Paths to Your Past – NGS 2018

We just returned home from the National Genealogical Society’s 2018 Family History Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan (lucky us! it’s held in a different city nation-wide every year). This was my first genealogy conference and I had an absolute blast. After four days of lectures and talks by the experts in the field, my mind is still churning through the massive information dump.

A few weeks before the conference I was at a family function talking about my plans to attend when a cousin (no names… to protect the innocent) said with bemused wonder, “genealogists have conferences?” I don’t remember what my answer was, but I was not entirely successful at clearing up his confusion. Elizabeth Shown-Mills’s presentation using the example of John Watts would have no doubt answered that question in spades.

We started Wednesday morning with the opening session, including John Phillip Colletta’s talk, Coming Along the Towpath: The Erie Canal and the Peopling of the Great Lakes States. (Incidentally, if you subscribe to The Great Courses or have an Audible subscription, check out his genealogy course – good stuff.) Eighteen additional sessions and four days later it was, sadly, time to go home. I was lucky enough to see presentations by many different speakers – the standouts for me were Elizabeth Shown-Mills, Thomas W Jones, Judy G. Russell, and Blaine Bettinger. I say standouts – every lecture I attended was excellent and informative – these four speakers were the most compelling of the bunch. I listed the full schedule of classes I attended at the bottom of this post.

According to the conference literature, there were over 175 lecture topics. I could have easily attended dozens more and not lost a bit of interest. Time being limited and cloning out of the available options, I did the next best thing – I brought my wife along. She went to at least a dozen additional lectures and came back full of excitement about quite a few of the topics. Stage 1 of Ensnare More Family Members Into The Genealogy Rabbit Hole is now complete.

My only real regret is not attending the luncheon and evening events. That can be easily corrected next year in St. Louis.


My schedule of sessions:

Day 1

  • Coming Along the Towpath: The Erie Canal and the Peopling of the Great Lakes States, John Philip Colletta
  • The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is Your Friend, not Your Enemy, David E. Rencher
  • What Do I Really Have Here? Analyzing Sources Effectively, Ruth Ann Abels Hager
  • Using Evidence Creatively: Spotting Clues in Run-of-the-Mill Records, Elizabeth Shown Mills

Day 2

  • Digital Preservation, Eric John Wells
  • The Discriminating Genealogist: Telling Good Evidence from Bad, Judy G. Russell
  • Reasonably Exhaustive Research: The First Criteria for Genealogical Proof, Elizabeth Shown Mills
  • When Worlds Collide: Resolving Conflicts in Genealogical Records, Judy G. Russell
  • Making Good Use of Direct and Indirect Evidence, Amy Harris

Day 3

  • History, Records and Context: Researching the Locations Your Ancestors Lived, Angela Packer McGhie
  • Irish Research—Using Online Resources, Rick Sayre
  • Using Indirect and Negative Evidence to Prove Unrecorded Events, Thomas W. Jones
  • A Matter of Standards: DNA and the GPS, Judy G. Russell
  • Deeper Analysis: Techniques for Successful Problem-Solving, Elissa Scalise Powell

Day 4

  • Creating Your Personal Continuing Education Plan, Elissa Scalise Powell
  • Transcribing Documents: There is More Than Meets the Eye!, LaBrenda Garrett-Nelson
  • Evidence Correlation: Making the Most of Your Research, Nancy A. Peters
  • Inferential Genealogy: Deducing Ancestors’ Identities and Relationships, Thomas W. Jones
  • Evaluating Genealogical Conclusions Using DNA, Blaine Bettinger

A Do-Over? A Do-Over!

I decided it is time for a Do-Over.

When I started on this journey back in 2010 or so, I had a lot of data from my father and other family members. I went online, hunting and gathering records, meandering from document to document and person to person in a gloriously disorganized web-surfing expedition. It was so much fun. I found loads of all this cool stuff about “my” family. I realized I needed someplace to put this information, so I spent some time researching the “best” genealogy software to use, finally settling on The Master Genealogist (TMG). I ordered some books, read some blogs, and then started plugging all my data into my database. I thought a website to share my information would be a great thing to do, so I made a website using a fantastic tool, Second Site.

In 2014 the developer of TMG decided to throw in the towel and stopped development. My chosen genealogy software, while a great tool, had been given over to the user base for continuing support and was no longer being actively developed or updated. I stuck with it for a few more years, but gradually began to notice some things that I did not like. Nothing major, just some minor quirks that bothered me. Coupled with the fact that the official support and development channels were gone, I grew uneasy with continuing to use the program.

More recently, I spent time learning more about things like the Genealogical Proof Standard, proper research techniques, and types of analysis that I should be using. These were things I was not consistently applying to the documents I was collecting and the data I was entering into my database. Part of my issues here were procedural, but it was mostly just lack of knowledge and an assumption that what I was doing was good enough.

Now I have a much clearer idea of just how much I don’t know about genealogical and historical research. I am still learning about how to arrive at reasonable conclusions based on the information in my possession, but I feel as if I may now be near the lowest point on the so-called “valley of despair” on the Dunning-Kruger diagram of genealogical knowledge. It’s a great place to be when resetting one’s thinking on a subject, particularly one involving any sort of scholarly pursuit, though the prospect of climbing back out is a little daunting.

I was also starting to shift in my thinking about research goals. I was aimless in my collecting of information, mostly just documenting names, dates, and places. Something was missing: flavor, perspective, connection. Wouldn’t it be great to give some depth to those names, dates, and places?  Shouldn’t I also be adding the why and how to the who, what, and where? Why did that person move from New York to Illinois, and then to Michigan? What was going on in their life?

So I spent the last few weeks reorganizing my thoughts on what I want to accomplish, and how. I needed to come up with a way to filter through all I had, understanding what was good, what was bad, and documenting both. I needed a better set of tools to track not only my conclusions, but the steps I took to reach them. I needed to simplify some of the tedious things I was doing that were slowing me down and getting in the way of the end result. I needed to keep track of the things I had already done and the things I still need to do.

So today I am starting over. Brand new. Starting with myself and moving back in time. With the fresh start, I took the opportunity to move to a new piece of database software, RootsMagic. I have a new set of research processes I will be following with far less of the meandering sort of information gathering I was previously prone to doing. I set aside my old files for the moment, and am starting again with a fresh, clean slate. This time I have more focused goals, a plan to achieve them, and a much better idea of how to achieve good results.

I’m not throwing away what I have, just setting it off to the side so I can take things on from a new and more experienced perspective. I am not taking down my old tree from the website, but I will no longer be updating those pages. It may be some time before you see any family tree updates to this site. I hope to reward your patience with much better and more interesting results.


Update – February 7, 2017

This update is a cosmetic one. I made a number of changes to the formatting and output from my database. The highlights:

  • Google Maps icon links now appear next to place names. Click them to bring up a map showing the place.
  • A new people index: Ancestor Index under the Genealogy Records menu. This is a list of direct ancestors.
  • Quick links on the left side of the Genealogy Records section.
  • Significant changes to the person entry pages. The timeline table has been replaced with a narrative section. Census listings and residences are now listed in a separate table. There are other minor adjustments to the layouts of these pages.

You will also see a large number of people listed as updated under the What’s New page – these updates are mostly housekeeping and clean-up edits within my database to improve narrative flow and do not contain any new information about these individuals.


Genealogy Records Update – January 16, 2017

The first update in about 2.5 years just went up.  The list of which records were added/updated is on the What’s New page.  Essentially, anything there dated from 2016 and 2017 is new or updated.

Most of these changes are from three update sessions:

  • Some research into the Moore/Hubarth lines I did in 2016
  • Entry of the Family of Mark and Lena Lee booklet from the 2014 Lee Family Reunion
  • Entry of some documents, family group charts, and descendant charts related to the Lee, Cooper, Reed, and Hoover lines that were in my grandmother’s possession

I still have considerable material to update, including some new information on the Gaylord line I received from John Archer last year.


Genealogy Records Update – 24 Jun 2014

An update to the Genealogy Records has been posted.

Surnames updated/added: Adriaan, Arnold, Benedict, Bosch, Brink, Bush, Chaddock, Cooper, Davis, Elenbaas, Fisher, Fredenburg, Harding, Hunter, Hutchinson, Lee, Mogg, Murphy, Phelps, Reed, Robinson, Roosa, Smiley, Van Etten, Warden, Wolfe

Previous update: 12 May 2014

Click here to see the change history for individual page entries.


I meant to do an update before the Lee Family Reunion this past weekend, but real life decided to take over my free time and available energy.  It is just as well because I was able to pick up the latest copy of the Lee Family Book that Aunt Phyllis has been diligently maintaining for a number of years.  The first few pages contain a wealth of information about my great grandparents, Mark Lee and Lena Cooper, as well as a large number of their ancestors and extended family.  I have included some of this information in today’s update along with a few other pages from the stack of items I received from my grandmother (more to come on that later).


Other changes in this update:

New and Improved

If you logged into the site before today, you might have noticed a change in the site’s appearance.  I was dissatisfied with the previous design and the obvious split between two sections of the site.  Admittedly, the original site was hastily thrown together so I could get the information on the web quickly.  With the new design, I made a conscious effort to focus on appearance and usability while easily allowing for future additions.  The entire site now has a consistent theme with a simpler menu structure.  I have also added some new features.

This is a short summary of the major changes and improvements (there are minor changes not listed here because I am lazy and they are not terribly interesting):

  • The site no longer requires you to register before you can view the content.  This was a barrier for a number of people, and was really a solution in search of a problem.  Registration is still required for posting comments and photos.
  • The menus have been improved and reorganized with a few items changed to drop-down menus to allow more direct access to some sub-pages.  This removed much of the clutter from the main page.
  • What were formerly two visibly separate sections of the site, the blog and tree, are now fully integrated.  Aside from a handful of differences in the sidebar links, there is very little distinction between these sections.
  • What’s New: this new page gives a list of people whose information was recently changed.
  • Most Wanted: this new page contains a list of information that I am currently most interested in finding.  It will be periodically updated as old questions are answered and new ones replace them.
  • The About and Privacy pages were given a much-needed re-write.  I added new pages with the site’s Rules and a Help page.
  • An RSS feed (clicky clicky if you don’t know what RSS is and want more info) has been added so you can get new blog posts sent to your browser or mobile device.
  • There is a new search function added to the genealogy records.
  • The genealogy records pages have been redesigned.  The person pages no longer present you with a wall of text.
  • There is a link to the Facebook group for the benefit of people that do not arrive at the site through Facebook.
  • There are “share” links that will allow you to easily share pages or posts through e-mail and Facebook.

I hope you enjoy the improvements.  If you have any suggestions or requests or see anything peculiar, please let me know.


Update – 12 May 2014

Since the annual Lee family reunion in June is coming up soon, I decided to spend some time working on this side of the family.  I have added a few new documents, and a handful of new people to the Cooper surname.  This is a small content update, but I posted it because there were some background changes on the Tree that I needed to have live on the site because…reasons.

New information and photographs have been added for:

These individuals have been added to the database:

Documents added:

If an image of a document was available, I included it in the update.  You will be able to find the image in the sources list on the tree, or by following the source citations at the bottom of each person’s entry.

William Cooper

Over the weekend, I found a couple documents for William Cooper (my great-great-Grandfather).  I have not entered the information into my database yet, but I have included the two files here (I have not exactly been active in updating the site…).

William Cooper Marriage

William Cooper Death Certificate


My cousin also sent me a picture of William and Sarah on facebook.  This photo is in the gallery, here.

Moore Tree Update

Over the holidays I did a good deal of online searching on the Moore line and came away with quite a few documents.  This update represents about half of these documents.  This is just a quick list of who was updated:

New information added to:

  • Edgar Moore
  • Beatrice Eva Shaylor
  • Edgar H Moore
  • Linda Fay Gaylord

New information and photographs added to:

  • Donald Kenneth Moore
  • Cecilia Marie Moore

These new people have been added:

  • Robert Moore
  • Jessie C Black
  • Charles Shaylor
  • Grace M Hathaway
  • Bruce Norman Moore
  • Jessie L Moore
  • Robert M Moore


If an image was available for these new documents, I included a copy in this update.  To see an image of the original source, just click on the citation source number when viewing a person entry.

Update – 11 January 2014

I made a quick update on the blog side today with the addition of a photo gallery plugin.  There are only a few photos uploaded right now, but there is more to come.  This plugin is also supposed to allow users to upload their own photos, so feel free to post any you might want to share.  Just be aware there are some size limitations for uploading: 7 megabytes maximum, and 2800 x 2100 pixels.

Also worth noting: all files uploaded here are automatically reduced in size by the software and optimized for on-screen viewing.  If you want a larger copy that is good for printing, consider contacting the person that uploaded the photo.