Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Earthquake Hits Los Angeles Area

A "strong" 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Los Angeles area today at 11:42 a.m. PDT. Preliminary USGS information says it was centered about 29 miles east-southeast of downtown Los Angeles, near Chino Hills in San Bernardino County, and approximately 7.6 miles underground.

The Los Angeles Fire Department is calling this quake a "major seismic event," and is urging residents to stay indoors, stay off the roads, and stay off the telephone, unless there is a life-threatening emergency.

Approximately 26 aftershocks have been reported within the past 48 minutes, with magnitudes as high as 3.8.

Damage reports are still being collected; however, the Los Angeles International Airport is reporting that there are no flight delays or damage. There are a few reports of water mains breaking and small fires, but nothing major.

Twitter is a-buzz right now (a good example of how Twitter works during an emergency), with reports coming in from all over California. The San Diego Chargers reported feeling the quake in Chargers Park. Folks in East San Diego are not reporting feeling the quake, although some offices in La Jolla were evacuated.

People in Los Angeles, Santa Clarita, Long Beach, and nearby areas reported a lot of "shaking and rolling," buildings swaying, and pictures falling off walls.

Our local news reported that the quake was felt as far north as Casmalia and Los Alamos, which are about 60 miles north of Santa Barbara and 150 miles from Los Angeles. I did not feel it here in Lompoc (about 150 miles northwest of L.A., and 20 miles southwest of Los Alamos), perhaps because I was busy chasing my daughter to put her down for her nap!

More about the earthquake can be found here. Also, CNN, FOXNews, and local Los Angeles news stations are showing coverage right now.

NOTE: The USGS has just downgraded the earthquake to a magnitude 5.4.

ANOTHER NOTE: Amtrak/Metrolink is reporting delays and trains running slower than usual today until they can get the tracks inspected. Local news is suggesting that people check out the Metrolink web site at www.metrolinktrains.com for information; however, their site appears to be down at the moment.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Monday, July 28, 2008

7th edition of the Carnival of of Irish Heritage and Culture

Still looking for that special summer book to relax with at the beach or while lounging by the pool?

If so, be sure to check out the suggestions at the 7th Edition, Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture's Summer Reading Challenge.

Featured this month are a wide variety of books, all of which in some way relate to Ireland or Irish culture. Included are fiction, poetry, history, genealogy, memoirs, and books for children and young people.

I sill haven't completely finished my "homework," but my carnival entry is here: Angela's Ashes: A Memoir.

Assignments for the "Back-to-School," 8th Edition Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture, are being handed out here.

Many thanks to Lisa for another terrific round-up!

Oh, and I only got 60% correct on the Irish Literature & Folklore Quiz. Guess I'd better do some more reading.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Angela's Ashes: A Memoir

I've wanted to read Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt for about a decade now. My Irish friends repeatedly told me that if I considered myself to be Irish I would read this book. They raved about what a fabulous story it was, and how it really captured the essence of what it was like to be Irish during the Great Depression.

It sounded promising, but I didn't read the book.

Despite the fact that it received excellent reviews, and was even a Pulitzer Prize winner, I could never get past the pathetic-looking child on the front cover. Any book with a cover like that simply could not be remotely uplifting or happy, could it? It must be depressing. I don't like depressing.

So I didn't read the book.

When I heard of the summer reading challenge at Small-Leaved Shamrock for the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture, I thought it would be fun to participate, but I had no idea what book I would read... after all, I don't have a lot of reading time these days. Plus, I had dawdled around for too long, and it was too late to order a book online. We only have one, small, eclectic bookstore in town, and it doesn't have an IRISH section.

I remembered seeing Angela's Ashes (and the sequel, 'Tis: A Memoir) on a previous visit, so I went back to see if it was still there, and it was. I had looked at this book once before, but a friend of mine talked me out of buying it. "Depressing," she called it. "It will make you so mad!"

I didn't need to be depressed and mad, thank you very much, so I didn't buy it.

This time, I picked up the book and read the back cover. All the reviews highly praised the book:

"Frank McCourt's lyrical Irish voice will draw comparisons to Joyce. It's that seductive, that hilarious. But McCourt's near-starvation in the Limerick slums has a gritty drama somehow more suited for our times. Even his stint in a typhoid ward seems a blessed relief from daily home life on and off the dole. These people never lapse into self-pity (they can't afford it); they never lose their fire. In the annals of memoir, this name will be writ large." ~Mary Karr
Near-starvation? Typhoid ward? On and off the dole? Yikes. This really didn't sound like the book for me.

As I was getting ready to leave the store, I wound up having a conversation with one of the owners who had read the book. She agreed that it was, indeed, a depressing book. "You'll hate the father," she kept saying. But will I like the book? "It's a great book, but you'll hate the father. As a genealogist, you should read it for the historical perspective."

Ok, she had a point there. I bought the book.

When I got home, I reluctantly turned to the first page:

"My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born. Instead, they returned to Ireland when I was four, my brother, Malachy, three, the twins, Oliver and Eugene, barely one, and my sister, Margaret, dead and gone.

"When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood."

For some, twisted reason, that last sentence cracked me up, and I was hooked.

I had heard plenty of miserable stories of Irish Catholic childhoods from my mother, aunt, and grandmother. I wanted to know more.

Angela's Ashes is Frank McCourt's autobiography. When the book begins, Frank is "three going on four," so the story is told from the perspective of a preschooler. It takes place during the Great Depression and World War II, a time of worldwide sadness and suffering.

McCourt's family is dirt poor. His father is an alcoholic (as were, apparently, many Irish men of that era). He can't keep a job, and frequently "drinks the dole money," so they seldom have enough to eat, much less clothes or adequate housing. His mother is hopeful, yet is constantly let down by her drunkard husband. Why she keeps having children with him is beyond me.

To be honest, I have not yet finished this book. I'm about half-way through; as I said, my reading time is limited. At this point, I can say that the story is, indeed, depressing - more so than I imagined - and I do hate the father.

But I love the book's language:

"There aren't enough chairs for everyone so I sit on the stairs with my brothers to have bread and tea. Dad and Mam sit at the table and Grandma sits under the Sacred heart with her mug of tea. She says, I don't know under God what I'm goin' to do with ye. There is no room in this house. There isn't even room for one of ye.

"Malachy says Ye, ye, and starts to giggle and I say, Ye, ye, and the twins say Ye, ye, and we're laughing so hard we can hardly eat our bread.

"Grandma glares at us. What are ye laughin' at? There's nothin' to laugh at in this house. Ye better behave yeerselves before I go over to ye."
Despite the sadness, sickness, death, and despair, little Frank's wide-eyed innocence and wry wit shine through.

And I keep hoping, with every page turn, that the luck of the McCourt's will improve.

From a historical perspective, I really hope that my own, Irish ancestors did not suffer like the McCourts.


Angela's Ashes: A Memoir, by Frank McCourt, Scribner 1996; Hardcover, 368 pp., $26.00.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Baby Samuel's Grave

"Baby Samuel's Grave" (Santa Barbara Cemetery, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Co., California). Digital image. Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, July 19, 2008.

About Wordless Wednesday.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Stacking the Points for the SBCGS

I am happy to report that the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society is not only alive and kicking, but is also thriving!

Back in May, I wrote a post - Another One Bites the Dust - about the quiet demise of my local genealogical society. Many of you responded to my post, and I so appreciate your comments and encouragement. I've taken your advice to heart, and if the Lompoc Valley Genealogical Society decides to rise from the ashes like the phoenix, I will most definitely be prepared to help it take flight.

To follow up, I did contact some former members of the LVGS. I asked if they would like to try to resurrect the group, and was politely told, "No, thank you." Apparently, "once burned, twice shy" also applies to genealogical societies.

It was suggested that I look into membership with either the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society or the San Luis Obispo County Genealogical Society, Inc.

But how was I to know which group to choose? I mean, you usually just go with the group in your hometown, right? Oh wait, there is no group in my hometown... hence, my dilemma.

I decided to employ my usual "pro/con" point system to find a winner. These are listed in the random manner in which my brain typically works.

  • Lompoc is just about half-way between both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo - about 60 miles from each - so neither group's meetings are more convenient than the other, geographically. No points for either.

    Not a good start.

  • Santa Barbara and SLO are both interesting places to visit (and shop!), but traffic heading south on Highway 101 is generally worse than traffic heading north. However, I travel south to Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley all the time, so taking a trip to Santa Barbara might actually be more convenient, despite the traffic. 1 point for SBCGS.

  • Both groups have informative, up-to-date web sites. 1 point for both.

  • Both groups seem to have interesting programs. 1 point for both.

  • A family membership in the SLOCGS is less than half the price of a family membership in the SBCGS. Valid economic concern. 1 point for SLOCGS.

  • The SBCGS has several SIGs (Special Interest Groups), which the SLOCGS does not. Unfortunately, I'm not inclined to attend these, as I really don't have time in my schedule for more meetings. Unless they're of extreme interest to me. Which these groups are not. No points for either.

  • The SBCGS has a cool library. 1 point for SBCGS.

  • The SLOCGS has a DNA project. I'm a DNA project administrator (for an admittedly small tiny minuscule project) who is basically flying blind and has almost NO idea of what she's doing, so I appreciate their focus on DNA. I would hope this would be a frequent program topic, or at least, they would have members who are knowledgeable of genetic genealogy. 1 point for SLOCGS.

  • The SBCGS meets on the 3rd Saturday of the month, which conflicts with another group's meetings I attend. The SLOCGS meets on the first Saturday of the month, which doesn't generally conflict with anything for me, but does take up a Saturday that I would otherwise spend with my family (or on genealogical research, or graving, or...). Hmmm... tough choice, but 1 point for SLOCGS.

  • The SBCGS had a booth at the SCGS Jamboree back in June. They must be actively seeking members, right? However, when I visited their booth on Jamboree Day 2 and told them of my quest to find a genealogical society "home," the boothees were not overly friendly or interested. Bad day? Perhaps.

    I gave them the benefit of the doubt and went back on Day 3. This time, I was warmly greeted by a lady I already knew from a lineage group to which I belong. Granted, they were all busy cleaning up since the exhibit room was closing, but she still took the time to talk to me and give me some information about the group. Did I get a better reception simply because I knew her? Maybe, but I don't care. 1 point for SBCGS.
So... if you're following my math - which is never easy to do - that leaves both groups tied at 5 points each.

Not much help, this point system of mine.

What tipped the scale in favor of SBCGS? The fact that the SLOCGS does not meet in July or August, and I had a free Saturday last weekend and was itching to get out of Dodge (Lompoc). Dumb reason, I know, but hey, not every decision is based on logic. Or points.

I gave a check to the nice lady at the cash box and signed my husband and I up for a family membership. I'll write about my first experience at one of their meetings shortly.

To be honest, I'll probably check out the SLOCGS in September or October, when they come back from summer vacay. I'm sure I'll need an excuse to visit some of the outstanding wineries in the area during harvest time!


SIDE NOTE: There's an informative, albeit short, thread going on at the APG Mailing List regarding "Keeping Local Societies Healthy." Some good suggestions, if you're interested.

ANOTHER NOTE: I just discovered that Randy Seaver wrote about the "Keeping Local Societies Healthy" discussion earlier today. Check out his more detailed coverage at Genea-Musings.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DAR's 117th Continental Congress

As I mentioned in my last post, I was on my way to Washington, DC, for the Daughters of the American Revolution's 117th Continental Congress. I was one of approximately 3,000 other members who made the annual trek to DAR Headquarters.

It's always a whirlwind of a week, but it was even more so for me this year. I was busy behind the computer (not exactly a stretch for me) posting photo slideshows of the many different events after they happened so our members at home could "see" the action.

The Washington Monument, as seen from the DAR Buildings.

After a red-eye flight (ugh) from LAX to Dulles, my three travel companions/roommates decided that we should dump our luggage at the hotel and hike over to the Genealogist's Mecca: The National Archives. Had I actually been prepared to do this, I'm sure I would have been much more successful; however, I never thought I'd have time for a research outing on this trip and thus, brought nothing.

My roommates, on the other hand, came armed with copious notes and documents to look up. One of my roommates came home with 10 POUNDS (yes, you read that right; she weighed it) of copied documents. My other two roommates had almost as much. New ancestors were found, lines were proven... one Revolutionary War pension file not only contained copies of two marriage certificates, but also a pre-nuptial agreement (who knew they had those back then?), and a long affidavit from the wife raving about what a creep her husband was!

The Genealogist's Mecca: The National Archives in Washington, DC.

As for me, I had about 5 sheets of paper to carry home... none of which were new "finds" for me; I just wanted cleaner copies. In retrospect, this was probably a good thing, considering that my checked bag weighed 50.5 lbs., even with all of my shoes in my carry-on.

Or so I keep telling myself.

After hours of striking out and watching (read: envying) my roommates' successes, I felt like Charlie Brown in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown":

"I got five pieces of candy!" "I got a chocolate bar!" "I got a quarter!" "I got a rock."
Hmmmph. Next time, I'll be prepared.

Opening Night entertainment included The United States Marine "The President's Own" Chamber Orchestra. I do love a man in uniform!

Some highlights of the week:

  • Bill Conti, Oscar and five-time Emmy award-winning composer and conductor (and husband of a California DAR member) performed on Opening Night. It was fun to hear him play some of his own hits.

  • The DAR Media Award went to HBO's John Adams Miniseries, Kirk Saduski, Co-Producer. Incidentally, I just picked this up on DVD last weekend, since we don't get HBO in our house, and I've heard such great reviews of the show (Shhh! Don't give away the ending!).

  • The Keynote Speaker on National Defense Night was Dr. Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense. Regardless of your political leanings, he does give a great speech. Plus, he's really quite attractive, for a "mature" gentleman.

  • The DAR Medal of Honor went to Brigadier General Susan J. Helms, Commander of the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. It was nice to see a woman receive this honor.
On Sunday afternoon, I finally got a chance to visit the DAR Library, something I never had time to do on any of my 7 previous visits. Despite being armed with only one item to look up, I had my most productive research day of the trip.

That's me, finally getting some quality time in the DAR Library!

My one item turned out to have information about my wayward Delaneys: my great-grandmother and her brother were listed in a 1905 Lancaster County, Nebraska, school record that had been indexed by members of the Nebraska Society DAR.

Although this wasn't anything profoundly new to me, I was still moved to tears to find their names in print. I'm sure you know what I mean - finding that validation and connection after years and years of searching can be an emotional experience. It is for me, anyway.

DAR Headquarters is currently undergoing a major renovation.

I found some other, excellent books, simply by nosing around the Greene County, Tennessee, section:

This may not seem like much to you, but as someone who usually gets a "research rock," I was thrilled!

The beautiful portico of Memorial Continental Hall.

I also had a chance to search the online DAR Library File Collection (only accessible from within the Library or the Seimes Technology Center), which is a plethora of materials submitted along with DAR member applications. Specifically, I was trying to find proof of my Hays line, but what I think I may have done instead is disprove it. I think. Although my accountant-roommate pointed out that anything gleaned with my shoddy math skills really didn't prove or disprove anything.

Back to the drawing board... next year.

DAR Founders Memorial following the annual Memorial Service and Wreath-Laying.

If you've never had a chance to visit the DAR Library, you'll want to put it on your list of must-visit libraries the next time you're in Washington, DC. Here are a few pointers, based on my limited experience:

  • Search the Library Catalog and the Genealogical Records Committee (GRC) Index before you go. This will save valuable research time in the library. Trust me, there's never enough time. The librarians practically carried me out kicking and screaming at closing time.

  • The Library has a free, wireless Internet connection. Bring your laptop. You can access the Library Catalog and GRC Index from the comfort of your own computer rather than wait for a library computer to open up.

  • The on-site Library computers have access to Heritage Quest, Ancestry Library Edition, JSTOR, Footnote.com, NEHGS, and other databases. You cannot access these remotely, however, only from the in-house computers.

  • Self-serve copies are 20 cents per page. Bring change if you want to use the copiers, as none will be available in the Library. There is no copy card, like at NARA.

  • I'll probably get in trouble for this, but... instead of making copies, bring your digital camera. Sure, copies are of better quality, but digital photos are free. You do the math.
If you can't make it to the DAR Library, search services are available... for a fee.

And I'll throw this out there... if you think you have a Revolutionary War Patriot in your lineage, send me an email or leave a comment, and I'll be happy to look him/her up for you.

Two of my roommates and me. No, we did not plan in advance to wear red, white and blue. It just worked out that way.

So, those were a few of this year's highlights. It really is an exciting week and a lot of fun. If nothing else, it's a chance to visit with friends that I only get to see once a year.

But next year, I'm going to be prepared with a list of items to research and an extra suitcase... just in case I don't get a rock.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane

I had hoped to post Jamboree Day 3 before today, but alas... life (and my 2-year old) takes priority.

My bags are packed, and I'm leaving tonight for Washington, DC, to attend the Daughters of the American Revolution's 117th Continental Congress. My hope is to post some photos and news while I'm there, but... who knows. They've got me working as one of their webmasters, so it's likely that I won't have a spare minute.

Perhaps I'll get a chance to "moblog," though. :-)

So everyone have a wonderful week - I'll look forward to catching up on your adventures when I return!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Jamboree Day 2 Continued: The "Genes" in Genealogy

Not to beat a dead horse, but the food at the Marriott did leave something to be desired. Concession food was offered (as a concession for the parking situation, I assume), but it was a) expensive, and b) didn't look very good. We didn't try the Daily Grill restaurant, based on the reviews of some Jamboree attendees (crowded and expensive). Thankfully, there is a new (since last year) food court across the street at the Burbank Airport.

So, after the Blogger Summit, my family had a tasty lunch at every toddler's favorite restaurant: McDonald's. I'm fairly certain that my daughter will not eat any form of protein that doesn't come in nugget form. This particular McDonald's does not have a Play Place (which frankly is fine with me, as they look like germy cesspools), and it looks more like the new McDonald's Cafe's that are becoming popular.

On a side note: I have friends who swear that McDonald's has better coffee than Starbuck's. I haven't tested this theory myself, but I'm getting tempted, considering the cost of a cup of Starbuck's coffee these days, and the fact that they're planning to close 600 stores soon, probably including the ONE in my town.

But I digress.

We didn't make it back from lunch in time for the 1:30 p.m. sessions, but at 3:00 p.m. I was able to attend Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak's talk on "Trace Your Roots with DNA." I also stayed for her 4:00 p.m. talk on "Beyond Y-DNA: Your Genetic Genealogy Options." Steve Danko did an excellent write-up of both of her talks here, so there's no need for me to be redundantly repetitive. Plus, it's late, and I'm tired.

The fine folks at the FamilyTreeDNA booth.

I mentioned in my post about Jamboree Day 1 that one of my goals in attending this year's conference was to learn as much as I could about genetic genealogy. Sadly, I've had Megan's book, Trace Your Roots with DNA: Use Your DNA to Complete Your Family Tree, sitting on my nightstand for over 6 months now, and I'm only on page 101 (the excitement of raising a 2-year old doesn't leave me with much energy for reading these days). So I was very glad that there were so many sessions offered covering the various aspects of genetic genealogy.

I was also glad that Megan addressed DNA project management in her "Trace Your Roots" talk. Topics included selecting a testing company, how to recruit participants (especially the nervous type), developing a project scope, funding, and reports.

I haven't written about this before, but I currently serve as the administrator of my maiden name's DNA surname project, which I started earlier this year. My maiden name is so rare that (probably) anyone using it with the same spelling is related to me in some way. I'll write more about this project in a future post where I can go into a bit more depth.

Instead of attending a final session at 6:00 p.m., we wound up cruising the Exhibit Room again, where I visited with my good friends at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) table. They were doing free, online searches of patriot ancestors for Jamboree attendees, and were quite busy all day! I'm guessing this had something to do with Arlene Eakle's talk on "Tracing Your Revolutionary War Ancestor" earlier in the day.

From what I heard, we missed another great evening session. Dick Eastman gave a talk on "Putting the Genes in Genealogy," which Craig Manson wrote about here.

Next year, I really must remember to attend those evening sessions. I wonder if I can get Randy Seaver to babysit???

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Jamboree Day 2: The Blogger Summit

Day 2 of the Jamboree began early for me. My daughter woke us up at 5:00 a.m., crying, with a poopy diaper. I’ll bet none of the other geneabloggers can say that.

Probably the session I was most looking forward to was the Blogger Summit, featuring Steve Danko, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Dick Eastman, Leland Meitzler, George G. Morgan, Randy Seaver, and Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak.

To be honest, I really wasn’t sure what to expect at this session. After all, what exactly IS a “Blogger Summit?” I think the concept was unusual, but also very forward-thinking of the SCGS for realizing what a valuable tool blogging is for genealogy, and for recruiting some of the most well-known geneabloggers to serve on the panel.

The discussion was lively and interesting and covered a variety of topics. The panel was moderated by Leland Meitzler who kept things moving for almost 2 hours. Dick Eastman “manned” a laptop computer and projector which displayed the panelists’ blogs as they talked. I had the pleasure of sitting in the audience next to fellow bloggers Craig Manson and Kathryn Doyle, who I had met in person the evening before.

An interesting side note: I was happy to learn that Randy Seaver does indeed have a wife – a lovely lady named Linda, who was kind enough to take a zillion photos after the session. The fact that she was sporting a t-shirt that read “Geneaholic’s Widow” is rather telling, though… but you can draw your own conclusions there. :-)

My Mobile “Incident”

You may already have read that I live-blogged, or “moblogged” (mobile-blogged), the event while it was happening. You can see my actual post here.

And here’s the backstory: As I was listening to the panel of blogging experts, I felt that it was such a great moment that I wanted to share it - right then and there - so I snapped a photo with my cell phone and sent it to my blog. My intent was not to offer a lot of content, but just to say, "Hey, look what's happening here! Isn't this exciting?" I thought so, anyway.

Dick Eastman was commenting on how blogs kept the news so current and showed a post from Craig Manson’s blog written the night before. I chuckled to myself because I knew that my post was even more recent, but I didn’t say anything.

Eventually, I pulled up my blog on my cell phone’s browser and leaned over to show Kathryn Doyle – I thought she would get a giggle out of what I’d done. Instead, she brought up my blog on her cell phone’s browser, and as I was drooling over her beautiful iPhone, I barely noticed that she got up from her seat and walked over to show it to Dick Eastman. The next thing I knew, my blog was live and large on the screen.

It really was a surreal moment as the panel of bloggers turned and looked at themselves. I think it was the only time they were at a loss for words!

For the record, this was not my first time moblogging. This post was sent while on the road to Burbank, and this one was sent on Mother’s Day from my family room couch when I was too lazy tired to turn on my computer. Moblogging is not my preferred method of blogging, as the photo quality from my cell phone isn’t as good as my camera(s), and I don’t have control over how my posts look. Plus, it’s really tedious to type on my cell phone’s tiny keyboard when I’m used to typing 70+ wpm on a regular keyboard, so I tend to keep my mobile posts short. But it works “on the fly,” and I can always go back and pretty up my mobile posts later, if I want to. I’ll write more about moblogging in the future.

Craig Manson wrote a nice post about my mobile post, and a few other bloggers, including Randy Seaver and Dick Eastman, mentioned it in their post-Jamboree articles. Many thanks to these bloggers for promoting my little blog... and Randy, I did indeed experience a “blogalanche!”

What you may not know is that in addition to this mobile post, I also “Tweeted” during the conference. By this I mean that I sent short updates to Twitter via my cell phone. These updates were available to anyone who clicked on my Twitter page or with whom I’m a “Twitter Buddy.” Tweets are slightly easier to do since they are only brief text messages, but it’s not always easy to sum up your thoughts in 140 characters (or less). I’ll post more on Twitter soon, too, as I feel that it’s a valuable resource for a variety of reasons. Oh, and thanks to Tim Agazio for joining the ranks of my Twitter friends!

Final Thoughts on the Summit

I was surprised to see that the room wasn’t filled to capacity, as many of the other sessions had been. My guess is that geneablogging is still something of a niche, despite the fact that there are already hundreds and hundreds of us out there, and many more are joining the ranks every day.

From what I’ve seen as a technology facilitator for the DAR, the “fear factor” still grips many people, as does the feeling of “why on earth would I want to write about my life/family/genealogy so that other people can READ IT?” Well, I’ll tell you why: genealogy is a collaborative effort, and if you don’t put yours out there, no one will ever see it and want to collaborate with you. The answer to who great-great-great-grandpa Dunn’s parents were might be out there, but you’ll never know!

Lastly, it was interesting to hear the perspectives of the various bloggers, especially those who had been at it for a long time. Many questions were asked and answered, and although I really didn’t learn anything new, I did come away with a valuable piece of advice, originally given to Schelly Talalay Dardashti by George G. Morgan, shortly after she first began her blog: “Don’t let it take over your life.”

I’ll confess: blogging is addictive.

Be warned.

Some of the bloggers I had the pleasure of meeting at the Summit:
Back L to R: Leland Meitzler, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Randy Seaver, Craig Manson, Me.
Front L to R: Kathryn Doyle, Dick Eastman, George G. Morgan, Steve Danko.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Hey Baby!

"Hey Baby!" (SCGS Jamboree, Burbank, Los Angeles Co, California). Digital Image. Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, June 29, 2008.

About Wordless Wednesday.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Jamboree Day 1: Live, and in Person

On the Road... Again

Our plan was to drop our dog off at the kennel at 8:00 a.m. and get on the road early.

Yeah, right.

We did drop the dog off on time, but we didn’t get on the road until around 10:30 a.m. Is it ever possible to be early – much less on time – for ANYTHING when you travel with a toddler? I would love to know how, as I have NOT mastered this technique yet.

We arrived at the Burbank Airport Marriott at around 1:30 p.m., and the parking lot was PACKED. Paula had hinted that parking was going to be a potential problem, but that barely described it. The Marriott parking lot is presently commandeered by construction, and with the offices in the building next door still in business on Friday afternoon, it wasn’t easy to find a place to park.

Add to that a hungry, stir-crazy toddler who'd been cooped up for 3 hours, and you’ve got some cranky adults who were supposed to be having fun, but wanted to strangle each other instead. Whose dumb idea was this?? Oh yeah, YOURS!

Thankfully, we were able to check our bad moods at the door and check into the hotel a bit early. The nice lady at the registration desk said we could leave our van in the 15-minute-only spot we'd found, which we did.

Getting to Business

After finally getting settled and cruising the Exhibit Room to say hello to friends we hadn’t seen in a while, it was 4:30 p.m., and I decided to ditch leave my husband and daughter behind to attend my first session.

There were so many great speakers and topics that I wanted to hear, but I tried to focus on three areas that were of the greatest interest to me: blogging (of course), using DNA in genealogical research, and genealogy as a profession.

So my first choice was to attend Schelly Talalay Dardashti’s session on “Gen-Bloggers.” As you may know, Schelly blogs at “Tracing the Tribe,” which concentrates on Jewish genealogy. But Schelly’s been at it (blogging) for quite a while, and she knows her stuff. She gave some examples of different types of genealogy blogs and talked a bit about how to start your own blog. While none of this was new to me, it was interesting to hear about it from her perspective, nonetheless.

I’m always intrigued by questions from the audience, as it gauges how much people really understand of what the speaker was discussing, and Schelly answered questions from quite a few attendees. I was surprised at how many people were not familiar with blogs in general, and/or did not read blogs or thought they were subscription or pay-per-use sites like Ancestry or Footnote!

I was not surprised, however, that several people were unaware of how easy it is to set up a blog of their own. One person wanted to know why Blogger would offer free space to bloggers... and no one really had a good answer for that, except that they're owned by Google, and Google makes money off of their hits.

After Schelly’s talk, I had the pleasure of meeting some of my geneablogger colleagues – if I can even consider myself to be in their circle: Randy Seaver was there, along with Kathryn Doyle and Craig Manson... some of the nicest people you’d want to meet!

Oddly enough, meeting them was like visiting with old friends that you haven’t seen for a while. It’s a strange phenomenon of today’s virtual society that we can create friendships – even relationships – with people we seldom, if ever, see in person. I can’t even think of anything to compare it to historically. Never before have we been able to sit in our homes and visit with so many people from around the world – all for the price of an internet connection! Sure, the telephone can call anyone, anywhere… but would you pick up the phone and call a stranger the way you’d visit a blog or a web site?

The internet truly is an amazing place, and I was reminded of this several times throughout the conference.

"Crashing" the APG

For my last session of the day, I decided to be brave and “crash” the meeting of the Association of Professional Genealogists, SoCal Chapter. After all, the schedule did say, “open to those interested in professional genealogy,” and I’m definitely interested.

I tried to sneak in as inconspicuously as possible, but I was immediately greeted by some very friendly ladies who told me I was welcome... even when I confessed that I was not a member of the APG, nor was I a professional genealogist! They did tell me about mentoring programs available with the APG, so I may be taking them up on this in the not-so-distant future.

The guest speaker was Gaylen Findlay, one of the creators of Ancestral Quest genealogy software. You may know that Personal Ancestral File (PAF) 5 is essentially a "slightly modified version of Ancestral Quest (AQ)."

Findlay gave a live demonstration of some of the features of Ancestral Quest 12, which I’ll admit were very intriguing, even to this long-time user of Family Tree Maker:

Database Conversion: You won’t even have to convert your file. AQ12 uses the same .paf data file that is used by your PAF 5 program. You can continue to use PAF 5 along with AQ12 if you so desire.

New FamilySearch: AncestralQuest is developing new features to allow you to synchronice your AQ or PAFdatabase directly with the new FamilySearch Family Tree database. These features are currently in beta testing and will be a free upgrade to users of AQ12.
To be honest, I haven’t used PAF since the early 1990’s when it was a DOS-based program, and I was sporting Windoze 1.1 on my 286 PC, so I’m certainly not an expert on the newer versions. However, I did like the way it interfaced with new FamilySearch.

Of particular interest was the way you can use AQ12 to tell the database when people in it need to be combined, or when information is incorrect. The bogus information won’t be deleted from the database unless the original submitter chooses to do so, but at least a notation will be made that some information is in question. That's better than nothing.

I haven’t decided if I will try Ancestral Quest 12, but I’m thinking of experimenting with PAF again (in my spare time). Any suggestions from you experts out there will be appreciated!

Into the Night

We had not registered to attend the special event banquet, featuring Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak’s talk on “Right Annie, Wrong Annie – Annie Moore of Ellis Island,” but I did hear that it was wonderful. Craig Manson did a nice write-up of the event, and even told about a "light moment" that made things quite interesting... especially for Megan!

I had hoped to get to sleep early on Friday night, but that wasn’t to be the case. My daughter stayed up talking (loudly) and climbing out of her crib until about 11:30 p.m.

Whoever said that "having children keeps you young" obviously never had any. A long night of talking-toddler makes me feel old as dirt in the morning.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

SCGS Jamboree: More Fun Than a Playgroup Full of 2-Year Olds!

"Jamboree Begins!" (Burbank Airport Marriott, Burbank, Los Angeles Co., California). Digital Image. Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, June 27, 2008.

After a busy, fun weekend, followed by a couple of busy, less-fun days catching up at home, I finally have a chance to sit down and write about our weekend at the Southern California Genealogy Society’s Jamboree 2008.

It was an outstanding conference, and kudos go to Paula, Leo, and the rest of the SCGS volunteers who produced this event. This was my 2nd year attending, and I must say I had a lot more fun this year than last!

You’ve probably already read some terrific articles posted by other genea-bloggers who attended: Steve Danko, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Dick Eastman, Craig Manson, Randy Seaver, and Kathryn Doyle of the California Genealogical Society & Library. Some wrote multiple posts, so you may need to search under "conferences."

I’ll try to present a slightly different view of things… which shouldn’t be hard. After all, none of those other bloggers had got to travel with a 2-year old!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal