album has fallen apart and I now have all of the pages.  Each page has a letter or card from a family member or friend with memories of my grandparents.  Nearly all of the pages also have photos to accompany the letters.  It has been so neat to read all the family stories and memories about my grandparents that I never met.

While putting all the pages in the box, I found the page my mom put together.  For today’s Treasure Chest Thursday, I’ve decided to share the letter my mom, Sharon Doerflinger, wrote to my grandparents:

June 9, 1984

When I was a kid and other little girls were out selling girl scout cookies or lemonade from stands, I always felt alittle left out.  I wasn’t a girl scout and my lemonade left alot to be desired.  Dad caught on to this and came with the idea of opening up a roadside stand selling chayote squash.  He said I could corner the market and that the financial awards would be endless.  Squash?….. I thought my old man must be off his rocker, nobody eats squash, so why would anybody buy it.  Well, Dad persuaded me to do it, besides, the squash plant was taking over the backyard, and if someone bought it I wouldn’t have to eat it.  To my surprise squash eaters came from miles around to buy my squash, I was the most successful little sales-person on the block.  I made bunches of money, even ended up liking squash and learned that once again, Father does know best.

Before my operation, I was having alot of trouble with my leg  Every night around midnight I would wake up with the worst pain in my leg that would only go away if I kept moving.  So every night Mom would get up and walk me around the house for at least one hour until the pain subsided.  This went on every single night for three months and she never complained, she was always there, and when the doctors could find nothing wrong she never gave up until they found out what was wrong and corrected it.

Dear Mom & Dad,

There are just two of the many memories I have of both of you.  The memory I treasure most is one I can’t remember, although it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.  That is, adopting me.  In taking me into your home, you gave me the best darn Dad, Mom, sisters, brothers, and family anyone could ask for.  Thanks much.  Happy Anniversary, I love you both.

Love,
Sharon

Sharon Doerflinger's Page

Sharon Doerflinger’s page for Max & Margaret Doerflinger’s 50th Wedding Anniversary Album. Sharon (my mom) wrote a letter and included two family photos on the page.

The operation my mom is referring to above is the operation that removed the bone cancer in her leg.  When my mom was 11, she was diagnosed with bone cancer in her leg that required surgery to remove the cancer – and she had the 7 inch scar on her leg to prove it.

At the time, the doctors were not sure if they could remove the cancer without amputating her leg.  My mother, determined not to lose her leg, decided to run away from home with her niece, Carrie (who was 3 years younger than her).  My mom gathered most of the supplies (a bag of clothes and canned food).  Carrie’s only job was to bring the can opener from the kitchen.  Once everyone was asleep, the girls carefully crept out of the bedroom window and made a run for it.  They only got a few blocks away when they decided to stop, review their supplies, and discuss their next step – leading my mom to discover that Carrie had forgotten the can opener.  Carrie began to cry as my mom scolded her at their now ruined plans.

At the time, the girls had no idea that my mom’s big brother, Larry (who was an adult at this point), had heard the girls sneak out of the house and had stealthily followed them.  Calming the girl’s down, he escorted them home and never told my grandparents of their escape.

As you can tell, this album has given me some great family history stories to tell and I am loving getting it organized so that I can gleam even more family stories from it!

[Are you trying to organize your family archive of stuff?  I highly suggest that you get Denise Levenick's new book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes.  It is AMAZING!  Denise is amazing!  Her passion for saving these the family "stuff" is infectious and the book is written in a way that makes you feel like she is cheering you on the entire way.  Plus?  The book sales will help fund the Winsor Student Genealogy Grant (of which I was a recipient of last year with A.C. Ivory).  So go buy it - cause I promise you that you will love it!]

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The Basics of Organizing Your Genealogy

Will the 100% organized genealogist please stand up?

Anyone?  Anyone?  Hello?

Organizing our genealogy and family history stuff is on everyone’s mind – especially now with the start of 2013.  But for most of us (except for maybe the total beginner), we have a lot of stuff.  Organizing all of this stuff takes a lot time and here are some reasons why:

  • You have to figure out what stuff you have.
  • You have to figure out how you want to store all that you have.
  • You have to figure out the best way to sort all of this stuff so you can find it.

Since getting organized is a big project (and something that will require your continued attention), I will be creating a video series to walk through the process of getting organized.

The first video covers the absolute basics – so watch it below!

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My 2013 New Years Resolution

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It’s Nearly Christmas!

Every family has traditions that are practiced every holiday season.  Things like baking, spending time with family, the food that is eaten, the decorations that are up – all of these things are time honored traditions.

One of the traditions that I have is getting sick.

That’s right.  You read that right.  Every single Christmas from the time I was 2 until I was about 8 was spent with me being sick.  Since then, I’ve traded off, sometimes being sick during Christmas and sometimes I am sick the week before or after.  But it just wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t get sick.

So I leave you with this photo of myself taken on Christmas morning of 1992 – taken shortly after I woke up to find Santa had visited and left me lots of presents.  My parents tried desperately to get me excited, but all I wanted to do was curl up with my blanket on the couch with my new doll and go to sleep.  In fact, I only opened this one present and left the rest until that evening.

Elyse Doerflinger, Christmas 1991, with doll

Elyse Doerflinger, Christmas 1991, with doll.
Copyright: Elyse Doerflinger

As the year comes to an end and many of us celebrate various holidays, I wish you all a wonderful season full of love, good company, and good food.  Happy Ancestor hunting!

 

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Why Join a Genealogy Society?

A few days ago I wrote a Some Thoughts for the Genealogy Societies in the World.  I’ve given genealogy societies some words of advice, but I think it is time to discuss why you should join a genealogy society.  These are my reasons for joining a genealogy society:

  1. Social Networking: While I love keeping up to date with all of my genealogy buddies on Facebook and Twitter, it isn’t the same as in-person socializing.  I crave social time with people that get the whole, “I search for dead people” thing.  I don’t just want someone to have a conversation with (although those are nice) but I want someone I an truly call a friend.  Someone who I can take field trips to libraries and archives with.  Someone to share a hotel room with during conferences.  And someone to get together with and talk about our latest research struggles.  I want a genealogy social life and a genealogy society is the best way to create the social life.
  2. Education: I am always looking to learn about other resources, methodologies, and technologies to help me research my ancestors.  Genealogy societies not only have members with knowledge, but also bring in speakers or conduct classes.  Sometimes they release newsletters with lots of good educational information or articles to learn from.  Some societies even host webinars to bring in speakers from all over the country (and the world).
  3. Access to Stuff: Lots of societies have a library that sometimes requires a small fee for nonmembers to research.  Being a member of that society can give you free access to the library.  Some societies also offer at-home access to subscription sites so you can do research at home in your pajamas.
  4. Support History: Sometimes, it makes sense to join a society because you want to financially support the cause of the society.  Many societies are doing projects to preserve and record the local history – without these societies (and your financial support), the local history could be lost forever.

Those are my 4 reasons for joining a genealogy society.  Why do you join genealogy societies?

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