Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Is around the Corner

Other than simply looking at the dates on my calendar, I have another way to tell when the new year is coming:  Many genealogy groups suddenly start scheduling their talks for the upcoming year.  I am happy to say that I was one of the beneficiaries of the scheduling whirlwind, and in one week I was scheduled for eleven presentations in 2014, by the Oakland FamilySearch Library, California Genealogical Society, and Sacramento African American Family History Seminar.  Most of the talks will be topics I have spoken on previously:  newspapers (online, black, and Jewish), maiden names, Jewish genealogy, and vital records.  But I will also be adding presentations on new subjects, including cemetery and probate records.  Probably the most unusual of the talks will be part of a new series offered by the California Genealogical Society:  genealogical research that took on a life of its own.  That talk will be about some research I conducted for someone else, but I became so fascinated by the man at the center of it that I've continued to look for information about him, on my own dime.

I really enjoy giving talks and sharing knowledge with others interested in genealogy.  I also always learn from the people who attend my presentations.

Here's wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and productive new year, with lots of answers to genealogical questions.  And if you come to one of my talks (here's the schedule), please come up and say hi!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

2014 Forensic Genealogy Institute

I have written before about the fantastic educational opportunity that the Forensic Genealogy Institute offers.  Now, keep in mind that when I say "forensic" as applied to genealogy, I mean it in the true definition of the word:  "genealogical research, analysis, and reporting in cases with legal implication" (from the Web site of the Council for the Advancement of Forensic Genealogy).  I don't mean merely using science in your own genealogical research, such as when you compare the results of your DNA test with someone else's to determine if you might be related, or if you analyze the backs and edges of photographs to figure out if they were printed at the same time.  Neither of those is forensic genealogy (no matter what a book might be called), because there's no legal implication in the results.  Scientific?  Sure.  Forensic?  Nope.

So now that we have that out of the way, the 2014 Forensic Genealogy Institute, to be held in Dallas, Texas from Monday–Saturday, March 24–29, offers in-depth instruction in tools and techniques for genealogists who are doing or want to do forensic research, along with real-world examples and business advice.  Two tracks are offered:  "Foundations in Forensic Genealogy" and "Advanced Forensic Evidence Analysis."  More details are now available for the two tracks.  The early-bird discount ends December 30, 2013 (only a few days from now!).  A discount is also offered to those registering for both tracks.

In "Foundations in Forensic Genealogy", which will run Monday–Wednesday, March 24–26, 2014, the sessions to be offered include:
• How to establish a forensic genealogy business
• How to evalute the ethics of a case
• How to deal with the legal profession in complex research cases
• How a forensic genealogists establishes credibility as an expert witness
• A mock witness cross-examination, conducted by Michael Ramage, JD, CG
• "Forensic Techniques for Genetic Genealogy", which will explain the concepts of DNA and how it can be utilized by the forensic genealogist, taught by Debbie Parker Wayne, CG

The "Foundations" track is a prerequisite for "Advanced Forensic Evidence Analysis", which will follow immediately after, running Thursday–Saturday, March 27–29, 2014.  Sessions will include:
• Current advances in DNA technology and application of the science by a forensic genealogist, taught by Debbie Parker Wayne, CG
• Department of Defense methods used to identify and confirm missing military personnel through the use of DNA and forensic genealogical work
• Finding missing heirs in an ethical and professional manner, taught by Michael Ramage, JD, CG
• A case study of heir searching with international consequences and lessons to be learned, taught by Catherine Desmarais, CG
• Insight into the process of dual citizenship, from clients to contracts to international case studies, taught by Melissa Johnson
• How to manage research projects and subcontracted researchers in foreign countries, taught by Catherine Desmarais, CG
• Who, what, when, where, and why forensic genealogists might need the services of a certified document translator

The instructors for the Forensic Genealogy Institute combined have more than 70 years experience in the field and its related specialties.  The "Foundations in Forensic Genealogy" track is a comprehensive course of study covering research techniques, methods, business preparations, business forms, work products, legal and ethical courses with case studies, and more.  The new advanced track is designed to present a new set of challenges and instructions each session.  This year's "Advanced Forensic Evidence Analysis" will include instruction found nowhere else concerning allied and subspecialty fields to aid the forensic genealogist.  Both tracks are designed as learning opportunities for those already experienced in the field, as well as for the professional considering accepting forensic cases.

So far, among those registered to attend the 2014 Forensic Genealogy Institute are:
• More than half of the genealogists who attended the original two Foundations tracks are returning for the new Advanced track.
• About a dozen people have signed up for the combination Foundations and Advanced tracks.
• Among those registered are 17 full-time forensic genealogists, several new forensic genealogists, three investigators, five attorneys, one journalist, and two paralegals.
• We have one Accredited Genealogist (AG), seven Certified Genealogists (CG), and one Fellow, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (FSA).
• Attendees will be coming from Canada (1), Germany (1), and 22 U.S. states, including one person from Hawaii.

Come join this diverse group of professionals (including me!) at the 2014 Forensic Genealogy Institute.  And if you're on Facebook, Like the Institute's page there to keep up with the latest announcements.

If you are considering going, make your hotel reservation as soon as possible.  Rooms may be scarce during the Institute due to sporting and other events in Dallas.  Please use the hotel reservation link found on the Institute Web site.  Rooms may not be available if you delay making your reservation.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

"Nilgiri Hills: Christian Memorials 1822–2006"

Another resource for Anglo-Indian research will be available soon.  Dr. John C. Roberts and N. P. Chekkutty wrote a book earlier this year on Christian burials and memorials in towns of India's Malabar coast, which was published by the South India Research Association (SIRA).  Now SIRA, a volunteer group of researchers and scholars registered in New York, is getting ready to publish Roberts and Chekkutty's second book, Nilgiri Hills:  Christian Memorials 1822–2006.  The comprehensive research took two years and covered cemeteries and many isolated graves.

The Nilgiri Hills book will be about 500 pages, with detailed maps of the cemeteries and of coffee and tea estate locations.  It will also include full-color reproductions of historical images of the area.

As with the previous publication, this will be a limited edition.  A production run of 250 copies is the only printing planned.  The anticipated release date is February 15, 2014.  The prepublication subscription price is 1,000 Rs.; after publication the price will rise to 1,250 Rs.  Postage outside India is 500 Rs; postage within India is free.  You can place your order through info.sira@yahoo.in.

Actually, they said that there would be a less expensive second printing of the Malabar book, but I haven't heard anything more about it.  In this age of computers and electronic publications, perhaps they might want to consider some form of e-book.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"The Baobab Tree" Summer and Fall Issues

Back in March I posted about being named the new editor of The Baobab Tree, the journal of the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (AAGSNC).  My first issue as editor came out in September, just barely squeaking in for the summer.  Articles in that issue included a man figuring out just who a previously unknown brother of his great-great-grandmother was; the story of a freed slave from Arkansas who became a master carpenter and left the South for California; the second half of a story about a family that was very active in the fight for civil rights in the South; and someone who went to a Black Family History Day for assistance, followed up on the research suggestions, and found great information on his family.

The fall issue is almost finished and should be published soon.  (Gotta get the schedule back on track ....)  This issue includes articles on how a chance DNA match led to more questions than answers; thinking about the many variations names and nicknames can take; a collection of helpful online links for black family history research; and the educational benefits of attending genealogical conferences.

Articles for The Baobab Tree are accepted from both members and nonmembers of AAGSNC.  If you submit an article that is published, you will receive a copy of the issue with your article even if you are not a member.  Submissions may be articles and/or graphics, both original and previously published, and must be relevant to black family history research.  Submission guidelines, including deadlines, are available online.

Members of AAGSNC receive The Baobab Tree as a membership benefit.  Individual back issues are available for purchase.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

An Orphan Heirloom Needs to Finds Its Way Home

A U.S. Navy photographer who went to Beirut in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war found a photograph album in the rubble of the city and brought it home with him.  He is now trying to find family members to give the album to.  Clues include the name "Didi" and the year 1975 written on the cover page, and a postcard in Arabic sent from Spain and addressed to Lydia Gatehouse in London, England.

The Daily Star of Lebanon published a story about the album on December 6.  Anyone who can help identify and/or locate the album's owners should contact the Daily Star.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Genealogy Research in the East Bay via BART

A death certificate from
the Oakland History Room
I've previously written about using BART to travel to genealogical research locations in San Francisco.  It's time to give equal attention to the East Bay.  Since I live in Oakland I often drive to these places, but parking in downtown Oakland and Berkeley is comparable to San Francisco, so being able to take BART lets you avoid that mess.

The first stop on our East Bay research tour is Lake Merritt station.  Follow the exit signs toward 9th Street, and you'll see a very large sign that says "Superior Court."  Exit at that corner, and when you come up above ground, you'll be at the corner of 9th Street and Oak Street.  That puts you five blocks from the main branch of the Oakland Public Library, four blocks from the Alameda County Administration Building and Superior Court, and three blocks from the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder.

If you're taking a train from Pittsburg/Bay Point, Millbrae, or SFO, you need to transfer to a Fremont or Dublin/Pleasanton train get to the Lake Merritt station.  Instead of waiting for a connecting train, you might want to get off at the 12th Street/Convention Center station, though it's a longer walk.

Similar to the San Francisco Public Library, the Oakland Public Library has two important resources for genealogists:  the Oakland History Room and the Newspaper and Magazine Room.  The History Room is on the second floor of the library and has information and records primarily about Oakland, but also for other cities in Alameda County.  Probably the most significant items are original Oakland birth and death certificates from 1870–1904, before the state of California began collecting vital records, but you can also look at a complete collection of Oakland city directories (1869–1943); Alameda County voter registers (1867–1944); Tax Assessor's block books for Oakland (1877–1925); various Sanborn fire insurance map books from between 1882–1951; photographs of Oakland, Piedmont, and Emeryville; vertical files of newspaper clippings; several local high school yearbooks; information on the origins of street names for Oakland and Berkeley; and more.  There are indices to several local newspapers and to articles in books and magazines.  Staff will do free look-ups and will mail you copies of items for a small fee.  The Newspaper and Magazine Room, which is at the other end of the second floor from the History Room, has the complete historical run of the Oakland Tribune on microfilm, along with many other local newspapers, including a significant number of black newspapers.

The Alameda County Administration Building houses the Superior Court records office and the Tax Assessor.  The records office, on the basement level, holds probate and civil indices and microfilms.  If the records you want to look at have not been microfilmed, they'll have to be retrieved from storage, which can take several days.  Unlike San Francisco, there is no charge to request records from storage.  Also, some records may be housed at different courts.  Criminal records apparently are treated similarly.  The Tax Assessor's office is on the first floor.  You can walk in and ask the nice people there to look up who owns a property.  I've been told it's possible to get complete tax records for a property, but I haven't done that myself (yet).

The Alameda County Clerk-Recorder holds birth, marriage, and death records from 1905 to the present and land records dating back to the 19th century.  There are no restrictions on who can order an informational copy of vital records in California, but more recent records may have some names, such as the medical examiner on a death record, redacted (privacy laws).  The Recorder section has computerized and microfilm indices and records for land transactions and fictitious business name registrations.  A computer with an in-house index for vital records includes records that occurred after the published indices end.

The 12th Street station is the closest one to the African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO).  Exit toward Ogawa Plaza and then head west on 14th Street.  AAMLO is about four blocks away.  AAMLO is a great resource for researching the black communities of the Bay Area and California.  It has diaries, oral histories, videos, newspapers, and other materials relating to local people and organizations.  It also has general resources relating to black history in the United States and important historical individuals.

Our next stop is the 19th Street station in Oakland, the closest station to the California Genealogical Society and Library (CGS), as Kathryn Doyle pointed out in my post about San Francisco genealogy locations.  You can follow the exit toward Broadway and 20th or the one toward 20th; either way you'll have to cross a street (20th for the former, Broadway for the latter) to get to the corner with the beautiful green I. Magnin building.  Then walk up Broadway two blocks, cross one more intersection, and turn left to enter the old Breuner Building, where you will find CGS on the lower level.  CGS has resources not only for California but for the entire United States, as so many people came to California from other places.  Its extensive library includes books, manuscripts, and microfilm.  It also offers genealogy classes throughout the year, including an introduction to genealogy the first Saturday of the month.  Several databases are available on the Web site and in the library.  The library is open to all, but nonmembers must pay a $5 user fee, except for the first Saturday of the month.

Continuing further up the Richmond line (but passing MacArthur and Ashby stations), the Berkeley station puts you not too far from Bancroft Library on the University of California campus and in easy walking distance of the Berkeley Public Library and the Berkeley Historical Society.  If you're going to Bancroft, exit the station via the plaza escalator.  Go east on Center Street, cross Oxford, and enter the campus on Grinnell Pathway.  Turn left on Campanile Way.  After about three "blocks" distance, you'll come to Doe Library; Bancroft is on the east end of the building, with the entrance on South Hall Road.  Bancroft is primarily an archive, with collections of Western Americana, Mark Twain papers, the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, and the university archives, among others.  It also has a significant photograph collection, much of which is being digitized.  Generally, you need to page materials ahead of time (which is a whole separate post!), but some reference materials are on the shelves.

To go to the Berkeley Public Library, follow the signs at the Berkeley station to exit at Shattuck and Allston on the west side of the station.  When you come up above ground, walk south one more block and you'll be at the library.  The big attraction for researchers here is the Berkeley History Room, which has city directories and phone books, Berkeley High and University of California yearbooks, Sanborn insurance maps, the Berkeley Daily Gazette from 1894–1983, oral histories, photographs, maps, and more.

For the Berkeley Historical Society, exit the Berkeley station through the plaza escalator and head west two blocks on Center Street.   The society's History Center has a library and an archive.  I've been told it has Berkeley High School yearbooks (including some years that the Berkeley History Room doesn't have) and a photograph collection, but I haven't actually made it there yet to see for myself.

One very important genealogical location that BART doesn't reach directly is the Oakland FamilySearch Library.  The closest station is Fruitvale.  When you exit the station, to the right is a large board listing the AC Transit buses that leave from the station.  The board also has a handy map showing the bays from which each bus departs.  Currently the #39 bus will take you to the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Monterey Boulevard (but AC Transit has changed this route several times, so the specific bus line might be different when you go).  From there walk back down the hill a little to the entrance of the LDS temple campus and follow the signs to the Visitors' Center/Family History Center (the former name of the FamilySearch Library).  The library is on the lower level of the building.  Before you walk in, make sure you enjoy the beautiful view of the bay.

The Oakland FamilySearch Library is a branch of the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah (the mother lode of genealogy libraries).  It is a noncirculating genealogy library with almost 10,000 print items, 38,000 microfilm reels, and 10,000 microfiche.  The collection has a strong regional focus, so you will find lots of records about California (particularly the Bay Area Portuguese community), but there is something for almost everyone here.  The San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society (SFBAJGS) regularly donates publications and microfilm, so the library has a significant number of Jewish research resources.  The 75 computers have access to more than a dozen subscription genealogy Web sites, including Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.co.uk, NewspaperArchive.com, and Fold3.com.  Classes are offered regularly, and several genealogical groups, including SFBAJGS and CGS, hold meetings, classes, and events in the library.

A really interesting set of records is at another location that requires you to take an extra step after getting to the BART station.  Go to the Hawyard station and take the shuttle to California State University of the East Bay.  In the university library's special collections is a set of original Alameda County voter registration forms from 1875–1925.  Most of this type of record around the country were destroyed, so these are unusual survivors.  This particular set includes a record for author Jack London.  The library also has collections of historical slavery documents and World War II Japanese relocation materials.

So far I've only discussed Alameda County locations, but Contra Costa County is also in the East Bay.  I don't know of anything you can get to directly by BART, but some core repositories are reachable by BART and a bus connection.  The Contra Costa County Clerk, Superior Court, and Historical Society are all in downtown Martinez.  The best way to get there by BART is to go to the Walnut Creek station and take the County Connection #98X (express) line to the Amtrak station, which is only a short walk from the three locations.  You can also take a bus to Amtrak from Pleasant Hill (#18), Concord (#16, #19), and North Concord (#28/627), but the bus lines from those stations take significantly longer.

The Contra Costa County Clerk's office has birth, marriage, and death records, land records, and fictitious business name filings.  Searchable indices are online and on computers in the clerk's building.  The Superior Court records office holds records for closed cases, which are what genealogists usually deal with.  The Contra Costa County Historical Society's History Center is an archive with photographs and original documents relating to the history of the county.

I realize it seems as though I'm giving Contra Costa County short shrift, but I don't know of other genealogy research locations that are easily BARTable.  For example, the Plesasant Hill branch of the Contra Costa County Library has a genealogy collection, and members of the Contra Costa County Genealogical Society volunteer at the library and help people with their research—but the closest station is a mile away on the other side of the freeway, and I didn't see a direct bus connection.  If you know of other BART connections, feel free to post a message letting us know!