Got up this morning to a beautiful sunrise. I wanted to get an early start so we would be sure to have a good seat at this morning’s keynote address. Most people probably want to hear Henry Louis Gates, of the PBS TV show certain to get Finding Your Roots. I’m interested in his talk, but I really want to hear Natalia LaFourcade.
When Scott and I were in Mexico over Christmas break, we stayed at the El Ganzo Hotel. This hotel has a recording studio where artists from all over the world come to record their music. Many of the sessions are recorded and shown every night in on the TV in your room. There were several artists that we really liked, but I was particularly struck by Natalia LaFourcade’s song “Eclipse.” I even wrote the name down so I wouldn’t forget it. I had no idea she was going to be a speaker at RootsTech until a couple months after that! I considered that a sign that I was meant to go to the conference!!
The emcee of the morning was Jason Hewlett. He did a pretty good job getting thousands of sleepy genealogists up and moving at 8:30 in the morning after our heads have been crammed full of information. He shared with us his special gift – some weird muscle thing he can do with his face – and told us we all should be happy (in comparison) with the gifts that we have been given.
Natalia has a busy couple days – after giving today’s keynote, she is heading to the Oscars as her song “Remember Me” (from the animated movie Coco) is nominated for the Best Original Song. This morning was the first time she ever performed it live!
Henry Louis Gates was, as always, informative. He has a new web series called Finding Your Roots: The Seedlings. Kids attend a camp where they actually use science and genealogy to learn about their family history. It sounds pretty cool.
Then it was off to my first presentation: Fun With Photos- The Sheboygan Dead Horse Picture. The presenter was Colleen Fitzpatrick, a forensic genealogist. Colleen shared the story of how she and her team used various techniques to pinpoint the date and time this picture was taken. You can find more about this on her blog Indentifinders International.
It was interesting to learn of the techniques used to place a picture by location, date, and time. She and her team determined the earliest year of the photo by figuring out the earliest date a wide-angle lens was used
and latest year by
determining the latest date of the construction of some of the landmarks in the photo. They also used city directories, census records,
and the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps to further identify the buildings. If you don’t know about these maps, they are worth learning about. I am currently using one from the late 1800s of Kansas City, Missouri in an attempt to figure the size of the
home owned by Catherine Seeley Fitzallen. Colleen also gave us a tip on how we can date those old cabinet cards,
sometimes called carte vista. She suggested using a caliper to measure the thickness of the cardboard of the picture you are trying to date and then compare it to pictures you have already dated. I never knew cardboard wasn’t invented until 1870. That’s a handy fact to know.
The second presentation I attended was Reconstruct Your Ancestors’ World With Google. Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems is a Google guru, so I was very interested to learn about whatever tips she could give to use Google more effectively.
I already knew about using “ operators” such as “ (quotation marks will limit the search to ONLY pages with those words) the + (plus sign limits search to pages with words in that order), and the – (minus sign removes pages containing that term) to refine my searches. New to me was using *. Placing an asterisk (with a space on either side) between words will allow a search for words with some unknown words between it. An example would be: I often search for William Seeley. His middle name was Augustus. So I should search for “William * Seeley.” That should return pages for William A. Seeley as well as William Augustus Seeley.
I also didn’t know about “num range.” Using two periods between years should limit my search to a specific time period. Example: Cathe
rine Seeley 1890..1899.
To help you determine what keyword search terms you could use, Lisa suggests reviewing the stories you have transcribed, bold any words that jump out at you as possibilities. Names, locations, companies, and events were some examples. Lisa went a step further with the keyword search and suggested creating “google alerts” for them. Once an alert is created, Google will constantly scour the internet and alert you when a new page containing that term is posted. Too bad I didn’t know that two years ago – probably could have saved a lot of time!
Lisa also shared tips for using Google Scholar, a place to look for information in academic material. Google Patents is pretty cool too. I located several patents held by my great-grandfather, Sigmund Lichtental, on that site. Google Books has been extremely helpful in my research. Over 350,000 books have been digitized and are fully searchable. Internet Archive is a good source for books too.
Her final “hidden gem” was to show us how to refine our searches using the TOOLS provided.
My last talk was given by Laurie Castillo – Social History – Finding More Records by Recreating Your Ancestor’s World. I was hoping to learn strategies on how best to set the context for our ancestors’ lives. The presentation was basically a list of things (such as city directories, clubs, newspapers, etc.) to consider. While it was a pretty dry presentation, I really don’t know how Laurie could have done it any other way. The number of record types she suggested was quite large! She also provided a thorough syllabus with record types listed. I wish she had time to go into more detail about where to locate some the more obscure records.
By the end of that class, it was time to head back to the hotel and pack. We had tickets for a dinner sponsored by Dick Eastman, so we wanted to be all set for the morning. The dinner as held at the Radisson. We didn’t know a single soul but thought it would be a nice way to wrap the week. At our table, we met a lovely woman, Ellen Kowitt, the Genealogy Sleuth
from Erie, Colorado, which is between Denver and Boulder. We spent an enjoyable two hours talking with her and the others at our table. I may run into her again, as she is active in her local JGS in Colorado. I hope I do! She is extremely knowledgeable!
Heading back to our hotel at 10:30 p.m.
we finally got the snow that had been promised for three days. I’m happy we had good weather during our stay, but I’m not too thrilled now as I sit on the plane to Chicago knowing we will be missing our connecting flight home. We were almost two hours late leaving Salt Lake and have only a 1 hour and 50 minute layover in Chicago. Oh well – at least I got some blogging done!
UPDATE: 4:08 pm Chicago time. Yup. Missed our flight. By five minutes. Not sure why Southwest wouldn’t hold it as they did for another flight. Oh well. We will be leaving here at 9:55. Thank goodness for Scott – he’s picking us up at Brady at 12:50 in the morning. Oh the joys of travel!!!
Disclaimer – I only have 30 minutes of free wifi so any mistakes are due to Boingo’s lack of generosiry.