Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) 2021 Courses

Just finishing up a week of being involved in teaching for Cari Taplin’s course Following Your Ancestors in Time and Place. The week after next is my course Digging Deeper: Records, Tools, and Skills in which I teach many of the session. The experience teaching and interacting via Zoom has been wonderful this week. I have no qualms about it!

Now is the time to get you thinking about GRIP in summer 2021. My course, Digging Deeper, is moving to the June week. I will also be teaching in the Great Lakes course that week. Will we be online or in-person? Time will tell.

thumbnail of 2021 GRIP Flyer-18 courses



Those funeral, baby, wedding, and other books: Who are those people? Connected genealogically?

Have you thoroughly checked through family baby books, wedding books, anniversary books, old address books, and funeral books. These are the books that list guests and sometimes in their own handwriting. I have several of these items.

If you are fortunate to have some of these books, do you know who each person is who attended an event or sent a gift or card? Have you abstracted any dates or middle names that might be in these?

I have my own two baby books and those of my three children. Why did I have two baby books? I don’t have a clue. Neither is totally filled in, but I did note some nice things. I have a couple names I previously overlooked and now need to investigate. I will be surprised if there is a blood connection rather than only being family acquaintances. I got my first tooth at 8 months, walked at 10 months, and had two first birthday parties!

My maternal grandma’s birthday book is one of my prize possessions. It’s filled with names, birth dates and birth weights, middle names, death dates, and even her own birth date in several places. I wish I had this little book when I began my family history research. Grandma was still with us until 17 years after I began my trek. One page has her maiden name Cook written several times in her own hand and probably that of one of the grandchildren or great grandchildren. One of those kids did some superb scribbling on the outside back cover. I see a couple nicknames I did not have in my notes.

Ask relatives if they have any such books in their possession and if you can borrow them to abstract information. I hope some surprises await, better than this one from one of my baby books that didn’t even have one spot filled in!

Freedom is valuable. Genealogy can connect us. Treat others well.

Note: this post is not all genealogical in nature, but yet, it is. My personal feelings are strong. This is long and I needed to get it written down and hopefully my family and future family heed my words and are proud of me and my words.

The Fourth of July. A day of much remembering for the United States. Please take a few steps back and think about what this day should fully mean and what it fails to mean in 2020.

My freedom is important. It should be the same for everyone under the flag of the United States. But, is it truly that for everyone? I honor my fellow human beings and wish we could say that all are treated equally and treated well. I will add that everyone should treat each other well and honorably.

Sadly, we still have children including babies in cages and not being treated as all children should be treated. We have children and adults across the nation that are not treated well by their own family members. We have citizens (and those who want to be citizens) who are Black children and adults afraid to go out of their homes. We have Indigenous citizens removed from their ancestral lands and not removed kindly. We have citizens who starve. We have citizens who injure and some who kill each other. In 2020.

Let’s not continue the failures. Let’s take care of each other. Let’s make sure we rally, speak, write, share, and solve issues. We need to do this well. We need to protect each other. We need to think about our words and action. We aren’t and won’t always be perfect but should do our best.  Support and  love each other, care about each other and less policing will be necessary. Let’s support law enforcement in their endeavors and train them well. Let’s provide support for those in need of physical or emotional assistance. Let’s educate our children and even adults on the truth of history and strive to provide a better history for the future.

Can we do this? Yes. Now, do it. It won’t be done overnight, but let’s start. I advocate tracing your family history and using actual records to learn about how our families interacted in the past. Don’t just take someone else’s online (or on paper) family tree as being fully accurate. Take classes, read guidebooks, check actual records online. Get educated about the aspects of searching. Eventually venture out to libraries, archives, historical societies, and courthouses to look at the many records not found online. Lean how many of us have connections that we didn’t know about. If an ancestor wronged someone, strive to do better yourself. Learn about the many religions that were part of your own family’s background. Tell their stories truthfully. Tell your nieces, grandnephews, grandchildren, children, and others the full story and how we can do better. My own ancestral research leads back to at least eight countries, at least five religions, and today our extended family includes those who are French, Black, Japanese, German, Irish, Polish, Hispanic, Swedish, and many others. My research endeavors and education has given me extended family also ancestrally from these and other places. My extended family is mostly taller than me, mostly thinner, many younger, some older, and a variety of skin colors that I had to stop and realize for this treatise of mine. Some are straight, some wavy, many LGBTQ, some extra serious, some wonderfully goofy, and yet we all care for each other.

My research and consulting business has many components and one big part is Native American research. Use whatever terminology you choose, but realize that it’s not always an easy route to trace the family histories. Family stories may go a bit off track over the years, but research pulls much of it back together. I’m proud of my involvement in researching the truth. Many records created by white men and some woman in regard to the indigenous individuals and families are not kind. They are painful to read and to have to share with the descendants. These tell the stories and we can’t change that in the past, but can do better today.

Be fair, be responsible, care for others, help others, strive to make everyone truly free and safe. Keep learning your history and the country’s history. Expand to world history.

Please wear face masks and keep a distance from each other to keep us healthy and able to take care of each other and fight for the eradication of injustice for many of your fellow human beings. We’ll all feel better.

2021 Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh lineup is here!

The 2021 GRIP lineup of courses has been released. Two weeks of excellent education. The weeks of June 20-25 and July 11-16 have much to offer next year. The virtual 2020 courses are a big hit. 

I bet you all have a question about where it will be held. The GRIP Directors, Deb and Elissa, eloquently and brilliantly stated: “So what about next year? Although we would like to be back on campus next year, at this time we can only make our plans to hold courses. The delivery method will be evaluated later this year and announced before registration opens. Stay tuned to this “channel” for any developing news.”  That statement and more is here.

I will be coordinating and teaching in my course “Digging Deeper: Records, Tools, and Skills” the June week. I will also be teaching a few sessions that week in Cari Taplin’s “Research in the Great Lakes Region.”

The full two weeks lineup is here.






So what about next year? Although we would like to be back on campus next year, at this time we can only make our plans to hold courses. The delivery method will be evaluated later this year and announced before registration opens. Stay tuned to this “channel” for any developing news.

It’s time to register for the 2020 Virtual Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference!

it was announced in a Press Release today that “Registration is now open for the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ Virtual Family History Conference! The virtual event will begin with FGS “Live!” on September 2, 2020, starting at 11:00 a.m. (EDT) and concluding at 7:00 p.m. (EDT). In addition to the Live! event, all conference registrations will include a collection of 16 society management sessions assembled by FGS and more than 30 sponsored sessions. The registration packages allow you to further select either 10, 20 or 45 sessions from the On-Demand content from leading genealogists (more than 80 sessions from which to choose). All registration packages include online access to our digital conference syllabus. A special commemorative goody bag is included with the 45-session package. If you had already registered for the FGS conference in Kansas City, your registration will convert to the 20-session conference package.” For more information, visit the conference website.

I’ll “see” you at the conference where I will be presenting 4 of those sessions. The entire conference will be filled with online education to enhance our family history knowledge!


Gratitude for Ancestry and ProQuest: Ancestry Library Edition home access extended!

In case you hadn’t heard yet, I wanted to share this update from several press releases. ProQuest, in cooperation with Ancestry, has extended home access to Ancestry Library Edition.  It’s been expanded to library cardholders working remotely aka from HOME!  NOW remote access will be available until the end of July and will be re-evaluated monthly as needed.  Now, go check those libraries from which you have cards and see if you can get access!

Thanks to the Genealogy Guys and The Genealogy Squad, among others, for sharing the news.

Minnesota Historical Society has an amazing number of items!

The Minnesota Historical was founded in 1849. I have remembered that for many years. I wanted to share some statistics about all that it holds. I found some older statistics and then the most recent ones I could find were on Wikipedia:

“MNHS holds a collection of nearly 550,000 books, 37,000 maps, 250,000 photographs, 225,000 historical artifacts,[2] 950,000 archaeological items,[3] 38,000 cubic feet (1,100 m3) of manuscripts,[4] 45,000 cubic feet (1,300 m3) of government records, 5,500 paintings, prints and drawings; and 1,300 moving image items.” The footnote numbers refer to sources listed here:

I have been researching at MHS for 30+ years and have been a member for that long, too. Even in that long a time, I don’t think I’ve made a real dent in the 38,000 cubic feet of manuscripts, 550,000 books, or the 45,000 cubic feet of government records. Those numbers have routinely changed as material is donated by individuals, organizations, and businesses. The government records number changes as counties and state agencies deposit more records at MNHS. I didn’t see a number for the reels of microfilm or the number of microfiche. I have viewed exhibits, gone on behind-the-scenes tours, and participated in events. It’s all amazing.

Part of the reason for writing all this is that I urge members to keep up with a paid membership, donate funds to keep the materials safe, the building taken care of, and be ready at some point to reopen. Like so many individuals and families, MNHS has lost a lot of income during the Pandemic. Weddings, meetings, concerts, sponsorships of events and exhibits, and other items usually found on the MNHS calendar have not brought in the usual income. The same holds true of the various MNHS sites around the state and all the gift shops at these.

I have a long list of things to check for myself and for research clients when it reopens and I feel it’s wise to venture out. While we all wait for all of MNHS to reopen, why not do some reading on MNopedia, an encyclopedia of Minnesota. Visit the MNHS website and click on the Explore tab for this. While on the website, look at all the information under each of the tabs on the main page. Read some back issues of Minnesota History magazine, explore the history of the historic sites around the state (for next year’s vacation), check for ancestors in Minnesota People Records, find photos of an ancestral hometown, or maybe a photo of a relative.

Consultation schedule booked through July 9th.

My special offer of a two-hour consultation by phone or via Zoom or a Google Hangout has had success the last few months. I am not booking any in-person consultations due to the Covid-19. I love helping people get started in genealogy research, to figure out a plan to get past some issues with the research, or to learn about more resources both online and off. It’s like a private class for you. At this point, I have no more open consultation hours until after July 9th. I can’t clone myself. I have tried! The cost for these consultations is $100 total.

Minnesota Historical Society Library and Archives remain closed amid staff layoffs

A press release yesterday told (if you read between the lines) that the library, state archives, and microfilm areas of the Minnesota Historical Society remain closed. The presser further stated “MNHS is recalling 64 staff, while making the difficult decision to extend furloughs for 139 staff and to lay off 176 staff, primarily those who work at MNHS historic sites and museums that remain closed. These actions will address strains on the MNHS operating budget as a result of ongoing closures. Critical staff will continue to ensure the security of historic sites and resources.” Those staff layoffs include MHS historic sites around the state.

I have clients eagerly awaiting research that can only be done onsite at MHS. The records will still be there when it eventually reopens and I feel safe researching there, eagerly looking through wonderful dusty old files, and using shared microfilm readers and printers.

Federation of Genealogical Societies 2020 conference goes virtual

I’m sure it was a lot of work for the board to make new plans, but the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2020 conference is going virtual. It was going to be the very last FGS conference and was to take place in Kansas City, Missouri. I had four presentations on the schedule and was happy to be a part of the last ever FGS conference. I have served on the FGS Board of Directors and on several committees and wanted to be present. Part of the FGS Press Release on the topic:

“Due to the ongoing concerns about COVID-19 around the nation and our concern for the health and well-being of attendees and volunteers involved with the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 2020 Family History Conference, we are pleased to announce that the conference is going virtual. “Although we are very saddened that the last FGS conference will not be an in-person celebratory event in Kansas City, the well-being of everyone involved with the conference is our utmost priority,” said FGS President Faye Stallings.”

Read the conference website for more details on the evolving virtual conference details.