Thursday, May 28, 2015

Who Are Your Genealogy Facebook Friends?

by Nancy Maliwesky

I like to spend a few minutes in the morning reading, drinking coffee, and checking my e-mail and Facebook page. I got to thinking about all the ways we now have to communicate that our grandparents and their grandparents couldn't even imagine. What with the internet, social networking, cable television and satellite radio, the world has truly become a smaller place, and as I scroll down the shared posts and videos on my Facebook page the enormity of this global impact astounds me. It is not unusual anymore to see a video with over 1.5 million views. Can you imagine sending out a post looking for family information that has the potential of reaching 1.5 million people?

I follow a number of genealogical society and professional genealogists' Facebook pages. I have also started a few genealogy groups and pages on Facebook. It is always nice to see genealogy posts scattered throughout my morning read and I love the ones that get my mind working in ways I hadn't previously considered. Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist, just posted a chart where he is tracking his DNA matches and their minimum, medium, average and maximum shared DNA by relationship (cousin, sibling, grandparent, first cousin and the requisite "removed"s). When I first looked at it, I couldn't make heads or tails of it, but upon second viewing, and reading the comments, it started to make more sense, and may be an idea I should think about exploring. Thanks Blaine!

I've also been very impressed by the activity on the American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Association's group page. Oftentimes, when you start a group, you feel like you're the only person posting on it, and you wonder how successful it is. This group has really taken off, and the shared knowledge of the many participants makes for exciting dialog and a treasure trove of information. It's exciting to see what lines people are working on, what genealogy vacations they are planning and having a place to share photos of relatives and shared ancestral locations is quite compelling. It really gives me a sense of community, and I'm not even a Pomeroy (OK, I stand corrected, but it's through marriage only!)

So, how do you grow your genealogy friend and family base? Well, starting with like-minded family members is probably the easiest way. Next, you might like the page of a genealogical society you belong to or that is in an area you are researching. Many times people post genealogical finds on these pages, including family bibles, photographs, their own research or links to their blogs. If you have been to a conference and were impressed by the speakers there, you might want to look them up to see if they have a page on Facebook. Many businesses and entrepreneurs use Facebook as a marketing tool and will post interesting information on their pages which will be added to your newsfeed if you "like" their page. You may also wish to see if the surname(s) you are researching has a Facebook group. If one exists, ask to join it, if one doesn't, consider creating a group. All you need are a few appropriate pictures to give the page interest, and the ability to post frequently about topics that would be of interest to your target audience.

Well, my coffee is getting cold, and I've got a New York State Family History Conference call in a few hours, so I guess I'll wrap up my latest rant. Enjoy your day and give a thought to increasing your genealogy presence on Facebook! I hope to "see" you in my Facebook newsfeed tomorrow morning!

©2015 Nancy Maliwesky

Nancy Maliwesky, one time Central New York Genealogical Society Board Member and Chair of the New York State Family History Conference worked as a professional genealogist with the American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Society for ten years. Recently retired, she continues to pursue her passion for genealogical research and writing. She is also a singer/songwriter (the self proclaimed "Singing Genealogist") and an artist.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Where is Neiffer?

by Barbara Leiger Granato

My previous two blogs on this site were about discovering the true story of my 2nd great-grandfather, Sylvester Spare. During our trip to the area northeast of Pennsylvania in 1992, I not only discovered the story of Sylvester’s life and demise, but I also discovered a little more about another branch of my family from that area.

My mother’s father was named Amos Milton Spare. His father was John Spare, and John was married to a woman named Sarah Neiffer. Nobody in my family seemed to know too much about Sarah’s family history, but my mother and her sisters did tell me a lot of stories about her. She and John had a farm in a tiny town named Royersford, Pennsylvania, and together they had four children – my grandfather Amos being the third child born to them.

Sarah was remembered as being a very strict, stern woman who loved to instill fear into others. Quite by contrast, she also was a mid-wife and delivered several of the babies in that small town. She had to do something to raise money; her husband John had a silo fall on him when the children were young, and he had to be institutionalized after that for the rest of his life.

But this blog is not supposed to be about John – it is supposed to be about Sarah. Nobody in my mother’s family seemed to agree on the spelling of her maiden name. Everyone knew how to pronounce it, but was it “Knifer?” Or was it “Nifer?” Or was it “Neiffer?”

When I was studying a map (yes – in 1992 they did not have GPS systems!), I focused in on an enlarged detailed image of the area in which the Spare family lived. And then, I did a double-take! I suddenly knew how to spell Sarah’s maiden name. There was a little dot on the map that said “Neiffer.” OH MY GOSH!!!! Well, Sarah’s family must have been important if there was a town named after her family! Upon closer examination of the map, there was not only a “dot” named Neiffer, but there was also a “Neiffer Road!”

And so, after we had learned all we did about Sarah’s father-in-law, Sylvester, we decided to pursue learning more about Sarah Neiffer. My 10 & 12 year-old children were suddenly interested again. It was almost like exploring a map to find buried treasure (no pun intended!).

We drove down the “main” road until we saw a street sign that said “Neiffer Road.” “Take a left,” I told my husband, and then I told him to stop so I could get out of the car and take a picture of the road sign. After that we drove up the road until we reached the end, and we were in town called “Obelisk.” Somehow, we missed the little dot on the map that said there was a town named “Neiffer.”

But, at the end of that road when we got into Obelisk, there was a church on the right-hand corner with a large cemetery next to it. And right there, very visible to passersby on the road, stood some very large tombstones with NEIFFER on them. I took photos and tried to make notes about the writing on the tombstones, but it was difficult because they were written in German.

We not only found several tombstones with the name of Neiffer on them, but we also found Sarah (Neiffer) Spare buried next to her husband, John Spare. Thankfully, their tombstones were written in English. After making note of exactly where their graves were located and photographing them, we returned to the car. We drove back down Neiffer Road again, but this time we were a bit more cautious. We came to a small intersection, but there really wasn’t anything of significance there. We were so confused.

There just HAD to be a town somewhere. After discovering Neiffer on the map, I also learned that Neiffer even had its own zip code – 19468! We had apparently gone right through that zip-coded area without realizing it!

It was such a hot, humid day that we decided to return to the hotel so that the kids could go swimming in the pool. I had to contemplate this puzzle a bit more to find out if my great grandmother Sarah was connected somehow to the 19468 area and Neiffer Road. It was 1992 – we did not have the Internet.

So, I did the next best thing – I consulted the telephone directory in the hotel room. I looked for the name “Neiffer” and sure enough, there were about eight families listed with that name. I wrote down every name, address, and phone number, and when we returned home, I wrote a letter to every single one of them, explaining who I was and that my great-grandmother was Sarah Neiffer. Did they know anything about this woman? I also included a self-addressed stamped envelope in each letter that I mailed.

And then my wait for a response began….

To be continued…..

Lessons Learned:

  • Never discount the value of a good old-fashioned map.
  • Don't assume that tombstones in this country are written in English.
  • Phone books can be very good resources.

©2015 Barbara Leiger Granato

After retiring from her job as a secretary at Mohawk Valley Community College, Barbara Granato had more time to pursue her love of genealogy. She is a member of the Oneida Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, currently serving as the chapter Registrar and Vice-Chair of NYS Lineage Research for DAR. In addition to teaching Beginning Genealogy classes, she is a Board member of the Central New York Genealogical Society, as well as a Board Member for the Oneida County Historical Society. She also is a member of the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica and serves as a tour docent to the mansions on Rutger Street in Utica, and writes murder mysteries which are performed at one of the historic mansions once a year. She is a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists as well as the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.