Tag Archives: class


Between all the drama over the past few weeks, I can look back and say that this was bad timing to start an on-line course in genealogical research. It’s not as easy as it sounds…not that I thought it would be a walk in the park! Here are some concepts I can’t get my head around: A birth certificate is a source, but is it original or derivative? And what about the information it contains? Is it primary or secondary? Then you have evidence. Evidence can be direct or indirect. What about a photocopy of an original birth certificate? Original or derivative? Is the information it contains primary or secondary? Does it constitute evidence? Is so, is it direct or indirect? Are you with me on this?

If you really need to know all that, let me know! In the meantime, the next assignment isn’t due unitl next Wednesday, but I’m also supposed to be an active participant in the “Discussion Groups???

To be honest, my grades have been coming back a bit better than I expected them to be. Especially considering that I just blew through some parts of the assignments. I’ve been doing this a while, but relatively unsctructured…organized, but unstructured…and they insist on certain terminology which, if I’m working in my own little world, isn’t critical. They even have a Glossary! So, BU brings the structure….I just have to adjust to the rigidity of it all

I’ll keep you posted….

Busy Day for Genealogy!

Busy day for genealogy. The latest class began today in Brimfield, MA. This si the second series I’ve conducted at the Hitchcock Free Academy. Small group but we will still cover all of the material. As a matter of fact, we might even be able to get a little farther as there are fewer lines to research for the participants.

Next…and I should have been aware of this one… I had offered to make a presentation to the Western Massachusetts Genealogical Society “this spring”. I should have realized that February was the month that we discussed but I hadn’t put it in my calendar. So, as I was getting ready for Hitchcock on Wednesday (and Yellow House on Thursday AND all the classwork for Boston U) I received an e-mail from WMGS containing their newsletter. The newsletter announced that I would be making a presentation! So, I raced from the class in Brimfield around 5:00 to get to Agawam for a 6:00 meeting. Made it!

Take a look at Old Bones Genealogy and Family Research for what’s going on….but I suppose it would be a good thing for me to make sure it’s up to date!


Tomorrow is January 16, 2013. Not a particularly auspicious day, but it will be the first time I’ve been back in school in over 40 years! Well, saying that I’ll be “in school” is a stretch because in the 21st century you can be “in school” and in the living room at home at the same time. So, we’ve broken at least one of the basic tenets of physics: an object can now be in 2 places at the same time! And I’m here to say it works.

I’m not intimidated about taking a class even if it is Boston University, but I’m a little intimidated about the fact that it wasn’t cheap and I feel highly motivated to be successful…no pressure!!! Making a time commitment; doing the reading; writing the assignments; passing…and all in a mere 16 weeks. Wish me luck!

The class will be a very intensive course in genealogical research. In it, I hope to expand my knowledge of where to go to get the data I need and what to do with it once I’ve found it! It’s not good enough to just find something at somebody’s web site and transcribe the information. It’s all about documentation, sources and proof. There are certainly many challenges, many of which I’m likely not even aware of.

I’m always aware that I don’t know what I don’t know, and that’s what makes this new adventure so interesting. Since I obviously don’t know what I haven’t learned yet, the prospect of improving my skills in multiple areas is a pretty exciting prospect. Although I’m arguably a bit of an expert in my “other career”, genealogy can be a daunting field to undertake. Just reading blogs from other expert researchers over the past year or so shows that just having a subscription to a couple of genealogy web sites barely scratches the surface.

I’ll continue to post about the course….if I have the time!

Please visit Old Bones Genealogy and Family Research

Introduction to Genealogy—Becoming a Genealogy Detective!

Anyone near Wilbraham, MA tonight is welcome to stop at the Wilbraham Public Library tonight.  It’s the 3rd in a 4 part series “Introduction to Genealogy”.  Each week there have been more and more participants so feel free to call the library at 413-596-6141 to make sure there’ll be room!  Based on the popularity, I can see that there just might be some future programs.  The last in this series will be held February 11th where we’ll work on individual pedigree charts and whatever other subjects may come up.

This series is “sponsored” by the Western Massachusetts Genealogy Society (WMGS) in an effort to help people who are interested in family research and encourage them to take part in courses such as these and introduce them to WMGS.  Annual membership is only $20 and includes 10 monthly meetings held locally.

Over the full 4 sessions, we cover the basics of research, web sites (free and low-cost), definitions (soundex, vital records, etc), specific resources, naturalization, immigration, Ellis Island, name changes, spelling variations and “myth busting”!

Hopefully, some of you can make it tonight!  See you there.

Old Bones on LCTV—Interviewing Relatives

Here’s the video of my interview with “Mrs Buttercup” for Ludlow Community Televisoion. I’m describing the value of contacting relatives for the purpose of learning about their childhood, where they grew up, what their family life was like, what games they played as children and dozens more questions. All of this in the interest of making the cold dry facts of genealogy research come to life by “putting some meat on the bones”, telling a real family story, give your family history some color and make it interesting.  Click this link and take a look: Old Bones on Interviewing Relatives for Family Research.  The sooner a good family researcher gets to their family members, the better the chance to capture the treasures of their memories.

Questions are tailored to trigger those memories.  Here are some examples: “Did you go to your grandmother’s for special dinners, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc?”, “Do you have pleasant memories of the aromas in her kitchen?”, “Can you still “smell them at times?”, “Did your family eat dinner together at the table?”, “Did everyone have their own place to sit?”.  These questions should elicit more than a one word response; they should be the foundation of stories as the person you are interviewing begins to remember their childhood and how they interacted with their family.  Good or bad, you’re sure to get some great stories.  When I interviewed my Great Aunt Sarah, we got to talking about some of the mischief she was involved in.  She admitted to me (and I was the first to hear her “confession”!) that she was the one who painted the neighbor’s cat blue when she was about 7 years old.  She never really liked that cat!!

If you’re going to take on this as a project and get some interviews, I strongly recommend using a digital recorder.  Get permission to use it in the interview.  Some people can be very intimidated by a recording device and small digital recorders can just sit on the table without microphones and other recording technology.  Very soon into the interview, everyone will just forget that it’s there.  After you get permission, ask AGAIN after the recording starts.  You may be getting along just fine today, but you want to make sure that the person’s voice can be clearly heard agreeing to taping the interview .  Not that you’re going to publish the recording or put it in the public donain, but it’s a good idea to get approval!  Take your time…you’re probably not going to get this done in one session.

I’ll be hosting some classes in the interview process and possibly record a “lesson” to post on YouTube wich I’d link here.

Stay tuned!

Old Bones on YouTube!

Great news…I think!  I’ve finally figured out how to get my debut performance on Ludlow Community TV uploaded to YouTube.  Click here http://youtu.be/3GqKT2WEov4 to view. This one is about basics. But I just recorded the second session where we talked about interviewing relatives as a part of your family research.  I’ll be uploading that one later this week.  Comments are welcome!!  And don’t forget to visit www.oldbones.co where I try to keep up with all upcoming programs.

Hitchcock Free Academy

This starts out with some friends of ours asking us to head up to Brimfield, MA to a concert on the village green. The “FLAMINGOS” were playing music from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. The Flamingos, you should know, is a band of women…about 14, I think… who mostly play horns: clarinet, trombone, sax… Great show! The weather was perfect and we all had a great time.

During the intermission, a woman with a very official look about her, took the mike and thanked everyone for coming and spoke of other programs that were coming to Brimfield.  And that got me thinking: “I’ve got a program I could bring to Brimfield!”

So when the show got started again and she returned to her seat, I decided to approach her and introduce myself.   As it turns out, she’s the Executive Director of the Hitchcock Free Academy!  I asked her, “Would you have any interest in having me conduct a class on genealogy and family research?”  I was pleasantly surprised at her reaction which was basically “Yes”….

So, we talked about what I had been doing in Springfield, Chicopee and Ludlow which, I explained could be tailored for whatever the folks in the Brimfield area might enjoy.  She explained what the academy was all about.  Here’s their mission statement directly from their web site: Mission: Hitchcock Free Academy is working to enrich the lives of our community members by providing educational, recreational, and cultural programs to residents of all ages from Brimfield, Holland, Sturbridge, Wales, and the surrounding communities.

After that conversation and another on the phone a day or so later, we decided that a program consisting of 4 classes could be run in October.  We’re shooting for a late afternoon session and another early in the evening.   Whether we run 1 a day or 2 would depend entirely on the response from the community.

But here’s the part that I find most interesting: I visited their web site and learned that the Academy had been originally established by a local businessman named Samuel Austin Hitchcock in 1855.  Well, I have plenty of HITCHCOCKs in my ancestry which intrigued me.  After a little research, it turns out that Samuel Austin Hitchcock (1794-1873) is a 4th cousin 4 times removed.  Our common ancestor is John Calvin Hitchcock (1642-1711).   Who knows who else I’ll find in Brimfield!  I just may end up with more cousins right there in one of the classes!

Almost forgot…Here’s a link to a video that will tell you all about the Academy and what they do….it’s really nothing short of incredible for a small New England town in central Massachusetts! Click here for the video of Hitchcock Free Academy.

Great Class

We had a great time last night.  Week 3 covered a lot of ground including becoming a detective while reading census records, soundex calculations and some free family tree software called “Family Tree Builder”. 

We started out with a slide of one of those “jokes” where all the letters of every word are jumbled other that the first and last letter.    There were 4 paragraphs.  When the slide came up, at first everyone just stared.  Then after a few seconds, a couple of people started to be able to make out the first few words.  As others joined in, reading the jumbled words became easier.  By the end, everyone was reading aloud. It was a lesson in being broadminded with the spelling of family names in the records we find or with how you search for records in the first place.  Here’s the reading: 

“I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. 

The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to arscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.

The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitllraed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!”

Next was the 1930 census that showed my grandfather’s family.  There are 2 interesting things here: 1) It showed his mother, who lived in Canada, as a resident in his household in Springfield, MA.  Previously, I thought her husband died in the mid 1930’s but could never find an actual date.  But the 1930 census listed her as a widow.  Thus, I now knew that he had died in the 1920’s and I was able to redirect my searches.  Well, that was over 10 years ago when “searching” was a little more challenging, but the info was very helpful at the time.  2) There was a boarder in the household whose occupation was “painter”.  Although  he was married, his wife wasn’t with him.  While this is pure speculation, I wove a story about this being the the Depression Era and Charlie, the boarder, was probably a friend of my grandfather who found work in Springfield and lived there until the work ran out.  Not necessarily fact, but a good story line!

Soundex codes!  Everyone now knows what they are, why they were developed and how to use them.  Even though no one REALLY needs to know how to calculate them, that’s what we learned last night.  The reason I felt this was important is so that a new genealogy researcher will now enough to use Soundex as a tool and what to expect for results.  Virtually all genealogy web search sites will offer the option to filter using Soundex.

Finally, “dit” names…..  Now there’s a challenge to someone searching French-Canadian ancestry!

Week Three is Ready!

This week has flown by…maybe because I’m getting old!  But I realized that today is Saturday and Monday will be here any second.  So instead of floating comfortably in the pool with Karen and guests, I buckled down and got it done.

Monday night we’ll review the last 2 weeks and get into new business.  I found a great “free” family tree builder called…wait for it… “Family Tree Builder”.  Clever!  I’ve already downloaded the software and used it a bit to get familiar.  But for the sake of instructing the class, I uninstalled it and I’ll reinstall slowly so that everyone should be able to get through it on their own at home.  I’ll download it and build a quick family data base for someone in attendance.

I’m also teaching “SOUNDEX” coding and a bit of becoming a genealogical detective.
In any event, we’ll all have a good time and we’ll all learn something!