Sunday, November 11, 2007

What You Missed: The November 2007 General Meeting

"Oral History Inteviews" was the topic for our November general society meeting, held the 3rd of this month at the Spokane Public Library. The presentation was given by EWGS Historian John Ellingson, who is also the chairman of the local Oral History Association at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC). Since 1984, he has been interviewing local residents, and helping to archive and preserve the oral interviews at the MAC.

John showed an interesting PowerPoint presentation to accompany his syllabus, "Handy Tips for Compiling an Oral History Interview." He recommended the following five resources for furthering one's learning about oral histories: Transcribing and Editing Oral History by Willa K. Baum; Oral History from Tape to Type by Cullom Davis; Record and Remember by Ellen Epstein and William Hartley; An Oral History Primer by Gary Shumway and Rona Mendelsohn; and How to Tape Instant Oral Biographies by William Zimmerman. He also played various recordings to demonstrate good--and poor--quality interviews, as examples.

Some of the oral histories that are available at the MAC include interviews of those in the Spokane Jewish community, the Japanese-American community, and those who were paramount in EXPO '74. There are 70 World War II-era interviews, as part of the Veterans History Project. Louis Livingston, born in 1900 and one of the oldest living Americans who registered for the World War I Draft (he never did serve) and who resides in Spokane, interviewed over 50 famous Inland Empire residents. These interviews are also stored at the MAC, but cannot be released to the public until after Livingston's death. This statement brought about quite a few laughs, since the 107-year-old veteran appears to be living forever! Not as Briefed: From the Doolittle Raid to a German Stalag by local WW II USAAF bomber pilot William J. O'Dwyer was published as a result of his giving oral interviews, along with excerpts from his personal diary.

Mr. Ellingson shared that one of his most memorable interviews involved an elderly woman who tired after about a half-hour of sharing her personal history. "Come back in the morning and we'll finish then," she told him. When he arrived the next morning, he learned she had passed away during the night. Her family was very grateful for the transcribed interview he gave them, and they used it as part of her memorial service. John's presentation was excellent and thorough, giving us not only tools to do our own oral history interviews, but local history lessons and interesting facts about local residents. He urged us to record our family stories and interview our relatives as soon as possible. "What are you waiting for?" this 86-year-young historian has challenged us!

What You Missed: The October 2007 Computer Class

When the news was released that Bill Hire was going to present a class on land records for our October 20th members-only computer class, I received a plethora of e-mails asking to sign up for it as soon as possible! Bill brings his experience as a surveyor to our society, having previously made a presentation on land records at our October Workshop in 2005. His "Land Records on the Internet" syllabus listed nine links to major sites to further one's research in this area. He explained why land records are important to genealogy: they place an ancestor or relative at a specific location and point in time, as well as often being the only records available that show a family relationship between two individuals.

We learned about or reviewed public lands states vs. state lands states, metes and bounds vs. the township system, and discussed many resources, such as DeedMapper, plat maps online, and various genealogy books on land records research. I believe we all went away having learned many things, and excited to further our research in this area! If you would like a copy of the syllabus for this class, please contact me at kidmiffatgmaildotcom (substitute appropriate symbols).

The next computer class will be held November 17th and will be presented by Bette Butcher Topp. Her topic is "Genealogy Society Websites." If you are interested in signing up, please contact me, Miriam Robbins Midkiff, at the e-mail address listed in the previous paragraph, or see our member directory for my telephone number. Currently, there are a few spots available during the 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM and the 1:30 - 2:30 PM sessions. You must be a current EWGS member to attend.

What You Missed: The October 2007 Workshop

"Journeys: Tracing the Steps of Our Ancestors" was the theme of EWGS's annual October Workshop. If you missed this terrific all-day program, you indeed missed out! Held at the Southside Senior Center at 27th and Ray on October 6th, the morning was kicked off by Donna Potter Phillips' "Immigration: Where? When? Why? How?" Did you know that 35 million immigrants came to America between 1820 - 1920? This was the largest unplanned human migration in recorded history, and it was mainly due to the collapse of an agricultural society, the start of the Industrial Revolution, and the rising population in Europe. Donna gave many interesting facts about immigration, and recommended a list of helpful books to expand our knowledge about these events.

The second morning session offered three choices: "Migration Routes Across America," by Lethene Parks; "Back to My New England Ancestors," by Marvel Miller; and "A Journey Backward and a Backward Journey," by Steve Turner.

After a delicious lunch catered by the Center's staff, we returned to our third session in the afternoon. "Where to Find the Clues to the Route," was presented by Donna, while "Staying on the Path through Surname Changes," was offered by Jeanne Coe. Tammi Rizzuto and Judy Williams each gave short presentations about their personal research trips, "Finding the Scottish Archives," and "Journey to Germany," respectively.

The last session's presentations were "Migration Map Plotting Workshop" by Lethene Parks, "My Researching Journey to Norway," by Barbara Brazington, and "Onward to Publication: Easier Than You Think," by Ruby Simonsen McNeill. I wish that I had had an opportunity to sit in on each and every presentation, don't you? We are very fortunate to have such talented and knowledgeable members in our society! My syllabus will be three-hole punched and placed in a binder with other notes and syllabuses relating to immigration and migration routes, for further reference.

Congratulations to all our speakers, the workshop committee, and to Pat Mielbrecht, our chairperson, for putting together such an interesting, informative program!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

EWGS Wins Honorable Mention in RootsTelevision Contest! recently announced the winner of the Societies and Libraries Contest. The Friends of the Allen County (Indiana) Public Library won a $1000 prize for bringing the most visitors to the RootsTelevision site via their own website during the month of October. EWGS has won a $100 prize for honorable mention, along with three other societies, the Muskogee (Oklahoma) Genealogical Society, the Escondido (California) Genealogical Society, and the Village (Arkansas) Genealogical Society.

I think we did ourselves proud! Give yourself a pat on the back!

Steamboats and Genealogy in North Idaho

The Kootenai County Genealogical Society will be holding its next meeting on Thursday, November 15th from 6:00 - 8:00 PM at the Coeur d'Alene Public Library, 702 E. Front Street. This is a change from the normal meeting time of 7:00 PM, due to the library's closing at 8:00 PM. The featured topic will be "Come and See What the Steamboats Brought to Your Ancestors Before the Civil War." As well, the DVD of "The Rise and Fall of the Steamboat Arabia" will be shown.

This meeting is free and open to the public. All are welcome and encouraged to attend!

Family Heritage Album Sessions

Free classes offered on creating Family Heritage Albums and Creative Memories Scrapbooks on the first Wednesday of each month, 9:00 to 12:00, at the Fairmount Memorial Park Parsonage House, 5200 W. Wellesley Ave. in Spokane.

"Come learn how to create meaningful photo albums to preserve your family heritage and memories. You will begin putting your photographs into albums with simple techniques that are fun and easy. You'll be amazed at how easy and do-able your project can be." Fresh coffee and juice and delicious pastries will be served.

Classes are the first Wednesday of the month: that's 5 Dec 2007 and then for 2008: 9 Jan, 6 Feb, 5 Mar, 2 Apr, 7 May, 4 Jun, 2 Jul, 6 Aug, 3 Sep, 1 Oct, 5 Nov and 3 Dec.

Please R.S.V.P. to the Fairmount Memorial Association at 509-747-4029.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Military Cemetery---New One for Eastern Washington

Our newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, reported today (7 Nov 2007) that it's official. Eastern Washington is getting a new veterans cemetery. Our Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the legislation for the cemetery earlier this year and 80 acres of land southwest of Spokane were chosen and approved. The cemetery will be one mile north of West Medical Lake on Espanola Road.

There aren't many military or veterans' cemeteries in Washington. There is the Washington Veteran's Home Cemetery near Port Orchard, the fairly new Tahoma National Cemetery near Renton, and older little cemeteries at Fort Walla Walla and Fort George Wright (near Spokane).

Groundbreaking is expected on Veteran's Day 2008 and the cemetery is expected to be open a year later.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Do You Have a Family Mystery That Might Be Solved by DNA?

Blaine Bettinger, a.k.a. "Dr. DNA", a.k.a. "The Genetic Genealogist", is the host of the 35th Carnival of Genealogy, whose topic is, "Do You Have a Family Mystery That Might Be Solved by DNA?"

Nineteen bloggers submitted 21 posts with their questions regarding their families' ancestral mysteries--from finding Native American heritage to questioning how far we want to go, ethically, in uncovering family secrets--and Blaine answered each and every one.

In my husband's family, we have created the Midkiff Family DNA Project to determine whether all the Midkiffs found in North America have a common ancestor. Many of the various Midkiff family lines have "brickwalled" in the early 19th and late 18th centuries, including my husband's line, which "stops" with his earliest known ancestor, Franklin Preston MIDKIFF (c. 1800 - c. 1839) of Lincoln Co. (now Moore Co.), Tennessee. By testing various Midkiff men using the Y-DNA test, we now know of two other Midkiff lines that connect to Franklin, proving a common ancestor who lived sometime between 1700 - 1800, probably in Virginia. The two other lines are "brickwalled" at David MIDKIFF (c. 1769 - 1840s) and John MIDKIFF (b. c. 1740), both of Pittsylvania Co., Virgina. Our Family DNA Project is also in communication with the Metcalfe Family DNA Project, as we believe that "Midkiff" is an alternate spelling of that name.

If you are interested in learning more about DNA as it relates to genealogy, I suggest becoming a frequent reader of Blaine's blog, The Genetic Genealogist. He has a free e-book that can be downloaded here, which is called 10 DNA Testing Myths Busted, and Other Favorite Posts. It is available in .pdf format (read with Adobe Reader, a free program most of us have on our computers). He also recommends great books for those interested in learning more. There are five beginner books and 10 more scientific ones on his list, and I plan on reading every one! Currently, I'm reading The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry by Bryan Sykes. It's a fascinating read involving many of my favorite mysteries that I used to love to watch on Nova, Unsolved Mysteries, and the like: Was Anna Anderson really the daughter of Czar Nicholas II? Are the Polynesians descendants of Asians or South Americans?

Another must-read blog for those interested in genetics is Megan's RootsWorld by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. Megan, a professional genealogist, coined the term "genetealogy" and has written, among many books, Trace Your Roots with DNA. Her expertise in both genealogy and genetics is often featured in magazines, newspapers, and television shows, including the Hallmark Channel's New Morning, where we see how Megan returned a photo album found in the trash to its rightful owner, halfway around the world!

We have been lucky that twice in the past year we've had an opportunity to hear experts speak on this topic locally: first, Ugo Perego from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation spoke at the North Stake Family History Center's Family History Conference in March; and our own Bernie Middleton made an excellent presentation, "DNA in Genealogical Reseach" at our April general meeting. The study of DNA as it relates to family history is not going to go away. It is a useful, fascinating tool that can aid us in our research, and it behooves us to educate ourselves on this topic.