Monday, April 28, 2014

Learning From "The Legal Genealogist" and Update On My "Clock"

My mind is stuffed with ideas after a weekend of learning from the one and only, Legal Genealogist, Judy Russell. Her seminars were far better than I could have dreamed of and the turnout was a testament to Colorado Genealogical Society, their board, and their volunteers. It was seamless. 

Best of all, for me personally I learned so much, yet I also learned that I know so much, all thanks to Judy Russell’s seminars. You see, I’m still “on the clock” and I am entering those days of wondering if I can pull it all off. To wit, I have put “senioritis” into a whole knew dimension. I am just over halfway to my deadline and I know it. Technically, I could pull the whole portfolio together in a week or two at this point, even factoring in that I would lose something and have to stop and look and then find out that the cat was sitting on it the whole time (along with my phone - her favorite). I can do it, have done it, but keep going on, adding and subtracting and throwing this or that over for some thing better, shinier. Watching television for example, for me, has gone by the wayside. That is to say that I mean the kind that you actually sit down and For me, what little “watching” I do is done surrounding by books and notes and electronic gadgetry and a minimum of three websites and six documents open on my computer at all times and they are in use through it all. 

That’s the life - or my life - of being on the clock, but it is a magnificent one. Why? What makes it so magnificent?  While working on my portfolio for certification by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), I have been attending institutes, seminars, tuning in to webinars, devouring journals, and even searching for and buying back issues of them, for particularly useful articles. I have put together a library of reference books that fills shelves and have been reading a stack of heavy, thick books that have to remain at home when I go to seminars, because if I put them in my suitcase, I’d need a second suitcase, and even then they would both still be overweight. If you haven’t figured it out, I have been on the road quite a bit and will be for the rest of the year.

Granted, my education is self-imposed to a certain extent and while the BCG does not mandate such a schedule per se, they encourage continuing education (seminars and institutes) and keeping up via books, journals, videos, online education, and webinars. I am just taking it to the over-achievers’ level of “I need to be absolutely, 100% sure that I am as good as I am supposed to be.” I got lucky last weekend, because the education came to me, here in Denver and it was one of the best seminars I have ever attended.

So thank you, Judy Russell, for helping to make me feel a little bit better about my skills and for teaching me so much more about the things that I needed to learn, or at least those that needed clarification. Please come back and see us in Denver again because I know I’ll need a tune-up and there are many others here who missed your seminar and who really would like to hear you speak. Until then, safe travels.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Confessions About the Clock

I have a confession to make. This blog was created to document my year of being “on the clock,” but somehow along the way, it has become a genealogical potpourri of my experiences, albeit with a genealogical twist. Yet, I have written this blog without discussing the real “work” that goes into my everyday life; the work I do toward my certification. It’s probably my personality showing through - I love to laugh and feel that it is often more important to focus on the joy found in my work than to focus on the work that results in wrinkles furrowed into my brow. However, as I said that I would document my year, it is part of my personal due diligence to chronicle the “work product” that I am involved in on a day-to-day basis. Me, being me, I would rather talk about what I’ve done right rather than whine about what has not gone so well. I try to be an optimist, so that’s what you get here. Maybe I should throw in a piece about the misery once a week and call it “Moaning Monday?” Meh.

When my packet first arrived from the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), I tore through it and almost missed an appointment, just to work on the will that I was given to transcribe. Then, eying the clock (not the one that I am “on,” but the real one on the table) I gathered everything up, put in a labeled binder with page protectors to keep it all together, and dashed out the door, barely making my appointment. Later, I also took each required task (to complete my portfolio) and created a separate file for it. The requirements for each part of my portfolio were on a page of their own, bolded, underlined, and highlighted, to make sure that I went over it, read it extensively, and pulled out the most important parts visually, so that I could periodically re-check it. While doing so, this forced me to notice the most important parts of each requirement. It has worked well so far.

Next, I invested in a library. I researched and found every book on the BCG list. Some were easy to find, while others required real hunting, not unlike a genealogical search to find some old, obscure document. I found that many were available online, for a price that ranged radically from reasonable to “are you out of your mind?” I purchased several through used and rare book services. It wasn’t easy, but I found them and read them. I still read them. 

One of the many resources that I have stumbled over and found to be a real resource for clues (notice that I did not say, or infer, that this means “proof” of any kind) are old, period books, meaning non-fictional accounts, written by contemporaries of those being researched. I make sure that  they are specific to the period that I am researching and the location that I am researching. More than once, just one or two lines in one of these period books has opened up a whole new avenue of investigation for me. They are a wonderful resource for anyone researching in obscure locations or where traditional records are limited.

Finally for today, I have devoted so much time to learning: learning from books; learning from journal articles; and learning by attending seminars and institutes. I schedule time for webinars and to read other genealogist’s blogs. I am grateful for what I learn and still, I am oddly embarrassed, yet bolstered, when I learn how much I already  know. Still, knowledge is always mixed and when I learn what I already know, I always pick up something new, be it through new stories, by hearing about different techniques, or especially, from cautionary tales of mistakes made by others and learning how to avoid making them myself. Genealogists can never afford to be cocky. Excited? Yes. Thrilled over what they can accomplish? Of course; Relieved when they can learn something and can use it successfully? Absolutely. But, never think that you know it all. Always remember that genealogy keeps growing and changing. There are so many new things popping up, that we can never know it all. 

Therein lies genealogy’s beguilement: while there are always more mysteries that one can solve, there will always be many, many more mysteries to be solved.

Happy hunting!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Legal Genealogist is Coming! The Legal Genealogist is Coming!

I am so excited! You see, just one week from today, on Saturday, the 26th of April 2014, this genealogy geek is going to be in heaven. No, this does not mean that I am returning to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. That was heaven combined with long hours of hard work. This kind of heaven is about the pure pleasure of enjoying someone else’s hard work. What I am talking about is happening right here in my own backyard, at the Denver Public Library’s Lower Level Conference Center, all thanks to my good, hard-working friends at the Colorado Genealogy Society who are bringing, Judy Russell, a.k.a, the Legal Genealogist, to town! She will be giving not one, but four, presentations at the seminar and I promise that you will regret it, if you don’t attend (unless, of course, you are in need of life-saving medical help during the seminar, which might be a slightly higher priority...maybe). 

If you have not read her blog, you are truly missing one of the best writers and often, one of the funniest people on Earth. You can check out her blog and even subscribe to it at From my genealogy-geek perspective, her citations are just fabulous, too.

It’s been a long time since I have seriously considered camping out for anything, but in this case, I may just do it, to be first in line on Saturday morning. 

You can register for the seminar online. Just go to: You can also print and mail the registration form, but hurry! The clock is ticking!  Kim Rogers is the seminar chair, so contact her and not me. I’ll be getting my camping gear together. Just be nice to Kim as this seminar is a lot of work. Kim’s email is and she has all the info.

If, heaven forbid, you cannot make it to the CGS seminar on Saturday (for reasons such as hospitalization in the ICU, being hit by a bus, or similar) on Friday night, Judy Russell is also giving a “free” program at the regular Colorado Genealogical Society meeting entitled, “No Person Shall .. Gallop Horses In the Streets -- Using Court Records to Tell the Story of our Ancestors' Lives.” This program is part of the CGS’ regular meeting, and will be held the evening before the seminar, at 7 pm on Friday, the 25th of April, at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 2300 South Patton Court in Denver. Even if you are not a member, you really should be consider joining if you have even the slightest interest in genealogy, because this is an awesome group. They are an awesome group even when Judy Russell isn’t speaking, but Judy will just put everything over the top next Friday evening. I can’t wait! I may be camping out in front of the church all day Friday, too...I hope the neighbors don’t call the cops on me...

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Antique Baby Books, The So Cal Genealogy Jamboree, and Heirloom Roadshow

I have mentioned before that I am going to be attending, and blogging from, the 2014 Southern California Genealogy Jamboree. As part of the festivities, Heirloom Roadshow ( ) is coming to this year’s Jamboree and they are looking for heirlooms that need preservation.

So far, I have submitted something that I find both fascinating and unusual: my father’s baby book from 1918. Despite having spent years in the antique biz and even more years in genealogy, I have never seen ,or even heard of a baby book from that era. I had no idea that such things existed 95 years ago. In fact, I thought that baby books came about in the post-WWII era.

Thus, I wrote and told the nice people at Heirloom Roadshow a bit about the book and sent photos showing both the uniqueness of the book and the challenges that I face in preserving it. I was limited to a mere 3 photos maximum, but here I am posting several more to show you what an amazing little gem this is, and also so that you can see the condition that it is in at the moment.

It is a somewhat, mass-produced book with a brown suede cover, entitled, “The Baby’s Record of Mental and Physical Growth,” by Bonnibel Butler. Inside, on the title page, the title is expanded to read, “The Baby’s Record of Mental and Physical Growth, and His Horoscope.” It was published by M.A. Donohue & Company, Chicago.

Dad's Capricorn Horoscope
Horoscopes for babies in the WWI era? Who knew?

My father, and his parents, were given this book as a baby gift when he was born, as a baby gift from Dad’s mother’s sister, his Aunt Helga, who was a nurse. There is a picture of Aunt Helga in her nurse’s uniform, holding my 11-month-old father, outside a hospital in El Paso, Texas, in 1919. It is glued into the book, of course. The paper behind it is degrading. This is a challenge, but I digress.

Dad with his Aunt Helga, Nov. 1919

You see, my father was born on the 22nd of December, 1918, in Fertile Township, North Dakota. We (meaning my husband and I, plus our children) knew nothing about this book until shortly before my father died. Dad told us, before he died, that he had always had it with him, but I had known nothing of it. He told me little else and as an only child, there is really no one else to ask. No matter as this book gives an amazing view of his early life.  It gives glimpses, sometimes shocking, sometimes surprising, but always interesting, into his childhood, into the culture of those times, and into his family’s unusually well-traveled life. It is filled with photos, reflections, and perspectives on a time that has not been chronicled, especially from a baby’s daily perspective. It is filled with stories and quotes and many, many pictures, in varying states of decay.

There is also a silhouette that is lovely, but glued solidly into the book surrounded tightly by photos. The pages that were not used as heavily, such as baby’s horoscope, are in decent condition but the entire book needs to be stabilized and restored. Throughout the book are wonderful stories and hand-written notes. The ink has smeared in places, too.

Even though it is not quite 100 years old, it is quite a snapshot into who my father was as a child and how the people around him lived. There are many photos of the times that depict the culture and family relationships. There are photos of my father with his cousin, Gordon, playing”Indians” in matching outfits that their grandfather had bought for them. Other vignettes show that one of the most popular activities for children of the time was to throw “fake weddings” and there are several photos of these. There are also photos of my father’s young life on a massive cattle ranch in Cuba during the 1920s and early 1930s.
"Fake" Weddings

Dad and his cousin,
Gordan, playing "Indians"

Pics from Dad's life in Cuba

This baby book has traveled from North Dakota to Cuba, to Kansas City, and back to Cuba, where it spent many years, to Miami in the 1930s. In the 1940s, it moved to Montana, and various states in the Pacific Northwest before moving to Illinois where it settled in for a few decades. In 1988, the book returned to Florida again, where it remained until 2012, when it moved, again with my father, to Colorado. Since my father’s death in November 2013, it now resides with me. I hope to take it to the Jamboree in June to get this treasure the help that it needs. Keep your fingers crossed in hoping that Heirloom Roadshow will see that this book is special enough to warrant their attention.

So enjoy the pictures and I will keep you updated on the progress with Heirloom Roadshow.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Taking On Research at The Family History Library in SLC

Just a half a block from my hotel and part of my
daily walk to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

Blogs are wonderful, but they take time. Thus, my silence last week while I immersed myself in work at the Salt Lake City Family History Library. Truthfully, I was there every minute that they’d allow me to be there. That added up to between eight and thirteen hours a day. On four out of six days, I was there for thirteen straight hours. You can imagine what my meals looked like. Worse, you can imagine what I looked like. On second thought skip that last thought altogether and focus on making the trip yourself.

Despite my appearance, going there was so worth it, and yet, I really needed an extra week to gather what I needed. Or, so it seems on the morning after my return. There is so much available, but you can lose valuable hours, unless you know what you are looking for and how to find it.
The beginning of my daily walk back to my hotel.

So here are a few tips that I have learned:

1). Allow days, not hours, to research. I was there for six days, but I truly needed more time. There is so much material and, in my case, as it had been a few years since I had been there, I had to find my way, as things have been moved around. I spent every minute working, but as with everything, there are unforeseeable delays, and it is hard to predict how much time those delays will cost you.

2). The Family History Library is not a Walmart. It is not open 24-hours-a-day. Currently, it is open 8-5 on Mondays, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Tuesday through Friday, and from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays, and also closed for certain church functions, so be sure to check ahead. 

3). Have a good, but flexible, research plan. You will need it to know what you want to get, which brings me to my second point, figuring out where to find it. Family Search has an online catalogue that will give you call numbers and film numbers. Find it here: It will also tell you if the items desired are available at the SLC library or if they must be ordered from the Granite Mountain Vault, which is undergoing renovations, and thus, may  require extra time to deliver it to the main library. Knowing these things ahead of time  and preparing will save you many hours.      

An average LDS garden on my daily walk.
4). Go with a group whenever possible. You will save money on group rates at hotels and there is sanity in numbers. They bring up subjects like, “Have you eaten today?” which can be something easily forgotten when enthralled by all that lovely information.

5). Stay close to the Family History Library. This will save you time, allowing you to get there quickly and leave late. I can only vouch for the hotel where we stayed, “The Carlton Hotel,” but it was an easy, stunning walk from the library (see pics of my walk on this page). It was also reasonable, comfortable, and they had great breakfasts included. If you choose not to walk, Larry will drive you in the van, and was funny, kind, and very helpful. The walk from the Carlton Hotel to the library was historic and the gardens were stunning. The newly built City Creek Shopping area also provided entertainment, which was important for someone who, while there, learned the specific gender of an upcoming addition to the family. A quick trip to Nordstrom’s (less than a block from the Family History Library) was needed to celebrate the news.      
More gardens along South Temple
 (the street that I walked down).

6). Be prepared. Bring a laptop and a laptop lock for it, in case you have to leave it for any length of time. Dress comfortably and in layers. The weather can change quickly. 

I was fortunate as my group held lunch meetings to prepare us for the trip. It was so helpful. If you are going with a group, suggest that everyone meet and discuss the plan for the trip. It gave me ideas and saved me lots of confusion.

Some things that I used most:

  • My 64-gigabyte flash drive. I filled 63.18 gigabytes. I wished that I had a second one and think it would have been a good idea. You can save documents directly from the copier or computer to a flash drive, cutting the need to haul a suitcase full of paper back home at the end of your trip.
  • My flatbed scanner. I spent approximately $80 for a a small, lightweight, flatbed scanner that ran off power from my Macbook, and also sent scans directly to my laptop for storage. It fit in my roll-aboard case and weighed about 2 pounds. It’s very quiet and quickly scanned everything I needed. Best of all, whenever there was a long line for a copier, I could quickly pull out my scanner and be done long before iI would have reached the head of the line to photocopy. Just make sure that you have enough room on you computer’s hard drive to do this, by cleaning out extraneous files before you go to Salt Lake City. 
  • Water Bottles. Salt Lake City is a dry climate and it is easy to become dehydrated. You cannot have food anywhere in the library except for a relatively small lunchroom, but water bottles with a screw-on cap are allowed on the library floor.
  • My laptop. Despite the availability of church-owed computers, when you crawl back to your hotel, you need a laptop. 
  • Personal WIFI. Originally, I got mine from Verizon (called a “MiFi” at Verizon) for entirely different reasons, but I have learned of its value ever since. With it, I can have secure, personal internet access anywhere, which is wonderful if you are away from home for any length of time and spending time in public places such as hotels, conferences, or libraries.
  • Little binder clips. Scrap paper and pencils are available everywhere for quick notes, but it was the small binder clips that kept me from flinging them all over the place.
  • A roll-aboard bag to keep everything together and organized. I used the freebie bags that come with make-up “specials” to hold cords in my bag for easy identification.
  • Flexible hair ties. I use them for everything from wrapping up cords to keeping small items like protein bars from getting loose. Ditto for zippered plastic bags.
  • A lightweight, flexible (not the rigid type) 1/2-inch to 1-inch binder with empty, plastic page protector sleeves to place photocopies in once you have made the copies. This will protect them until you can get back to the hotel and file them for taking home. 
  • Small, reusable grocery bags that can be stuffed into a tiny bag or ball.wonderful for putting film boxes in to transport to the microfilms machines or to drop photocopies into before you place them in the binder.
  • Labels with your cell phone number. Use these to label anything that you brought and might accidentally leave behind, from flash drives to your cell phone. 

After you return home, consider organizing your data right away. It will help remind you of what you have found and will also help you to keep track of it, before the memory fades. As always, make sure that you have good citations for all of it as you may want to use it in the distant future, as well as today.

The main homestead and its
amazing "Beehive Gardens."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Going Back to My Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree Roots!

I am so excited and proud to announce that in June, I will be going back to where my genealogy journey began, nearly two decades ago, with the Southern California Genealogy Society (SCGS). Back then, their little Jamboree was in its infancy, but today it is a three-day long extravaganza with an additional day added on the front end dedicated solely to genetic genealogy. Yes, that sound is me, swooning.

I sometimes think that I am the luckiest girl in the genealogy world. You see, back in the mid-1990’s I had no idea that the place that I started my genealogy journey, the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Genealogy Library, in Burbank, California, was one of the best place in the world to begin. I was taught and nurtured by the most knowledgeable, caring, and insightful people that one could ever imagine. I can look back now and see that I was getting the equivalent of an Ivy-League, Genealogical Education. My teachers were the SCGS members and volunteers, who took me under their wings and taught me much of what I know today. I would not be the genealogist that I am now if I had not been “tutored” by everyone at SCGS for so many of my early years! 

So, today I am proud to announce that I am going “home” again.  Not only will I be going back to my genealogical “home,” at the SCGS Library, but that I will also be blogging to you from the 2014 Southern California Genealogy Society’s Genealogy Jamboree! Of course, between now and early June, I will be bringing you regular updates about the Jamboree in addition to my blog, just in case you might want head for Burbank, to join in the fun. And let me tell you, these people know how to have fun! After all, it is Southern California ( and Sheryl Crowe’s rendition of “All I Want To Do is Have Some Fun” is running through my mind as I write this...). The link is right here:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Forensic Genealogy and Posting a Blog with My Mind

It’s really too bad that I cannot blog directly from my mind, since this typing business takes up time. That’s just how busy I am and each day gets busier. I am learning so many new things, doing so many new things, and meeting so many interesting people that I couldn’t be happier...except for the fact that I still have to find time to do laundry, to sleep, and o do all those other time-consuming things that take away from my genealogy work. Thus, to me, just thinking mentally, “Post Blog” and it would be written and posted sounds awesome. Realistically, the typos alone would get me into oceans of trouble, so I am better off typing away on my computer.

So what have I been doing that’s kept me busy enough to dream of mental word-processing? Well, today, I updated the Birk & Bond Research website ( and among the many other, boring tasks that websites require, I also created a link to this blog from the website. So if you can’t remember this blog’s address, just go to Birk & Bond’s website and you can find your way here.

I agree that’s not much, but going backward in time, I also attended a pair of institutes last week in Dallas, presented by the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy (CAFG) - and I finished both with certificates to prove it! I really wanted to blog from the institutes, but they kept us far too busy to let out thoughts stray from the material that we were learning.

The first institute, “Foundations in Forensic Genealogy” lasted three days where we were studying nearly everything that you could think of that has to do with genealogy and much, much more. As it turns out, Forensic Genealogy is not for the under-educated, nor it is for those without a bit of stamina, because the folks at the CAFG believe that you can never learn enough and they fed my brain non-stop. We learned about forensic genealogy’s part in real estate and right-of-way cases; in probate and guardianship cases; plus we learned about natural resources, land issues,  and aspects of legal rights involving things, both above and below ground. I’m glad that I was a geology rock hound from birth because that background paid off. 

Okay, you must be wondering how genealogy and rocks are related - right?  It is not about your grandmother’s crazy brother, Uncle Harry, even though Grandpa said that Harry had rocks in his head.  What we learned is about people and ownership of land, mineral rights,including almost anything that can legally be found above or below ground, and how the legal aspects . That’s what ties these areas together. Genealogy is always about people, such as the tracing of missing or unknown heirs (but not like one of those “Heir-tracing firms that want a contingency fee) to properties or estates and connecting the real people and discounting the “wanna-be’s” who come out of the walls trying to get a piece of the pie. The same people who appear claiming to be your long-lost cousin when you win the lottery...lucky for me, those people never show up because I never win anything!

We learned new, inventive ways to help adoptees find their families and of course about DNA’s role in it. ( I was so grateful that I have spent the last six months studying Genetics and all aspects of genetic inheritance as it is not an easy subject if you do not have the background to grasp it. Oh, and then every night we had homework. Real cases to solve, document and report. That was just the “Foundations” institute!

The first one finished and we were right back at it again. The second institute, “Advanced Forensic Evidence Analysis” was more interesting to me because I’ve been at this business for nearly two decades. Granted, everyone can brush up on the basics and I certainly need to be more organized, but the “Advanced” institute got me excited. After all, who else can say that they spent hours with the Deputy Director of the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System at Dover (Delaware) AFB, James J. Canik? Me, that’s who!

Did you know the the United States is the most dedicated country in the world when it comes to finding, identifying, and repatriating service men (and women) who are missing and presumed dead reaching back to the Civil War? Their work is simply amazing and they continue to become more efficient and to develop new techniques all the time to locate and identify our missing veterans so that their families can finally find peace. Of course, locating families and tracing DNA is a daunting task, calling for - did you guess? Genealogical experts in forensic genealogy. Quite a fascinating area of work.

However, the folks running this little shindig, think nothing of hard work. So if you didn’t guess what I’m about to say next, you aren’t paying enough attention - and that would get you into trouble at either institute because the amount of information that I am sharing here is nothing compared to all the things that the CAFG taught us. And yes, what I meant was that there w-a-y more that we were taught.

My heart belongs to genetic genealogy and the Advanced session brought forth more dealing with genetic genealogy. I was so grateful that I spent so much time on it as it was fast-paced, in-depth, and fascinating. 

We also learned about document analysis, translations and certified translations and how to find a real, educated translator (some languages are not easy to get certified in, so you need to know how to evaluate and find someone who has a serious educational background with a degree in the language, but a degree that includes in-depth knowledge of the culture, regional dialects, the history,  the customs and sociology of the place, etc., plus a background in international affairs or business so that the legal aspects can handled properly when, for example, you are applying for dual citizenship. Why would anyone want this? Many reasons? Ease of visiting family, such as your children, if they live abroad. Ease of travel within a certain country or countries is popular as is connecting with ancestral family, a potential place for retirement, business opportunities, and many more things. The list is long. The simplest places to attain dual citizenship are currently in Ireland and in Italy. We at Birk & Bond are already up-to-date and involved in dual citizenship work in Italy, but now are looking forward to adding more countries. Overall, the 7+ billion citizens of earth are quickly becoming one, big, global family and we want to connect in person, not just by way of the internet.

But back to the institutes as I have not finished telling you the rest of the story. We also covered working for the court system as a Expert Witness, and how the legal system utilizes forensic genealogists. The possibilities are vast, from criminal cases, to finding heirs for many things, to oil / mineral / environmental cases, to locating the families of unclaimed persons or even finding the next-of-kin to deliver ashes, also known as “cremains”, left uncollected at funeral homes and crematoriums.

One of the things that I have done, but that we really did not cover in either institute is research to determine unknown medical genealogies and histories in families. Perhaps that is already in the plans for a future CAFG institute? Time will tell.

Since this was typed and not mentally written and magically posted, I have to move on to the next thing on my list. However, I hope to be bogging again soon from Salt Lake City as I dive into the world-renown Family History Library. I’ll be blogging at you soon!