google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: January 2011

How a Best Picture Nominee Can Help Your Writing!

Family History Writing Challenge - Day 1 

As we begin this first day of this first week of the Challenge, some of you may be stumped as to where to start.  Did you read yesterday’s post about making a plan? It is the best way to getting organized and begin the writing.

What will you write about?

Of course, you have all those facts that you want to bring together into in a creative way.  Nevertheless, how are you going to make your ancestor’s story come to life on the page? Were you going to start at the beginning and proceed in chronological order? I encourage you to think again.

What's different or unusual about this family or ancestor’s life? Do funny things happen to them? Do sad things happen to them?  Has a war affected them? Was there an unusual wedding, an adoption that would make an interesting story, a little known fact, or an intriguing event? You want your beginning to stand out, catch the reader’s attention.  I encourage you look deep into the heart of your ancestor and their story and choose the one event you think will catch the readers’ attention. Make that event your opening.

This past week I went to the movies, to see The King’s Speech.  I walked out of the movie theatre and the first thing my sister-in-law said to me was “Wow, what a great story about something we would have never of known or read about in a history book.”  She was so right. The King’s Speech, is the story of King George VI. Of course they could’ve told us a try rendition of a royal life, and I’m sure it’s been done but instead this movie showed us the real life of a king in all his faults, they told his story in an a very human and endearing manner. Certainly, what makes this story so incredible is the humanizing of this King. 

This movie told his life and his path to power, but as we learned about the history of this King, we learned of his battle with stuttering. George had a problem that was seriously undermining his ability to govern as King, in his mind and in the eyes of a country on the verge of war. We got a history lesson but it was engaging and humanizing, and compassionate. I encourage everyone to see it. A fabulous movie on every level.  

The lesson we can take forward in writing our own family history is too find that one thing about your ancestor that will make them human and real to their descendants reading their story.

So dig deep what makes your ancestors unique, what was there thing. Start there; make that your jumping off point to introducing your ancestor to the reader.

Not all ancestors are created equal, so it might be difficult if your main guy isn’t very exciting. However, if you watch the King’s Speech, King George never considered himself great, but indeed his story was, much to his surprise and ours.

Of course, this movie is meant for entertainment and I am sure creative liberties were taken. Please do not take creative liberties with your family history. Tell the truth, creatively, this is not the same as taking creative liberties.  But the lesson here, the King's Speech gave a few movie goers a great couple of hours of entertainment while sneaking in a bit of a history lesson and there is nothing wrong with that. So to can we tell our ancestors stories in an inviting and engaging manner. 

I know, your ancestor is not King George, or not likely any other fascinating figure from history. Suppose you are saddled with a ho-hum ancestor, take the most exciting pivotal point in their lives and make it your jumping off point, arriving at Ellis Island, fighting a war, losing a child or wife in childbirth. Those are just a few experiences most of our ancestors were witness too, those were pivotal moments in their lives, choose one and start there. Develop your story plan around that dramatic life event. What will make your readers sit up and take notice? 

(There is still time to take up the Family History Writing Challenge? Click here to read more? Want to learn how to create a story plan for your  family history click here? Take the plunge, make the pledge, and write your family history.)

The Family History Writing Challenge - Do You Have a Plan?

There is still time to join the Family History Writing Challenge.  We begin tomorrow February 1st, if you are up for the challenge and want to learn more about it click here. Join those of us who have committed to writing our family history stories over the next 28 days.

First, I wish to point out to those who have already made the commitment and those who are on the fencepost that you are not in any way committing to posting what you have written on your own blogs. You can take one of three approaches.

  1.  You can write every day meeting your word pledge, what you write and how much you write is strictly on the honour system and does not need to be shared.
  2.  If you are so inclined, you can share what you have written in your own blog posts.
  3.  Alternatively, you can blog about your experience of writing your family history, what your enjoying, what your struggling with,  but keep the writing to yourself.
  4.  On the other hand, you can just drop a comment here from time to time, letting us know how your doing or asking any questions. 
  5. Or any combination of the above. 

 I personally will be committing to 250 words a day. I will continue to write blog posts 2-3 times a week offering some helpful advice and motivation as we move together through these next 28 days.  As well I have other writing projects on the go along with this commitment. (wow... am I whining already). I will not be sharing for the main reason that I know my writing, and I never share on the first draft (kind of a hang up of mine.) 

No one is going to call you out if you miss a day, write 500 words one day but not the next. This is not about having a lot rules, but getting creative, committing some time and learning from the process. However, trying to stick to schedule and having a plan is best for success. 

Do You Have a Story Plan?

For many writers the key to being successful is to having a story plan or an outline of where your story will take you.  Feel free to use your first couple of days to formulate your plan.

Some writers are organic writers. They can sit down and just start writing their story from the thoughts rumbling around in their head. News flash, very few of us can take this approach and be successful. I also believe it is not the best approach when writing a family history.  

Fictional novels are created from the imagination of the writer. However, do not kid yourself a lot of research goes into a work of fiction. You can’t write a crime or detective story out of your head unless you have a working knowledge of law enforcement and crime scenes etc. Either the writer has life experience knowledge they draw from or they do a lot of research.

However, we are not writing fiction. We are writing true-life stories and we need to stay true to the facts. Writing organically does not work unless you can pull all those facts out of your head. Therefore, a story plan it is.  Your story, in fact has already been written when the ancestor lived it, as a family history writer look at yourself as the one who is entrusted to record that life, in the most creative way possible, for generations to read while staying true to the story.

Without a story plan, you might find yourself writing in circles, or going nowhere, missing important parts of your ancestor’s life or overwriting a story. A story plan helped me take the information and facts about my ancestor and create a story structure. It helped me decide what I wanted to focus on about that particular ancestor’s life, it showed me gaps in my research that I  had to go back and take a closer look at, and it gave me a clear path to the finish line something I could measure my progress against.

With all your research within arm’s reach, you can begin. Start with something as simple as a point form outline. 

For Example:
  •      Great Grandfather Adam Kowalski arrives at Ellis Island 1905.
  •        Adams is coming from a Russian occupied Poland, a small farming community outside of Warsaw.
  •        He settles into  life in Kitchener, Ontario where he gets work in the local factory
  •         Adam meets Ellen Stapleton, an American girl of Irish descent.
  •        They begin their family and settle into family life in Kitchener.
  •        Adam loses his house in the depression
  •       Ellen dies of a stroke
  •        Adam lives out his life in Kitchener, watching his grandchildren and great grandchildren grow up.

This is a very simple example of a bullet point outline. You can now elaborate on this, turning each bullet point into two or three sentences.
For instance.....

Great Grandfather Adam Kowalsky arrives at Ellis Island in 1905 on the S.S. Graf Waldersee. He arrives in the Port of New York on May 18; 13 days after his journey had begun in Hamburg, Germany. He wore number 35, and moves through the immigration process at Ellis Island.  

50 words......and I’ve only  done the first bullet point, if I did this for each bullet point  I would have my first 400 words.  I can now expand on each bullet point. Some bullets may be 500 words or 2000 words or more. It all depends on how much information and story you have to tell. You can make as many bullet points as you like. 

Now you have the beginnings of your story structure. You can now take each scene, if I can borrow that term from storywriters (without getting genealogist too upset). You can start to pull out your documents and details and begin to fill in your information in the most creative manner possible (we will get into more of this as we move forward).

I will help you take a closer look at your documents, local histories, and the details of your ancestor’s lives and turn them into a narrative story based entirely on the facts.

You can see how making your bullet points, turning them each into a short 2-3 sentences has given you a structure for your story and you have already written your first 250 words. You now have a plan, a roadmap for the next 28 days and your one-step closer. So let’s begin.  

Want to learn more about the challenge

Win a Trip to Your Family's Homeland! in partnership with NBC is offering you an opportunity to win $20,000 to journey to your family’s homeland in the Ultimate Family History Journey Sweepstakes.

The Grand Prize includes 
$20,000 in travel money, plus:
·     Up to 8 hours of consultation time with an expert genealogist
·     Help from up to 5 experts in fields relevant to your family history
·     A yearlong World Deluxe membership for you and 5 family members
20 First Prize winners will get an annual World Deluxe membership.

This contest is part of their promotion of Season 2 of Who Do You Think You Are? You can enter every day between now and April 8th, 2011, here.

If you won this prize, where would you travel?

For me most definitely it would be Poland and Ireland.  Poland because I have some unanswered questions and I believe some distant cousins still living there that I would love to make a connection with, and Ireland because it is the family line that I have the least information about and a trip to the Archives in Dublin could shed a lot of light on some brick walls.

Where would you go if you won?
Don’t forget to enter!

Family Recipe Friday - French Canadian Pea Soup

After a Sunday night supper of ham, we could always count on Monday night’s meal to be a warming bowl of pea soup. My mother a French Canadian never missed an opportunity to use the leftover ham bone turn it into a comfort bowl of French- Canadian pea soup during these long winter months. 

Pea soup dates back 500 B.C.; it was a street food back then, as vendors would sell bowls in the streets of Athens. Many cultures have adapted the pea soup; however, the most well known version remains the French-Canadian Classic Pea Soup.

Here is my mother’s recipe for Pea Soup, note she uses green split peas, although I understand in Quebec they typically use yellow peas, I have never known her to do use yellow.

Mom’s French-Canadian Pea Soup

1 Leftover ham bone, with some fat and meat still on the bone.
Ham leftover from Sunday night’s meal
1 bag of dried split green peas
1 onion diced fine
A couple of bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
Wash and rinse peas. Put the ham bone in a large stockpot, cover with water, and add bag peas, diced onion, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of hours until peas are soft.  Add more water as needed.  Remove ham bone and bay leaves. Add leftover ham, and season with salt and pepper to taste. 
Serve with a homemade loaf of bread. Nothing says comfort food and family more than this warming and satisfying meal. 

Click here to read more old-fashioned recipes by family historians. 

Get Ready to Take the Challenge!

It seems the one thing most family historians procrastinate on is writing their family history. They put off the task of writing the family story in exchange for more research. The research is ongoing but they forever delay sitting down and constructing the family facts into a readable story.  It seems everyone has various reasons for the procrastination.

What’s stopping you?

For me; it was time, the stories were rumbling around in my head, I had to find a way to carve out some time each day to commit to putting their stories down on paper. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t quick but it was rewarding and valued by many in the family.

It is through my experience of committing to so many words a day that I was able to write my family history.  I had a deadline to meet, a book to print in time for a family reunion.  That deadline forced me to meet smaller deadlines of so many words each day in order to meet my deadline. A tactic many writers use when writing novels. 

Therefore, I encourage you to join the Family History Writing Challenge. Take the pledge to write everyday about your ancestors. Commit to 250, 500 or 1000 words a day. You choose. Whatever you feel you can make a little time for in your day.  Turn off the Internet, the TV, lock yourself away for 30 minutes, 1 hour and commit to the most rewarding project you will ever undertake.

At the end of the 28 days, not only will you have a clear knowledge of the focus and direction of your family history story, you will have written anywhere from 5000-28,000 words.  The learning and knowledge can only be gained through the process, the process can only happen through a commitment.  The more you write the better you will get. Therefore, these 28 days will not only be a learning experience but you will have made a huge impact in putting content on paper in a readable format.

What is holding you back from writing your family history?

Time? Writing skill?  Don’t know where to start?

Share your roadblock. We will address all possible obstacles as we move through these next 28 days in the  Family History Writing Challenge.  The key to roadblocks or brick walls as we like to call them in genealogy world generally are torn down through education. If you educate yourself on the specific problems, then you can generally move forward with much more ease and clarity. The same is definitely true for writing your family history. All obstacles can be overcome with the right learning.

Join us in the Family History Writing Challenge, and conquer those roadblocks to creating a well written family history.

What obstacles are stopping you from writing their story?

Share them below in comments or in your own blog post and link them here.

For more details or to join the Family History Writing Challenge click here

Tuesday's Tip- Preparing for the Next Census

On April 2, 2012, the 1940 United States Census will be released to the public. In the States, they have a 72-year privacy mandate that allows private information taken during a census to be released no less than 72 years after the data has been documented. The following year, 2013, the 1921 Canadian Census will be released. Yes, that's right, in Canada; there is a 92-year privacy mandate. Apparently, we Canadians are a little more stringent with our privacy laws.

Either way, North American researchers will be revved up and ready to go by spring of next year.  I know we have some time here, but don’t wait until the night before to prepare yourself for the next census. There are things you can do right now to prepare yourself.

You know what happens if you don’t get organized and  prepare yourself, you will hop online the moment they are indexed and go live on Internet and then you will randomly start typing in every ancestor that comes to mind and grabbing those census documents. Will you look at them or just saved them to your shoebox for another time.....we've discussed this before, don't be a lazy researcher, that’s a no-no! Those census documents could tear down some brick walls. Here are a few things you can do now to get ready.
  •    Set some time aside to get yourself organized so you can make the most of this information once it becomes available.  Add it to your to do list for this year, so you will be well organized when they are released. 
  • Make a list of all your direct line ancestors that you believe were alive in 1940.  You can categorize them by surnames. 
  •  Create a “Need to Know List” for each of those ancestors. You can create this in a word document, an excel spreadsheet, cue cards whatever method will be the most convenient to keeping you organized. List all the missing pieces that you don’t know about each ancestor, your "hot points" those key items that perhaps this census could answer for you. This will help you zone in on specifics for each ancestor.
  • Create a second ancestor's list, this will be the indirect line and follow the same process.
  • When your ready for the census, pull out your spreadsheet or cue cards for each ancestor and one at a time systematically seek out their 1940 census information. 
  • You can then record the information to the cue card or spreadsheet and then enter the information into your software database and your online tree. 

 Keep in mind the number of things a census can tell you, such as:

·         It can provide a detailed family group picture particularly of siblings.
·         It can establish a place and date for a person or family.
·         It can reveal a place of birth and or age in light of an absent birth certificate.
·         It can provide clues to immigration and naturalization status.
·         It can establish an occupation.
·         It connect a relationship between one or more persons.
·         It can provide information regarding neighbours.
·         It can reveal military service.

By preparing a list of ancestors, along with your "Need to Know" Spreadsheet or Cue cards you can be better prepared to not only find them quickly but also solicit any all information the census can provide.
A few other things to keep in mind
  •        Any children who were teenagers on the last census may be the head of their own household by the       next census
  •      New children may have been born since the last census
  •      Elderly parents may now have moved back in with children
  •      Elderly parents may have passed helping you to focus in on a death date if you have yet to locate one.
  •     Prepare for the possibility that ancestors may have moved since the last census.
  •     Or perhaps a hired hand once living as a border is now married to a family member
A census can reveal so much information. However, depending on whether you are looking at a US Census or a Canadian Census, the information collected will differ. Also keep in mind, questions change from census to census.

Some may debate, a census is a more valuable genealogy document then a birth or marriage certificate, based solely on the amount of data it can provide us about an ancestor. Regardless of your views on that, we can agree it is certainly no less important.   

So take some time, and prepare and organize your data for the next census so you don’t miss any opportunities. 

Family Recipe Friday - Irish Stew

I was not blessed with any handed down recipes from my Irish ancestors. However, I recently stumbled across this recipe for Irish Stew so I thought I would share. What makes this recipe unique is that it comes from  a 1946 Edition of the Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer.

I inherited this book from an estate sale and according to the inside cover, the previous owner was Agnes Turner of the Bronx, New York, she dated it 1944. Interesting enough I believe she dated in wrong.

The 1943 Edition was the war-time addition with a section on rationing. This book was later reprinted in 1946 and the chapter on rationing removed. My book has no such chapter, it does have a preface from the 1943 edition, and list all editions printed with 1946 being the last one. So my sound investigative genealogy skills can conclude that dear Agnes, dated her book wrong, sometime later, and got her dates mixed up. It was more likely 1946. Regardless,  I keep this book on display in my kitchen and often ponder how far this book has traveled from Agnes' kitchen to mine and imagine her cooking from it. She even marked a few favourites in the pages.

So in honour of my Irish ancestors here is Irish Stew by Irma S. Rambauer from the Joy of Cooking, 1946. However, if you have an Irish Stew Recipe handed down from an ancestor I would love to see your recipe.

Irish Stew
4-6 Servings

Wipe with a damp cloth, then cut into 11/2 inch cubes               
1 1/2 lbs of beef
Season it lightly with:
Dredge it with:
Heat in a pot:
3 tablespoons of fat
Brown the meat in this, then reomive it from the pot. Add to the fat and brown
1/4 cup sliced onions
Add the meat and cover it with:
Boiling water
Cover the pot closely, reduce the heat and simmer the meat for 1 1/2 hours.
Parboil for 5 minutes:
11/2 cups diced potatoes
Drain them, Add to the stew:
1/4 cups diced carrots
1/3 cup diced turnips
Simmer the stew for 10 minutes. Add the drained potatoes and simmer it for 20 minutes.
2 tablespoons of flour
in: 1/2 cup cold stock or stock subsititute
Stir it into the stew and bring the gravy to the boiling point. Serve the stew with

Other Recipes from Family Historians to wet your appetite

Take the Challenge - Write Your Family History in 28 Days!

Too often genealogists put off writing their family history. They feel the research is never done and therefore they are never ready to start the writing.  

 As many of you are well aware, I am a big believer in writing your family history. 

  • First for yourself, assembling your years of research into a readable and sharable format is very rewarding. 
  • Secondly, genealogy has never just been about the research, behind all those facts and documents there hides a story. If you have done your job well, then that story will reveal itself through your research, now it’s time to write it out in an engaging format.  
  • Thirdly, it is the most concise way of educating your family about their history.

I recently read a blog post by Darren at Problogger, his New Year’s resolution was to be more of a producer and less of a consumer, and it really struck home for me. Take all that time you spend surfing the net, reading blogs, facebook, tweeting and instead turn it down a notch, and turn up the writing, and produce and create instead.

 Last year I produced a family history book, and it was an extremely rewarding experience, so I've committed  to producing again this year and cut back on the consuming. However, without a deadline and some initiative, you will forever procrastinate.

 Stop procrastinating, the research will never be done, take what you know, today, now,  and begin to assemble your stories.  Dedicate the month of February to sitting down and putting your fingers to the keyboard and write your family history.

In an effort to give many of you a giant push, The Armchair Genealogist is declaring February, Family History Writing Month and I am inviting you to join our challenge.

I am calling on all my fellow genealogist, family historians, beginner and advanced alike, to pledge to begin to write your family history during the month of February. 

You choose who you want to write about. You can pick a single individual, a surname, an entire branch of your tree, you can capture a moment in time, a decade, a century, organize it however it makes you comfortable, but commit to a number of words a day. Make a plan and get started, no more procrastinating, no more stalling. 

The Family History Writing Challenge
Feb 1st-28th
          A 28-Day Commitment to Writing Your Family History

The What, When, Where and How of it All

Why should I sign up?
To actively participate in an opportunity to write your family history, without having to worry about quality. The key to writing is to write.  Stop procrastinating; finally commit pen to paper or fingers to key board. Those family facts, finally assemble them into a format someone will read.

Whom Do I Write About?
A single ancestor, a surname, a branch of your tree, you pick.
You select the ancestor or ancestors, the timeframe, just keep in mind who you feel most prepared to write about in terms of research and interest.

How Much Do I Need to Write?
You pick the amount 250, 500, 1000 words a day whatever you can work into your schedule.
Do the math.
250 words x 28 days = 7000 words, you would be well on your way!
500 words x 28 days = 14,000 words, this would be an incredible start!
1000 words x 28 days = 28,000 words, you would be a hero!

Where Do I Write?
Write on your computer, ipad, typewriter, longhand (tough to do word count). Write in your office, at the kitchen table, the local coffee shop, the lawn chair (if your someplace sunny- lucky you), or beside a roaring fire (that would be me).

What If It’s Not Good Enough?
This exercise is not about quality. Very few of us can sit down and shoot out a masterpiece on the first draft. Newsbreak..... most of us take a half dozen passes at it before it is worthy of anyone else’s eyes.  This is about making a start.  There will be plenty of time to edit your masterpiece later, committing to the word count is a huge step to making it happen.

When Does it Begin?
The Family History Writing Challenge begins Feb 1st to February 28th. I am asking you to commit 28 days of writing your family history, in the hopes that you will get a running start and you will never look back.

Where Do I Sign Up?
Right here, leave your pledge in comments or link to your own blog post, no goal is official until you have written it down and shared it. Once you verbalize, you become more committed.  If you prefer to keep it to yourself that's ok too.  However, keep checking back or sign up through email, throughout the month, I will offer numerous posts to help keep you focused, offer you some tips for your writing and help you stay on track and reach your goals.  At the end of the month, you can share how you did again here, or on your own blog.

What is stopping you from starting your writing? Let me know, and I will try to help you overcome those obstacles. Meanwhile, you have the next 12 days to get yourself organized to start writing. 

Write your family history in 28 days, are you ready to take the challenge?

New Search Engine Serves in the Discovery of Canadian Genealogy

Similar to Google, the Canadiana Discovery Portal is a search engine, but what sets it apart from the others are the 60 million pages of data that focus primarily on Canadian heritage and history. These pages are a collection of digitized images composed from various archives, including libraries, museums, universities and government agencies.  They include material such as books, journals, newspapers, government documents, photographs, maps, post cards, sheet music, audio and video files all from Canada’s heritage. 

If you are searching a particular topic in Canadian History or researching your own family genealogy, the Canadiana Discovery Portal is a great focused essential tool.

This new free search engine is brought to you by an organization that interests lie in digitizing, preserving and providing Canadian history to millions online.  Their mission statement reads: The mission of is to support enduring access to Canada’s digital documentary heritage for Canadians and the world. This is a great thing for Canadians researching their family history online. 

The Canadian Discovery Portal offers multiple ways to search, such as by name, city, and subject. The search engine will return a list of exact pages on a document. Click on the document and you can view the original. You can also find where that document can be viewed in person should you find the need.  You can find tune your results with a date range and sort your finds by relevance and from newest to oldest, as well sort your results by language and by contributor.

Once the image is loaded, you can minimize or enlarge the size, mark it, rotate it or download it as a PDF.  I’ve taken this search engine for a test drive and I am impressed. It will be my first stop when researching any Canadian history content on the web.

The amount of collections are growing so check often. is continually adding new content; there goal to bring all Canadian collections prior to 1990 to a digital format.

You can register by email to received alerts on new collections as they are added. Be sure to check out this very important online research tool for Canadian History.  

Can I Turn My Love of Genealogy into a Career?

Occasionally a job comes to my attention that I feel is a good fit for a genealogist, something my readers might be interested in, so I post it for anyone interested.  It is from the number of hits on those posts that I began to clue in that a large number of you are looking for jobs in the genealogy industry.  Clearly, there are many genealogists out there looking for jobs or there are many people looking to become genealogists, either way people are looking and I’m not sure what that says about the state of things in this industry?

I know I have a cross-section of readers, some make their living from genealogy, for some it’s a hobby and for others perhaps it has been a hobby and now they are considering it as a business, for others they have made the transition from hobbyist to professional. Some may do it as a side job to their “real” job while others earn a living at it.  Which category do you fall in to?

I fall somewhere in between. In my situation, it started out as a hobby. I left my “real” job to become a stay at home Mom and I saw an opportunity to take up interests I had never had time for prior like genealogy.  I didn’t need to replace my income, so making money was not my primary consideration. Blogging and writing was an interest, making money at it was a perk (I’m still waiting for that perk).

 I now make a few dollars here and there writing articles on genealogy and managing this website (emphasis on very few dollars).  I love writing about genealogy, sharing my knowledge and being part of this community. However, I would not consider it a career. Therefore, I don’t think I am the best person to answer these questions for my readers. Maybe you can help.  Do you make a living at genealogy? Did you turn your passion for genealogy into a business?

 I know some of you write, some of you do the lecture and conference thing, while others are consultants and trace or write family histories for others. Is there money to be made here?  Which area do you find the most lucrative?

 I’m not asking you to share your annual income.  However, please share with the rest of us, how you got there? On the other hand, are you on the road to there? Where do you concentrate your efforts? Is it in writing books, lecturing, consulting or do you do all of the above?

I’m curious, and I am sure so are many of my readers. So feel free to share..... Do you earn a living in genealogy and how? 

This is your opportunity, share your story, include your URL for a little free publicity, what do you think it takes to make it in this business. Tell us what you think of the industry; is there room for more of us?

What best advice would you give someone looking to turn his or her passion into a business?  

Can I turn my love of genealogy into a career? 

Genealogy Jobs - Posting with Canadian Government

This is a perfect opportunity for genealogists to give back, be a part of history and insure historical accuracy.

In May of this year 2011, Canadians will participate in the largest census in its history. The government of Canada, namely Statistics Canada is currently looking for enumerators and supervisors to help carry out this task. This seems like ideal employment for family historians who understand the value of the census and the accuracy and preservation of its information.

If you are 18 years old, a Canadian citizen or hold a valid work permit or permanent resident status you qualify. You must be able to travel locally and work evenings and weekends, full-time and part-time positions are available.

The hiring process consists of an online application, a written test and an interview, along with providing two previous work references. An example of the written test is provided online for you to try.

The job involves employment from approximately April to August depending on your position and area. For more details including a list of duties and qualifications and to apply online click here.

Family Recipe Friday - Food For a Barn Raising

This recipe was re-printed in our family recipe book, it was found by a family member in a quaint old handwitten recipe book. I'm sure somewhere in the world this practice is still carried out in some communities where life is simpler.

Recipe For a Barn Raising
(serves 175 men)

Lemon Pies 115
Fat Cakes 500
Large Cakes 15
Applesauce 3 gallons
Rice Pudding 2 gallons
Chickens 16
Hams 3
Roast Beef 50 lbs
Rolls 300
Loaves of Bread 16
Dried Prunes stewed 6lbs
Stewed raisins 1 crock
White potatoes 5 gallon jar
Sweet Potatoes 5 gallon jar
Red beet pickles
Pickled eggs
Cucumber pickles

Tuesday's Tip- Avoid Becoming a Lazy Researcher!

The concept of being an armchair genealogist, or researching your family history in your pajamas was born out of the idea that a great deal of family research is done online from home and many of us have discovered genealogy through the internet.

As a result many armchair genealogists have subscriptions to, and the beauty of it lies in the extensive amount of research we can do from our lazyboy and laptop. The downside is that it can easily turn us into lazy researchers.

Let me ask you this, have you found a document for an ancestor, you know it's them, so you save it, unopened, telling yourself you’ll look at it later, when you have more time. You save it to your tree or shoebox or a file. Sound familiar, I know I have!

Let’s face it, at home there are plenty of distractions, kids, dinner, housework, telephone, TV and email, all can interrupt your research.

That document could contain important clues to your ancestors, clues leading to the next step, record or document, it could reveal an important part of their story, your story and yet you have quickly filed it, before even taking a peek.  

Let’s look at this another way. I know you told yourself you are saving it for another opportunity when you have more time to spend looking at it. However, how many times have you done that, have you noted it somewhere, do you have a list or a file of these documents you need to go back to and look at or are they accumulating. Perhaps they are not as important as other documents you are looking for and you have already assumed what it is going to tell you.

If you were rummaging through Grandma’s trunk, or scrolling through microfilms in a repository you wouldn’t be glossing over this record quite so quickly. You would treat it with the importance it deserves. There lies our crutch, with records coming right to our lap it is so convenient to not give them the immediacy they deserve. We’ve become complacent with how readily available these documents are that we treat them rather matter of factly. When we physically have to labour to find a document, it somehow holds more exigencies.

 It will be there for another day, and then another day comes, we jump back on Ancestry and start looking for more documents. We risk falling into the trap of becoming collectors of records and documents and not family historians.

We need to stay focused on the mission to uncover the stories of our ancestors and that cannot happen unless you give each document your undivided attention. Therefore, here are a few easy tips to keep you from becoming that lazy researcher.

§  Print the document immediately, with the document in hand it becomes more tangible, it will feel more urgent.

§  Extract every detail; the best way is to transcribe the document. Transcribe the document into a summary sheet on that person. It forces you to look at every fact and consider its importance as a part of that person’s history.

§  Consider what each fact means, not only in respect to the the ancestor’s story, but how it could open a door to the next piece of information.

§  If interruptions do occur save that document to a file, name it Urgent: To Be Viewed, and make it your policy to view these documents at the next available opportunity before jumping back on line to search for more leads.  

In our jammies, a favourite drink in hand, a couch, a laptop, who could blame us for getting comfortable.  However, when something becomes so convenient, we have to check ourselves, we cannot forget to do the work. 

Genealogy Conferences - Who Deserves Your Money?

Last week many of us were laying out for the world our goals and aspirations for 2011 and some of you may have included a conference or two. Did you overlook including a conference in this year's agenda? If a conference is up for consideration than now is the time to decide which one you wish to attend, if you haven’t already made your choice. 

For those of us who have been to a conference, there is no question to the benefits. Its been said before and I will say it again a conference can offer you a great opportunity to learn, get motivated, network and just plain have some fun. However, conferences can be expensive. Therefore, some thoughtful planning and consideration should go into choosing which conference you wish to attend.

Not all conferences are created equal, that is not to say that one is run better or has better speakers. Keep in mind not all of us are searching for the same answers, therefore, it makes sense we don’t all need the same education. Some conferences just may offer more learning that is in line with your research needs. So do your homework.

Things to Consider When Shopping for a Conference

The Cost
There are many factors affecting the cost, the cost of registration, the cost of travel including car expenses, flights, taxis, hotels etc., the further you have to travel the higher the cost of your conference, the closer to home the conference the more chance you can keep the expenses down.
The Location
Besides affecting the cost, and travel time, the location may be advantageous depending what part of the country the conference is being held,  providing you with some valuable regional research opportunities, if your ancestors past that way. Or if you are able to find yourself in the vicinity of the Family History Library for a conference you could really garnish up some valuable research time.  
The Lectures
Take a close look at the lectures that are being offered. Do they cover your area of research?  Are experts in their field offering them? Do they grab your attention? Sound enticing? Does the conference offer enough lectures at your learning level? Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced genealogist you want to be able to fill your day or weekend. You want to feel like you are getting your monies worth.
Some conferences just will not meet with your life, family, jobs and other obligations making it an impossible scheduling option. So as much as it may be the one, it might be best scheduled for another year when it aligns with your life’s schedule.

Below is a list of current genealogy conferences scheduled for 2011 and the beginning of 2012. Many offer RSS feeds to blogs or email sign ups so you can keep abreast of information and details as they are confirmed. Having details delivered to your inbox will give you the opportunity to make an informed decision about which conference will make the best fit for you.

If you have or know of a genealogy conference that is missing from this list please email me at

Family Recipe Friday - Liver and Onions

I know many people don’t like liver. However, I stand by the premise that they just haven’t had it cooked properly.  Many cultures have been cooking liver for generations, and many have family favourite recipes cooked by their mothers and grandmothers. 

Cows and calves were domesticated for beef over 4000 years ago in the regions of Greece and Turkey.  Of course, nothing was wasted including the organs especially the liver.  European countries, including Italy, France, Austria and Germany consider liver a delicacy.

This is my mother’s liver and onions.  This is such a popular dish in my family that my sister, brother, and I ask for this recipe for our special birthday meal. 

Jeannine’s Liver and Onions

(Select organic calf’s liver for the greatest assurance that it is free of toxins and the tenderest.)

Flour liver well, sear in a small amount of olive oil, both sides in heavy fry pan.
Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer to Pyrex oven type dish
Add slice onions over the liver.
After searing rinse frying pan with water and pour over the liver, barely covering the top.
Add ½ can of beef gravy.
Bake covered for 1 1/2 hours at 350F

Best served with mashed potatoes and mashed turnip (well according to my sister, I prefer mashed potatoes)

Television Swells with Genealogy Fever!

It’s that time of the year, cold and flu season, where every other person is dealing with some sort of contagious form of a bug. Television does not appear to be immune as they deal with their own virus, genealogy fever.  I think genealogy fever (thought it was worthy of disease status, but not creative enough to give it a really cool name) is going to give the common cold a run for its money.

A few years ago, you would have been hard pressed to find a television show about genealogy, short of an occasional special. Those of us who are regular and long-time researchers of family history have known for some time that we had something special going on, and it would only be a matter of time before others discovered our secret...genealogy makes great television. The proof is in the pudding as they say with a record number of genealogy television shows reaching fever pitch in 2011.

For Example: 

Roots Television is a long-standing genealogy website site well known by family historians. This site offers videos on current genealogy news, videos chronicling the journeys of many family historians as well as a great series on researching your family history, good for any beginner or anyone for that matter who needs to get back to basics. Sign up for the newsletter so you can stay abreast of the latest video releases.

BYUtv brings to you the Generations Project. This reality series follows real people traveling the country in search of clues about their family history. Season 2 began Monday Jan 3rd on BYUtv. It you don’t get BYUtv you can stream it live.

Who Do You Think You Are? has been a mainstay on British television for many years, with last year finding its way to the United States on NBC. With a successful first season behind them Who Do You Think You Are? is back for round two. Viewer’s get to learn the family history of some high profile celebrities. Second season celebrities include Gwyneth Platrow, Tim McGraw, Rosie O’Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Kim Cattrall, Lionel Richie, Vanessa Williams and Ashley Judd. Set to air on Friday, February 4th (8-9 pm ET) it is a favourite for many.

Ancestors in the Attic  is entering its 4th season and continues to travel the world solving mysteries and revealing key moments in Canadian history. Ancestors in the Attic is a Gemini-nominated documentary series about ordinary people and their family history stories brought to you by History Television. This Toronto-based show takes Canadians on road trips across Canada as well as worldwide to uncover their personal family history stories.
If you are not in Canada and don't get History television, you can watch previously aired episodes online here. A great show that I think combines the best real people family history stories with professional genealogists, who share methodology and critical thinking with the viewers to move beyond brick walls. There is no glossing over to the finish line, although its one fault is the host does tend to be a little goofy.

Even Oprah sees the value of genealogy television,  Searching For... is a documentary series that follows the real-life work of Pam Slaton on the new OWN network courtesy of Oprah Winfrey. Pam is a professional investigative genealogist, stay-at-home mom and New Jersey housewife. Cameras follow Pam and her clients through each step as they track down lost loved ones. The stories tend to focus more on adoptive issues as oppose to the wider family history research.

For Canadians – OWN will launch through Corus Entertainment on March 1, OWN programming will be available for preview starting on January 7th, with weekly two hour nested blocks on W network and VIVA. Check your local listings for details. As a Canadian, I have not yet seen Searching For, but a few bloggers have seen it and are offering up their reviews.

Genealogy Television in Ireland is bringing you a reworked version of Ireland’s national public service broadcaster, RTE’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” This re-formatted show will aid real families in tracing their genealogy. The television program that concentrated on celebrities in the past is refocusing, with more of a “Genealogy Roadshow” featuring “ordinary folk” and their ancestors. It is their hope that the show “will do for genealogy what The Antiques Roadshow has done for antiques". 

The show presented by Derek Mooney will begin filming on Sunday, January 16 at Carton House, in Maynooth. The experts will help solve family mysteries and discover celebrated ancestors.

The productions company, Big Mountain Productions, are especially looking for ancestors of Arthur Guinness and the explorer Ernest Shackleton, Kildare's most famous sons. They will also be seeking connections to Dublin-born rebel leader Theobald Wolfe Tone. You can find contact information here if your among the lucky.

Although this seems quite specific and won’t be available for many of us, it certainly is worth noting how large the genealogy television fever is traveling. Perhaps we will be able to stream them or watch them online. I certainly would be interested in checking it out.

So there you have it, from Ireland to United States, Britain, Canada and the Worldwide Web, genealogy television is reaching fever proportions, I just hope the general population doesn't get too sick of it.

Tuesday's Tip - Rate Your Interview Skills

Step one in beginning any genealogy research is to interview the living. Just talk to anyone, they will tell you it is the single most important thing you can do before anything else.  It provides the greatest opportunity to collect the facts and stories while your family is still with you. From the horse’s mouth is far better than from a second or third party, and certainly better then reading between the lines of a document after your relative is gone.

However, having access to living relatives with valuable information does not guarantee success. Great information just doesn’t magically flow from an interview.  It is critical to have good interviewing skills to achieve these results. The better your skills the greater chance you have to draw out some significant information from your relatives. Enhancing your interview techniques improves your chances of your subject opening up and offering you the real juicy stuff.

Rate Yourself – Are you getting the most out of your family interviews?

Answer yes or no to the following 10 questions. 

Do You Prepare for the Interview? 

  1.  Have you done your homework, obtaining as much details and facts in advance to confirm or deny your research during the interview process?
  2. Do you have a prepared list of questions? 
  3.  Are you flexible, do you adjust your list as needed based on your subject's answers, and expanding on their answers and injecting new questions where appropriate?
  4. Do you bring a proper indiscreet recording device, allowing you to focus on your relative’s answers rather than madly writing? 
  5. Do you allow for an appropriate amount of time, making sure both you and your subject have allotted time avoiding a rushed Q & A that will reveal little?

Do You Put Your Subject at Ease?

     1.  Do you create an intimate and informal setting putting your relative at ease?

     2.  Do you start with small talk to break the ice?

    3.  Do you start with easy answer factual questions leading up to more emotional and sensitive questions               once your subject has gained your trust? 

   4. Do you ask opened questions allowing for detailed in-depth information rather then closed questions requiring only yes or no answers? 

    5. Do you keep your relatives on task; gently guiding him or her back to the questions should they wander?

IF you answered yes to all of the above congratulations, you are a great interviewer enabling you to get the most out of every family interview.

If you answered no to 1-4 of these questions, your skills could use some practice.  Try paying particular attention to the questions you answered no; maximize your skills to their fullest potential.

If you answered no to 5 or more of these questions, you need to take some time to practice your interviewing techniques, try interviewing with friends and family members to help improve your technique and follow the tips above to get the most out of every family interview.

Practice, Practice, practice, interviewing is a learned skill that takes practice. The more you interview the more relaxed and easy the interview will flow, the more stories and facts you will obtain as a result.

A Complete List of  Family History Interview Questions