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Friday, January 29, 2010

Delicious! A yummy way to bookmark

I’m continually amazed at the vast numbers of great websites there are for genealogical research. Y’all know that I created the Internet Genealogy toolbar to try to keep track of the ones that I use most often, and am continually adding to it. It’s really very handy to have these websites so readily available.

Some folks just save their website discoveries in their Bookmarks or Favorites folders, but personally I have a hard time finding anything once I’ve saved it to one of those folders. I’m not always using my own computer, either, which means that I don’t always have access to my toolbar, or bookmarks or favorites folders.
But anytime, and anywhere that I’m online, I have access to a website called Delicious (
Delicious is a free website devoted to “social bookmarking” (they even coined the phrase). It's basically a great place to store, organize and share your bookmarks online.

It's so easy to find websites that you have saved in Delicious. When you save a webpage, you have the option of adding “tags”, which are descriptive key words. You can add as many tags as you like, and whatever words you like. This way, you can add words that might help jog your memory. When you’re searching your bookmarks you can search by those tags, so that all of your “Ohio”, “death certificate” , or even “Smith Family” bookmarks show up in a list. When you’re adding a bookmark, you also have the option of adding “Notes”, so that you can remember what you liked about that website, as well as let others know what you found there that was great.

In addition to storing your own bookmarks, you can also search through other people’s bookmarks to see what they’re finding that you may have missed. It’s a great way to discover some obscure but valuable websites to enhance your own research.

Sign in for a free account, and be sure to download the free Delicious buttons for your toolbar. With these buttons, you can easily open your own bookmarks in a sidebar, open the entire website, and best of all, very easily save a webpage to save to your Delicious bookmarks.
When you do a search from the main Delicious page, if you are signed in, your results will appear first under the heading “My Bookmarks”, followed by many more under the heading “Everybody’s Bookmarks”. The results also list the associated tags with each bookmark, giving you ideas of possible other words to search to find even more websites to peruse.

When signed in, from the Settings tab at the very top, you can do all sorts of things. You can easily import or upload the bookmarks on your computer from your “Bookmarks” or “Favorites” folders and even share your bookmarks via Twitter. From Settings, you can also revise, edit and organize your tag list easily.

Delicious also has ways to connect to other users by setting up a network, which would be groups of people that you share interests with. There is even an experimental feature that will post your newly added bookmarks to your blog daily, if you are so inclined.

Consider using Delicious for storing your bookmarks, as well as for finding new ones. Not only is it a great organization tool for your own research, but sharing with others is always a good thing :)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Local Resources Rock! Dallas Public Library

I tend to write mostly about internet resources, but as you should know by now, when it comes to genealogical research, you can’t find everything online. I’ve written previously about the importance of spending time at local libraries, because they often contain location specific collections that can be found nowhere else. Today I thought I'd spotlight MY local library, the Dallas Public Library.

Even though I don’t have any ancestors that even vacationed in Texas prior to my moving here, I still go to the downtown every week to research at the J. Erik Jonsson branch of the Dallas Public Library (1515 Young Street). OK, true, I have a volunteer shift at the desk for the Dallas Genealogical Society, but it does give me the opportunity weekly to peruse the absolutely fantastic genealogy department on the 8th floor on a regular basis.

Budget cuts have wreaked havoc on the library hours recently, so be sure to check before you show up to see if they’re opening at 10 am or noon, or to make sure they’re open at all, and not closed for a holiday or an employee furlough day. But it is definitely worth a visit, any time you are in Dallas - whether you have Texas ancestors or not. I recommend parking beneath the building in the public parking there. Its very reasonably priced, safe, and protects you from the crazy whims of Texas weather.

One half of the eighth floor is devoted to DPL's genealogical collection, which is one of the largest in the South. The collections include over 80,000 books, 42,000 rolls of microfilm, 77,000 microfiche and over 700 maps and charts.

Along with the helpful staff at the reference desk, the Dallas Genealogical Society volunteers host an information desk to greet patrons and help direct them in their research.

An old-fashioned card catalog makes it easy to find information, and is the place to start. It organizes the collection by both locality and by surname. The locality drawers are organized by state, and then tabbed by county, with city and town items indexed alphabetically within the tabs. The surname catalog alphabetically organizes books found on the sixteen aisles devoted to family histories and genealogies. There is also a section of vertical files, arranged alphabetically by surname, that contain loose papers and donated materials including family group sheets, unbound manuscripts, and such.

There are 53 aisles of books organized by state. There are many town and county records, including published books on vital records, cemetery inscriptions, gazetteers and state and local histories within each state collection.

This library has over 500 genealogical journals and 200 family name publications. They claim that their collection includes nearly all of the major genealogical periodicals in the United States. I usually check their holdings before I send of a request for copies from PERSI, and more often than not, I find what I need is there at the Dallas library. Most publications’ back issues have been bound, and often contain indices as well, but searching PERSI online can often save time flipping through all those volumes.

The Texas/Dallas Collection on the 7th floor houses newspapers, including both Texas newspapers and collections from other major metropolitan areas.

The Genealogy Department has several excellent special collections. Some of the items for the US include the Draper manuscripts, all US city directories up to 1881, both the Barbour and Hale collections of Connecticut records, the Corbin collection of Massachusetts vital records, the Oklahoma Dawes Rolls, and Virginia land patents 1623-1774. The international records include the Domesday Book, Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland. The microfilm collections for both Military and Immigration (including Passenger Lists) are quite extensive.

The collection of Texas microfilm is amazing. It includes passenger lists of arrivals into Texas ports, military records from every conflict that Texans were involved including nearly 700 rolls of microfilm of Civil War Confederate pension applications, and Republic of Texas pensions and claims files. The collection also contains Convict Record ledgers from the Huntsville Penitentiary (1849-1954), but of particular interest are the vital records microfilm – the Index to Texas Births 1903-1976, the Dept. of Health Death Index 1964-2001, the Bureau of Vital Statistics’ Index to Texas Death Records 1903-1976, and an absolutely AWESOME collection of Texas marriage licenses and records, for every county in the state that has made the records available.

There are 3 photocopiers available for patron use in this department. Patrons must purchase a rechargeable copy card from the desk, because the copy machines do not accept coins. Copies are .15 each. Patrons also have access to 36 regular microfilm readers, and 4 film/fiche readers that are also printers, and two digital film reader/printers.

Twelve computers are dedicated to genealogical resources. Four computers have the library catalog and access to, and six have various genealogical computer CD programs available for patron use on them. The other two also offer internet access.

Through the TexShare database system, patrons with a library card can access several databases at home, including HeritageQuest and Ebsco Newspapers. is only available within the library. The library also offers free wireless internet for patrons at the library.

Through the Dallas Genealogical Society, the library acts as a satellite of the Salt Lake City Family History Center too, making their over 2 million rolls of microfilm available for a minimal rental cost. For accessing materials from just about any US library, interlibrary loan is available for books, microfilms and other media with a valid Dallas Public Library card, however most libraries will not loan genealogical materials. As with most library policies, librarians usually will offer to copy a few pages or the index to requested books for a small copy fee. In regards to newspapers, their policy is that they will not loan complete issues of periodicals or newspapers – but will photocopy articles.

Until his retirement this past summer, one of the most valuable resources of the 8th floor had been Lloyd Dewitt Bockstruck, the Supervisor of the Genealogical Section of the Dallas Public Library. A nationally known author and lecturer, and an expert in many areas of genealogical research including the American Revolution and Bounty Land Grants, during his time as Supervisor, Lloyd acquired and built the collections, making the Dallas Public Library’s genealogy department one of the very best in the country.

Even though I have no Texas ancestors, I continually find treasures pertaining to my own family history from every US state and even from other countries, every time I research at DPL. It is definitely worth a trip if you’re ever anywhere in the Dallas area. And if you are planning on coming, be sure to peruse the online catalog and prepare your research list before you come, to save time.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Top Ten Best Genealogy Moments of 2009

Randy Seaver asked the following question on his blog, Genea-Musings, "What was your best Genealogy Moment during 2009?" It made me mentally review my genealogy year. I realized that it's been an incredibly fun and successful year for me, so I thought I’d share my highlights here. So here is my personal “Top 10" best genealogy moments for 2009.

10. Being able to travel back to the dairy farm that my dad grew up on, and having dad with me as a tour guide to the history of this very small, very rural farming community.

9. Joining SecondLife, and meeting other genealogists from around the world online, having weekly discussions, learning and sharing information, and best of all, getting to meet several of them in real life as well.

8. Attending the Federation of Genealogists Convention in Little Rock in September, which ties in to the previous entry. Not only did I learn a lot from so many great classes and presentations, but I got to know so many really fun and interesting people there, and made some great friendships with other genealogists that I really admire.

7. Joining the Berkshire, MA Family History Association, and as a member benefit receiving 3 hours of free research, which broke one of my main brick walls - finding the father of my 4th great grandfather, David Stevens of Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

6. Having the solution to my other main brick wall literally fall through cyberspace into my lap... reminding me of how important it is to share your own research, as what goes around, comes around...

5. Not only just figuring out how to put together my Internet Genealogy toolbar, so that I can have all of my favorite genealogy websites easily accesible at my fingertips, and be able to share them with others as well, all for free, but discovering, on Christmas eve, that it is being featured in the March 2010 issue of Family Tree Magazine!!!

4. And speaking of Family Tree magazine, another bright spot was being nominated for their list of 40 Best Genealogy Blogs. A thrill if I make it, but the nomination alone is such an honor! The whole blogging business has pretty much been amazing. Imagine my surprise of having over 2,000 visitors to my blog since July, when I think there’d only been about 12 readers so far!

3. Providing a good friend and his family with information about the grandparents and other relatives they had never known. I’m always honored when someone trusts me to research their family, and I’m always thrilled to be able to introduce people to their ancestors. Nothing better than connecting families.

2. I’ve enjoyed so many opportunities this year to speak to societies and other groups all over Texas about genealogy, and nothing is more exciting than watching people have those “aha” moments, frantically scribbling notes, and then commenting to me later, that they will probably be up all night using the new information they’d learned. But nothing made me scream so loud this year as receiving an invitation to speak at the 2010 BYU Conference on Computerized Genealogy and Family History. Wow - I absolutely cannot wait!

1. But I think my best genealogy moments for the entire year are the wonderful friendships I’ve made both online and off, with so many other like-minded genealogists, as well as the connections I’ve forged with so many deceased ancestors - both my own and those of people I’ve helped. It’s an incredible life-affirming feeling, to realize that you are a part of something so much bigger than your own tiny life... to connect to your heritage, your ancestry – your tiny string that is part of the much larger fabric of life.