And climb the stairs to the beach...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Genealogy Weekend

This past weekend I attended a Family History Expo in Atlanta. As some of you know, I have a mild addiction to genealogy, thanks to my good friend Rick who got me hooked about 15 years ago. Actually, I can be pretty obsessive about it. So, when I found out there was a conference just a few hours from here and that the registration was pretty inexpensive, I just HAD to go. It was every bit as informative as I thought it would be, too.

They had hundreds of workshops available and there were probably 50 or more vendors set up in the main exhibit hall featuring huge organizations like and to little companies that help you publish your family tree in fancy little books.

There was one vendor who has developed this little system where a plaque is attached to headstones. When you see one of these plaques, you aim your smartphone at it and it sends all the information about that person to your phone. This can include all your family tree information, photos of the deceased and who they are related to in that cemetery as well as family memories or whatever information the loved ones have loaded into the system. Click here to see their Web site.I thought that was kind of neat, although I am not sure it will catch on.

The classes included everything from Blogging to DNA research to searching for people using tax records. I didn't get to go to the DNA one, but the tax records one was cool. Census information is a basic resource for genealogists, but they only took them every 10 years. Taxes, on the other hand, are assessed every year and those records tell us where the people were between census years and even more information like how many cows they had. I got some valuable info on how to go about getting information on our Scottish ancestors which I have already started to use. I also attended two different classes about looking for Civil War ancestors.  If there are Civil War soldiers in your ancestry who were eligible for pensions or whose widdows were eligible you can write for your ancestor's pension files and find out all kinds of things about their lives after the war including medical information. If they didn't survive the war, there are sometimes personal effects available, like letters from home. One fellow found there was a pocket watch in his ancestor's effects that he was able to recover. How intriguing is that?

My new friend Suzette and her husband Bob

I also met some really nice people. One woman I met who, along with her husband, owns and operates a commercial bee keeping company in GA. Her name is Suzette and her ancestors are from France, surname Ouellet. Probably at some point related to our Willett roots way back in the 10th century or something. We have emailed a few times already. Click Here for Suzette's Web site 

Some folks I met were even from New England. At dinner Friday night where I first met Suzette, I also sat with one couple from Springfield, MA and another woman named Suzanne who now lives in Florida but was from Manchester, NH her whole life. But there were plenty of southerners and lots of folks from Salt Lake City, too. All obsessed as I am. Maybe more so.

Bridget's Website. Click here.
Another class, right down my alley, was given by bestselling author M. Bridget Cook, who recently appeared on Oprah with her book which she co-wrote with a woman who was the daughter of a serial killer. She also recently published a book telling the story of a former neo-Nazi and how he turned his life around. It tells of his journey that leads him from a leader in the skinhead culture to working with the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Tolerance. I bought both of her books and had a nice chat with her about writing. She was also the keynote speaker for the Friday banquet. She has quite a story herself and had some great suggestions about making your family history an interesting read.    

c. 1953 Suzie, Chuckie, Johnnie, Larry, Valerie
And the highlight of the weekend for me fit right in there with the Family History theme. I had dinner with my cousin John Hammack and his wife Shelly who only live a few miles from the conference location. I haven't seen John(ny) in 40 years! He looked the same as he did the last time I saw him. John is my Dad's sister Edith's son. His wife Shelly is lovely and we hit it off right away. We are going to make our visits much more frequent. I feel like we have a lot of lost time to make up and since they're only a couple of hours from here, it should be easy!

With Thanksgiving coming up, all y'all who are visiting with your folks and grandparents have a wonderful opportunity to ask them questions about their families. And if you do, write it down!
How I would love to have both of my grandmothers and grandfathers around to get more stories and find out about their ancestors. So much information is lost now.

M. Bridget Cook said to us during her class that we should think of each person in our family as 'a library on fire'. All those stories and all that heritage must be rescued before it's too late.

Have a great day and a Happy Thanksgiving!


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