Sunday, May 18, 2014

Visiting the Merced County Genealogical Society

Corey Oiesen and I had a great start for our trip to Merced on Saturday, where we were scheduled to make a presentation to the Merced County Genealogical Society on using the services of a professional genealogist.  I arrived a little early for our meet-up in Scotts Valley; she had generously offered to drive both of us to Merced (which would have been a four-hour trip for me from Oakland).  The journey was smooth with very little traffic, and we made it to the Merced County Public Library (a beautiful facility) early enough for both of us to get a library card and have time to eat some lunch.

Unfortunately, when we found the meeting room, we discovered that the third member of our panel, Sheri Fenley, was feeling under the weather and was not able to participate.  We missed having her contributions to the discussion.

About twenty-five people, a third of them guests, attended the meeting, and they gave us a warm welcome after a short introduction by Shari Stetson, the program coordinator and past president of the society.  Corey and I each gave a little background about ourselves and our resarch specialties, which between the two of us include adoption, forensic genealogy, French research, Jewish research, newspapers, and translation.  We then played tag team in giving an overview of when it is helpful to contact professional genealogist to help you with your research.

Often people don't think about hiring a professional genealogist until they're stuck at a brick wall.  But it's helpful to consult a professional when you're starting work in an area new to you to get an overview of what kinds of records are available, where to find them, and the kinds of pitfalls to look for.  It can be useful to hire a professional to help you organize the materials you already have and look at them with a fresh analytical eye to give you an idea of what direction you should go next in your search, even if you're not stuck.  Subject specialists have expertise and knowledge accumulated over many years that can effectively create shortcuts in finding the information you need.  We discussed the great resources on the APG Web site, where you can search for a researcher by specialty, proximity to the area you are researching, or proximity to you.  There is also a page with advice on hiring a professional genealogist.

We allowed questions from attendees throughout the presentation.  There were a few inquiries about working as a professional (both of us explained the meanings of our company names), but primarily we answered many questions about where to look for records to help break through some of their brick walls.  When we wrapped up after a couple of hours, we got a rousing round of applause, and everyone seemed to appreciate the information we had been able to share with them.

On our way home, Corey and I had an unusual bit of excitement — two young men in a nearby car flirted with us for about a mile.  Not what two middle-aged women had expected to happen!


  1. "...which between the two of us include adoption, forensic genealogy, French research, Jewish research, newspapers, and translation."

    Very nice. I wonder how many of those topics are overlaps.

    1. The overlaps are adoption and translation, though Corey translates only from French, while I also do Spanish, Russian, and a few others.


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