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Skip

My favorite cousin in the entire world passed away this past Monday, April 26, 2010 from pancreatic cancer. He was 58 years old.

Skip, as he was called, was an amazing person and all week I’ve reflected on just how lucky I was to have known him in my life.  He overcame a string of huge obstacles late in life. He was forever shaped by his experiences and the wisdom he had as a result of it made you understand how even the rough parts of life can serve a positive end.

He was a computer guru and talented graphics artist who ran his own very successful company  (Waters Edge Grafixx) doing work for everyone from the NAACP to the Ludacris Foundation. He created incredible artwork in almost every medium and he was always an artist first and foremost. He was a budding photographer and spent hours with my dad taking informal lessons and posting his pictures on Flickr.

Skip

Skip was funloving and hilarious, brilliant beyond belief and loved his family. Have you ever met someone who could talk in depth about every subject–politics, history, religion, psychology, etc.? Well, that was Skip. He was one of those people you wanted everyone you knew to meet. I will miss most our 2-3 hour conversations late at night about everything under the sun and his genius in everything related to technology. I will always remember how his spirit handled this illness with calm reserve, graciousness and thoughtfulness.

We worked for several months last year on the booklet for our family reunion. Of course his graphics skills made it unlike any family program you’ve ever seen:

Reunion Cover

With typical genealogical focus, I stressed to him that we must get him on videotape talking about his amazing life. Luckily, my dad did it–and the result is a 2.5 hour conversation that will be treasured.

This is one of my favorite pictures of him posing with me and some of our other cousins, Aminah and Jamilah last October, 2009:

Cousins

My darling Skip, how glad I am that you are not in anymore pain. How happy and enriched my life is to have known you. You were a truly unique person whose depth of knowledge kept me in constant amazement. The impact you left in the hearts and souls of your family and friends will keep your memory alive and cherished always.

Wellington “Skip” Waters: Nov 13, 1951-April 26, 2010

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Happy 101 Award

I have been given the Happy 101 Award by none other than my favorite genea-buddies, Sandra, Michael, Renate and Mavis. I have been under the weather lately, tired alot and not at all feeling my normal happy genealogy self (which explains my dearth of postings), so this was something that put a much-needed smile on my face. My humble and gracious thanks to all of you.

The Award asks me to list 10 things that make me happy so here they go:

  1. My life, family and friends. Even more so at times of tragedy like the current one in Haiti.
  2. Doing genealogy and all the great people I’ve met in this endeavor.
  3. Lying on any Caribbean beach.
  4. Helping other people.
  5. Cooking–I love to cook.
  6. The sound that doves make. Reminds me of summers spent at my grandmother’s house as a child.
  7. Getting any kind of massage or facial or spa treatment.
  8. Watching movies and listening to classic music.
  9. My two cats, Max and Roman and pretty much all animals.
  10. Reading a good book.

And I will recognize simply my favorite blogs:

Georgia Black Crackers
Our Georgia Roots
I Never Knew My Father
Taneya’s Genealogy Blog
Into the Light
Find Your Folks
My Nola Heritage
African-American Genealogy Examiner
Geneablogie
Conversations with My Ancestors
Geneabloggers

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Aaron’s Ancestor Wall

I thought I’d show off my friend Aaron’s gorgeous ancestor wall. I have one too but it looks nowhere near as beautiful. Go ‘head, Aaron! The ancestors are watching.

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The holidays always get me even more reflective than usual, which is pretty hard to do for such an analytical person as myself. I was thinking the other day: in terms of my genealogy research , what would be my dream find or dream occurrence?

Of course, like all of you, you know there’s not just one. But here’s my list of what I would consider the answer to my genealogy dreams:

  1. To discover where and when the slaveowner Giles Holt acquired my ancestor, Malinda.
  2. To discover anything about the Georgia roots of my ancestor John Smith (arrgghhhh).
  3. To connect with any living descendants of my John Smith and Walter Springer lines (beyond the very few that I personally know.)
  4. To find out where, and possibly find the headstone of, my ggrandfather Daniel G. Waters.
  5. To find a picture of my ancestor Margaret Barnes.
  6. For closed record states not to exist.
  7. For the ability to order FHC microfilm online, instead of having to go there in person.
  8. For the Social Security Administration to have mercy on us po’ struggling genealogists, and cut us a discount on those SS5s.
  9. For me to not have to still work full-time, and be able to spend all day researching, transcribing, compiling & meeting with my genealogy buddies.
  10. For the fires that destroyed the 1890 census and the bulk of 20th century Army records to not have happened!
  11. For more interest on the part of family members in preserving our precious family history.
  12. For my two grandparents, Luther Holt & Pauline Waters, to magically come back to life so I could actually interview them about their families. Hey–we are dreaming right?

I also read an intriguing article in the NGS Magazine where the President called upon us to make a list of our genealogy goals for the year. So, while my dreams at the moment remain only that, I’d like to share my tangible goals for the year as well:

  1. Publish at least 3 articles about my family in various journals and newsletters.
  2. Finish adding complete source citations to my genealogy software program & my Ancestry online family trees.
  3. Distribute the documented family history on at least 3 of my lines to the Library of Congress, the archives of that line’s state, the public library of the county and the county’s historical society. My descendants will find my work!
  4. Contribute at least 3 bodies of work to the genealogical community to help others–abstracts, transcriptions, compilations, etc.
  5. Continue to meet and encourage others to research & especially to publish our histories.

So…what are YOUR genealogy dreams and goals?

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Casefile Clues

In a previous post, I talked about the need to continue learning and developing our genealogical skills. Recently, I subscribed to Michael John Neill’s Casefile Clues. It’s been a good addition to my toolbox and I want to recommend his newsletter to others.

I’ve always been partial to case studies because I am able to learn best when  genealogical methodology is illustrated using a real-life scenario. Michael’s newsletter is subscription based: for $15/year, you get a casestudy every week. It is a well-written narrative that tackles diverse problems and includes source citations. Michael also talks about what to do next at the end of each study that I think is particularly helpful.

I was familiar with Michael’s work because I’ve read many of the articles he’s written for Ancestry over the years. I will say, I initially balked at paying because I pay so much for all of my subscription genealogy databases, as I’m sure we all do (except Aaron:). But I read so many terrific reviews of Casefile Clues, for example, Randy over at Genea-Musings, and Thomas at Geneabloggers, that I decided to give it a spin. I’m so glad I did. Michael is very responsive if you have any questions or comments about his case studies, which I think is wonderful. I find myself every week looking forward to the next issue.

So, think about checking out Casefile Clues. Honestly, $15 is nothing compared to what you get in return. If you email Michael, he’ll send you a free copy. And, I promise you I have no connection with this endeavor other than wanting to share good genealogy resources when I come across them.

If you do decide to subscribe, let me know what you think.

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Oh Mavis (of Georgia Black Crackers), you made me BLUSH! I can’t thank you enough for including lil’ ol’ me in your selection for this award. I just was notified that Renate over at Into the Light bestowed upon me the same honor. Thank you ladies! It means so much to me that the random genealogy thoughts running around inside my head actually do provide good reading and support to others. We start these things and they sort of take on a life of their own. I was telling someone recently that there’s whole little world of bloggers that I now know, and although we’ve never met in person, it feels like we know each other deeply. I love that.

I’m simply flattered to have received this. The award comes with the responsibility to share 7 things about myself and then pass it on to 7 more bloggers.

Here goes:

1. Although I’m an engineer, I’m really an artist in my heart & spirit. I always wanted to be a writer and filmmaker & the fat lady hasn’t finished singing yet, so watch out.

2. I’m a terrific cook.

3. I am a voracious reader of all kinds of literature, a habit I have had since childhood. I just finished Nina Simone’s autobiography &  now I am reading “Why Evolution Is True.”

4. I started roller-skating when I was 13 years old, joined a skating team (yes, like in that movie ‘Roll Bounce’), and still love to skate even though I don’t get out as often as I used to.

5. I love movies and music. Especially old movies, and classic old-school R&B.

6. My sister, Alice Smith, is a singer.  Her wonderful CD, “For Lovers, Dreamers and Me” has been out a few years, she was nominated for a Grammy, her 2nd CD will drop soon and she tours all over the country. Check her out! You can find clips of her all over YouTube.

7. I’m extremely directionally challenged. If I didn’t have a GPS, I’d get lost going around the block;)

And I pass the torch to the following 6 blogs. I’m trying to spread the fire, so I’m attempting to name blogs that haven’t gotten one already and I could only pick 6:

1. The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation
2. The African American Genealogy Examiner
3. The Hope Chest
4. Genwriting
5. Virginia Family Tree Genealogy
6. John Brown Kin

I love this ! Let’s keep it going, family.

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I got a chance to hang outwith a bunch of my genealogy buddies a few Saturdays ago after an genealogy meeting. We were throwing down at Miss Shirleys on some good ol’ Southern food. I’m talking about somebodys-grandmother-is-in-the-kitchen good food! We had a great conversation about all kind of genealogy tidbits. Michael’s post reminded me not just of all the wonderful people we meet on this journey, but also all of the ways we can keep getting smarter and better at this genealogy thing. Here’s my list of ways I have used and continue to use to sharpen my skills:

  1. Take a class. There are local classes at many community colleges like this one at Howard Community College; check your local listings for the non-credit program. The National Archives does a free genealogy lectures series each and every month, as well as a longer, more advanced fee-based class on using their records every year. The National Genealogical Society (NGS) has a free online refresher course for members, as well as fee-based training, covering topics such as Working With Deeds.   The Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) operates a renowned weeklong genealogy class at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama every year that I hear fills up as quick as it is announced (that’s on my personal ‘to do’ list). I take a few classes every year, of all kinds.
  2. Join a local genealogy group (or 2 or 3). I can’t stress the value of this enough. I’m constantly amazed at the number of people I meet who have been researching for years and are not connected to any local group. People perceive that because they don’t live in the area they are researching, the local group won’t be helpful but that’s not the case. You need that energy and that connection–you’ll learn things at every meeting because the eyes and ears are multiplied to share the latest gen news, latest resources, websites, etc. It’ll keep you inspired when you hit that brick wall. Especially when your relatives are tired of hearing you talk genealogy; your genealogy “buddies” will understand the excitement of your latest find..LOL. And there are genealogy groups for almost everybody. There’s usually a group for your county, but there are regional groups & ethnic groups as well. For African-American research, find a local Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS) chapter.  I’m also in my state’s genealogical society (Maryland) and in a professional genealogy networking group (the Association for Professional Genealogists). These groups are also an additional route to training, as most groups have speakers come in every month and give presentations on topics of interest. So get out & mix it up. I think Michael in his post did an excellent job of discussing the benefits of this kind of networking.
  3. Utilize the full spectrum of online resources. Don’t just limit yourself to Ancestry.com. You should be a member of the mailing list for each of your research counties and the message boards for your surnames (go to Rootsweb to sign up.)  Read blogs (DUH…I guess you already know about that one:)) I recommend everyone researching African Americans join the Afrigeneas mailing list. Whenever I have a question, you can count on the collective knowledge of the folks at Afrigeneas. It’s also a great place to keep abreast of all the great local stories about African-American history and genealogy. Stay plugged into your research State Archives website as well as the area historical and genealogical societies (many times, those are two DIFFERENT groups). More and more resources are being digitized and uploaded to these sites, but you’ll never know about them if you don’t periodically browse the sites.
  4. Start going to annual genealogy conferences. The big ones every year are NGS and FGS (The Federation of Genealogical Societies), but there are any number of regional, state-level and local conferences as well. I didn’t go to conferences the first few years I researched and I can demarcate how my skill level jumped substantially when I started to attend regularly (every year) and learn from some of our field’s best minds. I recently missed the International Black Genealogy Summit, and I’m still upset about it, especially after all the posts and reviews from my friends. This is what happens when you still work a day job. ARRGHHH.
  5. Most people read Family Tree and Ancestry magazines, and they are good. But I highly recommend that as you progress, you start to read professional genealogy journals on a regular basis. You will learn methodology, analysis and resources that will advance your thinking in big, big ways. I prefer NGS Quarterly, but as I mentioned in my previous post listing slavery related articles, there are many different genealogy journals and I suppose it’s a matter of personal taste. There are also state-level genealogy journals like the one for Maryland. As a member of NGS, I get a subscription to NGS Quarterly as well as NGS Magazine, which is also an excellent publication. Membership in APG gets me the APG Quarterly. All of these types of publications will contribute to your growth as a genealogist, whether you intend to pursue it as a business or simply are completing your own research.
  6. Read genealogy books. This seems intuitive, but again, I encounter plenty of people who research for years and years and haven’t read any of the many excellent books out there. Many libraries have pretty good genealogy collections, I’ve found, or I am a big fan now of purchasing used books from a website such as ABEBooks. My list of “key” genealogy books would probably get too long, but at a minimum, I suggest:
  • “Evidence Explained: Citing Historical Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace” by Elizabeth Shown Mills
  • “A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African American Ancestors” by Emily A. Croom and Franklin Carter Smith (Excellent case studies!)
  • “Black Roots: A Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree” by Tony Burroughs
  • “Finding A Place Called Home: A Guide to African American Genealogy” by Dee Parmer Woodtor
  • “Courthouse Research for Family Historians” by Christine Rose by Patricia Law Hatcher (fabulous book)
  • “Locating Your Roots: Discover Your Ancestors Using Land Records”
  • “Google Your Family Tree: Unlocking the Hidden Power of Google” by Daniel M. Lynch
  • “The Family Tree Problem Solver” by Marsha Hoffman Rising
  • “Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case” by Christine Rose

Whew! Where in the world do I find all the time to do this stuff? Hopefully, this post gave you a few ideas about how to get and how to stay informed and how to continually educate yourself. You’ll run into me a a conference sooner or later & please do come up and say hello;)

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