02 February 2014

Beginning Genealogy Using Accredited Methods

For now Sundays are my day of rest but I just want to record my thoughts about the Chicago Genealogical Society's meeting yesterday afternoon.  Marsha Peterson-Maass presented a 60-minute crash course called Beginning Genealogy Using Accredited Methods.

I met Marsha Peterson-Maass and found her to be warm and lovely.  I spoke with her a bit about starting my own genealogy business and immediately she gave me a suggestions for a direction I might take. Apparently, several would-be clients that she has encountered recently have been interested in DNA testing.

Hmmm, I thought, I could use this information.  I've been wondering where to start and DNA is as good a place as any.  So... my first goal is to put together a presentation on DNA testing for genealogy, and run with that.  Wish me luck.

Simultaneously, I plan to contact not only genealogical societies in Illinois, but I'm interested in contacting the activity directors of chicagoland senior centers.  Maybe they could use a speaker. I added a link from famberry.com to my Google+ page that says "If you don't tell your story another story will be told about you."  I wonder if seniors realize that!  I'm planning on helping them tell their story.

Back to Marsha.  She teaches a beginning Genealogy Course at the Newberry Library in Chicago and her 60 minute presentation made me want to go to the whole course!  I've been doing this for years and years, and still learned something from Marsha.  She started her presentation with a personal family story that was absolutely riveting.  She included research photos and the outcome of a WWII airman whose body was lost in the Philippines.  You've got to hear that story!

The bulk of the presentation was on using accredited methods in genealogical research and Marsha went through a case study of one individual step-by-step to prove or disprove individuality.  Her explanations were spot-on and when she was done you really understood that just because you found something, doesn't mean you're done, or that you've even found the right person.  It was a great presentation and I so enjoyed meeting her.

Should you be reading this and live in the Chicago area, please consider taking Marsha Peterson-Maass' course Fundamentals of Genealogy: Basics for Everyone. Information can be found on the Newberry Library's website at http://www.newberry.org/03082014-fundamentals-genealogy-basics-everyone
The next offering of this course starts on March 8th.

You can reach Marsha Peterson-Maass through her blog at http://fundamentalsofgenealogy.blogspot.com
or her Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Marsha-Peterson-Maass-Fundamentals-Of-Genealogy/433261850098058

01 February 2014

My First Day as a Professional Genealogist!

I got up this morning wanting to attend The Northwest Suburban Council of Genealogists, my old genealogical society, for the first time in 10 or 12 years.  I wanted to meet the speaker, Jane Haldeman, a professional genealogist from Naperville Illinois.  She was to present From Land Records to Google Earth: Mapping your Family's Place.  So I got up, showered, dressed, even put on makeup for my first day as a professional genealogist.  There was snow coming down when I left my house and I should have realized the possibility that it may have been cancelled, but I was on a mission!  Long story short, the meeting was cancelled.  So here I sit an hour later, fully dressed on a Saturday morning and only slightly wondering what I'm going to do with my day.

While I was in the car I listened to Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me on NPR.  The guest was Dr. Paul Sereno, Paleontologist from the University of Chicago, being questioned on Barney the Purple Dinosaur.  He failed miserably.  As it should be.  I'm pretty sure that he has little time for children's tv shows.  So I got in the house and looked him up.  This guy is a ROCK STAR!  I then thought a little about the difference between paleontology and genealogy as professions.  

I quickly discerned that genealogy is much cleaner.  Sure, sometimes the archives haven't been kept up and we see dust and mold; OH THE HORROR! But, we don't generally get dirty from head to toe.  Both professionals dig (research), write, report, speak in front of groups, and teach. The best similarities are tenacity and passion.  I think the passion breeds the tenacity.  Anyway, I wonder if Dr. Sereno's family tree is written.  I'd be happy to help.  I wonder... What do I need to accomplish in genealogy to become a ROCK STAR?

For the next couple of hours, I'm going to download my Legacy Family Tree 8, and play with it.  I paid less than $22 for this new version.  I've used Legacy for at least 10 years and I love it.  I can't wait to use the newest features.

At 1:30 the Chicago Genealogical Society meets at Chicago's Newberry Library.  Marsha Peterson-Maass will be presenting a 60-minute crash course called Beginning Genealogy Using Accredited Methods. And yes, I'm gonna check for cancellation before I go out!

23 January 2014

I've written my book. Belgium to America: A De Bock Family History


I'm going professional after all!

I'm losing my regular job at the end of June, so what I'm gonna do is go professional.  There's nothing that says I can't make a living at it.  Maybe I'll make a better living than Thomas MacEntee.  Maybe not, but at least I'll be living my passion.

Writing my family history was one of the most fulfilling things I've ever done.  It made most of my family very happy!  Most of my friends told me of ways I could start to make a living doing family histories.  So if there's anyone out there who wants or needs help, let me know.

I bought a few new domain names last night, and after polling my friends, the winner is The Family Tree Nut at thefamilytreenut.com   I think it's gonna suit me great!  Now to get to work on my new blog, fb, pinterest, associate accounts, etc.!  Here I GO!

26 November 2012

Entitled to Irish Citizenship?

Now that I finally joined Geneabloggers I figure it's about time to post a blog. 

First, I want to thank the several people who have sent me words of encouragement.  This sounds like it's gonna be a great community to belong to.  Next, I want to mention that I met Thomas MacEntee on the 2012 Legacy Genealogy Cruise and he is so knowlegeable and helpful, you cannot know.  We both live in Chicago now, so I'm looking forward to running into him from time to time.  He does a great deal of traveling and so it's not likely, but you never know.

Speaking of traveling, I am going to the hometowns of my ancestors in January.  I have four towns to visit in Flanders; they are Assebroek, Oostkamp, Vrasene and Verrebroek.  I actually have research going back many generations in Flanders, due mostly to the great Belgian and French record keeping.  I am going to be staying in Bruges and I'll have a car to get around to these small towns.  I'll be in Belgium for 5 days.

After that, I'll be staying with family in Dublin, Ireland.  This is mom's side of the family and I've always known my Irish relatives and felt close to the island.  My grandmother and grandfather were born in Ireland and I hope to retire there someday.  However, because of the difficulty with Irish records, I have BIG FAT GAPING HOLES in my Irish research.  I'm hoping that the General Registra's office in Dublin will be a great help and I plan to spend a couple of days there.  I'm looking for several original documents that they're suppose to have; a birth record for grandma and a marriage record for great-grandpa for example. 

I really want to gain my Irish citizenship through descent before I retire.  This is how the law reads:  
"If you were born outside Ireland to an Irish citizen who was himself or herself born outside Ireland, and any of your grandparents were born in Ireland, then you are entitled to become an Irish citizen, and can do so by having your birth registered in the Foreign Births Register maintained by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. You can do this by applying to your nearest Irish embassy or consular office. A list of these is available on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs at www.dfa.ie. If you are entitled to register, your Irish citizenship is effective from the date of registration."
Registering my birth and becoming a citizen will make life much easier when I retire.  The fact that I'll be able to travel throughout the EU nations will be a wonderful asset since I plan to do a lot of traveling.  The problem with my plan is proving my grandparents are in fact my grandparents.  I have the original long form of my grandfathers birth-certificate, so that's one down.  My grandparents marriage record is a problem.  The great state of New York, rather New York City, who holds the records for marriages held in the city back in the 1930s says that even though my grandparents, Phil and May, applied for a marriage license in New York, the signed certificate was never sent back to the state by the church.  I of course called the church and they say that they have no record of the marriage being performed.  Minutes after the "wedding" Phil and May show up in Chicago and my mom is born six months later... oops!

Problem two is proving my mom was born!  Cook County Illinois has no record of mom's birth.  She was born at home with a midwife and mom's birth was never registered.  I tried to get mom's birth registered but of course no one is alive anymore that can attest to where and when she was born.  Mom had papers in her files that were affidavits signed and notarized in the 1960s when mom wanted to get a passport to travel to Europe.  The papers were never filed at the time as mom could use her baptismal certificate to prove nationality.  Her baptismal certificate as well as the 1940 US Federal Census agree that she was born in Illinois.  Unfortunately I don't think that the Irish government is going to let that pass.  I sent the old affidavits to the state of Illinois in order to get them to use them to register mom's birth and they wrote back, taking the money that I sent, but not sending a certificate.  They said that the process would have to be repeated and here is the new paperwork that can be filled out by anyone who has direct knowledge of the event of mom's birth! (Mom is 77 years old and all her old friends and relatives are already gone.) I wish they'd at least sent me my check back.

My plan B is to send every original document I can find whether direct legal proof or church proof to our Consulate General of Ireland in Chicago and work with them until I can convince them that my grandparents are the parents of my mother who is the parent of me; and that I have a great love of Ireland and I am entitled to citizenship by descent. 

Not that I'd ever give up my US citizenship, but lucky for me I don't have to, the United States and Ireland allow for dual citizenship!

25 April 2012

Me, A Professional Genealogist?

Recently I started a project to research my cousin's maternal side to determine if she was part Native American.  Running into several brick walls, I'm wondering if I'd be any good as a professional genealogist.  I have charged her good money for my time and research, so I know that makes me a professional, but what do I do with those brick walls?  I can see from the television shows on family history, that there are enough brick walls for everyone.  Sometimes the initial question that someone has on their own background can't be answered so the research goes into another familial direction.

That's what I've always wanted to become.  I've wanted it so much that I became an Archivist because when I was ready for grad school, there was only one place in the country that offered education in Genealogy, and I wasn't about to re-locate at the time.  Now, several schools do offer classes and several are on-line.  Why, even FamilySearch.org offers a many free classes that have gotten me going. 

I met Thomas MacEntee on the 2011 Legacy Family History Cruise and he suggested Boston University which offers a Genealogical Research program for about $2,695.  The National Genealogical Society NGS offers a home study course for $565 but it is only a step to further education and their website states that if you do their course, you can get a discount on the Boston University program.  Brigham Young University offers 10 Family History courses that are on-line, uncredited, but FREE.  Since money is almost always an issue, I think I'll start with BYU free ones.

The Brigham Young classes will help me to better determine if I can even study at home without the pressure and interaction of classmates. I seldom have any trouble motivating myself where family history research is concerned, but school is another matter.  We'll see.

Legacy also offers a webinar (one of many) which talks about going professional.  I'd better watch/listen to that first.

23 January 2012


For most of my life, I didn't think that my family had any heirlooms. At least, not the kind that other people had such as a family bible. After about 25 years of researching my family history, I have recently realized that my family has a couple of them. 

One of our family heirlooms is a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Unless you live in a church, or have a private chapel, you might have a difficult time finding the right place to hang it.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus is an artists rendition of Jesus Christ and he is pointing at his heart.  The heart has swords through it and a crown on top of it and a crown of thorns wrapped around it. It's not gruesome so much as it just makes me sad to look at it. The interesting thing and why I'm calling it a family heirloom is that the original has a written list of all the members of my grandfather's family and the years they were born. My great-grandparents had 12 children, and they are listed at the bottom of this picture. So, I could say, that it's the closest thing to a family bible that we have, so far.

My mom's cousin went to the family homestead in Ireland a couple of years before I made the same pilgrimage. I didn't know mom's cousin at the time but after I had learned of him and contact was made between us at some point (I honestly don't remember how it started), I learned that he had copies of a very large Sacred Heart of Jesus picture that he had seen in Ireland. I don't know who had or has the original, maybe he does.

Anyway, He had copies made and sent one to my mom and one to her brother Buddy. Being the family archivist, mom gave her copy to me and I kept it rolled in the tube it came in. My uncle had his copy framed. After my uncle Buddy passed away, his children weren't interested in the picture so they gave it to my mom or to me.  It hung in my home office until I recently moved.  My mom had a stroke a few years ago and I am living now with my sister's family to help care for mom.  I think I'll hang the Sacred Heart in her room for awhile.

27 December 2010

“It’s always best to start at the beginning…” – Glinda the Good Witch of the North

            Any genealogical research, or family tree climbing, should begin with what you know.  I believe that even before you start with what you know, you should start with YOU.  How many of us don’t have the vital records pertaining to our very own lives?
If you come from one of those families who don’t talk about the past, or if your family is “broken” in some way, you may not know much.  If you’re the sort of person who would rather not know the details surrounding your birth for example, then I can tell you for sure, that your family tree will not be one that you want to hug.  Life expectancy is about 75 years, give or take, and a lot can happen in that many years.  People make mistakes, people correct their mistakes, people make different mistakes than you would make and you make different ones than they would.  Keep in mind that parents are people too and often they are very good at keeping embarrassing facts to themselves.  All we can hope for is a little growth from time to time, and over time. 
I have found that an open mind has served me well in the pursuit of truth.  If it wouldn’t rock your reality to find out that you were born out of wedlock, were adopted, your biological mother is a convict, great-grandpa was a horse-thief, WHATEVER, then move forward.  If the possibility of anything like this would devastate you, then my advice is to find another pursuit.
Over the years of researching my own family history, although I do enjoy being very methodical in this pursuit, I have proven to myself that there will always be holes.  I wouldn’t call them brick walls (i.e. impassible), they’re just little pieces of information that I hadn’t gotten around to digging deeply enough in the right place to find, yet.  Sometimes these little facts don’t seem too important in the big picture and they sit on the back burner.
            Here’s my case in point.  A few years back, I asked my mom if there was something special that she wanted for Christmas.  She said that she couldn’t think of anything but that she wondered if I could find out where and when her parents were married.  They never celebrated their wedding anniversary that she could remember and it bothered her that she didn’t know.  This is one of those little pieces of fact that I hadn’t spent time with, so, I told mom that I could and would find out for her.  However, I asked if she was ready and willing to find out whatever truth I might uncover based on the documentation.  She said that she was okay with it and even assumed that there would be something amiss.  Sure enough, I haven’t yet been able to prove that they were married beyond a shadow of a doubt, because the signed marriage certificate was never sent back to the state of New York.  However, the fact that they applied for a marriage license in March and Mom was born in August makes it clear that Mom was a pre-marital bun in the oven.  I have since learned that in some cultures, although not my Irish-Catholic grandparents culture, it was important that the first birth occur before the marriage to ensure that the family name would continue.
By the way, my mom’s response to this information was, “well mama always said ‘the first one comes any time, all the rest take nine months’.”
So, if you’re still willing to press on, first gather any and all documentary evidence of your existence.  The facts are that you are here in this place, and in this time.  You are alive!  Imagine that you are proving this to the future generations through documents, so that the future will not only know THAT you lived but also HOW you lived.
Here is a short list of some personal papers that document your life and of course this is the same list that you can go back to time and again to document your ancestors’ lives making sure to add census and death records where applicable.  You will want to gather:  birth certificate, school records, marriage certificate, divorce record, passport, social security card, photos, any journals or diaries you’ve written over the years, property deeds and titles, your will, driver’s license, any legal record, religious records, proof of membership in any organizations, and especially your personal military records.  If you have children, do the same for them.
Now, read them, look at them, examine them, and stare at them for a few minutes each like you’ve never seen them before.  Write down any questions that come to mind, any discrepancies you see, and any thing that you don’t fully understand.  If you don’t have all these papers and should have, get them through the issuing body.  If there are any mistakes, typos etc., get these fixed now; your great-grandchildren may thank you some day.