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10 July 2020

Online genealogy, week of July 13-19

Here is a list of online genealogy events happening this week. Most are free. See our post "Genealogy Learning in the Time of Coronavirus" for links to archived webinars at Ancestry, FamilySearch, RootsTech, and more.

To register for one of the classes below, click on the name of the host organization.

The Southern California Genealogical Society hosts its monthly webinar.
July 15: "Julian to Gregorian: When and How our Calendar Changed" by Seema Kenne

American Ancestors offers the following:
July 18: "La Mia Famiglia: Researching Italian Ancestors" by Rhonda McClure (fee)

The BYU Family History Library offers a webinar:
July 15: "Demystifying the FamilySearch catalog" with Rachel Derenthal

Legacy Family Tree hosts two webinars:
July 14: "Connecting the Dots–Introduction to Auto Clusters at MyHeritage DNA" by Paul Woodbury
July 15: "On the Record Trail of My LDS Immigrant Ancestor" by Sunny Morton continues its series on "Finding Your Nikkei Roots"
July 16: "Incarceration Records"

Conference Keeper has a large calendar of events (too many to list) by genealogical associations around the country. New events may be added at the last minute, so check frequently. Here are a few of the coming week's highlights:
July 13: “ Scavenger Hunt,” (fee) a two-week course led by Tamara Hallo
July 13:  "Tracing Living Persons" by Bob Bryan
July 14: “Family History Resources at the Library of Congress” by Tina Beaird
July 14: “Preserving Personal Genealogical Information and Family Memorabilia: Lessons Learned from Recent Wildfire and Flood Disasters” by John Putnam
July 14: “SummerQuest Online for Teens: Who Do You Think You Are?”
July 16: “America’s New Deal: The WPA’s Federal Project Number One” with Ann Staley
July 16: “Digging for Roots in the Garden State” with Michelle Chubenko
July 18: “Genealogy Boot Camp” with Amy Johnson Crow (reservations required)

Be well, stay safe, and happy learning!

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

04 July 2020

Online genealogy events, week of July 6-12

Here is a list of online genealogy events happening this week. Most are free. See our post "Genealogy Learning in the Time of Coronavirus" for links to archived webinars at Ancestry, FamilySearch, RootsTech, and more.

NOTE: Registration for the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) closes Monday, July 6. The virtual institute is held July 26-31.

To register for one of the classes below, click on the name of the host organization.

American Ancestors offers the following webinars:

July 7: "Women in 19th Century American Bookbinderies" by Todd Pattison and Dr. Elizabeth DeWolfe

July 9: "What's New at" by Molly Rogers
July 10: The Adams Family: The Scottish Architects Who Changed the World" by Curt DiCamillo

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City offers classes every week, including beginner classes in several different languages (check website for details). This week:

July 6: "Using the FamilySearch Catalog"
July 7: "Tips and Tricks for Finding Elusive Records in FamilySearch"
July 8: "Germans from Russia: Locating Church Records"

The BYU Family History Library offers presentations every Wednesday. This Wednesday:
July 8: “Family Resilience” with Rachael Rifkin

Legacy Family Tree hosts a free presentation every week.
July 8 & 9: "Turning dry facts into exciting narrative" by Carol Baxter continues its digital series "Finding Your Nikkei Roots." July 9: "Immigration Records"

Conference Keeper has a large calendar of events (too many to list) by genealogical associations around the country. New events may be added at the last minute, so check back frequently. Here are a few of the coming week's highlights:

July 7: "Becoming a Certified Genealogist: A Personal Journey" by Jill Morelli,
July 7: Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors, a free zoom webinar from the Genealogy Center at ACPL
July 9: "My Ancestor is From … but I Don’t Speak or Read the Language. Help!"
July 12: "If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now! Doing Genealogy the Right Way" by Daniel Horowitz
July 12: SecondLife Virtual Genealogical Society meeting

Be well, stay safe, and happy learning!

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

02 July 2020

Online genealogy, week of June 29-July 5

The post for June 29-July 5 was accidentally deleted. See below for links to various online events this week.

American Ancestors 

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City

The BYU Family History Library

Legacy Family Tree

Conference Keeper has a large calendar of events (too many to list) by genealogical associations around the country. New events may be added at the last minute, so check back frequently.

Be well, stay safe, and happy learning!

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

28 June 2020

LGBTQ Genealogy: Illuminating the Past

Writer Gertrude Stein with her life partner, Alice B. Toklas
Image: Beinecke Digital Collections

CGS Recording Secretary Stewart Blandón Traiman has been researching, writing, and teaching genealogy for more than 30 years. He writes a LGBTQ Genealogy blog series at his website, Six Generations

On this day fifty years ago, 28 June 1970, the first Gay Pride march happened in San Francisco.  This was to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that took place one year earlier in New York.  Those riots fifty-one years ago, much like today’s riots, were sparked by police behavior. Drag queens, transgender people, male prostitutes, and other queer folks said “NO MORE!” to the police.  Another raid on our safe places would not be tolerated that night. This watershed event sparked a strong movement for social change and the birth of the modern gay rights movement (which is different from the early gay rights movement of the 1950s).

Though today we can be out loud and proud, it wasn’t always like this. Gay people often had to hide their love and relationships to remain safe and to keep their families safe from bigoted retaliation. This presents a challenge for the genealogist. Just like other relationships, LGBTQ relationships should be documented and preserved in the family record. It sets a double standard if a genealogist is willing to write freely about heterosexual marriages, illegitimate children and bigamy but when it comes to Queer relatives they choose to obscure the truth or not investigate further. Acknowledging homosexual relationships should be no different than documenting heterosexuals in our family history.

Elizabeth Shown Mills states it eloquently in the opening paragraph of Evidence Explained, “Bias, ego, ideology, patronage, prejudice, pride, or shame cannot shape our decisions as we appraise our evidence. To do so is to warp reality and deny ourselves the understanding of the past that is, after all, the reason for our labor.”

However, LGBTQ relatives and relationships can be difficult to prove. Thomas MacEntee has observed that just as it can be a challenge to trace our female ancestors, “a similar story can be drawn about our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered (LGBT) family members and how, and if, they appear in our family histories. It really is up to the researcher to make sure these people have a voice and a place in the family tree.” 

A genealogist will need to look carefully at available historical records for clues to sexual orientation. When you look through your family tree, does anything raise a red flag (or, as I like to call it, a rainbow flag)? Look for the bachelor uncle or spinster aunt.  Do not assume that they were unlucky in love. Perhaps they did have a partner, but there is no documentation, nor did family pass down that history.

Clues may be found in photographs, or in census, cemetery, criminal, or military records, in newspapers and in LGBTQ archives. For example, look in the census and city directories for evidence of two people of the same sex living together over many years. Did a relative live in a “known” gay neighborhood? Was he or she mentioned in a newspaper story about a police raid on a gay club, or did he receive a “Blue” or Other than Honorable discharge from the armed forces?

Look at a family member’s choice of profession. The stereotype of the gay hairstylist exists for a reason: an independent hairdresser could own a salon and not be subjected to a boss’s prejudices.  Professions that are mobile allow for a restart in a new city. Independence might be found as a florist, or interior decorator, or as a registered nurse—skills that are valued almost anywhere.  Queer folk tend to gravitate toward the arts – dancers, artists, authors, actors, and sculptors might be blackballed from their professions, but they might also find independence and mobility if needed.

In obituaries, look for code words like “lifelong bachelor,” or a mention of a “longtime companion” or “devoted friend.” In rare cases, you may find same-sex couples buried together in the same cemetery.

Sexual orientation is inherent to family history. Their sexual orientation affected the decisions our ancestors made. It affected their choice of profession, or where they lived. It also affected their relatives, friends, associates and neighbors. Did family members know and keep the relative’s secret? Were there family rifts or unexplained separations?  Being aware of non-heterosexual ancestors may put family stories into entirely new context.  

Knowing history illuminates the genealogical records. Knowing LBGTQ history will equally illuminate the lives of our ancestors.

The LGTBQ Community has made great advances in the past fifty-one years. In June 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same sex couples had a fundamental right to be married. Just this month the Supreme Court ruled that lesbian, gay, trans, and bisexual people are protected against discrimination in the workplace. This is a month to celebrate our pride in our achievements, our history, and our peoples. Be aware of the Queer relatives in the branches of your family tree. Add their stories to your family. Give them a voice if they did not have the opportunity to be “out” during their time.

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society

23 June 2020

Quarantine Quests: Family Photos Brought to Life

The Quarantine Quests story was written by CGS member Nancy Cork.

I took advantage of this social distancing time by working on, and finally finishing, a personal project. This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of my mother, Evalyn Biddle. When she passed away in 1995, I promised my sisters that we would have a special celebration of our mother’s life in 2020… little knowing what form that celebration would take.

Evalyn Biddle at 6 months, in 1920 Minneapolis
I inherited boxes of family photographs from my mother. My curiosity about those photos of people I knew little about drove me to begin researching my family history, and I have loved pursuing genealogy for the last 25 years. I have learned so much about my ancestors, three, four, ten… even twelve generations back. Genealogy has been my passion. But as I turned to think of how to commemorate my mother, I realized that there was so much that I didn’t know about her life. Not that my parents were secretive, or didn’t enjoy reminiscing about the past. Rather, I just didn’t think to ask questions, to get the conversations started. Like so many people, I always assumed that there would be plenty of time to talk tomorrow, and I prioritized my own present over other people’s past. So now I found myself trying to understand my mother’s life in order to pay tribute to her.
Two historic floods, in 1978 and 1987, engulfed Minneapolis
during Evalyn's lifetime

Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot doing genealogical research, and there are so many resources available today that aid in tracking down information of the most surprising kind. I used my research skills to build a timeline for my mother’s life. And, through DNA matches, I was able to connect with “long-lost” relatives, and get answers to lingering questions.

I decided to make a multimedia presentation based on the old family photographs. I gathered every picture that I could find and scanned them all; then I got family members across the country to scan and email more photos to me. That was actually the easy part. Much more difficult was identifying each photo. I labeled each picture starting with the year (using “circa” when I was just guessing) and then the names of the people in the photo, adding a location or description or sometimes just a number, to help keep track of the hundreds of photographs. Putting the date first allowed me to easily sort the photographs chronologically.
Pages from the 1938 Centralian high school yearbook
I scanned and saved most of the photos as TIFF files. Next I copied each photograph over again as a JPEG, and labeled it as a copy. To those copies I did simple photo edits, marveling at how dramatic a transformation something like auto color correction can make! I used only the edited photographs in JPEG form in my slideshow program. I have used this program many times to make photo slideshows of vacations and birthdays, even once for a wedding. It allows one to creatively move around the photographs, zooming in and out, panning, focusing on details, etc. Though the program has many bells and whistles, I kept as my mantra, “What would Ken Burns do?” as I worked with each photograph, and tried to keep the special effects to a minimum. Though, to be honest, there were times when I was channeling George Burns instead, as I gave in to the temptation to ham up a family joke or two!

My genealogical research skills came into play as I fleshed out the story the photographs told. I dug up census, birth, marriage records, school report cards, employment records, church records, military files, etc. I traced down “FAN” (friends, associates, and neighbors) names, addresses and even phone numbers to find a more complete understanding of what was happening and when. Most of all, I used old family letters to tell my mother’s story. I am very fortunate to have a large collection of letters from and to her, and being able to use excerpts of her own words in my tribute meant a lot.

Seven-year-old Evalyn with her mother, 1927
After compiling pictures and information, I next tried to find themes for the show. Some were obvious choices: her school days, her career, her friends through the years. Others were maybe a little eccentric – for instance, my mother always loved dogs, and everyone loves a good dog story, right? – so it was natural to include a section devoted to her canines and their capers, and top it off with a newspaper article about a brutal three-dog fight that my 7-year-old mom heroically tried to break up, necessitating a rescue from her 9-year-old brother, and a trip to the hospital for everyone. I then included statements from both my mother and uncle reflecting on, and disagreeing about, that incident.

My slideshow tribute was further personalized with a musical soundtrack. I had asked my sisters to suggest songs that were reminiscent of our mother. That was a lot of fun for all of us. After several months of searching, singing and selecting, I had to overcome the challenges of converting old LPs and cassette tapes to MP3 files. I finally amassed a digital collection of almost 70 songs – all songs that my mother loved. In the end, I included snippets of 37 songs in the slideshow, as well as a recording of my mother singing, and an excerpt of a reading that she did. It was amazing to me how much the music enhanced the experience of looking at the family photographs. No surprise, I guess… can you imagine watching, say, Casablanca or Sleepless in Seattle without the soundtracks? I could evaluate and arrange the photos for hours and feel detached from the images, and then as soon as I played the slideshow with the “perfect” song, emotions would soar.

A soundtrack of favorite songs added emotion to the slideshow

Before finishing the slideshow, I asked immediate family members to contribute memories of my mother. Everyone chose to send me audio files, and hearing each story – funny, respectful, poignant, or loving – was terrific. The final production ran for 90 minutes and included more than 600 photographs, documents and other images. Despite the quarantine stay-at-home orders, I was able to share the tribute to my mother with my family, near and far, by screen-sharing on Zoom. We chose to view the show on Mother’s Day, of course.

Copyright © 2020 by California Genealogical Society