by Rich Remling, former board member CNYGS
- Read genealogy blogs. I’m always amazed at those genealogists who are able to consistently put posts out on the blogosphere that are well thought out, interesting and enjoyable to read. I thought that Dick Hillenbrand’s blog was the best blog source on genealogy in upstate New York. He was always spot on with his posts and I always got a chuckle out of them. I’ll never forget his post about getting lost in the woods. Another blogger, Judy Russell, is really on another planet. If you haven’t checked out the Legal Genealogist’s blog yet, please do so! She posts virtually every day, and she responds to most every comment people leave for her. And she properly cites her sources. She is amazing. I also like Taneya Koonce’s blog. She is a young librarian who got bit by the genealogy bug about a decade ago. Her blog is heavy on software and technology. Her specialty is African American genealogy. Although I personally don’t do any of that ethnic research, I always find myself getting motivated by the energy and enthusiasm she writes with. And I love seeing a young person really into genealogy!
- Learn to be more computer literate. Like most genealogists I did not take computer classes in high school. The first time I ever had exposure to the computer was when as a physics major in my junior year of college I took a course titled “Microcomputer Interfacing in the Physics Laboratory.” Well many of us have a mental block when it comes to computers. Fortunately I married well, and so whenever I find myself in a bind I call out “Nancy, can you help me?” and nine times out of ten she picks me up, dusts me off and gets me back in action. One time I actually brought the laptop upstairs to the bedroom in search of much needed tech support after she had gone to sleep. Fortunately for me she is a fellow genealogist so she understands this obsession we have. CNYGS has a GIG (Genealogy Interest Group) that meets about nine times a year on Monday nights at the Salina Library in Mattydale. Often their meetings focus on computers and technology. Now that I have Monday evenings free due to a change in my schedule I plan to attend as many as I can so my wife can get her much needed rest.
- Visit the local repositories. You know, we have so many repositories in CNY that few people even bother to explore. I think it would be neat to take one repository a month and pick a family from the 1850 census in that locality and try researching that family. That’s probably the best way to “kick the tires” so to speak of a repository we’ve never been to before. Good way to give it a dry run. Some places will allow you free reign to explore their collection. Others run a tight ship and you will not find any open stacks. Many people who staff these places are very knowledgeable. One such person is Joan Leib at the Chenango County Historical Society. She was incredible when we visited this past year. On the other hand sometimes you’ll find a volunteer who may have good intentions of helping but may end up not being all that helpful. And I have been in town historical societies where the records are just thrown together in a closet and have no organization whatsoever. So you’ll find repositories to be a mixed bag, but always interesting!
- Need to lose weight? Become a find-a-grave contributor! There are over 130 million memorials on this well known website . Folks who live far away from their cemetery of interest can submit a photo request for a gravestone. Then you can volunteer to go out to the cemetery, hunt the grave down and take a picture. Upload the image to the website and you’ll usually get a nice thank you email from the person who submitted the photo request. If the cemetery has an office you may be able to get the grave location from them to save you some time. What a great way to perform a genealogy random act of kindness!
- Study genealogy journals. If you are like me, you may subscribe to one or more genealogy journals. What I find is that I don’t read them cover-to-cover. I don’t dissect them. I just kind of browse through them. But if we want to be the best researchers we can be, we are really doing ourselves a disservice if this is the approach we take. I’ve decided that from now on, in each issue I’ll pretend that the journal case studies are dealing with my family. You better believe I would be paying much closer attention if this were the case. You might find a source cited that you didn’t know existed. Tom Jones in the October-December 2015 issue of NGS Magazine (NGS Magazine; Volume 41 Number 4; pg 47; Getting the Most from Case Studies in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly) discusses how to get more out of journals.
- Get organized. OK, I’ve scanned all my genealogy documents and photos and have them in family folders on my computer. This project took about a year. There are several thousand photos and documents that are now on my computer. I copied them into folders on my laptop following some of Lisa Louise Cooke’s organization ideas. But I still need to do a better job with my file naming conventions. If I have a scan of a newspaper clipping, I’d like the file name to have a subject and a source reference. I still have to think about how best to do this.
- Take a genealogy vacation. Need vacation ideas? Well how about taking a vacation each year at a city that is hosting a major conference? Nancy and I have done this since the National Genealogical Society conference held in Raleigh in 2009. We typically take a few extra days for sight seeing and research in addition to attending the conferences. We really like going to the New England Regional Genealogical Conferences. During the last one that was held in Providence, we did some research in Hartford, Connecticut as a side trip. There are a number of conferences and institutes that we have yet to attend including GRIP and the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference. Fort Wayne is another great place to visit that is within a day’s drive of CNY. We drove out there on a Thursday, spent Friday and Saturday researching at the Allen County Public Library and drove back on a Sunday. Other ideas for trips are the genealogy cruises being offered. For those of you wishing to attend a conference closer to home, please consider the 2016 New York State Family History Conference in Syracuse.
- Spend time reading dissertations. Each year universities in our country award thousands of PhD degrees. History dissertations are the product of years of study on a particular topic. Why not take advantage of this scholarship? Bird Library at Syracuse University has dissertations on their shelves. They also have access to dissertations from colleges throughout the country on their computer databases. Suzanne Etherington presented at the CNYGS 50th Anniversary conference in 2011. Her thesis from Syracuse University, Less Hell and More Corn: Agriculture in Jefferson County, New York 1850 – 1910 (1993), would be an excellent read for anyone with an ancestor from Jefferson County. There are many dissertations that would be helpful for genealogists.
- Patronize your local history/genealogy department in the nearest public library. I must admit my attendance has dropped off over the past years. I’ve always enjoyed browsing the stacks in the lh/g department at the Onondaga County Public Library. In it’s future configuration on the 3rd floor much of the collection will be in closed stacks and staff will have to be sent to retrieve your books for you.
- Reinvigorate the CNYGS Blog! The reason I posted this blog was that I felt that the CNYGS blog was a good way for members to interact with each other and share thoughts. I was saddened to see that it has become somewhat dormant. I hope that my post will encourage CNYGS folks to give it a try. As you can see by this post, you don’t have to have a great deal of writing talent to post a blog. So in an effort to solicit more posts, I’m going to take a page out of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I call out Chris Wilcox, CNYGS president, and challenge him to post the next blog. So Chris if you are reading this, I hope you will accept my challenge!
©2016 Richard Remling