Sunday, August 26, 2007


Google has wonderful bells and whistles that are of immense value to us "geneahistorians." I like to call them Genea-Google-ology Tools! Have you tried Google Alerts? You can be alerted with a message sent to your e-mail inbox every time your surname of interest (or other keyword or phrase) shows up on the Internet!

For instance, every time any of the words midkiff, sweers, tuinstra, valk, or westaby show up online, I get a handy-dandy e-mail letting me know, along with a link to that site. The above surnames are some of the more unusual ones in my husband's and my ancestries. You can also choose a phrase (put your search terms within quotation marks) or a combination of words (use the plus [+] key). I have genealogy+michigan as another alert, which searches for both words (not necessarily together) on a website or blog. You can control where your results come from, too: news, blogs, web, groups, or comprehensive (all).

You can also tweak your alerts a bit, by narrowing your results using the minus ( - ) key. Using only tuinstra as a search term, I was getting links to dozens of articles written by well-known journalist Fons Tuinstra, stationed in China. I changed my alert to tuinstra -fons to get better hits. I was also getting a lot of hits for a Joost Valk that did not apply to my genealogy, so again, I made a change to valk -joost. I still get some unconnected hits, but they have decreased in volume considerably.

"So how do I set up Google Alerts for myself?" you may be asking. Go here to begin. As far as I can tell, you do not need a Google account or Gmail address to set up an alert. The process is fairly simple, and once you sign up, you should start receiving alerts soon. As a matter of fact, you can control how frequently you receive these alerts, too: once a day, as it happens, or once a week. And you can edit your alerts at any time!

(P.S. Thanks to Ruby for telling me about this, many months ago!)

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Last Bell - The Country Schools of Stevens County, Washington

As an alumnus of the Colville (Washington) School District, Leland Meitzler's post today, over at Genealogy Blog, caught my eye. He's got a book review about The Last Bell, written by Alpha Naff. Originally published in 1984, it was reprinted in 2005, and "deals with public education at the turn of the century in Northeast Washington – the 'country schools' of Stevens County." Reading the table of contents of the old one-room schools was like coming home. My parents live off Aladdin Road and the old Aladdin Schoolhouse is now a private home, just a few stones' throw down the mountain. In fact, when I was a teenager in the '80s, we had some elderly neighbors whose kids had attended that school in the '60s. No school buses in those days, they had simply walked the three miles literally down the mountain and back every day, taking shortcuts through the woods until they reached the old logging roads that are now part of the county road system.

Only last week, while on vacation up in the Colville National Forest, I had passed two other former schoolhouses, the Addy Schoolhouse, now the Old Schoolhouse Trading Post (a combination convenience store and museum) and the Tiger Highway Schoolhouse (abandoned; although not long ago it was a private home).

Today the 107 schoolhouses of Stevens County have been abandoned, destroyed, or used for other purposes, and six school districts cover the county, the largest being the Colville School District. The district's bus routes cover an amazing distance guess is that the average is a 25-mile trip--one way-- over mountain roads with the city being the hub of the circle. We never had a snow day in all the years I can remember, even though it was often an iffy three-mile trip down to the bus stop over ice and many inches of snow!

I've got a lot of connections to this district; besides myself, my brother and sister also graduated from this district, and our dad, nearing retirement, begins his 29th school year as a staff member this fall. This book looks like it would make a great gift for my family members; I know I certainly will enjoy it! If you have Stevens County ancestors who lived in the area between 1875 to 1930, I'm sure it will make a nice addition to your home library. Besides, a purchase of this book will benefit the Northeast Washington Genealogical Society!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

NARA Sets New Charges for Records

According to what I read on the New England Historical Society, NARA--or the National Archives--has raised the fees for obtaining copies of records. Plus you have to use a new form - the old NATF-80 form has been discontinued. Here is a list of what I read about:
  • Passenger Arrival Lists (NATF 81), $25
  • Federal Census requests (NATF 82), $25
  • Eastern Cherokee applications to the Court of Claims (NATF 83), $25
  • Land entry records (NATF 84), $40
  • Full Pension File (Civil War and after, more than 75 years old), up to 100 pages (NATF 85), $75
  • Full Pension File (pre-Civil War) (NATF 85), $25
  • Pension Documents Packet containing only selected records (NATF 85), $25
  • Bounty land warrant application files (NATF 85), $25
  • Military service files more than 75 years old (NATF 86), $25.

Go here to get the new form. Seems like the prices have gone up significantly.

Harold Hinds

Miriam reminded me that I'd not shared my story about how I met Prof. Harold Hinds (who gave a great presentation to EWGS in August). Well, there are three seats across on an airplane, right? My good friend, Lethene Parks, and I were on our way from Salt Lake City to Cincinnati to the FGS conference about seven years ago when this big tall smiling guy comes to take the seat between us. "Oh darn," was our first thought. But Harold proved to be a wonderful seat mate and by journey's end we had become friends. I have since run into him every now and then at national genealogical functions. (He teaches at the University of Minnesota.) Moral of the story? Welcome the challenge of a big smiling seat mate!

Postscript to the story. When Harold gave his presentation to EWGS, I could not help but smile at some of the unusual names in his family tree (and these are first names): Bion, Herma, Avis, and Climena. And some of them were from Buffalo Hump, Idaho.


This just came to me from Family Tree Magazine...hey, I've always taught in my genealogy classes that "if it's free, take two!" Why not give this a try??


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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

FGS in Ft.Wayne

Just returned from Ft.Wayne, Indiana, and the FGS annual national conference. This was four days of intense learning; one day for helpful sessions on genealogy society management and four days of sessions spanning A to Z. The syllabus was a #5 "telephone book" which everybody complained about but everybody carried. Sessions (and the luncheon talks) presented basic how-tos and/or updates on the newest stuff going on...things (and websites) like Footnote, World Vital Records, Internet Genealogy magazine, Ancestry, FamilySearch Indexing and more. The vendors hall was like the proverbial candy store. At the Ancestry display, a daily drawing was held giving away books and flash drives...I won one on Friday and Saturday!

One big plus to this conference was the opportunity to use the new Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library. Hard to imagine that the good people of Ft.Wayne coughed up $88 million for this public library. They bill it as the largest genealogy collection east of Salt Lake City and it might just be so. This library is the home of PERSI, remember. The library was open until midnight on two nights just so we conference attendees could get our fill.

Yes, I know it's costly to attend a national conference. Next year the FGS conference will be in September in Philadelphia; the NGS conference will be in May in Kansas City. But your researching knowledge would expand and you certainly would enjoy attending, I guarantee it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Help EWGS Win $1000!

To celebrate the launch of their new Societies Channel and Libraries & Archives Channel, Roots Television™ is holding a special contest!

They invite all genealogical and historical societies, as well as any libraries and archives, to add their link to your website and ask you to encourage your members and patrons to visit Roots Television™ often. The organization that sends the most traffic to the Roots Television™ website by October 31st will win $1,000.

I've placed a link in the right-hand margin, and hope you'll visit Roots Television™ every day! There are so many great videos to watch, from How-Tos to Ethnic Research to highlights of the recent FGS Conference in Ft. Wayne last weekend. Check it out!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Podcasts: A New Category at Cyndi's List

I've been a member of Cyndi's List mailing list for about six months now (go here to subscribe yourself). Every other day or so, Cyndi sends out e-mails in several formats. "What's New On Cyndi's List" features the latest uncategorized website links that have been recommended to her to be included on her famous site. As she categorizes these, she sends out a "Cyndi's List Update" with category summaries of new, updated, or removed links. Today she sent out an e-mail notifying us of a "New Category: Podcasts for Genealogy." According to Cyndi, right now, "it is small, but gives you a few ideas of what some people are thinking to do with them."

As I've seen my husband and teenage daughter enjoy theirs, an MP3 player is definitely on my Christmas wish list for new technology toys. Only in addition to listening to audio books or music as they do, I would add genealogy podcasts to my list of audio choices. If you're unfamiliar with a podcast, think of it as a modern version of a radio talk show, available online, which can be downloaded into an iPod or MP3 player to listen to later at your convenience. In genealogy podcasts, the hosts often discuss strategies for overcoming genealogical brickwalls, highlight new websites and databases, and discuss upcoming conferences, among many topics. You don't need an iPod or MP3 player to listen to a podcast, however. You can listen on your desktop or laptop, as long as you have speakers and audio software. I try to remember that if I have a time consuming chore such as mending, filing, or labeling photographs, to turn on a podcast to help time go by and enjoy learning something new.

And if you'd like to understand all that computer and Internet vocabulary you've been reading or hearing your grandchildren use, check out NetLingo, an online dictionary of Internet, computer, and technology terms.