Well everyone, I can finally announce the release of a project I’ve been working on for much of this Pandemic – The BloodRoot Podcast. Even though live since August – it has now been shared across multiple platforms and can be accessed via most of your favorite listening tools!
In fact, I’ve been working on this for most of the pandemic. Being trapped in my home for months on end got me to thinking about new ways to stretch my creativity. And as usual, creativity is always tied to the past for me. After exploring the options and doing a lot of logistical homework, I have embarked on what will hopefully be a fun experiment in storytelling and family history healing. My goal is to provide a listening experience that takes listeners through a family story or challenge slowly – in a way that makes them think along the way.
With each new episode I hope to empower listeners to explore the deep roots of their family history by preserving stories, advocating truth, restoring context, and fostering healing. Who we are is a fundamental question that often inspires genealogists to begin their journey. The search for our roots is deep seated in our blood and DNA, and yet it’s all more complicated than those two simple concepts. In fact, our humanity makes everything more complicated – which begs the question, why would our history be any different?
So settle in, grab a cuppa, and prepare to be inspired by our ancestors and their life journeys.
Not the sterilized versions we’ve come to know – but the real stories, rooted in real people with real challenges and flaws. By celebrating our ancestors within their human complexity, we learn so much more about ourselves, what it means to be family, and how we are all connected to one another.
Since August, I have been slowly publishing episodes, with a total of four available at the present time – on most of your favorite podcast listening platforms. My current rate is only about once a month as I explore the possibilities of this new outlet. The episode guide can be found on the “BloodRoot” page of this website – and may contain some supplemental information if the episode warrants.
If you have a story that you’d like to share with the listeners, or a topic you’d like to see covered, you can send me an email, message me through my various social media platforms, or leave me a voice message through the Anchor app. If you leave a message, I may include it on a future episode!
Join me as we uncover the BloodRoot of our family history!
All I can say about the past two weeks….Gee, that escalated quickly! As a genealogy librarian, this post contains a special message designed to further your research while supporting libraries in this difficult time. You see, for the past week, our historical society and library staff have been assessing, planning, re-assessing, and taking steps to provide service while keeping patrons and staff safe. It is a very tricky balance. Many reports you are getting include multiple notices of libraries closing down for the next few weeks, if not months ahead. These actions, while important for the safety of all, are worrisome for libraries as they continue to fight for funding and live in a world that makes them justify their existence despite their priceless (and proven) service to the community. As all of us look for ways to support local businesses and restaurants who may suffer during this time, please remember the libraries. What can we do if they are physically closed? Take your support virtual.
Those Statistics Matter!
I know this time at home is allowing us to catch up on organization, DNA matches, genealogy lessons, and reading. Time well spent. But just because the libraries may be closed to on-site visitation, does not mean they are closed to your research. Pay close attention to their websites. Most library websites will remain live – which includes databases you can use from home. As so much library funding is based on usage statistics, PLEASE keep those online numbers coming over the weeks/months ahead! We need them, and we WILL be counting them!
There are currently many libraries out there who are closed to patrons, with staff still reporting. What exactly will they be doing with a library devoid of patrons? They will be purchasing books, cataloging them, planning future programming, providing virtual reference/programs, some curbside book delivery, digitizing material, and maintaining those databases we can use from home. And the databases themselves are VERY diverse in what they can offer your research:
E-Book Circulation: If you have an active public library card, you can check out e-books for free! So many titles, only one pandemic – use it wisely!
Interlibrary Loan: This MAY be possible depending on whether your library is being staffed. Even if they are not borrowing books, they may lend out material – and don’t forget articles – they can obtain and deliver articles to you electronically.
Digital Archives: SO many archives out there have digitization programs which post new content online for free. The catch is – many archives host their digital content in various platforms – meaning that each one may look a little different, or may be hiding in areas of a website that are not naturally intuitive. Take your time, and look through all of their database offerings – you may find a rich supply of primary sources on a local level.
Genealogy Databases: Most of us already know about the free databases our library card can get us – but these are expensive for libraries to provide – don’t forget to use them during this hiatus from regular activities.
Most of you use this wonderful tool to search out local archives research. While this is a great tool – please be aware that this DOES NOT include every archive out there – far from it. This began as a subscription based database for libraries/archives. They previously had to pay a subscription in order for their archive to be included in this platform. Today, they claim that the entries are generated through web crawling of archival websites and finding aids – but when looking at their map, it is only a fraction of the great archival websites out there. For my state, they only include 15 archival repositories – and I happen to know there are close to a hundred more. Solution: Start with ArchiveGrid to look for regional/local archives, but when you see location holes, conduct a general internet search for an archive or archival collection that may apply to your region/location of interest – and don’t forget to look at every county public library website – several have history rooms with online content available. While the vast majority of smaller archives may not have been caught by ArchiveGrid, they can afford a website, many with digitized material. Boost their stats by visiting these sites often.
While at RootsTech a couple of weeks ago, I listened to one of Judy Russell’s talks about copyright and the new content available with each new year. She physically demonstrated how much content was newly available now that 2020 had arrived. The result was thousands of new titles digitized and available – and full text searchable – through these great sites. Both of these sites are non-profit library connected sites and stay viable through usage. Google Books – while not library connected per se, utilizes library collections for their digitization efforts, and should also be used for your pandemic down-time research
Time to Fill in that Local Context:
Again, I cannot reiterate enough the importance of taking virtual tours through the local historical societies, public libraries, colleges, and museums. Many offer free content that you can use from home to beef up the contextual knowledge/research you have about an ancestor’s place of residence or origin. Explore, gather info, and map out some of the information you find. I also encourage you to explore localities through the Library of Congress online offerings – and even the National Archives. I could go on – but time to explore and find great resources for yourself!
My Current Situation:
As of today, my library is closed to on-site visitors but our staff is reporting to maintain reference chains of communication. We will continue to answer phones, assist researchers via email, fill research orders submitted by mail, fill interlibrary loan requests, conduct programming research, and produce educational material from time to time. Of course, this may change in the future, but we will be tackling each day in its turn. Even if they close our doors fully, I anticipate continuing email and phone reference. And PLEASE, continue to use our free online databases/catalogs! We will continue to count those statistics, and every little bit helps.
As a library/archives professional who has worked in libraries for over 30 years, this is the craziest disruption of service that I have ever encountered. And that includes the time we thought cornmeal dust in a book shipment was anthrax in the months following 9/11! We can get through this, but my most fervent advice remains: PLEASE REPEAT the above as much as possible over the next weeks/months! We do not know how long this situation will last, so please remember to show our libraries and archives some CONSISTENT virtual love!
How do I begin to describe the 10th Anniversary of RootsTech? The only word that fits is “epic”. As RootsTech continues to grow past the decade mark, it is important to understand that the size of this conference means each attendee can have a completely unique experience. Today I will fill you in on the experience I had, including some great announcements that were made during the week. And to get a broader representation of the RootsTech experience, check out some of the blog posts published by other 2020 ambassadors!
The Story of YOU:
The biggest impact this year had to be “The Story of You”. As the theme of this year’s conference, you could see it everywhere. And as a librarian, the book motifs were geeking me out quite a bit. It reminded us all that our story and our ancestors’ stories are very intertwined. The story chain would not be complete without our story – urging everyone to buckle down and include their story in the family narrative.
By far, the best visual for this theme had to be the “What’s Your Story” interactive display. Attendees were encouraged to write a snippet of their story in one of the hundreds of empty journals lining the balcony on the second floor. By the time the conference was over, most of the pages were filled with colorful comments and stories.
Wearing Many Hats:
This year, I attended as both a speaker and ambassador which afforded different experiences, yet flowed together pretty seamlessly due to the wonderful work of the RootsTech organizational teams. With all of the moving parts, and such a small planning team, what they achieve each year is pretty remarkable. Below I will outline the highlights of each role in 2020.
As a speaker, I presented three sessions on various topics: Digital Citizenship, Difficult History, and Family History Preservation. Just remember that the syllabus material is still available on the app, and there are 20+ free sessions available right now in the 2020 video archive. You can watch my session on Tackling Difficult Chapters of Our Family History by clicking this link, or by watching the video link on the sidebar. I have to say, this session was my most rewarding so far, due to the sensitive and timely nature of the stories I included. Plus, I’ve had so many people thank me for the session, while sharing their difficult histories amid tears and hugs. We all have difficult chapters in the family tree – and this session will help you deal with them in a practical and sensitive manner.
For those of you who purchased the Virtual Pass, the recorded sessions are still being processed and should be available within the next few weeks. The Virtual Pass is still available for purchase until September. If you opt for this option, the 30+ sessions in combination with the free sessions will give you access to over 50+ sessions. Since no attendee can get to all of the sessions physically, this is a great way to keep learning from RootsTech over the coming months!
As a RootsTech Ambassador, we are given certain updates and information to share with you all. Some of those highlights include:
RootsTech is heading to LONDON this fall! This, by far, was the biggest announcement by Family Search. Save the Date: November 5-7, 2020. Registration is already open.
Interview with Dan Call and Bryan Austad: These two Family Search “Experience Managers” are the masterminds behind the Discovery Centers – found in the Expo Hall and on the 1st floor of the Family History Library. Dan was even instrumental in helping to create RootsTech 10 years ago. So, they shared their views on how much the conference has changed, and their desire for the future of the Discovery Centers. Be looking for additional ways to Discover your family history through an expanded experience Discovery Experience on your own PC – coming very soon!
MyHeritage:During a dinner for Friends of MyHeritage (and throughout the conference) they showcased their new photo colorizing tool that quickly colorizes old black and white photos with the click of a button. They also announced a new U.S. City Directory collection that expands their digitized images to 1.5 billion.
For me, the inspiration of the keynote speakers, and the importance of telling our stories had the most impact. We’ve all told ourselves to get writing, but this year, the tools available to help us, and the fleeting nature of life have spurred me to once again pick up the pen. We have work to do!
For this year, there were some cool additions that had us playing and learning at a greater rate.
Virtual Reality:There was a huge booth designed to allow VR participants to explore the land their ancestors called home. And for those who had ancestors on the Mayflower, MyHeritage was adding a fun twist to the experience.
The Discovery Center: Was expanded this year and placed in the center of the Expo Hall.
Shuttle to the Library: This year, there was a shuttle taking folks to the library and back to the Salt Palace – If you missed the shuttle, there were new, helpful sidewalk signs to help you find your way!
Thanks again to the organizers!They rocked it once again, and demonstrated how strong this conference is after 10 years. I was there the first year, and each year I attend, I am more and more impressed – and always come home greatly inspired. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring for RootsTech!
It’s almost here – RootsTech 2020! The Genealogist’s version of Christmas! As this year marks the 10th anniversary, it should be the biggest conference yet! In the flurry of packing, writing, and planning, I wanted to take some time to cover my favorite features of this amazing conference – and why you should attend, either in-person or virtually.
Cutting edge tools, tips, and instruction: From the ginormous expo hall with the latest and the greatest genealogy tech tools to the most recent advances in DNA science and available resources, this conference should be on your yearly genealogy check-list – and here’s why. If you stay at home or travel to attend in person, your week (and the coming weeks) will be chock full of discovery and learning.
Here’s my formula for success with both attending options:
At Home 1:Watch the FREE live-streaming classes! There are about 21 sessions scheduled which can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home, without spending a dime. But as a binge-watching society, I know those 21 sessions will NOT be nearly enough. The great news: You can purchase a Virtual Pass which will bring you another 30 sessions to watch from home! That’s right, the virtual pass brings your total viewing number to over 50! Seriously, with 300 sessions in person, 50 is a great chunk.
At home 2:Download the syllabus material! You can do this as well, for FREE – for most of the classes! Not just the 50+ mentioned above – ALL 300+ sessions! Please take advantage of this option – the speakers spend a lot of time and effort making these materials thorough and useful – not to mention that each speaker can be a future reference for you when needing more education. Downloading is available through the RootsTech App.
At home 3:Take a virtual tour of the Expo Hall! The entire list of exhibitors can be found on the RootsTech website, and at your leisure, you can click on each one and explore their websites. Some may even have RootsTech special pricing, so be sure to explore and play with these latest genealogy tech toys and tools.
At home bonus: As most of you know, I am honored to have been selected as a speaker once again this year – which I will cover in more detail below. However, several folks have asked me about one particular session that resonates with many of us today: Tackling Difficult Chapters of Our Family History. I am doubly honored to announce that this session has been picked up for the livestream schedule! On Thursday, February 27th @ 3:00pm Mountain Time (5:00pm EST), you can tune in to watch my presentation in its entirety. If you miss it that day, the recording will be available shortly thereafter on the RootsTech.org website.
In Person 1:Happy Birthday, RootsTech!This year is going to be a huge blow out! Over 300+, and expanded session space and exhibit session opportunities, so you’ll want to be there if at all possible! As a speaker, I will be giving three presentations over the course of the conference:
My Session Schedule:
A Digital Citizenship Primer for Genealogists: Wednesday, Feb. 26th @ 3:00pm
Tackling Difficult Chapters of Our Family History: Thursday, Feb. 27th @ 3:00pm
The Hoarder’s Guide to Family History Preservation: Saturday, Feb. 29th @ 1:30pm
Speaker Meet-Up Schedule: In lieu of questions during my sessions, I am going to try and snag a space in the speaker meet-up area for more in-depth conversations. As these tables are first come, first served, please pay close attention to my Twitter or Instagram feed to see when I’ve snagged a table for confab! If you don’t use either – you can see these feeds right here on this website – right sidebar.
In Person 2:Be sure to take care of YOU! Pace yourself – this is the big one! At 10 years old, this year’s event looks to be the biggest yet. According to the Salt Palace tour video that was put out by the conference organizers, the event is sprawling even more – including food and session rooms all the way down to the far end of the Palace – which is reminiscent of the first year, then only down the north side of the Palace. Also, be sure to watch the Road to RootsTech video series – this includes wonderful tips – which for this year, is VERY important! There is construction happening at the south end entrance to the Salt Palace – resulting in CLOSURE. From what we have seen so far, even the sidewalk around that entrance is closed. Another important point – this construction alters the bathroom plan. Go watch the latest video for updates.
In Person 3:Bags and Swag! Your badges have been mailed to most of you. For those of you who need them printed or re-printed, there will be several stations available to provide this service. And did I mention how cool the bags are going to be this year? Pink and black backpacks! Woot!
In Person 4:Do not forget to prioritize the Exhibit Hall!NEW THIS YEAR: Gone is the Unconferencing Session space, and in its place, a more expanded area for vendors to host instructional sessions. Yes, the Demo stage will still be there, but these expanded areas should be able to accommodate more attendees and provide more in-depth information compared to the brief Demo sessions. Look for spaces in the vendor areas as well as the EXPO HALL CLASSROOM, in the front, next to Trace’s Coaches’ Corner. In other words, build time into your schedule to fully explore this genealogy/tech wonderland. It is unlike any genealogy conference out there and should be enjoyed to the fullest!
In Person 5:The Family History Library!OK, so if you live in SLC, you’re excused from this one. If you are visiting from out of town, you MUST take a little time to research those ancestors! This place is unparalleled – And they have graciously added late night hours to enhance your RootsTech/SLC experience! Just make sure you come prepared with a reasonable research plan, or you will quickly get overwhelmed by the resource buffet on each floor. Another tip: If the Discovery Center in the Expo Hall gets too crowded, head over to the permanent version on the first floor of the library!
In Person 6:Stretch those introvert tendencies and talk to other attendees!These are your people – gathered together at the great watering hole of ancestral information. Even the vendors are there to learn more about you, the users! In fact, that was the original mission of RootsTech 2011 – getting the developers and users in one place to learn from each other. So, in 2020, let’s remember that original dream and make the genealogy landscape a better place because we made the effort to connect with those of like minds and pursuits.
Post Script: For additional survival tips, please see the official Survival Guide posted by the conference organizers, as well as many other ambassadors out there!
Howdy faithful readers! As RootsTech 2020 is now less than a month away, it’s time for another update.
The final keynote lineup has been announced and the 10th anniversary looks to be amazing! (See pic above)
For those of you attending in person, there is still time to pre-register with on-site registration or individual daily attendance always an option.
For those of you attending virtually from home, the free Livestream schedule has been posted – meaning you can tune in for FREE online – and watch over 20 sessions that educate and inspire!
Announcement: As most of you know, I am honored to be giving three presentations at this year’s RootsTech – and several of you have asked about one specific session: Tackling Difficult Chapters of Our Family History – I am pleased to announce that this session will be available for free on the livestream lineup! It is scheduled for Thursday afternoon (Feb. 27), at 3:00pm mountain time (5:00pm eastern).
If the free lineup only makes you want more, there is a virtual pass available for purchase that will give you access to 30 additional sessions. The lineup looks amazing, so check it out!
The conference app is also now available for download. For those onsite, this is an invaluable tool to make your attendance a successful experience. Through the app, you can see the speaker lineup/profiles, download syllabus material – and in some cases, presentation slides!
That’s about all the news I have for January – stay tuned – I will post my big RootsTech preview in the coming weeks!
One of my most recent teapot purchases came with an amazing surprise.
A note was folded up and placed inside this 18th century porcelain beauty….a note that detailed its genealogy of ownership. Sadly, the ownership chain had been broken for a few decades as the last generational owner passed away. But the delight in finding anything about the original owner of such a teapot was beyond my wildest dreams.
As you can see from the note, it has a long history, of immigration, lineage, weddings, and familial intermarriage to the cousin level. And in one case, the “double cousin” level. It also mentions TWO teapots, but this is the only one discovered.
After reading all of the begats, I looked at the front of the teapot, and sure enough, there was a label that had been added at some point, to celebrate the marriage of Arthur and Elizabeth Todd McFarland in 1758.
Due to the wear of the writing, I’m not sure how close to the event this was added. Since it was a wedding gift, perhaps it was added in 1758? After seeing other examples of added glaze decoration, this just doesn’t feel right for a 1758 label. I could be wrong, and perhaps it was just a sloppy job? Either way, the half worn appliqué is a lovely addition tying the teapot to its place in history.
After completing my obligatory happy dance at such a discovery, I got serious about matters and inquired further with the seller concerning the provenance. After all, I was afraid this person was parting with a family heirloom. On the contrary, while it had belonged to his mother’s estate, she had purchased it years ago at a Church rummage sale next door to a nursing home in Florida. A bit of a relief, but still sad, nonetheless.
Once this little gem had made it home to my collection, I began going over the family connections. As a historian, the surname “Todd” was setting my wheels to turning. It couldn’t be, surely…not the same family as the other Todd clan we’ve all heard of.
So I started doing some research into this line. My first stop at Findagrave.com had me linking pretty quickly to the generation of Mary Todd Lincoln’s Great Grandfather….cue hyperventilating. Then I calmed down and started looking for corroboration.
According to a sweet little book entitled, Todd Family, Copied from Kittochtinny Magazine, 1905, also From the mss papers of Mrs. Emily Todd Helm by Nina M. Visscher, 1939, the lineage in the letter is spot on.
Some of the information was reported within a few generations of Elizabeth by Emilie (Emily) Todd Helm – Mary Todd Lincoln’s half sister – who became the Todd family historian. To spare you the gory genealogy details, this teapot belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln’s half-great great aunt, Elizabeth Todd Parker McFarland. Huzzah!
Remember the great grandfather I mentioned earlier? David Todd, son of Robert, “the immigrant”, was a child of Robert’s first marriage to “unknown” Smith. Poor girl, we’ve lost her given name over the years. Robert next married Isabella Hamilton and started having a lot more offspring. Elizabeth Todd (David’s half sister) was one of the next in line in order of birth. David’s descendant line stretches to Mary Todd Lincoln through his son Levi, to son Robert, and then to Mary Todd Lincoln. OK, you can uncross your eyes now…in linear fashion, this is what it looks like:
Robert Todd > David Todd (Elizabeth Todd McFarland’s half brother) > Levi Todd > Robert Todd > Mary Todd (Lincoln).
So, enough about Mary Todd Lincoln…here’s a bit more information about the happy couple who owned this teapot. It appears that Elizabeth was married previously to a William Parker. They had three children, and then he died around 1757. The very next year, Elizabeth marries Arthur McFarland in 1758. She wasn’t moving on too soon – this was common for widows to marry again as soon as possible – first, more men than women created quite the demand – second, women had little to no rights, and for protection/financial stability/survival, they needed a husband.
After Elizabeth and Arthur married in 1758, they have four more children. Arthur is listed in the Todd family history as “Major” Arthur McFarland. I have not been able to find record of this military service, but since he was born in 1720 and died in 1780, I’m guessing it’s not for service in the American Revolution. If it was for an earlier war, such as French and Indian, I’d have to keep digging. With a person of property during the Revolution, one naturally questions allegiance, and I’m happy to say that I found Arthur listed in the Philadelphia “Supply Tax” rolls for the year he died. This type of tax was taken from those who were supporting the cause of the Revolution.
Elizabeth died May 21st, 1790, and she is buried alongside her second husband, Arthur McFarland in the Providence Presbyterian Church graveyard outside Philadelphia.
So, in light of these details, does this jibe with the details of the teapot itself? Does it look like a teapot made in 1758? One clue that was included in the family note referenced “Lowestoft.” This type of teapot was made in England at the time, but I feel this label is inaccurate. One of my favorite tools for learning how to visually understand porcelain terminology and teapot construction is the museum website. Places like the MET and the Victoria and Albert Museum allow you to search their collections with terms you’ve come across. These are going to be wonderful experts in the matter, even over antiques dealers who might have good intentions, but lack sufficient expertise to get the variances correct. After all, no one is an expert in everything.
At the end of the day, Lowestoft examples appear to have a slightly different shape, domed lid, and different decoration. This porcelain does fit into the small, rounded Chinese Export examples….but I’m no expert….just collecting and learning as I go. As for 1758, yeah, it fits OK there too. Other examples of this construction fit that time frame. Also, the imperfections, firing flaws, bottom look (sans mark), strainer area, handle attachment, and glaze embellishments fit with the period.
One other thing I love about this teapot is its very old repair. Somewhere along the timeline, the lid was broken in half. Due to its strong family connection, they had it repaired instead of tossing it altogether. This unsightly staple repair is typical of the 19th century, and produces another layer of charm to this storied teapot.
Moral of the story: Always look inside those teapots when heirloom hunting or antiquing. I adore teapots with stories or provenance tucked inside. This is not my only teapot with family information, but it is the only one I have that came complete with its own genealogy!
As the Holiday Season draws to a close, we need to be looking forward to RootsTech, 2020! As a RootsTech Ambassador, it was my privilege to pick the winner of my RootsTech full pass giveaway contest. On Christmas Day, my family and I drove up to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee to announce my winner – The full video can be seen on Instagram or Twitter. Drum roll, please – the lucky winner was Kathy Webb! Even though the winner was chosen at random, Kathy’s favorite genealogy find of 2019 was pretty cool – She discovered that her great grandmother was a sheriff in Arkansas! I’d love to know more about that story!
I would like to thank all of those who entered my contest via the three options (blog, Twitter, Instagram)! We had a total of 29 entries with some really great stories. Be sure to go read the comments of the last post to be inspired for 2020. From immigration stories, to DNA cousins, to connecting back to the land of our heritage, the entries were really amazing, and worth the read. Also, thanks to RootsTech for providing these passes for the Ambassadors to give away – there are still some contests running out there for the next couple of days – so if you didn’t win, and want another chance – be sure visit the Conference Keeper site for the links.
Now that we are less than two months away from RootsTech 2020, here are the latest updates: The 2020 app is now live – and we’ve heard the schedule has been finalized – so time to get exploring and setting up your schedule for each day. Another keynote speaker has been announced – Emmitt Smith, Former Dallas Cowboys player, and NFL Hall of Famer.
These next two months are going to fly by – and I can’t wait to see everyone in SLC. Be watchful for more announcements as they are released in the coming weeks!
To kick off the Holiday season, I am hosting a RootsTech Christmas Contest – starting now! You could win a full four-day pass to RootsTech 2020 – with the lucky winner being announced on Christmas Day! If you’re already sold on entering, please scroll down to the contest instructions to proceed.
Latest RootsTech News:
If you haven’t already noticed, RootsTech 2020 is fast approaching. And with the Holidays coming up, it will be here before we know it! After watching the Highlights from RootsTech London just a month ago, here are some things you should keep in mind:
1: The free recorded sessions are still up on the main RootsTech site – as are sessions from RootsTech past. Did you know you can still watch some sessions from RootsTech, all the way back to 2015?! You can find these videos in the video archive section. That’s a whole lot of learning going on!
2: Swag Alert – they debuted a new swag bag for attendees this year. RootsTech London attendees received a pink backpack – and for RootsTech 2020, we’ll be getting blue backpacks!
3: The first keynote speaker of the 2020 line-up has been announced: Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer, David Hume Kennerly – with more great speakers to be announced soon!
4: Even if you can’t make the conference in person, be sure to check out the premium pass options for a deeper roster of virtual sessions.
5: Reminder: 2020 is the 10th anniversary bash – if you’ve been waiting for a good time to attend RootsTech – your waiting is over – this is the one you cannot miss!
6: If you can’t make the full conference, there is a special discount going on right now that cuts the single day registration fee in half! The code when registering is GENFRIEND and is good through December 9th.
In order to win, you simply have to comment on this post, or on the corresponding posts in Twitter or Instagram – Telling me about your favorite genealogy find of 2019. Only one entry per reader, please! Each comment will be entered into a drawing with the winner selected on Christmas Day. Meaning, your deadline for entry is December 24th – all day, even up until midnight.
What You Could Win:
A full 4-day pass to RootsTech 2020 (on-site in Salt Lake City), held February 26-29, 2020 – a $299 value! Don’t worry, if you’ve already registered, winning this contest would get you a full refund of your purchase price.
Pass includes the following: • Over 300 classes • Keynote / General sessions • Expo Hall • Evening events. It does NOT include any travel costs, paid lunches, virtual pass, or paid labs.
Now that we’ve had some healthy frosts, tis the season for cemetery traipsing! Earlier this month, my mother and I were out and about, touring a couple of favorite family resting places in Northern Kentucky – and while doing so, I was reminded of some atrocious cemetery habits or conditions that grate on my nerves. Scroll through the list below to see if you can relate to any of these horror film worthy atrocities – and at the end, feel free to comment with your own cemetery pet peeves.
The military foot stone:
Let me preface this statement with a reminder that this is NOT anti-military. I come from a long line of military men, stretching from the revolution, to 1812, WWI, WWII, and the recent engagements in the Middle East. My father is a retired Lt. Colonel, as was my grandfather, and I have a new General cousin – so let’s just say, military service is in our blood, and we are very proud of this fact. However…..I am totally against the military foot stones. I really hadn’t paid much attention to these, until they encroached upon my great grandparents’ plot.
For decades, their stone was lovely and picturesque, sitting on a hillside overlooking a wooded valley – but now, we can’t take a picture of their stone without also capturing this military footstone which has been placed right up against theirs! Not only do I think they are actually encroaching on our legal family plot, but they are an eyesore, and will prove to be confusing as time passes. In most cases, this type of additional footer is placed about a foot away from the next headstone in line – but not so in this county – those who are installing them are choosing to abutt the stones right up against headstones, and I find it to be disrespectful of the neighbors. Recognizing military service is very important – but I think it best to do so on the headstone – this foot stone nonsense is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.
Leaning trees – going, going, gone:
Cemetery maintenance is a tough gig – I don’t envy anyone with this job. But maintenance is not just about mowing the lawn. It is necessary to look up and assess whether there are threats from above. As I have visited my 3rd great grandparents’ gravesite (1st generation immigrants from Germany), it is becoming harder and hard to snap a clear picture. Why? Because the neighboring pine tree is sinking lower and lower. It will fall one day, and when it does, it will take their beautiful obelisk with it. I need to contact the Church to have them remove this tree – but I shouldn’t have to – maintenance should include surrounding assessment – to make sure the stones are safe. It will be much cheaper to take the tree down than to restore a 19th century marble obelisk.
Homemade Efforts to Read Headstones:
This one made me gasp when I spotted it from across the cemetery driveway. The carvings have not been worn away, and are, in fact, quite deep. The only obstacle to reading the names is the type of granite that was chosen – a flecked, light gray stone that does make the names harder to read. The family’s attempt to rectify this situation? Paint!
While descendants can care for a headstone as they wish – please have a care and do your homework. You are probably not the only descendant out there that will need to view this stone someday. Applying paint or other substances to a gravestone can harm the stone instead of helping any readability issue. Before attempting ANY cleaning or restoration, please consult a professional or at least research this subject thoroughly prior to employing any method!
Despite the solid structure of gravestones, many fall over due to setting and settling issues. What happens after they fall is up to the living. Unfortunately, the options used here serve as examples of what NOT to do:
Bad, but yet, readable – In this case, the cemetery decided to move all of the fallen stones into one area to help with mowing. Moved from their original location = bad. Placed face up so we can read them = good – sort of – I can only imagine the water and ice settling into the crevices will crumble the stones faster as water was designed to run down the sides, not take up residence regularly.
In one of my favorite little cemeteries, I have unearthed crumbled stones right under the sod to record who lies beneath. Not long after my archaeological efforts to record the deceased, someone decided to move the leaning and fallen stones to the nearby fencerow because they got in the way of mowing. Fast forward a few years later, and they decided to clean out the fencerow by tearing down the entire fence with accompanying trees. What solution did they choose? They piled all of the stones on a wooden pallet in the middle of the cemetery. Oh the humanity – I have no words. Not only are they too heavy for anyone to look through them, but now over time, the pile is sinking further still, crumbling under the weight of the other stones.
Removing Heritage Plants:
When wandering through the cemetery, pay close attention to any shrubs, trees, bulbs, or perennials planted on your ancestors’ graves. If the specimen looks like old growth, it may have been planted near the time of their death, or within a few years to a decade after. Why? In my family, it was just a method of dressing up the grave. Instead of bringing flowers to place on the grave periodically, which would wilt and blow away in the wind, we preferred live perennials or spring bulbs to bloom every year. Also, sometimes the plant chosen was from the deceased’s own garden or homestead – a favorite they tended for many years. What better choice than planting a piece of home on the loved one’s grave?
If you identify an older growth planting, take a pic. There are several apps out there that can help with identifying the plant in order to purchase a version for your own garden. However, in many parts of the country, the ones who get ignored and suffer due to lack of care are antique roses. The concept of “rose rustling” is actually a noble one – performing a service of care to the rose through deadwood pruning, and then leaving with a few clippings of new growth to propagate future plants. The reason we go to this trouble is because after generations of deadwood overgrowth in the central part of the bush, the friction and crowding can invite disease, eventually killing off the antique variety. Don’t misunderstand – antique varieties of rose bushes are the most hardy and prolific of any rose variant – but decades of neglect can harm them or kill them off.
These antique varieties are living echoes of migration – carried by our ancestors as they traveled west – usually planting a piece of their former home at their new destination. And the age of these varieties? Nothing to sneeze at – some rare varieties go back to the 1500s, but more commonly the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries.
CAUTION: Stealing from cemeteries is ILLEGAL – so do not go traipsing through the cemeteries looking for rare varieties to harvest for fun. The best option is to tend your own family plot and no more – or – organize a local group to properly tend the plant life in the cemetery, with a few clippings being generated to sell at a sale for cemetery upkeep. The possibilities are endless, and a cemetery maintenance plan should tend to more than just cleaning the stones and clearing out brush. This type of clearing can remove the wrong, and potentially historically priceless things. Please be careful!
So – my pet peeve here? The above hyper-cleaning of cemetery areas. So many times I have witnessed beautiful heritage growths just eliminated by those who want to make mowing easier, or just “clean up” the overall cemetery as a local good deed. For many, I know their hearts are in the right place, but in reality, this is an all too common horrific practice. When many of our cemeteries were developed – especially those from the 19th century – their intent was to create a mourning garden. A place of peace and reflection that was designed with pastoral aesthetics in mind. Nature in all of its glory, with blossoms and trees comforting those who mourn the dearly departed. When we go in and strip them clean in an attempt to clear out the brush, we throw the baby out with the bath water. Please stop this – pay a local horticulturist to assess the cemetery prior to any clean-up effort. They can identify older plant specimens, and advise on how best to prune and clean up while maintaining the original garden design.
Now, my fellow taphophiles – What are your biggest cemetery pet peeves?
As we close out September, it’s time to take a look at the RootsTech 2020 countdown – and we’re down to 5 months! At this stage in the lead-up, if you’re planning on attending, registration is now open – and early bird pricing ends October 11th! Also, the conference hotels are filling up fast, so be sure to make your reservations ASAP!
I hope to see many of you there in 2020 as it’s the 10th anniversary celebration, which should be the best RootsTech yet. As both a speaker and ambassador this year, I would love to meet my readers and share the festivities with you all. Due to the roles I have for 2020, be on the look-out for an opportunity to win a full conference registration by commenting on a future blog post.
As most of you know, RootsTech London will be taking place in late October – but after that edition is over, there will be many more RootsTech SLC announcements released – so stay tuned!