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Sunday, September 30, 2012 featured speakers

Greetings.  Last post I reviewed why it was important to join local historical and genealogical societies.  So, here is a review of a society conference that I attended this weekend.

The Fox Valley Genealogical Society hosted their 2012 conference in Naperville, Illinois on Saturday, September 29.  I was fortunate to attend and was pleased to be in the presence of Juliana Szucs Smith and her mother, Loretto Dennis "Lou" Szucs.

They collaborated on four presentations regarding  It was fabulous.  Although I knew about 90 percent of what they had to offer as far as general information and genealogy research, they also revealed some new views and tips for using this wonderful website.

Juliana talked about getting starting on, including global searches, category searches, individual collections and using the online trees.  It was very basic, but I am sure that any novice in the subject surely appreciated this presentation.

Lou followed her daughter with a presentation on what's new at  She pointed out that when viewing the home page of Ancestry, you can check the "What's happening at" section.  All new records will be listed, which are many, and it is always advisable to visit this section at least once per month.  Yes, Ancestry is loading data that fast on this website. She also advised the conference attendees that exploring the many tabs on the home page can reveal some items that you just might have missed before.  The LEARNING tab was most important on her "must visit" list.  It takes a user from the basics of where to start searching for family history, to webinars, and the Family History Wiki, which most people don't even know is there for their use and education.  She had accolades for the MY CANVAS publishing tab, stating that is enables a user to produce their own books, but also posters and custom tree charts.  The SHOP tab features Family Tree Maker, Mobile Apps, Books and Gift Memberships.  The Biographical Sources (found under Stories, Memories and Histories) contains many http selections, such as the "History of the Swedes of Illinois".  Other features that she commented on included:
  Border Crossings                                          Jewish Collections
  Census                                                        African American Collections
  Directories                                                   Maps, Atlases and Gazetteers
  Military                                                        Naturalizations, Passenger Lists, Passport Records, etc.

After a break for lunch, and some serious shopping at the vendors setups and white elephant table, which I did visit and found some wonderful resources to bring home with me, the presentations continued.

Juliana presented Getting the Most from Your Family History Finds, where she outlined the importance of thinking outside of the box (or in my case, outside of the crate).  Looking for the hidden treasures and clues in the documents that you gather through out your search, forming timelines, studying geographic history, using spreadsheets to evaluate the evidence that you have uncovered in your much more to just collecting dates and places.  She suggested being a collector of addresses using census, military draft records, directory and vital records, and placing those in a timeline to see how often your ancestors had moved in their lifetimes.  Lastly, she talked about immigration and passenger lists, and the wonderful "hidden" clues that are so often overlooked on those documents.

This lead to the last presentation by Lou, entitled They Became Americans, Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins.  Finding the first immigrant of your family and following that person through their paper trail of Passenger Lists, Naturalization Papers, Alien Registrations, etc.
She shared some of her favorite websites that she consults for this type of research:

NARA at Chicago -
Cook County Circuit Court Naturalizations -
Family History Library -
Illinois State Archives -
Illinois State Genealogical Society -
Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild -
Roots Web -
The Ships List: Passengers, Ships, Shipwrecks -

It was a nice conference, not too far to drive, and I enjoyed the presentations, the people I met at the lunch table, the vendors that I patroned and the wonderful Fox Valley Genealogical Society members who made this Saturday event a success.  Looking forward to the next conference on my schedule in late October in Rockford.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Joining Genealogical Societies

Have you ever wondered who else might be researching in the same family lines or the same geographic area that you are?  Just take a look at some of the many websites dedicated to genealogical societies.  There are probably at least 2 or 3 that just may have the help that you are looking for to break down those brick walls.

With the Internet at hand, you are able to google just about any subject, surname or geographic area and the results will be amazing.  Take a look at Cyndi's list  at 

Search the Categories/Societies and Groups section.  There you will find, in alphabetical listings, the many groups that are available to you.

I am posting this subject today because I was remembering the nice meeting I had at the Oak Brook Heritage Center this past Saturday.  A group of 15 or so people gathered there to meet and learn about what the group, Pursuing Our Italian Names Together (POINT) Chicago Chapter Uno, was all about and what we could learn from one another as we talked about the common thread we shared....Italian ancestry and the need to learn about the history, culture, language and kinship resources available to all of us.  In just 2 hours, we all made some sort of connections to each other.  We relished in the luck of each other's searches, and gasped at the research challenges that lay ahead of each of us.

If you ever get a chance to attend a local genealogical conference, please do.  You will come back with information that you never knew existed.  You will meet up with others who are searching the same ethnic areas that you do.  You will see what new publications are available at libraries and book stores.  And, yes, there is always something to eat, too.

So, here's one this coming weekend.  The Fox Valley Genealogical Society is hosting a Genealogy Conference on Saturday, Sept. 29.  If you are in the Chicago area, take some time to stop in.  Listen to a lecture, or two.  Talk with a few of the vendors that will be there.  Review books and publications that just may have a few secrets to enhance your research.  You'll be glad you did.

Til next time, in October.  Keep warm.  It's getting cold out there.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Giving a Presentation on Researching Family History

Last weekend I presented a program for a local social dedicated to the restoration of an old "settler" home from the 1840s.  I was asked to do a free presentation at the local library for about an hour.  They wanted me to tell the audience how to research their family history.

Well, you know that this topic cannot be tackled in less than an hour.  So, I decided to use an example of how to answer a historical question about a nearby area, then use the results of that research and apply them to research the genealogy of particular persons living in that area.

So, OK, before I put everyone to sleep, I had to inject a little humor and get the interest of the crowd.  The following is my Research Rules of the Road.  Most are common sense, but need to be stated nonetheless.

Don't believe everything you hear
Don't believe everything you read
Names are almost always spelled several ways
Nicknames were used since the dawn of time
People lie about their age
People lie about their occupations and income
People embellish stories
Most families have at least one Rotten Apple
You don't have to be married to have a baby
Some people forget to get a divorce before marrying a second, third, fourth....time

Once everyone prepares for their family research while keeping these topics in mind, there should be no reason to be shocked when you find out that your ancestors were are HUMAN.  They made unfortunate decisions in their lives just like we do today. But, they survived through it all, just like we continue to do.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Upcoming POINT meeting in Chicago area

Well, after a nice trip to the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, we have all come to one conclusion.....we really need to have a resurrection of the Chicago POINT in Person groups.  Previously there were three chapters, Uno, 8 and 27.  All had come to a screeching halt.  Why?  People just get overwhelmed and are not able to carry on due to LIFE.

There is a new enthusiasm now.  We will have a meeting to be held at the Oak Brook Heritage Center, maintained by the Oak Brook Historical Society.  The building is the former Butler School, built in 1921.  In it's heyday, it was thought to be the best school in the state.  It also served as the community center for the residents of this area.  Oak Brook itself did not become incorporated until 1958.  The farming/dairy/horse breeding area was known by many names.  Some called it Brush Hill.  Others called it Fullersburg.  And many thought of it as an extension of Downers Grove, Hinsdale and Elmhurst, which are all now neighboring towns and villages.

We are very fortunate to be able to meet in this old building which is undergoing renovations and restorations.  Saturday, Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. until 12 noon, the POINT Uno group shall meet and provide coffee and donuts.  We will talk about what interests us, how we wish to conduct meetings and what other locations will be of interest to the group for future meetings and activities.

There is already talk of having a November meeting at the Italian Cultural Center in Stone Park, where there are a couple of museums and a nice research library, in addition to beautiful grounds.  The Center holds many festival-type events every year, including Christmas Cookie baking and Italian language classes for children and adults.

If you are of Italian descent, or you have an interest in Italian genealogy and history, please stop by our meeting on the 22nd of September, 2012. 10 a.m. sharp.

The address of the Oak Brook Heritage Center/Old Butler School is :
1112 Oak Brook Road, Oak Brook, IL 60523
on the north side of the street, next to the Oak Brook Village Hall, at the intersection of Spring Road and Oak Brook Road.

Coffee and donuts, come one, come all.