Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fun Emergency Projects

I have this rule that I don’t do emergency projects for clients. First of all one would have to wonder, what is an “emergency project”. Well, it’s the one that you have less than two weeks to do, the deadline is immoveable, and the job was not scheduled or expected so it has to be fitted in the work schedule.

So what am I doing right now? An emergency project. I have been 99% successful in saying “I’m sorry, but I would be unable to assist you on this project.” But what do you do, if the project is for one of your best clients and he has a business trip in 10 days in the area of his GGGGrandparents. Let me add, he is traveling from California to Missouri. For me, the answer was easy – you assist the client and plan on sleeping very little for the next 8 days (the package should be in the overnight and to arrive on day 9).

I pulled the needed file from my archival system immediately and reviewed my final report before I even answered the request. I sketched out a plan of how to attack his specific requests of land locations and living direct lineage or distant cousins in three remote counties of Missouri. Yep…I can do this in 20 hours (all I could possibly give up in 8 days) and have the package prepared for him.

I am half way through with the project now - Day 4. I will finish up county two today, and start with county three. I have already sent him what I considered to be time sensitive data and have actually given him a page and a half of a preview of what to expect based on a few questions he has sent me for his preparation. His excitement vibrated through his email response. He actually called me “heaven”.

No, I’m not a travel agent, but 27 phone calls later, I have found him local hotels, places he must see with directions, and very needed host/hostess names for the area. This is a remote area with directions given as “the oiled road south of town”. No name, just that it goes between the church and the cemetery and over the hill. It took me a few questions to figure out that the “oiled road” was a blacktopped one. Opposed to what?

This is the interesting part. As a genealogist, I would not normally call half a town to see if they knew of my subject. Time is limited so I normally spend it on county courthouses, city halls, libraries, genealogy societies, etc. I don’t normally spend client hours talking to a farmer on Rt. 1 who starts a chain of telephone numbers and names accompanied by failing health anecdotes and recent family deaths worthy of a town directory and a gossip column. No…I don’t usually start any project like this. But, it is a great way to get social history and a feel for a location if your client is off to the wilderness. And, I have gathered gads of additional genealogical tidbits of his family by doing so, including finding a local genealogist, who happens to be a distant cousin, and has a database of over 27000 relatives. We were easily able to pinpoint that they were 6 cousins, once removed. Now this is the contact your client really needs. And I will probably lose his business to this distant cousin, but isn’t that what we all want – an exhausted history of our family?

Hope you are saying yes to the possible, and breaking a few of your own rules for a little genealogy fun!

Accurate, Accessible Answers

Need a Break

I had an opportunity to assist a client in planning a genealogy trip. At my regular fee, my client asked me to find direct line or distant relatives in the area, telephone numbers, repositories of family information, and a listing and location guide of sites of interest. This included land sites of his forbearers.

Now this project might not sound like fun for some, but for me, it was a blast and a welcomed break. Besides that, it was an unexpected revenue generator for my upcoming vacation.

After having worked in genealogy dungeons for the past 12 weeks (court house basements, dusty moldy archives and my 13x15 office at a computer, my eyes and back (from lifting 20lbs ledgers of wills, estates and court records) needed the break.

So after reviewing the customer’s folder for Scotland and Schuyler County, MO, clarifying my client’s goal and defining the length of time of his visit, I began planning my attack.

Having never done this for a client, I applied rule Number One: Do it as you would like it to be done! The result was a fifteen page visitor’s guide customized for my client. I began the guide by giving him a weather review for his upcoming trip. And then I addressed his four goals. I had spoken to over 30 people in Scotland and Schuyler County in the areas he was to visit and in doing so was able to identify the experts of Bible Grove, Memphis and Downing Missouri and who were excited about being a host/hostess for his 3 day visit. I attached land plats with sketchy directions to family cemeteries and the original family church, where one of his ancestor’s pictures still hung.

I talked to a half dozen distant relatives and gathered as much as possible about the culture of the area. Many of the members of the community were non-alcoholic drinking church goers, so why not let my client know that suggesting the local bar might not be appropriate.

Upon several references, I was even was able to recommend a local hotel where one of his distant cousins was the operator and a native of Bible Grove.

I guided my customer to the local museums and contacted the Genealogy/Historical Society in advance so they would expect his arrival, this also allowed me to confirm hours open.

And the coups de gras, was my names and address list, alphabetized by both county and interests.

Alpha by First Name
and then by county, for example -

Associations in Scotland County

I have to say that I don’t have aspirations of being a travel agent, but this was twenty hours of remembering why we do genealogy: to get to know just a bit of the path of our ancestors.

Plan a trip for you or a client. Why not follow a bit of their trail?

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Genealogy Library Visit

Tools and Resources - Genealogy Library Visit Recipe

1 genealogy notebook *see Recipe for Efficient Preparation
3-4 sharpened pencils (or ink pens preferably with an eraser)
1 library card (if not a member, you will need to apply immediately, so take ID)
1-2 hours (depending on the resources available at the library)
1 knowledgeable reference librarian
1 tools and resource checklist

Your first library visit should be at a genealogy library. Find the genealogy section of the library or the reference desk and introduce yourself to the friendly knowledgeable reference librarian. They will have the tools you need, so take the checklist of needed tools and don’t leave the library until you have asked about the following: family tree forms or descendent forms, list of available genealogy resources, local genealogy clubs and contact information, library sponsored genealogy workshops/seminars, location of genealogy books and how they are sorted, access to, remote access to library databases, especially HeritageQuest. Be sure to take lots of notes while at the library, because by the time you go home, do chores and make dinner, you will have forgotten the details.

While you are there have the librarian start you on How do you long on? What does it provide? Remember you are just exploring, but put in a grandmother’s name and information and play with this database while at the library.

Verify that your library card is up to date and you have remote access to the library’s databases ( normally is not available remotely). Your library should have at minimum the following databases. Be sure to ask which of the following are accessible from home, and have the librarian show you how to access their databases remotely if you would like to do research at 3:00am from the comforts of your laptop:

America’s Genealogy Bank – historical newspapers and books and documents
America’s Obituary & Death Notices – wide-range of newspaper obituaries
Digital Sanborn Maps – fire insurance maps from 1867-1970
Heritage Quest – census records up to 1930

This week become acquainted with all of these databases by searching a relative (grandparent) that was born before 1930. Just play and see what you find. If you were born as late as 1970 you should have at least one relative’s name that was born before 1930. If not, ask you parents or aunts about someone interesting in the near past that you would like to begin with. Do not start with the “coming to America”, just someone a name within two generations of you if possible. Keep a log. This is just to familiarize yourself with the various databases.

The only other database you should discover this week is “”. You can access this from your library’s internet or from home. Be sure to thoroughly review each tab to see what is available. Be sure to look under Research Helps to see what is available under different states and countries.

Remember, we haven’t begun research, but we are getting to know the resources. Happy playing and remember this is a life project, so pace yourself.

Kathleen Brandt
a3Genealogy - accurate, acessible answers