Interview with Robert Raymond (NERGC speaker)

Robert Raymond isolated and grandkids heads removed

As an official NERGC blogger, I had the opportunity to conduct an email interview with Robert Raymond. He is a frequent speaker at NERGC and we are happy to welcome him back.

Is this your first time at NERGC? What are most looking forward to at NERGC 2019?

I’ve been to NERGC several times and always enjoy the conference. Several things draw me there. I have deep New England ancestry and feel a connection to the area. I also have the assignment at FamilySearch to recommend record acquisitions in New England. I am always learning something new or being reminded of things I have forgotten, both of which help me in my personal research and professional work. I don’t get out from Utah very often, so when I can I visit archives while in the area. Plus, I enjoy teaching and hope my session will benefit attendees.

What first sparked your interest in genealogy?

Gosh, I would have to say it was an activity in Cub Scouts when I was 8 or 9 years old. We had to fill out a pedigree to get a badge or something. I’m obsessive, so filling in every empty box was very satisfying. I come from a long line of genealogists, so it was just a matter of copying the information from their charts to mine. It only grew from there.

In your bio, you state that you are a genealogical technologist. Will you please explain more about what this means, and the path you took to get to this point in your career?

By education I’m an electrical engineer. My passion was programming, which I started doing professionally while still in high school. I had a successful career, I think. Among other things I created several patented inventions and helped build and lead a company whose products earned many industry rewards. One day the company president asked me a cutting question: what would I do with my life if I didn’t have to work. I knew from that very moment that I needed to redirect myself into family history. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so I believe family history opens the way for families to be blessed in this life and in our lives after we die. So I made the switch. But not having a lifetime of genealogical training, as I have had in technology, I’m more comfortable calling myself a genealogical technologist than a technically-inclined genealogist.

Why is it important for genealogists to understand technology? How can it help them in their research?

That’s just it. It’s important for genealogists to understand technology because it can help them in their research. Take my topic, smartphone cameras. Never mind all the powerful things we can do with this miniature computer we carry around in our pocket. There’s several lectures in that, alone. Then someone came along and said, what if we added a camera? The implications have been enormous. Sometimes the applications of new technologies are obvious and sometimes it helps to learn what others have to say.

Do you have any favorite technologies to recommend to NERGC attendees?

There’s DNA, of course, but I’m prejudiced by my employment at FamilySearch. I guess we are not the only one with a huge website of digitized records, but online access to records is arguably the greatest game changer in genealogical history. FamilySearch is working on some technologies that will only accelerate that.

We are also pushing our online, shared tree. We don’t have all the kinks worked out yet, but the potential for collecting in one all the world’s best genealogical trees is worth the endeavor.

I touch on several technologies in my presentation, like cloud storage. It’s a big paradigm shift. I compare it to utilities. Few people generate their own electricity, drill for their own water, or acquire their own gas. We hook up to a wider cloud of services that we use on demand. That same thing is happening to disk storage. We don’t need a huge hard drive inside our phone. We hook to cloud storage like we hook to utilities in our homes.

You will be speaking on Saturday at 10:00. Your talk is titled “Smartly Using a Smart Phone Camera” Will you please tell us a little more about this topic, ,why you created this presentation, and what you hope the attendees will get out of it?

One time after presenting this topic, I had a trained photographer come up to me afterwards and say, “Thank you. I learned stuff I can begin using today.” Hopefully, that will be true for everyone. The most important part of the presentation is about archival research. I present some tips that anyone can use. I also spend time talking about sourcing our research. It is amazingly easy to do using the techniques I present.

Interview with Annette Burke Lyttle (NERGC speaker)

As an official NERGC blogger, I had the opportunity to interview Annette Burke Lyttle, who is a first-timer to NERGC and will be giving 2 talks. I have recently started working with her in a volunteer capacity for an association and she is wonderful! She is very excited to attend NERGC and spend some time in New England as she has a lot of New England ancestors. She will be staying an extra week to do research in the New England area.

Annette Burke Lyttle

Annette got her start in genealogy when she was 12 years old. She was assigned a school project having to do with family history and asked her mother how she was supposed to know who all these people are. Her mother provided some information, but suggested she write to her two great-grandmothers who were still living, as well as several great-aunts. They sent her a significant amount of wonderful information and her interest was sparked. The need to make a living intervened but both she and her mother took an adult education course at a local university where the instructor taught them how to do genealogy right. They learned to pencil in information on family group sheet and pedigree charts and put sources on the back. While Annette worked, her mother continued to work on the genealogy. Annette inherited all the work her mother had done. When she retired in 2012 she opened all the boxes and became a full time genealogist.

Annette’s first talk at NERGC is a part of the Professional Genealogist Day (on Wednesday). She will be speaking about “Your Educational Plan for Going Pro

Annette is working towards obtaining certification as a professional genealogist, so putting together a plan to go pro is very timely.

She realized she wanted to be a professional genealogist when she started doing research for a few friends and realized she enjoyed doing research as much for other people as she did for herself. She loves helping people uncover and share their family stories.

For Annette, the family story is the important part. Names, dates and places are an important framework, but what she enjoys the most is filling in that framework with details and stories. She has a gg-grandfather who was a blacksmith. His father was a blacksmith and his father probably was too (if she could find him). Her gg-grandfather was listed as a blacksmith in a tiny little town in Michigan in the 1880s, but in the 1900 census he is listed as saloon keeper. She knows it’s the same person and was curious as to why he would change careers mid-life. As she researched blacksmithing and economic conditions, she found that beginning around 1860 the things that blacksmiths made were beginning to be manufactured in factories. By 1900 many blacksmiths were out of business. All of a sudden, it made sense why he became a saloon keeper. She had an understanding of his life that she didn’t have before. That is what she is always trying to do—understand what life was like for her ancestors.

Annette’s second NERGC talk is on Saturday at 3:15 and is titled “Genealogical Proof for the Everyday Genealogist

Annette created this lecture because she discovered so many everyday genealogists who have great experience, skill, and talent in genealogical research become fearful when they think about the genealogical proof standard (GPS). It seems very formal and to some people it appears to be a test. It is a test: the genealogist is testing her research against standards. A lot of people are put off by the thought that the GPS can help them. She created the presentation to make the GPS more accessible to everyday genealogists and help them understand that the GPS is their friend and not a fearful foreign thing that only professional genealogists use. She provides many concrete examples to show how to put GPS into operation. Anyone that is interested in being a better researcher would benefit, including beginners.

I hope you come hear Annette’s talk. You can learn more at her website.

Forgotten History and its Effect on Your Ancestors

 

Forgotten history seems to be the theme on Facebook and in the types of talks sponsored by local historical societies and living history sites. Below is a sampling of events and articles that are bringing to light forgotten or “misremembered” history.

Michelle Coughlin will be speaking on March 21 at the Congregational Library and Archives in Boston on “Plymouth Colony’s First Lady Penelope Winslow: Reconstructing a Life through Material Culture”
Penelope was the wife of Josiah Winslow, governor of Plymouth County, and was one of the most powerful women in the colony, yet few remember her today. Michelle brings her to life through material culture.

Kerima Lewis will talk on February 12 about the role of slavery in colonial New England, something that many don’t know about. Her talk is titled “Discover Historic New England: Captives from Africa via the Caribbean.” This article provides information about the slaves that Abigail Adams knew as a child that remained an important part of her life as an adult.

I first met Darren, chief of the Shoshones, last year at a history conference and was deeply impressed by his love for his people and his history. He has been working tirelessly towards a memorial for the massacre of the Shoshone in the 1800s that few know about today. You can read more here.

old south meeting house

I’m not sure how many of the events above I will make it to, but I did make it to one event at the Old South Meeting House in Boston, MA (see photo) that made me think more about how history can be forgotten, or wrongly remembered (think myths that arise from historical events). The event was a panel discussion focusing on the Great Molasses Flood of 1919 in Boston’s North End, Massachusett’s forgotten suffragists, and Leif Erikson.

The most interesting part of the panel was why parts of history and historical figures are forgotten:

  1. Lack of sources
  2. Someone else told their version of the story more effectively (why Lucy Stone, suffragist, was forgotten. Stanton and Cady, although perhaps less influential in terms of work accomplished, were far more effective in telling their side of the story.)
  3. Only “ordinary” people were affected (molasses flood hit the part of town populated by poor immigrants)
  4. Politics (although >20 people died and a couple hundred were injured, they weren’t important enough for politicians to do anything to fix the problem and to remember them)
  5. Targeted and deliberate exclusion (women of color in the suffrage movement by Stanton and Cady)
  6. People find evidence to fit what they believe

I am still thinking a lot about the 1918 flu epidemic and why it was forgotten. Some of the reasons above apply. Other reasons include

  1. The worst of the epidemic was ending just as the Armistice was signed. People were ready to move on to happier times.
  2. Unlike WWI, which was supported by government who then erected monuments, there was no establishment behind the 1918 flu, so monuments were not erected
  3. The horror was too much to talk about (or write about)

When doing your genealogical research, how have you dug out these forgotten histories? What sources do you use? How do you share the forgotten stories that you discover?

 

 

2019 Goals

Have you been thinking about what you would like to accomplish in 2019 that is related to family history? Perhaps breaking down a brick wall, or starting research on a new line? Or maybe you want to start writing your own life history? Organizing what you have and bulking up your genealogy skills is another good option. No matter what you choose, writing it down helps you remember and keep you focused.

For that reason I am sharing my 2019 family-history related genealogy goals.

1) Reading more carefully through this 100+ page biography of my gg grandmother Addie (Hannah Adeline Hatch Ison) to truly appreciate her story and find paths of future research I can do to learn more about her life. These include research into the health options available to her to treat a chronic condition and the impact this may have had on her family life, newspaper research, and learning about society and church groups she belonged to. I will finish the transcription of her 100 page handwritten diary I came across in 2017.

IMG_2969

2) Review and organize all the land records and other types of records I collected during my trip to Addison County, VT in September of this year and make plans for next steps

3) Continue working on proving (or disproving) my potential Mayflower line.

3) Start my personal history.

 

What are your goals? Are they written down somewhere?

Pretty Bird My Cup–What Color’s Yours?

This was a game we played frequently in our family when I was a kid. One person was “it” and would choose a color. This person would be armed with a cup of water and a spoon. Players took turns naming colors–you wanted your color choice to be unusual and therefore unlikely to be the one “it” had chosen. If you were the unfortunate person who named the color “it” had chosen, you received a spoonful of water thrown at you (if you were lucky–often it was much more than a spoonful) and you became “it”.

Five_Piece_Tea_Service_with_Chrysanthemum_Design_LACMA_M.2006.132.10a-i

I had no idea this game had been passed down for generations until I read my great-great-aunt’s account of playing “Pretty Bird in my Cup”, “Color, Color, What Color is it?” as a child, which at some point got shortened to “Pretty Bird My Cup–What Color’s Yours?”

Some of my sisters still play this with their kids (some with a spray bottle!!), making at least 5 generations of children in our family growing up playing this game. I don’t know where it originated, or how many generations played before my great-great-grandma, but it is a game that now holds much more meaning to me as I think of how it has passed through the generations.

Do you have a game in your family that has been passed down through the generations?

Virden, New Mexico

Virden, New Mexico is a magical place, with a raw beauty, precious family, and so many memories. My grandpa owned a farm there, so many of the memories revolve around the cotton and other crops he grew there, and that his son and grandsons continue to grow.

I wrote this poem when I was in the 8th grade for a poetry unit. My teacher submitted it to the district contest and I won for my grade level. But more important than that is what this town means to me, as both a kid (when I wrote this) and an adult.

As a kid, it was a fun place to visit and get together with my mom’s family. We had cookouts and tractor rides and scared ourselves by going into the old deserted elementary school. It was an adventure for a kid raised in the city.

As an adult, I came to realize that farm life is hard work and that the parties we had when my family came to visit were special occasions. I place a higher value now on the heritage that I mentioned in the poem, although I understood a lot about it when I was in 8th grade. The house has long since been sold out of the family. My grandfather will soon join my grandmother and their baby girl in the cemetery. The great grandsons of the original owner of the farm (my grandfather’s father) are now farming the land. Family ties remain strong to both the land and the heritage left by the founders of Virden.

Virden, New Mexico

A small town full of family,

Full of dust and rusty pick-ups.

Full of ancient houses built by a pioneer’s hand

And full of priceless memories.

 

Memories of my grandfather’s house

Where the boards in the dark hall go c-r-reak,

c-r-reak.

With the white picket fence around the play area

And the swings that have swung for many a year.

 

Memories of roaming the open desert hills

And finding “forts” owned only by us.

Going to the cemetery where lay Baby Elizabeth

and Grandma Jones.

Going to the old school to explore

And most of all talking forever to the

unquenchable

Mrs. Stamper.

 

Yes, Virden is a small town full of family,

Full of dust and rusty pickups,

Full of ugly old sheds.

It is my heritage.

copyright Lori Lyn Price

Photo of 4 of my 5 sisters in front of the old Virden school (closed when my mom was in elementary school, but a favorite place to visit because it is forbidden)

sisters and virden school

Farm photos courtesy of Rustin and Annie Jones

So your family was hit by the 1918 flu, too?

 

Picture1

I attended History Camp on Saturday and gave a condensed version of my talk that tells stories of families impacted by the 1918 flu. After the talk was over, people started telling me their stories. I said I would like to remember these people and tell their stories, and would do so via blog posts and in my talk. There was a rush for my cards after the talk. People really do want to hear stories and tell stories.

I’ll start by telling my stories. When I asked my parents a year or two ago if we had any 1918 flu stories in my family, they both answered no. But, when my mom came to visit, we went through a book about her tiny hometown in New Mexico and there was mention in the book of Grandma Keeler taking care of affected town members. This wasn’t proof that it directly affected my family, but chances were good that it did since the town was so small.

A few months later my mom was going through some papers at her dad’s house and found a life history written by her Aunt Cleo. She writes: ““During the winter of 1918 there was a terrible flu epidemic that swept the entire country and many people died from it. I was five months old when I got the flu and was very ill. Mama told me that for
three days I lay in a stupor but through faith and administration I was spared. My father had the flu that same winter and was very ill with it.”  I am glad that both she and her father survived. My grandfather was born a few years later.

While going through some family histories on my dad’s side I found the following about his grandmother written by her daughter: ““During the flu epidemic of World War I, Mother had the dreadful disease, which left her with a lost of most of her hearing. This was a real trial to her all her life. But she tried to be cheerful and not dwell on her infirmities.” My dad knew his grandmother well, but thought her hearing loss was due to old age.

We thought we didn’t have any 1918 flu stories but we did. It was so widespread that everyone was affected in some way, even if their story is that they were one of the lucky ones that didn’t get it.