Friday, January 20, 2017

Let's Go On A Genealogy Cruise: Gena and Jean Cruise 2017

Photo Courtesy of David Ortega
It's time to sign-up! That's right it's time for the 3rd annual Gena and Jean Genealogy Cruise. 

Join us on November 5, 2017 for a 4 day cruise leaving Long Beach and making stops in Catalina and Ensenada. 

We're looking forward to this year's cruise and we invite you to join us. Learn more from the cruise website. Click here and read the cruise information and even register from the website!

This year's cruise travel agent is our good friend Terri O'Connell of Cruise Planners. And the best part is Terri is also a genealogy friend and part of the great group, the In-Depth Genealogist!

Ready to go on a genealogy cruise? Register today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Meet Our Sponsor: The Family Curator Denise Levenick

Did you inherit the family stuff? What are you doing with it? Need some advice? Denise Levenick otherwise known as the Family Curator sat down with Jean to provide tips for your family archive.

Jean: Denise, I love that you remind us that “in every family, someone gets the stuff.” In my family, it’s me. It seems that, among the genealogists, that “someone” is also the one keeping track of the names, dates, and places. I guess that makes sense. Can you tell us what inspired you to find it your mission to help these people keep track of it all and treat it all with respect?

Denise: I inherited my first archive of family treasures in 2000, nearly forty years after my grandmother’s death. During that time, her letters, photos, and all kinds of bits-and-pieces had been stored in a large steamer trunk tucked away first in a shed and then in a garage. The trunk was opened twice in all those years when I was allowed to remove (and then replace) a few select items to use for a family history research project in college. By the time I inherited the trunk’s contents in 2000, both my aunt and my mother had checked out the contents and rearranged the contents once again. When “the stuff” came to me in five cardboard beer boxes (my aunt wanted to keep the trunk), I knew it was time to use better preservation methods. The Family Curator started as my online journal, a place to record my progress organizing, sorting, and working with all those papers, photos, and keepsakes.

Jean: And it’s not enough that you have a website (, but you have written a couple of books. Tell us about them and how people can purchase them.

Denise: After writing about archival preservation on my website, I started writing articles for Family Tree Magazine on the same topic. Eventually, we discovered that a LOT of people were like you and me – they had inherited a treasure trove of family artifacts. My first book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes is a workbook style book designed to help family curators of any size collection. It’s the book I wish I had when I inherited my grandmother’s things. I share what I learned about organizing photos and documents, how to find archival containers and which ones to buy, and how to set your scanner for preservation copies of photos and all kinds of things you may want to digitize. One entire section of the book is really a reference to preserving photos, documents, and memorabilia – how, where, and why.

The companion book, How to Archive Family Photos, came about because there was so much more to share about family photos. With digital photography, we all have thousands of images to organize, including scanned copies of old photos, research documents like census images, and our own family photos. This book is a step-by-step guide to organizing and backing up your digital photos, and physical photos, with a section on how to create all kinds of family history photo projects. I wanted to write instructions for anyone who’d never made a photo book – to encourage people to use their scans and new digital images in new ways. I also wanted to give experienced photo book makers some new ideas, like printing photos on fabric or using photo apps on their smartphone.

Both books are available from Amazon and ShopFamilyTree, with links and more information on my website .

Jean: Curatorial assistance – I love that phrase! And you offer it, inviting people to ask you for advice. Your FAQs are great, but then you have a form for the question you haven’t answered there. That is very generous. Do you get many responses and what is the most unusual one you have received (without disclosing confidences, of course)?

Denise: I love that phrase too! Actually a local business by that name works with art collectors to store and ship fine art anywhere in the world. I don’t offer shipping, but I do offer assistance with curatorial problems. And yes, I get a LOT of inquiries, and I do answer every single one.

Recently someone wrote to ask where to get replacement cord for an old photo album. She asked about using shoelaces, which is probably fine if it’s the standard old-fashioned non-archival photo book. I suggested that she scan the pages while they are loose and use cord from a fabric and trim shop (or a shoelace to refasten the book.) The album should be stored in an acid-free archival box for protection from dust and handling and kept away from light sources in a location with moderate temperature and humidity; a closet, cupboard, or file drawer inside the house would be good locations.

Jean: And then there’s your blog (there’s a link from your website). What great ideas you provide. What are some of the excuses people have for not following your excellent advice (I know you’ve probably heard them all)?

Denise: Some people (ok, many) want to save money on archival supplies so they insist on using “brand x” products labelled “Archival.” I have a hard time convincing them that “archival” is only an adjective like “storage.” There’s no official “Archival” label for true acid-free, lignin-free products. The best way to purchase true archival products is to shop with reputable archival supplier such as or Hollinger Metal Edge. They make and sell containers to the National Archives, Library of Congress, and institutions nationwide. Their products are the best choice to preserve your family collection.

Jean: And, as a follow-up question to that, what is the number one thing you find people doing wrong, when it comes to preserving their heritage (and you can take that in whatever direction you believe will be most beneficial)?

Denise: Preserving our family heirloom originals is one thing our ancestors did and we can continue. But we can and should take the next step – digitize the photo or document and record the provenance (history) and the story of the item. All these wonderful treasures are worthless without a tie to the people and events of the past. It’s not hard to record the history of your heirlooms. I have a template on my website you can use to get started. Add a photo, collect the sheets in a notebook and you have a gift for your family. Here’s the link to my Heirloom History Form. Let me know if you find it useful!

Jean: Any other words of wisdom?

Denise: The role of family curator can be a burden or a blessing, but it’s a rewarding opportunity to get to know your ancestral family better, as well.  

--Jean Wilcox Hibben

Friday, January 13, 2017

Meet our Sponsor: Trippin' Over Roots

We love our sponsors and one sponsor we want to introduce you to is Barry Kline of Trippin' Over Roots. Jean took some time to interview him and this is what we learned about his genealogy journey.

Jean: Barry,your business is called “Trippin’ Over Roots.” I know a lot of our readers have problems with their research and probably trip over a lot of roots before finding the right family. Is that where you name came from, or is there a story behind it?

Barry: When starting a business, finding a unique name is always a challenge.  I wanted a name that was memorable and one that reflected a bit of my personality.  I have been researching my family’s history since being assigned a family history project in high school.  One of the first things I learned is that researching an ancestor is almost never as easy as you think.  There are always twists and turns, problems to solve and the need to untangle truth from fiction.  Trippin’ Over Roots reflects the challenge we have when researching family history.  Our ancestors quite often trip us up, but we get back up and continue to untangle their stories.

Jean: So, you went to SLIG in January 2015 and took the Advanced DNA class. You have a lot of courage. What are some of the most important things you took away from that experience?

Barry: There are some great opportunities to learn about using DNA in your genealogy research.  I took the beginning class at GRIP in Pittsburgh, the Advanced DNA at SLIG and the DNA and Adoption course at the Forensic Institute in 2015.   I first heard CeCe Moore speak about DNA and genealogy at the APG Professional Management Conference in 2014.  I knew after that lecture I wanted to pursue DNA as a specialty in my business.  Taking these courses have been a challenge but they are so worth it.  One of the most important things to remember when integrating DNA with genealogy is that DNA is just another item in your toolbox.  DNA will not automatically fill out your family tree but it can help confirm your traditional research or give it support where the paper records are not available.

Jean: You live in the DC area and are able to help people with their research in that vicinity. Tell the readers what repositories are available, how you can help folks find their ancestors there, and how much advance notice you need to do a lookup.

Barry: The DC area has a wealth of repositories for genealogical research.  I can either perform the research needed to answer your questions or I can assist your research by retrieving documents, like a Civil War Pension file from the National Archives, much faster than having to order them directly.  A few of the repositories I frequent are the National Archives in Washington and College Park, MD, the Library of Congress, the Daughters of the American Revolution Library, the Library of Virginia in Richmond as well as courthouse houses and other smaller local repositories in the D.C. area.  One of the areas that I love to research is the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  The Valley runs from Morgan and Berkeley Counties in West Virginia south to Augusta County in Virginia.  Other counties that are included in that area are Frederick, Clarke, Warren, Shenandoah, Page and Rockingham Counties in Virginia and Hampshire and Hardy Counties in West Virginia. 

Depending on current projects, turnaround time can vary although it is generally pretty quick.  For pulls and lookups, unless they are urgent, I usually hold them till I have other work at a particular repository which helps cut down on various costs, like travel expenses if applicable.

Jean: You have been doing your own research for some time, I imagine. Can you tell us a family story from your own ancestry? Why is it one you remember (what meaning does it hold for you)?

Barry: I have been researching my own family’s history since I was in high school and was assigned a project to create a family tree.  To complete the project, I turned to my grandmothers.  They provided me a wealth of information I used not only for the project, but to kick start my interest in genealogy. 

Like everyone, there are many stories that I have heard am still researching to either prove or disprove.  One that was combined with a particularly memorable experience is that of Kline’s Mill in Stephens City, Virginia.  Early in my research, my paternal grandmother had told me about a mill near Winchester that was supposedly built by one of my ancestors on my grandfather’s side of family.   We found the location of the mill and I was able to take her to visit the site a couple of years before she passed away in 2000.  The mill was still standing along with the original house and we were able to walk the grounds.  It was a connection to my ancestors, to walk, with my grandmother, where they walked and to see where they lived and worked.  I have continued to research the mill over the last several years and have learned a great deal.  The original mill was built by my fifth great grandfather Johannes Jacob Klein as a flax-seed mill sometimes after he moved his family to Frederick County, Virginia from Pennsylvania in 1764.  In 1794, he and his son Anthony expanded and converted the mill to produce flour.  The mill actually continued to operate till the 1950’s as a sawmill.  The foundation of the building is still strong and the legacy that Johannes Jacob Klein left is as well.  It left a huge impression on me to be able to stand there with my grandmother and know that the success of this mill, over 200 years ago, was one of the reasons I am here today.  We are here today because of the triumphs, hardships, risks and perseverance of our ancestors.  I do the work I do to honor them.  

Jean: When people hire a genealogist, they often have no idea what to expect in time expenditure, fees, results, etc. What do you tell a new client to expect from you and your services that maybe sets you apart from others?

Barry: When beginning work with a new client, I like to remind them that research is a process. Especially if they have not done any research on their own. At the beginning there might be lots of discoveries. But as the research progresses, or if there has been lots of research done prior, then progress may be slower.  Managing the client’s expectations as well as being mindful of their budget is part of my job. Client research, just like my own family’s research, is very personal. I go on new journey with each client and each is just as important as the next.

Genealogical research is very rewarding. Even though I do enjoy researching for my clients, I have come to find that I enjoy researching with them even more. I have had a growing number of clients that want to do the research themselves. Many have been true beginners.  We sit down either in person or via a video chat and create a plan for their research.  They do what they can, if they need information in my area I retrieve it for them, or I help them find a researcher in other locations.  It is extremely rewarding seeing, or reading in an email, the excitement when they have made a new discovery!

Jean: Any other words of wisdom?

Barry: Always expect the unexpected.  This is particularly true with genetic genealogy.  You really never do know what, or who, you will find!

Jean: Thank Barry for being a sponsor of the Gena and Jean Genealogy Cruise!

-Jean Wilcox Hibben

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Genealogy Journey's Podcast #22: Stephen Foster Day

Stephen C Foster by Unknown - Library of Congress, Public Domain,

We start 2017 with a look at composer Stephen Foster who is celebrated on January 13th as part of Stephen Foster Memorial Day. While you may not recognize his name, you will recognize his songs. Good chance your 19th century American ancestors were also familiar with them.


The Music of Stephen Collins Foster 
(where you can download MP3 files of his many, many songs) 

PBS - American Experience - Stephen Foster  
(where you can learn about his influence on American Culture) 

Wikipedia - Stephen Foster 

Wikipedia - Jane McDowell Foster Wiley 

Time and Date - Stephen Foster Memorial Day in the United States 

Florida Department of State - State Song: Old Folks at Home" 


American Songbook, The: Over 130 American Favorites!  New York: Charles Hansen Educational Sheet Music & Books, 1975.

Emerson, Ken. Doo-dah! Stephen Foster and the Rise of American Pop Culture. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.