RootsTech 2022 Is Coming: Global Keynotes and Speakers!

Calling all family historians and genealogists:

Did you hear that RootsTech – the world’s largest family history conference and year-long learning platform is going virtual and FREE once again for 2022?! That’s right, the team at RootsTech is doing it all over again, promising an even richer buffet of genealogy goodness! This year’s virtual event takes place March 3rd through the 5th and registration is now open – just visit RootsTech.org.

With thousands of classes, inspiring speakers, meaningful activities and joyful connections, RootsTech brings the human family together like no other event. Get ready to celebrate shared connections with people from around the world. Connect with friends, your family, your past, your heritage and homelands—all from the comfort of your home and in your browser.

As an online experience, attendees will be able to choose from thousands of classes from around the globe and in multiple languages. Gee, that sounds like a lot of classes to take in during a three day window! Well, have no fear, there is NO schedule for the regular sessions – these have all been pre-recorded and placed online for you to consume at your leisure. Think GenFlix for us genealogy junkies! After the conference is over, you will have access to the full selection of sessions for the rest of the year, plus many from 2021.

Beyond these dynamic classes, there will be inspirational keynote speakers, cultural activities, contests, virtual meet-ups, and a virtual marketplace. The keynote sessions ARE scheduled, for the main page – but if you miss one, they are recorded for you to enjoy later. For 2022, you will hear inspiring stories from: Matthew Modine, Thais Pacholek, Molly Yeh, Azumah Nelson, Diego Torres, Maysoon Zayid, and Apollonia Poilâne !  This is such an exciting lineup – and all for free – astounding!

“See” you There!

Oh, and one last thing, I’ll be seeing you there as a speaker and influencer, so I apologize in advance that my social media feeds will be taken over during the conference. For more information about my speaking sessions, just search for my name once the conference goes live on the 3rd, or see my Speaking page at genealogyliteracy.com/services.

For the best conference experience, consider signing up for a free familysearch.org account before heading over to the registration portal. What are you waiting for? Sign up now and let’s get connecting!

BTW, Special thanks to fellow speaker, Dr. Penny Walters for the great keynote graphic!

Find a Grave Update

As many of you know, Episode 7 of the BloodRoot Podcast featured the website Find a Grave, and a couple of its lingering issues. Namely, the site design flaw that allows people to add the recently deceased to the database regardless of connection to the family. Since its creation, Find a Grave members have been able to add entries for the recently deceased even when no familial connection existed. When these instances happened, family members were faced with another level of emotional trauma on top of their current grief. They were then forced to request the management of their loved one’s entry from a stranger, and hope that the request was honored. Last fall, Episode 7 featured guest genealogist, Daniel Loftus, as he shared his efforts to urge Find a Grave to finally make a change in this area. A change that many voices had asked for over the years.

As a follow-up: I am happy to report that this January, Find a Grave announced new changes to rectify this situation. Within the first year after a death, anyone can add the memorial, but those who are related to the deceased will have a much easier management shift if they so desire – at least for 3 months. Within that first three months, a relative can request the management change without asking for permission. If they would like a memorial transferred to them after the three month mark, the request for management process remains the same as it has been all these years. For more information about all of these changes in detail, their official notice is linked below. Again, special thanks to Daniel Loftus, our guest from Episode 7 who had fanned the flames of change, and became one of the loud voices that garnered results. Well done!

Memorials for the Recently Deceased

As for the Find a Grave acronym issue also covered in Episode 7, we have not heard any news in this area. However, there have been a few waves of social media grumbles urging long overdue changes. To reiterate my stance, I am not in favor of a full name change, but I believe Find a Grave can easily act responsibly and redesign a logo that includes their official initials as FG. They also need to take the lead and refer to themselves in any acronym usage as FG. Over time, this would clearly catch on with users and resolve the issue. I fear that if they do not listen to this advice, the outcry for outright name change may become deafening. Again, when faced with the choice, choose kindness.

If you’d like to listen to Episode 7 to learn more about Daniel’s story and his work with Find a Grave, just click the episode link below, or look for the BloodRoot Podcast via your favorite listening platforms.

RootsTech Connect is Here!

As most of you know, the RootsTech Conference has been transformed into a FREE virtual world-wide event for 2021 – Called RootsTech Connect! This new experience just went live today, so, what can you expect? Many of the same exciting elements we are used to during the on-site event, such as great sessions, inspiring keynote speakers, an expo hall, and making connections with your fellow attendees. It’s just a remote experience, with the world audience in mind – speakers from many countries with sessions in many languages! And while we will most definitely miss the hugs, library research, vendor talks, catching up, and great food, this is the next best thing.

Here are a few things to note:

As of the conference launch, there have been over 500,000 registrations from around the world!

But if you did not register – have no fear – you can still experience the full conference even without registering! Simply head over to the main website and enjoy the many videos at your fingertips. If you would like to develop your own playlist for the coming year, and communicate with speakers, friends, and vendors, just create a free FamilySearch.org account to connect you to the fun!

Also, there is NO schedule for the regular sessions – these have all been pre-recorded and placed online for you to consume at your leisure. Think GenFlix for us genealogy junkies! The keynote sessions are scheduled, there on the main page – but if you miss one, they are recorded for you to enjoy later.

While you’re enjoying this new experience, please stop in to view the four sessions I have in the video docket:

471123 – Beyond the FAN Approach: Inclusive Research Strategies

471127 – Airtable: Organizing Your Research with a Relational Database

471179 – Practical Preservation Demonstration

471215 – Successful Remote Research Strategies

Officials have reported that 80% of those registered are first time RootsTech attendees. For those new to the RootsTech experience – or for those missing the in-person fun, I have a created a special episode of the BloodRoot podcast devoted to RootsTech Connect! I’ve had a few friends drop by to share their favorite memories from the past, and tell us what excites them about this new format for 2021. (Linda Colston, Cynthia Maharrey, Miles Meyer, Tami Osmer Mize, Elizabeth O’Neal)

 

But first things first: For the next three days, you should focus your attentions on CONNECTING to your fellow attendees, experts, and vendors. Those connection features will disappear at the end of the conference this February, so prioritize your experience, and get connecting! Beyond the huge list of sessions available for the next year, I hope and suspect that the connections will remain strong, even through this virtual format. Please prioritize your experience – seek out the speakers, vendors, groups, panels, and friends you want to connect with – for this portion of the event is time sensitive. Once the conference is over, you’ll have to find ways to reach out on your own, or just settle for binge watching the sessions. I mean, we’re going to do that anyway, but do not let this connection opportunity pass you by!

This time last year, many of us were happily traipsing around the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City – wallowing in genealogy bliss – oblivious to the approaching Pandemic storm. Those memories will always be very poignant as the years progress, because as soon as we all got home, the world shut down. And indeed, I believe our world changed forever in many ways. One of the largest changes to hit was the inability to travel or gather in large groups. Effectively removing the on-site conference experience.

After such a difficult year for the world, this new experience is a sign that our genealogy world will never be the same. As officials have said, in the future, RootsTech will always have a much more robust virtual experience – regardless of whether we can attend in person or not. This is wonderful news – especially for the world-wide community that we are now connecting with in 2021. For all of the first time attendees out there, welcome to the RootsTech family! If you want to connect with me during the conference – visit the chat rooms for my individual sessions – or give me a shout out via my social media channels!

These are exciting days for the genealogy/family history community! Enjoy it to the fullest!

 

Introducing: The BloodRoot Podcast

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?

Civil War Letters from Episode 2.

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!

Library Love: Research in the Time of Pandemic

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!

Keep Researching!

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.

Note About ArchiveGrid:

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.

Internet Archive and HathiTrust:

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!

RootsTech 2020: In Review

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.

Speaker:

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!

Ambassador:

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.

Biggest Takeaways:

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!

Fun Additions:

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!

Until next time!

RootsTech 2020 Home Stretch!

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!

See you soon!

RootsTech 2020 Updates

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!

Genealogy in a Teapot

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.

Mary Todd Lincoln, circa 1846. Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-6189.

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!

Happy hunting, y’all!

RootsTech Contest Winner!

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!

See you soon and Happy New Year!