Monday, January 20, 2014

What triggers your connection to family and the past?

This morning I had the pleasure of interviewing Israel Pickholtz via telephone for the Genealogy Professional podcast.  Israel was born in the United States, Pittsburgh specifically, and then settled in Israel.

I wasn't quite sure what I would encounter when interviewing Israel. I knew he spoke English but I wasn't sure how he would sound or whether he would have an Israeli accent. I went to high school with a boy from Israel so I was familiar with at least one type of Israeli accent.

My mother and her family come from Pittsburgh so I have strong connections, both sentimental and otherwise, with the area. Israel was raised there but left forty years ago.  But I knew the shared Pittsburgh connection would be a good starting point for us.

Imagine my surprise when I heard Israel's voice and it transported right back to my family gatherings. Israel has, whether he knows it or not (now he does!), a Pittsburgh accent when he speaks English.  His speech sounds exactly like that of my Uncle Bud.

I couldn't help but smile to myself the entire time during the interview. I had to wait until the end to let Israel in on my secret.

The surprising thing to me was how relaxed and comforted I found the sound of Israel's voice, the voice of a stranger. My Uncle Bud is someone I love dearly and thinking of him triggers all sorts of family memories for me. The sound of his voice transports me to family events full of laughter and being bear-hugged and twirled upside down as a kid by his strong arms. It makes me feel loved. Israel's voice took me right back to those memories, both recent and long ago in the past.

I don't live near Pittsburgh, and I suppose the accent probably changes with each generation so Pittsburghers today probably sound different. The Pittsburgh accent my uncle has is probably very common for people of his age. Yet for me it is something I associate specifically with him.

It's funny how something that could be fairly common like that can evoke such a strong response even when I hear the accent from a different source.  This was my very first time talking to and getting to know Israel and yet I had an immediate affinity for him because of the way he spoke. I find it powerful that just his accent could be comforting to me and have such a strong impact on me.

There are many triggers that remind of us of our families. Besides language, it could be triggers from photographs, shared membership in a club or organization, a smell, a sound.

Have you ever experienced being transported sentimentally by a trigger like this where you found comfort, calm or a sense of peace, even though logically without the trigger it would not normally happen?

I would love to hear your stories of how you have been transported back. In the mean time, I am going to spend a few more minutes enjoying the moment and the happiness that comes with remembering family memories.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Critical steps BEFORE choosing a blog or website name

This past weekend I participated in a panel about blogging for a genealogical society. I also had a friend visiting who wanted to reserve a domain name for a blog/website.  This really got me thinking about how to choose a name for a blog, a topic I have written about previously.

The more I started thinking about it, the more I realized that a lot or work has to be done before you can reserve your blog or domain name.  This follows whether you are setting up a Blogger or WordPress.com blog or whether you are setting up your own domain.

Here are some things you should consider:

1. How unique is the name you've selected?

You can answer this question easily by Googling your chosen blog name and seeing how many hits come up.  Are there other genealogists already using that name?  Are the words too common and appear in thousands of search results?  Are there one or more businesses in other industries already using the same name?  You want your blog name to be as unique as possible so that when your audience searches for you, your site will appear at the top of search engine results. If there are too many occurrences or variations of your blog name then you might want to consider picking a different one.

2. Is the Facebook page already taken?

People get all excited when they choose a blog name and find that the name is available either in Blogger or as a .com domain.  Unfortunately, they are disheartened after they reserve the name of their choice only to learn that the Facebook page vanity url has been taken by somebody else.  Check Facebook before you finalize your name in Blogger or purchase a domain! You can do this easily by typing the url directly - www.Facebook.com/yourchosenname.  Obviously, replace your chose name with the name you have picked out.  All is not lost if the name is taken. You can do variations with hyphens or abbreviations but you will always have to deal with the issue that your audience might go to the other page instead of yours.

3. Is your name too long for Twitter?

If your chosen blog name is lengthy or has multiple words then it may be too long to use the entire name for Twitter. The Twitter username or handle, the word following the @ symbol, is limited to 15 characters. You have two options on Twitter - your username and your real name.  My username is @marianpl and my real name is Marian Pierre-Louis. Real names can be up to 20 characters.  When I set up a Twitter account for my Fieldstone Common show I had to make a decision because it exceeded the 15 character username limit.  I chose to use @FieldstoneComm for the username and Fieldstone Common for the real name. In my profile I link back to my @marianpl profile. It is not as essential that you use your full blog name as your username on Twitter but you will still want to give some thought to make sure you select the best option possible.

4. Test across all social media

Are you using other social media sites such as Tumblr, Instagram or other sites?  You will want to check those sites as well to see if your blog name is free.  Checking across all possible social media sites before reserving your domain name will help you ensure you have the most unique and easy to find name.

Good luck selecting your blog name! Do the up front work but also have fun. And let me know if you have come across any other considerations that should be checked before reserving your blog name.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Where Did My British Ancestry Go?

I was alerted by a post on Facebook from Megan Smolenyak that the Ancestry DNA results had been updated and refined.  I had done the DNA test in the last year or so and I was anxious to see what new details came to light.

Imagine my shock when I see the new details virtually erased my British ancestry!  (see before and after image)  In the first round of DNA testing Ancestry said I had 71% British ancestry. That fits pretty well with what I know about my ancestors.  In round 2 Ancestry relegates my ancestry from "Great Britain" to less than 1%. 

I can see that they are now separating out Ireland from Great Britain. I have one great grandparent with ties to Ireland. All the rest of my British ties come from England, Wales or Scotland.  The increase to 19% Irish seems very high. 

Also, my Scandinavian ancestry, of which I have no verification whatsoever from my own research, increased from 12% to 25%.  The only thing I can imagine is that I had long time ago Scandinavian ancestors who settled in Scotland.

Or maybe I'm looking at this all wrong.  After all I really don't understand the ins and outs of autosomal DNA.  Perhaps the testing represents what I've been given from my ancestors passed down through autosomal DNA instead of an even spread of DNA from all my ancestors.  Someone more knowledgeable will have to advise me on this.

At this point I am left with more questions about what Ancestry's DNA testing represents than I am with answers about my ancestry.



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Voices from the Past

In 1989 My Mom headed to western Pennyslvania to visit her aunts and uncle and to collect some family history. My mom always brought family group sheets whenever she visited family but this time she also brought a tape recorder. My mom spent over an hour recording stories with her family.

A large hour-long file can be a bit unwieldly to listen to or share with others. If you use an audio editor you can edit down large files into small manageable bits. A file that is 1-5 minutes in length is perfect for sharing. Emailing to your family members or share them on your blog (but keep the files small so you don't run amiss of the hosts TOS).

Small audio tidbits such as this could be just the trick to get family members interested in hearing more!

Here you can listen to a sample of my mom's recording as she talks to her uncle about making wine.
family history.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Why House History Clients are Different from Genealogy Clients

You might wonder why I'm writing this post on my genealogy blog instead of my house history blog. The answer to that is it's really directed at genealogists not house history researchers.

Lately I've been writing a lot about being a house historian and how I got started. Many genealogists do house histories part time and some even switch over to it full time. If you're going to make the leap keep in mind that house history clients are very different from genealogy clients. 

Here are some of the main reasons why:

1) They are not genealogists

Most genealogy clients are also genealogists themselves or have been exposed to genealogical research. Genealogy clients tend to hire a professional when they need help in a geographic area far from their home or need help with a brick wall.

Most house history clients are not genealogists nor are they even historical researchers. They do, however, tend to be history buffs. While there are genealogists in the house history community (they turn up a lot at my talks) they usually want to do the research themselves instead of hiring a professional. That makes complete sense because they have the skill set to do it.

2) They have a different agenda

House history clients may not even care about the history of their house (though most will). One common reason that people hire house historians is to determine the age of their house so that they can put an historic house plaque on the front. For these clients the original owner/builder might be the only previous owner they are interested in learning about.

These house history clients may or may not be working with a local historical society or commission who regulates the distribution of plaques. That all depends on the town where the house is located. In some towns home owners put up the plaques themselves. In other towns, epic battles can ensue between historic commissions and home owners about the age of a house. In that case a house historian will be brought in as the expert. In most cases, though, a house history simply hasn't been done yet to determine an accurate year (or range of years).

3) They are focused on the physical

Many historic home owners have specific questions that relate to the physical structure of their house. Sometimes they might want to know when the various sections of their house were built. In New England it's very common for an old house to have additions from different eras. Sometimes they might have a question such "I've been told there was a fire in this house. Is that true?" In cases like these it might be necessary to work with a historical contractor who can "read the walls" in addition to your work on archival research. Building relationships with other historic house professionals such as architectural historians and historic house contractors is an important aspect of house history work.

4) Expect to be given as a gift

A high percentage of house history reports (from my experience) are created as birthday and anniversary presents. Don't expect to prepare a first or a fifth year anniversary present but rather a 20th or 30th anniversary gift. As the years go by spouses look for more unusual presents to give to a partner who already has everything. House histories often make a distinctive and unusual solution. While it's true that genealogy reports are also given as gifts, you'll find it has a much higher ratio among house history clients.

5) House histories are a luxury product

Genealogists who hire professionals generally regard purchasing those services as necessary and essential. They are on a mission to trace their family history and nothing will stand in the way of accomplishing their goal. House history clients do not feel that sense of urgency. They are more likely to be people who have expendable cash and are looking for something unusual to spend it on (see #4 above). Therefore you'll want to pay careful attention to where you target your marketing efforts so that you can achieve beneficial results.

Did these differences surprise you? Have you found other ways in which house history clients are different from genealogy clients? Have you ever considered adding house histories to your range of client offerings? Let me know!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Great new Library Resource

Midwestern Microhistory by Harold Henderson
For those of you planning on doing research at the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, Indiana life just got a whole lot easier.

Harold Henderson, CG, of the Midwest Roots blog and Midwestern Microhistory blog has published a new FREE pdf guide for genealogists to research at the ACPL.  The guide has a preparing "Before You Go" section as well as online finding aids. The guide the focuses on what to do after you arrive.

What I love about this guide is that it contains lots of photos and screen captures both of the library and its databases.  It allows the genealogist to become familiar with the library before ever setting foot in the building. That is a real time saver.

Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne: The Genealogist's Unofficial One-Stop Guide to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center is the kind of tool every genealogist needs to keep in their bag of tricks.

I hope that more libraries (or bloggers!) will consider making a resource guide like this readily available.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Revolutionary Challenge - Following Judy's Lead

Can you imagine viewing the face of someone who witnessed the Revolutionary War? It seems far fetched doesn't it? Not to mention distant and long ago.  Now imagine a child who has little sense of time viewing that picture and imagining the world of possibilities as they create in their mind a story of the birth of the United States. What an incredible way to spark the curiosity of children and adults and give the Revolutionary War and its witnesses a living voice!

A week ago Photo Detective Maureen Taylor and Verissima Productions initiated a Kickstarter campaign to provide seed money for an ambitious project. (For those of you who don't know what Kickstarter is read a quick description from their website.)

Maureen Taylor wants to bring the face of the Revolutionary Era to a documentary.

Check out this video to see what it's all about:



Not long after, Judy Russell, CG, author of the Legal Genealogist blog, presented a challenge offering to match the donation of the first 50 contributors with a $5 pledge of her own.  Please read Judy's post to learn her story and why this was so important to her.

Judy reached her goal!

I don't want that momentum to fade!

I am willing to provide a $5 match, just as Judy did, for the first 40 people who become a backer for the Revolutionary Voices Kickstarter project. All you have to do is donate $1 minimum and I will provide a $5 match.  Then leave a comment on this post or send me an email and let me know about your pledge. After 40 people contribute at least $1 to the kickstarter campaign I will contribute another $200 to the project.

Some people have been having fun with their pledges. Maureen mentioned that she had received a pledge for $17.76 and another for $1776.  Now that's getting into the spirit!

DONATE HERE

Why am I doing this?

Do I have the extra money just lying around to do this? No, not really. But this kind of project is important to me.  Life is a participation sport and this is the kind of legacy I want to leave behind. I want people to say "Marian helped with that!" and "Preserving history is the kind of thing that Marian got passionate about!" Add in a mix of old photographs and the Revolutionary War and what could be more perfect and meaningful?

I hope you'll follow Judy's inspiration and help me contribute even more to this project!

Foot note:
Is there anyone after me who will take up the mantel after my pledge drive is done? Let's keep the momentum going!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Big News from Legacy in 2013!

So far 2013 has brought good things and lots of exciting news. The latest BIG news, from Legacy Family Tree, is that their webinars are now available 24/7.

I'm a big supporter of Legacy Family Tree webinars and not just because I'm a speaker. As someone who has a young, active family I have a hard time getting to national genealogy conferences. In fact, I have never been to one. When Legacy started presenting webinars they provided an alternate way for me to get continuing education via the internet right from my home.  I can watch a webinar with five kids running around, screaming and playing and no one is the wiser! I really appreciate that.

Just this week Legacy Family Tree has introduced Legacy Family Tree Webinars - a new site and a new approach to watching webinars and learning about genealogy.

The webinars are now available by a monthly or annual subscription. The subscription allows you to view webinars anytime and from anywhere (as long as you have an internet connection) as well as accessing the accompanying handouts. The cost of the subscription is $9.95 monthly and $49.95 annually. Currently there are nearly 100 webinars available for viewing. And you can still purchase individual CDs if that is the route you prefer to go.

Yes, you can still watch the webinars LIVE for FREE. That hasn't changed. Nor has the great door prizes that Geoff gives away each week. This is really the best of both worlds. Free for those who like to watch live and instant access to all webinars for those who like to watch at a time more convenient to their schedule.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

For more information see the press release from Legacy Family Tree.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Scavenger Hunt Begins!


The Houstory Scavenger Hunt begins today! There are $500 worth of prizes including a CD copy of my "Plan Your Way to Research Success" webinar.

For instructions on how the Hunt works watch this video.




  • If you’d like to start the scavenger hunt now, go to The Houstory Hearth blog’s special Scavenger Hunt Page. There you’ll find information about the hunt, the prizes, and the list of the other three blogs you’ll need to visit today.

  • If you already know what you’re doing, here’s the Heirloom Registry ID Code you need to obtain my secret word: (OSUJ-690-903-4168-2011)

  • If this is your final stop for Hunt No. 1, be sure to submit your entry form with your secret words before Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at midnight PST. Instructions for Hunt No. 2, which starts on March 6, will be posted at The Houstory Hearth blog at 12 a.m. EST on March 6. Good luck—and happy hunting! 

Visit an earlier post to learn how I used the Heirloom Registry to record one of my heirlooms.

Good luck and have fun!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Houstory to Host Online Scavenger Hunt for Genealogy, Family History Fans

The Heirloom Registry™—a new product from Houstory®—is sponsoring an online scavenger hunt March 4-8, featuring a dozen popular family history, genealogy and antique blogs, as well as approximately $500 in prizes. Giveaways include the popular Flip-Pal® mobile scanner, as well as research services provided by professional genealogist Caroline Pointer. 

Ferndale, Wash. (PRWEB) February 21, 2013 

Approximately $500 in prizes will be awarded to four different winners during The Heirloom Registry online scavenger hunt, March 4-8.

Highlighting the prize giveaways are the Flip-Pal mobile scanner and a Research Plan Package provided by professional genealogist Caroline Pointer, founder of 4YourFamilyStory.com.

“The weeklong scavenger hunt will encourage readers to visit genealogy, family history, antique and family heirloom-related blogs they may have never seen before, and to try out The Heirloom Registry,” said Dan Hiestand, Houstory marketing director.

Contestants will be required to visit each of the various partner blogs to obtain a special code. The code can be entered into The Heirloom Registry and will pull up a record that contains one of the “Words of the Day.” Every contestant that correctly contacts Houstory with the “Words of the Day” by the scheduled deadline will be entered to win the daily prize and be eligible for the grand prize drawing at the end of the contest.

More information on the contest can be found at The Houstory Hearth blog.

“We are excited to have so many great prizes donated by companies and individuals who share our belief in the power and importance of preserving family stories,” Hiestand said.
The Flip-Pal mobile scanner is a battery powered, compact, lightweight and durable scanner that stores scans on an SD card.

“The Flip-Pal produces high quality, high-resolution images and is extremely easy to use,” said Hiestand. “There’s a reason it’s so popular with family historians and genealogists—scanning is as simple as pushing a button.”

Diane Miller, Genealogy Account Manager for Flip-Pal mobile scanner, said the scavenger hunt is a great match for her company.

"We at Flip-Pal mobile scanner are enthusiastic about giving people greater opportunities to easily capture and share their memories,” Miller said. “Sponsoring The Heirloom Registry Scavenger Hunt is a great pairing—not only to easily capture your memories—but then saving your scans in a safe place for future generations to use."

Pointer’s Research Plan Package assists family historians in assessing research and research problems; developing a research plan; providing an actual research plan; and detailing next steps by providing suggestions on how and where to start.

“Caroline is a force in the family history and genealogy communities, and a highly respected researcher,” Hiestand said. “We are honored that she will play a big role in the hunt.”
Pointer said it was a natural fit.

“When Houstory asked me to participate in his Scavenger Hunt, of course I said yes,” said Pointer. “What genealogist doesn't love a scavenger hunt? It's what we do, except I'm doing the hiding this time.”