Sunday, November 29, 2009

A new Query Website

Back in the olden days, genealogists sent queries about their ancestors to genealogy societies in the areas where those ancestors lived, and waited patiently for someone to see the query, realize it's their family, and send a letter to the query poster. Sometimes it took many years to get a response. Sometimes you never got a response.
With the advent of the internet and groups like Rootsweb (now Ancestry) and (Genforum), digital message boards were developed. I'm guessing most of you have posted to either or both of these. They both offer message boards for localities and surnames.
Now there's another message board site, Dick Eastman, probably the foremost genealogy blogger in the US, developed this site. It's essentially one huge database, with categories for locations and surnames and also ads (for genealogy services and societies) and event listings. It's very similar in concept to Craig's List, but for genealogists. GenQueries is advertised as having no fees, no spam, no account required, and no invasion of your privacy. You can even sign up for an RSS feed and monitor postings without searching through the site.
This site just went public the beginning of November, so it doesn't have a huge number of posts yet. But notice that you can search the entire site from the search box at the left top of the home page.
And yes, SGS was one of the first societies listed--back on September 21st.
Do let me know if you have any success posting to GenQueries. I'm still hoping!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

November Board Meeting

Monday's November Board meeting turned out to be quite lengthy, as one of the items on the agenda was a report from our Bylaws Review Committee by Bonnie Larson, chair. This group has been meeting on a regular basis, working through every article of our current Bylaws and evaluating how well they serve SGS and its members. We spent over an hour discussing their 2+ pages of initial recommendations. One issue that has not been dealt with yet is the extent to which SGS should allow digital communications to supplant in-person meetings or mailed notifications. Do you have an opinion on this topic? Have you read the Bylaws? Copies are available to all members at SGS. Your comments and suggestions would be welcomed by Bonnie and her committee. Please mail your comments to SGS, care of Bonnie.

The biggest issue facing your SGS Board is our rapidly deteriorating financial position. Our actual income/expenses to date since May are currently almost $5000 under budget. The Board had to make the difficult decision to pull money out of the Dave Ault inheritance bequest, which we had hoped to save for a down payment on our own facility, to have sufficient funds available to pay our rent through April. While the Board is working on one grant proposal and searching for others, we need your ideas and help to find additional sources of revenue to keep our library and programs running. There's a large note pad on an easel at SGS (in the family histories area) for your fundraising ideas, or email them to me (

Our annual year-end donation appeal letter should be arriving in your mail box next week. We know this year has been financially onerous for many of our members, but please consider making a donation--however small--to SGS this year. All donations are tax deductible and will help us survive.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Getting the most from Special Interest Groups at SGS

I happened to stop by SGS this morning while the Irish Interest Group was meeting. There were about a dozen people sitting around the big table. Jean Roth has been leading both the Irish and German interest groups for many years, and doing a great job coming up with topics and presentations. After the meeting, one of the regular attendees said to me, "You know, Ginny. I could put together a presentation based on some of my research for an interest group meeting." What a novel idea!
SGS supports Special Interest Groups (SIGs) focused on Irish, German, and Canadian research, computers and genealogy, and MAC computer users. We also still have a few functioning State Focus Groups--Pennsylvania, Illinois, Washington, Missouri, ??? [there may be others, but they're not coming to mind].
All of these groups are supposed to be forums for group learning and sharing. Group leaders should not have to bear all of the responsibility for preparing discussion topics. All of us who have been researching our families--whether for a year or multiple decades--have learned things in our research that are worth sharing with others researching in the same areas. Please consider offering to talk about something you've discovered, even if you've only got 15 minutes of material to share. Talk to your group's coordinator and let them know you're willing to help. And check the SGS calendar for future meetings of the groups that overlap your research areas. If you haven't been to an interest group meeting for awhile, drop in and start participating. What you've learned might help someone else break through their brick wall.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"What's New in Family History" according to Mary Slawson

For those of you who didn't attend yesterday's LDS Family History Fair in Redmond, I'd like to report on Mary Slawson's keynote presentation on the above topic. It's a bit of a misnomer in that she focused on what's new in LDS family history--not the entire field. But other than that, it was very interesting and informative.
The biggest shock was Mary's comments about the Family History Library's plans to totally phase out all CDs and microfilm. Can you imagine NOT pawing through all those rolls of microfilm at the FHL? I can't! Don't start holding your breath yet, as it could take awhile to digitize and index everything on those hundred of thousands of microfilm rolls and thousands of CDs. But it was a shock to hear that there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when the FHL has no microfilm.
Mary also talked about the new Family Search Family Tree program being developed. It provides for on-line collaboration among people working on the same families, with detailed sourcing capabilities and provision for posting multiple conflicting facts. It's also designed to link to your existing genealogy software.
Another new LDS genealogy development is a set of style guides being added to the Family Search Wiki--articles on how to do genealogy in different countries written by FHL experts.
Of course, we all know about Family Search Indexing and the Record Search pilot site. But did you know the FHL is also involved in a huge book scanning project? They're scanning books from the FHL, BYU, Allen Co., Houston, Mid-Continent and many other libraries. Mary reported that they've already completed the scanning of over 40,000 volumes. If you go to and click on "Search Records" and then "Historical Books" [in the drop-down list], you'll see that they've actually scanned 52,743 books already! There are several search boxes to use for finding your surnames and/or locations in the scanned items.
If you'd like to check out some of the new features the LDS folks are working on, take a look at You'll find links there to most of the projects mentioned above.
Thanks to Mary for a great keynote and to the Redmond and Bellevue LDS stakes for another great day of genealogy presentations.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Windows Live Photo Gallery

Sorry for the delay in posting, but as some of you know, I’m off on a cruise. One of the relatively new features of Holland America cruises is a Microsoft “techspert” on every ship to get people hooked on Windows and Windows Live for writing blogs and posting photos.

This morning I attended a presentation on Windows Live Photo Gallery that demonstrated some of the program’s features. Basically it works like Picasa or any other photo storing and editing program—and it’s a free download from

But there’s a particularly intriguing feature in Windows Live Photo Gallery—the ability to identify individual faces in uploaded photos and to have the program “learn” these faces and automatically identify them in future photos. Our techspert demonstrated how you can then search for all photos with a particular person identified in them without having to actually look at each photo. Pretty cool!

It seems to me that this might be a very useful feature for genealogists. If you can identify “Great Aunt Martha” in a series of scanned photos that you know are of her, Windows Live Photo Gallery might be able to identify her in other photos you’ve scanned but didn’t know exactly who was in them. It’s definitely worth a try. Just be sure to use the exact same name for each time an individual appears in one of your photos.

Do try this out and let me know how it works for you.