Lessons From My Mother: Part 2

Dear Mama,

Over the last six months or so, I’ve made it a priority to go to bed in my room and fall asleep without the television.  The goal isn’t too hard to focus on since I only have one television and I keep it in the living room.  So far, it works pretty well and I’m able to fall asleep without it – a task I never would have thought possible a few years ago when I used to need the television on just to sleep.

While I’ve mostly gotten over that habit, there are still some nights when I just need the TV on.  On these nights, I walk with my blanket and pillow to the futon in the living room and turn the television on.  The simple act always reminds me of you and your insomnia.  I flip through the channels and try to avoid your shows – always the crime shows – in an attempt to not think about you.  But try as I might to avoid the latest episode of Law & Order (and the 20,000 variations of it), my thoughts still go back to you.  It isn’t long before I settle into my makeshift bed and put on The Daily Show – of course, it reminds me of you.

We used to watch that show all the time.  It was our way of bonding over politics, a starting place for our debates and discussions.  Arguments over President Bush’s policies, the Wars in the Middle East, healthcare, education, just about anything.  While it was all about the politics, it was never really about the politics.  It was all about developing an opinion, seeing things from another perspective, and learning to speak my mind.

I remember one such occasion during the summer of 2001.  We had just moved from Seattle down to San Marcos, California and our condo didn’t have much furniture in it yet.  It was morning and we were reading the newspaper while we ate toast.  I always loved the opinion section and you always loved the news.  Something in the “Letters to the Editor” section caught my eye and I was suddenly furious.  I started to rant about how incredibly wrong this person was and how my opinion was better.

“Why don’t you tell them that then?”

“Tell who what?” I was confused.

“Why don’t you write to the newspaper and tell them your opinion?  Give them your take on things?”

“I’m 12.” I said flatly.


“So… why would they listen to me?”

“You won’t know if you don’t try.  Worst they can do is not publish it.  But at least you will have gotten your opinion out there.”  You shrugged the whole thing off as if this was the most obvious idea in the world.  I was in shock because you actually thought a newspaper editor would listen to me.

“You just want me to stop ranting, don’t you?” I asked.

“I’m just saying that if you feel so strongly about the subject, then you should write in.”  The smile on your face gave you away.

But I followed your advice anyway and wrote in.  And then not-so-slyly attacked the newspaper every morning for the next two weeks, flipping like a mad woman to the editorial section.  And each morning I tried to hide my disappointment when it wasn’t printed.

Until one day, it was printed.  And as soon as I saw it, I screamed.  And jumped.  And screamed some more.  You worriedly looked at me.  I pointed down at the newspaper, way too excited to form a coherent sentence, and continued screaming.

“ME!  MINE!  LOOK!  AHHHH!”  The excitement was overwhelming and you only smiled.

I quickly grew to love speaking my mind and debating.  By the 10th grade, I had joined the debate team – which is saying something since we met at 7:00am every morning and often had competitions early on Saturday mornings.

You were the one that taught me to speak my mind and express my opinions.  You were the one that taught me to “back it up” with facts and sources.  You were the one that taught me to speak up, even when I feel like no one would listen to me.  And it was because of you that I inherited a determined stubbornness that always seems to play out in arguments.  I guess my craving to be right comes from you too. (But how boring would I be without it?)

We were good at arguing and I think we spent nearly every moment of my teenage years perfecting those skills.  I pushed your buttons.  You pushed my buttons.  You screamed.  I screamed.  It was our version of normal.  And yet, as much as we screamed (and we screamed a lot), we seemed to always be able to forgive and go back to being our typical laughing selves.  I still feel sorry for our poor neighbors though.

During my teenage years, I was really good at speaking my mind but not so good at knowing when to bite my tongue.  While I’ve certainly improved my diplomacy and wording skills, my big ole mouth still gets me in trouble once in a while.  But then again, if I didn’t get in trouble for running my mouth once in a while, I wouldn’t be able to call myself your daughter, would I?

It still feels unreal that it has been two years since you have passed and two years since I’ve had a great argument.  Oh the things I would do to be able to argue with you again…

In Loving Memory ~ Sharon Doerflinger

June 20, 1959 – February 28, 2010


Lessons From My Mother

Dear Mama,

Why is it that I always get the best ideas while I’m doing the dishes?

And why is it that I always call you “Mama” when I am not feeling well?

I hate doing the dishes.  But you’re well aware of that fact because you spent nearly every moment of my teenage years practically pulling teeth to get me to do the dishes.  I don’t know why I hate that chore so much, but I would do practically anything to avoid the dishes.  But now that I live on my own, I’m forced to do the dishes.  Maybe my mind drifts to you as I do the dishes because I’m trying to distract myself from how much I hate doing the dishes.  Or maybe it is because I’m trying to ignore the fact that it has been almost two years since you’ve left this world.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter much anyway.

While I was doing the dishes this morning, I started to think of you.  My life seems to be rapidly changing and moving these days, so much so that I wonder if you would even recognize it.  My future teaching career feels closer than ever, no longer feeling like some distant dream, but much more like a reality.  It is exciting and terrifying all at the same time.  I can’t place my finger on exactly when I crossed the platform from childhood to adulthood, but it is abundantly clear somewhere along the way, I’ve done it.  You’d be so proud of me and I only wish you were here to see it in person.

You’re probably the only one that would understand my need to teach.  It isn’t a choice for me and never has been.  Teaching is a part of who I am, so ingrained in my DNA and very being that it would be impossible for me not to teach.  Since the age of five, I’ve known that I had two possible paths in life to follow: Either I could be a princess or a teacher.  Since I don’t have any princes knocking on my door, I’ve settled on just wearing a tiara once in a while and focusing on being a teacher.

Even when I tried to avoid a career in teaching, you stayed patient and let me discover it on my own.  I made every excuse for why I didn’t want to be a teacher: the pay is horrible, too much gossip between colleagues, parents never seem to appreciate you, those kids that don’t listen, the fact that I’ll be spending my own money on supplies for my classroom, the fact that the system is so broken and far too many children fall between the cracks…  The list seemed endless

“I could be a journalist.  Travel the world.  Interview important and interesting people.  Write articles.  That would be cool.”  We were eating breakfast at a local diner, both of us reading the newspaper.

“Journalist?  Yeah, I suppose.”

“What kind of salary do you think they make?”  I took a long sip of my iced tea.

“No idea.  But I don’t think the average journalist makes much more than a teacher would.”

“Who said anything about being an average journalist?  Average journalists don’t get to travel or interview super important people or-”

“If you think being a journalist would make you happy, then go for it.”  Your voice was dripping with frustration.

“What does that mean?” I asked, raising an eye brow and using a tone that I knew you wouldn’t like.  I was pushing your buttons, feeling offended and hormonal.

“All I’m saying is that at some point in your life, Elyse, you’re going to have to decide what is more important to you: being happy or being rich.  Since you’ve suggested just about half a dozen career choices in the last week, I’m assuming that you are trying really hard to convince yourself, and everyone else in the process, that you would be perfectly happy as long as you had lots of money.  I’m not contradicting that.  I’m just saying that the choice is up to you and you have to figure out what matters more to you.  Teaching may not be a glamorous job that pays great, but you know you love it and you’d be an amazing teacher.  You might not have a giant bank account balance, but you know that you would change lives.  And at some point, you have to decide what will make you happy.”

I sat across the table, trying to hide the shock on my face from your bluntness.  We ate the rest of our breakfast in silence – and if I remember correctly, I gave you the silent treatment for the rest of the day.

I also remember 4th of July of 2006.  I had a horrible fight with my then-boyfriend and spent the day moping around the house.  After a few hours of this, you had had enough.

“Get up.”

“Excuse me?” I asked, sitting in front of my computer.

“Get up.”

“I don’t get it…”

“Get up and get out of this house.  You have moped long enough and it is time for you to go do something.  It is 4th of July and you’re telling me that suddenly you have no plans?  Don’t let some boy ruin you’re night.”

“He isn’t just some boy.  He is my boyfriend.”

“Yes… I remember,” you said with a grumble.  You never did like him, always insisting that he was a jerk – but of course, I didn’t see that until much later.

“I don’t want to go out.”  I said flatly.  Turning back to my computer screen.

“Go call someone.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Get up.  Go call someone.  Get out of the house.  Go cause some trouble and don’t come back until you have a smile on your face.”

I vaguely remember rolling my eyes at this and flashing an ever so fake smile in your direction.

“Don’t make me be the one to call your friends.  You know I’ll only embarrass you to no end.”

“You wouldn’t.” I said confidently, turning my back to her in an obvious sign of avoidance.

“Is that a dare?  Oh Elyse, you know how I just can’t resist a dare.”

I sent my strongest teenage stare in your direction.  You returned the stare and didn’t break it – not even for a second.

“Fine.” I said angrily, admitting defeat.

“Oh good.  I knew you’d see it my way.”


“Life is too short and you are too damn young to be this hung up on a boy.”

“He isn’t just any boy!”  I said again angrily.  But rather than engage me into what surely would have escalated into one of our shouting matches, you walked away.   I got out of the house that night, choosing to go with a friend to the beach and watch the fireworks.  At the time, I refused to admit that you had been right: life is far too short and I am far too young to be hung up on a boy.  So once that boyfriend and I had broken up for good, I took your advice to heart and refused to sit at home moping.  I left the house.  I hung out with friends.  I tried new things.  Because life is too short and I’m far too young not to.

When I do the dishes and your memory creeps into my mind again, I avoid the sadness of your absence and choose to let your adventurous spirit fill my thoughts.  I think about all the possibilities the future could hold: the places I’ll visit, the people I’ll meet, the new things I’ll try.  As I place the last dish on the drying rack, I think of the lessons you taught me.

Life is too short and I’m far too young to be anything but happy.

Mom and I

In Loving Memory ~ Sharon Doeflinger

June 20, 1959 – February 28, 2010


Happy Valentine’s Day: Grandma and Grandpa Doerflinger

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I have decided to post about my adorable grandparents, Max Doerflinger and Margaret “Sis” Harney.

Margaret "Sis" Harney and Max Doerflinger were married 12 Jun 1934 in Seattle, King county, Washington. Based on how young they look, this photo was probably taken just before the couple was married or shortly after.


Aren't they just adorable?

N02/5348526348/” title=”Max and Margaret Doerflinger by GenealogistElyse, on Flickr”>Max and Margaret Doerflinger

Together, Max and Margaret "Sis" Doerflinger raised six children. Even after the devastating loss of their son, Eugene, in a car accident, Max and Margaret carried on. Margaret "Sis" met 4 of her 5 grandchildren (she passed away about 10 months before I was born) and Max met all of his grandchildren.

 Happy Valentine’s Day!


Salt Lake City: Day 1

I arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah this morning at about 10:30am local time and thus far, every moment has been a blast!  There is so much to talk about… where do I begin?

Being a southern California girl, I’m not generally used to cold weather.  Luckily, I came prepared with my sweaters, jackets, gloves, and scarfs.  It certainly looks like it will be a cold few days.  I’ve read weather reports that it is expected to snow tonight and tomorrow.

I went to the Family History library for the very first time today and it is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.  Floor after floor of books, microfilm, and happy people to assist you.  It is definitely overwhelming the first time, but totally worth it.  I didn’t stay long today because I’m still recovering from the food poisoning I had two days ago, but I plan on going back before I leave.

I stopped and had lunch at the Nauvoo Cafe – most delicious roast beef sandwich I’ve ever eaten.  I wish I had more of an appetite because I would have eaten a lot more.

I had dinner with a bunch of fun geneabloggers at P.F. Changs – delicious food and even better conversation.

But now… it is time for me to get ready for bed.  I’ll be up bright and early tomorrow morning to set up the WikiTree booth in the exhibit hall.  If you are here at RootsTech, please make sure to see Chris Whitten’s class on WikiTree tomorrow morning.

Also, don’t forget that tomorrow is the Genealogy Idol Competition and yours truly will be competing.


Who Will Be The Next Genealogy Idol?


If you haven’t heard yet, Legacy Family Tree is sponsoring the first ever Genealogy Idol Competition at RootsTech on February 2, 2012.  The four contestants – two at RootsTech and two that will be using the webinar technology to present from their homes – will be competing in three rounds of topics.  The 1 hour competition will also be live-streamed using webinar technology and the winner will be decided by YOU!  Everyone will have a chance to vote for their favorite contestant using the webinar’s poll technology.  Read more about it here.

The four contestants include Elizabeth Clark, Michael Hait, and Marian Pierre-Louis, and ME!  (That high-pitched squeal of excitement you just heard?  That was me!)  When I got the email from Geoff Rasmussen saying that I had been accepted as a contestant for the competition, I literally started squealing in excitement and jumping up and down.  I then started pinching myself just to be sure I wasn’t dreaming.  My poor boyfriend… he stared at me in shock and confusion during this whole ordeal.

This is going to be such a fun experience and I couldn’t be any more excited for it.  I was made for competitions like this: Every December, the Doerflingers holds a fake Miss Universe competition.  We have a fake handmade microphone to speak into (and if the host forgets to speak into the microphone, the crowd gets a bit unruly and starts yelling things like, “We can’t hear you!”), the final 15 and final 10 contestants prance around the house to music as they do their best parade wave to the losers crowd, and the final 5 enter the interview round where questions like, “What words of comfort and advice would you offer starlet Kim Kardashian after the failure of her 72 day marriage?”.  The winner gets a cape, a homemade septor and crown.  We do this for fun.  I’m the youngest one of the family and yet I’ve won that competition 4 times… the family members who have yet to win don’t necessarily like that.  My Harney relatives in Seattle hold a ping-pong tournament every July.

Competition is in my blood.  A genealogy competition is so my thing.

The competition isn’t going to be easy since I’ll be up against 3 amazing contestants.  It is a serious honor to even compete and I can’t thank Legacy Family Tree enough for choosing me as a contestant.  I keep pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming.

So what are you waiting for?  Go register, get your thinking caps on, and get ready to vote!


Preparing for RootsTech 2012

RootsTech 2012 is about 3 weeks away and I am so excited!  This will be my first time at RootsTech and the first time I’ve ever been to Salt Lake City.  It is also my first “big girl” trip that I am planning, executing, and paying for all by myself.    It will also be my first time working at the WikiTree booth in the exhibit hall (come say hi!).  Lots of firsts – and I couldn’t be more excited.  I’ve got RootsTech on the brain.

Last year, I was stuck at home to watch the RootsTech fun from afar, reading every Facebook update, Tweet, and blog post I could find.  Every single thing I read reaffirmed my belief that RootsTech is the conference of my tribe: People who view technology as a powerful tool to discover, record, and share genealogical and family history information.  This conferences brings together the best genealogy speakers and software developers the industry has to offer.  And the conference takes place right next door to the Family History Library.  Could it get much better?

I’ll be flying into Salt Lake City on February 1st and will arrive around lunch time.  I plan on quickly eating, putting my suitcases in my room at the Radisson, and then running (not walking!) to the Family History Library.  I’ve dreamed of the day I would go to the Family History Library since I learned about it’s existence when I was 12 – I’m just hoping I don’t find the rows and rows of microfilm and books and computers too beautiful that I faint.

I’m currently creating my list of books and microfilm to look at while at the library.  I’m going with the books first approach because books can’t be loaned out like microfilm can.  I’m also developing a long list, even though I probably won’t get much time at the library to research.  At the same time, I’m trying to prioritize which lines and ancestors to research and seek advice on while at the library.  Lots to do – but it is better to have too much to do than too little.

What are you doing to prepare for RootsTech?


Why Bother With Genealogy?

The genealogy world has been alive with controversy and debate over citations on blog posts – this blog post isn’t about that.  I have purposely been avoiding the latest controversy, drama, and debate.  Then I read, “Eliminating the Hobby from Genealogy” on The Geneabrarian Reference Desk blog and I started thinking about what word I would use to define my own genealogy research.  It isn’t really a hobby – it is so much deeper than a hobby.  It isn’t a religious or spiritual calling.  It isn’t my profession.  So what is it?

Why Bother With Genealogy?

In other words: Why do all of this research on dead people?  Why spend hours searching internet websites and databases?  Why dig your nose into dusty old books?  Why give yourself a migraine as you scroll through microfilm looking for a name?  Why spend money ordering records from archives and repositories?  Why go through all the work?

My answers won’t be the same as yours.  That’s OK.  My answers today probably won’t be the same in a year.  That’s OK too.

I research my ancestors because learning about these people who came before me helps to center me.  Learning about every hardship, every struggle, every accomplishment, every name and date gives me guidance – a reminder of how I got to where I am and a direction I want my future to go in.  Research provides an escape from my head.  Research helps me feel connected to the people who came before me.

Preserving my findings is something I do for me.  I have a whole closet with boxes full of pictures, old letters and other mementos.  The boxes belonged to my mom and became mine after she died.   The stuff in the boxes is mostly pictures from when my grandparents were starting their lives together as a newly wed couple.  The boxes chronicle their lives and the families they created.  The boxes show the growth of their children, the eventual additions of grandchildren and the expansion of the family.  The contents of the boxes have a strong pull on me, providing me a strong, very real connection to the grandparents I never knew.  The contents of the boxes show my mom in various stages of her life.  It all reminds me of how I got to this place in my life and the path I want my life to take.

Your personal reasons for doing genealogy might be totally different.  They might be similar.  That’s OK.

Let Your Reasons Fuel How You Do Research

In the past, I considered pursuing a path of professional genealogy but I’ve since decided that it isn’t a direction I want to go in.  I’ve known since I was five that I wanted to be a teacher.  Being a teacher is who I am and while genealogy will always have a special place in my life, it isn’t where I’m meant to be.

With that said, I don’t always cite my sources according to Elizabeth Shown Mills’ standards.  I strive to have correct citations but I won’t be losing sleep over where to put the comma or what words to italicize.  My reasons for recording citations are simple: so I can find the source in the future.  I know my citations aren’t perfect and I consider that A-OK.  I’m not striving for perfection here.

I have the utmost respect for those of you who are striving for a professional level of work – you are strong, determined, and hardworking people.

Noticing The Theme Here?  

In my opinion, whatever genealogy path you are on is perfectly OK.  This huge community and all of its various branches would be so incredibly boring if everyone was on the same path.  Having this melting pot of people with different levels of ability, different goals, different opinions, different reasons for why we are here makes us more interesting.  It makes the sand box more fun to play in.

In Conclusion…

I’m no closer to having a word that defines my own genealogy work.  But I am closer to why I do genealogy research and what that research means to me – I just haven’t given it a word yet.

Update: As one of my dedicated Harry Potter friends pointed out to me, the reasons why I do genealogy are nearly exactly the same as why I am obsessed with the Harry Potter series.  Wonder what other things I do in my life that have similar motivations and reasons?  Interesting…


Genealogy Goals for 2012

As everyone welcomes in another year, most of us are in a state of reflection and contemplation as we try to figure out what we want to carry out in 2012.  The big trend at I’ve noticed in the genealogy community is to find a buddy to help keep your genealogy goals or resolutions on track – having a friend to lean on for support is always helpful and aids in accountability.  Being the Type-A, ambitious, planner obsessed person that I am, I have found a genealogy buddy and I’m creating a plan.

My mantra in my life for 2012 is “Live. Let Go. Discover. Breathe. Smile.”  My genealogy goals for the year need to be in line with this mantra.

Here are my 2012 Genealogy Goals:

1.) Attend RootsTech in February and SCGS’s Jamboree in June.  Going to conferences is always an experience because of the energy – everyone is excited, happy, bright-eyed and ready to learn.  It is a chance to see old friends and meet new ones.  A chance to meet the genea-celebs (I’m going to meet Joshua Taylor at RootsTech – let’s just hope I don’t faint or ask for his autograph or stutter or make a complete fool out of myself) and realize that they are totally down to earth, amazing people.  My goal is to soak in the energy, learn as much as I can in and out of classes, and most of all, enjoy the company of my amazing genealogy family.

But for me personally, conferences also represent an opportunity for me to branch out on my own and discover more about myself as a person.  Although I used to travel a lot as a kid (especially trips between Seattle to Los Angeles in the summers to visit my Dad), I don’t really travel much and I’ve never really traveled without my parents.  Going to Salt Lake City to attend RootsTech will be the first trip that I’ve planned and executed all by myself.  I’ll be flying by myself – and unlike the days of my childhood where I would fly by myself, there will be no flight attendant to watch over me, tell me jokes, and even let me into the cockpit to meet the pilot (those were pre-9/11 days).  I’ll be staying in a hotel all by myself.  As my dad likes to put it, I’ll be taking my first “Big Girl Trip”.  Although I’m nervous about the trip and trying to plan for every possible occurrence (Seriously – I’m a ridiculously Type-A, plan obsessed person), I also couldn’t be any more excited.

If you’ll be at RootsTech, come visit me at the WikiTree booth in the exhibit hall – I’d love to meet up for a bite to eat, drinks, or for a class.  Or even just to hang out.

2.) Write About Each of my Brick Wall Ancestors.  The only way I can tackle my brick walls without barking up the wrong tree or wasting time doing work that I’ve already done is to organize the information I already have and write out my next steps.  This helps me visualize the holes in my research, create a plan, and tackle the brick wall.

I will write a blog post (or series of posts) for each of my following brick wall ancestors:

  • My paternal great grandfather, George Rogers.
  • My paternal 3x great grandfather, John Asher.
  • My paternal 3x great grandfather, James L. Clawson Sr.  There is so much misinformation out there on this guy and I really want to be able to separate fact from fiction.
  • My paternal 2x great grandmother, Josephine Frank.
  • My maternal 2x great grandfather, Adolph Carl Doerflinger – especially his life in Germany.
  • My maternal 2x great grandparents, Antone Keppler and Rosalie Endres – especially their lives in Germany.
  • My maternal 2x great grandfather, Frederick Harney – yet another man from Germany.
  • My maternal 3x great grandparents, Stephen Weston and Mary Morgan in Wales.
  • My maternal 3x great grandparents, John Coombe and Esther ? in Wales.

With 9 ancestors to cover, I will have to write about an ancestor about every month.  Having only 9 ancestors to write about gives me some wiggle room for the holidays and extra busy months.  Hopefully by writing about these brick walls, I will discover more about these ancestors and about research strategies.

3.) Move Away From Paper to Digital.  I hate to admit it, but I just don’t touch my genealogy binders.  I’ve worked so hard to make the notebooks well organized and easy to read – but I almost never use them.  Being the busy, always-on-the-go kind of girl, I want my research to be available to me at a moment’s notice and the way to do that is to keep my research on my computer.  My laptop goes nearly everywhere with me and I have most of my research on there.  My RootsMagic file and all genealogy-related image files are saved in Drop Box, so I also have them available from any computer with an internet connection.  My binders sit on the bottom shelf of my living room bookshelf untouched because I can’t access them as spontaneously as my digital files.

The majority of my research happens when I don’t plan it: during a lunch break on my college campus, in between study sessions, and any other times I have inspiration.  My college backpack already weighs a ton due to my textbooks, school binder, food, giant jug of caffeine and laptop that I carry around on a daily basis – I don’t have the space or physical ability to carry around my 6 genealogy binders just in case I get the urge to do some research.  The binders just don’t fit my lifestyle any more.

But I haven’t sworn off paper all together.  Paper is often the best tool to help me sort through my thoughts and ideas.  Paper helps me slow down and avoid the mistakes I often make when I am rushing.  Paper gives me something tangible to hold.  But those used pieces of paper will probably not be useful to me in the long-term.  I forget about paper and thus, I rarely ever refer to a piece of paper twice.  However, if I scan that page and link it to my RootsMagic file for the ancestor in question, I will see it and use it.

The plan is to scan every piece of paper in my New England Ancestors binder (where I have the most papers with my brainstorming and thought sorting sessions) and then link it to the appropriate people in my RootsMagic database.


Having a genealogy buddy to support me and keep me accountable will definitely be key to successfully fulfilling these goals.  My genea-buddy is Miriam Robbins of Ancestories.  I had the pleasure to meet Miriam in 2010 and I really felt like we connected.  We both have crazy schedules as we struggle to survive and make things work.  We have both faced hardships and struggles but came out as stronger people.  And we both love researching our ancestors, blogging about it, and teaching others about.

I’ve tried to keep my goals realistic while also giving me a bit of a challenge to push myself.  I often work best when I have a little bit of a challenge and I can become obsessed determined to accomplish the goal.  (Example: I wanted a 4.0 GPA last semester.  I studied like crazy, developed an addiction to coffee, and achieved a 3.9 GPA).

2011 was a year of new beginnings for me: Figuring out who I am without my Mom in my life, moving out on my own, teaching preschoolers for the first time (so much fun and so my thing!) and trying to figure out what kind of teacher I hope to be.  All in all, it was a good year.

May 2012 be yet another year of discovery, letting go, smiles, breaths of fresh air, and living life to the fullest!  There may be growing pains involved and definitely a lot of trial and error, but in the last three years of my life, I’ve learned that I can survive just about anything.  For those of you who have been reading my blog during 2011: THANK YOU for being on this journey with me!  Here is to 2012!


Are Bloggers Leading the Genealogy Community?

Balanced Over the Bay

I’ve been quietly reading a few very thought-provoking blog posts by Michael Hait (The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are Bloggers the New “Experts”?) and Marian Pierre-Louis (Are Bloggers Really the New Experts? Part 1 & 2) and figured it was time to put my two opinionated cents into the conversation.

Is the Genealogy Community Changing?  Absolutely.  There is no doubt.  The change is already happening.  There will be growing pains.  BUT we can lessen the growing pains if everyone decides to embrace each other.

It means that the “traditional crowd” decides to dip their toes into the technology waters while also mentoring the tech community on how to get down and dirty in a courthouse basement to find the record.

It means that the “tech crowd” has to kindly help the more traditional crowd get their feet wet in the technology waters while also being willing to get down and dirty in the dusty stacks of undigitized records in an old courthouse.

Why?  Because both groups have the same goal and both groups have something valuable to offer the other.  In my mind, the genealogy community will thrive when it learns to walk the balance beam of using technology tools to go out into courthouses, archives, and other repositories to make genealogy discoveries.  Finding the balance isn’t always easy, but it is worth it.

But Are Bloggers Experts?

Sometimes.  There are definitely some blogger in the community that are undoubtedly experts in genealogy, technology, or both.  There are also some new people who are still learning.  There are some people who don’t have formal training but are definitely knowledgeable.  The community is so wide spread, so varied, and I don’t view that as a bad thing.  We can always learn something from a blog – even if it is just an example of how not to do something.

One thing is for sure: We are an opinionated group and we know how to make our voices heard.  If we love something, we will do everything in our powers to be the best cheerleaders possible.  If we dislike something… well, we’ll speak loudly on that topic too.  We have no problem being honest with what we think or believe.

But Does That Mean Bloggers are Leading the Genealogy Community?

In the sense of being vocal and being seen… yes, bloggers are leading the genealogy community and it is all because we know how to spread information quickly and effectively.

But bloggers aren’t the only ones leading the genealogy community – we also have big companies and information spreading groups that are influencing the community.  FamilySearch is not only well known for free online records and indexing projects, but also for creating RootsTech – a conference that bridges the gap between technology and genealogy.  Ancestry.com isn’t just known for being a huge company with lots tons of records online, it is also known for being the main sponsor of Who Do You Think You Are? (US Version).  These companies and many others are getting their names out there.

Are Genealogy Societies Doomed? 

If genealogy societies do not choose to learn technology, then the whole community is in trouble.  Genealogy societies not only provide a place for genealogists to meet face to face, many societies also offer learning opportunities by hosting lectures and bringing in speakers, offering libraries for research, and helping the community through indexing or transcription projects.

But genealogy societies will disappear unless they start welcoming the technology crowd with opening arms and start considering how they will interact with the online genealogy community.  The technology crowd also needs to make an effort to step away from the computer once in a while and visit a real society.


Thoughts?  Comments?  Agree?  Disagree?


The Annual Miss Universe Party

Every year around Christmas time, the Doerflingers and friends attend the Miss Universe Party.  It has become a family tradition – and we always go all out.

The idea for the party started with my grandparents, Max and Margaret “Sis” (Harney) Doerflinger.  My grandparents were living in Santa Monica, California and would always throw parties for the friends, neighbors, and family in the area – since my grandparents were pretty well known, a lot of people would be attending.  It was soon decided that they needed a game – something that even the kids could play.  The results?  Miss Mud Pie.

The idea for the game came from the popularity of the Miss Universe and Miss USA Pageants that were started in 1952 in Long Beach, California.

The rules of the game were simple: Put the names of all attendees into a hat.  If your name is pulled out of the hat, you’re out of the game.  The last 5 names are to give speeches of what they would do if they were to win Miss Mud Pie.  The last name to be drawn will be crowned Miss Mud Pie.  My family even created a crown for the winner and a fake microphone to use during the speeches.

For reasons that no one seems to remember, in the 1960s, the name of the competition game was changed to Miss Universe.

In the early 1990s, our party was so big that we had to rent a small hall to fit everyone. I'm the little girl in the center with the golden crown on my head - it was my first Miss Universe title and I was only about 4 years old. And I plan on winning the title again in 2011.

Another game was added to the party: The Gag Gift Name.  It begins by everyone bringing a wrapped gag gift.  Then everyone draws a number from a hat.  Number 1 goes first and gets to choose a gift and unwrap it.  We move in numerical order until all the gifts are gone.  To make the game more interesting, instead of choosing an unopened gag gift, a player may also choose to “steal” a gift from someone else.  A gift may only be stolen twice (having been in the hands of a total of 3 people) before it becomes frozen and cannot be stolen again.  This game often gets really a little competitive – as someone always ends up bringing something absolutely ridiculous or something that people actually want.

Gag Gift Game - Circa 1994. That is my big blonde head in the bottom right hand corner.

Since I was little, we have changed a few things with the Miss Universe Game.  Now – everyone gets a paper sash with a name on it – the names vary based on the theme.  One year everyone was a different kind of flower.  One year we were cuts of meat.  One year we were natural disasters.  We also require that everyone brings a dollar and the crowned winner of the game gets all the money.

This is me... in my toothless wonder.

December 18th, 2011 (tomorrow), will be the next Miss Universe party – and I plan on regaining my title back… and getting the cash that goes along with it.

Happy Holidays!